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NEWS | May 25, 2017

Comprehensive fitness summer challenge

By Col. Troy A. Roberts 11th Security Forces Group

This weekend, as you honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country, I want you to think about yourselves, the ones you love and your overall health.  Let’s make this summer, a summer of resiliency in all the Comprehensive Airman Fitness pillars.  Are y’all, as a Texan would say, spiritually, socially, mentally, and physically fit?  If not, I want to challenge you to take advantage of this summer and workout these pillars of fitness.    

Comprehensive Airman Fitness recognizes that we humans are amazingly complex.  Before I lose the attention of everyone not wearing a uniform, let me explain. The word “Airman” in this context refers to military, civilian, and even family members. 

Much like the cars we drive on a daily basis we consist of many systems that have to work in harmony for optimal performance.  If an owner takes care of a car on a daily basis, major issues can be avoided.  Periodic checkups and regular maintenance can keep a car operating at peak performance and prevent catastrophic failure. 

These checkups and regular maintenance are the same for us as Airmen.  The Air Force recognizes four pillars or systems in the vehicle analogy that Airmen must maintain to be resilient.  These pillars or systems, are known as our spirit, mind, social-life, and physical bodies. All of these pillars require daily maintenance.  Additionally, these pillars are interconnected, when one is weak or broken, it affects the other systems, and we can’t operate at peak performance.  All our systems need to be synchronized if we are to operate at our optimal level.

Some of a vehicle’s systems are more obvious than others, and some require special maintenance beyond the skills of the owner.  At times we need specialized support from a mechanic to work on the systems that we fully don’t understand.  I for one, don’t have the first clue how to work on my vehicle’s computer system.  Occasionally, a body shop is also necessary if our vehicles have been involved in an accident.

This is the same for us as Airmen.  Our physical appearance is on display on a daily basis.  We even have a standardized physical fitness test that helps identify our fitness levels.  Our family or close friends will often pick up on the signs when we’re struggling mentally or socially.  However, these pillars are more difficult to define, monitor, and therefore maintain.  Our spiritual fitness is probably the most difficult pillar to define but may have the most enduring impact.  What would a spiritual fitness test look like in your life?

Many times we try to hide the challenges we are struggling with and try to solve them on our own.  However, it is a sign of strength to ask for help when needed.  We have many resources and people around us that are ready to help if we give them an opportunity. Friends, family, military peers, supervisors, mentors, first sergeants, a chaplain, the mental health clinic, and the Military and Family Support Center are just a few.

With our cars, there are processes that can degrade the performance of a vehicle.  Some of these are not under our control like the weather, aging, or a vehicle breaking down unexpectedly, while others are preventable. For example, using high-quality fuel and keeping tires properly inflated can optimize gas mileage.  Replacing equipment such as windshield wipers, headlights, and brakes, can all help us avoid dangers and accidents.

The same is true for us as Airmen.  Stressors affect us in every domain of fitness.  Health problems, mental exhaustion, challenges in relationships, and doubts in our purpose at work, home, or even our lives can all cause unhealthy stress.  We need to be active in maintaining our physical, mental, social, and spiritual fitness and this summer is a great time to begin the change.  Below are some ideas for each pillar.  The best ideas include activities that reinforce multiple pillars.

Physical Pillar:

  • Take up a new sport (swimming, biking, running, kayaking, etc.)

  • Do a physical challenge with your family or friends (mud-runs, hiking, white water rafting, etc.)

  • If you need help, ask a friend or personal trainer. The Tactical Fitness Center is a great resource

Mental Pillar

  • Read a book or two over the summer

  • Pursue a college degree or professional military education

  • Learn a new language

Social Pillar

  • Go camping or on a vacation with your family or friends

  • Host a barbecue at your place and invite friends and family

  • Plan events where you meet or interact with new people and do activities you’ve never done

Spiritual Pillar

  • Do a self-assessment of where you are and where you want to be spiritually (For example, test yourself against our core values and see where you are)

  • Ask and learn something about another person’s spiritual perspective

  • Take time out, relax, and reflect in a natural setting (with no electronic devices) 

By working on the CAF pillars now, you can help build your resiliency to battle the everyday challenges life throws your way.  Take the challenge and improve your CAF this summer.