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Chief's View: Fitness program goal is to be fit to fight, not just fit to test

Chief Master Sgt. Dwight Badgett, command chief master sergeant, Air Force Reserve Command

Chief Master Sgt. Dwight Badgett, command chief master sergeant, Air Force Reserve Command

Citizen Airman/Aug 2010 -- Most of you have heard by now that changes to the Air Force fitness program are in full effect as of July 1. The discussions I have had as I travel around the command center on the expanded testing requirement; but the fitness program is much more than testing. Yes, we will test all Title 10 Airmen, while in status, twice a year, with one exception, which I will cover later, but we need to adjust the way we look at fitness.

This program is not a fit-to-test program but a fit-to-fight program. We have to look deeper than the testing requirements and understand that the changes should drive a cultural and lifestyle change across the Air Force. Airmen have to think about fitness not only because the Air Force says so but also because it is the right thing to do for ourselves and our families.

Many think that the updates to our fitness program mean we have a new standard, but we don't. The standard continues to be that we are fit and healthy enough to accomplish the mission in a deployed environment and at home station.

The numbers on the tables may have changed, and we now have fitness assessment cells that will administer the tests, but the requirement to maintain a level of fitness remains constant. Our goal should be to exceed the standard by training to a higher level than the minimum requirements.

If we do more cardiovascular training and upper-body and core conditioning, and watch what we eat, completing the test will simply reward all of our hard work. But, if we only train to complete and pass the test, we are short-changing ourselves. Meeting the minimum standards to pass the test is not the goal of the program.

The exception mentioned earlier is to reward those who exceed the standard and earn an excellent on the test by assessing them once a year. But, this only happens if you score a 90 or above on the overall test, meet all four of the minimum/maximum measures of the components and are not exempt on any portion of the assessment.

For example, a male in the 40-49 age group must score an overall 90 points, correctly complete at least 34 sit-ups and 21 push-ups, have an abdominal circumference of no more than 39 inches, and a run time of no more than 14:52 on the certified mile and a half course. Keep in mind that just meeting these minimums will not ensure an overall passing score.

As a matter of fact, a person with these numbers would score 65.9 points on the test and fail. The bottom line is that if you only meet the minimums on some components, you have to exceed the standards on others to make up the difference.

Testing has become the easy target of the changes in our fitness program. Whether it is the fact that we will test twice a year or that a group of fitness professionals will administer the assessments, most of us seem to have an opinion about this part of the program.

The requirement to test twice a year is driven by the goal to instill a lifestyle change that allows us to be fit all the time, not just a few months before or after the test. The health benefits of working out aside, we need to be ready to deploy at any time.

Having a regular fitness routine will help us be ready for that. But, the health benefits are huge. Being fit helps you sleep better, reduces illness, lowers the risk of daily aches and pains, and just makes you feel better. When you train your body through a sensible fitness program, you are stronger and less likely to suffer injuries that can occur in your daily routine.

Fitness needs to be something we do for ourselves. We are healthier and enjoy life more when we are fit. Participating in a regular, personal fitness program provides you with the stamina and endurance necessary for today's complicated life as a Reservist.

Balancing your civilian and military careers and your family life can be very challenging, especially with today's level of deployments and additional requirements at home. Being fit helps us adapt to all the challenges life throws at us and helps us live longer to enjoy the benefits of living in this great country. If you don't have one, start a regular fitness regimen today. You will be glad you did.