November Things

1) Yesterday, I attended my first two formal yoga classes in nearly four years. I wound up winning a month of free yoga, which was really cool considering that I’ve been thinking of getting a membership or class pass to this particular studio for, oh, about a year – and now I have no excuse at all (for a month at least).

2) I’m writing a paper on the motor consequences of encephalitis for my neuromotor control class, and let me just say that this area is extraordinarily broad. I have a month exactly to get through this paper, and I’m hoping that I make good headway today (before and after my eight hour work shift, that is).

3) I also need to work on that review paper for my lab; I have until January first to submit the completed chapter, which realistically means that I need to have the full rough draft done by the end of this month to allow for revisions and such. I can’t even proceed much until our next lab meeting on Wednesday, so there’s that.

4) My motivation to do my school work is decreasing. Besides those two papers, I have a short paper I need to just do for my biomechanics class, two more lab reports for biomechanics and biochem respectively, and one more group lab report (plus a lab exam at the end of term) to get ready for. I also have two more “mid-terms” (we are definitely beyond mid-term). I just need to buckle down and do it. I need to spend a day (or more realistically, five hours or so) at the library sometime this week to just get sh*t done.

5) I. am. so. freaking. excited. for. December. 15th. My last exam runs until 5pm, at which time I will promptly return home and collapse into a happy-comatose-type sleep. I’m telling myself that I only have thirty-six days until I can take a well-earned mental break, though I don’t know that my brain really believes that at this point.

6) Well, this was a boringly self-centred redux of my life, which currently revolves around school and exercise, sometimes combined (we did power testing in my Exphys lab this week). I’ll be back soon with something more interesting!

On Movement

“Do you like to move?”

I start, blinking at the girl next to me, the source of this question. I’m momentarily confused. “How do you mean?” I ask, thinking that I really don’t love moving homes, though there’s an undeniable sense of excitement the day of.

“Like, are you into sports or stuff?”

With a small mental Oh!, I shrug, self-consciousness winning out for now. “Well, yeah. I was a competitive sprint kayaker, and played competitive soccer before that. I haven’t done either in years though. Lately I’ve mostly just been lifting weights and doing sprints and walking and stuff. I’m currently in exercise ‘rehab’ after having taken about a year and a half off to.. work on some health issues.”

She nods, but doesn’t let go so easily. “I’m a distance myself, though I also took some time off to.. work on some health issues.” She smiles at me then, and I’m smiling back at the deliberate echo of what I’ve just said. Despite myself, I’m curious as to what she means. “My training is mostly focused on track practices right now.”

“Cool!” I reply, and mean it. I am genuinely interested in how other people move.

As my father is known to say, there are three things you shouldn’t talk about in polite company: Religion, politics, and food. I’m in full agreement. Diets tend to acquire a cult-like following, particularly if they “work”; and, seeing as we all have to feed ourselves, food us something that affects us all, however much we choose to implicate ourselves in the actual politics of eating. Because there are politics, believe me – and if you’ve managed to remain completely unscathed I both applaud you and must regard you with a healthy dose of skepticism. It’s practically inescapable: tabloids, television commercial, internet banners, ads on the sides of city buses. Foods and diets abound. Unwittingly, we’re consuming and reworking almost every thing we’ve seen (Jean Kilbourne’s “Killing Us Softly 4” provides a thought-provoking apperçu into the ways media affects us).

Anyways, on the exercise matter: moving, as of yet, is not something that has become unduly political. Of course, everyone needs to move, and it’s well-known that movement is essential for good health. Exactly how much or what kind is highly up to debate. Various professionals and fitness experts have all sorts of opinions as to the types of exercise we need, which can be a bit confusing. At this point, I think that the most important thing is that people get up and move in the first place, and are conscious to keep moving in ways that help them to function best. Also vague, I know – I’m certainly not simplifying anything here. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Take a walk. Go to the gym, if that’s something you like. Swim across a lake. Hike. Swing from monkey bars at a playground. Go kayaking. Lift heavy stuff.

As a student in exercise science, I find the diversity in people’s physical activity levels fascinating. Some of my classmates are hardcore weight lifters and body competitors, training for maximum strength or “ideal” physique, respectively. Others are casual gym-goers, and still more do nothing in the way of “formal” exercise. All of these things are fine, by the way.

