The past year while Brian has been deployed has been a great challenge. Having individual goals to work towards has helped us though some rough times and kept us motivated to keep going. Brian has been able to meet many of these goals, from becoming debt-free to reaching his target weight of 175 pounds. He recently had the opportunity to write an article about achieving his fitness goals while on deployment for Endurance Magazine published in the August 2016 edition. Check it out!
FITNESS WHILE DEPLOYED – SMALL SUCCESSES WITH BIG LIFE CHANGES
Endurance Magazine August 2016
I feel selfish sometimes when I get orders to deploy. Yes, I miss my kids, my fiancée, family and friends and all the memories that go with it. But, my day-to-day responsibilities change, and it affords me a different focus on my life. I’ve been in the Marines and now the Navy Reserves a total of 16+ years. In that span, I’ve been deployed several times and can attest that after each deployment, I’ve been in better physical shape than when I left. Let’s face it: when your commute to the “office” is a five minute walk, the galley prepares your meals and your family consists of your military brothers and sisters deployed with you, it simplifies life.
Being in the military for this long means I’ve always met the physical fitness requirements and height/weight standards. Love them or hate them the regulation is the regulation. Being forty-five years old now and two knee surgeries later, meeting these standards has gotten a little more challenging. In the two years prior to this deployment, I had 30 seconds to spare on my run time and occasionally had to fast or limit my intake of food before the body composition assessment in order to fall into weight standards. I’m sure working 10-12 hours a day, with a one-hour commute home where I could easily talk myself out of exercise by ordering pizza or picking up fast food for dinner added to this struggle. The most shocking realization was that I had a drinking problem: Coca-Cola! Yes, a “fully-leaded” six pack of Coke daily, with a Red Bull for that extra punch after lunch. When I heard I was deploying I knew I had the opportunity to start both an exercise plan and improve my eating and drinking habits and get my health back.
GETTING OFF MY DJIBOUTI. When I hit the ground in Africa, I wanted to have some goals ready and written down to measure and watch my progress over the eleven month deployment:
- Lose Weight – melt 15 pounds.
- Run 13-minutes or less on my required Navy 1.5 mile physical readiness test.
- Run a 27-minute or less 5K.
- Solve my drinking problem – of Coca Cola.
Though these run times are far off from my 6:30 mile pace from my early military days, I was trying to set some fair expectations without discouraging myself or causing injury.
Being in Africa, though austere, in many ways is not Iraq or Afghanistan. This base has options combat zones do not; more than the standard pull up bars and a SWAHUT gym. The fitness focal point is a turf field for group/unit training in the mornings and in the evenings can host soccer, ultimate Frisbee, and softball leagues or pick-up games. Three days a week the turf has an abs blaster class where up to 75 personnel show up regularly. Next to the turf field, is a section carved out for Cross Fit. And though we’re restricted to the base, you can get in some old-fashioned running. Though there is some back and forth due to the size of the camp, it doesn’t stop a monthly 5K race.
I wanted a workout plan I could continue upon my return home more faithfully than when I left, so I stuck with the standard Marine-style “do it anywhere” PT which means mostly pull-ups, push-ups, crunches and running. I had no illusions of grandeur going home American Ninja Warrior ready, but with the time afforded I knew I could tone-up my muscles and do it without injury.
I worked up to running 4-5 times a week, no more than 16 miles per week. Though somedays are still sluggish for me, some speed workouts 4x100s, 4x400s and even a few 4×800 is included; something I haven’t done since college. I’ve always found running relaxing and running in the humidity seems to help with decreasing the aches and pains for me. One of the bonuses is knowing the importance of running hydrated to avoid cramps, hence my water in-take has improved and been an offset to my Coca-Cola habit. Being around the military culture means there is always motivation and a drive to not sit idle. I find myself going to the occasional abs class and joining in on the ultimate Frisbee pick-up games. I call these days double session workouts, though in reality it is more time improving your fitness with friends and having some fun.
THE OUTCOME. I’ve dropped about 25lbs. thanks to the portion sizes and better food choices in the galley, a decrease to no more than one can of Coke a day and regular runs. I am currently running a 12:48 for 1.5 miles, though not quite at a 27:00 minute 5K yet. An indirect benefit to all this is a decrease of 10 points in both systolic and diastolic for an improved blood pressure. All accomplished without my recurring knee pain which was most likely from doing too much too soon making the healthy change frustrating.
WHAT I’VE LEARNED. For the past several years I’ve tried to get myself back to my youthful physique and fitness test scores too quickly and in turn, killed my motivation. I would work-out with folks a little more advanced in running or fitness and become disheartened. When I was boots-on-ground this time, I forced myself to focus on the now and my current abilities and set my goals from that point forward, which I feel has made me more successful and more consistent than I could have hoped. I am satisfied in knowing I can keep working harder, smarter and safely in improving myself and have fun doing it.
WHAT’S NEXT. I’ve already established new goals, to continue on this positive path:
- Make sure I sustain my gains or in some cases my losses.
- Establish a routine and not revert to that couch potato at the end of the day I was becoming.
- Run a 5K race per month to continuously work on an improvement in time.
- Keep Coca-Cola out of the house and revert to perhaps cucumber and lemon water which I was introduced to in the galley – who knew water could taste so good?