Saturday, August 10, 2013

Guest Post: What's Your Boston Marathon?

Last summer I was invited to a medical student event about Integrative Medicine, a field that combines our American “western” medicine with all other methods of healing out there: holistic medicine, osteopathy, acupuncture, herbal supplements, all around health and healing. Attendees for the event consisted of myself and about 30 other medical and osteopathic students from all over the US. On the first night we all introduced ourselves by talking about an item that is sacred to us. My family doesn’t have any jewelry to pass down, and I think with the exception of my pictures, I see the other things I own as replaceable. So I picked something that was very special to me, and had good meaning behind it – I picked my medal (completion medal, this girl came no where close to winning) for the 2011 Boston Marathon.

I love to run. Love. To me, running is a gift. Running, along with good nutrition, is the core to my physical and mental health. It is gives me cardiovascular stamina, muscular endurance, and the “runner’s high” from endorphins being released are undeniable. Running has helped give me balance in my life. I do not run everyday, and I also know what happens to my body if I run too much. Running is a gift that I do not want to take for granted, but I also do not want to abuse it. I think that especially for women, it’s important to exercise – you absolutely should do it, but do it in a way that is best for own body.

After college, I wanted to give the marathon a try. I surprised myself by qualifying for the Boston Marathon after running my first marathon in Philadelphia, and I decided to give Boston a shot. My training for Boston was lame. I fell way behind a training schedule (Philly becomes a tough place to run in the snow) and, in large part because I was in my first year of medical school, I let myself get way too stressed out. I was all set to bag my spot in Boston, but, after talking to Nathan about it…he gave me a long talk about how quitting would be really stupid, and I will never forget him saying, “What do you think your kids are going to say? Do you think they are going to say, ‘Mom, tell us about that quiz in medical school’. No! They are going to want to hear about you running the Boston Marathon!”

And that was it. I sucked it up with my training, got a peak run in, and made the trip up to Boston. Oh my, it was worth it. The whole weekend leading up to Marathon Monday was exciting, and I was so proud to be a part of the party. I learned why this marathon meant so much for the city of Boston; a marathon that now means so much to our country after this year’s tragic events. I ran the Boston Marathon in 3:29:57. I could see the clock far down Boylston Street and made myself get under 3:30, much slower than my PR, but I didn’t care. What mattered was that I took a crappy situation that was making me consider quitting something I loved, and I stuck to what I loved even when medical school was starting to pull me away from it.

That night as I told the story behind my Boston medal I said, “I believe that everybody should have something that medical school can’t touch.” For me, I don’t want my career to come near my running. At times it certainly has…any medical student knows during third year you struggle to maintain your physical health. I have learned how it feels to have something pull you in the direction opposite your dreams and also create poor health habits. Running the Boston Marathon taught me how it feels to prioritize your health and take care of yourself. For me, between medical school, getting proper nutrition and enough sleep, exercising, and maintaining a relationship…this is a balance I am still working on, as I can imagine so many of you are as well. I still do not have it figured out, but it feels good to know that I have initiated the journey to better health.

Everybody has a Boston Marathon, a goal that they can accomplish, or a dream of being something different, doing something new that can create a healthier life. Everybody has something in their life that pulls them away from what they love or that dream that  they want to achieve. Your Boston Marathon could be reaching a healthier weight, taking the trip to Spain for the tomato festival, learning how to cook healthy meals, creating that backyard garden, coming out to your family about your sexuality. It could be the Boston Marathon, an Ironman Triathlon, running 4 laps around a track, or finally signing up for yoga classes. What are some things you have wanted to do for yourself to become physically and mentally healthier?

Your medical school could be your current job, pressure from family, financial troubles, or the fear of putting yourself out there.  The obstacles to maintaining a healthy lifestyle are endless, and I know first hand how it feels to not have the energy or time to exercise, cook a meal at home, do some yoga, or call a friend.  But change is always possible, and it can happen everyday!  The first step to a positive change is realizing your dreams and goals, and then coming to terms with your internal and external obstacles.  It is the first step to a life-changing transformation.  It all starts with small changes, and you can take back the life you want to live.  I understand that it's not easy; pursuing your dreams and being true to yourself can be a very vulnerable feeling.  There is a fantastic Ted Talk by Brene Brown called "The Power of Vulnerability".  She talks about putting yourself out there to change: "I'm just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I'm alive."

I will end this with a quote from the short film “35”, a quote I taped on my refrigerator. “Inside, we are all capable of surprising ourselves. We all have dreams, but they don’t mean much if we don’t act on them.” Life is too short to let medical school touch your Boston Marathon.

I am very grateful to be a part of this journey we are all on, and I look forward to the connection, education, and relationship we will all gain from Sweat and Butter.

Casey Meizinger is a medical student from Philadelphia. She has a deep interest in integrative musculoskeletal medicine and plans to specialize in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.  Casey has a passion for promoting sustainable health and wellness - she majored in Exercise Science in college and she introduced her medical school to Integrative Medicine.  She is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and loves yoga and long-distance running.  Casey is excited to empower others with a sustainable, healthy life.

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