My philosophy on exercise has shifted around throughout the year. I spent a number of years training at a relatively elite level, in soccer but more so in sprint kayak. I fell into running roughly around the time my disordered eating started – by the end of my senior year in high school I was running for an hour (on a treadmill) every morning before school. As my mindset shifted towards total homeostatic health (gradually, over the course months), I stopped exercising almost completely.

In May, I began walking to and from work, for a total of an hour of easy movement a day. I began going to the gym intermittently, work and studying often getting in the way. Recently, I’ve begun to go to the gym more frequently, and I’ve set a few tentative workout goals. I actually enjoy the gym environment – when I can make it work for my schedule. I strive to stay active and want to me a more conscious exerciser. I want to move in ways that feel natural to me. I’ve been lifting and doing some sprints. Long-lasting cardio isn’t my focus, just now – running is hard on the knees, and I find myself too bored to commit beyond twenty minutes or so.

A yoga and climbing gym has just opened up here, which sounds absolutely perfect – I’d love to add climbing to my fitness regimen, and yoga is something I genuinely enjoy and would love to get back into (my chiropractor would love that for me also – I appear to have lost quite a bit of flexibility). Price is an issue (I definitely can’t afford a yearly membership, or even a monthly one, on my student budget), so I’m leaning towards class passes and using these types of work-outs as enjoyable accessory forms of movement, with sprinting and weightlifting as my base. Ideally I’ll also walk to and from school every day, though in the winter months that does become harder.

So, how do you move? Is it something you do consciously? Does it just build itself into your day, or maybe not at all?

Redux

Two Mondays ago, I scrambled to finish my biochemistry midterm so that I could leave town and get to Ottawa at a decent hour. I spent a mostly sleepless night sleeping in an unfinished basement next to an assortment of alcohol bottles, a small shot of rum consumed at approximately two in the morning in the desperate hope that it would finally be the factor that made me dead to the world for at least a couple of hours.

I wrote my MCAT the following morning, in a building directly in front of parliament – if I looked out the window beside my computer screen, an interesting urban landscape of tall buildings and people dressed in suits weaving between vehicles and taxis presented itself. I celebrated the end of months of preparation with dim sum and gelato with my accompanying entourage and best friend, and made the five and a half hour trek back home that afternoon with my mother’s best friend, leaving my parents behind (who had come along to help my paternal grandparents move).

The next morning, I received a text from my best friend telling me not to panic, but when I heard about the shooting she was okay, her own workplace (just outside the “danger” perimeter) was proceeding as usual, and Ottawa U was on lockdown. Moments later, everyone around me was talking about the shooting (much of my family and friends reside in Ottawa); and I, equally as troubled, struggled to focus in lab. The closeness of the whole thing – my family and friends, the thought that had I been scheduled for examination one day later, I likely wouldn’t even have written, and would have been on lockdown like my Outaouais collegiate colleagues – left me with a queer feeling I couldn’t quite shake.

I attended two make-up labs, wrote three lab reports and two further mid-terms. Life has returned to normal. I have a running checklist of course work left to accomplish before the end of a term. I have a review paper to write and some Western blots to complete. I’m thinking that this November might, finally, be the month in which I finish the novel I started writing in the eight grade – it’s been knocking about my brain for far too long. I’ve been going to the gym again – it helps me sleep the night through. I have somewhat less focus than I should have in class. I feel this urge to write, play piano, travel, create – but then, that’s nothing new.

It’s time to persevere through the new five weeks of school and the two weeks of examination that follow. I’m craving a season of rest, but I’m not entirely sure that I remember how to do that either. I think that many other people in this western society can probably relate to this sentiment.

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In other news, I dressed up as a snow leopard today. I took one look at the glorious snowfall that greeted us this morning and felt that this would be a worthy Halloween costume.

Three Weeks Out

In just over three week’s time, I’ll be writing my MCAT. My studying has somewhat slowed – I’m reviewing material when time allows, listening to audio lectures on my walks to and from school, doing practice passages in the mornings, and running practice exams on the weekends. School has somewhat taken over, with readings and lab reports and studying for early mid-terms taking precedence. It all ties together; a lot of it is material that could be testable.

