How CrossFit Makes Me A Better Doctor
The other day I was talking with a colleague of mine who just so happens to be a medical doctor. All the anatomy, biomechanics, and nutrition classes that we, chiropractors, are exposed to during our academic studies enamored him. He shared that he was surprised his schooling had left much of that stuff out. I think he was let down by that. It made me proud, however.
For a good three and half years of my life, after completing my undergraduate degree at Texas A&M University, I studied the human body. I spent hours in a classroom, studied cadavers in lab, and palpated as many humans as possible. Chiropractic school gave me a solid foundation of the human body and movement. It wasn’t until I became immersed in CrossFit, however, that I began to truly see the strength and adaptability of the human body. I began to understand the dynamics of each individual. In many ways, watching CrossFit was a case study of biomechanics in practice.
As a chiropractor, I’ve been treating CrossFit athletes for almost four years now, from beginners to Games competitors. As a CrossFit athlete myself, I’m still a novice, having only been doing CrossFit less than a year. As a doctor, I would get CrossFit athletes coming into my office saying things like, “Yesterday when I was snatching…” or “During my fourth round of kipping pull ups…” I had a general idea of the movement, but honestly, no true understanding of the movement. It’s been a joy to dig deep into what my patients do each day. It’s important to me to relate to my patients and their endeavors.
As my journey as a CrossFit athlete matures, so too does my career as a chiropractor. In the last year, I’ve developed internally which has resulted in numerous benefits in all aspects of my life.
As a CrossFit athlete, I’ve learned to be present at a particular moment of time. One of my favorite coaches always says, “Concentrate on the task at hand.” Nothing else matters other than that hang clean you are about to conquer or that pull up you’re about to nail. This translates into me, Dr. Mathews, being fully present with each patient of mine and connecting energies from the beginning of the appointment to the end of the appointment.
I’ve learned to confront adversity and conquer what lies before me. There are times when I’ve faced a barbell that weighs more than me, but I try to keep things simple and let my body do the work. There are long grueling workouts I’ve faced in which I’ve had to break them up in my head so that I stay moving and feel the progression throughout. The long chipper workouts I actually love because I feel like I’m checking tasks off of a to-do list. As a doctor, when I first started practicing, I made numerous small goals that I began to check off, which led to bigger goals. And believe me, sometimes there is nothing that a good cry won’t fix, whether it be a workout or bad day in the office. By conquering skills and workouts in CrossFit, I feel empowered and unstoppable.
As a CrossFit athlete, I’m training for this thing we call life. In Greg Glassman’s Foundations he states, “The CrossFit Program was developed to enhance an individual’s competency at all physical tasks. Our athletes are trained to perform successfully at multiple, diverse, and randomized physical challenges.” As doctor, woman, and athlete, my goal is to be the fittest I can be so that, someday, I can bring a healthy child into this world. I believe in practicing what you preach and through CrossFit I think I am able to embody that healthy lifestyle.
CrossFit is a never-ending learning experience, as is the human body. To be a good doctor means having the willingness to constantly learn new things. If you want to talk about preparing for the unknown and unknowable, though I may not need to scale a wall and/or throw a few hundred pounds over my head at work, I do face the unknown and unknowable head on.
Anyone who views CrossFit as a purely physical experience is missing the boat, in my opinion. I’ve grown mentally as much or more than I have physically while training CrossFit. Though it may sound corny, when I walk up and see that whiteboard for the first time each day, I truly believe I’m training mentally for the tasks (patients) that walk into my office each day. I see an ailing human body as a problem to be solved - much in the same way that today’s AMRAP is a task that needs completing. Efficiency, the ability to adapt, and success both in my office and in the gym are more similar than they are different in my opinion. In that regard, I owe a big thank you to CrossFit.