Athletes in Medical School: What All Students Can Learn From Them

Emily Kahoud

Disclosures

April 05, 2019

Perfection Is the Enemy

Perhaps even more important for med students who are prone to all-or-nothing perfectionism is Gabi's disclaimer: "I am not perfect. And in fitness, everyone is different and everyone has different struggles." One of her struggles as an NPC bodybuilder is how food and going to restaurants is central to celebrating with friends. Regardless of what your struggle is, you have to be okay with the fact that "you're going to fail more times than not." What matters is not the failure but the recovery. "You're constantly tweaking things," she said.

Fitness is not stagnant, and neither is med school. No matter what you do or who you are, there are going to be those days when "you don't want to wake up early and do this." That's where remembering your purpose—the why behind it—matters most. This is what helps Gabi make it happen, regardless of how tired she may feel. For her, the whys include the people she surrounds herself with and plans to care for as a physician not too far down the road. "When you have a community that relies on you and that inspires you in return, it's easy to do."

As president of the Lifestyle Medicine Interest Group at Rutgers NJMS, Gabi has seen firsthand the importance of being able to check in with people who share her passion for staying healthy and encouraging their community to do the same. Being a part of the lifestyle medicine group at NJMS "is a way to not only keep yourself accountable, but also to keep yourself inspired." When you go to a community event like the Walk with a Doc events she leads on Saturday mornings, Gabi explained, "you're inundated with the latest in research," whether it's the concrete health benefits of something as simple as walking every day or of adding more plant-based foods to your diet.

Engaging in lifestyle medicine in action helps with the positive reinforcement of feeling the benefits as well as being a part of a movement. This movement is about inspiring physicians and patients alike to regain control of their health and to feel empowered to make small decisions every day to fight the chronic disease epidemic, to which med students are not immune. Getting out there to put lifestyle medicine in action "plants the seed and gets people thinking about it," Gabi stated, "and hopefully gets them to delve deeper. And if they don't, you bring it to them!"

The Bottom Line

As an athlete and a dedicated med student at the forefront of the lifestyle medicine movement, Gabi says that being around a community of her peers reminds her that med school doesn't have to be about stress eating, staying up late at night, and worrying. It can be so much more, "if you can find that place of balance in your life."

When it comes down to it, focusing on yourself—whether it be meditation, exercise, or a hobby—enables you to fuel your academic performance in a way that doing the work for the sake of itself can never do. You have to build that foundation, Gabi explained, and see where that takes you. "Push the limit until it's uncomfortable. And if it's working, then try to push the bar a little more. If not, you can always pull it back."

The bottom line is that you can't be afraid to have setbacks if you want to achieve more than you thought possible. Regardless of your field or path of competition, Gabi advises dropping the "negative connotation associated with failure." Our disappointments are not failures; they're the prerequisites for learning and for growing. Whether you're a student, an athlete, or both, embrace missteps with the wisdom that it's not only the successes that push us forward.

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