Most of these high-achievers have at least one thing in common: the more they take on, the more successful they seem to become. Whether taxed with career demands, family responsibility or simply trying to balance being healthy and fit in a life that travels at light speed, a select few are finding ways to perform at the top of their game both in life and sport.
The following women show that it's possible not only to do it all, but also to do it all really well.
The Ironwoman: Bo Arlander
In both business and sports, Bodil "Bo" Arlander, 42, is a rare breed. As a senior managing director for global investment giant Bear Stearns, Arlander is one of just a handful of women in the country handling $50- to $100-million deals. And as a top Ironman triathlete, she's among few amateur women racking up finishes in the 11-hour range.
In business she looks for companies ripe for growth and gets them the millions they need to prosper. In sports, she's "negotiated" a staggering 23 Ironman finishes, eight of which took place in Hawaii at the world championships, where the sport's most elite go to duke it out. Her personal best time of 10:07:25 -- set at the European Long-distance Championship in 1999 -- is consistent with times routinely rendered by pro women.
Arlander's numbers continue to impress. She finished in 10:58:25 last June at Ironman Coeur d'Alene and in doing so qualified for an eighth trip to the 2005 Hawaii Ironman, where she clocked in at 11:05:36. Last July she won first overall in the female masters division (over 40) in the New York City Triathlon in 2:18:33.
Pretty decent for a woman who started running just over a decade ago to get her Afghan in shape for dog shows. At first she hated running, preferring instead to work out at the gym on cardio machines. But she stuck with it, in part to keep her beloved dog, Emile, fit.
After watching the New York City Marathon, she cajoled a girlfriend to train for the following year's race. Arlander completed the 1995 New York City Marathon in an impressive 3:49. When a stress fracture sidelined her from running, she tried cycling and water running, which led to swimming. By 1997 she was fully recovered and ready to take on her first Olympic-distance triathlon in Montauk, N.Y., where she finished third in her age group.
Trophy in hand, Arlander declared, "This is my sport!" Two years later she was finishing Ironman races.
In her 30s Arlander wrestled with the idea of turning pro, but she couldn't step away from her career. She'd worked too hard to secure solid footing in the financial world. Plus, she loved the mental challenge of her job.
Arlander is driven by the challenge of finding time to train with a 60-hour workweek that includes weekly business travel. It helps that she's relocated from New York to the triathlon-training mecca of San Francisco. A professional coach also keeps her running at her best.
From 1998 to 2003 she worked with top Ironman coach Paul Huddle. Today, Chris Hauth, one of the leading amateur triathletes in the country, and cycling coach Craig Upton help her excel. She also gets support from her Team Lipton teammates and the fellow triathletes at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.
When she's training for an Ironman, Arlander aims for 16 to 20 hours of training a week, including Saturday bike rides of 90 to 120 miles and Sunday brick workouts (two hours of swimming followed by two hours of running or cycling). During the workweek, she rises at 5:30 to swim or get in a run before landing at her desk by 8. Since last minute business trips often pop up, Arlander stays flexible, frequently reconfiguring her training schedule.
While her business associates don't fully appreciate her athletic pursuits, and her training buddies can't fathom how she fits in her training with an overly demanding career, Arlander isn't about to let go of either.
"I couldn't do this job without this stress release," she says, "I use sports to overcome frustration. After I run, bike or swim, I am a new person."
To fit in two to three races a year, Arlander spends her vacation time traveling to events searching for new challenges. And as long as those challenges remain fun, her goal is to stay competitive within her age group while continuing to test her mental mettle as a top performer in the world of merchant banking.
Doctor on the run: Rene Chapados
As a critical care pediatrician, Rene Chapados, 39, is faced with heartbreak daily. An average day in the pediatric intensive care unit may find her treating a child comatose from traumatic brain injury, one badly burned from a fire, another battling cancer, and yet another suffering the broken bones of child abuse. And despite her tremendous efforts to save them, she sometimes watches children die.
Every death takes its toll. "The children with fatal outcomes are the toughest for me," says Chapados. "I'm often emotionally and physically exhausted at the end of each day."
Chapados copes with the emotional pain and pressure of her job by running. But Chapados isn't always running away from her job. She also runs in order to be better at it.
"I run, bike and swim (she's also a triathlete) not only to relieve emotional stress, but to reflect on a particularly puzzling or sad case. Without sports, I wouldn't be able to concentrate." She's been known to hop out of the pool in the middle of a speed set and call the hospital to order a test.
Sports has been an outlet for Chapados most of her life. As a child, she competed in gymnastics until she tore her anterior cruciate ligament her senior year of high school, dashing her hopes of attending college on a gymnastics scholarship. She was accepted into Wellesley College on her academic qualifications, where she joined the school's lacrosse team.
