Health and Fitness

  • Published
  • By Maj. Diane Burch
  • Chief, 439th Airlift Wing Military Equal Opportunity Office
Fitness. For some, just that word is enough for you to break out in a sweat and cause heart palpitations, but in my opinion that is one of the most important words we know. Fitness builds the foundation for our lives. Some of you may hope that the renewed emphasis on health and fitness is just a passing fad and maybe you can even wait it out. But fitness can mean so much more than the number of push-ups you can do in a minute or how fast you can run a mile and half.

Fitness is a way of life. It's the foundation of what makes us resilient. If you are not physically and mentally prepared to take on the challenges ahead you are already starting at the back of the pack.

OK, OK. I'll admit I enjoy fitness. I love knowing that I am healthy enough to be able to do whatever activity I feel like. Fitness keeps me sane. It's a gift. If it wasn't for the time I put aside every day to dedicate to myself I would not have made it through some of the hardest events in my life.

I didn't just wake up one day and say, "I am going to be fit today." Rather, my fitness has grown with me over the years. It's like an old friend that I can always count on to get me through what lies ahead. During my years in the military I have answered countless questions about health and fitness. I don't have a secret formula. I'll share my top five pieces of advice for living a fit and healthy life.

1. Everyone is a runner. Yes, you read that correctly. You are a runner. You may not be able to go out today and run a marathon, but that doesn't mean you aren't a runner. Millions of people in the United States alone cannot even fathom running a mile and a half, so go ahead and be proud of that. As with anything it is the first step that is the hardest. You're already past that. If you start believing you're a runner, not a jogger or a plodder or whatever else we call our attempts at running, you will become more confident in your abilities.

2. Practice like you play. If we could guarantee that every day we exercise was going to be 60 degrees, partly cloudy, with a tailwind, then that would not be an issue. If your luck is anything like mine then the day of your PT test will be too cold, too hot, too windy, too...don't expect to be able to run in the heat or cold if you've never practiced that before.

3. Fuel your body. This one may seem like a no-brainer, but as they say, "you are what you eat." There is no magical formula or diet that is going to get you there. Your body needs a good mix of carbohydrates, protein, fruits, vegetables, dairy and yes, fat, to live, so ensure you are giving yourself the fuel you need for success. If you don't intend to eat that way for the rest of your life (ie. no carbs, no fats, only soy, no glueten etc.), then don't do it in the first place. You are only setting yourself up for failure. Most importantly, drink water! As the human body is on average 57 percent water, water can rightly be called the liquid of life.

4. Vary your exercises. If you want to run fast and all you do is run, you will be able to run, but you will not be able to run to your fullest potential. All the muscles in our bodies need to be worked, so varying your exercise is key. Over the years I have become a firm believer in cross-training. Strength training, cardiovascular training, and stretching all need to be a part of your fitness routine to reach your fullest potential. So, go ahead and try that yoga class. It won't be as bad as you think.

5. The 5 Ps. I will never forget sitting in an auditorium on the first day of basic training while someone was barking the 5 Ps to us; Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Those 5 Ps have always stuck with me and definitely apply to health and fitness. Plan your workouts, plan your meals, plan your rest days. You need to have a plan, and most importantly, before you get to the gym.

As the new year pushes forward and our resolution of going to the gym every day may have gone by the wayside, take this opportunity to reassess. Start with just one small change. Soon you will be on a path to a healthier you.