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Exercising with a Busy Schedule

Northeastern Nevada Radiation Oncology Center - Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Elko Daily Free Press

By Susan Scarlet-Macaw

Exercising with a busy schedule

ELKO — An extraordinary medical director at Northeastern Nevada Radiation Oncology Center, Dr. Douglas Debenham, took the challenge by his friend to ride “Crusher in the Tushar” in Beaver, Utah. The event is a 70-mile paved and dirt road race with 10,000 feet of elevation gain; the end is a 12-percent grade sprint to the finish.

Just for reference, the top of Lamoille Summit on Highway 227, just a mile from Northeastern Nevada hospital, is 5,761 feet and the grade is about 6.5 percent in a two-mile stretch.

Dr. Debenham has attempted and successfully completed many marathons and ultra-distance marathons, but had never attempted the Crusher in the Tushar. His remarkably busy schedule keeps him attentive to his work and his family and for his enjoyment he runs and rides his bikes.

The questions are: how long should a person exercise for, and how should one exercise if there isn’t time for it? For Debenham the answers were simple: exercise is good for you and one should always make time for it.

When he was asked why he would try such a difficult race, at first he simply explained that he believes in having an active life. One of his daughters begged him to run a marathon with her 10 years ago and even though he had been an outdoorsman growing up in Alaska, he had never taken up running in the way his daughter had planned.

He has done more than 50 marathons and some of them have been ultra marathons, those races where people run for over 24 hours. An ultra marathon is typically 100 miles.

His marathons have been painful but at the end they are a triumph of personal conquest.

He also talked about a man who did an ultra-marathon after he had been morbidly obese most of his adult life. That man had been 400 pounds and with a prescription of six medications, the man decided he was going to start walking. He walked for months before he was able to run. After four years of exercise and determination not to take medications and lose the weight via exercising outdoors, he was doing a 100-mile run.

The remarkable attitude of Dr. Debenham shows in his desire to help other people be healthy and to inspire them, not by his personal accomplishments, but to inspire others by the successes of those around him.

At the start of Crusher in the Tushar, he noticed that he might have underestimated the ride. To start with it was not a ride, it was a race. It is a race for professional riders where they show up with their lightweight bikes, decked out with the latest technology and showing off their sponsors.

He was not alone, he had two other friends out of their element, but they were going to try it and have fun at it. Debenham rode on to the finish but he did not make the cut-off time.

Going back to the question of why he would try such a difficult races, he replied, “Don’t be afraid to do something new.”

He also added “train for a race.” He is ahead of many other doctors who have busy schedules, family commitments and yet manages to keep himself healthy by exercising regularly.

Dr. Debenham needed to incorporate interval training to his exercise routine in order to maximize his time on the bike. Interval training is a way of exercise training to increase anaerobic endurance, muscular force and aerobic endurance. Not a single method works for everyone and the best results are attained by focusing training according to the athlete’s goals.

Susan Scarlet-Macaw is a health coach and exercise physiologist. 

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