Commentary: Weight gain leads to new mission
July 6, 2009
It's funny how increased weight and poor conditioning can sneak up on you. It's even funnier that the solution can be right under your nose, if you just look for it.
Now this problem shouldn't be a big concern for most of you Soldiers. Uncle Sugar keeps you plenty busy and sees to it you keep fit. But for the rest of us it can be a challenge.
I retired from the Army nine years ago. I had some long-term aches and pains that already kept me from doing some of the things I always had to stay in shape. Running was out - bad knees. Pushups were out - bad wrist. But the biggest problem for me was a lack of focus. I was a mission-first kind of guy. Keeping fit was part of the mission, so it was second nature. But when the mission went away, so did the psychological requirement to keep pushing myself.
It didn't happen overnight. It took years, but gradually, the pounds started to climb, the waist started to expand. And the extra weight had a lot of other negative effects, too. It got harder to get through what exercise I attempted. My back hurt more. My knees got worse. Even my sleep suffered, as I began to snore more and louder - I often woke myself up.
Last fall the garrison began offering a six-month program allowing employees to spend on-duty time working out. I signed up, but it didn't do much for me. I tried some cardio work in the gym, then went for walks, and finally just found reasons - excuses' - for doing nothing at all.
And the weight kept creeping up.
When I went to the closeout session for that fitness program I got a bit testy with the organizers.
"What a lousy program," I charged. "It didn't do anything for me at all."
They came back at me, too. And they made it clear to me that I had been waiting for someone to spoon feed me a solution to my problem. I needed to take some positive steps.
In response to their challenges, I began a program to eat more responsibly.
I also made an appointment for a fitness assessment at Jensen Family Health and Fitness Center. The results were kind of shocking. I was always the skinny guy, but I found that I had passed all the way through the overweight category and edged into the clinically obese. That was an eye opener.
With a doctor's clearance, I made an appointment with one of the personal trainers at Jensen. She used my assessment and my personal goals to design a workout routine, then coached and monitored me as I got into the swing of regular workouts.
I started all that a couple months ago. The results have been pretty dramatic. I have dropped more than 30 pounds; my knees feel better; my back doesn't bother me at all; and my wife tells me I barely snore. My fat clothes no longer fit and have gone onto the top shelf in the closet. Trousers I hadn't worn in years are back into use.
I have a mission again. I will always have to guard against slipping back into old habits, but I have the tools and support to keep me fit.
That support was always available - almost under my nose. I just had to look for it.
(David W. Kuhns Sr., is editor of Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian and a retired Army sergeant major.)