staying healthy and fit - sarah - ob/gyn resident

Name: Sarah

Age: 27

Hometown: Michigan

Current city: New Haven, CT

Undergraduate with major: Michigan State University, BS Psychology, Specialization in Bioethics, Humanities, and Society

Medical School: Michigan State University-College of Human Medicine

Residency program: Obstetrics and gynecology, Yale-New Haven Hospital

Social media: @doctors.and.dumbbells

Tell me a little about yourself. When did you decide on a career in medicine and when did you decide on your specialty? What about life outside of medicine? Where do you live? Are you married? Kids or no kids? Hobbies? Favorite thing to do on the weekend? I was born and raised in a small town in Michigan. I have incredibly wonderful parents who taught me from an early age that it was important to work hard and always be kind to others. I have one sister, who is my best friend in the world (and who is currently in nursing school). I love running, hiking, traveling, baking (pies are my favorite), hunting, fishing, eating, craft beer, and working out. I also play the guitar and I love to read. I have a golden retriever named Maggie who loves to run with me and loves to cuddle. I went to college and medical school in Michigan and then moved out east to Connecticut for residency training. I met my husband in medical school, and we got married a year after we met. I'm currently a first year OB/GYN resident and he is a first year Pediatric resident.

In terms of being married to someone in medicine… I have found it wonderful to be on this journey with my husband/favorite person. We always have had a bit of healthy competition and have been pushing each other to do better than our best since we met. He is also incredibly talented, kind, and hardworking, and that is such a great source of encouragement for me. He deeply understands the struggles and demands of residency, and knows that date night frequently means falling asleep together on the couch. It is also great working at the same hospital, because even though our free time is scarce, once in while we can meet for lunch or coffee in the hospital cafeteria...and that wouldn't be possible if he had a different job. Those little moments are centering, and I cherish them. They give me energy and joy. And sometimes our paths cross while working...  I did a c-section this week and handed the baby off to him in the OR. It was really fun.

I’m one of those people who always wanted to be a doctor. My mom was a school teacher, and my dad is an accountant, so I’m not exactly sure where it came from, but I always knew it was what I was supposed to do. I think one of the things that guided me to OB/GYN was a medical missions trip I was part of during college. When I was 20, I went to the Central African Republic with a team of US physicians and I worked with the OB/GYNs for a week, doing surgery every day... in an OR that was frequently without electricity and 100 degrees. It was such a powerful experience. Women's lives were changed so dramatically by the care these surgeons were able to provide, that I knew that I wanted to do the same. I love taking care of women. Pregnancy and childbirth are incredible, and I love being part of such an amazing, and sometimes difficult, journey in women's lives. I also get to tell people congratulations every day. And that is great.  


 ob/gyn resident scrubbing in


Have you always lived a generally healthy life? If not, when did you become interested in health and fitness? I was always a really active kid. In high school, workouts were always built in with basketball or track practice. Then college happened, without much structure or scheduled workouts/practices, and I realized I had to take my health and fitness into my own hands. I was the typical “cardio bunny” meaning I spent most of my time on the elliptical or treadmill and was very fit from a cardiovascular standpoint. But I realized I wanted to be strong. And I realized I had no idea what I was doing with nutrition.  So I started doing research, reading articles on and most everything by Layne Norton… and then I started lifting heavy weights and counting my macros.  I realized it’s about body composition and that the number on the scale doesn’t matter.  


I saw that you trained your sister and wow, amazing results! -22.5 lbs and 13.5% body fat in 12 weeks! Do you do any other personal training outside of residency? What tips do you have for someone who is living an unhealthy lifestyle that wants to start on a healthy path? I did train my sister this spring for a contest she entered, and she did so awesome. She worked incredibly hard, every single day. I just provided the framework: she lifted weights 4x/week and did cardio for about 30 minutes 2-3x/week and ate about 1700-2000kcals while doing it! Science is the best. I don’t do any other training at the moment… maybe in the future, but right now I don’t have the extra time.

