April 22nd, 2011
03:48 PM ET
Do you remember the first time you swam in the ocean? Kas Seerla does, that's for sure. It happened here in Kona, Hawaii, two days ago. She braved the waves, the current and lots of anxiety to swim nearly a quarter of a mile. And then she did it all again yesterday during this week's capstone workout: a mini tri where the 6-pack swam for 20 minutes, biked for an hour and ran for 20 minutes.
Yesterday was hot, hot, hot, but that didn't stop anyone from completing the race. Even Kendrick was able to swim, bike and run the course - stitches and all.
Collectively, the 6-pack came here with only a few miles logged on the road bike, a few lengths in the pool, a few miles of running. But they're leaving Kona each having experienced a personal best of some sort. For Joaquin, it was swimming almost a half of mile when before he hadn't been able to swim more than two pool lengths. Stasia and Kas swam in the ocean for the first time. Scott, Kendrick and Nina collectively biked 65 miles in a day - a huge improvement from the short rides they had been doing.
As each person continues to change their life and become stronger and healthier, we'll continue to bring you their journeys. We hope you'll be inspired to start changing your life, too!
April 19th, 2011
01:27 PM ET
This week, the CNN Fit Nation Triathlon team is in Kona, Hawaii, for a week of intense training. Follow along on The Chart and on Twitter, @CNNFitNation
One of the most rewarding parts of planning the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge is watching our 6-pack be transformed from largely sedentary to seriously competitive amateur athletes.
When we first met this year's group in early February, we were very impressed with the work they had already done to change their lives. Some had lost weight before getting to us. Most had started to exercise regularly, and they were all starting to adopt better eating habits.
But, the changes they've made since then have been nothing short of remarkable.
April 15th, 2011
04:46 PM ET
Only a few more days until the CNN Fit Nation 6-pack gets together for the mid-way trip. It will be great to see everyone and discuss successes and struggles. Of course, it helps that we will be doing this in Hawaii! I have seen the schedule and we will not be spending a lot of time sitting by the pool and sipping mai tais. We will be working out a lot – swimming in the ocean, running on the island and some bigger bike rides. We have all been working out a lot at home and it will be great to do it in Hawaii. I think it will be a way to recharge our energy and motivation us for the final push to our goal.
April 6th, 2011
04:55 PM ET
What is the one thing that you cannot change about yourself? Your family history. As I have said before, my family history is not great. Hypertension, diabetes, strokes are on both sides of the family.
On Tuesday, March 29, that family history reared its ugly head again. My father passed away from a heart attack. He was 73 years old. For years we have been trying to get him to change some of his ways and begin to become healthier. He always talked about having to get healthier, but his chronic diseases continued. Although he had multiple medical problems, the ending was unexpected. He died of a massive heart attack at his home in Minnesota. I always knew that this day was coming, but never expected it so soon.
Seeing my dad and his worsening medical conditions was part of the motivation to enter the CNN Fit Nation Challenge. I saw how his weight, heart problems and diabetes affected his lifestyle and his ability and willingness to be more active. I knew that if I continued on the same path I was looking at what my life would be like in 25-30 years.
Although I don’t want to end up like my dad was physically, I want to be exactly like him as a man. He was hard working, loved by everyone, always willing to help others, a great father and excellent grandfather to my children. Besides his regular full time job, he dedicated over 40 years to officiating sports- softball, volleyball, basketball and flag football. He coached me and my brothers for years of basketball, soccer and baseball. He was an athlete in his younger days and continued to play softball for many of his adult years. He spent most of his free time devoted to sports and fair play.
In the comments of my CNN bio, he had words of encouragement and said that maybe I could show him some of my exercises. Unfortunately, I did not get an opportunity to do that. I will miss my father dearly, but value the time that we had together. Although he did not set a good example from a health and fitness standpoint, he set a great example on how to be a man. Thanks Dad.
March 23rd, 2011
09:41 AM ET
As training continues for the 2011 CNN Triathlon Challenge, Dr. Scott Zahn of Green Bay, Wisconsin, is finding success as well as struggles.
It has been almost two months since Atlanta, and exercising and eating healthier have become the routine. The weight loss and increased fitness are quite dramatic from where I started in November when I decided that it was time to get serious and get healthy.
Everyone is amazed at the changes. Comments like “you look great,” and “you’re melting away,” are a daily occurrence. That makes me feel great and the positive reinforcement keeps you going.
Underneath all this excitement there is still one thing that I struggle with – doubt. I have no doubt that I can complete the biking and the running part of the tri, but it is the swimming part that I have no confidence in.
This past weekend I biked 16 miles one day and ran 5 miles the next. I feel very confident that when August 7 comes I will be ready for that part.
I never realized the challenge of the swim portion. It is so different from the other events. First of all you need to think about breathing. If you don’t breathe, you drown and if you don’t do it right you’re going to be swallowing the Hudson River. Nobody wants to do that. It’s very technique driven and uses a whole different group of muscles compared with the other events.
I’m trying to think about head position, high elbows, reach on the stroke, stay level, kick from the hip and, oh yeah, don’t forget to breathe. That’s a lot to think about and harder to do it all correctly. Will I ever be able to put it together? I’m not sure. Am I feeling more comfortable in the pool? Sure, but I am much further along in the biking and running.
It is about 140 days until the triathlon, 20 weeks, which will be about 40 more swim sessions. That’s a lot of swimming. I am sure that as August comes around I will feel more comfortable and a lot of this will become more natural. Right now, that seems a long way off. At least I have the current of the Hudson to push me along. I just hope that I don’t swallow too much of it along the way.
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."
March 2nd, 2011
05:44 PM ET
Three months ago I saw my personal physician and was started on three medications, two for high blood pressure and one for high LDL levels, the bad lipids. It was that day that I applied for the CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge and decided that I needed to make a change in my life towards healthier living.
My family history is strong for hypertension on my dad’s side of the family. It was no surprise that I would have problems as well. For years I had had borderline hypertension, even medicated for a couple years. When I lost a few pounds the BP improved and I was able to come off medications. Over the years the weight came back and the high blood pressure returned. When I saw my primary care provider in November my blood pressure was 140/98. That is the highest that it has ever been and I was promptly started on my medications.
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 10th, 2011
04:49 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.
Talking about health and fitness is a way of life for Dr. Scott Zahn, a 46-year-old pediatrician from Green Bay, Wisconsin.
In fact, Scott spends all day talking about it with his overweight patients and their parents, but he himself is not fit.
“I’ve been part of ‘unfit nation’ for many years – I’ve struggled with my weight. It’s gone up and down,” he said. "As a pediatrician I should set a better example for my patients,"
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.