Pushing Through – Dealing With Troubling Times

Life is not about how hard you can hit, but how much you can get hit & still keep moving forward. -Rocky Balboa
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It is commonplace these days to hear people say that times are tough, and indeed they are. Truth is, there will ALWAYS be something we will be forced to contend with. At times those challenges can be so trying that they threaten to break our spirit and obscure the light at the end of the tunnel. However, it is imperative to push through those trials and tribulations while remembering what our goals are.

Your goals may be long term and centered around a career aspiration or the pursuit of an avocation for which you have great passion. Perhaps you have a weight loss goal or want to improve your general health. Or maybe you compete and are chasing after that elusive Pro Card or Olympia qualification. Chances are that any challenges which hit unexpectedly have no direct correlation to these goals, so why allow them to push you off course? You may get knocked around a bit, but the important thing is to get back in line with that prize you have set before you.

It always amazes me to hear patients and clients describe how they abandoned their meal plans and exercise regimens, and thus their fitness and health goals, when they were forced to deal with stressful life events such as divorce, legal issues, job loss, or family illness. What goes through my mind when I hear such things is that these people are doing themselves a disservice by dropping a regular regimen which has immense long term payoffs. A thread of stability is established when there is consistency with food intake and exercise which can actually lessen the impact of life stressors. Energy levels are boosted, depression is minimized, and an individual can assert his or her own personal needs in the face of adversity.

So if tough times are getting you down, remember to put the oxygen mask on your own face and take care of your own needs. Those who persevere will be rewarded after the storm passes. Hang in there!

Life Is Never Boring

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Any time I hear someone complain about how predictable, steady and boring life is, I chuckle, because I have never been able to make that statement about my own life. This doesn’t mean that my life is unstable, but that I have always had so much going on that there hasn’t been time for boredom to set in. I truly am CONSTANTLY doing something, and I have a habit of packing a lot into each day. I understand that some people are stuck in boring jobs, so I am thankful that I love being a physician, and love the environments in which I work. I am fortunate to be involved in pursuits which I am passionate about, and which give me an incredible sense of fulfillment. Whether I am doctoring, writing articles, modeling, doing booth work, creating nutrition and workout regimens, or working on business strategies or branding, so much is going on inside my head that I couldn’t possibly get bored.

I will admit that aspects of my regular daily routine could be seen by others as a bit dull, since I head to the gym around the same time, and I usually spend weeknights writing. However, I typically cram so much stuff in between those activities that I spend the entire day rushing around, trying to get it ALL done. The overachiever in me can’t seem to let go of the notion that the best days are the ones in which all the important items on the to do list are checked off. Even on the weekends, I spend the majority of my time trying to catch up on articles and plans which I wasn’t able to get to during the week.

Another feature of my life is that I wear so many hats that I have to constantly shift gears. Though it puts a lot of pressure on me, I prefer to have a lot of variety in my day, talking about medicine, fitness, skincare, nutrition, and business. My nerves can get pretty frazzled from the endless list of things to do, but I know I wouldn’t be able to deal with sitting around all day with nothing to do. I think partially because I have chosen a number of very interesting fields to pursue, and partially because I seem to attract a lot of movement and energy, circumstances also seem to keep me on my toes, and also keep boredom at bay. About 25 years ago, I remember someone telling me that I moved at a high “burn rate”, that my spirit had a lot of karmic energy which would attract lots of activity and movement. Despite its mystical tone, the statement struck me, and I can honestly say that it fits the cadence of my entire life.

If you find that you are bored with your life, it’s time to examine what might be holding you in a rut. Maybe you watch a lot of television. If so, turn off the television and read a good book. If it has been months or even years since you exercised, join a gym and commit to a regular workout schedule. Go out with friends. If you have pockets of time in which you are looking for things to do, try exploring your city or town by visiting other neighborhood stores, parks and restaurants. Cultivate a new hobby. Volunteer.

You can turn a boring life into a fulfilling, fun, exciting one by doing new things. Have fun!

Uncompromised

Breaking stereotypes!

Breaking stereotypes!

