Relax, Recharge, Reunite: Analysis of a Girls’ Getaway

I am just heading home from a 4 day weekend with some of my college roommates. We have now known each other for longer than we hadn’t before we met in our late teens. As our 40th birthdays were approaching a couple of years ago, I suggested that we all get together to celebrate sometime this summer. After multiple Google searches for ‘girls’ weekend,’ many destinations proposed and rejected, and several ‘anonymous’ doodle polls, four of us amazingly agreed on a time and place and pulled it off.

It was the first time since graduation that we met ‘just because.’ There was no wedding or baby shower, no reunion, no conveniently timed and located work meeting. We wanted to, and in retrospect needed to, just be together for the sake of reconnecting with women we hold dear in our hearts, who will forever share a piece of our soul even if the hustle and bustle life keep us largely apart and disconnected from each others’ daily lives. We came together from different corners of the country. This is what friendship is all about.

So we friends, who have moved geographically and/or practically away from each other over the years, slipped right back into our easy friendship in a swank condo in downtown Denver. (Denver BTW is a great destination for a girls’ weekend offering a balance of outdoor adventures, culture, and urban fun but this blog post is not about that.) We laughed together. We cried together. We ran, hiked, biked, swam, and lifted/toned/burned* together. We shopped together. We relaxed together. We perused social media together. We ate and drank together.

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Mostly we just talked and talked and talked while we did all these things together. We had so much to catch up on: so much advice to seek; so many opinions to render; so many feelings to share. It’s not that none of us have equivalent friendships in our daily lives to do all this sharing, all this bearing of heart and soul; but the same challenges of life, be they work, kids, personal health, etc., that get in the way of us keeping in touch also get in the way of those local friendships.** Some of us, however, just don’t have women who are true friends close to our current homes, part of our daily lives. And for us, the reconnecting was ever so much more meaningful.

In theory, since we value each others’ friendship so much, we could call or text each other, we could Skype or Google Hangout together, and we could email or (gasp) send letters to one another to stay connected. But we don’t. We just don’t. It’s not that we don’t need or want to. We just aren’t able to execute on our friendships when everything else is a more immediate priority. So, without the rigors of daily life bearing down on us, without the distraction of some other event calling us together, we were able to just let go of all the things that keep us perpetually apart and be together this past weekend.

We all benefited. We felt unconditional love and received honest input on things that are weighing heavily on our minds. We learned more about ourselves and our relationships with others. We deduced what undergarments should and shouldn’t be worn and for what occasions. We exorcised demons of roommate fiascos of long ago. We built new memories and hatched ambitious plans for the future.

From gut busting guffaws, to smirks and smiles and frowns and tears, we had a great time. Part therapy, part fun, part vacation—girls’ getaways are an undeniable fact of life long friendships, quickly mitigating the challenges of distance and distractions of modern life. A perfect way to relax, recharge, and reunite.

*See Pure Barre

**This is why so many women who are in geographic proximity do ladies’ night out much in the way we did this weekend.

 

 

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Avoiding a Vacation Set Back: Day #1

I am heading out  today for a much needed two week vacation. In years past, I had a tendency to gain 5-7lbs for each week of vacation. Too much foodie tourism and too little movement. Things are different now. Or least I like to think they are. I still plan on eating well, just not with reckless abandon; and I plan on tempering the eating with exercise or at least of lot of steps logged every day.

So, my vacation blogging goal is to post at least one fitness achievement or workout fashion statement for each day of vacation.

Today was Day#1 (though I did go to our weekly 6:30am meeting at work). I was exhausted from one on call day and two late nights packing but it was really beautiful out (and at least when I made the decision not too humid) so I willed myself to get out there. It was not pretty. Honestly with how bad I felt with the hills and the humidity (it had really gotten moist by 9:30am), I was wondering how it was that I finished a half marathon just 7wks ago. But I got her done at a sub-11min pace (yes, that’s pretty speedy for me and no it’s not about how fast you are; it’s about having put in the effort no matter how fast or how slow.)

Here’s my other summer lemon workout look. Puma running capris and an Under Armour ribbed tank.

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Fitbit count >15,000k steps before making it to the destination. (Yes, I am publishing this from 30,000 feet–yah! JetBlue in-flight wifi.)

