By Scott Prater
Passing the Air Force fitness assessment invokes celebration for most active-duty personnel, but this past February, when Master Sgt. Amber Mitchell learned she had passed with a score of 78.5, she left the base track in near despair.
“I didn’t want to be a satisfied-with-the-minimum type of person,” she said.
A short time later, the 1st Space Operations Squadron superintendent heard 1 SOPS Commander Lt. Col. Lorenzo Bradley say, “Anyone who has scored under 80 is on my ‘watch’ list. ”
At that moment she decided improvement on the AF fitness test was paramount. Once she heard the Schriever Fitness Center offered 12 free sessions with a personal trainer to active-duty Airmen, she double-timed it over to the gym.
Anyone who wishes to take advantage of the program starts by completing a personal-trainer request form. The form serves basically as a questionnaire that covers medical history and fitness goals. Upon reviewing Sergeant Mitchell’s form, Fitness Center Director Seth Cannello assigned Patti Eafrati as her personal trainer.
Using information provided during an interview and results of a pre-personal training assessment, Ms. Eafrati developed a customized fitness-training plan tailored specifically for Sergeant Mitchell.
“She had been struggling and had let herself go a bit, so I knew we needed to start slow,” Ms. Eafrati said. “I put her on the stair master and gave her an interval workout to perform. For the first week, she just climbed stairs, 20 minutes at a low level, 20 at an increased level, then back down and back up again.”
During the next several weeks Ms. Eafrati introduced abdominal core, strength and muscle toning workouts. Sergeant Mitchell was also tasked with traversing the base running path east of the fitness center.
“The path is hilly, so it provides more resistance than a treadmill or the track, and we started with one loop around during the first couple of weeks,” Ms. Eafrati said. “Later she started running two laps (3 miles), with the goal of cutting time off her runs.”
During their initial meeting, Ms. Eafrati also asked about eating habits.
“I feel that nutrition is an important part of fitness, because whatever you put into your body is going to be reflected,” Ms. Eafrati said. “If you’re eating cake and donuts — that’s going to show — and if you’re eating vegetables, fresh fruits and lean meats — those are going to show too.”
Sergeant Mitchell knew to cut out sodas, sugar and salts, but one thing she didn’t know was that she should be eating five to six times per day, or every three hours, because the human body’s metabolism slows down and stores fat when it goes for long periods without food.
“I was only eating twice a day,” she said. “I’m not very good about preparing food the night before, so I brought bananas, apples and yogurt to work and stored them in my fridge. “The dining facility here is really good about providing salads and grilled chicken too. Now, when the ladies who work there see me coming, I don’t even have to order.”
She began working with Ms. Eafrati during the first week in May. Five weeks later she took another AF fitness assessment, and this time she scored a 92, slashing five inches from her waist, receiving maximum points on the sit-up segment of the test, and shaving more than a minute off her 1.5 mile run.
“My personal goal was to improve,” she said. “I didn’t intend to drop 15 pounds, or get a 90, but once I started working with Patti, it felt very attainable.”
Fresh off her 92 point fitness test score, her first stop was the 1 SOPS commander’s office.
“Word spread pretty quickly,” she said. “But, the big thing was, I felt so much better. My coworkers definitely noticed I had more energy. They were so used to seeing me dragging.”
Now, though her personal training sessions have ended, her fitness training hasn’t, especially at home.
“Most Saturday mornings, I prepare the kids food and we all head out for a run around the neighborhood,” she said. “That’s not something I ever did before meeting with Patti.”
This is the first installment in a three part series on fitness turnarounds. Watch for the second installment in a future issue.