Later, as a student at the University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Medicine, she discovered there were two ways to alleviate med-school pressure: indulge in deep-dish pizza and beer binges, or hit the road running. Chapados chose the pavement. By the time she started her residency at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, she was a committed runner.
After moving to Tampa in 2002, Chapados met pro Ironman triathlete Lara Shaw, who encouraged her to compete in races, and to add triathlon to her list.
In her first marathon, the Hops Marathon in Tampa, Chapados qualified for the 2004 Boston Marathon with an impressive time of 3:42:55.
As a triathlete Chapados raised the bar for herself in 2005 by finishing her first Ironman in 12:28:24 at Ironman Arizona in Tempe.
Now juggling three disciplines, Chapados squeezes in training wherever she can in a schedule that often sees her working 60- to 70-hour weeks, sometimes for 19 days at a stretch. Her 11 partners (she's the only woman) at Florida Pediatric Associates in St. Petersburg encourage her athletic pursuits and were there to pick up extra shifts during the intensive six months leading up to Ironman Arizona.
Even 72 hours straight of being on call doesn't deter her from training. After destroying two pagers with sweat, Chapados now keeps her cell phone and pager in Ziploc bags when she goes for a bike ride or run.
She tries to fit in three main workouts a week: a swim, a run and a bike, and then fills in wherever she can with time at the gym. The trunk of her car is packed with gear just in case the opportunity for a workout arises. She belongs to two gyms (to make workouts more convenient), and has at least a dozen friends she can call as a last-minute running partner.
On weekends she can be found biking the 60 miles roundtrip from her home near downtown Tampa to downtown St. Petersburg or enjoying a 10- to 12-mile run along the shore of Tampa Bay -- often with cell phone at her ear, careful not to miss a beat.
Marathon mom: Susan Saufley
It's Monday morning. Susan Saufley wakes at 4:30, does abdominal crunches, and then runs five miles to the gym for weight training. She's back home by 6:30 before the first of her five kids comes downstairs for breakfast.
By necessity, most of her work has been done the night before: setting out vitamins, checking homework, signing school forms, preparing lunches and selecting school clothes. After getting the kids breakfast, Saufley races through a shower before heading to work.
Her three oldest girls (9-year-old twins Morgan and Katie, and 7-year-old Madison) are out the door by 7:05 to catch their bus. By 7:30 Saufley has dropped off her second set of twins (Grace and Joseph, age 5) at preschool.
Inevitably, there's some minor emergency -- a misplaced shoe or pair of glasses, a missing page of homework -- that causes a last-minute scramble. But after an hour and a half of organized chaos, Saufley arrives at her job at Kentucky's Fish and Wildlife Resources Department, where she sets up conservation programs for children.
With five young children and a full-time job, it's no surprise 35-year-old Saufley needs an outlet.
"Running helps me get my frustrations out," she says.
But a brisk three-mile jog just won't cut it. She thrives on pushing her body to its limits.
She's competed in eight marathons to date, including Chicago, Boston, Marine Corps and the Country Music Marathon in Nashville. With each race she gets faster, clocking a PR of 3:23:18 in Chicago last October.
Finding training partners willing to rise at the crack of dawn is difficult. So Saufley logs most of her mileage solo. But the solitary time gives her a rare moment of quiet time.
Saufley discovered running during basic training with the Army Reserves at Eastern Kentucky University. She kept it up to get back in shape after giving birth to twins at 25. A workout partner convinced her to sign up for the Kentucky Derby Mini Marathon in 2000. In running the 13-mile race, she discovered her passion.
Even as a single mother of five (she divorced in 2003), Saufley kept running. With the help of family and friends, she completed four marathons during this challenging phase of life.
Now remarried, Saufley pieces together 10 hours of training a week. All the while making family time a priority. On Wednesday evenings, the family gathers for "circle time" where they share experiences and thoughts from the week. Weekend runs of 10 to 20 miles allow her and her husband, Church, to reconnect in the Kentucky countryside. She relies on magazines for new workouts and tries to vary her regimen every few months.
Work friends tease her about her healthy lifestyle (she shuns fast food) and for her famous organizational skills (each Sunday she plans and shops for the family's meals and posts a menu in the kitchen) -- but the friendly barbs only remind her that her life runs more smoothly when she has her goals in place.
Saufley's next goal is to break 3:20 in the marathon. One day she hopes to run an ultra marathon. With her have-it-all attitude there's little doubt anything will slow this ultra mom down.
Nicole Feliciano is a New York-based health and fitness writer and regular contributor to New York Family Magazine.