How Personal Fitness Can Shape Your Personal Finances (and Your Belly)

By Jimmy Turner, MD
The Physician Philosopher

To get to the point of today’s post – blending personal fitness and personal finance – I am gonna bring you way back to the days of black tops and 96 color crayon boxes.

In elementary school, one of the most embarrassing moments of the year was always the physical fitness test.  I never had an impressive amount of upper body strength and so when it came time to do the pull-ups, this was an impossible task for me.

The other boys would crank out five or even ten pull ups.  All you had to do to pass the test was one.  For the rest of us mere mortals, we were relegated to the “hang test” where we put our chins above the bar and hung on for as long as we could.  It was demoralizing.

The entire time I was up there doing the “hang test” all I could think about was how the other boys could do pull-ups and here I was – all weak and scrawny – having to hold on for dear life.  Everyone was staring at me.  For this reason, and many others, pull- ups and chin-ups have always been my least favorite exercise.

Why this topic?

Today’s post is a story of hard work, determination, and eventual success.  It’s all about the importance of physical fitness.

You might wonder why I am talking about this topic on a website focused on building wealth and wellness for high-income earners. The reason is two fold:

First, being disciplined with physical fitness helps make for better wellness.  There are loads of resources that will tell you about the stress relieving and health benefits of working out.  You cannot live a life well lived without your health.  Since living a life well lived is a mantra of this site, its a necessary topic.

Second, I’ve found that the discipline that comes from regularly exercising spreads to other areas of my life including spiritual, financial, and even work related areas.  What I am arguing is that physical fitness discipline helps with financial discipline.

Now that I’ve completely convinced you of the merits of exercising, let’s dig in.

My Background

Given my lack of strength or impressive endurance, I tended to gravitate towards sports and positions that required short bursts of speed and good hands.

This is the reason that I played goal keeper in soccer all the way through college (don’t get all excited, it was Division II).  As a goal keeper, I didn’t have to beat everyone else at the sprints, push-ups, pull-ups, or squats.  I simply needed to be agile, quick, and relentless.

I was required to do physical fitness like the rest of the guys, and I always viewed it as a necessary evil, or punishment depending on the circumstance involved. I’d laugh and agree every time I read the back of a runner’s t-shirt that said, “My sport [running] is your sport’s punishment.” Yup.  I hated (hate?) running.

Naturally, when college soccer ended and I had no one forcing me to work out or run, I gained weight.  The peak was reached during residency when I broke 200 pounds for the first time in my life.  Given my wiry frame, I had no business weighing this much.

So, I started working out again.

Multiple Attempts

I tried multiple programs.  It started with running, which produced limited results for me.  Then, I tried P90X but had a limited amount of time. That led to P90X3, which I still use to some extent today.

After some time working out six days per week, getting down to 180 pounds, and then injuring multiple parts of my body (my knee, my shoulder, and my wrist); I realized that I needed to cut back on my work out routine.

So, now I work out three days each week.  Every week is different as my schedule dictates what days I have time to work out.  But, almost religiously, I work out three times per week.

The point here is to find a plan that you can stick with.  Make it a lifestyle change and not just a New Year’s resolution that you won’t keep.

I am going on 18 months now and have managed to stay down around 180-185 despite my fair share of drinking beer (I love an IPA) and eating goldfish – what’s a dad with no self-control to do?

When Do I Work Out?

When I was a resident working longer hours, I used to tell my wife that she could choose to have a husband who was “fat and around to help out” or “fit but never present.” I just couldn’t seem to find time to work out.

With three kids, the second I walk through the door, I am swamped with “Daddy!  I am glad you are home.  Do you want to play/wrestle/fly-a-kite?”  It’s non-stop until the second that they go to bed at 7:30pm.  And I go to bed around 9pm.

You can guess how much energy I have at that point of the day to work out. None.

With everything else I have going on, where in the world do I find time to work out?  The answer, of course, is in the morning.

I wake up, drink my pre-work out drink, comment on the blogs or spend some quiet time reading Scripture.  Then, I get to it three days per week.  Fortunately, one of these days is usually Saturday or Sunday, which leaves only two week days to work out each week.

What work outs?

Given my lack of time, I am a big fan of high-intensity interval training (HIIT).  I want to put the work in for 20-30 minutes and then be done.  You can get great results from HIIT and the physiology literature supports the results found in this sort of workout.

For this reason, my week day workouts consists mainly of a few different routines.

Weekday Workouts: 20-30 minutes 

These are the workouts that I choose from throughout the week.

1) They take 20-30 minutes.1The first is chest and back from p90x3.  All you need is a pull-up bar (this is the one I use).  Given my struggles with pull-ups and chin-ups mentioned above, you’d be encouraged to know that I started out being able to do one.  I would wrap workout bands from around the bar and beneath my knee to help provide resistance to allow me to do more (and get stronger).

When I started, I would have barely avoided the “hang test” as an adult.  Now, I can crank out 15 or more pull-ups before I have to stop.  The hard work and dedication has really paid off here.  The hang test can now go to Hell.

2) The second is also from p90x3 and is called CVX, which is a workout with a 7.5 free weight dumbbell.  It’s cardiovascular and great for the core.  It takes 30 minutes and is intermixed with periods of slower workouts and periods of full-intensity (HIIT) type working out.  I love this one.

3) There is also an app called “Home Workout MMA Spartan Pro” which has several good exercises on it.  I put on some headphones and follow the little figurine man that they have which shows how to do each exercise.  These are prototypical HIIT workouts.

