The Great and Small Things I Learned in Physical Therapy School

I just made the title of this post and now I’m intimidated by it.

It’s a tall order to list all the great and small things I learned in all three years of physical therapy school, but I’ll try. It’ll be good.

(BTW, I’m a doctor now! I still need to take and pass my boards exam in July to be licensed, but I got the degree.)

This is my last “great and small things I’ve learned” post from my time at Boston University, and thinking about that just made my heart sink. Here are the ones I’ve written during my time in DPT school:

Let’s take a stab at reflecting on some of the great and small things I’ve learned throughout all of PT school, now that it’s over. I’m not going to look at any of my previous posts, so as to make this as candid and #raw as possible.

1) I am totally an external processor. Whether studying or figuring out the inner convoluted workings of my soul, talk talk talking is MAJOR KEY.

2) Starting a relationship while starting doctoral studies is challenging.

3) I truly had very little idea what was happening during my first semester of PT school. So much of what I thought I knew about physical therapy flew out the window, and I struggled greatly with the lack of context as I learned about so many different pathologies and interventions in a classroom setting. But it got better.

4) I learned how to embrace failure and let go of perfectionism.

5) It will always be worth it to reserve time and energy to pour into my faith and the community surrounding that faith.

6) That being said, I learned how to set boundaries between study time and my faith and social life. Not without a lot of struggle, strife, and sometimes hurt feelings, though.

7) I learned a lot about walking, and I can say with conviction that it is my favorite form of physical activity. It is one that I never want to take for granted.

8) Physical therapists help others to help themselves, and I love that about the profession. We want YOU to do the moving as much as possible, and we will help you get there.

9) My thoracic spine mobility is crap.

10) The answer to any of my personal problems is probably that I need to sleep and pray.

11) Having a diverse and loving group of friends in PT school is a blessing both in and out of the classroom.

12) In one instance, I cannot see myself doing anything but physical therapy. But in another instance, I can see myself doing something totally different.

13) Weaknesses really can become strengths, and often do.

14) I can spend a whole year with my friend, Janice, by my side and not get sick of her.

idk if it’s reciprocal though

15) The brain (and the whole central nervous system) is an absolute enigma and something that I wish to learn more about, regarding its relationship to and necessity for movement. Maybe one day I will pursue a neurological clinical specialty.

16) America runs on Dunkin’ and I still run on peanut butter and banana every day.

17) I have come to appreciate my family and my life situation more and more as time goes on.

18) Finding deep and abiding freedom, peace, and joy is of utmost importance to me, even if it hurts at first.

19) Many walls of pride have been burned down in different areas of my life, and that is exactly what I prayed would happen in January of 2017, well before PT school started. It has been a painful but very good process, and it never stops.

20) I think I’ve finally learned to try new things that are either neutral or good for me. Trying new things is not naturally my jam (see #16).

21) I can get close to running a half marathon if I don’t almost break my leg in the process.

22) I have learned how to have healthy confrontation and disagreement. I hate confrontation, but it can be extremely fruitful when done with respect, clarity, and charity.

23) It’s really nice to be in a class of people who want to help each other up the mountain.

24) Expect the unexpected.

25) Everyone always knows more than I do. I don’t mean that in a self-deprecating way, but in an honest way. There will always be something someone else knows that I do not know. There will always be something that I can learn from any given person, whether that’s intellectually, academically, spiritually, emotionally, experientially, or physically.

our first Christmas / holiday season together as a PT cohort 🙂

25 is enough. It’s late now and, like I said, the answer is sleep and prayer. The true list of great and small things I’ve learned is inexhaustible, because the fruits of my experience in DPT school will continue to appear throughout my life.

There is nothing but gratitude and joy looking back at these last three years. Good grief is an appropriate phrase to describe it.

Thank you to all who made this possible, and thank YOU for reading along throughout this journey. I appreciate you.

A Routine For Now

You’d think with all this quarantine time I’d be blogging a lot more.

