March 8th, 2011
01:00 PM ET
When Dr. Sanjay Gupta finished the Nautica New York City Triathlon last year, he called the race "a transformative experience, both mentally and physically." Six weeks after this year's Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge kicked off in Atlanta, one member of the 6-pack has already been taken off medication for his high blood pressure. We wondered what other changes, large or small, the rest of the 6-pack have seen in themselves.
Thus far, the biggest change for Stasia Cirricione has been mental.
"I'm gaining a lot of confidence in my body and its abilities. I never thought I'd be able to bike for 75 minutes and then run right after for 15 minutes without stopping. I actually felt AWESOME during the run part. I'm so impressed with the capabilities of my body and I don't know that I would have ever pushed myself to do something like this on my own. I actually look forward to my next workout and enjoy all the aches and pains of getting stronger."
Kendrick Henley has been focused on making lifestyle changes that will last long after the triathlon ends, particularly when it comes to diet. For example, on the day he wrote this blog, he ate soup and half a sandwich for lunch, not the customary cheeseburger he would have chosen months ago.
"The most exciting change that I did not expect occurred when I was getting dressed for work," wrote Kendrick. "I realized that the notch on my belt was too big and I had to tighten it up. That was such a pleasant surprise. I remember when I bought that belt and it was the only belt in stock that big, and I remember being so embarrassed that it was so hard to find. But hopefully soon, my current belt will be too big and just a memory."
Nina Lovel can't seem to go anywhere in her small town without a stranger stopping her in the street with words of encouragement or appreciation. All that extra motivation, plus a new, healthy diet, is making Nina's "58 is the new 28" slogan come true.
"I have lost 7 pounds in a month–that is HUGE! All of my clothes are fitting better, I've cinched up most of them as far as they will go, and some favorite pieces are now baggy.... I have become very focused on healthy eating and have banished all but the most frivolous and occasional empty calories from my life. Proof: were my nutrition to be inadequate, I would not have been able to RUN AN ENTIRE 5K, shaving 6 minutes off my previous times, and feeling great at the finish line!
I definitely need more sleep these days, and while it would be simple to ascribe this to increased physical activity, there's more to it than that. This experience is tugging at much more than my swim, bike and running muscles; it is stretching my mind, my heart and my emotions, often to the point of (happy) exhaustion."
Joaquin Brignoni has seen small but powerful changes in himself since training began.
"A sense of great accomplishment seems to stay with me throughout the day when I wake up for a 5 a.m. swim or a 6 a.m. track run. Becoming more disciplined with what I choose to eat has also been very empowering. I actually find myself craving healthier foods. It's a strange but welcomed feeling.
My biggest challenge so far is getting enough sleep! I consider myself somewhat of a night owl but late nights just don't mix well with my new healthy lifestyle. The excitement alone can no longer trump the rest my body really needs. So, I'll focus my energy on getting to bed earlier over the next couple of weeks."
Kas Seerla balances life as a stay-at-home mother with her triathlon training. It's been an adjustment for her family but by going to the gym six days a week, some workouts have already gotten easier.
"Of the three [exercises] (swim, bike, run), I would say I've made improvements with the swim. A month ago, I would do a lap and have to wait for five minutes to catch my breath before I could do another lap. Now my workouts are about 45 minutes and I can do 600 yards. Of course I'm still stopping a lot but still a big improvement from a month ago."
Aside from stopping one of his medications for high blood pressure, Scott Zahn is seeing other, exciting changes in himself.
"I think I have been brainwashed by Laura Cozik, CNN Fit Nation athletic director. I look forward to the workouts and the variety of swim, run and bike keeps it from getting monotonous. In the last two weeks I had planned two rest days, but when those days came I was antsy and needed to do something to get my heart racing.
In the last month there have been more fitness changes than physical changes. I recover faster from my workouts and am able to do more without maxing out my heart rate. I am stronger and feel better. I continue to lose weight, but for about two weeks my weight was stable. This was a little discouraging, but then for no apparent reason I dropped four pounds in just a few days. I needed to put another hole in the belt. That is the second time I have needed to do that since this whole process started! Yesterday I bought a new belt, one that fits."
February 21st, 2011
02:21 PM ET
It has been just over two weeks since the 6-pack returned to their home cities, and their training for the Nautica New York City Triathlon is officially under way. We asked each of them to share what it's been like getting "back to reality," and incorporating the things they learned in Atlanta.
I'm about as positive of a thinker as anyone I know, but I'm not gonna lie -my first full week as an official "6-packer" was rough!!! Not for reasons you might think, however; rather, because I came down with the flu on my second day home from the kickoff!
Eating habits – Now HERE I have experienced a revolution! Over the kickoff weekend, having Frances Largeman-Roth hang out and consult with us, I internalized more nutrition knowledge than I realized.
