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Doctor trains for triathlon, exemplifies power of exercise as medicine

Wednesday, September 27, 2023 10:52 AM
Tags: running

By NorthShore – Edward-Elmhurst Health

Dr. Hallie Labrador says she wasn’t particularly “sporty” growing up.

Now a primary care sports medicine physician with NorthShore University HealthSystem, Dr. Labrador, 45, was on her high school swim team and started running recreationally as an adult.

Over the last 20 years, her recreational exercise has evolved into a competitive hobby that’s taking her to a world championship triathlon — an intense race that involves open-water swimming, biking and running.

“I might have a little bit of a type A personality,” she said. “I like to set goals and work toward them. A triathlon is a really nice way to have some clear goals you can try to achieve — can I do this distance? Can I do this faster? Can I compete at a higher level?”

runningIndeed, she’s meeting her goals and then some.

In September, Labrador represented the United States in the 2023 World Triathlon Age-Group Championships in Pontevedra, Spain.

To qualify for this race, she first had to finish in the top 15 percent in her age group in any USA Triathlon-sanctioned race. Then she had to do the same in the national triathlon championship, which was held in Milwaukee in 2022.

“I definitely didn’t think I’d go to this level,” she said.

Her casual start to running evolved over time. Eventually Labrador started training for marathons.

“I got hurt after a couple marathons and couldn’t run for a bit, so I bought a bike,” she said. “I started thinking, I know how to swim, and I have a bike, so when I was ready to run again, I thought I’d try a triathlon.”

Dr. Labrador initially set a goal to qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii and did her first ironman race in 2016. Two years later, she finished another ironman. She qualified for Kona in 2021 and competed in 2022 as the event was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This year I decided I’m not doing Ironman because it’s a lot. I decided to focus on shorter distance races,” she said.

To prepare for the world championship triathlon, she ran, biked and swam almost every day. She planned 45 to 90-minute workouts during the week with longer workouts on weekends.

Dr. Labrador said she uses her training and experience in her day job, as it helps her empathize more deeply with patients. She also serves as a living example of her strong belief in the power of exercise as medicine.

“I like to try to get people moving as best they can, whether it’s an injured athlete or someone with arthritis or fractures,” she said. “We try to come up with ways to continue to have movement and exercise because that helps so many things.”

As she looked forward to the world championship, Dr. Labrador had her sights set on soaking up the experience.

“I’m really grateful I have the opportunity to do this, and I just want to go and have fun,” she said. “I’m competitive enough to qualify for this race, but I’m not competitive enough to win. I’m there for the experience and it’s going to be awesome.” Labrador finished 27th in the 45-49 female age group with a time of 2:43:50.

Learn more about Dr. Labrador and book an appointment.