Commentary by Lt. Col. Lorenzo Bradley
1st Space Operations Squadron commander
So, how well are you meeting your New Year’s resolutions? Are you still swearing off desserts at the base dining facilities so that your flight suit does not reach “maximum velcrocity?” Are you still leaving those extra bites of food on the plate after you already feel stuffed? Have you burned your “preferred customer” card that’s going to get you that 10th candy bar free from your squadron snack bar? Most importantly, and really the point of this commentary, are you adhering to that five-day workout program you designed for yourself that offered an air-tight guarantee you’d have that “beach-appropriate body” by summer?
Well, if your answer was “yes” to all of the above, then congratulations! You should hold your head high with pride, because your self-discipline is squarely intact, and utterly incorruptible; however, for the rest of us, not so much.
The most common excuse for not exercising is “no time,” and, frankly, that’s hard to dispute. In this age of doing more with less, we are all doing more — much more. However, if you dig a bit deeper, peel the onion back a bit, and examine that excuse under a microscope, I think you’ll find that it’s about something else. It could be lack of motivation, lack of enjoyment, low self-esteem or even fear. That being said, we still find time to watch television, follow our friends and neighbors on Facebook, surf the internet about random topics, and accomplish household chores. According to experts, there are just not the same psychological barriers to these activities as physical fitness.
Bottom line, whatever your hang-up about physical fitness, the fact of the matter is you have to get over it and “just do it” because physical fitness is a mandatory component of military service — it’s not an option. As one senior leader likes to say, “One thing we Airmen have in common with professional athletes, is that we are paid to stay in shape.” You can’t leave your health and fitness on the back burner, you have to exercise, and you have to make time. Here are a few strategies I find helpful to create moments where I can exercise:
1. Make a plan. The best way to make time for exercise is to have a plan. Decide on the best time in your schedule and put it on your Outlook calendar as a recurring event. I try not to schedule any appointments during that time, and seeing it on my schedule each morning helps me get motivated. Depending on what is going on in the squadron, I stay true to my schedule approximately 50-60 percent of the time — I need to do better, but it’s a start.
2. Find five minutes. Even when your day is packed with appointments and meetings, you can find five minutes for yourself and others. Some of the folks in my squadron have adopted this strategy by challenging each other to push-ups each time they see each other in the hallways of our modules. It’s like gun fighters squaring off at high noon — they hit the deck and start pushing the ground, and anyone in the vicinity usually joins them.
3. Delegate. You are “an American Airman: Wingman, Leader, Warrior,” and, as such, part of your responsibility is the professional development of your subordinates. You are not the only one who can do all of the things you are currently doing. Why not give your subordinates (and peers) an opportunity to shine and develop professionally by delegating certain tasks and giving them the credit for the job well done? Look, too, for things that could get done less often, or that might not need to get done at all.
4. Find a cheerleader. What can look like a lack of time is often a lack of motivation, so consider recruiting some support. I know I have my best workouts when I hit the gym with a partner on a regular basis. Get a friend, fellow squadron member, or sign-up for a physical trainer to be your cheerleader and encourage you on a daily basis.
5. Take your show on the road. When packing for a temporary duty assignment, be sure to include your physical training gear. Just packing them plants the seed in your subconscious that you intend to exercise while you are away. I try to spend at least 15-20 minutes on the hotel treadmill, or hit the base gym after I am done for the day before I head to dinner.
6. Rise and shine. For most people, the day only gets more demanding as it goes on. Lay out your PT gear the night before, and try exercising first thing in the morning so that you knock it out, and can move on with the rest of your day. If you are not a morning PT person, see strategy number one.
7. Ditch your ride. Whenever feasible, ride your bike to work. If you’re heading to building 210 from the restricted area, leave a little earlier and walk instead of jumping in your car. This might be a little easier said than done for those of us with parking spots in the proverbial “front row,” but the weather is getting nicer and we’ve got such a phenomenal landscape to appreciate.
8. Hit it hard. If you’re short on time, focus on higher-payoff workouts, such as kettlebell swings, slow-motion resistance training or interval training for aerobic exercise. For fast and furious workouts, the key is staying focused and maintaining a high intensity throughout the entire mini-workout session.
There are millions of ways to waste time you could be spending in more active ways, so finding time is entirely within your control. These are just a few strategies I am trying to employ to resist a sedentary lifestyle and improve my health, physical fitness, and overall well-being. Try a few and see how they work for you. Your biannual fitness assessments are going to happen, and I would rather look forward to them with confidence, than suffer the consequences of failure. Good luck.