Neonatologist Dr. Robert White Masters Track & Field Championship
Robert White, MD, a nationally regarded neonatologist at Beacon Children’s Hospital, has always loved playing sports, including basketball and softball. But when he noticed at age 60 that he was slowing down and unable to jump as high or throw a ball as far, he knew he had to do something about it. Dr. White resolved to tip the scales back in his favor.
At first, he believed he could get in better shape on his own to keep up with the younger guys in his sporting activities. But then did something he wouldn’t have even considered 20 years ago. At the urging of his son Luke White, DO, a Memorial intensivist, he began working with personal trainers Jeremy Sexton and James Foster in 2011 at Memorial Health & Lifestyle Center (now Beacon Health & Fitness). Today, Dr. White won’t dispute the fact that it was one of the best decisions of his life.
A Fitness Rebirth
So began his weekly workouts in the downtown South Bend fitness center that include bench presses, dead lifts, 3-point rows, step-ups and chin-ups, among others. The fit Dr. White raised his fitness level even higher, getting noticeably stronger and building endurance. He decided to test his abilities, so he entered the Michigan Senior Olympics — and to his amazement, he secured second place in the long jump in his first competition.
That was the start of an athletic rebirth, but it wasn’t always the case. As a freshman at Buchanan High School in Michigan, a doctor told him that he couldn’t compete on the track team due to knee inflammation caused by Osgood-Schlatter disease. While he still managed to play and excel at high school baseball, Dr. White’s dreams of “flying through the air” in pole vault never materialized — until more than 40 years later.
The Nation’s Best
Today, Dr. White is among the most decorated athletes in his age group across the country. He most recently won the 2016 USA Track & Field National Masters Indoor Heptathlon in January and then won the championship and set the national records for squat and deadlift in his age group at the American Drug-Free Powerlifting Federation in March.
His next goal? Finish in the top five in his age group for decathlon and top three for powerlifting at the world championships next year in New Zealand. The husband and father of four grown children admits that he didn’t take up personal training to enter athletic competitions — it just sort of happened that way.
“It wasn’t on my bucket list. I never imagined this kind of success,” he concedes.
The success, however, hasn’t been limited to the gym or track. Dr. White recognized that his fitness training had other significant benefits.
After a year of workouts, he realized he had more stamina, was more alert and had more energy for his long shifts in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit.
“It would be a struggle to do as good a job in the middle of the night at my age if I weren’t working out. It’s made me a better doctor under the most stressful times. I do a better job for my babies.”
While he first got into personal training to keep up with his peers (especially the younger ones), it turns out that the regimented workouts could very well prolong his career.
“I don’t know how long it will last, but longer than if I hadn’t done it,” he acknowledges. “I don’t want to retire. I love taking care of babies and I love the people I work with, and I want to do it as long as I can. It’s the best job in the whole world and there’s no reason to stop when I love what I am doing and I have the energy to do it at a high level.”
By no means did his health renaissance happen overnight. His long-term perspective on his health keeps him motivated to keep coming back to the gym. He says for those who find it difficult to stay motivated week in and week out with exercise, they should consider a personal trainer.
Athletic achievements and career longevity aside, Dr. White has discovered another benefit, even more personal to him. He now has the energy and stamina to keep up with his five grandchildren.
“I started working out to eke out a few more years, but it turned into something much bigger. I’ve turned back the clock and I’m grateful for every day I get to do what I do.”