Why being part of a team matters

Douglas Mogle, left, and Will Cleveland do a plank during the Fit Nation kick-off weekend.

Story highlights

  • Participating in team sports helped Douglas Mogle stay fit as a teen
  • After high school, practices were replaced by long work hours, dinner out
  • Now Mogle hopes the Fit Nation will inspire him to push his fitness limits

Growing up near the South Side of Chicago, a good portion of my youth was spent on the fields or on the courts.

Whether it was baseball in the summer or basketball in the winter, being an athlete pretty much defined my existence. Sports were the No. 1 thing I cared about. (It didn't hurt that Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were in pursuit of their six NBA championships at the time.)

Needless to say, staying in shape and getting enough exercise were not problems I had to deal with.

In high school, my participation in sports meant more training. Practices and workouts were exhaustive and took up a good portion of my afternoons and evenings. Playing sports helped me develop friendships, hone my skills and stay in great shape.

Once again, getting enough exercise was not a problem.

Then I hit the ripe old age of 22.

Get fit and others will follow

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After high school, my fitness levels began to decline. Besides my poor eating habits, I attribute this to one factor: I'd been benched.

My access to team sports was dwindling, and there was an extreme unlikelihood that the NFL and NBA would be knocking on my door any time soon. Daily practices and games were replaced by long work hours, dinner out with friends and nights in front of the TV. I joined weekend sports leagues where beer, not winning, was the primary goal. (Not that I complained.)

Staying in shape and getting enough exercise were now big problems.

T-shirt tales: The athlete I used to be

I was not prepared to enter the world of individual sports in order to stay active. I found going on a "long" run or swimming laps in the pool to be quite boring. Where were my teammates? Where were the screaming coaches?

Throughout my life, the concept of "team" had been stressed on a daily basis, and now it was nowhere to be found. I realized that I needed to find a team. I needed to be a part of something bigger than myself.

Believe it or not, my biggest reason for applying to the CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge was not the free bike or the cool gear. Rather, I loved the idea that we would be competing in the triathlon in Malibu as a team: six people, from all parts of the country, coming together for one goal.

The journey thus far would not have been possible without my Fit Nation teammates and coaches. I rely on them daily for their motivation, their expertise and their unwavering support.

Getting fit for the family I love

Being a part of a team has always played a large role in my success as an athlete, on and off the field. The camaraderie and accountability present within a team setting are things I have been unable to replicate when going at it alone.

My sudden cardiac arrest in October 2011 created a daily reminder of my health and my need for exercise, but my selection to the CNN Fit Nation team pushed me to think deeper about where I am right now, where I've been and where I hope to go.

My team is the reason I'll complete my workout this afternoon, and my team is the reason I will cross the finish line in September.

Follow Doug's journey on Twitter @TriHardDouglas