Fit Nation: 'You can do anything you put your mind to'

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Fit Nation Midway Trip_00000000

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    Fit Nation team trains together for Nautica Malibu Tri

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Fit Nation team trains together for Nautica Malibu Tri 01:27

Story highlights

  • The Fit Nation crew trained for a week in Orange County to prep for the September triathlon
  • Julia Smookler: "Going through the motions of the mock tri helped me finally get it!"

(CNN)The CNN Fit Nation team came together in Orange County, California last week to continue their training for the Nautica Malibu Triathlon in September.

Over the course of the week, they swam both in the pool and in the Pacific Ocean, biked along the Pacific Coast Highway and ran on the beach. And they also found time to enjoy some surfing lessons.
Here are their thoughts on the trip:

    George "Chip" Greenidge, Jr.

    I was really looking forward to my CNN Fit Nation midway trip to San Clemente, California in May 2015. When my five teammates and I arrived, I could not believe how much all of us had grown in confidence. We all looked good in mind and in spirit. Gone were those six perplexed faces of our inaugural workout session at Lifetime Fitness (in Atlanta in January 2015) four months ago. From a group who could barely run a 200 yard dash, we were running 2K out on the beautiful coastline of California.
    The midway trip was not just a week-long training session. It was a team building exercise -- all of us being were able to confront our fears of health, nutrition and exercise. My teammates challenged each other to face our barriers that stopped us for being healthy. These all seemed to emerge in all of our swimming, running and biking exercises. However, as a team, we reassured each other that we were going to be able to tackle our individual fears - whether it was mounting on the bike, swimming in the open ocean water, or successfully transitioning to and preparing for a triathlon.
    I believe that reality hit my team when the CNN Fit Nation producers passed out our uniforms, equipment and checklist the day before our mock triathlon. We realized we can actually do this. All the long hours in the gym were about to pay off and we were about to see what we were made of.
    On the day of the mock triathlon, I got up earlier than everyone else and was ready to go by 6 a.m. I really wanted to do this. I put in the training time and energy and I was waiting for the feedback on how I could improve for the September Triathlon in Malibu. At the end of the day, I could not believe that we all took and completed the challenge of running a 3K, biking 16 miles , and swimming 400 yards in the open water.
    My major takeaway from the mock trail was that you can do anything that you put your mind to. Whether it is developing an appropriate exercise routine, nutrition program, weight loss regime the major barrier is YOU. The most important step is to surround yourself with people who know your challenges, understand your strengths, and work collectively as a team to help you overcome those barriers. That is what CNN Fit Nation has taught me this week: I am a triathlete.
    Linda Garrett

    Linda Garrett

    After returning from our midway trip, feeling sore, but happy and grateful!
    My teammates are pretty wonderful -- all hard-working, hard-training, focused and just plain fun, as is everyone associated with the program. Everyone brings their own special 'something' to the program and we all fit together. There is so much support, encouragement, and love wrapped around our team from everyone in Fit Nation. We all get wonderful messages/phone calls from our mentors and the alums. And it means so much to us to be part of the Fit Nation Family.
    Since January, I've lost 9 pounds and 3% body fat. I feel great, fit, and strong, thanks to the workout schedule from our coach, April Gellatly. (I'm not allowed to pull the 'age card', but sometimes I think to myself 'not bad for 67!')
    My challenge is, hands down, the ocean swim, specifically, getting past the waves. My fear is not being able to breathe. It is like fear of flying -- it might seem irrational but it feels very real. And I will overcome it. I can and I will.
    And what's not to love about biking?! It's the reward after the swim. When I'm riding my bike, I can't stop smiling! Best of all, I feel like I can ride for miles and miles. Had my first tumble, complete with blood and bruises, but still felt pretty awesome!

    The running portion for me is more like a walk/run. My knee is still an issue. I'm a speedy walker but as soon as I run, the impact just plain hurts. Healing takes time. And patience.
    I am not and never have been a natural athlete but I am actually feeling like I AM an athlete! And I'm following our mantra: "Get comfortable being out of your comfort zone."

    Eugene Smookler

    I learned so much this past week. The main thing I learned was from the mock triathalon: learning what it feels like to transition from swimming to the bike and then to running. It was eye opening to experience the whole process. I think I learned I need to pace myself and drink lots of water, so I stay hydrated.
    Also, don't forget to be prepared on race day. Make sure you take the time the day before to be sure to triple check to make sure you have everything for the race. Make sure you have 2 pair of goggles. Don't wait until the last minute to get prepared because you don't want too be pulled in a million different directions before the race.
    On the nutrition side, I need to focus on my diet this next 4 months. Start eating less sugar and more protein. Cut out cereal and milk. Replace with veggies and protein. Try to stop emotionally eating. This is my biggest challenge. I feel like I need support on this. Hopefully, I can be better the second half.
    Also, I learned to ride as a group. It was educational, to work as a team while in groups with open communication and hand gestures to communicate to other riders. This a team sport even though you have your own goals.
    The last thing I learned was how amazing it felt to support my teammates. I want them all to do well and support them because I really care about all of them. The CNN Fit Nation is about racing, but it's bigger than that, it's about getting healthy as a community. This opportunity is so unique and special, I need to take advantage of it and be more focused to push myself so I can be ready for Malibu in September.
    Julia Smookler