To be very honest, I haven’t had much motivation to blog. Not because I don’t love this space, but I think because I’ve been praying and processing through many different things. What I have in me to share is either super boring or deeper and more personal than I’m willing to share at this time.

I also just don’t really know what my life, your life, our life is anymore.

Just kidding, that’s so dramatic. It’s the kind of thing I exclaim when I’m tired but also want a cookie at 11pm (aka now?).

I’m graduating on Sunday with my Doctorate in Physical Therapy! It feels relatively anticlimactic, but I am still excited and we’re finding ways to celebrate.

wasn’t long ago (2 years ago) that I graduated undergrad (PC: John L.)

Boston is set to open back up this Monday. It feels surreal and I’m a little scared honestly, but we’ll see what happens I guess.

Anyway, the point of this post is to share with you how I have finally settled into a little routine these days. A quarantine routine — a quaranroutine, one might call it. This would be categorized under the “boring” things that I have to share, but I’ll add in some insightful reflections in there.

I’ll usually wake up anywhere from 4:30am to 8:30am. I kid you not. Occasionally, I will go to a hill in Boston to watch the sunrise and say morning prayer (usually with a friend or two — socially distanced and masked). That’s where the 4:30am comes into play. Those sunrises are always so worth it…as long as I can come back home and take a big fat nap 🙂

8:30am wakeup time happens if I was lazy about going to sleep on time the previous night. Yeah, I said it. TOO LAZY TO GO TO SLEEP; that’s how low I can go.

7:00-7:30am is the sweet spot though.

I have been praying first thing in the morning, which has been such a blessing. It would be very difficult for me to get up early enough to pray before school/clinical, so to have the flexibility to do that now and take my time with it is awesome. The absolute best thing about this quarantine has been spending a lot of quality time with Jesus.

Next I’ll eat some breakfast. You can imagine what that looks like (read: pb and banana in some form).

throwback banana pancake photo

I’ve been trying to do some spiritual reading or just eating meals in silence. Again, to spend more time with Jesus and also to savor my food more. It is rare that I am not thinking about 10,000,000 other things that I have just done and am about to do during the day. Sometimes my roommate will be in the kitchen and we’ll chat too. Sometimes I will be on my phone ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Key word was *try* to do spiritual reading and eat in silence.

Next will either be a walk outside OR studying for boards OR a combination of both, usually depending on the weather forecast for the day. One day a week, I’ll take the morning or early afternoon to grocery shop and do laundry as well.

I’ll typically work out right before lunch. I’ve been posting a lot of my workouts and exercise ideas on my Instagram story/highlights, so follow along there if you are interested! Despite closed gyms, I’m actually feeling quite strong and good with my workouts, but the abundance of sleep and diminished stress I’ve had probably has to do with that. Also, having a kettlebell at home is very helpful.

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Happy Solemnity of the Annunciation! The day when “nothing again would be casual and small.” - Rev. John Duffy ———————— I ordered a 35 lb KB (that I’m naming #Kettlebellarmine) in lieu of the gym for a month or so, and oh, how one piece of equipment can get the job done. ▫️Split squats (4x15 each leg): Keep the chest up, but lean ever so slightly forward at the hips. Keep most of your weight through the front heel. Should be very glute heavy work! ▫️Side to side pushups (4x12 total): This kettlebell falls over if you’re not putting weight through it, so that adds a little stability challenge. Hardest part of this one is keeping the hips down and not piking them. ▫️Cossack squats (3x8 each leg): Push your hips WAY back so that your weight is really through the heel. Keep it there as you push back up and maintain knee over toe. Use no weight first and then progress weight slowly from there. If it hurts your knee, recheck form, and if that doesn’t help then please don’t do it. Some stretching of the glutes, calves, and hamstrings before this one may help as well. ▫️Elevated pike pushups (3x10): Try to get hips directly over shoulders. To make easier, walk feet backwards more or start in downward dog on the ground. ▫️Finisher: 20 KB swings + 20 tuck jump burpees (that I did in sets of 5 because I was tired lol) ——————— Be safe and keep playing by the rules! There is a vast unknown every day, but hold fast to hope.

