OBGYN residency is hard. Really hard. Nothing can really prepare you for the large transition that happens between your fourth year of medical school and your first week of residency.
If you’re like most people, you give up a large number of your usual activities due to the time constraints residency imposes on you. Unfortunately, exercise and fitness are often the first to go.
This is unfortunate as exercise has been associated with improvements in symptoms of depression and mental health.
But what if I told you that it doesn’t have to be that way.
A common question people ask is, how is it possible to exercise regularly with an 80 hour work week?
Here’s how I do it.
Prior to residency, I exercised 4-5 times a week for 1.5-2 hours a day. As I began residency, I knew that these workouts would no longer be possible.
I realized that I had to do three things.
– Decrease the amount of time I spent at the gym
– Workout Smarter
– Be Adaptable
Let me explain…
You never really appreciate how valuable time is until you have very little free time to yourself. Eating, sleeping, and basic hygiene also take away from that free time.
Exercising was extremely important to me so I was determined to find a way to fit a training regimen into my schedule. The first thing that I came up with was compressing my 1-2 hour long workouts a 30-minute workout session. I figured that no matter how busy my workday was, I had at least 30 minutes a day to spend at the gym.
In addition, knowing that my workout would only take 30 minutes made it much more palatable after a long workday.
Believe it or not, this is plenty of time to get an adequate and comprehensive workout.
In order to do so, you need to…
The second component that I had to integrate into my new workout schedule was to train smart.
Since I had to condense my workouts significantly, I knew that I couldn’t do all the things I was previously doing. I simply had to cut out all of the fluff.
This meant that I could only perform the exercises that were giving me the biggest return on my investment.
I only performed compound exercises that trained very large muscle groups simultaneously. These compound exercises allow you to exercise your entire body quickly, minimizing the number of exercises you have to do in a given session.
I was also strict with my rest periods and used a timer to keep myself honest. No more browsing through my phone. I only had 30 minutes and I had to make the most of it.
To my surprise, I was accomplishing more work in less time using these shorter more efficient workouts than I was prior to residency.
Focus on the things that matter most, and the exercises that will give you the biggest return on investment.
The last thing you need to do is…
You also have to be adaptable.
I knew that I could not expect to go to the gym and have an amazing training session each time. I also knew that having a strictly regimented schedule wasn’t going to be feasible either. So I made my training routine flexible.
Instead of having a strict Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday schedule, I went whenever I could. Whether that meant having to go three days in a row or take three days off in a row, I made it work. I also lifted whatever I was able to that day. If everything felt heavy and my body felt worn out, I took what was on the table. I performed the exercises and the volume I could for that day and kept moving.
We are good at adapting to unexpected events in our life, why can’t we be good at adapting our fitness schedule the same way.
So that’s how I exercise regularly despite working a grueling 80 hour work week.
Since starting OBGYN residency, I thought that I would never be able to maintain the levels of fitness that I had achieved. To my surprise, I am actually hitting new personal records on lifts that I hadn’t seen any progress on in a long time.
We need to change our mindset about fitness.
Make the time for exercise now, or you will always put it off for when the time is “right.”
It’s not something that people with a lot of free time do, it’s something we all need to do. It’s a part of our nature and our wellbeing.