My advice for someone who wants to start getting healthy is JUST START.  Being healthy is a process, it is a choice you make every day.  It doesn’t happen overnight; it happens with daily decisions. So just begin today. Eat a healthier breakfast, take the stairs, park a little farther away, take ONE yoga class this week, find a workout on Youtube, take a 30 minute walk, go for a hike somewhere you’ve never been, try one new healthy recipe. Eventually this will become habit, and those habits become a way of life.  Also, don’t be afraid to seek out help.  There are people who have done this before you and they have written about it on the internet. Google is your friend.  Related:


 amazing body transformation


Take me through your typical day of work, fitness, and nutrition. I get up around 5:30, throw on my scrubs, and make some eggs. I’m pretty boring and eat the same thing every morning. I’m on a smashed egg kick currently. I hardboil 5 eggs and then smash them up (minus a few yolks) and eat them with toast. I seriously think I’ve had this every day for the last month. I’m weird. I head out the door and I’m at the hospital around 6:30, round on the patients I need to see, and then usually am in the OR for cases at 7:30. I almost always pack my lunch with leftovers from the night before, and I eat somewhere between 11 and 1 (depends on what cases are going and when). Operate for a few more hours in the afternoon, or deliver some babies—depends on the day—and hopefully get home around 7pm. Then the husband and I eat a quick dinner and get to the gym by 8ish. Spend 45 mins to an hour at the gym and home before 10. Shower. Sleep. Repeat. I work out 4 days a week. So the other three nights the husband and I go out to dinner with friends, watch some TV shows, read, do stuff for work, or go to bed early. It’s a bit of a grind sometimes but we love it. And there are some weeks the gym doesn’t happen. And that’s okay. It’s about the big picture and balance over time. 


 very fit ob/gyn resident


Do you meal prep? Sort of. We grocery shop and plan out each weekend what we are going to have for dinner each night of the coming week. We cook that for dinner, and make extra so we can take it for lunch for the next day or two. So we always have a fresh dinner, and then eat chicken out of a bag (or whatever leftover it may be) for lunch the next day.  We also always have some prepped meals in our freezer. There are many great companies out there (we use IconMeals) and it is a HUGE time saver when we don’t have time to cook.  

Recipes shared by Sarah:

  1. Basil Garlic Shrimp “Pasta”
  2. Protein Pancakes


What tips do you have to balance residency or medical school with a healthy and fit life? Life is about choices. I know residency/medical school/life is incredibly busy. But you DO have free time, it’s all about how you want to use it. You can choose to get done with work, go out to eat, and then watch Netflix with a glass of wine. (Believe me, this is one of my favorite things and many days that’s just what you need.) But you can also choose to get home and drag your butt to the gym because it’s important and good for you. It’s all about balance. As a medical student, you could LITERALLY study for 24 hours a day. But at some point, you have to put the books down.  Make yourself and your health a priority. It will make you a better physician/resident/med student/person. Set some goals for yourself at the beginning of the week, ie I want to go the gym 4 times this week, or I want to read one journal article every night before bed, or I’m going to do 30 sit-ups every night this week. I also find making a fitness goal really helpful. Sign up to do a color run or warrior dash or 5k in your town… then you have something fun you are working towards.  It helps keep you motivated.


What do you struggle with in maintaining that balance? There are only 24 hours in a day, and as a resident, about 14 of those are spent at the hospital. At the end of a long day, sometimes it is very challenging to make the choice to go to the gym or fix something healthy for dinner. I’m frequently tired, and I LOVE ice cream and junk just as much as the next person. But I find that a good workout is usually more energizing than a nap… and I can make ice cream fit my macros.


Any tips on balancing a two resident household? Make your person a priority. Try as hard as you can to make choices that make your person feel loved and supported. You have the unique position of being on this journey with someone who understands just how difficult and demanding your job can be. You both “get it,” but like anything else, you still have to put time in and work on it. My husband and I write each other notes when we are on opposite schedules… I leave a note on the table in the morning… he leaves me one to read when I get home… or sometimes he sneaks one into my car in the parking lot. It goes a long way, just knowing you have somebody on your team who is out there fighting right alongside you.  Also, this might seem basic, but communication is vital. Talk about expectations, plans for the week, goals, etc. And try to spend your free time together whenever possible… aka…try to pick hobbies or workouts or activities that you both like to do. It is really wonderful to be on this road with your person, but it is also really tough to be away from them so much.  Really enjoy the little moments and opportunities you have to be together because they will give you strength and focus during this intense training.

Leave questions and comments for Sarah below and look out for her full career profile Thursday!

 career profile - sarah hartwick bjorkman, MD - yale obstetrics and gynecology resident, michigan state medical school and undergraduate 

Check these links out for more fit residents (and tips for you, duh!)