Never too busy: Paxton resident, mother of six competing in triathlons, losing over 100 pounds in process

PAXTON -- There is always time to get in shape, attests Paxton resident Nicole O’Dell.

With a full-time job at Human Kinetics in Champaign and six children – including 7-year-old triplets Megan, Logan and Ryleigh – O’Dell said there was a time when she had a hard time trying to get herself into shape.

As she states in her blog fitandbusylife.com, “before my triplets were born, I was very fit and active. I didn’t mind a few extra steps and often found ways to get some. We’d purposely pick the parking space at the back of the lot or take the stairs rather than the elevator.

Well, in the years following the birth of my triplets, I lost that bounce in my step. I started circling the parking lot to find the closest spot. When I’d see someone headed to the row I was in, I’d wait if I suspected that person was a close-parker, too. And the stairs? Are you kidding me? Isn’t that why God made elevators?”

Along with her triplets, O’Dell also had to raise Erik (24 years old), Natalie (18 years old) and Emily (15 years old). She also had to balance work as Human Kinetics’ managing editor, and is going to be the organization’s marketing manager starting in August.

“I’ve been home with kids for a long time, and I just progressively gained weight and tried different diets and tried to get healthier,” O’Dell said. “It was really hard forcing myself to work out. It’s just about getting over that hump of discipline and making myself do what was difficult until it became easier, and then the results started happening.”

Over the past year, O’Dell has found the time as she has trained to run in three triathlons in four months, losing over 100 pounds in the process.

“I had this focus that I wanted to do triathlons,” O’Dell said. “I learned about allergies, and did an elimination diet to figure out what I was sensitive to and just started eating whole foods, exercising more and building up more. It’s just something I’ve wanted to do.

“I just wanted to make the change, and as I started to see the weight loss results and experienced what that meant to the exercise I was doing, so as I was losing weight, it was getting easier to exercise, and I could go farther and go faster, and then I started building my goals to give me an idea of what I could do.”

In mid-June, O’Dell competed in the 2016 Gildan Espirit de She Triathlon in Naperville, a sprint-distance triathlon consisting of a 0.5-mile swim, a 13.1-mile bike ride and a 5K run. She ended the race with a pace time of 11:44 minutes per mile.

With the finish line in sight, I kicked in the last bit of energy I had and made a strong finish with a smile on my face,” O’Dell stated in her blog. “I heard the announcer say, ‘Nicole O’Dell, Paxton, Illinois,’ and that did it. I about collapsed with emotion as the tears filled my eyes. I stepped over to the side to try to collect myself, and a race volunteer approached, the concern evident on her face.

“She asked me if I needed medical help. I told her that I was just fine physically, that my tears were emotional. I could tell she wasn’t really sure I was okay, so I said, ‘I lost 110 pounds to be here today, and it’s just too much to take in.’”

O’Dell will run the Life Time Chicago Triathlon, which is also a sprint-distance competition, on August 28.  

In September, O’Dell will compete in an international-length triathlon, in Litchfield. An international-length triathlon consists of a one-mile swim, a 30-mile bike ride and a 10K run.

“I like all of the disciplines of triathlons,” O’Dell said. “It’s definitely a challenge to do all of that back-to-back. The different lengths of the different triathlons that are available just add different challenges, too, in different ways. Sometimes, I think the shorter ones are harder because you go faster for a shorter period of time, whereas in the longer ones, you have more time to ease in and pace yourself.”

O’Dell was a swimmer in high school and grade-school park district while growing up in the Chicagoland area.

“I’ve always enjoyed that as a form of exercise,” O’Dell said.

O’Dell is no stranger to the sport of running, either, as she ran in the Illinois Marathon’s Mini I-Challenge – the 5K and 10K – last April, finishing the 5K in a time of 34:18 and the 10K in a time of 1:14.15.

“I really love to bike, and I like to go long distances. Thirty miles would be like a fun Saturday afternoon. I’ve just started running as I’ve been losing weight and adding exercise, and decided I liked that, too,” O’Dell said. “Putting all three of those together was just a fun goal to have.”

For her training, O’Dell swims laps once a week for, time permitting, 2,000-2,500 meters at the Urbana Indoor Aquatic Center.

She also bikes twice a week, sometimes biking from her home in Paxton to doing circles around Bayles Lake. O’Dell also runs three times a week at places including the Guyot Track facility at Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School or on the treadmills at Nordic Total Fitness in Paxton.

“It’s nice to have so many options because it can kind of fit into whatever I have going on,” O’Dell said. “I just kind of balance it depending on what my schedule is. I have a training schedule I’m on right now because of the upcoming triathlons, so I’m building miles to try to get to that point so when it’s time for the race, I could finish.”

This week, her bike rides have been for 15 miles, her swimming sessions for two miles and runs for five miles. In two weeks, O’Dell said she will try to build herself up for eight-mile runs and 20-mile bike rides.

“It builds so that you peak at the right time for the race,” O’Dell said.

Through her training over the past year, she said she is amazed to see her before and after photos.

“It’s pretty profound just to even remind myself of how it’s been,” O’Dell said.

For anyone still hesitating to find time to get themselves into shape, O’Dell said there is still hope.

“I’m busy. That’s the biggest thing that I kept telling myself – I was too busy to worry about it. I just felt like all those things are a priority, and I didn’t want to give anything up, so I didn’t have time to exercise and worry about healthy eating, (which) takes time and extra money. I just thought it wasn’t the right time in my life to even worry about it,” O’Dell said.

“As I started making time, I realized that I really didn’t have time not to do it because of the increased energy and the way I felt better about myself. I seem to be able to get more things done the more organized I get, and it became a different sort of priority for lifestyle and health. You still can live a fit life in the middle of whatever your busy life contains. That’s the main thing – don’t let yourself think you’re so busy that you can’t make it happen because you definitely can.”

It helps to make a plan for getting back in shape, O’Dell said.

“The biggest thing for me is planning ahead. If I wait until tomorrow to try to figure out when I’m going to fit in my workout or what types of foods I’m going to prepare for me and the family, it’s much more likely that I’m going to skip it or I’m going to go through a drive-thru window,” O’Dell said, “but when I plan ahead today to make sure that all those things are taken care of for tomorrow and set in motion, then it’s much easier to carry it out than make it slip away.”

Not only has O’Dell seen the results for herself, but she has seen her example passed along to her children as well, as her triplets competed in the Paxton 5K Color Run last Monday.

“They’re making better choices,” O’Dell said. “They’re healthier and more active. They wanted to do it because they’ve watched me on my journey. Those benefits far outweigh the costs to my time and my schedule.”

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