    Julia Smookler

    Our midway trip was definitely an eye opener and such an amazing way to keep our head in the sport! After 4 months of training on our own, it was especially nice to get back with April and the crew and learn even more about all that goes into a triathlon. Once we got to California, we were able to hit the ground running and get right into training. Training on an almost daily basis has got me, in a sense, addicted to this new lifestyle. Once you become committed, there is no going back and now instead of a fear, it has become a thrill to know that we are even closer to doing this!
    Initially, I was pretty nervous about the midway trip. I was afraid that I would be too hard on myself. Knowing that I had completed almost every workout, but that I could not go above and beyond in joining swim classes and a tri club. I was also extremely nervous about clipping into the bike pedals. I had one too many falls to even think of getting back on the clips.
    The first day, when I heard how much weight I had lost and how much of it was fat, it gave me such a sense of accomplishment. Knowing that my heart rate changed by 20 beats and that I was able to reach new heart rate zones let me know that I can do this. It gave me the proof that I needed to feel like all of my hard work was worth it. I walked away wanting to do even better with my eating and training.
    What I realized in training the entire week with the Fit Nation crew was that practice and some great guidance is really all I needed. After a few biking trips, I felt such a sense of freedom in learning to have the confidence in clicking in and out of the bike. The ocean swim was a big challenge, but I felt so accomplished getting through the mock tri, even though I was completely out of my comfort zone.
    Training side by side with April and Roni gave me such great insight into learning new skills in swimming and biking. Now my big takeaway is that I better get my running up to par and if I want to survive this ocean swim, that I need dedicate even more time to swimming. Going through the motions of the mock tri helped me finally get it!
    The real treat for me are the amazing friendships that I have gained from all of this. The midway trip gave me an opportunity to solidify friendships and get to know some of the alumni better. My mentor, Rae, has been such an inspiration and cheerleader for me. Hearing stories of previous triathlon accomplishments from alumni and about Paralympics, helped me understand that we all have challenges that we can make it through.
    There is a sense of family with Fit Nation and we all want each other to succeed. It's just such a great feeling to be there for each other. I am not looking to win this tri, but I am truly excited for all of us to complete this as a team. September is going to be here before you know it and I am eager to focus on training.

    Erica Moore

    Our midway trip was an exciting validation that I'm on the right track with my training. I was thrilled to show my team and coach how far I'd come in my swimming, biking and running. Despite severe nerves, I really enjoyed open water swimming in the Pacific Ocean. I'm slow but I've returned home with the confidence to improve my open water swim time! It was awesome to see how far my teammates have come as well; we're all on our way to a great race in September! I've got my eyes on the prize and am thankful for the chance to refocus and recommit to this incredible experience! See you in Malibu!

    Robert Lara

    Before I went on the midway trip, I was terrified. I hadn't been able to work out as much as I was supposed to, I had days of eating bad food, and I was sure I was shark bait when it came time to get in the water. I was pleasantly surprised that my teammates had similar experiences and fears. Fitness, eating healthy and losing weight is not a 100% all the time, perfect thing. You are going to miss workouts, you are going to eat crap, you are going to gain weight and lose it. These are the facts of going from couch potato to triathlete, and you know what? It is going to be OK!
    Because even though I had missed workouts, eaten poorly, and still was not a good swimmer, I did it. I swam every drill we were asked, biked 10-20 miles a day, and ran with my team all week and made it. I was sore, but not as sore as I thought I would be. I w
    as slow, but not as slow as when I started, and I was even surprised to learn that I had not only built up my endurance but also muscle and I did lose weight! During the midway trip, I walked a 5K every night to relax from the days challenges. I reflected on the fact that I was enjoying being with my team and that I was actually capable of doing the physical work asked of me.
    I took away a lot of things from the midway trip. I now belong to a large, loving and crazy Fit Nation family. Prior to this I had tried several times to get fit and be active but never really had a supportive network of friends and family who really pushed me and helped me to succeed. If you are trying to get fit, it's time to get rid of every negative person in your life and embrace those who will support you and can help you.
    Without the team and my friends at home, I never could have done the Mock Tri and I know now that I will be able to finish whatever comes my way in this journey as I am not alone in doing it.
    The other major takeaway that I did not realize until I got home was how much this effort to get healthy and fit was going to change all aspects of my life. My friends and colleagues have been truly inspired to take care of themselves too, and that has been a very humbling experience. I recently attended an event and every single person commented on the fact that my suit was way too big and I needed to get a new one.
    My doctor was very happy to note that all my vital signs and tests were either significantly improved or lowered, which as a diabetic is a huge deal for me. I even found the courage and confidence to ask that special someone out.
    For the folks at home reading this, your weight doesn't matter, your size doesn't matter because your awesome already and don't let anyone make you feel otherwise. What matters is that your doctor, who cares about you, is happy with your health. What matters is that your circle of support is there for you and that you are there for them. What matters is that you finish the race, even if you're last.
    So see you in the pool, on the bike, and on the trail at a triathlon near you.