I am a Hudson Valley Parent: Dr. Eric Martin

Dad, Doctor, Ironman.

Orthopedic surgeon Eric Martin M.D. of Goshen, father of 15 year old Zach and 13 year old Jason, had one of those moments many parents in their forties have. He took a look at photos from a family vacation, and could barely recognize himself.

"I took one look at myself and didn't see the me I remembered being," he recalls. "I started running and set goals for myself. That was five years ago."

At age 48, Dr. Martin, now an Ironman athlete, competes in marathons and other races, bikes and swims. He's involved his whole family in his pursuit of a healthier lifestyle, which includes twice-a-week personal trainer strength sessions with his two sons.

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Generations of athletes
Eric Martin grew up in Albany, with a brother and twin sister. His father, an ophthalmologist just now winding down his own practice, is an avid golfer who always took his kids to walk all 18 holes on the course with him, and also ran marathons. He passed on his love of exercise and athleticism to his kids, just as Martin passes on that knowledge to yet another generation.

When not training, the doctor loves planning vacations around the world with his family. Past trips have included particularly memorable time outdoors in Iceland, among their annual outings. They're all avid hikers, intent on also getting to all the Hudson Valley's trails, and skiers with a love for the region's mountains.

"I've always been a goals person. At first my brother, who's a very accomplished tri-athlete, helped me a great deal," he adds. "But then it made sense to get the whole family involved. Otherwise there's just not enough time for everything."

"Outside the Ironman season, I drop the training back a bit in favor of quality, higher intensity sessions," Dr. Martin adds. "I like to get my training in early each morning, and that involves things I can do at home, including running and biking, as well as family visits to a nearby pool several times a week."

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A change in rhythm
It was no coincidence that Dr. Martin's push to get himself back in shape, and then reach further as a tri-athlete, occurred when his boys were moving from their elementary towards middle school years. The combination of their needing less direct attention, and involvement in after-school activities, helped open up their father's schedule, as well as that of their mother, Claudia, a full time attorney.

"You temper what you do; it's very good to figure out a rhythm," Dr. Martin says of how he balances the parenting, work and physical training aspects of his life. "We make sure to have dinner together almost every night; Claudia is a great cook, and is excellent at emphasizing the healthiness of what we eat while also making everything delicious."

Challenges still arise when the doctor's regular schedule of office hours and surgery gets "add-ons" and emergencies, or the kids' schedules change. More than anything, Dr. Martin finds that the sorts of breaks others like from stressful schedules -- a snow day, a bout with the flu or a bad head cold -- break what he likes most in his life: a smoothly-running schedule that's busy and full.

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Like father, like sons
As for how this all works with Zach and Jason's parenting, the doctor speaks about maintaining an "aggressive" focus on academics, just like he had growing up, a strong emphasis on maintained exercise regimes and the stressing of solid goal achievement in one's life.

"I'm a big believer in activities that are easy to maintain throughout a lifetime," the doctor adds. "I also believe in setting a good example; I'm an achiever. I believe in picking a goal and then breaking down what you need to do about getting there. That's the biggest lesson I've been teaching my boys."

What does Dr. Martin learn, in turn, from his sons, Zach and Jason?

"They're happy-go-lucky and goofy but always ready to learn," he answers. "We find it's a joy just being around each other."

Paul Smart is a father who writes for a variety of publications in the Hudson Valley. He lives in Catskill.

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