How To Fall FLAT On Your Face and STILL Win Your Race

It’s the last lecture of the semester! Muscle Physiology: Ahhhh….A beautiful array of actin and myosin protein binding together under the influence of calcium released from the sarcoplasmic reticulum, to be followed by the production of cross-bridges that finally end up with a power stroke causing the very generation of contractile force, only to be followed by a small latent period in which the muscle relaxes to relieve tension if another action potential is not propagated down the length of the transverse tubule. SIGH. Such a beautiful and intricate ATP-driven contraction cycle. Hollywood oughta make a movie out of this someday.

Before beginning our discussion on muscle physiology, I like to show my students that MUSCLES KEEP YOU MOVING– I play for them this video: (this means you need to WATCH the video!!!- click on the link below…)

As the semester is coming to a close, it’s (unfortunately) not uncommon to see attendance in the classroom dwindle away. Even if attendance policies are strictly enforced [a ‘participation’ or beginning ‘brainstorming’ exercise is given for a grade]- nothing seems to matter. Less and less students come to class, or if they do come (LATE) they are unprepared, ‘un-reviewed’, or lost in the abyss of material that was not fully marinated in their minds.

Great students- bright, intellectually curious, motivated and driven, passionate about their subject matter, goal-oriented students- still somehow miss class. And for many, missing these precious (last) few lectures can be devastating towards their final outcome.

Why is this you ask?? What causes a student to fall flat on their face when they were doing just excellent nearly weeks before??!

Well there are several answers…feel free to add to this if you find more:

1. SEVERE FATIGUE: Most of my students are non-traditional: meaning they work full-time jobs, have families (with several children), are responsible for cleaning the house, making a gourmet dinner, driving child #1 to soccer, attending child #2’s clarinet recital. After 14-15 weeks of hard core studying, reviewing, and taking exams, it’s no surprise that the last few days of lecture become more and more difficult to have a reason to attend. To sum it up in 2 words: BURN OUT.

2. PINNED BY PROCRASTINATION: Projects, essays, exams in other classes greatly affect attendance in class- bottom line is they skip YOUR class in order to study/finish group projects/complete other activities in OTHER classes. In essence, crunch time is rush time- there’s just not enough hours in the day to complete all the assignments that should have been completed earlier (or at least started).

3. NICE WEATHER- THE GOLDEN SUN: This is quizzical, yes, but down in the South the weather blossoms so beautifully during this time- crisp air, warm sun, soothing breeze…all make one feel less motivated to get in the stuffy car (unless you drive a Tesla, in that case just unstuff the stuffiness) and drive 30 minutes to sit in an bone dry air-conditioned crummy classroom. It feels much more tempting to sit on the apartment patio and bask in the warm rays while convincing oneself that you will ‘study’ from home instead.

4. COLDS, FLU, INSOMNIA: Sickness. This really goes with Fatigue (#1). But over-stressed, over-exerted, over-strained, over-this, over-that, over-, over-, over- …All of which will eventually place a toll on one’s physiological state; regardless of how many vitamin shakes one drinks, zinc cough drops, etc. …. Sickness is best combatted sleeping in a warm bed- not sitting in a cold, hard, lecture hall desk-chair. Yet another reason (and probably a good one) to skip class.

5. BOREDOM: You wouldn’t think this would be an issue, especially since the more difficult (and thus more physiologically intriguing subject matter) information is presented and discussed towards the last 2/3 of the class. But alas, I’ve been proven wrong. Boredom settles in because what was once enthralling now has become monotonous. It was once really interesting to attend class, ask questions, investigate anatomical concepts in homework, make flashcards, study and see flourishing results on the exam. But it’s gotten OLD. Monotony is the evil of every Thrill. The thrill has escaped and now the bland chill has settled in.

To offset some of the above scenarios, I strive to consistently to provide the following feedback (whether it’s welcomed or not…): As a reminder, I tell my students the following:

  • -It’s almost over: There IS a light at the end of this class (not a tunnel, because there is no tunnel in our college- that’d be weird)
  • -You made it this far, don’t give up now.
  • -Don’t give up.
  • -You’re doing great- you’ll see the rewards of your investment
  • -You still have a final exam (cumulative, by the way) that you have to pass in order to pass this class and apply to a competitive nursing program
  • -Remember how much $$ you paid to be sitting (and learning all that you can) in this class
  • -Remember how much more $$$$$ your lab manuals cost (more than the class, mind you) for you to sit here and participate in the learning experience of this class
  • -Don’t give up.
  • -Don’t give up.
  • -Just because you failed one exam doesn’t mean that you can just give up.
  • -And did I mention? DON’T GIVE UP.

Have you fallen flat on your face lately? Are you severely fatigued? Are you overcome by the temptation to procrastinate and give in to the viscous cycle of all-nighter cram sessions? Are you overwhelmed physically and literally SICK of being overstressed and under-enjoying (that’s not a word, ‘under-enjoying’ but I’m not and English Prof, I’m an Anatomy/Physiology Prof, so leave me alone!!) life? Are distractions, even pleasant distractions- nice weather, friends, hobbies- taking up too much of the desperately needed time to complete the projects you have at hand? Or is the monotony of the routine, mundane, bland-oh-bland, canned-tuna (which is even more bland, bleh), canned-whole-boiled-chicken (even more more more bland, yuck…) draining you out- leaving you with NO motivation, NO drive, NO dreams, NO life?

Allow me to tell you what my students hear me say so often: DON’T GIVE UP.

You’ve made it this far: DON’T QUIT NOW: DON’T GIVE UP.

Keep fighting the good fight- Keep On Keeping On. As Heather did (you’ll know who Heather is if you watched the video…ha.)

If you GET UP NOW, you CAN still WIN the race.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9


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