WASHINGTON — Thu Tran pulls slowly on a resistance band as she sits on a resistance ball. The tension in the band is tight and she breaks into a smile as her elbows touch her sides.
Around her, two dozen other women are working on their strength and balance. Some grimace, a few grunt, but overall, the air is filled with laughter.
These are the members of the Lady Docs Corner Cafe — a group of local women in medicine who have decided it is not enough to just talk the talk to their patients about fitness and eating right. These doctors are walking the walk.
They meet every weekend on an empty tennis court next to Tran’s Potomac home for a fitness boot camp where they bond over crunches, squats, deadlifts and the occasional downward dog.
It all started four years ago when Tran — an OB-GYN — met trainer Troy Wentzlaff and asked him if he could work with her and a few of her colleagues. The boot camp began with seven women, most of whom Tran knew through her work at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital. As word spread, more specialties came in — from dentistry to oncology — and women who once were strangers developed a sisterhood.
“We count on each other, we know everyone is there, everyone’s got our back,” says Dr. Marsha Scheinman, a pulmonary specialist in Silver Spring.
For Scheinman and Tran — both accomplished athletes — the original goal was to find a way to mix a group exercise sessions into their busy lives. But they say they have received so much more from the fitness boot camp.
“It really has become a de-stresser,” says Scheinman, emphasizing that it’s a chance to unwind and spend time with other women who also are trying to balance heavy-duty work and family responsibilities.
Wentzlaff says he takes that all into account in designing their workouts — a mix of gentle stretching, and resistance training with a bit of cardio mixed in.
“It is not just endurance for fitness, it is endurance for life,” he emphasizes.
He says these women have high-powered careers that can involve long hours.
“Their work is a tear down, a beat down,” he says but adds he is constantly surprised by their determination to meet their fitness goals and serve as examples for their patients.
“Our patients recognize that, and they always ask us what we do to stay in shape,” says Scheinman.
To get the word out, the fitness boot camp participants launched a Lady Docs Corner Cafe blog. It includes everything from fitness tips to recipes to practical takes on the latest medical news. Scheinman says patients “appreciate seeing the other side of us, the real side of us, the stressed side of us.”
Tran remembers one patient’s response in particular. The woman sent her an email saying that when she read the blog, it felt like a group of very smart sisters was taking care of her.
Tran says she replied, “That is exactly what we wanted to do with our website — take care of you like a sister.”