Student voice: Fit for purpose
Running raised this student midwife’s fitness levels and her morale. Jenny Pope tells her story.
Everyone always says how hard it is to be a student midwife, but I never quite understood just how mentally tough and challenging it would be.
Before starting the course, I exercised, but not regularly. It was just something I did occasionally because I knew it was good for me.
In the first year of the midwifery degree, I got through on adrenaline and eating far too much, especially on night shifts. Exercise became unimportant and the weight quickly crept on. Before I knew it, I was in my second year feeling frumpy and my scrubs were getting tight. Suddenly, the workload seemed very daunting. I was eating my way through the degree and it didn’t take long for my mental health to suffer.
By Christmas of the second year I had broken down in front of my tutor, and my GP prescribed antidepressants. After several weeks of following the course and feeling like a zombie, I wanted to stop the tablets but knew they helped: I needed something else.
As a new year’s resolution, I decided to take up running again and run a 5km Parkrun in less than 25 minutes to try and help me lose weight. Within a month, I noticed my fitness increasing and my weight decreasing. But by far the biggest change was how much more energy I had and how I felt much happier within myself. After another month, I felt mentally well enough to try and come off the tablets, and I decided to join a gym.
Exercise became addictive, as did the rush of endorphins that came with it, so I gradually worked out more and more. I even signed up for the Wales marathon, a very hilly route around Tenby, so I had something to train for. I completed this in July, only six months after I had taken up running again. What an adrenaline rush when I finished the race! I finished my second year having lost 10kg in weight, and feeling much fitter, stronger and healthier.
I now exercise five or six times a week without it feeling like a chore. I have just finished a Parkrun in under 23 minutes, completely smashing my goal and making me feel on top of the world. I can’t quite explain how much exercise has improved my mental health. From nearly dropping out of the course, I’m now excited again about becoming a midwife. Some days I just don’t feel like exercising, but even going for a 10-minute walk is enough to make a difference to how you feel. There is a type of exercise out there for everyone and it’s worth trying different types until you find something you enjoy. Give it a go and see how you feel.
Jenny Pope is a final-year student at Cardiff University and a member of the RCM Student Midwives Forum.