Consistency // Flexibility

Lessons learned from training for my first half marathon

During my twenties, I was involved in competitive sports such as CrossFit, Olympic Weightlifting, and an occasional 5K race. As I was in my pre-clinical years, I could effortlessly adjust my work and school schedule around my training, allowing me to maintain a consistent workout routine. However, as I moved into my clinical years in medical school and residency, my schedule became highly unpredictable due to the constantly changing rotations. This made it challenging to establish a regular training schedule, which impeded my ability to make any meaningful progress in competitive sports. With the variety of rotations, including inpatient medicine floors, the ICU's, and outpatient primary care, my start and end times could change, and the hours could differ drastically week to week. As a result, I experienced a lot of frustration with being unable to commit to a workout routine that would develop and grow me physically and athletically.

At the start of 2023, I desired to establish a consistent routine for physical and athletic growth that could be maintained during residency and throughout my academic clinical career, despite the highly variable work schedule. To achieve this, I set a goal of working out every morning before starting the day. I was confident that I could find an hour or two in the morning, regardless of the type of rotation I was on, to devote to a workout routine. I chose running as my exercise of choice and registered for my first half marathon as a concrete goal to strive towards.

As I trained for the half marathon, I faced a major challenge: keeping up with my workout routine while juggling my constantly-changing work schedule. It felt like every time I found my groove, my rotations in residency would shift, leaving me feeling frustrated and disheartened. For example, when I first started training, I was starting work at 7:30 am, and I was able to hit the gym before heading to work as my apartment gym opened at 6 am. But when I transitioned to the medical ICU 6 weeks before the race, my schedule shifted to a 7 am start, leaving me with no time to get into my apartment gym before my call shift. Instead of letting the change defeat me and derail me from my goal, I switched to outdoor running and began waking up at 4:30 am to fit in my run before my shift. Although running in the cold, dark March mornings was not easy, the experience taught me that adaptability is just as important as consistency, and in fact, necessary to be consistent.

The morning of the race was marred by heavy rainfall, and I was forced to wait in the rain for an hour and a half before the race even began. Furthermore, during the initial two miles, I experienced severe leg cramps, which persisted throughout the rest of the race. And as if this was not enough, my apple watch died at mile 7, leaving me without music or the ability to track my pace for the latter half of the race. Despite these numerous unexpected challenges on the day of the race, the adaptability I had cultivated during my training helped me to overcome them. By not letting the less-than-ideal circumstances derail my focus or dishearten me, I managed to maintain a pace of 8:21/mile, which well surpassed my initial goal of a sub 9-minute mile. In fact, I ran the second half of the race at a faster pace than I did the first half of the race, something that I wonder if was to the credit of these unforeseen hurdles.

Consistency is undoubtedly important in achieving our goals, whether it's in sports, work, or life in general. However, life is unpredictable and circumstances are constantly changing. It's important to learn to be adaptable and flexible in the face of change. Rather than having an all-or-none mentality when it comes to sticking to a routine, we should focus on daily progress, even if the path to get there is different than what we initially planned. By being open to adjusting our approach, we can maintain consistency in our efforts and ultimately achieve our goals, despite the detours we may face along the way. And often, the challenges we must navigate and adapt to along the way end up being the means by which we achieve our goals and ultimately, become the best version of ourselves.

"Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked,
while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind."
- Bruce Lee