Is there something that makes a good doctor a good cyclist? Maybe.
Pro racing — in particular the women’s peloton — has its fair share of medical doctors that have left the stethoscope behind for a life on two wheels.
Marlen Reusser is one of those after she took the leap to stop working as a doctor, just two years after she finished her studies, and take a chance at becoming a professional cyclist. Since making that step in 2019, she has risen to the upper echelons of the women’s peloton with medals at the European, world, and Olympic levels.
“I think it’s a type of personality. It sounds stupid but we are people that try to go on the limit, and you don’t hesitate from taking more work and more effort. I think it’s the same traits of personality that make you good in one or the other,” Reusser told VeloNews about her transition from medicine to the peloton.
Reusser finished her medical studies in 2017 and began working as a doctor at a hospital in Langnau, Switzerland. However, she was ramping up her cycling at the same time and she soon realized she couldn’t do both. After initially cutting her hours by 50 percent, she decided to throw her talents completely behind cycling.
Though she has said goodbye to medicine while she sees how far she can go as a pro cyclist, she doesn’t think that it’s a permanent goodbye. Cycling won’t be forever, and her medical career will still be there when she decides to retire, though she will need to go back to school.
“I miss it really. Honestly, I really liked it. I would like to return, but things are just going so well. It’s just not in my head and for sure now I will continue cycling for some time. But also, at one point I will have enough, and I will not be as good anymore and for sure I will go back. This will be a bit of a challenge because my head is not so smart anymore for all these things so I will have to go back to study, I think.”
Going back to her studies won’t be an issue for Reusser, she likes to get stuck into learning at any opportunity. While training will get her physical fitness up, she’s working on improving her medical fitness by taking on a new course recently.
She can also regularly be found with her head in a book and, during our interview, we spend a good few minutes discussing the merits of re-reading books and the feeling of being unable to read everything you would like. Reusser has taken to giving away her books so that she can make room for new ones.
“I also like to engage my brain. For example, I have started some education just to make my brain work again. I started to study sports nutrition,” she said. “There are so many things to discover, and that’s why I’m sorry for this Netflix person. I also watch Netflix sometimes, but I feel sad sometimes that I can’t do this or that. I’m not missing ideas of what to do.”
At one with music
When Reusser isn’t being a doctor, a top cyclist, or a prolific reader, she is indulging in her love of music. She enjoys listing to it and the emotions that it can invoke when you come across a particularly good track.
For the Swiss rider, there’s no one style that she’s drawn to, her only wish is that it’s ‘good’.
“I don’t have one favorite, there is a lot of music I love. It depends on the state of your mood. And the music needs to get you moved inside somehow it can be almost every genre,” Reusser told VeloNews.
“I love the feeling that it gives you. If you play music, but especially if you listen to good music, it moves something in your soul. There’s a feeling in your body that you cannot have for me by words or by something else. It goes somewhere in your brain and your body that no other channel can. Just one channel triggers these emotions for me.”
Reusser doesn’t just like listening to music, she can play it too — more specifically, she can play the violin. Her relationship with playing was a bit of a love/hate one as a teenager after putting too much pressure on herself, but time and space have allowed her to rekindle her love of it.
With cycling and her studies to focus on now, she doesn’t have much time to do it, but she plans to pick it back up when she hangs up her racing wheels.
“Before I started with medicine, I did the violin. I was in a special program already during high school. I started studying the violin when I was 14 years old. It was something special,” she said. “I really liked it but, I’m less like this now, I was determined when I was young.
“If I had an idea to do something, I did it to the fullest and I put such high pressure on myself that at 16 or 17 years old I stopped it again. It was very dumb. I was very, very frustrated and upset with it. I kind of broke up with this program and, retrospectively, that was a bit bad.
“I still love it. I know, even more than that I know I will go back to medicine, I know I will go back to music when I am at a different stage in life.”