I am always being challenged to pick one career that defines me, and it drives me nuts. When people find out that I am a medical doctor, they struggle with the stereotype of what they expect doctors to be like, in other words, very conservative in dress and demeanor, and without any flavor or personality. Well, I’ve got news for you. I will NEVER be a typical doctor. And please don’t doubt my credentials or schooling. I am NOT a nurse (not that there is anything wrong with this highly respected profession), I am a fully licensed and board certified physician.

A huge project came my way recently, and I was selected for it, only to have the decision-maker flip out over my fitness and modeling images and reverse the decision. I was stunned and dejected, but after reflecting on the whole incident, I began to get angry. Part of the problem was that the decision-maker was a complete hypocrite, pretending to be squeaky clean, but who openly praised one of the dirtiest human beings to ever alight on the entertainment scene. To coin an analogy, at the root of this was a case of the bride being upstaged by another lady wearing white. Mind you, I never intentionally wore white, but hey, my doctor’s coat is white.

I am every bit as much about fitness as I am about medicine, and I shouldn’t have to choose one over the other. I am damned proud of what I have accomplished in fitness, especially because I took things to the next level in my forties, not when I was a young whipper-snapper. If people are confused by the sampler plate philosophy by which I live, too bad. Yes, I am a board certified physician AND a degreed fitness professional, IFBB Pro, certified nutrition coach, writer, sponsored athlete and contest prep coach. I know it’s unusual, but why is that so hard for people to grasp? I mean, here I am, doing all of that, sending a message to the world that no one should have to be one-dimensional and boring.
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I don’t hide from myself. I am honest. I have sass, and I speak my mind. I am proud of what I have achieved in my life, and I will NOT hide parts of myself which some overly judgmental people may have a problem with. I am NOT going to apologize for having a sense of humor, for using cuss words here and there (though I don’t use them while seeing patients). I am not going to paint a false picture of who I am. If you don’t like what I am doing, no worries. Move on.

If you find that you are compromising your own vision, dreams, or goals, perhaps you need to re-examine why you are allowing that to occur. If you subscribe to the no limits philosophy, then you would never even consider pulling the reins back. I will always encourage driven people to go for whatever they want, and if it doesn’t fit in with the conventions of one of their chosen careers or hobbies, even better. Break stereotypes and show people what you are made of! Don’t hide all the facets which make you who you are!

“What Do You DO?”

people at partyOne of my pet peeves is when I am at an event and someone asks me what I “do”. It drives me nuts, as if the only thing defining who I am is what activity I engage in which enables me to keep a roof over my head and pay bills. It’s not like I am ashamed of what I do for a living. In fact it’s quite the contrary. But I don’t like throwing around the fact that I am a physician because it sets up erroneous preconceived notions about my personality, lifestyle, and income. It is only after I have been speaking to someone for a while and have been given an opportunity to mention fitness that I come alive and truly enjoy the conversation. I do NOT enjoy talking about my medical career. People do not seem to understand that not every physician works in a hospital, works full time, makes oodles of money, and enjoys talking about medicine 24/7.

Another thing I cannot stand about revealing my main career is that people seem to think nothing of asking for a curbside consult. Let’s say you are a certified public accountant. Would it bother you if I asked you a couple of tax questions just to make sure I am filing my tax receipts properly? Oh, it WOULD bother you? Well, I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t ask me to look at your sore elbow, or the rash on your left cheek (sometimes it’s even the nether cheek which is affected…NO, I don’t want to see it!), or your inflamed adenoids. When I am at an event, I am OFF DUTY, just like you are. So please don’t ask.

I know that some people love talking about what they do. If it stems from a true passion for what they do, that’s fantastic. However, there are plenty of situations in which I find myself conversing with someone who thinks that social conventions require everyone to discuss what they do for a living, no matter how unfulfilling or uninteresting the discussion is. I would honestly rather find out something interesting about a person, such as an unusual hobby, than to hear someone describe a work environment which holds zero interest for me.

I wish conversations were more heavily weighted towards truly learning about what makes a person tick instead of sizing someone up on the basis of how they make a living!

“But I Don’t Have Time To Work Out!”

