Staying Active in Med School

Al Valmadrid
December 5, 2016
Posted in Student Life

Staying active in med school can be challenging. However, as future physicians who will give our patients health, we must give ourselves health as well. We don't have to be look like models, but I believe we should model our bodies the same way we do our minds, and strive to be models of health our patients can emulate.


BLUF (bottom line up-front): the most efficient way I know to stay active is a workout regimen that takes a mere 16 minutes, 3 times per week: Max Capacity Training ( You can do it at home. It requires no equipment aside from a chair and a wall. It's online. There's an app. It's free.

When deciding an exercise routine, one of the most important things you need to do is determine what your goals are. Another way to phrase this is: what do you want to be able to do? Run a marathon? Squat 1-, 2-, 3-, or 4-plate? A muscle-up? Beat Pranav (current VMS1) at ping-pong? Once you decide your goal, decide if you have the knowledge to create a plan to achieve that goal. If you do, make a plan. If you don't, learn! There are great YouTube videos that shed light on how to perform certain skills (as well as logical progressions to those skills) that can help you reach your goals.

"What if I don't have a goal?" Sounds like it's general fitness to me! Below are some options.

Max Capacity Training ( --or as I affectionately call it, "Max"--is based on the concept of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). This basically means that you do as many reps of a particular exercise as you can within a prescribed (ha) time interval, with similarly prescribed rest intervals. 4 exercises comprise 1 workout, and variations in exercise, exercise order, and workout intervals create different workout routines. If your goal is general fitness, you will almost certainly get it if you follow the entire program correctly and stay safe. You'll likely also get a great core along with weight loss, and be able to do tricks you couldn't before, e.g. Lalanne pushups.

Stronglifts 5x5 ( is a barbell compound lift-based program that takes about 45 minutes per workout, 3 times per week. The exercises are: squat, bench press, barbell row, overhead press, and deadlift. You will almost certainly gain significant muscle mass, and therefore, more fat-burning potential. This program starts off with the bare minimum: the bare, empty bar (45lb). Like Max, the program is free.

There are also classes at the Vanderbilt Rec Center (gym) that include yoga, cardio workouts, and more.


Another of the most important things you need to do whenever you exercise is to stay safe. There are two crucial components to exercise safety:

Be aware. Know where your body is. Know when you're tired, and what kind of "tired" that is. Should you stop? Should you keep going? Do you want to keep going? Is that pain muscle, joint, bone, or head pain? What's the pain like (OPQRST)? These are all questions you should examine when they arise.

Warm up correctly. This naturally follows being aware. This includes dynamic stretches, wrist and ankle rolls, etc. Before I do any activity more intense than walking, at the very least, I do 10 wrist and ankle rolls in each direction, each extremity. This helps lubricate joints and helps you focus awareness on areas that can easily get injured in sports activities.

Getting injured sucks. Develop a safe warm up routine and stay aware whenever you exercise.

Staying active in med school is possible and important! If you need ideas, advice, or a workout partner, there are a ton of people at Vandy Med who can help you. Also feel free to email me at

Good luck!

Disclaimer: Please consult a health professional before starting any exercise program. The views expressed in this post should not be taken as medical advice. The use of any information provided on this site is solely at your own risk.