What Motivates a Doctor Mom to Work Out?

Written on August 13, 2013 at 12:24 pm , by













In our September “Dr. Mom Knows Best” feature, internist Katherine Chretien, M.D., offered smart advice on making a nutritious dinner in a pinch, the #1 thing you can do for your health and more. For this guest post, Dr. Chretien reveals what inspires her to exercise. And it’s probably not what you think.

I lost my regular exercise motivation for the same reason I lost the will to wash and blow-dry my hair every day: pregnancy. Was it the fatigue or the mobility of a beached whale? I’m not sure I’ll ever know. But I do know that my once-regular habit of exercising several times a week went missing and I didn’t go looking for it.

Meanwhile, my husband, also a doctor, is a bit of the overachiever when it comes to exercise. He’s run many marathons and even competed in a couple of IRONMAN triathlons (that’s code for races for the insane). He had been trying to get me back into some kind of regular exercise for years. Not because I let myself go—at least I hope not—but because he felt it was important for my health. After all, he would be the one pushing me around in a wheelchair someday. I agreed in theory, but when, pray tell, would I exercise in between caring for all these kids and working? The whole idea sounded unpleasant, if not impossible.

Then one day, I came across research that showed people who engaged in regular exercise were less likely to develop dementia. As an internist who takes care of hospitalized patients, many of whom are elderly, I am terrified of developing dementia and not knowing where I am, who I am or what decade I’m living in. Sure, there are sweet-as-pie patients with dementia, “pleasantly confused,” as they are often described. But there are also mean ones who try to take out the staff with cans of Ensure, as if they’re at a booth at a county fair. If exercise can stave off dementia, please pass my sneakers.

So, I decided it was time to get back into the exercise habit. I started S-L-O-W, riding the recumbent bike at the gym while reading guilty pleasure celebrity magazines a few times a week. I didn’t sweat a single drop, mind you, but it felt somewhat nice to be moving with purpose. I further motivated myself by purchasing a few cute new workout outfits to replace the tent-like leftover maternity yoga tops I had been wearing.

It’s been a couple of months now, and I’ve progressed to running a few miles a few times a week. Don’t get me wrong: an elderly person using a walker might lap me, but I’m sweating now and getting a serious workout. It feels GREAT. I’m making time for it and hoping this habit sticks (and dementia doesn’t). The added benefits of a healthy heart and stress reduction are nice bonuses. More importantly, I feel like I’m making regular deposits in the long-term investment that is me. Body and mind.

Need motivation to get exercising again? Visit a local nursing home. It worked for me.


How do you keep yourself motivated to work out? Post a comment and let me know!


Katherine Chretien, M.D., is an internist, mother of three and associate professor of medicine at George Washington University. She is editor/founder of the group blog, Mothers in Medicine (www.mothersinmedicine.com) and runs very slowly.

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Why I Walk. . . And Hope You Will Too

Written on May 31, 2013 at 12:00 pm , by

In honor of National Cancer Survivor’s Day on June 2nd, guest blogger and mom of five Staci Salazar talks about the people who inspired her to do a Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk in November.

Imagine getting the news that your mom has cancer. Your mom. The woman that gave you life. Nurtured you. Taught and molded you. A woman to whom you owe the world.

That was my reality one Friday evening. My brother, sister and I were given the news that my mom had Mantle Cell Lymphoma. We talked about a plan and prayed for direction. There were sacrifices to be made and my mom became the center of our universe.

I remember holding my husband that night and telling him I knew everything would be alright. I already felt at peace with the diagnosis, yet I feared the battle.

As a family, we endured seven out of eight chemotherapy treatments with my mom. I say seven because the last one was almost too much. An infected port brought on a staph infection that was detrimental to her already fragile immune system. The fight was a tough one, but my mom went on to win her battle. This June marks her 3rd year of remission. And for that, I am grateful.

My mother isn’t the only brave woman I’ve witnessed fight—and win—a war against cancer. Diagnosed within 6 weeks of each other, two women I know weathered the heartbreaks and the triumphs of breast cancer together. Both women always sport a smile and hand out hugs even when they were in the midst of their battles. And together they were able to celebrate victory with a strength and character admired by many.

Unfortunately, I have also seen cancer at its worst. Lung cancer took my grandmother and an aunt within 7 months of each other. I saw a valiant 5-year-old battle DIPG (a type of brain tumor)… and lose. His fight changed my perspective.

Therefore, today I choose to be proactive. To be passionate about making a difference. To do my part to see a change. Why? Because my family is worth it.

My oldest daughter turns 18 this fall. Behind her, I have a son ready to learn to drive and a tenacious daughter entering the double digits. Not to mention, a 7-year-old princess and a curious 3-year-old with special needs. Along with their dad, they are the driving force behind everything I do.

Consequently, my husband and I decided to make lifestyle changes that include eating healthier and exercising more. We began to limit process foods, cut out sodas and cook more at home. We also started moving more.

He and I now hold each other whole-heartedly accountable as we train for the Dallas/Fort Worth Susan G. Komen 3-Day, a three day, 60-mile walk that makes us feel like we are part of something bigger than breast cancer, or any other kind of cancer. Often with our children in tow, we set our responsibilities and duties aside and take an evening walk. We admire the landscape and reflect on daily events. It has become part of our family routine and we are all better for it.

When we have time, my husband and I leave the girls home with the teens and take a more brisk walk alone. Not only are we able to push ourselves with more intensity, but we get much-needed alone time. Time we often spend reflecting on our children. Lives we pray they lead. Battles, like cancer, we hope they never face.

This passion, this driving force, leads me to work harder. Push myself further. Strive to do more. All that it takes is for me to lace up my tennis shoes after a jam-packed day with the kids and train myself to walk 20 miles a day for three consecutive days, on a mission to end breast cancer forever. To empower all cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones with every single step I take.

What has inspired you to get moving for a cause? Post a comment and tell me here.

Want to do a 3-Day in your city? Find a list of upcoming walks here.

Staci Salazar is the blogger behind 7 on a Shoestring. A mom of five, she lives in Dallas, Texas.