What I Learned Going Back To Grad School

Last fall I enrolled at the University of Wisconsin as a special student with the purpose of refreshing my learning in the area of exercise physiology and preparing to apply to their new grad program in the fall of 2011.  Very quickly I realized I was a little over my head and that I had a challenging semester ahead of me with reading, studying and falling on my face a few times.  Along the way I learned a few things about myself.

Use it or lose it
It was immediately obvious to me that I had been out of school for a few years – 8 to be exact.  Sure, the level of the class (700) was higher than anything I took as an undergrad, but the pace and the background that the professor assumed and the other students seemed to demonstrate left me at a significant disadvantage.  Still, I recognized the deficiency and dove right in.  But I realized that when you’re not constantly sharpening your sword, it gets dull.  This happens pretty quickly.  It felt great to be back in the classroom and being challenged with new ideas, problems, and workloads.  I was encouraged to stay in the loop of education and continue to challenge my thinking and learning.

There will always be a smarter guy than me
And I’m ok with that.  As an undergrad we were all pretty much on the same page.  This introduction to grad school showed me that there will always be some doctoral candidates pursuing degrees way beyond where I want to go with school.  This particular grad program focuses on research, which I have no desire to pursue.  They’ll always be smarter than me, but…

I’m confident in my direction as an exercise specialist
It was crystal clear that most of my classmates are interested in research.  I’m interested in clinical applications.  I kept asking myself (and the class), “So what?”  So what about all these studies on rats’ cardiovascular adaptations to prolonged exercise after drug infusions.  So what that muscles vasodilate but then another system kicks in to achieve certain adaptations.  There were numerous moments of frustration being mixed with people who just care about the scientific research whereas I’m trying to find practical applications to get the next client back into exercising.  This semester reminded me that although the researchers are very important, I find my drive in learning so that I can help people be more active.

Exercise is Medicine
I’ve written about this before, but this class reinforced the notion that exercise is good for everyone.  Specifically, we learned about cardiovascular disease, and without boring you with the details, essentially the idea is that for unhealthy people who have vessels that aren’t supporting proper blood flow (and thus are at risk for disease), 2-4 weeks of structured exercise can facilitate significant improvements for your cardiovascular system.

I’m kind of a geek about school  I could take one class per semester for the next 20 years and be pretty happy.  I worked very hard this semester and it felt very good to get back.  And I learned a few things.
If you went back to school, what class would you take?

If not a class, what would you enjoy studying?

Could your local library or bookstore offer some reading materials to make that happen?

Remember: use it or lose it.

Those are my thoughts. What are yours?

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