Fitness lies I told myself

DOBBINS AIR RESERVE BASE, Ga. -- As we prepare for the revised Air Force fitness testing program, I've spent the last couple of months educating myself on diet and fitness -- subjects I thought I knew plenty about, I was mistaken.

Throughout my career, I've prepared for and passed each physical training test. Although I never scored high, I felt good because I always passed, and I told myself I'd done my best. I was wrong. I'd actually done just enough to get by and made excuses for not doing better. I thought I'd take this opportunity to share some of the lies I discovered I was telling myself. Some of them may sound familiar to you.

1. The weight standard/waist measurement (take your pick) just isn't fair to tall/big guys like me, we're "big-boned."

I've heard people say this many times over the years and spoke those words myself. I finally had to admit they are not true. I am not "big-boned"; I am "big-spooned." That's right, I like to eat more than I like to exercise and I can eat faster than I can run. One day I realized I was 29 pounds heavier than when I enlisted. I didn't have 29 more pounds of bone, just 29 more pounds of lunch hanging from the bones I already had. It is a simple math problem, 3,500 calories is roughly equal to one pound. If you take in 3,500 extra, you gain a pound; work off 3,500 more than you take in, and you lose a pound. My weight and waist went up as my intake went up and exercise went down. One more thing, there is no waist measurement in the new fitness program, it is an abdominal circumference. The measurement is taken above the iliac crest (the top of the hip bones). The only bone structure there is the spinal column. I don't have a 38 inch spine. The good news is my weight and waist (and abdominal circumference) are coming down as my consumption drops and my exercise goes up, yours will too.

2. I can run for a long time, but I can't run fast.

I've always enjoyed jogging, but never worked on speed. I like long slow runs. When preparing for my test, I usually added an extra mile or two. Sadly, it is impossible to get faster by running slowly, even if you run slowly for a long time. My local health and wellness center helped out with a running clinic. They provided helpful information on selecting proper shoes for my running style and form as well as instruction for adding interval training and other speed work to my routine. I am not the fastest runner on base, but my times are steadily getting better.

3. I've never been a "strength guy" and with my "bad back" getting max points on the pushup portion of the test is simply out of reach.

While it is true I have never been particularly strong, it turns out this is not genetic. I find pushups, crunches and other forms of strength training to be pretty boring. Therefore, I seldom did any. When I did try, I soon felt pain in my back and stopped. What I've learned is that my back is actually doing quite well. I lacked good core conditioning. After reading an article on how to use core conditioning and strength training to ensure good support to the spine, I decided to give it an honest try. I was very happy to find both my crunches and pushups improved considerably. Best of all, when I have to stop, it is usually not from pain, but from muscle fatigue. I am not where I want to be yet, but the goal is in sight. If you are having problems in this area, go see the HAWC or the fitness center staff. They will provide help to get you started.

4. It is very important to get ready to take my PT Test.

This is perhaps the biggest lie of all. It isn't important to get ready for a PT test, it is important to get fit, period. I don't want to be "fit to test" or even to just be "fit to fight." I want to, no, I need to be "fit for life." I want a long, healthy life unmarred by preventable weight-related medical problems like diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. I don't want to keep growing larger, especially since that impacts my ability to keep growing older. I love my wife and daughters and I adore my grandkids. I am determined to spend as much time with them as I can.

For me, this is a journey. I am determined to spend the next six to eight months investing in better health to achieve my highest PT score yet, and to be at or below the weight I was when I enlisted. What is more, I want to develop sustainable fitness habits which will last a lifetime. If after reading this you find yourself feeling the same way, stop by the HAWC and sign up for a class or two. Learn how to take better care of yourself. Give yourself and your family the gift of good health. Let the Air Force fitness program motivate you to take better care of yourself.