In my application video, I told CNN that the biggest gift I could give to my husband Chris was to start our married life off in "fitness and in health." My teammate, Nancy, so kindly captured those words in a handcrafted wedding gift to us that will forever serve as a symbol of this promise.
This journey has definitely given us that gift. We danced to every song the night of our wedding without leaving the dance floor once.
We thank CNN for making that a reality --- along with making my teammate Glenn's journey to be the officiant at our wedding possible after he got stranded due to Hurricane Isaac.
Never in a million years did I think I would spend my honeymoon competing in a triathlon.
My advice to others about to start their triathlon journey:
1. Diet is everything. Food is fuel. Losing weight is 75% tied to what we eat, 25% to exercise.
When I first got the call that I was chosen, I was anxious to meet my coach and thought I couldn't get started until he set out the plan for me. What I didn't realize was I had the ability and tools within my reach to start losing weight simply by controlling what I ate.
I still see so many people close to me making excuses that they can't get fit because they can't exercise (because they are suffering from various ailments, injuries, etc).
What I want them to know is that fruits and veggies are the solution. Over-exaggerate them in your diet, eliminate processed foods, cut portion sizes and the weight will begin to fall off.
2. Realistically assess your weaknesses. I remember our first CNN swim workout back in February during kick-off weekend when I struggled to make it across the pool doing a front crawl. I thought it was just from a lack of fitness and didn't realize something as simple as learning how to blow bubbles from your nose changes everything.
I broke down in tears and asked our coach, April, if it was against the rules to swim breaststroke the entire way.
I trained from January to the end of May holding my breath completely underwater, wondering why the heck I was so winded after my workouts. It wasn't until AFTER I returned from Kona that I finally learned how to swim the front crawl effortlessly.
Maybe if I were less concerned about completing 64 lengths every time I went to the pool and more concerned with my form, I would have figured it out a lot sooner.
3. Track your progress. Take a "before" picture in a bathing suit, no matter how painful that may be. Take measurements. Keep track of your 5K times and regularly perform time trials in swimming and running to measure your progress. Write down what you eat every day. Seeing progress helps keep motivation levels high.
Here are my post-CNN Fit Nation Goals -- a.k.a my Keauhou (Hawaiian word for new beginnings) :
1. Continue weight loss. When I started my CNN Fit Nation journey, losing 40 pounds seemed like a long shot goal. Now that I've reached it, I realize to be healthy for my height I need to lose another 25 to 30 pounds.
I'd like to achieve this in the next six months. I plan on keeping with my plant-powered, non-dairy, non-meat lifestyle and my current training schedule.
2. Complete three to four triathlons a year along with as many 5Ks as possible. Chris and I plan on returning each year to compete in the CNN Fit Nation triathlons.
We will sign up for the Annapolis Tri Club, Kayak-Bike-Run this April (thank you to my coach and ultra man Ron Bowman for introducing me to the local triathlon scene).
And, I'd like to break 30 minutes in my 5K time within the next six months as well.
Thank you, Ken Burkey, Ron Bowman, Laura Cozik, April Gellaty, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Roni Selig for letting this teacher be your student. Training for a triathlon has restored balance in my life.