A post shared by Alison Yeung, DPT (@alison_grooves) on

Lunch lunch lunch. A midday meal to break up the day will always be exciting to me. It’s been a lot of eggs recently.

another throwback photo, but exactly the same meal as these days

The afternoon will consist of a combination of studying, chatting with friends, and maybe a walk if I didn’t go on one in the morning. On my walks, I typically pray a rosary, listen to a podcast, or more recently I’ve been going through Quizlet flashcards on my phone to study.

At 5:30, I’ll break for online Mass and evening prayer. Then I’ll likely shower and eat dinner anywhere from 6:15-7:00pm.

At night, I’ve been applying for jobs in New York, but that’s understandably been a bit of a wash. I trust that something will come eventually as the pandemic recedes.

The rest of the night is a wildcard. Tuesdays involve women’s group via Zoom. Otherwise, it’s a little Words with Friends, some scrolling (working on doing less of this right before bed), some reading, some dental hygiene, and night prayer. Or in the case of this night, blogging!

The weekends are more loosey goosey. I’ve also been participating in some online events, physical therapy and Catholic world alike. Family Zooms have also been a Sunday tradition, which has been wonderful.

Are you still with me? If you are, you deserve some of the NICE star stickers (you know how there were meh star stickers and then the NICE star stickers in elementary school??). I feel like quarantine has been a time of rest and strengthening for me, preparing me for a lot of unknown and change ahead. I am very grateful.

So tell me:

What does your quarantine day-to-day look like?

What are some things you’ve improved upon during this time?

What are some things you struggle with during this time?

38 RANDOM facts about me.

Even those who know me really well probably don’t know a couple of these!

It’s a totally self-indulgent thing to make a video like this, because who cares about 38 facts about another person? But I personally love hearing quick, random tidbits about people’s lives because most of the time, we know a person on social media for who they are NOW, but what are some of the deeper, past and future things? #JUICY

This is the video that inspired this video. Ladies (and gents), I highly recommend Emily Wilson’s content.

*Note: The first fact is a lie though, because I remembered after I made the video that I also have Scrabble Go in addition to Words with Friends on my phone. But I lump them together as essentially the same thing.

Enjoy, if you so choose to watch! This is also an opportunity to see a little bit of Boston as I film many of these facts on my walk through BU’s campus 🙂

Here is the link in case the embedded video isn’t working.

So tell me:

What is 1 (or SEVERAL) random facts about yourself?!

My fitness journey started with a little Beyonce.

Wow, it’s Thursday already. On Monday I thought to myself, “Hmmm feels like this week is going to be kinda long.” Wrong.

Moves.

Tuesday – 100 burpees throughout the day + upper body workout

*10 burpees between each exercise

Wednesday – active recovery day

  • some walking
  • Blogilates’ extreme abs 3 (done virtually with my friend Dom!)
  • stretching and foam rolling
  • some dancing
some tulips from my walk

Beyonce and the start of my fitness journey. I started gaining interest in fitness as a sophomore in high school. My cardiovascular health was never really great, so I had very humble beginnings that started with 15 minutes on our basement elliptical. Running a mile was a sTrUgGLe for me at this time as well.

As I was still just starting out my training, if I was feeling spicy, I would do a few rounds of Beyonce’s “Move Your Body” music video dance (which is really fun btw) to get my heart rate up. Yesterday I wanted to do it just for fun on my active recovery day, and I just remembered how I used to be winded at the end of it when I was in high school.

Not that I’m super fit (especially cardiovascularly, which is still a weak point for me), but this is all to say that you should never be ashamed of where you are in your fitness journey. You are not pathetic if you can’t run a mile without stopping, do a pushup, do a squat, whatever. You are not pathetic if you get winded with 15 minutes of elliptical like I did in high school. There are benefits to increasing cardiovascular endurance, but start and build up safely and consistently from where you are. That’s perfect.

