A balancing act

Posted on 4 December 2017

Considering their hectic schedules, it’s amazing that so many Mediclinic doctors and staff manage to find the time to pursue their own passions while keeping fit and healthy. We caught up with a team of doctors at Mediclinic Panorama who run together and get their take on maintaining a work-life balance.

Dr Izak Burger – Neurologist

What is your passion in your spare time?

My passion in my spare time is trail running and my family. I prefer middle-distance events, about 30-50kms. I run about 50km a week on the trails in and around Table Mountain, Stellenbosch, and Hermanus (Fernkloof).

I moved from Durban in 2009 and settled in Oranjezicht after starting private practice. I needed a way to relieve stress and with the mountain trails literally on my doorstep it was a natural option. I loved it and realised I was quite good at it, coming 10th in one of my first events – the inaugural Two Oceans Marathon mini-beast trail run.

I do almost no road running and run exclusively on technical trails. It keeps me fit, keeps me lean, relieves my stress and it is also something my wife enjoys so we do it together. There is also a great social component to trail running as the group is still relatively small.

How do you make the time to pursue their passions despite a hectic work schedule?

Finding the time to run and train – this is the most difficult part! Mostly weekends that one is not on call, or early in the mornings before work.

Does your job in medicine make you more aware of the need for work-life balance and doing something active in your spare time?

It does and goes without saying: people and patients who are active and fit are happier, healthier and more productive in all aspects of life – health, social and all else.

Dr Morne Vorster – Pulmonologist

What is your passion in your spare time?

I want to spend time with my family (wife and two kids, aged five and seven) and also enjoy being active outdoors.  I try to do a few events a year so as to have a goal to train for.  In the past year I have done the Cape Mile swim at Theewaterskloof Dam, the Wines-to-whales MTB last year, and I did 3 Mountain Challenge (trail run events – Jonkershoek, Helderberg and Swellendam).

How do you make the time to pursue their passions despite a hectic work schedule?

There are three main time-consuming priorities in my life: family, work and sport.  I don’t believe one can be productive in more than two of these at the same time.  It’s about prioritising and deciding which area needs more attention at any one time.  So when I work hard my family time and sport time are reduced and vice versa.

I have tried to optimise my time by cycling to work (about 20km one way) thus saving time by training and commuting at the same time.  Occasionally I run to work, which also saves time but is not always possible in case of emergencies.

Does your job in medicine make you more aware of the need for work life balance and doing something active in your spare time?

I’ve been lucky in this aspect as I’ve always enjoyed being active; it’s a part of my lifestyle.  Obviously I realise how healthy it is to be fit but luckily for me it wasn’t the reason I started doing sport.

I think it is much harder doing it the other way: realising how important fitness is and then pursuing some activity to be healthy.  Motivation plays such an important role and being passionate is its own motivation.

Dr Wessel de Kock – Physiotherapist

What is your passion in your spare time?

Trail running. My getaway used to be surfing, but with four young children and a practice to run it became impractical and I ended up being able to surf less and less.

I was invited to travel with a group of friends to the Otter African Trail Run in 2017 as the on-call physio. I enjoyed the event so much, realised I wasn’t in the shape I wanted to be and decided I’ll give trail running a go. I entered the Otter Trail Run for 2018, bought a pair of shoes and decided I’ll use the event to keep me motivated to become fit over the next 12 months.

I absolutely love the feeling of running in nature. It’s the closest I could get to the absolute rush of surfing, but being more manageable to get around to regularly. I love the challenge of taking something on that would require dedication, focus and perseverance. Actually going for a run isn’t always easy, but once I am running I always enjoy it and feel great afterwards.

How do you make the time to pursue their passions despite a hectic work schedule?

Commitment, setting challenging but attainable goals, and being disciplined but flexible.

I learnt to enjoy getting up early for a run before work, but it’s a lot easier when I’m doing it with a friend. Without training it becomes difficult to maintain momentum, especially in the winter months. I also find it helps to have my gear ready and will often pop in at the gym over my lunch hour for a quick swim or some form of cross training.

My family is my number one priority and I prioritise family time before training time. On weekends it is very possible to summit Table Mountain in the dark in winter while enjoying magnificent views, watching the sunrise over the city and be back home in time to spend the rest of the weekend with my family.

Does your job in medicine make you more aware of the need for work-life balance and doing something active in your spare time?

As a physiotherapist I really enjoy the science and exercise physiology behind training. I enjoy learning about training programs and effects, exercise physiology, nutrition etc. and found the experience gave me more insight in treating my patients and motivating them to live a healthy lifestyle.

Also, working as a physiotherapist offers me the opportunity to regularly work with people that are physically not able to get into nature and enjoy sports. I realised what a privilege it is to be healthy and that exercise is a fun way to maintain good health.

Dr Jannie Theron – Pulmonologist

What is your passion in your spare time?

Spare time is usually taken up by my wife and three children. Running is mainly done while they are sleeping so as not to take up to much of their time with me. I am fortunate that both my boys do mountain biking so we can do this together.

I started running just for health reasons but got challenged by a friend to do events. So in 2015 I did my first 21km trail run, and later that year a second 21 km and also my first Otter Ultra event (which I did again in 2016 & 2017).

It is the only thing that keeps me sane and focused on the important things in life. It is such a privilege to run for hours in nature, especially while others are sleeping. The sharing of this experience with colleagues like Dr. Izak Burger, Mr. Wessel de Kock and Prof. D du Toit motivates us to keep on getting up when we are tired.

How do you make the time to pursue their passions despite a hectic work schedule?

At night and very early mornings and any time that is in between.

Does your job in medicine make you more aware of the need for work-life balance and doing something active in your spare time?

As we get older we start to come to terms with your own mortality. Young men and ladies feel invincible, but as life bumps you from time to time you need to reinvent yourself and I see exercise as the best way to do it.

Lifestyle diseases are on the rise, especially in our country, and how can I honestly tell my patients to improve their lifestyle if I am not practicing what I preach?

Published in Healthy living

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