We veterinarians work our mental muscles every day caring for patients. Now it's time to push your mind and body through a new challenge: you.
Five overnight shifts-or 75 hours, if we're counting-leaves barely enough time to eke out a yawn. But in my world, sunrise means closing the doors of my animal ER and opening other equally productive doors to complete my daily routine.
As a single mother of three (ahem, two children and a 9-month-old emergency hospital), my life consists of round-the-clock efforts to provide both for my family and my community. And to make the day even more action-packed, I'm fully committed to my personal fitness. We're not talking just any aerobic workout-I have an intense daily bodybuilding and weightlifting routine.
Learning to care for me
Earlier on in my veterinary career, I developed the typical quick-fix habit that centered on junk food, caffeine and the standard practice of working out my mental muscles while ignoring the importance of any true physical activity. In a way, it felt heroic, sacrificing my needs for the purpose of medicine and saving lives. After graduation and two babies, though, that sacrifice was showing in the mirror. I had become secretly ashamed of my body, felt exhausted from poor nutrition and lacked confidence and self-esteem. I found myself with a successful career and plenty of excuses to cut corners when it came to my physical health.
In 2010, I realized the irony of my spending countless hours looking over the perfect prescription plans for my patients while ignoring my own physical and emotional well-being. So, I committed to a lifestyle of clean eating and less down time, and I made the decision to comply with my own "medical" recommendations to care for myself the way I care for my patients.
My routine now includes fuel for my veterinary shift with at least seven meals and a gallon jug of water instead of caffeine and sugar. When my shift wraps, I head to the gym for a powerful hour-long workout, focusing on a single body part per session, per week. The hours in between? I write, enjoy moments with my Haflinger mare, plan lunch and quality time with the kiddos, and tend to house chores and grocery shopping. Off days are spent catching up on much-needed REM sleep, additional fitness training and maybe a massage.
Pushing mind and body
So why would I advocate pushing yourself to the point of toppling over with a loaded plate? Completing tasks that are productive and focusing on each moment of the day helps me keep my mind sharp. By pushing my own limits, I find that the once-huge life stresses and hurdles are minuscule hiccups in the day. No high-maintenance client can unravel my emotions-that's a simple stress compared to pushing aside fatigue to write articles, care for kids and staff, abide by my training routine, ignore tasty sugars and tempting quick-fix foods, and complete a difficult workout. Pushing this hard has resulted in being chosen as a Formulation 1 Nutrition sponsored athlete and having the confidence to open the doors of my own practice.
My personal mission is to look back and know that I gave life my best effort. I find satisfaction and contentment knowing I am influencing those around me to work hard. Fitness is not about the body's appearance, but the strength to push your mind and body through a challenge. It's a chance to discover how strong you really are.
My advice is to make every second count and squeeze a full schedule into a small compartment of time each day. Maximize time management and learn to be your own motivation and driver; be your own superhero. Push through the moments of the day as if they are your last and live limitless.
Click through the pages below to see photos of how Dr. Hennessey transformed her body (and her life).
Owner of the Animal ER of northwest Houston, Dr. Jennifer Hennessey has over 10 years' experience in emergency and critical care.