Everyday EMS Athlete Profile: Matt Bassett

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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 EMT/Firefighter and runner Matt Bassett. 

Q: What is your EMS job? 

EMT, Firefighter, Runner

I’m a volunteer firefighter/EMT in Baltimore County, Maryland. I spend my days at the office (I work for a government agency in the Northern Virginia suburbs) and my nights and weekends on the fire engine or my first love, the ambulance. I also work as the planning section chief on the Maryland-1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT), whose t-shirt you can see me wearing in this photo.

Q: What are your athletic pursuits and goals?

I’ve been running on and off since high school as a general way of staying fit, but I never really had much of a goal or motivation until the spring of 2010. On a whim, I decided that I wanted to run the Army Ten-Miler, a big road race here in the DC area that supports military families and morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) programs. I’d never run anywhere near that long, and so I began training for it, although a bit haphazardly.

I also picked up an app for my iPhone, linked to a website, called RunKeeper, that kept track of my running accomplishments (distance, pace, etc) in real-time and logged them. Now I had the data available to track how my training was going, and I slowly built up endurance and distance.

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

I ran the Army Ten-Miler in 1:25:33 that October and was pretty excited to have done so. But I didn’t fall out of the habit of running after that; instead, I started to run even more, competing against myself and my own numbers. So when the 2011 Army Ten-Miler rolled around, I managed to do it in 1:14:56, a significant improvement in my book.

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

For me, it’s all about data. I set weekly and monthly goals for mileage, and the numbers don’t lie. Either I accomplished my goals, or I didn’t. If I didn’t, I need to work harder; if I did, I need to set new goals. To be successful at that, you have to set goals that are reasonable, achievable but still enough of a challenge to be rewarding when you meet them. Whatever system you use to account for your progress, accountability- to yourself, to your family- is key.

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

Running, for me, isn’t just about staying in shape mentally. It keeps me balanced psychologically as well. If I’ve had a rough day at the office or in my personal life, there’s very little that a good long run can’t fix- or at least put into better perspective. And when I deal with my patients, especially those with diabetes or other chronic illnesses with which obesity is often co-morbid, I know that I’m serving them better by keeping myself in good physical condition to respond.

I’m also very fortunate to live in Washington, DC, where we have some of the best running routes in America. There’s nothing like cruising past the U.S. Capitol Building, running down the National Mall and crossing the Memorial Bridge to jog down the Potomac River. The city itself is motivation.

Moving forward, I think I’ve done good work with the Ten-Miler and now I’m planning to run the National Marathon next year.