Motivation Ottawa Marathon Week: A paramedic balances running and life

Ottawa Marathon Week: A paramedic balances running and life

By Andre Mollema

Yes… I get it – we hear it constantly: in life, everything is about balance. Anyone working 42+ hour/wk. gets that, any parent with young one gets that, I get that… but… the need to exercise is sometimes too strong, too compelling.  Personally, and like many other runners, I hold an utmost importance and cherish the concept of the life/work/run balance. I run not just to follow a good physical and healthy lifestyle but because the mental health has so much to benefit from it.

For starters, the stressors that surround us and that we experience in our often overwhelming chosen way of life. A key concept that was passed along at work by our wonderful Peer Support Group people is that of the ‘Penny Jar’. A full penny jar represents what you have to give in a day. Taking time for yourself adds pennies and daily stressors take them away.  In the (almost) 15 years I have been working in the emergency services field, I have been able to maintain pennies in my jar by running. The daily stressors of my work as a paramedic continually take pennies. Running adds pennies to my jar every day and helps me carry on with a certain degree of sanity.  We, as paramedics, live a particular type of stress every single shift. Everyone will feel, live and cope differently to a given stressor or trigger event and, in many articles that have been made available to us; we find that a healthy lifestyle is one of the most successful ways to overcome it. I am far from being a social worker, psychologist or else but I find that running helps tremendously.

Here’s why:

First, you don’t really need to plan ahead. I have half an hour free? (45 mins, if you include shower time), I just go.

Secondly, no special equipment is required. Sure, if you want to keep stats, your phone / other device will come along but really, just get your shoes on and – weather dependent – some extra layers and off you go.

Then; the simplicity of the outdoors. Enjoy the scenery, the nature’s calmness. We are so fortunate up here in the National Capital Region with all the surrounding green spaces and kilometers of trails (e.g. Gatineau Park) that are no further than 20 minutes from downtown Ottawa. Running doesn’t require lots of focus; it’s in the human nature. The fact that I dislike running with music gives me full awareness of the environment that I run in.

Finally; to change it up once in a while, invite a friend to join in. The running chat – or ‘small talk’ – helps changing one’s mindframe.

Every one of us needs time to disconnect, my way is to go for a run. If you are able to, I strongly encourage you to do it. Run once or twice a week, you’ll feel great, mentally and physically!

Fitting everything in an already busy and overbooked schedule can seem to be an unachievable task but please, take time for yourself and practice one of the best sports on earth: running!!


  1. Great article Andre. But for some of us older medics, our knees are shot from years of lifting. I as well enjoy what you describe but I do it in a walking form. For all of us dinosaurs take what wisdom young Andre Has given you and adjust it to your he says take time to fill your jar! Cheers from a 28 year veteran!

  2. Bravo André…well done. You forgot to mention you also out in the balance returning to school in the very demanding field of ACP! Anytime you need a running partner….text me… i need balance in my life, and friendhip brings it

  3. Happy to be part of Team Awesome with you André. I completely agree with what you have said about using whatever time you may have to get a run in. The feeling of accomplishment at the end of it is almost euphoric, you want everyone to join in so they can have the same feeling. Happy running!

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