In terms of school, I’m loving this year so far! Minus biomechanics (as with anything physics-based, I’m a hard sell on loving it), though offering mini independent tutorial sessions helps. I definitely learn best by teaching. My exercise physiology and biochemistry (of the metabolism) courses are extremely interesting to me, and I’m finding immunology fascinating. Neuromotor control is okay; I actually don’t love learning about the brain, though I think that’s because there’s so much misinformation and lack of understanding in this particular area of study. At the end of the day, it’s also very interesting, perhaps for the very reasons I find unattractive. 😉

I’ve been thinking a lot about doing what makes one happy. Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’ve been living more in my brain than in my body, and have been craving physical experiences. Adrenaline rushes. I’ve been working a lot without much pause (and in many ways am extremely lucky to be able to do so), and so that could be a part of it. It’s just been so bizarre.

I’ve been wanting to go to yoga again (I’m by no means an extreme yogi, but there’s no denying that it’s an excellent way to get into your body and breathing and out of your head). I’ve considered taking adult ballet, just to see if I can be more graceful than my stumbling five-year-old self was. I want to go to Tanzania and hike Mt. Kilimanjaro and do a hiking safari in the Serengeti. I want to scuba dive off every coast, learn how to climb mountains and camp out in the bitter cold. I want to ski new slopes and take walks in the falling leaves. More than anything, I want intellectual conversations over coffee or wine, board games played with close friends, food shared in good company. I want to play piano and get my black belt in Taek Won Do.

And then, at the same time, I want to learn everything and anything. I want to study and learn and discover. Physiology, hormones, nutrition, environmental ethics, the immune system – these are the things that draw me, capture my interest. I’ll read for hours at a time, compiling and storing information. I want to understand. It’s like there’s this fluid dichotomy between all of my wants, and I’m struggling to balance everything. Something has to give at some point.

Logically perhaps, as the noise in my head grows and intensifies, I feel this overwhelming need to minimize. I’ve been slowly paring down on my personal belongings, starting with clothes, shoes and beauty products (my boyfriend recently commented that he might have more clothes than I do). Letting go of some physical possessions has been remarkably freeing; kind of like freeing up space on a hard drive you hadn’t realized had been getting bogged down. I’m tackling books and jewellery next, and then perhaps my sentimental keepsakes – stuff I never use or look at but have yet to part with due to some kind of deep nostalgia. It’s a cleansing exercise.

I’m doing lots of soul-searching, trying to figure out what I want and if what I’m doing is aligning with my core values and my own happiness. I’ve decided that these things have to matter above all else. My values might change slightly as time goes on (and my definition of happiness even more so), but I don’t want to look back on a single point of my life and feel that I’ve wasted time. And no, I haven’t a clue what constitutes a waste of time, but I have a theory that it’s one of those things that you realize retrospectively and is related to doing something that doesn’t, in fact, fulfill you.

Pancake Bay

This summer has been beyond hectic; I’m beyond thrilled to announce that I am in the home stretch. I wrote my nutrition exam at the end of July, submitted all of the paperwork required for the end of my internship, and took three days off from the lab to go to Pancake Bay with my family for the long weekend. Camping is one of my absolute favourite things in the whole entire world.

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Located on lake Superior between Wawa and Sault St. Marie (for all you Ontario folks), I’m of the personal opinion that these waters are the most gorgeous in all of Ontario. The lake was frigid due to the late thaw and cool temperatures we’ve been experiencing, but that was hardly a deterrent. While there, we made a short trip down to see the Agawa pictographs. Left by the indigenous peoples as long as a few hundred years ago, it’s amazing how well preserved these still are!

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We took couple of hikes, the first of which ending with us bushwhacking our way through the forest in search of a Geocache. In case you were wondering, we didn’t find it – something about my brother’s handheld GPS being out of calibration. We DID however stumble upon the strangest little camp set up in the middle of the forest. I don’t have a picture, since my phone died. Instead, I’ll provide you with a view of the gorgeous northern Ontario jungle I trekked through in flip-flops:

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Our second hike brought us high up to a view of the entire bay and surrounding area. I’m always so amazed at – and grateful for – all the untouched wilderness that surrounds us here in Canada. It’s a beautiful wilderness.

