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NEWS | Aug. 7, 2008

Fit to Fight

By Lt. Col. Matthew J. Frandsen 744th Communications Squadron Commander

The Air Force "Fit to Fight" program focuses on physical fitness to increase our preparedness to deploy and fight. I have adapted my personal view of "Fit to Fight" to include not only physical fitness, but also mental, emotional and spiritual fitness.

Physical fitness includes a regular exercise program of aerobic fitness, muscular strength and muscular endurance. It also includes one of the most overlooked aspects of physical fitness -- watching my diet. Consequently, "diet" is not a program or a dirty word; it's what I eat to fuel my body. I try to eat balanced meals with smaller portions of healthy, low-fat foods and limit the less healthy choices including consumption of alcohol.

Mental fitness includes keeping my mind in shape. When I get stuck in a mental rut, I try to move on to a new challenge to get the best workout for my brain. This includes leaving work with enough time left in the day to think about something besides work. I try to exercise my brain regularly. Watching TV or playing video games is OK for a short mental break, but I limit that to a few hours per week. I frequently do a crossword puzzle or read a book to keep my brain in fighting shape.

Emotional fitness includes being in control of my thoughts, feelings and behaviors. I try to keep problems in perspective, to understand and adapt to change, cope with stress, keep a positive self-image, and cultivate positive relationships with others. I do this by exercising, pursuing hobbies, taking pleasure in the "little things," and developing a positive outlook on life.

Spiritual fitness includes finding meaning and purpose in my life and connecting with the sources that provide me inner strength, comfort, hope and inner peace. My spiritual fitness is grounded by my faith in the Creator, but it is only one of many sources. I also consciously seek out spiritual connection through getting out to the mountains, watching the sun or moon rise, cycling through the countryside, being with my family, and just being grateful for being alive.

In addition to these four areas of personal fitness I've made two more adjustments. First, I've adopted the Air Force-level program at a personal level. It starts with me, my attitude and the choices I make. I can attend countless unit-level PT sessions, but the only person who can make sure I get something out of it is me. I'm the only person who can ensure I exercise, make positive nutrition choices, or work on my mental, emotional, or spiritual fitness. The Air Force has formal programs to help in all of these areas, but to take advantage of any of them I must first make an individual choice to use them. 

Secondly, I must be fit to fight at home. I could be called to deploy at a moment's notice, but it's more likely to be during an AEF cycle. Either way, I should be prepared. However, I also need to be Fit to Fight when not deployed. These days we're all asked to work a little longer and harder during the "normal" week. And once the work day is done, we must still be able to function effectively at home with our families to provide them the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual support they need.

I challenge you all to become individually invested in your personal fitness and your future. Take advantage of the Air Force programs if necessary and actively develop your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual fitness. Not only will you look better, you'll improve your mood, increase your energy levels, reduce stress and lower the risk of disease--all leading to better performance at whatever you do.

Perhaps we should advocate to change the slogan from "Fit to Fight" to "Fit to Live."