Fall and fitness are in the air

Col. Karl McGregor

Col. Karl McGregor

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. -- Last weekend, I traveled with 38 Team March runners on a 729th Airlift Squadron C-17 to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, to participate in the Air Force Marathon. Training for an athletic event such as this is an important part of a fitness routine as it gives you a specific, measurable goal with a concrete ending date. It pushes you to stretch your comfort zone and it's a way to make sure exercising doesn't become monotonous.

The reward for the Team March runners' work in preparing for the marathon weekend was the privilege of being part of a crowd of 12,000 runners on a course packed with mile after mile of cheering spectators. The final reward, for me, was that every single March runner finished their event. Participating in a big race like the Air Force Marathon is an inspirational experience and next year, I hope to bring twice as many Team March runners with me to Ohio. If you don't think you're ready to try all 26.2 miles of a marathon, there are 13.1-mile, 6.2-mile and 3.1-mile distances as well.

This Saturday, the base will host its first fitness fair. Capt. Anna Ruiz, 452nd Mission Support Group executive officer, has done a fantastic job organizing the event and has booked a long list of fitness and nutrition experts who will be at the base to help you with your personal fitness goals. Even if you only have a few minutes, I encourage you to stop by the fair and get informed.

Although the Air Force's new fit-to-fight program has recently cast a spotlight on Air Force physical readiness, my emphasis on fitness isn't something new. Keeping your body fit is important for everybody, but especially for servicemembers who have volunteered to do a job that demands strength and stamina at any time, even if it is not a usual part of the servicemember's occupational specialty. Just a few years ago we couldn't have imagined sending an Airman to convoy duty with the Army or to patrol outside the wire, yet we do these things as a matter of course today. It's grueling work and a fit member reduces the risk of injury or worse.

The trends in health reports for children, adults, and servicemembers have been heading in the same direction for years: we as a society are becoming more obese and suffering an increase in obesity-related medical conditions. Obesity negatively affects the well-being of individuals and their family members, and it takes an enormous toll on our nation's health care system.

This year, there have been several major federal campaigns that encourage Americans to eat healthier and be more active.

The Air Force launched the FitFamily program in January with an educational website where families can track progress on their fitness goals together, even if one of the family members is deployed. In February, First Lady Michelle Obama kicked off her nationwide "Let's Move" program which aims to reverse the childhood obesity trend within one generation. In mid-August, the Defense Department began a 10-week "Leap into Fall" program which encourages civilian employees to log a collective 1.5 million hours of physical activity.

Likewise, here at the base, changes are already underway that will make staying fit easier for Team March members. In August, temporary air conditioning units were installed in the Fitness Center while we wait on the remodel project, enabling Team March Members to stay cool while working out, even during the hottest months of the year.

In the mid-November timeframe the Fitness Center is scheduled to close while workers refinish floors, replace the roof and repaint interior and exterior walls. Yes, this will be inconvenient, but growing pains are necessary in order to upgrade our facilities. We are working to provide an alternate site so that all our fitness warriors can continue to stay in shape. Unfortunately, we will lose the use of the basketball and racquetball courts during the construction phase.

Construction will also begin soon on a new rubberized half-mile lighted running track and outdoor fitness pavilion near the main gate. Additionally, we've begun the process to establish a running club here on the base, with Lt. Col. Kris Kraiger, 4 AF/A5O, heading that effort. I've appointed Col. Mary Lussier, currently the 752nd Medical Squadron commander, to head a nutrition analysis that will review our current menus, then develop healthy alternatives and a nutrition guide to educate us all about what we're eating at base facilities.

Fitness has always been a top priority for me and I look forward to observing the progress of these projects as they give Team March members the tools they need to lead fit and healthy lives.