Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Will Cleveland is one of six CNN viewers selected to be a part of the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge program. Follow the “6-pack” on Twitter and Facebook as they train to race the Nautica Malibu Triathlon with Dr. Sanjay Gupta on September 8.
(CNN) — When I hit what runners call “the wall,” I imagine myself jogging along the coast of Cape Town during a sunset, smelling the salt in the air and hearing seagulls cawing.
When my pace in the pool begins to slow, I pretend I’m swimming upstream in the Amazon, pushing against the current. Or I let my mind wander to the rapids of the Congo or the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef as I swim by.
As I run drills, I am not on my usual trail on the back road of my neighborhood; I am kicking up sand in a foreign land that one day I wish to see — like the Sahara Desert or the volcanic beaches of the Galapagos Islands.
Certain parts of the world simply require you to be fit to enjoy them — such as a swim in the Mediterranean, a trek in the Andes of Peru or a bike ride through the Netherlands.
When I turned 6, I remember what I got for my birthday: a G.I. Joe set with action figures and a tank, Legos, a soccer ball and an Atlas book that was as tall as I was. I remember this because that is when my interest in traveling started. I pretty much pushed the rest of my toys to the side and made that giant book my home.
My mother tells me, “You would keep coming up to me asking me what this place is like and what that place looks like.” It was truly the beginning of an obsession that I have to this day.
My father was in the Army; my mom was Air Force civilian personnel. When I got my giant atlas I was living in Tacoma, Washington; shortly after, my mother and I relocated to an Air Force base at the Cotswolds in the United Kingdom.
While we lived in England, my aunt and uncle would come out to visit and take trips with us through Europe. I was 8 years old when I first saw the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. I still remember to this day touring Buckingham Palace and Big Ben.
When I turned 17, I joined the Army and started hopping countries on my own: Turkey, Kuwait, Iraq. I saw the Nur Mountains portside and enjoyed the sights of desert sunrises on many convoys. I also had the pleasure of visiting the Bahamas and some great areas of Arkansas. But there are still many things I haven’t seen!
I have a son now. His name is Jaedon and he just turned 1. I want him to have the same passion for the world that I developed as a child. I want to share the world with him as he grows. The only way I can do that is by getting healthy — and staying healthy — long-term.
As I join the Fit Nation team in training for this triathlon, and learn to make healthy choices day-to-day, my boy and I will continue to learn and explore together. I’ve had problems in the past with partying and smoking. But to me there is no drug in the world that can replace the knowledge of different cultures and regions of our planet.
And that’s why I run and bike and swim; why I picture running through the heat of the outback, biking down the steep hills of California, swimming through the thrashing waves of Hawaii or any other place that I have not yet seen.
Because it’s what keeps me going.
I will continue to make my health a priority so that one day my boy will have to wonder why he can’t keep up with his dad… wherever we may be.
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