Split Personalities: Dr. Ironman

MDNG Primary Care, August 2008, Volume 10, Issue 8

Dr. Jeff Shilt is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and multiple Ironman finisher. Having raced in nine Ironman-distance triathlons and qualified for the World Championships in Hawaii in both the International Triathlon Union and Ironman distance.

Dr. Jeff Shilt is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and multiple Ironman finisher. Having raced in nine Ironman-distance triathlons and qualified for the World Championships in Hawaii in both the International Triathlon Union and Ironman distance, he brings unique insight into how endurance relates to medicine. He served as the US team physician for the ITU Triathlon World Championships in 2003 and 2005, working with elite, age-group, and physically challenged triathletes. Dr. Shilt has a particular interest in using his knowledge of endurance training to help patients with a variety of medical conditions or physical limitations.

Why did you decide to train for and compete in Ironman competitions?

A good friend of mine was graduating from medical school and suggested we compete in an Ironman during the break between school and residency. We chose the competition in Brazil, and my entire family traveled with us. My youngest brother also competed in the event. Since then, we’ve traveled around the world and used the races as annual family reunions.

Does competing help relieve the stress of practicing medicine?

Often people comment about the difficulty of long training hours and racing, but for me it is the time I refl ect on life, family, work, or whatever topic is rattling around in my brain. Endorphins make me feel good. Difficult or challenging workouts that leave me exhausted remove the need to worry about petty things and clear my mind. I really enjoy the exhausted-body-clear-mind state I achieve after difficult workouts and races.

How are you able to balance competing in Ironmans with practicing medicine?

I achieve balance by clearly defi ning and maintaining my priorities and efficiently using my time. My priorities remain: family, health, and clinical practice. I’m a better doctor when I’m healthy and stress-free. It certainly helps being disciplined to wake up at 5:00am to get a couple of hours training in the morning in order to preserve family time in the evening.

What is your ultimate goal in competing in the Ironman competitions?

To remain healthy and fit, provide inspiration, and apply the knowledge I’ve learned about improving one’s physiology and strength through endurance training to my patients.