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The rest of the summer’s looking promising. I have seven days left in the lab, one weekend of work, one soccer game, a practice, and a tournament to coach before I head out to Ottawa to spend a couple of weeks with my best friend and hopefully do some shadowing in a hospital. I’m almost through all of my MCAT content review and am ready to start drilling practice problems and tackling a couple of practice exams. At the end of the month, I have another wedding, and then school starts. Bring it! 🙂

A quick HA update: So far I’ve had three cycles spaced quite regularly. I am beyond excited about this fact, and am looking forward to incorporating more exercise into my routine, as time permits. This summer I’ve mostly limited my movement to roughly an hour of walking on most days, courtesy of my commute to and from work. I’d like to start lifting some weights, do yoga once a week, and perhaps add some sprints (as time permits). I plan to proceed slowly and cautiously, monitoring the impact of exercise on my cycle and of course ensuring that I have an adequate caloric intake. 🙂

The Autoimmune Protocol + FODMAPs Sensitivities

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I suspect that my so-called gluten-sensitivity is actually a FODMAPs sensitivity. During my research, I stumbled across the autoimmune protocol. As someone with an autoimmune condition (vitiligo), my curiosity was piqued, and I went on to read a few articles. I hadn’t really expected to find much – after all, how much can does a disease affecting your skin really have to do with your diet?

Apparently, a whole lot more than you’d think.

I’m not going to talk too extensively about the hows and whys behind the autoimmune protocol. Sarah Ballantyne has written extensively on the topic – I’d highly recommend exploring her posts if you have any questions.

Honestly, I’m tired of living with digestive distress. Over the part eight or so months, I’ve been eating everything – even gluten containing foods – hoping that my symptoms would resolve. Obviously, they haven’t; if anything, my IBS-type symptoms are worse than ever. As I’ve said before, something has to change.

The autoimmune protocol promotes avoidance of nightshades, eggs, seeds and nuts, alcohol, NSAIDS, and excessive fructose or sweeteners. I’m going to be combining this protocol with a low FODMAPs protocol (avoiding galacto-oligo-saccharides, fructans, lactose, fructose and polyols) in hopes of a) resolving my digestive issues and b) finding which foods I tolerate and which ones give me symptoms. The protocol is essentially a modified paleo protocol.

AIP/FODMAP Protocol

I’ll be following the strict AIP + FODMAPs protocol for a month. After this time, I’ll begin to reintroduce common FODMAPs foods (one every five days), recording any symptoms. Once these have been tested, I’ll move on to foods on the AIP no-go list.

Obviously, I have no intention of following this for any extensive period of time. Avocados, nuts, eggs, tomatoes, bell peppers, spices, and dairy products are mainstays in my diet, and I’m hoping I won’t have to see many (if any!) of them go. I’ll be posting updates here and on twitter, as well as meal pictures on instagram. 🙂

On Anxiety

Over the course of the past year, I’ve gained weight. Deliberately. I did it without too much anxiety – after all, school became my new focus, and I began to really emphasize food quality over (limited) quantity. I ate more food than I did in the two years prior combined, and certainly more than I had in high school (I certainly don’t miss the days of two Splenda-sweetened low-fat Danone yogurts and five almonds for “lunch”).

Today, I haven’t a clue what I weight. I don’t especially care, either. The last time I stepped on a scale was at a skydiving shop in Fiji; the number was still obscenely low and yet higher than it had been four months prior, which had me feeling anxious all over again. I don’t weigh myself, and I probably never will again. It simply doesn’t matter, and I don’t need to get hung up on a number that doesn’t mean a damn thing.

At the beginning of June I got my period back. My body finally decided that I had restored enough energy to resume reproductive function. I cried in relief that day and could not smiling, feeling absolutely proud of myself. A good friend took me out for a Bloody Caesar, which I savoured almost gleefully. Staring down at infertility at the ripe old age of twenty had been somewhat anxiety provoking in its own right.

