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How the 'Sassy Six' came to be

By Jacque Wilson, CNN
updated 4:14 PM EST, Fri January 31, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Fit Nation team has named themselves the "Sassy Six"
  • The six iReporters bonded quickly during Kick-Off Weekend in Atlanta
  • They're ready to start training for their first triathlon -- follow along!

Editor's note: Follow the CNN Fit Nation team on Twitter, Facebook and on CNN for updates on their training.

(CNN) -- As I waited in the cafe at Lifetime Athletics in Atlanta, the sound of laughter filtered through the front door.

It was just past 8 a.m. on a Friday, and the CNN Fit Nation team was already having a good time.

"Our team came together quickly," Ron Cothran said later. "By the end of the morning it seemed as if we had all known each other for years."

Every year CNN selects six iReporters to race in a triathlon with Dr. Sanjay Gupta and the Fit Nation team. We give them a road bike (with all the necessary accessories), a wet suit and a gym membership to help them prepare for the Nautica Malibu Triathlon on September 14.

As they train for their first triathlon with support from our fitness and nutrition coaches, they blog, tweet and share their workouts online. CNN readers follow along as the team gets ready to swim a half-mile in the ocean, bike 18 miles and run 4 miles along the Pacific coast.

6 people who will inspire you this year

That Friday morning was the start of the team's second day at Kick-off Weekend, where they met each other, their coaches and the CNN Medical Unit for the first time.

"After a couple of sessions with April, our coach, any fear and uncertainty that I had prior to arriving in Atlanta had gone away," Cothran said. "That weekend solidified in my mind... the plan that is being laid out for me and my team will be more than sufficient to make us successful."

Their confidence was evident as the Fit Nation team ordered breakfast -- veggie egg white omelets or a protein smoothie -- and headed down the hall to a nutrition lecture. As they settled in, the friendly banter continued.

For the past few years, the Fit Nation team has been called the "6-Pack." This year they're branding themselves a little differently.

"We came up with the name 'Sassy Six' as our team name because we all have a little sassiness inside of us," says Sia Figiel. "That compelled us to believe in ourselves enough to submit that video -- even though we'd all been beaten by our struggles with weight and health and other emotional issues (before)."

Figiel knows these struggles well. The Samoan woman once weighed nearly 400 pounds. When she developed type 2 diabetes, she decided enough was enough and has since lost 100 pounds.

Each member of the team has a different story to tell. But they all have the same goal: to learn how to live a healthier lifestyle, and to inspire others to do the same.

"A journey to wellness can be long and lonely when done individually," Connie Sievers says. "I have started the journey to wellness before, but when I was confronted with stress I reverted back to my unhealthy habits. (Now) the power of the entire CNN Fit Nation team will be there to hold me accountable, encourage me, pick me up and put me on the right track again."

Sievers will find strength in Mike Wilber, who is taking advantage of this opportunity to no longer be "the guy who wanted to do things but physically couldn't." Wilber will be inspired by Karen Manns, who wants to lose 50 pounds by the time September rolls around. And all will try to inspire friends and family at home.

"What does Fit Nation mean to me? It means responsibility to my fellow 'Sassy Six' team members, friends, family and supporters all over the world," Wilber says. "My story is reaching a global audience, which is amazing to think about. I cannot let the people who are supporting me down."

"I know now that I am not alone," Fiegel adds. "That I am supported and encouraged. And I wish to be that for anyone out there who is reading this and has lost hope and is considering giving up."

During Kick-off Weekend, the team underwent several physical fitness tests, spoke with Gupta about their goals, and climbed Stone Mountain just outside of Atlanta. They left the city Sunday ready to start their training.

"We have a long hard road ahead of us, but the camaraderie we have is undeniable and confidence we have in our abilities as a team is growing," Jamil Nathoo said. "Together, we know we can do this."

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