It always amazes me when people insist that they have no time to exercise and list one reason after another to substantiate such a claim.  I completely understand that work schedules can be extremely demanding and exhausting.  Some individuals may have the best of intentions in planning to go to the gym after work, but this can be a major feat after working long hours.  So does one give up on such a pursuit?  Absolutely not!  There are numerous ways in which one can fit exercise into a hectic daily schedule.

I work at three different office locations and am constantly battling traffic which eats up a lot of my time.  Because of this, I make sure to PLAN AHEAD and schedule my training and cardio sessions around my work schedule.  A little extra planning, along with the determination to make exercise a daily priority, can ensure that regular workouts become an integral part of one’s schedule.

 

Keep Your Car Trunk Stocked!

From personal experience, I have found that keeping my car trunk stocked with all my gym equipment and an “emergency” gym outfit is an excellent way of ensuring that I will be well-prepared for a gym visit whenever it presents itself.  Another thing that I do is if I have a workout planned after work, I make sure to drive to the gym regardless of how tired I am.  I have counseled patients and clients who make the mistake of going home after work, convincing themselves that they will go to the gym after having a meal, settling in, but what usually happens is “…oh wait, there’s that great show on television…and I have laundry to do, etc…” thus killing any chance of them gathering the motivation to trek to the gym.

 

Set Your Alarm Early.

For people who consider themselves early birds, it may be more effective to set the alarm to go off earlier in the morning to allow sufficient time to get a workout in before the workday begins.  One of the benefits of going to the gym before work is the energizing effect which exercise confers.  Another benefit is that your workout will be complete, leaving your evenings after work open for other tasks.

Some people may balk at the idea of having to trek to the gym in the morning, stating that it takes extra time to travel to and from the facility.  If this is the case, there are two options:  either wake up earlier, or exercise at home.  You can even start your day with a brisk walk or jog before eating breakfast, then get ready for work.

 

Exercise During Lunch.

A third option which one might consider is to work out during a lunch break.  Although this usually poses more time constraints than the other options, exercise during the lunch hour may be a very effective means of staying in shape, provided the workouts are intense.  If you decide to grab a quick workout at the gym, be sure to bring a bag with toiletries so that you can shower before heading back to work.  You can also try to grab a decent workout while at work with resistance bands and plyometric movements.

 

Regardless of which options you select, you should definitely be able to fit regular exercise into your busy schedule.  You can even break up your workouts into segments in which lifting is done in the morning, with cardio performed either during the lunch hour or after work.

What about incorporating exercise into your daily routine while at work? You can take the stairs instead of the elevator, stretch whenever you rise from your chair, even throw in a couple of wall sits in the office while you are waiting for something to print. It’s those little activities which can really add up during the course of a day and give you a boost of energy.

Consistency

As a physician I am as much a therapist as I am a physical healer and am well aware of the vital connection between mind, spirit and body.  I have also seen how closely linked emotional stress is to development and exacerbation of physical ailments.  What concerns me is when people abandon healthy habits when adversity hits them because it is at those times that some structure would provide balance to their lives.

A common question I hear from patients, clients and strangers I meet is, “how can you maintain a regular exercise schedule and pack your food all the time with your busy careers?”, to which I respond, “I just do it.”  Working out and eating right are as essential to me as sleeping and brushing my teeth.  It never occurs to me to abandon healthy habits during stressful times.  I recently went through a particularly difficult month during which I went through a residential move, took two family practice board recertification exams, attended a major medical convention out of town for several days, and attended a three day fitness seminar, all while working at the three offices I usually work at, attending meetings, visiting my mother in the nursing home each week, and calling my favorite aunt and another elderly friend every week like I had been doing for years.  I did not miss my workouts at all.  There were only a couple of days when I was not on my usual food regimen only because my food had spoiled during the move.

Why would I push myself like this?  Because I know that consistency is key to maintaining balance in one’s life.  When I am consistent with my workouts and food, I maintain structure and focus and do not allow excuses of an insanely busy schedule to deter me from my mission to live an optimally healthy lifestyle.  Every day I make an important investment in myself.

If you make an investment in yourself by being consistent with your exercise and meal habits, you will be rewarded with greater balance in your life and better health.  Don’t you deserve that?