Elle, a new Emergency Medicine resident, recently asked me the following:
Please, can you tell me any advice to continue running during residency?
First, you have NO IDEA how much running helps when you’re a resident. It’s probably more beneficial for a resident, mile per mile, than almost anyone else. So you really have to. What you’ll have to give up on is rigid consistency. Get three runs in per week no matter what and no matter when. When you get home – whenever that is – just get those shoes on and get out there.
For example, when do you run? After work or before? How does it affect you at work if you ran before a shift?
I run after. Nothing chills me out after a hard day better than a run; it’s a beautiful thing. Before work, I don’t yet have any built up frustrations/worries/anger/etc., so a run feels a lot less useful. And: I am unbelievably stiff when I wake up, so running feels less good physically. A lot of people are morning runners, though, and they tell me that it gets them ready for the day. I think it’s something you just have to figure out on your own. If you can switch up, you’re lucky. When I had the odd night shift, I would run in the afternoon, and it felt fine.
When is sleep more important (because I'm sure my sleep-deprived mind will always think sleep is more important)?
Hmmmm. Well, I came up before duty-hour regulations, and I never could sleep well at the hospital, and I need a LOT of sleep, so I guess I’m qualified to say this: running always trumps sleep.
Should I adjust pace or length of run for sleep deprivation?
If I don't go at all, say during a rough 4 week rotation, at what percentage of my original distance/time should I be running once I get back to it?
Maggot, you are NEVER going to not run at all. That is NOT allowed. I ran even when I was on an ICU rotation, sleeping at the hospital every third night, having work weeks that regularly ran over 100 hours.
Ahem. Anyway. If there is something terrible that prevents you from running – bad chest colds do it for me – how quickly you bounce back will depend on your “base” – how long you’ve been running. If it’s years, you only need maybe one or two easy runs (i.e., even slower than usual) before you’re back to normal. If you’re a newbie, it might take you a week or two.
Can you comment on running after a night shift? If I wake up and run in the middle of the day, is that better than other times to run?
That depends. If you’re up one night and then back to day shifts, take a nap, then get up and run, then go to bed at a near-normal time. If you’re completely switching to night shifts, you’ll probably have to figure out whether you can completely reverse your days and nights and run accordingly, or if you have to fit running in at odd times, which is what I did.
Anyone have any other advice for the schedule- and/or sleep-challenged runner?