PTLs work it out

Story and photo by Airman 1st Class Holly Cook
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Staying in shape and being fit to fight is a major part of being in the Air Force. Having someone to provide motivation and tips to keep Airmen looking and feeling great is one way to achieve one’s fitness goals.

Physical training leaders are trained to help Airmen get and stay healthy using physical training, nutrition and fun activities.

“I believe that fitness is the key to having a successful Air Force,” said Tech. Sgt. Toriano Banks, 86th Comptroller Squadron financial analyst. “Motivating my co-workers to be more fit and healthy than they were is my favorite part of being a PTL.”

The need for physical fitness knowledge is in high demand. Having the right PTL can make all the difference.

“One of the nicknames my co-workers have given me is Sugar Shocker because I keep them up with their nutrition along with PT,” Banks said. “I try to help them understand exactly what they are eating and drinking and how it affects their bodies.”

Before a PTL can give advice about exercising and nutrition, they have to be put to the test. An Airman who is selected or volunteers to become a PTL must attend an Air Force PTL training course.

“The training course is one full day. It is a mixture of classroom instruction and hands-on physical training,” said Cesar Alvarez, 86th Aerospace Medical Squadron exercise physiologist. “The member must be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation/automatic external defibrillator per Air Force instruction, must have a passing physical fitness test of their own, and must be appointed in writing by their unit commander.” 

This class not only tests the Airman’s knowledge of physical fitness, but also allows the Air Force to get its most fit Airmen to guide and mold their peers to the highest physical status.

“Sports nutrition, supplements and proper eating is a portion of the class taught by either the registered dietitian or diet technician,” Alvarez said. “The remainder of the class focuses on proper unit PT design, appropriate exercise selection, technique, periodization, injury prevention, modified PT for profiled members and resources available to the PTL and unit members.”

Learning how to come up with exercises that help all ranges of physical ability is a major portion of being a PTL. Doing exercises that allow Airmen get to their top physical potential while not holding back others is key for a successful group workout session.

“I come up with a schedule for each PT session,” Banks said. “I try to put time and energy into the scheduling so I can try to cater to their strengths and weaknesses.”
Some PTLs have found adding group activities into their squadrons’ weekly physical training schedules fuses fun with a beneficial workout.

“My squadron likes to play football,” Banks said. “I like to push them hard the first two PT days of the week and then give them a fun day on Fridays.”

Adding these enjoyable activities, like volleyball and touch football, helps build squadron morale while giving Airmen a break from the normal vigorous exercises.

“Now that my squadron has gotten larger, I’ve found that more members just means more motivation that I can give,” Banks said.

Being in shape and staying healthy is a part of the Air Force core values each Airman should live by every day. Staying fit to fight shows an Airman is staying true to the Air Force core value of “excellence in all we do.”

“Being in shape contributes to readiness,” said Chief Master Sgt. James Morris, 86th Airlift Wing command chief. “If you aren’t able to put your gear on then you won’t be able to complete your job.”

For some Airmen, it might be a little tougher to stay in shape and achieve a passing physical fitness test.

“It’s the first thing that people quit doing when they get busy,” Morris said. “Once you quit working out for one day and then the next and the next, it gets harder to start again. If you make it part of your daily routine, even if it is just for 15 or 30 minutes, it becomes easier to keep doing and stay in shape.”

Whether it’s lack of time or another cause, any Airman can look to his PTL for support to meet the standards that the Air Force has set.

“The goal is to lead an appropriate and safe unit physical training program that is both dynamic and effective, so that members not only pass their physical fitness test, but maintain a healthy lifestyle,” Alvarez said.

Being a PTL isn’t just for a specific rank or higher. Any enlisted member or officer who meets the qualifications can be a PTL.

Airmen of all ranks helping their fellow Airman stay fit to fight, maintain readiness and preserve deployability is one of the main parts of the PTL program.

“Any member who has the drive and passion to effectively lead, motivate and provide a quality and safe program … can become a PTL,” Alvarez said.
“Being able to see improvement in the Airmen is one of my favorite parts of the program,” Banks said. “Seeing good PT scores go to excellent is always a plus.”

For more information about the PTL qualification class offered at the health and wellness center, call 480-4292.