Liz Claman, a reporter at FOX Business Network, was diagnosed with scoliosis as a child. While it's a common condition, in Liz's case she was told she would never be able to become a runner. But boy, did she ever. Claman completed her third triathlon this past Sunday in New York City, and raised more than $22,000 for charity. She answered a few questions about training and competing in this competitive event to inspire any hopeful triathletes spurred on to sign up by this weekend's events.
What inspired you to defy your prognosis and become so active?
Growing up in California, you can't help but be active. While I was always playing tennis and doing aerobics and horseback riding, I did have this scoliosis as a child so I listened to doctors who told me, "You'll never run long distances." Yet, all my life I had this desire to break out and defy the experts. I loved exercising. For my sweet sixteen party, I begged my parents to get Richard Simmons to teach an aerobics class to all my friends. Because my dad, who was a surgeon, was the first to spot and diagnose my scoliosis, he was so proud I would want that so he and my mom made it happen. Thirty-five girls in leotards in Beverly Hills dancing around to Barbra Streisand's disco version of "The Main Event" with Richard barking orders at us. It was hilarious. Fast forward to 2005 when I woke up and thought, c'mon Liz. Time to really go for it. I signed up for the New York City Marathon and completed it. In 2008, Fox got a triathlon team together for the Nautica in NYC. They sent out an email to all of us. I had no idea what I was signing up for but I was having one of those moments where I try to break out of the kind of thinking that limits me.
How did you get started with training for the triathlon?
I figured I better attack it like a journalist approaches a story. I brought in some experts. I called health coach Peter K. of PeterKFitness. He looks at the whole picture, both physical and mental. He listened to all my complaints about lack of time, all my kvetching about "this hurts and that aches" and then on all that information, he designed a training and nutrition schedule for me. I also contacted Tom Holland, author of "The 12-Week Triathlete." Tom gave me some some brilliant tips and coaching. I also read his book. Tom is the man when it comes to triathlons.
What was your training regimen?
I work out at a gym all year long but for the Tri, I begin in earnest in March. I'll try to get workout 5 days a week that include everything from the elliptical machine to spin classes to something called Kardio Kickbox at my gym which involves a lot of punching and jumping and pretending you're Bruce Lee. Because doing laps is so boring, I only start swimming in May. I barely run because my achilles tendons get sore and I'd rather "save" the run for race day.
Did you cross train?
I cross train by doing what are called 'bricks'. They're called that because your legs feel like bricks after. I'll do 45 minutes on the elliptical machine, hop off and do a 45 minute spin class. I've been doing 50 minutes of laps in the pool, drying off and hopping on the stationary bike for 40 minutes. Or two spin classes in a row. That's really enjoyable. I'll top it off with 20 "real" push-ups and 200 crunches.
What do you recommend eating while you're training? Any favorites?
I eat a lot of Clif Builder's 20g protein bars. I'll eat half of one at a time in the morning with coffee that has extra skim milk in it. Van's whole grain waffles with soy butter, lots of nuts (mostly dark chocolate covered almonds and plain Brazil nuts). I'll try to eat salads with lean chicken and avocado, and Peter K. is big on chickpeas and beans so I'll try to fit that in somewhere. Steamed broccoli and brown rice at least three times a week. I only eat whole grain pasta now. And of course, if I sound like I'm so disciplined, let me dispel that notion by revealing that I eat some type of chocolate at least once a day.
How did you stay motivated in your training? How do you recommend others do?
This year it's been easier than the past two times I've done the Triathlon because I have an incentive. I committed to doing the race to raise money for BuildingHomesForHeroes.org. We build custom, mortgage-free homes for severely disabled soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Every time I've gotten tired or demoralized during training, I just think, "C'mon Liz. You can't let them down."
What did you do the day of then race?
Woke up at 3 a.m., ate a piece of whole grain bread with peanut butter and had some iced coffee. Stretch. Got to the staging area and organized everything: shoes, wetsuit, helmet, sunglasses, sunscreen, etc. Ate some Gu (carbo-gel), drank water, texted my mom in L.A. and then, got going!
What did you do push through tough sections?
Both of the other times that I've done this Tri I've had a mini panic attack at the start of the swim. The first year, I got in the water and suddenly felt like my wetsuit had shrunk 3 sizes. I was gulping for air thinking, "Did I gain 18 pounds between yesterday and today?" Suddenly I realized, "This is what I read about." Panic attacks are really common. I resorted to my easier safety stroke, looked around and thought, "I'm in the Hudson swimming. This isn't scary. It's interesting." Once I calmed down I started swimming the crawl again and did the mile swim in 21 minutes. There's a lot of talking yourself through moments on the race course. I'm constantly saying, "Don't worry. Look around. Look at all these athletes. You're one of them. Enjoy this." In the end, fun is really what it's all about.