The extra benefits of exercise

Ron Cothran says even his golf swing feels better now that he's training for a triathlon
Ron Cothran says even his golf swing feels better now that he's training for a triathlon

Editor’s note: Ron Cothran is one of six CNN viewers selected to be a part of the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge program. Follow the“Sassy Six” on Twitter and Facebook as they train to race the Nautica Malibu Triathlon with Dr. Sanjay Gupta on September 14.

(CNN) – There I was, having an epiphany. I had just run close to 3 miles with my 24-year-old son, and wishing I had been in better shape to enjoy more activities with my kids when they were younger.

Why did I wait so long to get healthier? How much did I miss out on by not taking the time to take care of myself?

Training for a triathlon has made me aware of the side benefits of exercise — benefits that expand past the point of gaining strength and losing fat.

I have never been particularly goal-driven; I seemed to thrive by getting through life “by the seat of my pants.” But this year I have realized the benefit of having goals, both large and small, and of working to achieve those goals.

What a motivation boost it is to see how much progress I have made, especially in my running. When I first started running in January, I couldn’t make a half-lap around a high school track without getting winded. Yesterday, after bike riding for almost an hour and a half, I was able to run over two miles in 30 minutes.

There is no way I would have been able to progress to that point without goals and coaching. This side benefit has bled into my professional life. By setting small goals, I feel that I am better able to focus on tasks and am more efficient with the demands of my workday.

My ability to do athletic activities other than the three triathlon sports has improved as well, telling me that my overall fitness and coordination have improved.

My job in the hospital can involve a great deal of walking, lifting and twisting. I can now work a 12-hour shift and finish with more energy than I would have before I started training.

That dying patient could have been me

My wife has gotten into biking and running with me. We both agreed that whatever happens, we cannot stop what we are doing after the triathlon. Not only do we not want to lose our momentum, we both have enjoyed the journey, supporting and encouraging each other along the way. Even my golf swing feels better (though anything would have been an improvement!)

I am turning 50 in July, but I don’t feel 50. Other than the occasional soreness that comes after a workout, I don’t have the aches and pains of middle age. I sleep so much better than I did years ago. Some have told me that I don’t look like I am that old — what a shot of confidence that gives me!

Since beginning training, I don’t feel irritable toward the world; I actually enjoy each day as it comes. It has been a long time since I have felt depressed or discouraged.

Before you call me Pollyanna, know that I am not always the happy-go-lucky guy I would like to be every second of the day. But I do think that because I am exercising my body, my mind benefits as well.

The negatives of life can be met with a better attitude and fresh perspective. How we approach the events of life often determine their outcome. If I come to a bump in the road grumpy, sluggish and depressed, how much more severe is that bump going to be?

I have come to realize that life is too short to needlessly suffer the consequences of inactivity and procrastination.

Get out there and do something — something you enjoy. Give yourself the gift of a better day by making an effort to strengthen your body and improve your mind. You are fearfully and wonderfully made; take advantage of that and follow me and the rest of Fit Nation Sassy Six as we work to live the second half of our lives better than the first.

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