In early October 2014, my travels took me to beautiful Kona, Hawaii and my annual sports medicine conference at the Ironman Triathlon World Championships. This is my favorite week of the year, as it is chance to catch up with old friends, listen to some great medical lectures and exercise every day. This year’s Ironman Sports Medicine Conference was outstanding with a great group of speakers that ranked among the worlds most respected experts in the field of sports and exercise medicine. The topics ranged from the risks and benefits of exercise, to common sports injuries, to caring for the physical challenged athlete. This included a panel of 3 challenged athletes who were all doing the race despite a paralyzing spinal cord injury, a lower leg amputation and a congenital limb defect that left the leg shriveled and non-functional. The session was incredibly inspirational and these athletes spoke about the difficulties they have encountered during their careers and how sports made them feel whole again despite their conditions. Ironman is one of the few professional events where challenged athletes compete right alongside the able bodied ones.
And the week culminated with the Ironman World Championship race, where most of us who attend the conference stay and volunteer in the finish line medical tent. This race consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike and then a 26.2 mile marathon done in succession in scorching heat and humidity. It is a true test of endurance and ability to push thru pain and we always treat large numbers of exhausted and dehydrated athletes in the finish line medical tent. This year was another great race won by Sebastian Kienle and though the med tent was busy, there were no seriously ill or injured athletes.
Being in Kailua-Kona during Ironman week is extremely motivating for improving one’s own personal fitness and I was able to swim and run with friends every day I was there. Though the conditions are a bit hot and muggy for running, the water temp for swimming is absolutely perfect with endless visibility. And though it would be exciting to compete in the Ironman race, I have to remind myself that one does not need to train for an Ironman to gain the many health benefits that exercise provides. In fact, experts agree that walking is the easiest and most efficient way to get the recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise needed to significantly enhance your health. Though training more does add some additional benefit, the majority is gained by just doing 30 min of walking on 5 or more days each week.
So thank you for reading my blog and I hope it will help motivate you to get your walking in every day. It is the single best thing you can do for your health!
All the best!
Photo credit: In the Ironman Medical Tent with Drs Fran O’Conner, Connie Labrun, Wayne Derman and Bill Roberts (L to R)