Grad Student Takes on CNN Fit Nation Triathlon
Chip Greenidge has undergone a nine-month transformation on CNN’s Fit Nation. Now he’s up against one final, grueling test.
By LaTina Emerson
Since joining the Fit Nation team, Greenidge has been biking, running and swimming every day at the Georgia State Student Recreation Center. Photo by Steve Thackston.
George “Chip” Greenidge Jr. has watched one friend after another die in the prime of their life from complications of diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as cancer.
It was a wake-up call for the 44-year-old graduate student, who once weighed more than 300 pounds.
The deaths forced Greenidge, a Boston native, to acknowledge he had put his health on the backburner.
“Here I am tackling my education, but I also want to be around to enjoy all the hard work that I’ve put in,” said Greenidge, who is earning his Ph.D. in sociology with a concentration in race and urban studies at Georgia State. “As we enter mid-life, we have to take care of ourselves. The bodies we once had in our 20s are no more.”
When he walked into the CNN Center last spring, a large screen caught his eye. It was showing a segment from Fit Nation, a fitness challenge that selects six people from across the country to compete on a triathlon team. Contestants get a road bike, uniform, wetsuit, personal training and nutrition coaching.
The challenge? Get ready to swim half a mile, bike 18 miles and run four miles alongside CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon—in just nine months.
“I wanted to start working on that life, work and health balance,” Greenidge said. “That’s something that I’ve always neglected. I thought this was a great way to actually do it.”
Fit Nation was calling for new applicants, and Greenidge submitted a two-minute video calling on his first-year students to take charge of their health and to exercise daily to prevent the “freshman 15.”
More than 200 people from across the country applied to Fit Nation. Since becoming part of the Fit Nation team in January, Greenidge has been biking, running and swimming every day at the Georgia State Student Recreation Center to prepare for the triathlon on Sept. 19 and 20.
Georgia State’s Olympic-sized pool has been great for swimming practice, he said.
“This is the most exercise I’ve done in 20 years,” Greenidge said. “At one time, I didn’t believe that I was losing any weight, but I got on the scale and I couldn’t believe it. The pounds were flying off, and I didn’t realize it.”
Greenidge has lost 30 pounds. His blood pressure has decreased, and soon he might be able to stop taking his blood pressure medication, he said.
He and his teammates document their journeys through blogs and regular iReports for CNN. Because they’re scattered across the country, they use Facebook, emails and texts to encourage each other and share their struggles and successes, which is vital in achieving their goal, he said.
TV segments showing Greenidge and his team training have aired throughout the year on CNN, and recently he was filmed in Malibu for a mock triathlon.
One of his biggest challenges has been overcoming his fear of swimming, which he wrote about for CNN. He did some research and learned that many African-Americans shy away from swimming. (Seventy percent of African-American children can’t swim, compared to nearly 60 percent of Hispanic children and 42 percent of white children, according to USA Swimming.) He has found swimming to be much easier on his joints compared to other exercises.
Greenidge has become something of a local celebrity since appearing on the show.
“I walk down the street in Atlanta and people say, ‘Hey! I saw you on CNN,’” he said.
After the triathlon, he plans to maintain his daily exercise routine and to get his community talking about the importance of taking care of our bodies. He has already started the conversation with the Greatest Minds Society, a campus organization he founded as a forum for students to discuss the impact of race, class and gender on educational access and achievement. The group won the university’s Royal Flame Award for outstanding diversity program out of 250 student organizations last April.
He wants people of all ages to make their health and exercise a priority.
“It’s amazing what an hour a day can do,” he said.
Watch Greenidge’s interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta →