Friday, March 4, 2011

Feel the Burn

It's a little surprising to me that I haven't talked at all about fitness on this blog, since that is a major part of life in the Armed Forces. We spend time nearly everyday doing "physical training," or as we typically call it, PT. There are two reasons for doing this: 1) to stay in the best physical condition possible so that we can accomplish the missions we are given, and 2) to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) so that we don't get penalized for not passing it. (It is required that we take an APFT every year, usually two diagnostic tests, each followed by a "record" test about a month later that actually counts.) Deployment offers--in theory--a great time to work on PT, since many of the time-consuming aspects of normal life aren't over here. (In other words, you can't take a trip, you can't visit your family and friends, you can't go hang out at the mall, so you might as well go to the gym and exercise.) There are multiple gyms at KAF, two of which I've used thus far. One is the NATO Gym, which is operated under guidelines established for use by NATO forces. They require that all users change into a clean pair of shoes upon entering the building, so as to keep the facility clean from the dust (or mud this time of year) that permeates KAF. Because this is a European facility, all the weights, machines, treadmills, etc. are designed with metric measurements. Thankfully for the Americans, there is a metric conversion chart on one of the walls, but woe unto the unsuspecting US citizen who forgets that 20 kg is a LOT heavier than 20 pounds. The NATO Gym is my perferred destination for weight work because of the cleanliness and the variety of different types of equipment they offer. (I've been to a few Gold's Gym locations in the US, and the NATO facility is comparable in terms of the quality of the workout environment.) The equipment is kept in good working order, and I've been able to get a feel for what types of metric weight I can handle in various exercises. There is also a gym operated by the US military's Morale, Welfare, and Recreation department. The MWR Gym is located in a large tent, but it is considerably smaller than the NATO Gym, which is a solid building. There are no rules about the footwear, so the gym is not nearly as clean. The equipment is older and tends to break down more frequently as well. The MWR Gym is also a lot more crowded, though this is partly because people to have to buy new shoes (or clean their old ones) to go there and partly because MWR is closer to the US living area. (Because of the crowding and dirtier conditions, I sometimes walk into MWR and think, wow, this is what I will smell like in 20 minutes.) I generally only go to MWR for cardio/treadmill running, as I know how my pace feels using miles instead of kilometers and there is less waiting for treadmills at MWR than there is at NATO. One of the guys in the band also has the Beachbody "Insanity!" program, so from time to time I do that with him. Since being here, I've actually lost 6 pounds--first time that's ever happened!--and cut a good thirty seconds off my running time. We had a "record" PT test a couple of weeks ago, and the whole unit passed, so we're all happy about that, as we can spend the next few months focusing on achieving fitness goals beyond just being able to pass the test. For the record, my test results were: 71 pushups, 63 situps, and the 2-mile run in 14:28. (Total score was 276/300)

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