A mix of exhaustion and euphoria is what Melissa Kahn was swimming in after she crossed the finish line of her first triathlon — an accomplishment that she still cannot believe actually happened. It wasn’t long ago when Kahn weighed 208 lbs, rarely exercised, or knew much about nutrition. But, after losing 70 lbs of that weight through the help of the Jenny Craig program, Kahn used the stamina she learned in weight loss to excel in athletics as well — goodbye fat, hello sweat factory!
We featured Kahn originally to highlight the incredible weight-loss story she carried with her. Having been overweight through most of her life, she looked in the mirror one day after having a discussion about her health with her husband, and the switch flipped. She simply made the decision to change her life, and the rate in which she transformed her mind and her body a strong testament to the power of human potential through consistent perseverance.
In a one-on-one interview with ConnectwithLife.com, Kahn shared the secrets to her swift, sweet success, which was a mixed bag of motivating and supporting people, utter stamina, and a lot of healthy habits she learned from her weight-loss journey with Jenny Craig.
The Beginning of the End
“I started exercising a little bit into my weight loss and it was really empowering to see that when you push your body a little bit, it will actually deliver,” Kahn said. “I started becoming involved a little bit more and more with running and I first started doing some half marathons… Actually my very first race was a half marathon and I figured, go big or go home.”
Despite the arthritis in her knees, Kahn just kept running, because she loves it. Oh yeah, and she hates it. Quite the opposite of a hate/love relationship with cookies. We all hate how much we love cookies, Kahn loves how much she hates running, because the struggle comes with a reward that pays off two-fold.
“I love it. I hate it. I’m obsessed with it. I can’t wait to do it again, and hate it again tomorrow. It’s just bizarre,” Kahn said about running, as she began to explain how she got pulled into the world of half-marathons and triathlons.
Kahn started receiving Facebook updates from a group called the Pathetic Triathletes, not even knowing how she was even added to it. The posts were all about triathlons, Iron Man races, the people who were running them, and all of the encouraging tips and tools they’d need for training. The intrigue kicked in and “Go Big or Go Home” was a trending theme in Kahn’s life, so she and her friend signed up.
“I mean I pushed my body this far and sometimes it hurts, but at the same time, the feeling of being able to overcome and accomplish your goals and crush them… It’s amazing. So I thought, you know what I’m just going to go for it because nobody told me I couldn’t,” Kahn said. “And I think one of the things I learned from being on Jenny Craig is that if you believe you can do it, you’ve already done it. You just gotta do it. It’s done. It’s going to happen.”
Related article: From Art Student to Triathlete: 5 Tips For Your First Triathlon
The Tireless Training and the Proper Nutrition
Kahn trained 4 – 5 days a week for between 1 – 2 ½ hours per day to prep for a Sprint Triathlon which consists of a 7.5m swim, a 12k bike ride, and a 5k run. To avoid a lot of literal treading water, she ended up hiring a swim coach to teach her proper form. She would space out the type of event she trained for each day. For example, she’d rarely run two days in a row to avoid serious knee pain, and give the muscles a chance to recover. One of the most challenging exercises Kahn did regularly is called the “Brick” workout, which is a long bike-ride followed by a run. And, Kahn has confirmed, it feels as exhausting as it sounds.
“It’s torturous and evil but it’ necessary for the triathlon. You have to train your muscles.” said Kahn. “The running was always the easy part for me which still makes me giggle because in your head you’re still kind of the fat girl, so the fact that I can even say out loud that running is easy is amazing.”
Being a mother of four with a husband who travels, Kahn wanted to be able to spend as much time with her family as possible while maintaining a proper training schedule. , so sometimes she’d wake up as early as 3am to fit her workouts in. Ouch.
When you’re working your body to those extremes so regularly it’s also incredibly important to maintain well-nourished. Kahn credits Jenny Craig for teaching her to eat well “outside of the box” so going out to eat with family would never be a problem or a limitation.
“I would eat just a little bit more carbs the night before a big workout. That might even be quinoa with extra vegetables. I did not go crazy and carb load with 6 pizzas and cookies,” said Kahn. “I upped my protein quite a bit because I didn’t want my muscles to start breaking down so I just kind of supplemented with cottage cheese, grilled chicken, stuff like that.”
Kahn also remained on the maintenance program of Jenny Craig and ate their food regularly. She was loaded with their protein bars for the big day where it all pays off.
The Payoff: Race Day
Although Kahn hilariously details the near miserable trials and tribulations of her race day in her blog post on Run Heifer Run, she still considers the struggle of race day one of the biggest rewards and blessings.
“What I keep telling myself is: what an amazing gift you’ve been given, a second chance at your health, enjoy every minute of it because this is the glory part of it you’ve already done the hard work,” Kahn said.
Enjoy it she did, even when she had to come face to face with the worst that could happen.
“THE beach where I’d face down my fears of pretty much everything. Drowning. Hyperventilating. Panic attacks. Death, or even worse, looking bad in my wetsuit,” Kahn wrote in her blog post detailing the moment she first came upon the shores in Lake Havasu where she’d be completing the swim portion of the race.
Kahn looked exactly like who she had become: a superhero in uniform ready to take on the inner mental battle of stamina. She persevered until the finish even after the lifeguard yelled to her that she had been swimming the wrong way in the open, cold, frigid waters… twice!
Now, Kahn is an even bigger testament to overcoming challenges and accomplishing something that once seemed like such a far-off goal. So to those in good enough health to participate in a triathlon, she encourages others to take advantage of that privilege so that your body, mind and spirit can reward you greatly.