by Dr. Katie Berlin, DVM
I’m not sure how it happened, but we are less than 3 weeks out from the April Uncharted Veterinary Conference in Greenville! From your comments in Workplace, I know there are a lot of people who are trying to prioritize physical wellness in one way or another right now, and there is nothing that disrupts good habits like a fabulous conference.
I went to VMX this year as I was just getting going with training for my spring running events. I had some ambitious goals and was off to a good start – and then VMX just totally derailed me. I hadn’t gone to the conference since it moved to the convention center and I did not arrive with a plan. I had a great time, but it really threw off the routine I had going on at home and I never really caught up with training after that.
So, we thought it might be helpful to put together a wellness “survival guide” for UVC – whether you’re a first-timer or a veteran with a new or improved focus on physical health, I hope this is useful.
Tip #1: Don’t pack too lightly.It’s tempting to pare down to the basics to try to fit everything into a tiny carry-on. Baggage fees and waiting for your suitcase are no fun. If you’re worried about looking like a Kardashian, unless you’re bringing trunks of stuff that require a personal valet, I can personally guarantee someone will have more stuff than you. But I really think to get the most out of your time at UVC, you need to be prepared, and that means Bringing Stuff. Here’s what you’ll gain by not trying to be a minimalist:
- You won’t miss out on exploring an awesome town because you’re wearing uncomfortable shoes, dressed for the wrong weather, or worried about sweating in the clothes you need to wear all day. Greenville is pretty fantastic. The weather in April is usually pleasant and there are tons of people outside. Bring comfortable shoes, a jacket, an umbrella, a shirt to change into if you need.
- You’ll be free to participate in yoga with Melanie or BollyX with me during our Wellness time on Saturday afternoon! If you have any questions about attire for either of these sessions, please reach out. I’ll also be posting closer to the conference about BollyX. We get pretty sweaty – it’s great.
- You can take advantage of the Swamp Rabbit Trail which is accessible just down the hill from the Westin. It’s a beautiful, flat, paved path that is outstanding for walking or running. There will probably be groups posting about meeting up to walk or run on Thursday, but I love to go there solo for a long run and take some deep breaths before the conference begins. The concierge can easily direct you to the trail.
- You can squeeze in a cardio or weights session at the Westin fitness center if that’s more your style.
- There are several CrossFit options, OrangeTheory, CYCLEBAR, and other popular studios in Greenville. If you’re looking for a buddy, post in the group – I bet someone (or five or six) will want to join you.
Tip #2: Bring snacks, and you’ll actually probably enjoy your meals more. Greenville has AMAZING FOOD. I’m absolutely a believer in enjoying food and taking advantage of being in a new place with new things to try or looking forward to favorites you’ve had before. But, if you’re anything like me, being at a conference makes you super hungry.
- There is usually a snack break once or twice during the day at the hotel, but options will be limited (if you see the Westin’s signature granola bars, though, snag one of those puppies. They are like a mini-meal in Saran wrap and they are basically to die for).
- Then there’s the nebulous “before dinner” time. We will have Happy Hour on Friday, but on some days, there is a long stretch between lunch and a substantial meal, and I am pretty hangry by dinnertime. It’s tempting to say, “I’m going to save myself for special food” and stick it out, but at least for me, a nutritious snack beforehand means I’m less likely to gorge myself when we go out, I’m going to eat more slowly and taste my food more, I won’t fill up on bread and appetizers before my meal shows up, and I’ll be a lot more pleasant and chatty until then, too.
Tip #3: It’s OK to choose rest. If you’re battling serious FOMO but you’re also so tired you can barely form sentences, you’re probably not alone, and you won’t be judged.
- The beauty of Uncharted is that none of us are going anywhere. Yes, you want to take advantage of as much as you can while you’re in Greenville and able to chat and mingle and be inspired in person with all the incredible people you’re meeting online. But none of that will be any good if you arrive back at your practice feeling run down, sick from germs on the plane, having indigestion from overdoing it on Southern hospitality, and in need of a staycation to recover.
- If you feel good, it’s OK to be a little tired and still go out for that late drink or get up early and run by the river. But if you’re already feeling overwhelmed and behind the 8-ball, maybe sleeping an extra hour might serve you better in the end. You know yourself best, and none of us will judge you for needing to take care of yourself.
Tip #4: #justask but #beyourself
- Not sure if you have a buddy for dinner or lunch? Just ask! This is literally THE most welcoming group of people you’re likely to meet. It physically hurts us to think that someone would eat alone because they didn’t have anyone they knew to sit with. Everyone I’ve met at UVC would absolutely bend over backwards to make a new person feel comfortable.
- That being said, we are also a group heavy on the introverts and people who like to socialize but also feel totally happy alone. A HUGE part of Conference Overwhelm, for me, is just having people around ALL THE TIME – and I’m one of the relative extroverts in the group. There are times during UVC when I have to go off and sit by myself outside during a break or sit down at a table alone and be OK if someone sits with me or doesn’t, because I just need to give my brain a breather. I break the bank to have my own room for that reason. If you aren’t a person who wants to socialize 24/7, it’s absolutely fine to take some time for yourself – and trust me when I say that the VAST majority of the group will completely understand that. You’ll get more benefit and enjoyment out of together time if you do what you need to recharge.
I think a lot of us are planners – we like to know what to expect, and it’s hard to do that when you’re heading into a conference that is literally publicized as “like nothing you’ve experienced before.” I’ve been there since the first one, and I can confirm that this is 100% true, but in the absolute best possible way. It’s different because it’s not meant to cram 2 years of learning into four days, or run you ragged sprinting from one hotel to another during a 10 minute break, or make you pay $4 every time you want a drink of water. And you aren’t just a body circulating through a convention center with 15,000 other bodies. You’re one of a cohesive, welcoming, brilliant but humble, forward-thinking but grounded group of incredibly positive people. Come ready to experience new things, but know that it’s also OK to take a step away and just do you when you need to. We’ll be right here when you come back!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Katie Berlin is a small animal general practitioner in Mechanicsburg, PA. She is also a reader, a rider, a runner, a lifter, a teacher, and an art lover. She graduated from Williams College in 2000 with a degree in Art History and worked in art museums before going back to school and earning her DVM from Cornell in 2009. She is an avid supporter of Fear Free practice and the battle against compassion fatigue in the veterinary profession.