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Fit to fight: how to find motivation

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- As the new Air Force physical training test centers on creating a fitness lifestyle, Airmen are finding different sources of motivation sustain their desired fitness level.

Whether Airmen prefer to achieve their goals by using a personal trainer, attending a fitness class, working with a wingman or alone, they must look to themselves and find a reason to continue working out, said Stephanie O'Connell, Bellamy Fitness Center nationally certified personal trainer.

Everyone has their own personal stimulation that drives them toward a fitness goal, said Ms. O'Connell.

Go it alone

"Each and every Airman must find their own motivation and ultimately use that to determine what workout style is best suited for them," said Chief Master Sgt. Clifton G. Cole, 28th Bomb Wing command chief. "I prefer to exercise on my own by challenging myself to constantly improve after I reach certain goals."

As a former personal trainer, Chief Cole said his favorite exercises are squats. However, he doesn't limit himself to certain exercises or equipment in the fitness center.

"I like to try new things and expand my knowledge of exercise and fitness," said Chief Cole. "Seeing a new piece of equipment at the fitness center motivates me to learn how to properly use it, and how it can benefit my workout."

Chief Cole explains the greatest benefit to fitness comes from finding a life balance. Managing diet, exercise and sleep allows Airmen to sustain their fitness lifestyle over an extended period of time.

He sustains his own fitness lifestyle by exercising every morning at the fitness center.

"I can't expect Airmen to develop and maintain a fitness lifestyle if I don't lead by example and workout on my own," said Chief Cole.

Find a trainer

However, some Airmen aren't able to motivate themselves and need the motivation of a trained fitness professional. The fitness center offers the personal training services of Ms. O'Connell.

"People who use me as a personal trainer have access to my entire fitness knowledge base," she said. "They will exercise with the proper form, thereby decreasing injury and increasing results."

Ms. O'Connell also explained having a personal trainer allows Airmen to have their progress charted and measured.

There is also a level of accountability when someone uses a trainer, said Ms. O'Connell. They will be less likely to skip a session, knowing that it's already been paid for.

"I also get people excited about the exercise," she said. "I motivate you to want to come in."

Ms. O'Connell is experienced in handling the individual needs and goals of the people she trains. She promotes setting realistic goals and working toward them.

"Sometimes it's good to set smaller goals," she said. "It allows people to see results faster, and stay motivated longer."

Take a class

Another way for Airmen to stay motivated in their development of a fitness lifestyle is to take an exercise class. Senior Airman Zachary Christy, 28th Force Support Squadron fitness specialist, teaches several free classes at the fitness center.

"Taking a class allows people to be motivated by trained instructors," said Airman Christy. "They keep people from falling into a rut and just going through the motions when they work out."

Airman Christy said another benefit of taking a fitness class is tapping into the competitive spirit most people have.

"People are naturally competitive," he said. "When someone does more repetitions than you it motivates you to push yourself to the limit."

According to Airman Christy, his favorite class to teach is boxing. It gives Airmen a total body conditioning that is hard to find anywhere else.

"Boxing conditions the cardiovascular system, develops muscular endurance and strength and has both aerobic and anaerobic properties," he said. "If you train yourself to be a boxer then a PT test will seem easy."

Along with boxing, Airman Christy encourages Airmen to try out several different classes to see what works best for them; classes are offered daily at the fitness center.

Wingman concept

For some Airmen taking a class doesn't provide the one-on-one motivation they need to sustain a healthy lifestyle. Working out with a wingman could be the best option for them.

"Personally, I'm more motivated when I have a friend or wingman by my side, pushing me to do more," said Staff Sgt. Patricia TrejoSanchez, 28th Bomb Wing executive assistant to the command chief.

Sergeant TrejoSanchez said she feels more comfortable doing innovative workouts with a wingman. It keeps any feelings of self-consciousness to a minimum.

According to Sergeant TrejoSanchez, those self-conscious feelings can be strong enough to keep Airmen out of the gym altogether.

"Most people who are new to the gym may feel like other people are watching and judging them when they workout," Sergeant TrejoSanchez said. "The reality is everyone in the gym is trying to improve themselves, not judge others."

Sergeant TrejoSanchez said having a wingman there as motivation has helped her maintain her fitness level over an extended period of time.

"I work out best when I have a wingman or take a class because it becomes competitive," said an Airman who used to struggle with their PT test. "My real motivation to get to the gym comes from the fact that if I'm not fit to fight I become a burden to other Airmen."

Regardless of what an Airman's motivation style is, the important thing is to get into a routine to develop a fitness lifestyle, said Ms. O'Connell.

"The Air Force provides its Airmen with the vehicle to develop a fitness lifestyle," said Chief Cole. "But, the success of that lifestyle depends on the level of commitment and motivation each Airman brings with them."

For more information about the Bellamy Fitness Center and the services they offer, call (605) 385-2266.

Editor's note: This story is part of a series.