My biggest struggle during my time in the military was physical fitness. Specifically, it was maintaining weight standards, but it’s all tied together.
My first posts on this blog all seemed to focus around women who did things it often seems like no mere mortal could do. Yet, there they were. I love writing about them because they have done the things that I believed women were capable of doing, even if I had no actual proof, since I couldn’t actually do it.
I know I was not alone in my struggles, so today’s post is going to be about physical fitness.
One of the first things to think about is that command PT is less about getting into shape and more about team building. I’m sure there are a lot of commands out there that want to go hard and really get a workout, but when there are so many different fitness levels, you get three groups of people.
1. There are those who feel like they’re dying because it is so hard. While chances are they won’t, many feel like they will literally die.
2. There are those who feel frustrated because they’re not getting a workout at all. They feel like they are just wasting time where they could really be “getting some” in the gym.
3. Then there are those in the middle who feel tired, but not like they couldn’t handle it.
What that creates is an environment where nobody gets what they need, unless the “team-building” aspect is pushed instead of calling it a workout. Those who consider it their daily workout are setting themselves up for failure.
“Sometimes command PT can be so limiting and you don’t give it your 100 percent because it is so limiting,” said Navy Senior Chief Terrina Driscoll, who teaches Zumba in the evenings. “Then you feel like you worked out that day, but you probably burned like 200 to 300 calories.”
Driscoll added that after the workout, someone might decide they deserve a treat and will proceed to consume a 1,300 calorie meal.
Considering that person only burned 300 calories, they are doomed to fail.
Although I was guilty of it during my time in the military, preparing for the semi-annual physical fitness test a few weeks, or even two months, ahead of time is not only unhealthy, but also dangerous.
Physical fitness has to be a year-round goal, and it involves more than just going to the gym. Also, nobody is promising it is going to be easy.
“It’s nutrition. I know that in my bones, but it’s so hard,” said Driscoll.
Driscoll said there were times in her life where she maintained her motivation and would do two-a-days consistently. She would get up and workout and then go again after work. She said she would see a little bit of change, but working out alone only helped control weight gain. She was able to maintain her weight, but not much else.
“I’ve seen the most dramatic results when I’ve changed my eating,” said Driscoll. “I’m not going to be able to find more hours in my day to work out. It’s not possible. So, I’ve go to do something else, and that’s where the nutrition comes in.”
Driscoll told me that 2012 was probably her best weight loss fitness year. During that time, she was drinking a lot of protein shakes. Time passed, and as with most “diets,” she eventually grew tired of having shakes all the time, and the weight came back.
“I’ve come to the realization that I’ve got to eat food that’s good for me,” said Driscoll.
She told me about a friend, CeCe, an Air Force veteran, who started a clean eating program with her daughter in addition to increasing her workout routine. She told me about how CeCe’s workouts got easier as she lost weight, which allowed her to push further.
In Driscoll’s words (and tone) the results were “dra-ma-tic.”
“When you look at her, every piece of her body is hard,” said Driscoll. “Her arms are solid. Her abs are solid. I’m in awe of what she has been able to accomplish. She has definitely put in the work.”
The most important piece of advice both Driscoll and CeCe pass on is this.
“You have to want to be healthy and be fit more than you want to go to Burger King or eat junk food,” said Driscoll.
To avoid a plateau in fitness, as well as keeping it interesting, Driscoll suggests switching up your workout routine.
While she teaches Zumba, she also attends conventions, where she attends classes taught by the masters. She also does Boot Camp and Spin classes. Another fun suggestion she gave was trampoline. That last one is something I would personally love to try.
Zumba is one of those workouts that people often associate with women, although its founder is Alberto “Beto” Perez.
Yoga is another workout that people typically associate with women, although now the military and Veterans Affairs are using yoga as one treatment for PTSD.
This is a way that both women and men can add self-awareness to their physical and nutritional fitness.
Annamaria Kenny is an Air Force veteran and teaches several fitness classes for Morale, Welfare, and Recreation at Fort Detrick, Maryland. Among those classes are yoga, circuit training, step, and weights.
“I love it,” Kenny said. “It makes me feel good too.”
Kenny said she tries to incorporate some part of military training into some of her classes, especially the circuit training. Teaching on an Army base, and with the Army turning to functional fitness testing, Kenny has incorporated some of that into her classes as well.
That’s good news for everyone considering that the functional fitness may bring an end to gender standards during physical fitness tests.
In addition to teaching classes, Kenny also serves as a role model for what a woman can achieve when she sets her mind to it.
“I’m 63. When they look at me, they say, ‘I want your arms,’ and I say ‘Well, I’ve been doing this for years. So, I set an example, and they want it – pretty much setting the example, and just taking to them as another woman.”
When it comes down to it, sometimes that is the best thing we can do. If you are the person who has trouble finding the motivation to succeed, find yourself a role model like Kenny or CeCe.
If you are the physical fitness model, I hope you are out there setting the example and trying to encourage other women to jump on your bandwagon and go for it. We need the women like you.