Regaining Clarity in the Wake of EMS
As EMS professionals we experience unique physical and mental challenges. Implementing methods of investing the same amount of effort into ourselves as we do for our patients and communities is paramount for our individual well being.
There are EMS providers around the country who take the responsibility of being physically and mentally fit to a level above an average physical training session. It is my goal to recognize and commend these providers for their extraordinary efforts in integrating athletics into their EMS worlds.
Patrick Rugh, EMT – Plans to Ride Bike 9000 Miles this Year!
Patrick Rugh is a full time EMT with Rural/Metro Ambulance in Tacoma, Washington. He has a passion for cycling. Patrick received his first bike at the age of four and was racing off-road bicycles by the age of eight. He won his first national BMX race at age twelve and continued racing until a severe injury put him on the sidelines temporarily at age 16. Not deterred by this set back, he continued off-road cycling for many years. Then as life for Patrick evolved, he stopped cycling for a time.
During my interview with Patrick, he poignantly recalls why he returned to cycling. “The primary reason I started riding again was to clear my head. Cycling before and after work is my separation from EMS.”
I asked Patrick how cycling specifically helped him at work and he said “I am more conscious of my physical ability and strength. My back is stronger, my legs are stronger and my base is more stable when I lift patients. But, I really noticed the differences in my physical fitness after I began commuting to and from work.”
Long Distance Commuter
It takes Patrick about forty minutes to bike thirty-one miles each way to and from work. He asks himself why he has a vehicle and notes that he has had the same tank of gas for over three months. He admits with a smile that there may be a few severe weather days that will force him drive to work. Patrick laughed and said, “If I drive to work, my partner knows it’s going to be a bad day. My temperament is different; I feel tired and more run down. If I get my endorphins running early, I can be more in tune with my surroundings, and take in more information. If I don’t ride to work, I don’t seem to have that clarity.”
I asked Patrick how he was able to balance his fitness goals with his 24 hour work schedule. “My work schedule doesn’t interfere with my goals because I set yearly goals not necessarily daily, monthly or weekly goals” Patrick said. “I also do core exercises in between calls to stay in a fitness routine and it works out for me. My cycling goal for 2010 is to log 9,000 miles on my bike.”
It is an estimated 5,100 miles round trip from Seattle, Washington to Orlando, Florida. Patrick’s goal of riding 9,000 miles this year averages to 750 miles per month he would need to meet his goal.
I asked Patrick if there were any specific barriers that he’s had to overcome while integrating cycling into his EMS world. He laughed and said, “Well, I love food, but food doesn’t love me. I have had to change my eating habits, eat more vegetables and fruits and make healthier choices. Jared was right, Subway has a lot of healthy choices, and it all boils down to that. It is a choice of what I put into my body and no matter where we end up, I can usually always make a healthy choice from the menu.”
All You Need is a Bike
I asked Patrick what equipment he would recommend to get started in cycling and he said with his sly smile “Well, uh, you have to have a bike.” After I finished laughing, he continued. “It can be any bike, nothing special to start with, a helmet , a label for the inside of your helmet with your name and emergency contact information, lights and basic tools for changing flat tires. If you decide to begin commuting, I would recommend you over prepare.”
Patrick also offered three simple tips to providers interested in cycling.
- Set a goal. Whether it’s to ride one day a week, or 10 minutes at a time, a goal will keep you focused and moving forward.
- Start slowly. Prevent feeling discouraged by starting with achievable goals. Start with cycling one day a week for small distances. You will be sore from the seat and the length of time you can cycle will improve if you start slowly and allow your body to adjust to the changes.
- Know your state’s cycling laws and roads in your area. Most states have laws to assist motorists and cyclists with sharing the road safely. The League of American Bicyclists website offers an interactive map to the state cycling laws. Also, the quickest route you plan may not be the safest. Knowing the roads in your area will help you to plan a safe bike route to and from your destination.
Lastly Patrick emphasized, “There are more benefits to cycling than just the physical aspects. EMS is a stressful job. Having the ability to leave work at work and having a physical release is imperative. Learning to de-stress and leave my work behind, allows me to regain my clarity in the wake of EMS and has helped me become a better person and EMS provider.”
I commend Patrick for being an Everyday EMS athlete. He has participated in major cycling events including the very challenging Multi-Care Courage Classic bike ride. Patrick’s future goals include running the Boston Marathon and cycling in the National EMS Memorial Bike Ride.
Catie Holstein, CCEMTP, is a Clinical Manager and paramedic in Washington State. She is a cyclist and runner and is training for her first half marathon and a completion of a variety of long distance cycling events. You can connect with her through email at email@example.com.