April 23rd, 2010
05:44 PM ET

Fit Nation Q-A with Trainer Laura

Four months ago, Fit Nation chose six CNN viewers to train with, and compete alongside Dr. Sanjay Gupta in the Nautica New York City Triathlon in July. Angie Brouhard, one of those six participants, recently had a few questions about her training, so we asked Fit Nation athletic director Laura Cozik to weigh in.

April 6th, 2010
06:15 PM ET

The Challenge: Reflections on progress

By Angie Brouhard
CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge Participant

There are certain times of the year that I tend to reflect on the past and think about the future. These days include my birthday, the first day of the school year and, of course, New Year’s Day. This year, I have a new reflection day. The day I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My journey with breast cancer began last April after a routine mammogram showed a suspicious area.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/04/06/angie.april.jpg caption="Angie is making great progress as she trains for the triathlon."]

It is hard to believe that it has been a year already. I have a lot to reflect on when I look back over the past year. I could think about the fear and uncertainty my family and I felt. I could contemplate the struggle my husband and I went through making decisions – decisions that you never think you should have to make. I could remember the pain from the surgery and the sickness from the chemotherapy. I could consider my feelings of awkwardness when grocery shopping with a ball cap covering my baldness.

I am a pretty positive person. I have a fairly optimistic view of life, so as I think about the past year, I don’t dwell on those feelings of fear, pain, and awkwardness. Instead, I thankfully remember all those friends and coworkers who brought my family dinner. I think about the many prayers offered on my behalf. I remember the cards and gifts people sent – even perfect strangers who heard about my diagnosis from a friend. I recall my husband taking care of my every need. I remember talking with other cancer survivors, sharing stories of encouragement. I consider the trips I took last summer – one family trip to Kentucky just before the chemo began, and another to our favorite Tennessee lake in between treatments – the lake we visited every year when I was growing up.

I can say without a doubt that I am in much better shape than I was a year ago before my diagnosis! Since the beginning of my training in January, I have made remarkable progress physically. I can run 6 miles, bike 20 miles and swim 1,400 yards. I have toned my body, shed a few pounds, and made healthy food choices. I have encouraged family and friends to join me in this fit lifestyle. My friend meets me at the local YMCA three mornings a week to swim. Another friend jogs with me, and my husband bikes alongside me. I hope I can encourage others to move toward a healthier lifestyle, too. Call a friend to meet you to walk a couple of times a week. Ask your spouse or your son or daughter to ride bikes with you. Having a partner in your physical fitness routine will keep you motivated and accountable! You can’t shut off the alarm and skip your workout if you know someone is waiting for you!

I am looking forward to this next year and can’t wait to see what it brings! You don’t have to wait until a birthday, New Year’s, or a significant life event to improve yourself mentally and physically. You can start today!

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February 16th, 2010
04:23 PM ET

Fit Nation Challenge: If I can do it, you can, too!

By Angie Brouhard
CNN Fit Nation Challenge Participant

When my husband heard about the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge, the first thing he said to me was “You have a great story! I think you should share it!” I do have a good story, and I think a lot of women across our country can relate to my life.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/17/angiephoto.jpg caption="CNN Fit Nation Challenge participant Angie Brouhard."]
I have always taken care of myself and my family. We eat healthy meals, enjoy being active, avoid foods that are high in fat or cholesterol. So we were stunned by my April 2009 diagnosis of breast cancer, detected by a routine mammogram. My husband and I began gathering information, meeting with doctors, asking opinions, researching treatments. Our strong faith, our family and our friends helped us get through that difficult time.

At 40 years old, I was in pretty good shape, jogging a few times a week and biking with our kids. When the breast cancer diagnosis came, my activity level dropped. Throughout my surgeries and treatments, I walked through our neighborhood once or twice a week, but my energy level was low and my motivation even lower. I gained over 15 pounds from my diagnosis in April to my last surgery in December. Just one week after my reconstructive surgery, my husband saw Dr. Gupta’s segment on CNN that would change my life.

The hardest part of the Triathlon Challenge for me has been jumping into the fitness routine – especially the swim. My idea of swimming is floating in the lake wearing a life jacket or splashing around in the pool, playing sharks and minnows with the kids and jumping off the diving board. Not swimming lap after lap. The morning of my first swim workout, I watched the ladies on the masters swim team at our local YMCA. They looked so graceful, beautiful, and strong as they sliced through the water, lap after lap. I lowered myself into the water and splashed toward the other end, gasping for breath and praying that I could make it to the wall. Yesterday, I finished my 10th pool workout, and although I am still uneasy being seen in public in my swimsuit in February, I am happy to report that I can swim 700 yards – stopping to catch my breath after every 50. I have found that I love to swim!

The first day of my bike workout was a similar experience. Walking into a cycling class for the first time is intimidating. Everyone else followed the instructor’s directions without missing a beat – stand, lunge, push up, squat, stand again. I could hardly even stand and pedal. After 5 minutes, I was ready to climb off. Again, I am happy to report that the last class I took, I could complete 90 percent of the instructor’s directions. Much improvement in just a few classes!

My husband and oldest son are runners. When I watch my son run, I see him practically fly. His feet barely touch the ground. My first “run” of my training consisted of a 2-mile jog/walk through our neighborhood. Now, four weeks later, I can jog 4 miles without stopping.

I admit it is tough to juggle the everyday demands of life – keeping up with the laundry, cooking, cleaning, working, taking care of the kids, driving the carpool, shopping – without working out six days a week. Crazy! But I want to take control of my physical well being. I want to be an example to my kids that I am taking care of myself and that I will rise to any challenge – whether it be breast cancer or a triathlon.

I remember lying on the couch last summer recovering from a chemotherapy treatment and wondering if I would ever feel like myself again. With the motivation of the triathlon and the help of my faith, family and friends, I know I will not just feel like myself again, but I will feel better than ever! So when I cross that finish line on July 18, I will have completely conquered breast cancer. I will be strong and healthy and physically fit! And I will collapse in my husband’s arms and wish him Happy Anniversary!

I hope to inspire others across the country to get out there and do it! Join your local health club and swim a few mornings a week. Take a ride on your bike or get out and start walking. It might put you outside of your comfort zone, but you can do it! If I can do it, you can, too!

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.