9 tips for any medical student thinking about doing a marathon, triathlon, or even Tough Mudder?
A guest post by Brad Harris, a Medical Student and Ultramarathoner currently attending Loma Linda University School of Medicine.
People always ask me how I find time to train for 50 mile races while juggling a full schedule as a medical student? It's not a difficult as it sounds but it does take some work and planning.
Here is what I've learned....
Make it fun.
The most important thing is to incorporate activities you enjoy doing into your workouts. Find something that you just can't wait to get home to do then use that for motivation. Remember, training doesn't have to be boring. Maybe you have a frozen yogurt craving. Instead of driving, run down to the local FroYo establishment, indulge, and run back home. Just make sure to make it something you look forward to. Enjoying your workouts is a mindset.
Find your pain cave, and crawl inside.
The pain cave is an uncomfortable place to be. It's a mental state that makes you feel fatigued and want to quit. Sometimes medical school pushes you into the pain cave. Find your personal pain cave and get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. It is through stressing our bodies that we become stronger.
Grab a map, be prepared for the conditions, and go see what's around the next corner. Never stop exploring. Where does that trail go that's behind your house? How do you get to the top of that mountain? What's it like to run through the middle of skyscrapers in the big city? During my time in SoCal I've really enjoyed finding new trails in the local mountains, its actually become a hobby of mine. Don't be afraid to wander and explore new places from time to time.
Give each workout a purpose.
I, like most people, get bored simply going out and pounding the pavement for 3 miles every morning in order to check off the exercise box on the to-do list. Build variation into your workouts. Warm up and just run hills one day. Find a running track and do repeats of 2-8 minutes of sprinting with a 2 min recovery after each. Find an elliptical trainer or treadmill at the gym and set it to a random setting while you review notes or flash cards. Seek out new workouts to push yourself and keep it exciting.
Add minutes or even hours to your day.
Wasting time on the internet is something that we all do. By limiting time on the internet with a program like StayFocused, you'll be surprised how much more free time you have for exercising. Plan out your internet usage before getting on your computer and set a time for each task. You will be surprised what you can accomplish with an extra 30 minutes in a day?
Listen to review sessions while exercising.
A few of my classmates would audio record every lecture during the first two years of med school. I know some med schools do it for each class, either way, this is a great way to maximise study time. Goljan audio review was my running companion for most of 2nd year. This is a great way to avoid feeling guilty about exercising when the pressure is building before exams.
Lay low every once in a while. Take mental breaks, both from studying and training periodically. I have found that taking one day off a week from studying (I know they may sound like nonsense to some, especially those with gunnorrhea) did wonders for my focus and provided opportunities to maintain sanity and balance during times of stress. The body also needs rest. Don't be afraid of taking time off from exercise to let your body recuperate.
Plan long workouts on the weekends.
If you are looking to run a 10k, half marathon, or marathon - plan your long runs for the weekends or off days when you'll have more time. If you don't plan them, they won't happen! Also, try to make them an adventure, not just a slog. Proper planning and mindset will both make a huge difference.
Exercise after tests.
Maybe you missed some of the gimme questions that everybody else in the class said were easy on your most recent exam. Getting out and exercising after a stressful test is a great way to clear the mind as well as isolate yourself from frantically looking up every question you think you missed. Exercising will allow you to burn off some frustration and rejuvenate your mind to allow for more efficient studying.
Train with friends.
Some of the best conversations come during long training runs. Invest time forging bonds with new friends and reconnecting with old ones. They will keep you motivated and push you as well. Also having someone that is counting on you to show up for a run is great for accountability.
Hope these tips help! My endurance training has truly made a big difference in my medical school experience and I believe it will make me a better doctor as well. If you have any other great tips for training leave me a comment and let me know.