Everyday EMS Athlete Profile: Emily Stewart

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EMS professionals are challenged to balance work, family, and other obligations while also staying or striving for mental and physical fitness. The Everyday EMS Athlete is a regular column to recognize and learn from other EMS professionals that are setting and meeting fitness goals. This edition was contributed by paramedic and Ironman Emily Stewart. 

Emily at the finish of the Wisconsin Ironman

Q: What is your EMS job? 

I’m a full time paramedic at Goldcross Ambulance in Appleton, Wisconsin working a California 24 hour rotation. I work part-time in Amherst, Wisconsin as a paramedic picking up random 12-24 hour shifts when I’m available.

Q: What are your athletic pursuits and goals?

My main objective is to maintain a healthy lifestyle to keep up with the every day demands of EMS. I like to challenge myself with different goals that a few years ago would have been in imaginable. I like longer distances to race as a new challenge to beat a time and to accomplish something new.  My new goal is a 50 mile ultra marathon next year.

Q: Do you have a race, lifestyle changes, or other accomplishments you are particularly proud of?

My most recent accomplishment was Ironman Wisconsin.

An Ironman was a goal that I never thought I would have been able to complete.  I use to be a smoker and after several attempts to quit I replaced that habit with food! After I gained so much weight that I weighed the same amount as I did when I gave birth to my son I knew something had to give!! I changed my eating habits. After working in EMS you see the affects on people who live an unhealthy life style and I knew that I didn’t want to end up like that.

I had to be a good example for my son and be there to play ball and sports with him.  I changed my eating habits and started running (jogging and walking at first!) my first 5 mile race was the Frost Bite run in Stevens point.  I was the last “runner” to finish before the walkers! But I knew then that it was a great way to push myself and achieve different goals in my life.

I went on from there to running a half-marathon and then tackled a few marathons.  I ran the first one with my dad, sister and a cousin in Chicago in 2008.  It was great to keep up through all the training and keep in contact with them during training.  Even after a calf tear and fininshing almost 2 hours after my goal I wasn’t discouraged I knew I could do better.

I ran a few more marathons with better times every race. A few years later a co-worker asked me to do a triathlon with her in 3 weeks. I though, “I bike and run, and used to swim in high school how hard could it be?” So I hit the pool and learned really quick that you lose a lot of swimming endurance in 10 years!! But I swam for 3 weeks and did the triathlon. I came in 5th in my age group and I was hooked!!

My dreams of an Ironman had formed! First, I did a half Ironman that didn’t go as good with the 30 mile an hour winds that day, but I finished and volunteered for Ironman Wisconsin to sign-up for 2011. The  year of adventure and training started! I am an Ironman with a finish time of 15:12:33.

Editors Note: an Ironman triathlon is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile run (a full marathon)

Q: Can you share a few tips to help other EMS professionals to set and accomplish fitness goals? 

Emily crossing the finish line of a triathalon with her son

Pick a goal and stick with it. Whether it;s a race or a weight loss, have a plan and stick to it. Plan ahead around your paramedic schedule.  It’s really hard working 24 hour shifts and maintaining a regular exercise routine, but don’t use that as an excuse. Plan a head and double up one day knowing that you won’t be able to get a work out in the next at work. I tried really hard not to let a bad night at work ruin a work out in the morning. I tried to use a bad shift or call to fuel a good hard run the next day. Running is always a great way to get rid of the stress for the shift.

Plan a head with food. I hate hearing medics say “but all we have time for is fast food” no you don’t!! I can run through a salad bar line at the grocery store just as fast as you can order Mc Donalds!! And if you absoulutley “Have” to go there, they do have somewhat healthier choices. Skip the fries and soda. I try to put fresh fruit or a granola bar in the truck every morning for when we don’t make it back to the station for a while.

I also often pack my running stuff and take it with me to work, that way ther is no excuse not to go first thing when I leave work. Other times  I drive to work (about an hour drive) and go for a run before work so I could still get my run in. It also helps to have a person at work who is on your same shift to schedule work outs with before and after work.

Emily is an IRONMAN!

Q: Do you have any final thoughts to add and how can readers connect with you?

Next year, my main goal is to complete a 50 mile ultra marathon. I am waiting to hear back from Team KCA (Kidney Cancer Association) to join the team. My goal is to run the 50 mile race.  haven’t decided on which one yet. I’m waiting to see if my sister will be joining me on this adventure!!

My Dad was diagnosed last week with stage 3 renal cancer. I came across the KCA team and really want to join and run for a cause next year, and try to raise money for them. The organization helps fund research, as well as help people who can’t afford it with medications and treatment. They found my Dad’s cancer by accident before he had any S/S or metastasis with it, so his prognosis looks really good right now, following a major surgery next month in Madison. (the tumor has already reached his vena cave) But at first we were being told that there was a 75-85% mortalitly rate with kidney cancer since it is so rare and normally caught to late. I would really like to get the awareness out about that since it hit way too close to home this year.