Working on My Fitness
The best my health has ever been was in D.C., before starting medical school. I mean, there are lots of reasons why this makes sense. I had a steady, though small, income. I lived with someone who became like family to me and invited me to the gym with her every week. And even though I worked from 8 am to 5 pm, I could do whatever I wanted in the evenings and on the weekends.
Building a foundation
I spent a lot of time exploring D.C. via their amazing public transport. Ohio really lacks in that department. I walked 3-5 miles a day and it never felt like a lot. There was always something to do or see or try. I invested in my health by setting intentional fitness goals and setting aside lots of my time for hobbies, like learning about gardening.
This was also the time that I started my nonprofit, chasingmedicine.org. In addition to that, I worked to increase access to sex education and family planning resources worldwide at Pathfinder International. And the food was amazing too!
At the beginning of medical school, I really tried to keep up with all the healthy habits I built in D.C. As med school grew more demanding, my mental and physical health began to slip. I could hardly find the time to cook for myself, let alone eat right and go to the gym.
Money was tight too, as I was now depending fully on loans. And there was all this pressure to perform well academically, after all, this was a lifelong dream of mine. I would try here and there to re-incorporate those self-care and healthy habits, but then the stress would hit again and I would be back to eating and sleeping just to survive the day.
Recommitting to myself
I have re-dedicated this year to myself, and no, it is not a New Year’s resolution. This is about creating sustainable, healthy habits for the rest of my life. I see elderly patients in clinics with a wide range of abilities, and I know what I do now to take care of myself will determine what I can do later. I want to be able to play tag with my niece and backpack across Europe.
If you do not make time for your health now, you will have to make time for your illness later. I think this is a hard thing to grasp with sickle cell. I mean, I am always being forced to do whatever my disease says it needs. But I have to take better care of myself outside of my disease; take better care of myself wholly.
So, I have set out to take myself back to D.C., metaphorically speaking – though I would love to live there again. I started by signing up for a workout class with a friend. Okay, I signed up a while ago but sickle cell kept getting in the way. I would wake up in pain or too tired to go – until recently.
Putting in the work to find what works
I finally did it. I signed up for a free Barre class, and I went! It was really fun, though not what I expected. I really liked using the bar, doing the stretches, and learning new positions. Sometimes it was really challenging to do certain micro-movements and hold them, but I am proud of myself for persevering.
And then I tried a free Pilates class and I loved that too! It involves using this machine called a reformer, a lot of stretching, and again holding different small movements. Next, I want to try something called fusion because it reminds me of the HIIT class I took back in D.C. and loved so much.
Finding financial balance
I love yoga too, but I refuse to pay for that when I can do it at home. All of these classes are expensive though! Not sure I can afford them financially, but I am trying to shift my spending to reflect the things that matter to me, and my health is important. So now I am looking for more affordable, but still really fun, ways to get my heart pumping and body moving. I am even going to finally sign up for the Salsa/Bachata class I have been wanting to take for years now.
I used to have this silly mentality that I just had to wait until XYZ (college, med school, marriage) happened, and then I would truly begin living my life. Well, life is short, crazy, and unpredictable; so why not make the most of it?
What awareness month activities do you plan to get involved in?