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March 23rd, 2010
01:58 PM ET

I do not have time to train for a triathlon

By Meredith Clark
CNN Fit Nation Challenge

Meredith Clark attends a kettlebell class to build stamina for the Nautica NYC Triathlon

Meredith Clark attends a kettlebell class to build stamina for the Nautica NYC Triathlon

“I do not have time to train for a triathlon.” That’s the reality I face every morning when I’m up at 5:30 a.m., trying to squeeze in strength and cardio workouts before the day really gets churning. Those words are a mocking mantra when I make my way to the pool after work instead of catching a half-hour of rest before Bible study, community meetings and events begin that evening.

I do not have time to train – but a recent e-mail from my trainer, Ian Briggs, says otherwise.

“We basically have 16 weeks to have you ready for NYC Triathlon. It is doable but now it is critical time for you to commit to workouts,” he wrote. “I understand that you have and have had an immense amount going on but unless you are able to make this opportunity a priority it is going to be very difficult for you to complete the event.”

Translation: Making only three out of five workouts per week isn’t going to cut it anymore.

His final words gave me a slight boost: “You have the physical ability to do this (and well if you want) but crunch time has finally come.”

I entered the Triathlon Challenge with twin goals of losing weight and completing the Nautica New York City Triathlon. To date, I haven’t lost a pound. I’m admittedly a little green-eyed after hearing two of my competitors (ahem, teammates) have each dropped 20. If this were just about quick weight loss instead of building a new way of life, I’d quit now.

But the efforts I’ve put into my sporadic workouts are paying off: My running form is improving. An out-and-back is an energy boost, not a chore. (It helps both my time and my ego to dust my running partners.) No matter how I feel about getting into the pool, my endorphins come out to play as I reach and pull myself through the water. Two full months into this challenge, I’m finally ready to trade 30- and 45-minute sessions on my spin bike for a 13-mile ride Friday after work.

I’m battling to balance my career, community involvement and relationships with friends while trying to train. I’ve had to choose between hanging with friends and getting rest, or forsaking meals out for workouts. There have been broken dates, hurt feelings, exhaustion, fatigue and moments when I just don’t want to drag myself to the pool, the gym or the track.

My edge is the experience of having been here before. I lost 30 pounds two years ago, and though I’ve gained quite a bit back, the knowledge of what it took to get the weight off has stuck with me. I’m using some of the tactics I used then to get myself back on track. My two goals are still in sight, and as my trainer said, I do have time to make them a reality by my July 18 deadline. What matters now is that I don’t count the days, as boxer Muhammad Ali has said, but that I make the days count.

Here’s how I’m making each of the 117 days until the race work to help me meet my goals:

First, I used the calorie target tool on Calorie-Count.com to estimate my daily caloric intake in order to meet my weight loss goal - about 1,600 calories per day. I’m also keeping a food journal and taking 10 minutes in the morning to plan the day’s meals. Six days a week I’ll focus on eating like an athlete. (On the seventh day there will be rest and pancakes. And those will be good.) I eat when I’m physically hungry, not on a schedule, and get in fruits, vegetables and adequate protein at every meal. I’m reminded not to forsake good carbohydrates such as oats, quinoa, brown rice and bulgur. My body needs the carbs to fuel workouts. As any survivor of a low-carb diet can tell you, cutting good carbs is a fast ticket to lethargy.

My second step involves more planning to fit in my daily workouts. I wake up knowing that I’m going to train each day – sometimes in the morning, which I prefer, sometimes after work and sometimes, even as the last thing I do before bed. Yesterday I hit the lap lane from 6:30 to 7:15 p.m. I was in bed just after 11 so I could make a 6 a.m. kettlebell class and fit in 20 minutes on the elliptical trainer. After work – or whenever my day is finished - I’ll ride for 30 minutes.

My third step is to keep my mind focused on the little things that make a difference. Every bite counts. So does every sip, and every minute I spending sweating. My form, my breathing, my rest – they all matter. There are 117 days left until race day. I don’t plan to let another one slip by in a blur of meetings and business trips and I-don’t-feel-like-it moments of procrastination. I plan to make every day count.


soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Healthy_Heather

    Meredith, you are doing great! I am having the same issues but am only 2 weeks away from my event! But we all make time for what is REALLY important to us. You CAN do this and you will – whether you have time or not. 🙂 Keep it up!

    March 23, 2010 at 16:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Seth

    Meredith- You go girl! Time commitment is something anyone who has every trained for a triathlon battles with.

    I'm sure your friends and family understand how important this goal is to you, and that they understand why you are so busy. It doesn't hurt to remind them either!

    Good luck at NYC! Looking forward to hear how it goes.

    March 23, 2010 at 16:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Chet

    Keep at the training. I trained for my first Olympic distance 3 years ago, dropped 35 pounds, kept it off, completed a Half Ironman, and am now training for my first Ironman. It's truly changed my life for the better.

    March 29, 2010 at 17:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Michelle

    Great Job! keep up the good work!

    April 23, 2010 at 07:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Greg

    Training for a triathlon can be done, even if you're short on time. Some workouts can be done in as little as six minutes. There are great triathlon training workouts posted on Holosfitness.com. The site has hundreds of exercises posted with step-by-step instruction, all of which are completely free.

    April 26, 2010 at 16:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. MissAmErika

    Meredith, you totally got this! Great job!

    May 12, 2010 at 12:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Ethan Jones

    Cardio workout is always great if you want to cut down those fats,`:

    August 12, 2010 at 07:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Anna Begum

    Cardio Workout is really great when you want to burnout those calories...

    October 1, 2010 at 08:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Can Crusher 

    the best cardio workout is of course running and jogging.`.

    October 18, 2010 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. LED Grow Light ·

    the best stuff that you can do to reduce body fast is of course a cardio workout "

    November 7, 2010 at 14:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Robert Walters

    Wow – thats some schedule you've got there. Keep on running!

    November 4, 2011 at 13:25 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.