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Firsts for Two Children’s Physicians

New and experienced triathletes share their experiences in a Georgia race, in addition to what encourages them to stay active each and every day.

A steamy Sunday morning in August in Georgia might not be ideal weather for exercising, but that didn’t deter two Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta physicians who joined more than 100 colleagues to complete the Georgia Peach Women’s Sprint Triathlon. The course included a 400-yard swim, 13-mile bike ride and 5K run, ending in downtown Acworth, Ga.

Triathlon participants Crystal Perkins, MD, a Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon and an accomplished triathlete, and Stephanie Jernigan, MD, a Pediatric Nephrologist, outdoor enthusiast and avid tennis player, each brought a different perspective to the race.

“I learned about this race through an email from All3Sports, a triathlon company in Roswell, Georgia, that I race for,” Dr. Perkins says. “Although I usually prefer longer-distance racing, local sprint-distance races are a ton of fun and easier to train for with a busy work schedule.”

Dr. Jernigan found herself at the starting line because, “I was inspired to do the race by several of the nurses I work with on the Transplant Stepdown Unit. It sounded fun, so I signed up.” Dr. Perkins finished first overall in the triathlon with a time of 1:06:53, while Dr. Jernigan completed her first triathlon in 1:44:55.

While their paths to this triathlon were different, both doctors are firm believers in the healing power of regular activity and achieving solid work-life success.

“I find time to exercise because I make time and make it a priority,” Dr. Jernigan says. “This may mean early morning or late in the day, but it is important, as I feel better during the day after exercise.”

“Monday through Friday, my alarm goes off at 4 a.m., and within a few minutes, I’m out of bed and swimming, biking or running,” shares Dr. Perkins. “With my work schedule, the early morning hours are a protected time that I can reliably depend on for training. Plus, the post-workout endorphins energize me for the workday.”

How these doctors found their paths to fitness varies, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a passion they share.

Dr. Perkins adds, “I’m asked on a regular basis how I make time for the demanding training for long-distance triathlons. Quite honestly, I make the time and put in the effort because it makes me a better person, physician, colleague, daughter, sister, aunt and friend. Time is most definitely the greatest hurdle to staying healthy as a physician. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can mean so many different things, from making time for a hobby, taking an evening walk with your kids, cooking a healthy meal, to getting more sleep or challenging your co-workers to a sport like a triathlon.”

Dr. Jernigan shares, “It is important for physicians to maintain a healthy lifestyle—for not only ourselves but our patients. I think leading by example is important, and it would be hard for me to discuss healthy eating and keeping active if I did not do so myself.”

Children’s physicians who would like more information on upcoming races and training plans should email strong4life@choa.org.

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