Slowing down time with a swim, bike and run
February 3rd, 2012
09:45 AM ET

Slowing down time with a swim, bike and run

Editor's note: Today marks the kick-off of the 2012 CNN Fit Nation Tri Challenge.  This year's Challenge includes seven participants who have never competed in a triathlon.  This will be Dr. Sanjay Gupta's third CNN Fit Nation Tri Challenge.  Here Dr. Gupta shares what he has gained by joining the triathlete ranks.

As people get older, there is this feeling that time is moving faster than ever. Studies have shown that this feeling is true across cultures all over the world, genders and borders. As a student of the brain, I have been trying to learn why this time-warp feeling is so prevalent.

Of course, time itself is not changing, but it is our perceptions that change a great deal. As a child, days seemed to last forever, and you can probably describe in astonishing detail the first time you drove a car or a childhood summer. It turns out the first time you experience something brand new, the more attention you spend on it. You remember every little detail, and carefully store those details in your memory banks. It is that attention that seems to slow time down, and often make things more enjoyable.

It is also one of the reasons we should always be having new experiences, especially as we get older.

Truth is, I wasn’t thinking about any of this when I signed up to do my first triathlon in 2010. Mostly, I was nervous about a long open water swim, and worried I wouldn’t have the time to squeeze in all the training. My life was about to change in every way imaginable – physically, spiritually and psychologically. Within a few weeks, I started to play the role of an athlete in training. That involved preparing my own meals the day before, making sure my bag of gear was ready and setting the alarm for anywhere between 430 a.m and 530 a.m.

As I shed a few inches and gained some muscle mass, my confidence grew because the result of my hard work was showing. I became efficient with my time management, and scheduled exercise just about every day. My three young children often joined me on my long distance excursions – sometimes in a jogging stroller or a burly behind a road bike.

Something else happened as well. It was something I hadn’t experienced since I was a kid. Time seemed to be slowing down, and it felt wonderful. As I threw myself into this new world full of novel experiences, I suddenly felt like I had more hours in a day, not fewer.

As a triathlete, there is little question that I am biologically younger than I was a few years ago. Doctors have long known that age is not really measured in years, but rather in function and an individual’s own physiology. My blood pressure and heart rate are better, as are my blood tests and breathing capacity. But, what is even more astonishing is not just the turning back the clock, but the slowing down of time itself.

I am the kind of guy that wants every single minute to count, and becoming a triathlete has helped me get there.

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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.