18663 Ventura Blvd, Suite 202, Tarzana CA 91356

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Balancing Act

Being a cardiologist and a triathlete don't always go together so well.

My job is unpredictable, because my first priority is always an ill patient. When I'm on call, which is about every three days, I have to answer my pager when it rings. That means that my pager is in a plastic ziplock bag at the edge of a pool when I'm swimming laps. Or it's sitting on my shoulder while I'm in a spinning class because the music is so loud that I wouldn't hear it otherwise. Or, it's on my fuel belt, along with my cell phone, when I'm out for a long run.

On occasion, I actually have to rush to the hospital to take care of an acutely ill patient, and that can mean dropping a workout completely at the spur of a moment. If a patient is having an acute heart attack I need to be at the hospital within thirty minutes. I've adapted my workouts during times when that is an issue. I have a run that I call the "MI Shuffle" -- MI for myocardial infarction, or heart attack. I start the run at my apartment, and I run the 2 miles to my hospital and back. From any point on that run, I can either sprint to the hospital or back home to get my car to drive to the hospital. If I have a bike ride to do, then I ride laps around the local park, because from any point in the park I can ride to the hospital in a timely manner.

And then there's the issue of time. My average work week is about 60 hours, which for a physician isn't that horribly busy. I know busier doctors. And I do about 10 hours of training each week right now. I wake up every weekday between 4:15 and 5:15 am to get to the gym, the pool, or onto the streets for a run. Mornings are the most reliable part of the day with the fewest disruptions and hence the best time to work out.

Weekends aren't always open either. For triathletes, the long workouts are done on the weekends, and those are the core of training for those of us gearing up for a half ironman. But, I'm rounding at the hospital every third weekend, which can mean up to 16 hours of running around the hospital seeing up to thirty patients in a day. So, if I'm on call on the weekend, I'll move my weekend workouts to the middle of the week so that in case I get very busy I don't miss out on too much.

As I advance from base training and put in even more hours of training, it's going to be very interesting.


Vegan Run Amok said...

It's so inspiring that you've organized yourself to get your training sessions done even when you're on call! I think if I had a job where I had to be on call, I would use that an excuse not to train. Or at least I would have before I started reading your blog. Now I would feel guilty because I would know you were out there doing it while I was making excuses! :)

Urban Vegan said...

Sounds like you're making it work. And all that exercise has to help you mange such a stressful job. (And I love the fact that you are such a great role model for your patients.)