 

Granny Panties

I almost ordered granny panties today and it was quite possibly the worst day of my life.

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I have been trying to be graceful about hitting middle age. I have no shame in admitting my use of Spanx. But granny panties? What possibly could have come over me? Did I turn 50 in the year 1974 instead of 40 in 2014?

I will freely admit that I buy most of my basic foundation pieces in bulk at Costco. With the effects of weight-loss, pilates, and barre it’s time to restock the underwear drawer. I have been in a saggy undies faze for a while now and someone who may have caught a glimpse gently suggested I turn some of my love of shopping to the task of new undergarments since one can’t bulk shop for undies before finding the brand, style, and cut that works in a non-multi pack package.

And so, I found myself in some sort of an age-induced stupor called to the underwear with the built in support panel for women like myself who, either due to weight loss or pregnancies or both, find themselves with a sag or a pooch in their lower mid-section. It’s the one thing I can’t shake. While I have trimmed down or toned most other parts of my body, I just can’t put a debt in the remaining (I would guess) 10lbs of pure fat stuck to my lower mid-section. Perhaps, it is the stretched out roll of skin enveloping it that gives this particular fat its tenacity. These days, though I will still shimmy into Spanx for special events requiring particularly sleek outfits, I am so over halting respirations just to hold back the pooch in an everyday outfit.

There I was, shopping online, seriously contemplating reinforced panels on my underpants. They were on sale, at Nordstrom no less. They weren’t even that granny-ish. But. I. Just. Could. Not. make myself put a pair in my cart. It was just too much like my mom circa 1980, when (at least with the then 40 year olds I knew) 40 was just plain old 40. If 40 is the new 20 today then this new 40 year old needs to be buying underwear meant for 20 year olds, pooch or no pooch.

Do they sell those in bulk at Costco, I wonder?

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What you don’t know about your doctor

I’ve been thinking about this post for awhile, and finally, am going to spill some “secrets” about me and my colleagues.

 

We are in debt.

I mean, real debt.  It actually costs most of us almost 1 million dollars to become your doctor.

 

It has taken us a long time to get here.

Let’s do some math.  4 years of college + 4 years of medical school + 5 years of surgery training + 2 years of fellowship = a long ass time and saying goodbye to my 20’s.  While my friends were off going to clubs, getting married and taking vacations, I was busy trying to learn about microbiology, genetics, and anatomy.  So, although we “appreciate” Jenny McCarthy’s medical degree from Google University, please listen to your real doctor.

 

We hate when you ask us when you can go smoke.  Um, duh, the answer is never.

 

Being a doctor is oftentimes like being a parent.

We have to have the hard conversations that can often lead you to not liking us… and, that is okay.  Yes, just like your mom tells you, “We are doing this because we care about you.”  Let’s face the facts, almost 70% of the United States is overweight or obese and that is not healthy.  This means, as the person who is supposed to care most about your health, we have to TALK to you about it.  Remember when you didn’t take your seizure medications and then wrecked your car?  Yes, we have to TALK about that.  You are addicted to your pain medication.  Yep, we have to TALK about that, too.

 

We joke about some pretty gross things.

Poop, snot, amniotic fluid.  Nothing is immune or off limits to our often very warped sense of humor.  If you happen to overhear us, you will probably think we are all a little crazy.  However, with what we see on the daily, we gotta find humor somewhere.

 

We make really good secretaries.

Ha!  Just kidding, I wish you could have seen my assistant’s face when I told her I was going to add this.  But, we do a ton of paperwork.  Out of a 12 hour workday, up to 4 of those hours will be devoted to writing notes, signing orders, filling out insurance paperwork, and returning phone calls.  Let’s do some more math.  40 patients in the hospital to see (which is an average for me) x 6 minutes to document the patient’s concerns, my physical exam, lab and/or radiology results, and my plan for that day = 4 hours.  Don’t forget to add in that I spend a large portion of my day in the operating room.  Unfortunately, there is this new found belief that if it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen.  All of these factors combined create an atmosphere that is paper centered, not patient centered… And we hate it.  We went through umpteen years of school and training (see above) to take care of you, not fill out forms.

 

Our families sacrifice so we can take care of yours.

