Tag Archives: running

No Fatties

Your run is not the proper form. Those steps don’t count toward completing the mile and a half.

If you aren’t closely associated with the Air Force, you may not know about our focus on physical fitness. The service has gone to great lengths in the last ten years to push our Airmen to be physically ready for the rigors of deployments and demanding operations tempo.

We used to be known as the Chair Force. (Maybe we still are.) It was accepted wisdom that if you wanted a physical challenge, you joined the Army or Marines. If you had brains and wanted an easy job with high quality of life, you joined the Air Force or the Navy.

Then, after September 11th, we started deploying with members from other branches, and the Air Force couldn’t cut it. Our Chief of Staff took drastic measures to turn that trend around. I totally understand the reasons for that change, and the results have been a clear benefit.

We’ve been pushing hard for physical fitness ever since. We’re not the Marines or anything, of course. But God help you if you don’t meet standards.

Now here’s the reason for the Thursday Tirade:

Though PT is a core component of being your best as an Airman, it’s not the most important. Yet we often treat it as if it is.

This isn’t just a fattie whining because I like to eat bacon. (Seriously, though. More bacon!)

My frustration is how we apply fitness as a determining factor for things completely unrelated to it.

If you’re failing your PT test, you cannot get promoted, because you don’t meet standards. Makes sense.  You can’t reenlist. I get that – we want to make sure we retain people who can and will keep up. You can’t attend professional military education, because that’s part of progressing in your career, which is going to end fast if you can’t pass the test. Sure, that’s understandable.

No, seriously. How can you be counted on to help disabled kids in your bloated condition?

Turns out there’s a lot of other things you can’t do.You can’t volunteer at the Distinguished Visitor tent for the big base Air Show. To that, I say, “meh.” I get it. We’re not going to put someone busting the seams of their uniform in front of our generals. No surprise there.

But what about helping disabled children experience the Air Show through the Make-a-Wish foundation? Nope, you can’t volunteer for that either. Well, you can, but you have to send in PT test scores. And the only reason you should have to do that is if it affects whether you can volunteer. So the unspoken message is clear: fatties need not apply.

Because disabled kids are probably going to get a bad impression of the Air Force if the person who helps them can’t do enough push-ups, or has a 40 inch waist. Right.

The straw that broke the blogger’s back and moved this into Tirade Thursday territory came a week ago. A sergeant in our squadron was driving off-base and witnessed an auto accident. He stopped, rushed to the first vehicle, and confirmed that the passengers were okay. Then he went to the second vehicle, an SUV that rolled over (if memory serves). He ensured the kids in the back were fine, and then started using the Self-Aid Buddy Care medical training the Air Force taught him in order to treat the severely injured mother of said children. Then he directed paramedics to the scene and explained all he had done to treat the mother prior to their arrival.

We give medals for that sort of thing. It’s a way of saying, “What you did that day in that situation was awesome. Good job.”

There was a comment on his achievement medal submission. This individual had a two PT failures in the last two years or so. Someone asked whether we would need to put in a letter to justify a medal for such an individual. We thought that was ridiculous, because we’re talking about “on this particular day, you did something phenomenal,” not “Over the last three years, you’ve done good.”

But we asked the question.

And the answer was, “Yes, please submit a letter to justify this.”

“I’m sorry, I know you responded with honor and selflessness in an emergency, and you possibly saved the life of an injured mother while her kids were looking on… but you didn’t meet standards a couple years ago, so… how about a nice pat on the back? (Oh, and put down the fork.)”

I would think this is exactly what we want Airmen with PT failures to do. Get involved in the community. Help some disabled kids have a special day. Save a life here or there as the need arises.  Refocus priorities and go serve others. Think about something bigger than themselves, pun intended. (I’m fat. I get to make fat jokes.)

But apparently that’s not what the Air Force wants.

I’m not saying fitness should not be a priority. But let’s keep it in perspective a little bit, please.

Fitness Friday

Welcome to the new category, Fitness Friday. This is the first such post, and here’s what to expect: I am no fitness guru with a wealth of information about how to squeeze out that last little bit of performance or lose that last percentage of body fat to meet your goal. I was a certified indoor cycling instructor and taught classes for a couple years, but I’m no expert.

We love the hills!
Good times. Bring a gel seat.

However, I have lots of time in the gym spent thinking about exercise and how it relates to the rest of life. There are lessons that apply not only to physical fitness, but to mental and emotional health, and even spirituality. And the first lesson is:                Fitness is about me, not anyone else.

No one runs my race for me; no one else can push me to my maximum effort. How fast or slow another person runs means nothing for my fitness. I am only competing with myself.

When the Air Force gives me a fitness test, it doesn’t matter how well everyone else can do push-ups. It doesn’t matter if someone next to me can’t do a single sit-up. If that guy over there has a bulging waist that causes him to fail, that doesn’t affect my test.

                I’m up against me.

Competition can be healthy, don’t get me wrong. It can spur a person to new heights of performance. It can push us past what we might have thought of as our limit. Athletes strive to be the very best, with good reason.

But when I exercise, it’s not about everyone else’s condition. It’s not about how strong the next guy is or how fast the woman is doing sprints. It’s not about how much better I am, either. Comparing myself to others is silly, because everyone has a different fitness level.

Challenge yourself. Push your limits.

I have to find my motivation and push myself. I have to make my workout worth the time I’m spending. What matters is this: Am I challenging myself to be better than I was before? Am I running my race with 100% effort? Am I lifting weights that challenge my muscles and make me stronger? Am I straining against my personal limitations?

This applies to mental fitness as well. Am I always learning? Am I growing, developing my skills and my awareness of the world around me? Or am I content to remain ignorant?

Spiritually, am I pushing myself toward intimacy with God? Or am I stagnant, content to rest on what I’ve done in the past? Am I like a former Olympian, sitting in the gym, thinking and bragging about the glory days of what I once did, but growing weak through present inactivity?

Paul wrote to one of his churches about “some of those who commend themselves.” He said, “when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding” (2 Corinthians 10:12 NASB).

What he’s saying is, when we look at each other and say, “I’m faster than him, I’m smarter than her, I’m more patient than him, I’m more spiritual than her,” we miss the point.

Sprint it out!
Let us run with endurance the race set before us!

It’s about living at our personal maximum potential. At the end of his life, Paul looked back and was able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7 NASB). He wasn’t concerned with declaring himself better than anyone else, or claiming to be the best. He was concerned that he had given his all for the cause.Whatever your cause, give it your all. Don’t hold anything back. Your race isn’t against me or anyone else. It’s against a version of yourself that is content with mediocrity and being less than all that is possible.

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1 NASB).

The stopwatch is ticking.

Start running.