Gaining weight was hard. I know I said that it wasn’t too anxiety inducing, but it definitely wasn’t easy. I cried about it, and cried again. I listened to my hunger and ate, without restricting myself, and kind of hated myself for it. I went up two pant sizes and could actually buy jeans in actual stores for actual adults again. My cup size went up twice (at least some of it went to good use). My shirt size remained the same, but my arms filled in. Once again, I could no longer recognize that person in the mirror staring back.

To some extent, I mourned – the loss of the ridges of my spine and my protruding hipbones, my slightly receding clavicle, the spaces between my knee tendons and the crevices in my armpits slowly filling in. I could sit comfortably on chairs again. I could shave every inch of my legs. My hair and nails grew up strongly. And the feelings I had numbed away all returned full-force; the happiness, my drive for success, and – as I knew it would – the anxiety that started it all in the first place.

I struggled with myself. I had days where I wanted to give up. I wrote about it in my journal, trying to keep upbeat and failing somewhat miserably. I woke up and waveringly ate breakfast, lunch, supper. Rinse, repeat. I finally relearned what it was like to feel full, not only on food but also on life. I finally faced up to the anxiety that had plagued me from the age of nine, and acknowledged that what I had been taking out on my body had nothing to do with it.

I still marvel today at how much more energy I have. I walk to and from work, I swim across lakes, I play soccer with the twelve-year-old girls I coach. I want to do things, see people, succeed.

The anxiety follows me everywhere. I still struggle with body dismorphia and an almost overwhelming fear of failure. I say “almost” because it won’t overwhelm me, not this time. I’m still learning to be kind to myself – but the difference is that I am genuinely trying to be kinder to myself. I am aware of my anxiety, and this helps me to recognize and deal with it. I’m working on self-expression. I have yet to accomplish “taking it easy”, partially because being busy is my new coping strategy (arguably less harmful than attempting to starve my brain chemistry into behaving).

So anxiety makes an appearance in my everyday life, but I ignore it. For the most part, in any case. I generally like myself, and can acknowledge when I don’t without falling to pieces about it. I’m learning to adjust to this strange body that is mine, the one that has curves instead of edges and life instead of complacency. I think I like it – it is much better adapted to the whirlwind I experience every day.

Anxiety is the lot of our generation. Most of my friends have experienced some form of anxiety, men and women alike. Many of us take it out on our bodies, perhaps due to cultural conditioning. Some find comfort in food, others in depriving themselves of it. Some work themselves to exhaustion for a bit of peace of mind.

I have to consciously remind myself when I’m feeling – for a lack of a better way to put it – bad that I have a biochemical imbalance, that my body is not to blame. That I have to go on functioning and living. That there are millions of people, men and women, who, like me, know the all-too familiar clenching from a serotonin-deprived brain.

Every morning, I get up and get on with “it”, with whatever might be on my daily agenda. And every morning, I first make myself breakfast.

Nutritional Observations

I eat pretty much anything. I’m not about to make a fuss, especially when people go out of their way to prepare me a meal. Despite my somewhat tumultuous relationship with food, I love a good meal shared in good company – that’s my idea of a good time. At my wedding (sometime in the distant future), the food will be what I spend the most on. 

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I fully believe you can appreciate – love, even – food without having an emotional relationship with it. That’s not to say that eating and emotions shouldn’t mix; they absolutely do. Carrot cake with cream cheese icing stirs up memories of my grandmother – it never fails to stir up feelings in me, and will forever remain my favourite cake. I have trouble eating crackers for the memory of devouring entire packs of them after school in high school – the discomfort of it all throws me off. My morning feels off without coffee.
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Nowadays, I don’t eat my feelings. Mostly, I eat when I’m hungry; sometimes, when I’m not (stress zaps my appetite, and I will nibble somewhat at the few parties I go to). I have trouble recognizing when I’m full; I feel hunger signals clearly, but have more trouble distinguishing when I’m full. It’s something I’m working on. It’s nothing I plan on worrying about.
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I’ve been paying attention to the way my body responds to my eating habits. A few observations:
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– Wheat and oats give me relatively severe digestive cramps. Oats are worse than wheat, for some reason.
– Too much sugar and processed carbs make me feel ill while simultaneously craving more
– An excess of raw vegetables gives me digestive trouble
– I don’t need a huge amount of protein at every meal
– I feel best with four mid-sized meals a day (upon waking, during lunch break, after work, and in the evening)
– I enjoy desserts with a fruit component far more than those without
– I tolerate dairy well, but it might be causing me acne (I might experiment with an elimination period sometime)
– I feel best on a high-fat diet, including healthy amounts of saturated fat
– I need a moderate amount of starchy carbs in a day to ensure adequate energy and prevent hypoglycaemia 
– Preferred starchy carbs: sweet potato, bananas, white rice
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I find that paying attention to the way different foods affect me is extremely interesting. My primary motto when it comes to food is “Everything in moderation” (with the obligatory “Including moderation” following this – thank you, Oscar Wilde!). With this in mind, I don’t restrict my eating whatsoever. If I want dessert (always), or a bagel, or salad, I’ll have it. In general though, I eat in a way that makes me feel my best, savouring the less usual foods on the occasions they arise.
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With that said, I’ll be enjoying my fair share of “treats” today. It’s Canada day, and we’re all feeling a little “extra-celebratory”. Happy first of July, everyone!

