A word from Dr. Gupta

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta sits down for a chat
Feb 20, 2012
Photo by: Stina Sieg Dr. Sanjay Gupta, seen above in his off at CNN, is one of the forces behind the 2012 CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge. Canton resident Rick Morris is one of this year's participants.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series on Canton resident Rick Morris, who was recently chosen to participate in the 2012 CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge. Along with six other people from across the country, he is training with CNN’s help to complete the Nautica Malibu Triathlon in September. Recently, Morris and the rest of the “Lucky 7” took a group-training trip to CNN headquarters in Atlanta and met the famed Dr. Sanjay Gupta.


ATLANTA — The people who inspire me most aren’t those who accomplish great things easily. The people I love are the ones who have to work for it. They’re my people.

I was thinking about that and other things as I sat in Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s office at the CNN headquarters a few weeks back. I have to admit I was a little star-struck by the whole thing — the corner office overlooking downtown Atlanta and the fresh-pressed look of Gupta and his co-workers, not to mention the vitality of being inside an international news organization.

But something got me more. It was the admission by Gupta that exercise is hard, even for him, arguably the most famous doctor in America. When I asked if he ever has a tough time getting himself to work out, he smiled wide and answered with a quick “Absolutely.”

“I have reluctance all the time to get motivated,” he said, recounting how at one point in his career he could only exercise around 4 a.m. “And nobody enjoys an alarm clock going off at that hour.”

The act of getting up anyway is powerful — and part of what Gupta and the network’s motivated team of trainers, nutritionists and producers want to show participants in the 2012 CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge. They are not trying to teach Canton’s Rick Morris and the rest of the “Lucky 7” that exercise is easy, but that it is worth it.

What better teacher than someone who appreciates it yet dreads it, just like most people? Gupta doesn’t pretend to be an infallible athlete, and said that part of what keeps him going is that he feels “pretty good” while he’s exercising and “really good” after it’s all over. But no matter what, he must always get over that “initial hump,” as he calls it. He hopes to help Morris and the rest of the group do the same.

Gupta recalled how earlier that day he had actually run alongside Morris in a training session. As they did laps around a downtown park, Morris was candid, cluing Gupta into how frustrated he was about his unhealthy lifestyle in recent years.

“But he wants to change, and that’s more than 50 percent of the battle,” Gupta said. “So we’re going to get him the other 48 percent or whatever it is.”

It’s this last half of the fight that Gupta believes will be so inspiring, not just for CNN viewers, but for himself. These next few months are when big changes are going to happen in the group members’ bodies and hopefully in many other aspects of their lives, as well. Gupta knows that everyone in the challenge has bigger dreams than simply losing a couple of clothing sizes.

“My greatest hope for them is that they get out of it what they really want,” he said.

He added that Morris and his six cohorts may not hunger for the spotlight, but that is exactly where they can do the most good. From Morris, a small-town father and volunteer fireman, to Glenn Keller, a cross-country trucker, to Nancy Clinger, a Minnesota mom, they are “a real slice of America,” Gupta said. He believes that seeing the “Lucky 7’s” journey to get healthy will inspire others across the nation.

“So it’s pretty satisfying, pretty gratifying,” he said.

It’s also a great motivator for Gupta himself. Kind of like an eighth, honorary member of the group, he, too, is planning to cross that finish line in September.

In addition to meeting with the group at CNN, he’ll soon be training with them in Hawaii. It’s a good thing that Gupta is one of the friendliest, most down-to-earth celebrities you’d ever meet, because there’s nothing like the sweat and exhaustion of intense training to make someone (even a famous someone) feel exposed.

“If you’re at all self-conscious about things, it’s tough,” he admitted. “But there are plusses and minuses to everything. The minus is that you feel that way. The plus is that everybody feels that way.”

Gupta, who only learned to swim two years ago, stressed that he’s not perfect. And that, whether he knows it or not, is part of his charm. As the Fit Nation Challenge creeps closer to the race, people won’t be paying attention because they think the “Lucky 7” are model athletes but because they are real people. They, like Gupta, are taking that leap to be themselves in front of a huge audience.

“The only way to be truly embraced, I think, is to make yourself completely vulnerable,” Gupta said. “And that’s true in relationships, and it’s true in something else like this, as well, I think.”

Soon after he uttered those so-true words, he was ushered off to his next engagement, and the moment was gone. But as I walked to the CNN parking deck, I was still buzzing with that little jewel of wisdom. It’s fascinating that what makes Fit Nation so interesting is not just the transformation these people are undergoing but their ability to be real as it occurs. It’s what keeps me tuned in, at least.

Visit www.cnn.com/fination and www.facebook.com/CNNFitNation for participant blogs, photos, videos, workout routines and schedules for when Fit Nation participants will be featured on “Sanjay Gupta, MD,” at 7:30 a.m. Saturdays on CNN.