You work hard for 30-45 seconds and rest for 10-15.   It’s great.  My favorites in this app are Beginnger Circuit #1, Alpha Cardio (I do this twice in a row with a break in between the two), and spartan BW circuit

Saturday/Sunday Workouts: 45 minutes

The other two workouts I usually choose between are longer and performed on the weekend when I have more time.  These take 45 minutes.  I’ll give you an example of one of them just to show what sort of thing I am talking about.

Pink Sheet Workout

This workout was adapted from one my buddy gave me that he found at a local YMCA.  It is written on a pink sheet of paper. Hence why it is called the “Pink Sheet Workout.”

Here is how it works.  You do 3-5 rounds of this.  And, trust me, it will crush you, but its good for you.  You don’t rest in between workouts. Go straight through and then you can rest for a minute or two once done with the entire set.

Here’s the routine:

  1. Burpees x 16 (here is a video if you don’t know what a burpee is)
  2. Chin-ups x 8 (remember, I couldn’t even do one when I started!)
  3. Jump squat x 12
  4. Push-ups x 20
  5. Sit-ups x 20
  6. Pull-ups x 6 (yes, this is different from a chin-up)
  7. Dips x 25-35 on a chair
  8. Kettlebell raises  x 15 (I use a regular 25 pound weight; not a kettlebell)
  9. Plank x 45 seconds
  10. Rest for 1-2 minutes and then repeat

Rinse and Repeat

Then, the next week, I do it again.  I may change up the workouts I do during the weekdays and pick my other weekend workout the next week.  Variety is the spice of life, am I right?

Just like financial discipline, it’s all about sticking with it.  The results may be slow, but they’ll be steady.  The image you look at in the mirror and your self-worth are for more important than the number on the scale.  So, don’t get stuck on that.

Learn to love the grind. Your future self (and your family) will thank you.  You may even find that you have more discipline in other areas of your life.  Finances includes.

What do you guys do for working out?  Do you exercise regularly?  Have you found the discipline required here to be beneficial in other areas of your life?  Leave a comment.




  1. Xrayvsn

    I hear you about trying to fit exercise in a busy schedule, especially when a med student or resident.

    I’ve sort of stuck with elliptical (about an hour) 3-4x week if possible. I have it parked in front of the TV so I can do a guilty pleasure like watching reality tv at the same time.

  2. Dr. McFrugal

    Nice post TPP. Fitness is so important for our overall health and well-being. I follow a similar regimen as you.

    At a minimum, I make sure to do 100 push ups and sit ups a day. I usually spread this out to 50 in the morning and 50 in the evening, which only takes like 2-4 minutes max.

    I do pullups three times a week, but I might consider doing them every day. Like you, I can get past 15, and a few times I got up to 20 pullups. After 15 I start to struggle and lose form…

    2-3 times a week I’ll go to the gym and lift moderately heavy. I mainly do bench press, biceps curls, tricep pull downs, shoulder presses, and lat rows. I mostly just work out the upper body vanity muscles just so that I don’t appear too skinny 😛

    I should do more cardio. I never liked running because to me it’s monotonous and boring. I generally use an exercise bike and do HIIT tabata sprints with moderate resistance. That gets the metabolism running!

    • ThePhysicianPhilosopher

      That’s awesome man! And that’s a bunch of push ups and pull ups. It’s like Hershal Walker! All he did was push ups and that guy was jacked.

      Sprints on a bike sound tough, but that’s a great HIIT workout!

      Keep it up!

  3. Crispy Doc

    Impressive discipline turnaround! This is one where I need to work on consistency as well. I sea kayak every other week when unmotivated, go bodyboarding with the kids in the summer, and walk an hour circuit around the neighborhood listening to podcasts a couple of times a week. My free weights have gone fallow of late… I’m going to take inspiration from this post and track my exercise a bit closer

    Thanks, TPP!

  4. Accidental FIRE

    I used to do P90x and Insanity a lot. But I hate working out indoors. I find that if you find something you really enjoy you’ll stick with it even more and it’ll become not just a habit but an integral part of your life. For me that’s cycling, running, and rock climbing for strength. So my workouts are my leisure activities. And they’re outside and fun!

    • ThePhysicianPhilosopher

      I hear ya! And you are absolutely right … Finding something you love to do for exercise is infinitely more important than what you do!

      Another coreelary to finance. Early on your savings rate matters infinitely more than which fund you choose.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Brian at Cognitive Buffer

    Spot on, TPP! I have found that there is no substitute for improving my core strength – which has helped my posture in the operating room. So, my routine is a combination of yoga and core exercises most mornings. Additionally, I run several times weekly – which for me serves to reset the system and keep me going! Continue the good work!

  6. TJ @Half Life Theory

    Awesome post man. You already know, i completely agree on this one. Physical fitness and personal finance tie extremely closely.

    It takes discipline to be successful at either. And just like you said mastering discipline in fitness typically tends to pour into other aspects of life, like money and career.

    Congrats on keeping that belly flat! lol. Cheers man!

  7. Living Life Loving Us

    Health and fitness is a big part of our lives. My husband just loves working out and gets after for about 1.5-2 hours every day. I enjoy fitness too but like you I like to find different programs that I can enjoy consistently.

    • ThePhysicianPhilosopher

      1.5-2 hours a day? That’s impressive!!! If I worked out that much my diet would probably look like it should so that the work didn’t go to waste!


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