Suddenly, before anything goes in my mouth, it has to have a redeeming property: It must WORK for me! If it doesn't fuel my energy, restore my muscles and bones, hydrate me, balance my electrolytes, or otherwise support my training, it can't be mine.
The first week of training was not too bad. The second week got tougher as the duration and intensity picked up. Since my swimming is not efficient, I get tired faster.
One of the workouts that I had to do on my own was a brick (swim/run). After the swim, I was so dizzy that I couldn't get on the treadmill. I went home and contemplated what to do. I was exhausted and tired but willed myself to go back to the gym and completed my run workout.
Previously, if I felt tired, I would stop. Now, I push on even if I don't have any energy, I try to make sure I complete the workout because if I don't I am going to pay for it later. I know I will never get this time back.
I wanted to start eating clean as much as possible so I went through my cupboards and cleaned out some of the unhealthy lurkers as to not be tempted. Goodbye, mac and cheese. Hello, fruits, veggies, natural peanut butter, homemade pasta and pizza sauces. I feel so much better when I eat clean and eat regularly (5-6 times a day).
My workouts have been strenuous. I had a private yoga session that kicked my butt! I couldn't lift my arms above my head for 2 days. It made getting dressed interesting. I powered through, though. Run, Swim, Bike, repeat.
My parents have even adjusted our weekly family meal to reflect some healthier options: Steamed broccoli instead of broccoli and cheese, lighter salad dressings, etc. My friends have been a hoot in this whole process. I had to pick up an order at lunch last week under the name "Triathlete Stasia." I must say that was pretty humiliating and humorous all at the same time.
It's been just over two weeks since the kickoff weekend, and I am getting back into "real life." It is hard to call it real life because it is so different from my previous real life. Workouts are now a regular part of my daily routine. I even feel a little weird when I have a day that I don't work out – like something is missing.
I was able to run 4.8 miles on the treadmill this past weekend. Well, I'll be honest I ran/walked, but did run about 3.75 miles of it. That is the farthest I have gone so far since training started and probably the farthest I have ever gone . . . so far!
My first official weeks as a 6-pack member have been challenging yet uplifting in many ways.
Some of my biggest challenges are balancing my responsibilities, job search, family duties and new training schedule.
I love getting up at 6 a.m. and taking a run. I keep myself motivated by imagining that I am running through Central Park. It gives me energy, it is fun and I find that it helps me clear my mind for a productive day.
Swimming is my biggest challenge. I am focused on breathing with the proper technique for now but hope to look like Aquaman as I swim across the Hudson River six months from now.
I am eager to get on the road with a bike. I see myself flying down the Westside highway when in reality I am in my spin class at the Y.
So, as you can see, I use visualization to make the best out of the training and to focus on the goal when my calves are cramping and my thighs are about to explode.
I came back from Atlanta all pumped up! I have started training five days a week. I am able to do the workouts and finding that I am getting stronger with each workout. The swim class that use to leaving me feeling so tired and drained for two days at a time no longer does that. In fact, I now swim multiple times a week.
One of the major takeaways from the kickoff besides the training was when Coach Laura Cozik, said, "triathlons are 50% nutrition."
This is very poetic because nutrition remains the most difficult part of this journey, and the most difficult change to make. I am eating healthier, but I find that I have days when I do not make the best food choices. I know that nutrition remains my biggest obstacle, but I have to remember to take it one day at a time.
February 11th, 2011
02:18 PM ET
Dr. Scott Zahn had just returned from his first physical in nearly a decade. It hadn't been a good visit; he left with multiple prescriptions to treat his high blood pressure and high LDL levels. A pediatrician and father of four, Zahn knew he had to change his lifestyle but his usual attempts at eating healthy and going to the gym seemed to sputter out after a few short weeks. It was then that he saw the ad on CNN.com to submit an iReport for the 2011 Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge.
Like the rest of the 2011 "6-pack," Zahn's journey to the Nautica New York City Triathlon began on a whim. Yet now he and his teammates Stasia Cirricione, Kendrick Henley, Nina Lovel, Joaquin Brignoni, and Kas Seerla are on their way to racing their first ever triathlon on August 7, alongside CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta. The group met for the first time at CNN's World Headquarters in Atlanta during the first weekend of February.
February 8th, 2011
05:13 PM ET
In the 2011 Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge , six selected viewers will participate in a six-month training program. Each will receive all the gear, training and nutritional support necessary to complete the race and will compete alongside Dr. Sanjay Gupta on August 7 in the Nautica New York City Triathlon.
Processed, sodium-filled, fatty foods and pop. That's what Anastasia Cirricione remembers about her nutrition growing up.
"I'm just a Midwestern girl that was raised on sugar and fried foods and pop," she said. "I came from a low-income family of six."
As a kid, she never participated in sports, partly because she was unfit, she says, but also because she was self-conscious and shy.
About this blog
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.