May isn’t the only fitness month

by Col. Stephen Lambert
86th Airlift Wing vice commander

After a long and cold winter, warm spring weather is more than welcome in the KMC. The sunshine and longer days give us all the impulse to get outside and be active with our families and friends.

May gives us the perfect opportunity each year to celebrate fitness month. Physical fitness is a key component of combat readiness, and now is the time to talk about all the programs, facilities and opportunities available to KMC service members who are looking to maintain or improve their physical readiness. A wide spectrum of activities are planned in honor of fitness month, many of which have a good friendly competition component to encourage people to push themselves a little farther than they would on their own.

But May is not the only month in the year. We need to be in our best physical condition all yearlong. So what is the key? How do we establish habits now, when the weather is perfect, that will last throughout the rest of the year?

The 786th Force Support Squadron on Ramstein has everything military or family members in the KMC need to stay in shape. Two fitness centers on Ramstein and another on Vogelweh have state-of-the art training equipment, professional personal trainers, fitness classes, intramural sports and dozens of other programs ― all in place to help anyone maintain or improve their fitness. They provide parent/child rooms to work out in, where children can stay entertained while their parents get in their daily exercise.

Ramstein is also constantly looking for ways to improve fitness opportunities in the KMC. We’re in the process of creating an eight-mile running course that will offer further challenges for avid runners. A new “stroller fitness” class is also in the works, where new moms can learn ways to work out and take their children along for the ride.

The opportunity is there, so what is the key to staying in shape? The answer, though pretty simple, can be challenging: fitness and healthy living is a lifestyle. It’s not something you do during a couple of panicked weeks prior to the PT test. Lifestyle also means eating right, because we can work out all we want and still run into problems if we’re not keeping a balanced diet.

Here are a few simple guidelines that our family lives by. First, start reading food labels and avoid what I call the “big three:” saturated fats, high-fructose corn syrup and salt. Remember, “no fat” does not necessarily mean lower calories, especially when manufacturers pump up the flavor by adding sugar and other less-than-healthy additives. Second, try to avoid processed foods as much as possible. That way, you control the ingredients in the food you are eating. Third, watch your portion size, and eat less more often instead of piling it on during one big daily meal.

Fourth, beware of what you eat when you go to restaurants. We need to be honest here, because we can improve our “own house” as well. With our new uniform restrictions, more people are staying on base to eat where our options for healthy, nutritious meals are limited. My favorite example on base is what I call the “KMCC Gauntlet” — the gallery of fast food and less-than-healthy food vendors in the Kaiserslautern Military Community Center. I often encourage our partners at the Army and Air Force Exchange Service and elsewhere around base to work to bring healthier options on board. Though we all like to occasionally indulge in a high-fat, high-calorie meal, I would encourage folks to make it an exception and not the rule.

Finally, enjoy your workouts. Get out and experience the outdoors and all that it has to offer. Whether trail running, mountain biking, road cycling, kayaking, doing high ropes courses or hiking, these are some of the many things that you can do in the beautiful German and European countryside. Let me challenge you to leave the movies and video games behind and get out and live life.

By doing something active you enjoy, you’re more likely to go back and do it again the next day. Before long you’ll be feeling better, sleeping better, looking better, be sharper at work and be better prepared to execute the mission. Your fitness test score will improve, and you will have found one more way to enjoy life along the way.

If you’re looking for some ideas for ways to enjoy exercise, call the Ramstein Health and Wellness Center at 480-4292. They are the professionals who are there solely to help you boost your fitness test score and improve your overall physical fitness.