Eugene Smookler initally took it easy on the biking when training with the CNN Fit Nation team.

Editor’s Note: Six CNN viewers have been selected to be part of the 2015 Fit Nation triathlon team. They’ll race alongside Dr. Sanjay Gupta in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon in September. As they train, the six will share their stories about their Fit Nation experience.

Story highlights

Fit Nation participant Eugene Smookler was in a car accident right before training started

Smookler initially considered dropping out of race because of injuries from the accident

He worked through his pain with low-impact training such as swimming

CNN  — 

There is nothing in the world like the thrill of competition. My entire life I have played team sports –from soccer and baseball to basketball and football. Not once did I ever think about competing in a triathlon.

When my wife, Julia, and I received the call from Fit Nation that we were selected, I was so excited and happy to accomplish this new goal. I was thrilled and my competitive juices started to bubble up from my high school days in Texas and Ohio. My first triathlon at the age of 38 was going to be my next challenge in life. I was filled with excitement, with a mixture of nerves and a dab of uneasiness because of the unknown.

As most challenges in life, there are always bumps in the road, or in my case, being rear-ended right before CNN’s Fit Nation. It was two weeks before the start date, and I considered dropping out because I did not know if I could train with the pain initially. After consulting the Fit Nation team and my doctors, I decided it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I could not walk away from such an amazing experience.

Being diagnosed with two herniated discs and a concussion definitely affected me and slowed me down, but I was not going to let it stop me. What I learned from my car accident is you may look OK on the outside, but when you get hit from behind at 50 mph, all bets are off.

In the beginning, I had to take it easy on running and biking. The main workout I could focus on was swimming. I would swim almost every the day the first few months, slowly incorporating the other workouts in my routine. It was painful to bend over and do the normal day-to-day things you take for granted. I could not pick up my daughter or sit for too long in one spot or even sleep well.

It’s been almost six months now, and my training is in full gear. Learning so much from the accident, I wanted to share the following:

1. Listen to your body to figure out how the injury is affecting you.

2. Take baby steps when coming back from an accident so you don’t aggravate your injury again.

3. Express yourself when you are frustrated and don’t hold it all in because the injuries can wear you down.

4. The last and most important advice is don’t be too hard on yourself about your recovery. (It takes time.)

The race is just a couple months away, and I am so glad I did not let this car accident take me out of the triathlon. My team has been amazing, and I can’t wait to be there at the finish line with all of them.

The moral to this story is when you get hurt from things that are out of your control, use your inner strength to push through to the other side. There are always people who have it harder than you, so be grateful for what you can do.