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National Fitness Month: Exercise reduces stress, increases energy levels

PHOENIX SKY HARBOR AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE -- Editor's Note: Since 1983, May has been observed as National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. In recognition, the following is part three of a three-part series of physical fitness and the importance of being fit in a deployed environment.

It is not so much how you train while deployed that helps an individual on the battlefield as it is how and how much you train prior to your deployment. Many types of existing pre-deployment training offers sufficient exercise routines that will get an Airman/Soldier prepared for deployment; however, it still is dependent on the individual themselves to engage in activities to fit what their mission will be.

I believe in training the whole body during each session. It doesn't have to be seven days a week to keep the human frame operating at peak levels. For me, my tour in Afghanistan required me to focus on some body weight issues and a fair amount of cardio. In an effort to operate at a constant pace in Afghanistan's mountains and overall high elevations, cardio to seemed to be a great "go-to" exercise realm. Mixing in some circuit style training utilizing my own body weight allowed me to freely move in an open plane of motion, thus minimizing the potential routine muscles want to stay in.

I trained specifically for ground missions outside the wire, at high elevation, carrying close to 60 pounds or more of gear for six to seven months. If there is a set program for that, I must have missed it, so I made due with the knowledge I learned in college as a kinesiology major. Train like you will fight is the best description of how to go about your routine. If you need to run with a ruck sack on, do it. If you are going to be wearing an Interceptor Body Armor (IBA), get used to functioning with everyday movements in one.

Being deployed does not make my fitness training any easier. Don't get me wrong, the workouts, in my case, were designed to maintain my strengths that I had worked on leading up to the deployment. I found it very challenging to increase strength and stamina working 16- to 18-hour days and eating from a dining facility not designed to lean you out as much as it is for morale purposes. Supplements are easy to obtain in most scenarios being deployed, but I have never been keen on utilizing them for long periods, but can be a good idea depending on one's body type and tendencies.

Simply stated, the overall mission requires you to be fit, that is why it is so important. The body will do some incredible things with preparation and training. If you have ever served in an environment such as Afghanistan or Iraq, you will understand that having your body and/or training match your mission type is something that is desired during the tour.

Fitness training has been linked in many studies to higher overall natural energy levels and decreased stress levels. It would be hard to say that those are two things you wouldn't want while being deployed.