Student voice: Fit for purpose

By Jenny Pope on 07 March 2018 Good Health Student midwives Midwives Magazine

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.