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Fit to fight: built for speed

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- With the new physical training test focusing more on the mile and a half run, Airmen are utilizing programs and workouts created by the Bellamy Fitness Center staff to improve their run time and overall cardiovascular health.
The fitness center staff stresses the importance of Airmen coming to them with goals that can be used to create an individually tailored workout. 

One of the best ways to train, when your goal is to improve your run time, is to train for double, said Senior Airman Zachary Christy, 28th Force Support Squadron fitness specialist. If you train yourself to run three miles, then running a mile and a half for your PT test will be easy. 

Airman Christy encourages Airmen to build themselves up to the best three mile time they can get. By going on distance runs as well as shorter, more intense, runs Airmen can see more improvement in their overall fitness level and performance. 

Airmen can also supplement various activities in place of running, such as boxing, using the elliptical machines, swimming or taking one of the cardio-oriented classes offered by the fitness center. These activities confuse the body and allow for fitness improvement. 

"It's a very good thing to confuse your body," said Senior Airman Tamiya Skinner, 28 FSS fitness specialist. "When you stop varying workouts, your body hits a plateau and won't see any more improvement." 

The body can get used to any given workout if it is repeated two or more times a week. By running shorter distances at a higher intensity during one workout, and then running a longer distance at a lighter intensity the next, the body is able to continue to grow and develop its fitness level. 

However, cardiovascular activity is only a part of the overall fitness plan to improve an Airman's run time. And while it is good to run every other day, since running daily can cause unhealthy strain on the knees, the muscles that are impacted during a run must also be conditioned and developed. 

"Everyone thinks that to improve their run time they need to run all the time," said Airman Skinner. "You also need to strengthen the muscles that help you run, such as your quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus muscles, abdominals, back muscles, calves and shins." 

Airman Skinner recommends exercises like lunges, squats, calf raises and toe taps to strengthen the leg muscles. A plan that alternates between weightlifting, other strength training exercises and cardio will generate the best results based on the goals Airmen have. The plan would focus on a rotational schedule that allows muscles one to two days to recover. 

"You shouldn't work the same muscles two days in a row," said Airman Skinner. "All muscle groups fall into that guideline, even the abdominals. People sometimes think that abs can be exercised every day, but they require the same recovery time other muscle groups need." 

Another misconception about the abdominals comes from the belief that they have nothing to do with running. Abdominal and back muscles are vital to stabilizing people as they run. 

"People tend to think that the abs can be strengthened by only doing sit-ups, but that exercise targets only one section of the abdominals," said Airman Skinner. "And if you use the toe-hold bar to assist your sit-ups you are actually working your hip flexor muscles more than your abs." 

Abdominal workouts should focus on exercising all parts of the abs, said Airman Skinner. Sit-ups generally target the middle part of the abs. Crunches focus on the upper abdominals, and leg raises or leg lifts target the lower abs. 

To supplement the abdominal workout, and improve stability, exercises that target back muscles are essential. Back extensions are exercises where an Airman lies on their stomach and raises their upper body off the ground. The fitness center is trained to offer explanations and demonstrations of many different types of workouts. 

In order for an Airman to achieve maximum results they should combine the abdominal, back and leg workouts with solid, good-form repetitions. 

"Your repetitions depend on what your fitness goals are," said Airman Skinner. "Generally, the people that fall under the eight to 10 repetition range want to strengthen and enlarge a muscle group. The 12 to 15 range is for slimming and toning muscles." 

Along with doing proper repetitions, Airmen shouldn't be afraid to safely use heavier weights when working out, said Airman Skinner. Females and males are built differently in this respect. Some males are able to bulk up more because of the amount of testosterone in their bodies. Females aren't designed that way, she said. 

Airmen should also budget their time spent working out, said Airman Christy. Working out for longer than an hour can have an effect on your form, and in some cases cause injuries. 

In addition to working out for too long, fad-exercise can also prove to be detrimental to an Airman's fitness goals. 

"Don't buy into some of the get-fit-quick products you see on television," said Airman Skinner. "Most of the time they are just gimmicks. Sometimes, with fitness, old-school is the best way to go." 

Another gimmick Airmen should be wary of is the trend of "fad-dieting." Fad-dieting usually restricts a person from a certain food group. The human body needs all of the food groups in order to function properly, according to Airman Skinner. 

Airmen should subscribe to eating every two hours in order to increase their metabolism. This philosophy of eating healthy, balanced foods in increments of two hours at a time is designed to bolster energy levels and fuel the metabolism. In effect, it can actually promote weight loss and management. 

"Let's say for breakfast you eat oatmeal and egg whites. In another two hours you can snack on a small portion of almonds. Two hours after that you can have a balanced lunch and keep your metabolism fueled and your energy level high," she said. 

"As long as you are eating what I call a 'clean diet,' which means excluding food and drink with high fructose corn syrups, artificial fruit juices and sodas, and instead eating vegetables, fruits and lean meat, then you are fueling your body with the right kind of foods to help you reach your fitness goals." 

Those fitness goals, whether tied to passing the new PT test or creating an overall healthier lifestyle, can be reached by utilizing the services provided by the fitness center staff, said Airman Skinner. 

"We are constantly learning about nutrition and fitness, and we encourage everyone to come in and see what we can do for them. And we don't just know the information, we live it. Everyone on staff works out and eats right so we can offer the best advice to people based on our personal experiences with fitness programs both new and old." 

"Fitness is ever-changing," said Airman Skinner. "It's like a computer: every day you see or learn something new. And each person is built differently. One person's workout may not work for someone else. But, that's what we at the fitness center are trained to do. We develop individually tailored workouts for people looking to achieve their goals or improve their fitness lifestyle." 

For those interested in learning more about the Bellamy Fitness Center and the services they offer, contact them at (605) 385-2266.