Johnnyswim. Do you guys know this artist? It’s a husband and wife who make sorta folksy-pop music that is really beautiful. Their new quarantine project is called “Songs with Strangers,” where they select a person on their Instagram Live each week. In ONE DAY, they write, produce, mix and release a new song with the help of that person (usually the person just contributes their story, which becomes the basis of the song lyrics), who ends up getting half of the rights to the song. And let me tell you, these songs are wonderful. Here’s one of my favorites:

It’s also awesome that they’ve been posting the full 7-8 hour Instagram live videos of the entire process. Musicians are amazing.

So tell me:

What do you like to do on rest days / active recovery days? (Sometimes I don’t walk or really do anything. Yesterday was still pretty active!)

Do you remember some things you found difficult at the beginning of your fitness journey?

Do you like Johnnyswim? Are there any cool celebrity quarantine projects that you fancy?

I love Boston.

It’s too early in the week to be this emotional!

Essential physical therapists. Last night, my latest clinical instructor sent me photos of herself and other PTs decked out in PPE (personal protective equipment) up the wazoo. She and several other PTs have been working at the Boston Hope Medical Center, a field hospital at the Boston Convention and Events Center that is running solely for the treatment of patients suffering from COVID-19. She updated me on how life has been working in a field hospital, which she says has been “amazing and interesting,” but she also hopes that it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

MDs, nurses, PTs, OTs, RNs, SLPs, military personnel, and so many other health professionals are all working together day in and day out, which we all already knew, but I feel a renewed and deepened sense of pride in the profession of physical therapy, which yes, is an essential service for people with acute respiratory illness.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Marathon Monday in solidarity. Yesterday was Patriots’ Day in Boston, which is always the day of the Boston Marathon. The marathon has been postponed to September for obvious reasons, but Boston finds a way to grow stronger through this iconic event, even during a pandemic. For one, my BU PT classmates (all scattered across the country now) posted photos and routes of their short or long runs on a shared google drive, so that we could support and inspire one another in light of the circumstances.

I am blessed to live near downtown Boston, so I ran 2.62 miles there (total coincidence that it was exactly 1/10 of a full marathon) to the finish line on Boylston Street and then back home.

Some people were at the finish line waiting for their loved ones to finish the marathon, which several people unofficially ran yesterday anyway. What spirit!

Side note: I did not love running with mask. I would take it off when there was not a person in sight, but would put it back on when I approached people. Just a little extra cardiorespiratory challenge, but I suppose I can suck it up (literally) and offer it up for those with COVID-19.

Moves.

Saturday – Yoga video and walking.

Sunday – 100 burpees throughout the day + this fun workout (that included some of said burpees) with my kettlebell:

  • Squat clean and press (both hands on the KB) (3×12)
  • 10 burpees
  • Mini modified pull ups using the footboard of my bed (3×10)*
  • 10 burpees
  • Single arm KB cleans (3×10 each arm)
  • 10 burpees
  • Double KB swings (3×10)
  • 10 burpees
  • Asymmetric squat creeps (the last exercise in this link except with only one KB) (3×14 total, switch arms halfway)
  • 10 burpees

*I made this exercise up in an effort to mimic some sort of pulling motion. I might post it on my instagram story later. It looks silly, but it worked my lats. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Monday – 5.2 mile run

Gosh, I love Boston so much. I’m not leaving until July, but my heart is already breaking a teeny tiny bit.

It’s funny. I remember a very distinct moment in high school when my parents and I were visiting my brother (who went to Northeastern University) in Boston. We were driving behind Boston University’s campus on Storrow Drive. I looked out the window and thought, “Eh, I think I could do without a city like Boston.” Literal FOOL, Alison. I love being proved wrong by God in the best way possible.

I hope you are all having an excellent week so far.

So tell me:

Do you have a city that just steals your heart for one reason or another?

Any inspiring COVID-19 stories you’d like to share?

If you’ve been exercising recently, what have you been doing?