How CrossFit Prepared Me for the USMLE Step 1

- 27 Comments

We talk all the time about how our experiences inside the four walls of the CrossFit box translate to life outside, but never has this truth been so glaringly apparent to me  as in my preparation for the USMLE Step 1 board exam.  As the hours, days, and weeks of flashcards, Qbanks, and practice exams dragged on, I couldn’t help but notice the ways in which my CrossFit training had prepared me for this intellectual challenge. Reflecting on this experience, I’ve collected the top 12 reasons why CrossFit prepared me for the task of studying for and taking the USMLE Step 1 exam:

A great motivator for any task: The Clock
A great motivator in many aspects of life: The Clock
  1. Success is born from routine, structure, and commitment. Expecting your test score to jump 50 points or to get a muscle up in one day is unrealistic – these improvements come from sustained, regular practice and small improvements over time.
  2. Though we may find more enjoyment in practicing what we’re good at, the greatest overall improvements will come from working on our weaknesses. If you’re much more comfortable with Olympic lifting than gymnastics, the best way to improve your overall fitness is by spending more time on gymnastics skills. If you’re confident with Cardiology topics but Neurology makes you want to have a panic attack, the greatest improvement in your overall score will result from studying Neurology.
  3. If you put in the work, you will see measurable improvements. AMAZING.
  4. Studying is like an AMRAP. If you start your day thinking about how you have 12 hours to go, you will feel overwhelmed and defeated. Focusing on making each repetition perfect, answering each practice question to the best of your ability, will allow you to stay in the moment. Before you know it, the timer will “Beep” and your AMRAP will be over.
  5. Time worrying about what everyone else around you is doing is time wasted. How much time your friend spent in the gym or what his score was on the workout is just as irrelevant as how many hours your classmate spent studying or what she scored on her practice exam. What IS important is YOU and that you are sticking to your plan, working hard, and seeing improvements in your own performance.
  6. There is no greater motivator than the clock. The clock is guaranteed to increase your power output whether it may be physical power or brain power. Use the clock to set a timeline and stick to it – tasks will always fill the time you allot them.
  7. When times get tough, you can always trick yourself into doing more work with a TABATA interval. Increased intensity = Increased power output. Scheduled breaks are necessary to allow yourself to reset.
  8. Scores are a great way to motivate and track progress, but your performance in any single workout, or on any exam, does NOT define you. What defines you is the type of person you choose to be and how hard you work with the tools  you have available.
  9. Practice the way you compete. Doing a workout with questionable range of motion in training will only prepare you for “no reps” on the competition floor. Taking a practice exam with longer breaks, in a comfortable environment, while sipping your coffee is not going to prepare you ideally for the test day environment.
  10. When you’re on hour 6 of 7 of your exam and you just want to give up, you can always draw from your experience on round 6 of the Sevens when you felt the same way. In that workout you were able to able to dig deep and push through to the end, so this exam should be no different. The feeling of achieving a goal after questioning whether you would be able to is unmatched.
  11. Your potential in any endeavor will be maximized by relying on your support team. Whether it’s your mother coaxing you out of bed to study at 7 AM with freshly brewed coffee, your coach pushing you through a workout when you are near your breaking point, or your friends who work, sweat, laugh, and cry with you, surround yourself with people who will make you better.
  12. Each day is new. No single workout, no single set of practice questions matters. What matters is the cumulative effort and hard work sustained over time.
The right support team is crucial in shouldering any task
The right support team is crucial in shouldering any task