Fort Drum spouse balances fitness, family
May 29, 2013
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Spouses on Fort Drum know that military life can be hectic. With their military partners being away on deployments or training exercises, spouses are left to run a household single-handedly.
One woman has found a way to juggle being the wife of a deployed Soldier, caring for two young children and maintaining a healthy mind and body of her own -- Laura Bennett is a supermom. Soccer, running, functional fitness workouts, spin class, snowboarding, hiking and yoga keep the mother of two fit and energetic.
"I'd always played sports growing up, but I really got into soccer," Bennett said. "I've always loved hiking and anything outdoors. It was always easy for me, but once I started having children, it got a lot more difficult. I was always used to eating anything I wanted.
"More than anything, my nutrition and the type of workouts I was doing changed a lot after having children," she added.
Although Bennett and her husband, 1st Lt. Brendan Bennett, who serves with 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, were living in the civilian world two years ago, the Family has taken their new life in the Army in stride.
"Before (Brendan joined the Army), we were teachers; he taught high school history and I was a first grade teacher," she said. "I think Brendan had always wanted to join the Army, but we hadn't really discussed it much. He lost his job and was trying to get back into teaching, but wasn't able to find the right job."
Laura and Brendan Bennett both come from military Families.
"He asked if I would be willing to jump back into it … (because) he knew I knew the lifestyle, and we made the decision from there," Bennett said.
Laura Bennett was pregnant and their son, Boston, was almost 2 when Brendan Bennett left for basic training. Two weeks later, their daughter, Hayley, was born. After Bennett completed his training at Fort Benning, Ga., the Family moved to Fort Drum.
Bennett chose to stay home with the children, but she found that running a household, caring for two young children and dealing with her husband's absence due to military training and deployment was hard.
"(Balancing everything) is very hectic," she said. "The gym is my outlet -- it's my free time for the day. I drop my kids off at (preschool and hourly care) in the morning and work out for a few hours a day … four days a week.
"On Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I'm at the (Atkins Functional Fitness Facility)," Bennett continued. "This is my release to get my energy out and refocus myself everyday and also to have the energy for the rest of the day to finish the chores and all the things you need to do as a mom."
On the weekends, Bennett spends her time playing with her children and keeping them active.
When the Family moved here in September, Laura Bennett met a friend who wanted to get into better shape. Bennett learned a lot about fitness and nutrition from a friend and mentor in Georgia, so she began sharing her knowledge and workouts with her new friend.
When the Atkins Functional Fitness Facility opened last November, she and her friend began working out there.
"Different groups of women began asking if they could join us, and (they) wanted to find out what we were doing," Bennett explained. "We all joined together to work out, and we find similar times to come here."
Bennett's workout partners grew from two to five, and now, she said there are about 20 to 25 women who work out with their group throughout the week. She said she believes her workout partners found success in functional fitness because it works every muscle group and can be tailored to anyone's ability level.
"There are a lot of different ability levels and a lot of different ages in the group," Bennett said. "Some women have never been in a gym like this before and would never have set foot in here if they didn't have a friend who brought them and encouraged them to try it."
Many women have only tried cardio workouts or basic lifting, but Bennett's workouts test the entire body. She uses "muscle confusion," where she won't work out the same way every time.
"I'm using different muscles, and I do a full-body workout every single day," she said. "For a lot of women, it's scary to lift weights in the beginning, because it's not something they're used to."
Bennett encourages people who aren't used to working out to start by doing something easy like walking, find someone else to work out with and to never be afraid to ask questions about fitness.
"At one point, everybody was a beginner," she said. "You'll be amazed in the growth (and progress) you'll make if you just commit to it and get started."
Bennett has found that the skills she developed in the classroom have come in handy at the gym. She said she enjoys teaching her friends how to perform exercises with proper form and ensuring they do it safely. Her love of fitness has inspired Bennett to pursue her physical training certification.
If there's one thing Bennett said she has learned about being a military spouse is to make time for herself.
"It's extremely important," she said. "If you don't give myself a little bit (of time to myself), I found my stress levels going up, I was losing my patience and I didn't have as much to give back to (my Family).
"You've got to take a step away and give yourself some time so you can give more to them later," Bennett continued. "Once I work out, I have the energy to jump around and play instead of sitting around and letting them play on their own."
However, the fitness group isn't just about sweating and exercise, it's become a place for support, encouragement and friendship -- many of the women have husbands who are deployed or are preparing for deployment.
"It's definitely become a good support group," Bennett said. "We're starting to run 5Ks together, and we'll do more in the summer. A lot of really good friendships have come from it."
One of Bennett's biggest lessons to her growing group of friends is to love themselves.
"I want women to know that they don't have to be super fit or super in shape to start getting themselves to that point," she said. "Everyone's body is different. I'm never going to have tiny, skinny legs, but you get comfortable with who you are. Just make yourself your best self."