Lift Like a Girl

Woman liftingI knew residency wouldn’t be easy for someone as beholden to REM cycles as I am, though I naively believed I could make it through four years of training unaffected by their relative absence.  It turns out that was wishful thinking.  Although I took an oath to do no harm to my patients, learning how to practice medicine came at the cost of my own health and well-being.

Residency training is one of medicine’s biggest oxymorons.  You’re a doctor, but not quite.  You’re getting paid, but not enough.  I’d fantasize I was laying on a beach but in reality, it was 3:00 am and I was in the Emergency Department managing the expectations of a patient who colorfully suggested I seek employment elsewhere (I’d have loved to take her advice).  Assuredly, my current clinical acumen is light years ahead of where I was on my first day of internship, though you won’t ever hear me say these skills were forged by the fire of night shift.

I had heard stories of residents who gained weight during internship due to inactivity and reliance on quick, calorie-laden meals.  I, on the other hand, skidded into second year considerably underweight.  During intern year I was mostly too tired to eat and went straight to bed, once only partially removing my scrub pants before I fell asleep!  My clothes were hanging off my body even though I bought smaller sizes just a few months prior.  My skin was dull, grey, and lifeless.  I spent the ten days between first and second year relaxing and reading trashy novels on that beach I had fantasized so much about.

Watching Wonder Woman on the big screen soon after my return to Philadelphia motivated me to take some steps in a positive direction.  Director Patty Jenkins and her band of warrior women portrayed by real-life doyennes reminded me that I, too, was powerful, strong, and resilient.  Although it had been a few years since I spent time in the weight room, strength training seemed like a great choice for relieving residency-related stress.  I enlisted the help of my athletic trainer boyfriend to design a plan that was fun, varied, and, most importantly, completely doable after a workday.  It was time to begin my warrior training!  Cue training montage.

Moving heavy stuff around is immensely satisfying for me.  Over the course of the past year, I’ve seen physical changes in my body which give me a sense of accomplishment and power.  I can do multiple pushups now.  I’m about 3/4 of the way to a pull-up.  I use a couple of 45-pound plates when I squat.  Our bodies were designed to be active, dynamic, constantly moving creatures and weightlifting has allowed me to appreciate that I am strong in both mind and body.  I am strong.  I am enough.  I am.
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