May 19th, 2010
05:49 PM ET

Clark: 'I am still scared to jump into the Hudson'

After finishing a training weekend in Austin, Texas, with the rest of the Fit Nation Challenge participants – affectionately known as "the 6-pack," Meredith Clark tells us how her training is going, how she's improving, and what still makes her apprehensive about the Nautica New York City Triathlon on July 18. Meredith and the rest of the 6-pack, along with several CNN employees will jump into the Hudson River to swim a mile, followed by a 25-mile bike ride, and a 6-mile run.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

March 23rd, 2010
01:58 PM ET

I do not have time to train for a triathlon

By Meredith Clark
CNN Fit Nation Challenge

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/03/23/meredith.image.jpg caption="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.

January 26th, 2010
03:46 PM ET

Starting over in a quest to get fit. Again.

By Meredith D. Clark
CNN Fit Nation Challenge Participant

Two weeks after meeting my fellow Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge participants, I can safely say that my runner’s high (fitness high?) has worn off.

After I returned home from our first appearance on CNN, the reality of what it will take to get a healthier - and hopefully less hefty - me across the finish line in July really set in. I guess some small part of me expected the enthusiasm of working out with our head trainer, Laura Cozik, to miraculously melt my fat cells and firm me up a bit.

One step on the scale and two long looks in the mirror quickly helped me snap back to reality.

Since being selected in December, I’ve wondered what thing - an attitude? a feasible plan? - I’ll have to develop in order to complete this challenge. I submitted my video because a) I’m tired of losing and gaining the same 10 to 20 pounds, b) I want to break the cycle of obesity-related disease in my family and c) I want to help people like me see that we really can be the fit people that we want to be, despite busy schedules, complicated family histories and all. The finish line in New York will be the starting point of a lifestyle committed to my own fitness and well-being so that I can be better than I have been for the first 30 years of my life.

That takes learning how to live all over again. What brought me to this point - having regained 20 of 30 pounds I lost two years ago, embarrassed about my backslide (and my backside, ha ha) and determined not to let it happen again - are a jumble of behaviors and habits I’ve practiced in an ongoing battle to lose weight and keep it off.

This time, I’m out to get fit forever.

When diet programs place an asterisk next to a standout weight-loss winner’s shed poundage, the “results not typical” disclaimer is a reminder that there’s a reason big, permanent weight loss and improvement in wellness don’t come via quick fix. The evolution of going from couch potato or even moderately active to truly fit takes un-learning all of your bad habits, and retraining mind, body and spirit to embrace new ones.

When I realized this two weeks ago, I freaked. Bringing the kind of change I see in my mind’s eye will mean turning to exercise instead of chocolate, margaritas or my favorite meal when I seek comfort at the end of a long day. It will mean learning how to say ‘no’ to more activities in order to provide myself with ample time for rest, recovery and reflection. It means separating the haters from the celebrators as I work to be better than I have been before.

And in a generally un-American fashion, it will mean that all of these changes will have to occur s-l-o-w-l-y.

So instead of relying on the strategies that have worked with an expiration date, I’m using this time to re-learn the way I live. Whereas I’d normally start my workout regimen with a commitment to sweat for 45 minutes to an hour a day, seven days a week, my training for the tri begins with a 15-minute run two days this week, a 40-minute bike ride on two other days, a 30-minute session in the pool, and two days to do nothing.

Instead of cutting sugar cold-turkey (a practice that has helped me lose pounds and friends as I become increasingly irritable), my nutrition plan allows me to include just a little here and there. Eventually, I’ll wean myself off that white horse, but I don’t have to torture myself (or others) to do it.

Going slowly will probably be the hardest part of my triathlon training, but I have six months to find my groove, and a lifetime to sustain it. I hope you’ll join me.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

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.