Triathlete Balances Work, Family, Health

Triathlete Balances Work, Family, Health

Living up to commitments, a Herndon father strives for national championship.

Five days a week as the sunlight barely begins to crawl over the Town of Herndon, Grant Street resident Craig Ellis begins stretching as he prepares to leave his house for an hour-long jog or bike ride through the heart of town.

Part of professional conditioning to get him prepared for the U.S. National Halfmax Triathlon Championship on Sept. 15, Craig Ellis finds that the early morning routine mixed in with an evening session fit best into his daily schedule, which includes full-time work as a computer systems architect, husband and father of two.

"It’s definitely a challenge," he said while standing in his kitchen with his wife as his children ate breakfast before going to their last day of school. "I’m not going to lie to you and say that some things haven’t been sacrificed."

"Like the yard work," said his wife Samantha Ellis with a laugh.

But the early morning runs, which typically start around 6:30 a.m., still allows Craig Ellis time with a more pressing responsibility — his children.

"It’s great to be out early in the morning and get the run in, and I’m back by 7:30 and they’re getting ready for school," he said of spending time with his seven-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son. "We can get a chance to be with each other before they leave, and that’s really a great opportunity for me."

FINDING BALANCE in life and living up to commitments through his fitness goals is important for Craig Ellis, who has been juggling the workout regimen with his other responsibilities since qualifying for the national championship in late April.

Craig Ellis, who settled in the Town of Herndon after moving to the region from his native South Africa in 1999, has been a cyclist for nearly his entire life.

After recovering from an extended bout with a gastrointestinal disorder that stretched for more than two years — including some hospital visits — Craig Ellis remembers watching friends competing in the Ironman Triathlon competition. The Reston Soccer Association coach and computer systems architect was inspired.

"I looked at that and said ‘why not me?’" he said. "I had been sick for quite some time and just wanted to get myself back into shape and feeling good about my body and healthy."

Within the first several months, Craig Ellis, who openly admits to having a strong dislike of running, had qualified for a position to run alongside as many as 1,000 athletes at the U.S. national championship triathlon outside of St. Louis this fall.

"The guy is an incredible athlete but it takes a lot of training, a lot of time and a lot of sacrifice," said Brian Crow, a personal trainer at Worldgate Sport and Health, who designed Craig Ellis’ workout routine. "I think that this is an excellent example of when, if you put your heart into something that you can really do anything."

RISING NATIONAL TRENDS towards obesity and lack of physical activity have been confusing to Craig Ellis, who said that his life has been far more enriching since becoming more physically active after a period of relative inaction.

"My motivation purely is to just stay healthy and stay in shape," Craig Ellis said. "I remember how much it hurt my family when I was in the hospital, and I realized that it had more of a negative impact on my kids, so I decided that I wanted to make a change when I could."

And that commitment is what Craig Ellis and his wife, who is a personal trainer, have tried to impart to their kids.

"Instead of just lounging around on a Saturday, we’ll go out and kick the soccer [ball] around," he said. "We just try and show them with our examples that if they dedicate themselves they can accomplish anything they want."

Finding time for exercise is something that nearly everyone can do despite often busy and tiring schedules, provided they find something that keeps them stimulated, Craig Ellis added.

"There’s all these excuses where people say, ‘oh, I’ve had a long day of work’ or ‘I want to sleep in,’" he said. "But if you really find that motivation and make [exercise] fun … it will keep you motivated."

THE OVERALL APPROACH to life and the commitment that Craig Ellis shows to his passion have been inspiring to Herndon resident Mike Volpe, a co-worker and friend of Craig Ellis.

"To commit yourself the way that he does every day after work, it’s a real challenge," Volpe said. "I think he likes to compete and push himself and he’s always been very into fitness ... I think it’s just a natural fit for him."

Still, Craig Ellis said that he wouldn’t be able to do it without the support from his family.

"My ‘to do’ list gets pushed aside sometimes," he said, " but I have a very understanding wife and she understands that I get out there and do my own thing that makes me happy."

In the end, it’s all about finding fulfillment.

"I’m just the average guy, doing my thing and getting out there and exercising," he said. "I can’t say that I’m perfect, but I just do what I can to be happy."