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Nina Lightdale, Orthopedic Surgeon and Runner

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Nina Lightdale reading x-ray
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Dr. Lightdale at the hospital
It helps to be fit when you operate (literally) in the ultra-competitive, male-dominated world of orthopedic surgery. So Dr. Nina Lightdale squeezes workouts into her hectic life. Here's how she does it.

She's a hand surgeon who puts in 80-hour workweeks while living the single life in bustling New York City. Yet 33-year-old Nina Lightdale, a fellow at the renowned Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, still manages to run several races a year in preparation for the New York City Marathon. Lightdale tells that her motivation to stay in shape is actually a direct result of the heavy demands of her challenging career. Being a doctor, says Lightdale, means "giving of myself all day long. When I put on my running shoes, I know I'm about to do something just for me."

Model doc: "It is important to patients that I lead by example. When I suggest that someone lose weight or get fit, I want to be seen as a symbol of strength. If I look strong, healthy, well-rested, and energized, it builds my patients' trust in me."

Stress release: "When I run after work, I tend to enjoy it more because it helps me work out the frustrations of the day. In the morning I often feel like I'm rushing to get my workout done. If I'm lucky I get to run three or four days a week, but I always commit to a long run every weekend."

You can't run from the work: "My pager and cell phone are always clipped to my waist while I run. Sometimes they rub my skin, so I use Vaseline to help with that. If I get paged while running, I often have to stop and catch my breath before calling patients back."

Weighting it out: "Last year I had tendinitis in my Achilles, so I started stretching a lot. I began to run more around the reservoir in Central Park, which has a dirt path instead of pavement. Since my injury, I've started cross-training, adding spinning classes and strength training to my workouts. Even though I'd rather be running than lifting weights, I know varying my routine is going to make my running better and safer."

Nina Lightdale running
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Racing through NYC's Times

Don't eat like a man: "Being in shape helps me make better food choices. There is always free food around the hospital. If I've just gone for a run that morning, I don't feel like eating a doughnut. I'm more apt to drink water and eat fruit. During my surgery training, I was the only woman in the class. I learned pretty quickly that I can't eat like a guy!"

That's swell: "Sometimes at the end of a long day in surgery, my feet swell so much that when I get home and peel off my socks, I can still see their imprint on my skin. Running helps flush out the buildup of fluid in my legs."

Excuse buster: "My work schedule and the demands of my job are great reasons to never exercise. Don't make excuses! Take time for yourself. Staying fit will improve your life in every respect."

Originally published on, June 2007.


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