I was on call the night my husband tore his biceps tendon in half.  I had to tell him to take ibuprofen, put ice on it, and try to not pick up our 18-month-old son until I could get home… the next day.  Although, our families understand this most of the time, it can still be hard on them… and us.

 

We take you home with us.

Like one of my own mentors recently stated, we do have our own cemeteries.  You may not remember the faceless doctor in the white coat who told you that we could not save your loved one.  But the pain, the anguish that we see in your eyes makes an imprint on our hearts.  There are patients that we never forget and days that we wish we could.  We see unimaginable horrors and yet have to press on.

 

And lastly, although we may have bad days and curse ourselves for choosing this sometimes tortured profession, we love what we do and care deeply about you, our patients.

Feeling 40

On the morning of my 38th birthday I promised myself I would be in the best shape of my life by my 40th birthday. I gave myself 2 years, hauled my Not-A-Morning-Person ass out of bed at 5:45am, and headed for my first reformer class. So lots of core work and runs later minus lots of unnecessary carbs (though not totally paleo), I have to say, I am pretty proud of myself.

And, though I can say with confidence that I feel better and look better than I ever have–while I wholeheartedly believe that 40 is the new 20–I must admit there are some tell-tale signs that I have the physiology of a 40 year old.

1) I have grey hairs.

2) I have more chin hair than my husband (who is rockin’ a full beard these days!)

3) Worse, some of those chin hairs are grey too!

4) No amount of investment in an industrial strength push-up bra will re-orient my boobs.

5) Speaking of boobs, mammograms. Ugh.

6) I rock raccoon eye. Not just when I am post-call or have been crying. Nope, just All. The. Time.

7) I have a pooch. Not my puppy, rather a tenacious fold of abdominal skin that mimics a beer gut without any of the beer.

8) I can sense the weather in my toes (don’t blame the heels!), my knees (don’t blame the running!), and my left thumb (blame surgery!).

9) A night out is staying up past 9pm without pajamas on.

10) I have forgotten what 10 is.

Happy Birthday to Me! I’m feelin’ 40.

 

Salvation at My Local Pilates Studio

It’s my birthday week and, since blogging has been one of my work life balance joys in these last few months, I have decided to challenge myself with a blog post a day every day this week. Some are relevant to the milestone that is fast approaching, others are not, but it will be a gift to myself to reach my b-day week goal. Hope you enjoy.

 

I had a private reformer session today and boy, oh boy, did my instructor work me. She made sure she complimented me on the major strides I have made since I first sent her an email inquiry just over 24 months ago but then she worked my core, hips, and glutes like nobody’s business. And it hurt, and it felt so good, all at the same time.

Mostly, I was just proud that I took some time out of my day to make myself leaner and stronger (and hence healthier) when up until that email I was making no efforts to be well after more than a decade of ingrained self-negligence. If you’re not naturally athletic, if you weren’t raised in a home where being fit and healthy was a priority, and if you pick a life partner with basically the same wellness liabilities as you, it’s easy to use medical school, surgical training, and life as an attending surgeon as an excuse to not take care of yourself.

So here is how the email sent on 6/22/2012 went:

