Healthy Chats with Dr Benita Stephens

By Jesse Spellman & Donyetta Edwards

One thing we wholeheartedly love here at Mid Strike Magazine is when we come across runners that also work in the medical industry. It allows us to take a peek into their profession as they essentially see fitness and wellness from a totally different perspective. We always think because we run, we are healthy, but the truth is health and wellness is something that goes so much deeper than just running. This month Dr Benita Stephens enlightens us with her knowledge from a women’s health perspective, her running and her very impressive 10 miles in 10-day challenge.

MSM: Welcome to Mid Strike Magazine, we always get excited when we have a chance to talk with runners that are doctors. Let’s get an introduction into Dr Stephens the doctor and runner.

Benita: Hello! I am an Obstetrician/Gynecologist by training, and in my office, we focus on improving the beauty, life and vitality of our patients. We specialize in bio-identical hormone replacement, weight loss, aesthetic services and vaginal rejuvenation treatments.

MSM: You seem to keep yourself very busy when it comes to your fitness and running as you’ve been taking part in numerous challenges from the daily challenge of running and increasing your daily mileage to running 10 miles in 10 days. I'm always up for a good run challenge. What makes you stay so consistent with them?

Benita: Well, every year in June I challenge my patients to participate in the one mile a day challenge because it’s my birthday month and it’s tough for people to stay active during the summer. I have done this challenge for a few years, but this year I wanted to add something a little more challenging for people who were looking to get to the next level. So, I also gave them the option to do a challenge created by one of my running partners, Philip King, that we have coined the King’s Pyramid Challenge. It consists of 1 mile for 1 day, 2 miles for 2 days, 3 miles for 3 days up to 10 miles for 10 days for a total of 55 consecutive days of running and a total of 385 miles. Part of what drives me to stay consistent comes from proving to myself that I can accomplish the set goal as well as the accountability that social media provides by having to post daily and showing my patients that despite being busy, you can incorporate fitness into your lifestyle.

MSM: To run consistently in the Georgia heat and hills is a feat within itself. I'm pretty sure with those two hurdles getting yourself ready for a run daily can be sometimes challenging. How do you prepare yourself mentally?

Benita: One of the ways that I have been able to be successful with this mentally is by running first thing in the mornings. I don’t have time to talk myself out of it or let the daily demands of life and work convince me that I’m “too tired or too busy” to run for that day. Running super early also helps me to escape from as much of the heat as possible. On the easier parts of the challenge, I committed to running in the heat instead of using the treadmill so that I could acclimate to the heat quickly.

MSM: One of my favorite questions to ask is balance. You’re a runner and doctor which I'm sure can be very stressful at times. How do you manage to find your time to reset and have some balance? Most importantly we know everyone is different but we’re always looking for some advice. What advice would you give to those that are struggling to mentally find balance for wellness and reset?

Benita: Balance has always been an issue. I’m not sure if it truly exists, but I think there are times where your focus must be more geared to certain areas in your life in order to be productive and to give yourself the rest that you need. It’s only been recently when I had a health scare with some irregular heart rhythms that I had to force myself to readjust some priorities in my life. Prior to this, I was like Every ready bunny, I just kept going and going. Always headed to the next thing until I was literally too exhausted to keep going. I used to work two 24-hour call shifts at the hospital every week delivering babies, and then I would come home post call and still go out to run, etc. shower and then head to the office to work a full day. After realizing just how much stress I was placing on my body from lack of sleep, high cortisol levels, missing meals and the stress from having to take care of two lives often in highly emergent settings, I finally decided that I had to make some major changes in my life if I wanted to reclaim my health and quality of life. So, I dropped my hours down to 12 hrs. per shift and went back to the basics: eating more vegetables, staying hydrated, getting 7-8 hrs. of sleep, incorporating post workout nutrition and eliminating the known stressors in my life that I could get rid of. If you can’t find a way to be in a healthy mental and physical state, it will be hard for you to help someone else. Also, if you don’t find a way to help your body recover or get back to a sense of balance, your body will eventually force you to slow down. Sadly, that often comes in the form of sickness or maybe even death.

MSM: As runners our journeys are shared with runners/ groups we run with. Who are some of the runners that have inspired you along the way? Behind a consistent runner there's always a good support system and team. 

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