Women on Water Paddling Festival

I just spent a marvellous weekend at a women’s paddling retreat hosted by Wild Women Expeditions (<— awesome organization for women only – they have trips and expeditions all over the world!). Around 150 women from all over Canada and the United States came together at camp Tapawingo, Parry Sound, to participate in different paddling classes at an event called “Women on Water”. I went with my mom, a friend, andy er mom. There were three water sport offerings: kayak, canoe, and stand-up paddle board (SUP). I decided to spend my weekend SUPing, having never done so before. The verdict? I LOVE it. The stroke for SUP is the same as a sprint kayak stroke, and I had no trouble adapting to standing.

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All in all, the weekend was extremely relaxing. We slept in camp cabins on bunk beds. Mom insisted I take the top bunk (fine by me!). Wake-up call was at 6:30. I joined the masses of bleary-eyed people lining up for coffee before heading off to the 7am yoga practices. Every time I take a yoga class, I am amazed at how quickly my flexibility improves. Probably due to the fact that I don’t practice nearly enough (I’m sure I’d stop seeing rapid improvement rapidly, haha), but still – being able to touch my toes without bending my knees amazes me. It’s the little things.

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My last event of the weekend was a SUP yoga class. Guys, I am in love. Doing yoga on a paddle board adds a whole new element of stability/core work and zen. I managed to pull off a headstand on my board. It was so fun! This whole weekend was so empowering; I highly recommend Wild Women if you’re looking for a fun and active getaway.

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It felt so good to just get away; to stop worrying about school and lab work and work work and having to be anywhere but in the moment. I’m back now, incubating my membranes in primary antibodies again (we just got a new shipment on Friday!). Tonight’s review topic is momentum (physics Mondays! Good thing the boy is a physics whiz. Fun fact: some of our first dates involved him saving my butt by giving me a crash course in physics just before my senior year final exam). Other plans involve watching Game of Thrones and drinking tea – I have a bit of a sore throat, which has me craving soup even in this gorgeous weather.

Another update: My hormonal issues I talked about in November seem to have finally started to resolve themselves! I started my period on Friday, the day I left for my trip (“great” timing, but kind of fitting). I am honestly so, so grateful. Really. I will never take this for granted, ever.

A Simplified MCAT Study Guide

Today’s MCAT review topic: Force, Motion, and Gravitation! Honestly, physics has never been my strong point. I know it’s known as the “most intuitive” of the natural sciences – my best guess is my intuitiveness took a wrong turn somewhere, or maybe that’s a shortcoming of being right-brained (I’m a lefty). Funnily enough, intuitiveness is a part of my Meyers-Briggs personality type (I am an INFJ), and so I don’t really know what the deal is here. In any case, physics is getting the most attention of all the MCAT subjects second only to biology, where I am at a slight disadvantage due to the limited number of courses I have taken on the subject.

