My name is Mr. MedSchool Money, and I like to blog about med school, finance, fitness, and family. Dr. Corriel has been gracious enough to let me share with you a few pearls of wisdom from the world of exercise. Thank you, Dr. Corriel! I have really enjoyed reading her work on parenting in medicine as I am also a parent to the cutest 9-month-old boy in the world.
Jumping on to exercise, I’ll tell you that my wife and I started our personal training business last year and WOW has it been a whirlwind. Being a 4th year medical student doesn’t leave a bunch of time for me to train clients consistently, but it has been quite the journey supporting my wife as she trains full-time. I mostly fill in for her and do some sporadic personal training as my schedule allows. We are so passionate about personal training because we believe that exercise is one of the most important ways to spend our precious time and a lot of people, sadly, do it wrong.
Below are 3 important and common mistakes that millions of exercising individuals make each day. My hope is that you can walk away with a greater awareness of the various “ditches” that we all have a tendency to fall into with exercise.
The “ditch” of cardio is a hard one to avoid. I think it is a place we all pass through at some point in time. It is often on the journey out of our relationship with the gym. When we first get our membership, we are so excited, “Finally! All these cool weights and machines are MINE!” We bite off what we can chew, often at bit more too, and if you’re like me, you wind up making yourself very, very sore– so sore you have to take a few days off from your brand new workout routine. This is not the best way to build a habit… Yet, I have done this multiple times and my guess is that you have too.
When the honeymoon phase of the gym relationship is over, we begin harboring resentment towards the gym and how it keeps us from doing the other things we actually enjoy. We start trimming back our workouts to get done earlier so we can get back to our lives. Before we know it, it’s a quick 30-minute trip to the gym, and you can’t really work out your whole body very well in 30 minutes by yourself, and its too exhausting to think of planning a system-specific work out (like leg day), and you’re tired cause you were working all day and you just want to be on your couch!We resign ourselves to the treadmill… elliptical… stationary bicycle… (fill-in-the-blank with your personal preference). Our gym routine has been degraded to a mere 20-minute jog on the treadmill on the way home from work. If this is you, and this is all you can possibly do, then I will say that something is always better than nothing. But there is so much more to exercise than cardio. If you are one of those freaks (I’m teasing) that actually enjoys running, the cardio “ditch” is all the more tempting and hard to avoid. The problem here is that cardio, while important and necessary for good heart health, does very little for your skeletal muscles (your arms, legs, back, and core).
One of the healthiest things you can do for your body is to lift some weight! Especially if you are a woman! This is one our biggest messages to our female clients. Strong muscles throughout your body most likely equals strong bones. Strong muscles and bones mean better quality of life as you age and decreased risk of fractures. Weight-bearing exercise is an essential part of preventing osteoporosis, not to mention sarcopenia as an older adult.
Skeletal muscle activation is also a wonderful way to sensitize your body to insulin and keep your blood sugar in a good place, which should be done with caution in diabetics as it may lead to a drop in blood sugar. Make sure to talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program and consider hiring a certified personal trainer.
My last favorite benefit of throwing out the boring cardio routine is the physique. My wife and I often talk about body shape- our clients care about their shape! We recommend lifting light weights for a high number of repetitions (15-20) for a higher number of sets (5-7). This is equal to, if not better, than cardio from a fat-burning perspective. It has the added bonus that you are toning your muscles and adding in those subtle curves of strength while you are burning fat. Women are often afraid they will “bulk up” with weight lifting. This is a myth and would only happen with lifting extremely heavy weight consistently for years. It is far more likely you will get lean, toned, and in the best shape of your life, so get to it!
The first point was long to help lay the groundwork. I’ll keep these next two short.
Once you decide that weight lifting is going to be a consistent part of your workout routine, you need to make sure you know how to do it safely. The most likely injury you will have when starting weight lifting will be a back or leg injury. Back injuries can be avoided by learning correct technique and posture while lifting weights. The most important lifts to have great posture are the Squat and the Deadlift. Google these words to find out more; I won’t go into what they are now, but let’s just say you need to keep your back straight when you are holding a lot of weight.
This is a very important place to consider why you might need a personal trainer. You can read about correct squat form all day, but the fact is that when you go to do the maneuver, you need another pair of eyes to watch your whole body move. A trainer can give you the feedback you need to lift safely and effectively. If you are too miserly to consider a trainer, please lift only light weights and consider avoiding Squats and Deadlifts. A few sessions with a personal trainer might put you out a few hundred bucks, but a significant back injury might put you out a few years- don’t let that be you!
If you have made it this far, you are doing pretty well. You’ve hopefully learned to mix up your workout routine by adding some weight lifting into your plan and learned how to safely move your body with weights. The last “ditch” to avoid for today is overtraining. It is somewhat of a weird concept. Basically, overtraining is when the damage you do to your body by working out becomes more harmful than beneficial. The man in the picture above might be doing an appropriate weight for his body type and strength, and I’ll say his form looks great, but did you know he is squatting 405 lbs. in that picture?
There is training and then there is overtraining. As much as I would love to say I can squat 405 lbs. consistently, I also want to say that I will be able to walk without horrible pain in my knees at age 50. People who lift too much weight put a lot of strain on their joints. Each person will have their own threshold for overtraining from excessive weight, but know that it only comes with extreme circumstances.
The lack of a rest period is the most common type of overtraining. When you workout, you are breaking your muscles down. In response to this breakdown, your body builds itself back up again, but it builds your muscles stronger than before. When you don’t take a period to rest after working out hard, your body does not have the time build back up, and you lose out on the benefit of all that hard work. How sad! To avoid this, I would recommend having 1-2 days per week that you do not exercise intensely. Go for a walk or do something fun outside instead (or actually get to bed at an appropriate time). Your body will thank you for it.
(Disclaimer: This information is for entertainment and educational purposes only. Please talk to your primary care doctor before starting an exercise program)
Be sure to comment and share your experience with these common workout “ditches” so that Dr. Corriel invites me back again! You can find me on Instagram: @MrMedSchoolMoney. Thanks for reading along!
Mr. MedSchool Money is an ACSM-certified Personal Trainer and a 4th year allopathic medical student in the Midwest. He plans to apply for a residency in anesthesiology this fall. When he isn’t training or studying, he enjoys spending time with his wife and 9-month-old son, practicing Japanese ju jitsu, blogging (link to blog, Make Money in Med School), and learning about finance.