Thanks for reaching out to me by phone earlier today…To reiterate, I am a trauma/acute care surgeon with a busy schedule that I cannot sometimes control. That said, I need to be in better shape and I wanted to start pilates reformer 1:1 to improve my back pain and posture and make my overall cardiovascular endurance better. I wanted to meet with someone for a first reformer class and if we hit it off, move forward with a 10 pack but I could not commit to the same day and time every week and some weeks I could not do any session while others I could do two.  Is there someone there who might be able to work with me?
Leading up to this email, I had done some online research on other local fitness options and had done a qualitative study of sorts from my friends, neighbors, and colleagues. From the traditional gym to crossfit to bootcamps to private personal trainers, I had explored them all. For most, I was either put off by my perceived culture of the establishment or none of the offerings were going to meld with my hectic schedule. What drew me to my local pilates studio was multiple.
It was the story of the founder who wrote on her website about how her back pain dissipated when she learned pilates–I had been waking up with excruciating pain for the past 6 years (hunching awkwardly in the OR can do that to you). It was the studio interior which made my sort of frumpy suburban scene seem urban and hip–I left an amazing city to move to the burbs because it was the right thing for my family but I’m a city girl at heart. It was my research on the art and science of pilates which seemed like exactly what my body needed to become healthy from inside out–I had done the fits and spurts of diet controlled weightloss many times in the past and had failed. It was the flexibility of booking sessions the private instructors and paying with punch cards or passes that would only be charged for the sessions I signed up for–I had tried the motivation of automatic monthly fees or year long commitments only to lose money without imparting any improvement in my strength or agility.
And, so on the morning of my 38th birthday I arrived at 6am, a little fearful, a little exhilarated for my first Stott reformer class.v2max Something that I had initially viewed as a medieval torture device soon became my tool for healing my chronic pains, for gaining length and building strength. My goals was to be in the best shape of my life by the time I turned 40. That’s just 6 days away and like I was reminded today and am reminded every time I wear an awesome dress without Spanx, I have come a long  way.
Finding this studio has saved me from heading into the next decade of my life feeling tired, with a hunched, aching back, and a body shape with much to be desired. Last week was a banner week for me with a relatively light 87 hour week on service so I was able to do a lot at the studio. I took a group reformer class, zumba, and two barre classes at the studio in addition to my private which I still try to make at least twice a month (but my schedule is no better so it doesn’t always happen). Sometimes, however, weeks go by and I don’t go at all between call and travel.  But, all of the fundamentals I have gained by starting first with reformer and then adding in other offerings at the studio which fundamentally are focused on building and sustaining the core are now with me every day.
When I am too busy at work to make it to the studio, I might do a quick set of exercises on the floor of my office on call or use the edge of the OR table to do some more while waiting for the patient to get rolled into the room. When I travel, I have enough core strength and coordination to be an itinerant Pure Barre student (I surely would have died on site during my first Pure Barre class had I not already been a student of Stott Pilates method for well over a year). Finally, though it was not known to me when I wrote that email, I was also an aspiring runner. And, pilates has made me a stronger, safer, and faster runner. So when all I have is a pair of kicks and I hit the road, I am taking what I have learned at the studio with me.
There is no doubt in my mind that 40 is better if you are fit. I gave myself two years to be in the best shape of my life and today, as I start my 40th birthday week, I am. Do I have further to go? Yes, absolutely. I am just so happy that I have such a wonderful place to continue achieving my fitness goals–a true place of health and well-being salvation.

 

 

Surgical Cleanse

*****WARNING: Proceed with caution. Not for the stoolphobic*****

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The other day, in a casual conversation with a colorectal surgeon (was it a non-sequitur? I can’t remember.) I said, “I’m a surgeon. I have been constipated for over a decade.” This colorectal surgeon (who one would expect to have a real handle on this maintaining one’s bowel regimen thing) responded in an exasperated tone “It’s true for all of us.”

When you operate for hours at a time or get caught up in a long resuscitation, you (umm, how shall I put it?) build up sphincter tone both literally and figuratively. Busy work days also often preclude the time to grab water and so you tend to always be leaning toward dehydration even though everyone in your profession knows you need to stay hydrated to ward off constipation. And, to top it all off (or more appropriately plug it all in), the skeezy hospital bathrooms sometimes make you hold it in even if you have time to sneak away to answer nature’s call.

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So, though we may know what we should be doing to avoid the scenario pictured below, we surgeons are pretty bad at walking the bowel regimen talk so to speak.

Now, the urban hipster answer to this would be some kind of a 30-day cleanse. But (see paragraph 2), I don’t know any surgeons who have that kind of time? When you lack time to grab water or consume any semblance of a balanced meal (it seems that Lorna Doons, Peanut Butter Packets, and Popsicles on the run are a poor substitute for a high fiber diet),  it is exceedingly unlikely that you will be able to comply with the correct order of juices at prescribed times.

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What to do? Is there a solution to the Surgeon Back-up?

Luckily we have been schooled in bowel preps. We routinely cleanse our patients for surgery starting at 4pm the night before. We don’t need a fancy month-long cleanse replete with pulverized carrots and kale in mason jar after mason jar. All we need is shot of polyethylene glycol packaged into a cocktail of MagCitrate or Sodium+Potassium Sulfate+Bicarbonate and voila the one-day surgeon’s cleanse.

Just make sure you do it on a day when you have some options other than the skeezy hospital bathroom. That is not where you want to have an grown up category poonami.