Staying healthy in medical school is hard. It’s one thing to be in physical shape, but its another thing to be all around healthy. Fitness is just one piece of the puzzle. Keeping your body conditioned is important, but feeding your body with good fuel is just as important. Not only will it help you stay in shape physically, but it will fuel your brain right and allow you to get more accomplished throughout the day.
A third piece of the puzzle is mental health. I would argue this is more important than the other two. I also think that physical fitness, nutrition, and mental health all work together and complement each other. Working out and eating right influences your mental health. In this post, I am going to break down my fitness routine, nutrition plan, and what I do to stay sane in medical school. I urge you to take everything with a grain of salt because everyone is different, everyone has different coping mechanisms, and everyone has a different body. With that in mind, here is my routine for staying healthy (and getting healthier!).
I aim to workout 6 days a week. Some weeks are crazy and I only get 3 in, but most weeks I hit my 6 fitness day mark. Fitness isn’t about working out every day. It’s about the type of exercise that you do. I do NOT do 6 days a week of intense hour-long workout sessions. I switch it up between intense and mild exercise and the amount of time that I spend exercising. If I get home from the hospital late, I will just do a 15 min run (varying my speeds) or 20 min of yoga. When I have more time, I will do an hour long workout class. The reason I aim for 6 fitness days a week is because it makes me feel better to exercise almost every day. Just getting 15 min in really affects my mood and overall well-being.
I recently started doing Pure Barre regularly and I LOVE it. I danced for years, so Pure Barre is my kind of workout. It is adapted from ballet-style technique training. I describe it as a mix between Ballet and pilates, but with weights. Let me tell you…it burns. Which I love. Pure Barre classes are an hour long and target all of your muscle groups (even muscle groups you didn’t even know you had!). After only a few weeks of doing it regularly, I can really see the difference in my booty, arms, and abs. Pure Bare 280 in Birmingham has a special deal where your first week is free! Check out their studio here!
Pure Barre also recently started classes called Pure Empower. This is the same barre style workouts, but with cardio intervals mixed in… and you have ankle or wrist weights on. It’s an intense 45 min cardio/barre blend workout. I love this one too.
The days that I don’t do Pure Barre (which I try to do 3 days a week), I will do some sort of cardio type workout. This will either be running outside or some sort of cardio in the gym if its really late at night. I won’t do pure cardio, however. I will do mainly cardio and mix in a few different strength exerciseS with weights.
When I am feeling tired or I want to throw in an extra workout, I will do yoga! Or sometimes I just really crave yoga (sounds weird, but it happens). My go-to is Yoga with Adriene YouTube channel. She has all sorts of different yoga videos varying in style and length. You won’t run out of yoga to try!
I LOVE LOVE LOVE hiking. And there are so many awesome hiking spots around Birmingham. I honestly consider hiking to be more in the mental health category, but it is also a workout too. Long hikes with a lot of steep inclines are an awesome leg workout. It is also so refreshing to be outside (and by myself).
I personally do not put restrictions on my diet or count calories. I am just always trying to pick the healthiest food options and only eat until I am full. This means choosing veggies and lean meats and limiting carbs and sugar. Just following this general rule has worked well for me.
In general, my diet is the Mediterranean diet. It just happens to be that all of my favorite foods are favored in the Mediterranean diet (fish, olive oil, yogurt, veggies… WINE).
I try choose more of the following: veggies (of all kind), lean meats (chicken, fish), alternative proteins (tofu, tempeh), greek yogurt (no sugar), alternative milk (almond milk, cashew milk, coconut milk), whole grains (although, I try to eat less grains and more protein and veggies).
I try to avoid the following: sugar (I don’t add any sugar to my coffee or tea, I prefer dark chocolate over milk, etc.), butter, carbs (especially pure carbs with no nutrition like white bread, pasta, pizza, rice, etc.).
However, sometimes I really just crave cheese, bread, or ice cream. These are fine to eat in moderation. I try to view them as a reward. But I find more reasons to reward myself than I actually deserve ;)
My Protein (and Peanut Butter!) Lattes
I have had a huge request for these, so I hope you guys find this helpful!
If any of you follow me on Instagram, you know about my protein lattes that I make. I have had a lot of questions on this, so I thought I would dedicate a section of this post to it!
To be honest, I don’t typically measure things out and save recipes. I just combine ingredients that sound good into a blender and poor some espresso or tea over it. Here are some of my favorites:
*typically, I will heat the milk + other ingredients before blending
Peanut Butter Latte
2 tbsp peanut butter
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1/4 cup almond milk
dash of cinnamon
2 shots espresso
Turmeric Chai Latte
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 cup coconut milk
2 scoops vanilla protein powder
1/4 cup Chai
Protein Matcha Latte
2 scoops vanilla protein powder
1/2 cup cashew milk
1/2 cup premade matcha (matcha powder in boiled water)
This is so so important. You can’t do your best in life if your mind isn’t healthy. Medical school tears you down. It leaves you feeling mentally and physically exhausting and tests your limits almost every day. There is constant comparison and required sacrifice and it really takes a toll on you.
During board studying season, medical school (and life) really got to me. There were so many other things going on, plus I was studying for the most important exam of my life. I feel like I am just now getting back to being mentally healthy. How? I am making exercising and eating healthy a priority, I am doing yoga to de-stress, going on hikes for the fresh air and to connect with nature, and I am making conscious decisions to reflect on life everyday.
I think the most important aspect of staying mentally healthy is taking time each week (or each day) to reassess what is going on and reflect on where you are in life right now. Then focus on where you are going in life.
The thing that keeps me going in bad, stressful, or frustrating times is looking to the future. I research residencies, things I want to accomplish in life and focus on the good that is going to come. And I know that it will only come if I make it come, so I focus on that.
I also enjoy taking time to myself every day and drinking a glass of wine. With my glass of wine, I will listen to music I like, read a good book, or watch a TV show. I typically use this time to veg out and take my mind off of any issues that are going on in my life.
Balance and Planning Ahead
I have to have a plan to not feel stressed. I make a general plan of when I am working out, when I will spend time blogging, when I will study, and when I will work on AMSA or other school stuff. The key is being okay if your plan doesn’t work out. Things come up, you have to stay at the hospital later, etc. Readjusting and adapting to your plan is essential in medical school.
I hope this helped! For more balance in medical school check out more of my posts here! Feel free to comment below or shoot me an email with any questions.