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Commentary: Routine for better fitness

Airman exercises with father via Skype

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Christopher Sommers exercies with his father, David Sommers, using Skype from his hotel room on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washinton, July 9, 2020. Sommers maintains his physical fitness while connecting with family virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Sommers)

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. --

It’s Sunday morning, the sky is overcast, and it begins to drizzle. Not the best weather for a fitness assessment. The fitness assessment cell airman explains the basics of our running test, and we line up for the start of what we all know will be an uncomfortable run.

When we are all prepared, they unceremoniously call out to begin, and we take off!

My heart is pumping, my face stinging from the cold, the crisp air burning my lungs. I’m counting down my laps. Five more, four more, three more, I’m almost done. I round the corner of my last lap for my PT test, and the time keeper yells out my time as I finish.

My run time was slower than I hoped during the running test on March 7, 2020, giving me only a satisfactory score overall. I was disappointed, but I knew I had six months to improve.

As a result of my less than desirable PT test score, I became determined to work harder on my overall fitness. During this time the global pandemic of COVID-19 hit, and my goals to improve my physical fitness were hindered, forcing me to readjust.

With the pandemic came surprisingly new opportunities to work from home, and connect with friends and family virtually.

For several years I wanted to try P90X, an intense 90-day at home workout program. I knew with all the peculiar circumstances the world threw at me, this was my opportunity to try a new exercise routine.

I found a digital copy of the videos and told my dad about my plans. He thought it would be a great idea for us to stay accountable in our workout routine. My dad also suggested my siblings join in the virtual workouts. He hoped this would give us an excuse to connect more often while staying active.

I have a close relationship with my parents and siblings, but we don’t live near each other, naturally I felt this would be a great opportunity.

My brother and sister agreed to participate. Using Skype, for an hour a day, six days a week, we encouraged each other to complete each workout.

Although our schedules have changed through the twists and turns of the pandemic, and working out every day together has become difficult, we are continuing to stay active and connected.

For my dad it has been mostly about the connecting with his children and staying apart of our busy lives.

My dad said for him the main benefit he gets out of our virtual routine is getting to spend time with his kids. But also, he enjoys the convenience of working out on our own schedule and not having to go anywhere.

I see the benefits of exercising every day again. Along with feeling stronger and recovering more quickly after strenuous physical activities, I feel my mental health improving. Especially during a time where it would be easy to stay depressed and tell myself “it’s too hard to work out now.”

A large benefit of exercising daily for me has been the ability to relieve stress in a healthy way.

According to a 2013 RAND Corporation study, physical activity can provide considerable benefits to both physical and mental health and can buffer the negative effects of stress.

This experience has caused me to pause and consider the four pillars of Comprehensive Airman Fitness.

I realized, despite the circumstances of the pandemic, I managed to stay physically, mentally and socially fit, by connecting with my family through exercise, strengthening three of the four pillars in my life.

CAF is not a standalone program, it is a cultural shift in how we view and maintain fitness in a more comprehensive manner and enables Airmen to hold each other accountable against Air Force Core Values, according to Air Force Instruction 90-5001.

Thanks to my family, I’ve been able to stay consistent in accomplishing my fitness goals. I am confident, when I cross the finish line, I will be proud of the score I will earn on my next PT test.