Why triathlon makes me a better pharmacist
Imagine if I asked you to put something very special into an empty box for safe keeping. It would be something you love thinking about, that takes your mind off the daily grind of life and brings you endless opportunity to unplug from work. In other words, it would be an obsession of yours.
You could remove it from the box on demand, allowing you to harness its super power.
Sure, it can be your phone (boring!) but I want you to think more abstractly. Think grander than something materialistic.
It took me over a decade, but I have found mine: triathlon. Tria-what? Why? Isn’t that a marathon? You’re crazy, Jason.
Triathlon is a race in which athletes swim, bike then run in one event. The sport takes a balance of cardiorespiratory fitness, strength, skill, technique, planning and mental durability. The truth is I didn’t just decide to get up from the couch and sign-up for a race so here’s how the journey started.
Upon graduating from pharmacy, I began running to lose a little study fat and get back some fitness I once had from playing competitive hockey growing up. As I learned more about running, met other runners and invested in some gear, I worked my way up to racing some 5km races, then some 10km races over five years.
Then it came for something different: I signed up for a half-marathon. If I was going to complete the 21km I needed to ramp up the cardio volume so I added a weekly pool swim to my training plan. I had never taken swimming lesson as a child so I did a lot of splashing (that’s one notch better than drowning in swim jargon).
Seeing this needed serious work I turned to YouTube. It turns out if you search swimming on YouTube alot of triathlon videos come up with cool music and fit people. Hooked. This was way more exciting than running for two hours in a practically straight line (and I already knew how to stay upright on two wheels)!
Another 5 years later
Step by step, I learned more and more about gear, strategy, training, nutrition, sleep, stress management. Today, I have completed 10 triathlons and last season I earned a podium spot in my age group.
In other words, I have found a new obsession. For me, triathlon is more than a lifelong lifestyle that allows me to compete with other men my age or a hobby that keeps me disciplined. More than all this, triathlon is badass. I am obsessed with it because it is hard!
It pushes my limits of resiliency and forces me to dig deep. It trains my physical, mental and emotional fitness and brings out my true capability that often gets stifled by the grind that is the pharmacy profession.
In the water, on the bike and while crossing the finish line, I am an amplified version of myself that three 12-hour shifts behind the counter could never bring out. My box contains the triathlon superpower and pulling it out makes me a better version of myself and a better pharmacist.
Better being a triathlete
Without triathlon, I would not be up at 6am each Sunday for a 20km bike ride. Nor would I be running in the snow or swimming in a Northern Ontario lake in May (thank God for wetsuits).
Without doing these activities, I would be less resilient, less disciplined and less confident. I would care less about sleep, nutrition, meal planning, stress management, stretching and yoga. These practices have become healthy obsessions and exploring those obsessions is exactly what life is about.
Our obsessions are what we do because we want to instead of because of what we need to. They are what we blow disposable time, energy and money on. We read about them and subscribe to magazines and podcasts about them. They provide balance and new breath from the job.
Our obsessions are what make us badass. They are the interests that not every Joe or every Sue take on. They are the components of our character that we box up for work and can open up when needed. They are the elements that would make out our tattoo, making their permanent mark on us.
And without obsessions, we would be only a pharmacist. There would be no other non-pharmacist, non-dad, non-spouse pieces to our identities. When we bring those badass obsessions into the dispensary, we are better pharmacists because it takes those characteristics to survive in a profession that is growing in responsibility and opportunity.
Triathlon forces me to dig deep in a different way than pharmacy does. The physical, mental and emotional demands push me to new heights without co-pays, medication errors, answering repeating jaded questions, prescribing, waitlists or appointments. Most of all, I return from triathlon (training or racing) refreshed and ready.
What are your obsessions?
To be a better pharmacist, unmask new success by committing to your obsessions and unleashing your inner badass.