As budding cardiologists, we see patients of all ages and with all types of cardiovascular diseases – from heart failure to coronary atherosclerosis to hereditary cholesterol disorders, to name just a few. Routinely, we recommend engaging in varying degrees of exercise as part of our “prescription” for a healthy lifestyle. However, it is often difficult during our hectic training years to develop a healthy exercise regimen of our own.
As cardiology fellows, we understand the importance of exercise for maintaining cardiovascular health. In fact, studies show that as little as 5-10 minutes of running at a slow pace can reduce the risk of cardiovascular death.
One strategy for many of us is to pair up for workouts in order to hold each other accountable. Third-year cardiology fellow Sharon Choi, M.D., and I often meet at the gym to take group fitness classes that incorporate high-intensity interval training and cardio. We value our time at the gym and try and change up the classes we attend weekly – from a guided run on the treadmill to spin and barre classes. Sharon joined a running group last year with the goal of running the NYC Marathon this past fall. She trained for six months, running solo during the week and with a group on the weekends. With her dedication, she successfully completed the NYC Marathon in November.
Michael Loguidice, M.D., a first-year cardiology fellow, ensures that he works out immediately after work so that it becomes part of his daily routine. He is focused currently on muscle-endurance exercises with complex movements and gets in cardio through running, rowing, or playing tennis. Meanwhile, David McNamara, M.D., a second-year cardiology fellow, also makes an effort to go on a run after work three to four times a week, usually on the Katy Trail or around White Rock lake. Last year he ran in a 10K and plans to train for a triathlon next year.
In contrast, Michael Daniel, M.D., a second-year cardiology fellow, has an early morning routine. He wakes up around 4:45 a.m. to make it to the gym and has a varied workout that incorporates cardio, weights, and interval training. As part of his routine, he runs 15-20 miles a week. To formally assess his level of fitness and modify his regimen appropriately, Michael decided to measure his oxygen consumption at peak exercise in Dr. Ben Levine’s lab (see video below). Dr. Levine is an expert in exercise physiology and is the founder and Director of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine (IEEM), a joint program between UT Southwestern and Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.
Although our work is demanding, we find unique ways to incorporate fitness into our busy schedules. For instance, several cardiology fellows ran the St. Patrick’s Day 5K together in lieu of their normal workout routine for the day. Not only do we gather motivation and encouragement from our co-fellows, but we also glean inspiration from many of our faculty members who are able to maintain high levels of fitness despite having eventful careers. For many of us, exercise is a break from the physical and mental demands of fellowship.