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My Fitness Journey

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Maj. Sharon Ehasz, commander of the 176 Force Support Flight, particiapates in a CrossFit session here March 2 along with other 176 Wing members. The CrossFit class was taught by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Block at 6 a.m. before the drill day. National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Theulen/ Released

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Maj. Sharon Ehasz, commander of the 176 Force Support Flight, particiapates in a CrossFit session here March 2 along with other 176 Wing members. The CrossFit class was taught by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Block at 6 a.m. before the drill day. National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Theulen/ Released

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- I was never the most gifted kid when it came to athletics. I loved baseball and football, and I truly loved being outside during school for recess. But as I got older, I found video games and lived a mostly sedentary lifestyle. I started to get heavy, and I stopped playing sports. When I got to high school, I spent most of my time on schoolwork and not worrying about fitness. Gym class became torture; I was considered "the fat kid."

After high school, I joined the Air Force, and I barely made standards. Basic training was a lot harder on me due to my weight, and although I was great at my military studies, my lack of fitness really held me back as an Airman.

My first duty assignment was here at Elmendorf, and I was excited to get out and enjoy Alaska and everything it had to offer. I started watching what I ate, started working out and the pounds came off naturally. I was also 21, worked in the Dining Facility, (so I was on my feet the entire day), and had a pretty carefree lifestyle.

I started finishing up my bachelor's degree, and I transitioned into the guard in 2006. I had again gained some weight, and again was barely making standards. When I started my master's degree, I would work 50 hours per week and go to school three nights a week. I had no time for fitness, and all of my meals were of the fast-food variety. The weekends were not active at all; they comprised morning school meetings with my teams and large amounts of donuts or junk food. I finished my master's and, while looking at my pictures from that happy day, I didn't recognize the person I had become.

Denial is an amazing human trait. It keeps some people blind to the facts until it is blatantly obvious. In August 2011, I weighed in at 285 pounds at six feet tall. I had failed a number of my PT tests before hitting rock bottom. I went in for my test, and my waist measured 47.5 inches; I ran 1.5 miles in 16:41; and my final score on the test was a whopping 14.3 points out of 100. At age 32, I was on high blood pressure medication and had to use a CPAP machine at night because I was so heavy, I had obstructive sleep apnea.

I realized that I had focused on pushing myself to finish my personal goal of my master's degree, but at the expense of my health, my Air Force career and my value as a leader. I was mad at myself and knew that I couldn't be in denial any longer. I had to do something.

I reached out to a close friend who I knew was doing CrossFit and asked for help. He was super excited to send me the programs Workouts of the Day and to follow up on my progress. He knew that I had to scale down most of my workouts because of my health and ability, but we still programmed the workouts to push me and to make it fun.

January 2012 came -- this was my last chance to pass my PT test and save my career. In six months, I had dropped 55 pounds. My waist was 38 inches, and I was able to run a 12:32 1.5-mile. As I continued CrossFit, I was able to drop down to a healthy 180 pounds and get my best PT score ever - a 95 - last January. The best part, though, was I regained my health! I no longer needed the CPAP machine and was off the blood pressure medication. I became addicted to running, finishing four marathons in a year and a half. I am looking forward to running three more, including the Air Force Marathon, this year.

I am happy to share my story because I know there are folks out in the wing that might be going through the same thing. CrossFit worked for me because it was fun, challenging, and never the same. I was learning new skills, and I had an entire community of people to push me and help me along. There is no judgment in CrossFit. I looked forward to training because it was as my own personal recess: my release after a stressful day.

CrossFit truly is a lot of work over a short period of time. The key to doing it safely is to listen to your body and to only compete against yourself, scaling workouts to your ability or around previous injuries. The goal is to make you better at functional fitness so that you can spend the day with your family and not be tired, or pick up a new sport you have always wanted to try.

Making fitness a priority is the best gift you can give to yourself. I understand that CrossFit isn't for everyone, but the goal of this article is for each one of us to take stock of our fitness and realize that it is a part of our overall well-being. It isn't just about getting past another yearly physical training test, but actually making a life change. Get up, get out and start to feel better. It is important to be fit to carry out the mission, to be fit to fight.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Join Tech. Sgt. Block (CrossFit L1 Trainer, CrossFit Kids certified, Coach Arctic CrossFit, Affiliate Manager and CrossFit Head Coach for CrossFit Overcome) at 6 a.m. of UTA Saturdays and Sundays for a Workout of the Day in Hangar 5. All skill levels are welcome, including brand-new beginners. Air Force PT gear is not mandatory.

Directions to Hangar 5: http://www.arcticcrossfit.org/#!contact/ct25
Contact: (907) 301-0958
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