Anyways, I’d like to take the time to go over my MCAT review strategy. Most people I know take their MCAT exam during the summer, because they have the time to take a course and devote their full attention to reviewing. This strategy doesn’t work for me for a number of reasons: firstly, I just don’t want to pay the money for a course. In my honest opinion, it’s a waste of cash (considering I am extremely good at self-motivating when I have a plan to follow). Secondly, I don’t have hours a day to devote to pure MCAT review (and nor do I really want to spend that much time on review). I’ve just completed an extremely stressful semester. My grades aren’t quite as high as I’d like for them to be, and I need the time to recharge mentally before tackling the new semester. Finally, my summers aren’t any less busy than the regular school term – as I mentioned in the last post, I am completing a full time internship in a medical school lab whilst working part-time on the weekends and taking a summer course. Finding the time to do eight hours of review just isn’t going to happen. Ever. I keep myself quite busy, and feel stressed when I feel like I’m just sitting around and/or am only devoting my time to one thing.

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Source; I’m definitely more type A than B. 😉

As such, I’m finding that I am extremely busy; adding in a rather large standardized test to prepare for definitely doesn’t simply matters. I’m employing a few simple lifestyle changes for the next few months in order to simplify my life and stay healthy:

1) Go to bed at 10 and wake up at 6. Every single day. This way I know I’m getting my full eight hours of sleep, and I have the morning hours to tackle studying and get to work early.
2) Eat three well rounded meals a day. This one goes unsaid. Fuel the brain, fuel the body.
3) Do some form of physical activity on most days. Typically this is my walk to school/work (it’s a solid 35 minutes each way, so that adds up to roughly an hour). I’ve put all gym workouts on hold until after this test – once it’s done, I’m rewarding myself with a CrossFit subscription (I’ve always wanted to go!) and a yoga class. 😀
4) Take one rest day a week. For now, this works out to be every Friday. I’ve scheduled two hour study blocks Monday to Thursday, but have left Friday blank; this tends to be my date night with the boy – but if I were to miss a review session on any other day of the week, I’d take a two hour session here instead.
5) Take some rest time every day. Right now I have roughly two hours blocked off in the evening for relaxation. Wether it’s reading, writing, blogging, or meeting a friend for coffee, I will not think about anything study-related during that time period.

And without further ado, here’s my rough summer schedule:

6:00am: Wake up. Tuesday and Thursday morning, I complete a verbal reasoning practice section; Wednesday and Friday mornings are used to review the passage.
7:00am: Breakfast. I leave the house by 7:30 in order to arrive at my internship by 8:00.
8:00am: Internship. Here I also review the material for my nutrition course.
4:00pm: Done! Walk home now.
4:30pm: Grab a snack and work on the review session of the day. Mondays = physics, Tuesdays = biology, Wednesdays = general chemistry, Thursdays = orgo.
6:30pm: Supper time!
7:00pm: Two hours of downtime.
9:00pm: Get ready for bed. Read/write.
10:00pm: Lights out.

Fridays are a day off. Saturdays I actually have two review sessions scheduled these are biology and physics. This allows for extra focus on the material I am shaky on. Sundays my plan is to theoretically complete an entire practice exam after work one week and correct it the next, but that’s contingent on my actually purchasing a company’s practice examinations. For now, the plan is to focus on the “high yield” practice problems in the Kaplan study books from the previous week’s review topic.

This plan will allow me to review everything on the MCAT, based on the AAMC’s content outline, prior to the start of classes in September. Once September arrives, I will be doing practice problems during the week and one of the AAMC’s practice exams on the weekends.

A summary of the materials I am using:

1) Kaplan’s Complete review boxed set: For general content review. From what I’ve been through so far, it is quite general, but that’s really all I need. I have textbooks from my courses for practically every subject, and for the gaps there are tons of videos and webpages online available for free that provide excellent explanations if I find myself needing more information.

2) ExamKrackers 101 Passages in Verbal Reasoning workbook (& biology textbook) : I bought the passages book due to the generally high ratings and positive response. The best way to study for verbal is to drill passages under timed conditions, and so that is the plan. I also bought the biology textbook as it had a high rating and I am nervous about the gaps in my knowledge, but I may return it.

3) Kaplan practice examinations: Haven’t bought these yet, but I will be purchasing soon!

4) Princeton Review Hyperlearning Science Workbook: For science practice problems.

 

So, that’s the plan for now! I will be adjusting my study strategy as required. I have approximately five months to rock this exam, and I am fully confident that I will with a bit of determination and focus. 🙂