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National Fitness Month: Being physically fit critical during deployment

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 one of a three-part series of physical fitness and the importance of being fit in a deployed environment.

Finding time to train when you are deployed can be a real challenge at times. It's different from home in that the workload and shift cycle is higher when you are deployed. You also tend to work odd hours or on the back side of the clock. The stress level is higher. All of these things combined can take a toll on your body.

The toll on your body adds to the toll on your mind and they both work against you in executing the mission. Working in even a little regular exercise during the week combats both, but you have to make some adjustments based on where you are and what equipment they have there. Weather (dust storms) can drive you indoors so you have to go find a treadmill if they have one. I like biking but I can't take my bike with me so I look for a stationary trainer.

I seem to end up doing a "maintain" version of my home training plan when I'm deployed which includes mostly cardio with a little resistance training. My repetitions and distances are usually shorter, and I have to make some adjustments based on what equipment they have. I've come to find that sleep is awfully important in all this you have got to find time, as best as you can, to give your body a chance to rebuild. It is as important as flexibility and as the training itself.

I've found that supplements in moderation for things like joint health and heart health has worked well for me. The Air Force has a list of approved supplements and you can run it past your military and civilian doctors before you start a regimen. All the other nutrition I need I get from decent quality "normal" food and watching how much I intake. I don't get to cosmic with synthetic foods.

If you don't have a heart monitor, spending $50 on one is a good investment. Learn to use it at home. They are easy to set up and work out with. When you deploy, train in heart rate "Zone 2" or "Zone 3" and watch the fat come off while you combat the effects of schedule and stress. You will be a different person when you get back.

Being physically fit before I deployed does have many advantages. I sleep better. I can also adjust to time zone changes better and I'm less prone to injuries. Generally, I feel better and my stress level is lower. I find that I am more productive when I'm getting some kind of exercise in during the week even if it is just a little bit. These are all good things for a successful deployment.

At home, with this hectic modern lifestyle we all seem to be leading, it can be tough to find some free time for your family and some free time to exercise. If you can figure out a workout that you can do together, you can solve two problems at once - and it is fun.