Fort Sill, Okla--As the icy grip of winter melts away, people are getting out walking, running and doing other forms of physical activity; to aid in this shift Fort Sill now has an installation fitness coordinator Claudia Mejia.

No stranger to physical activity on post, Mejia used to manage Goldner Fitness Center where she also taught fitness classes and served as a personal trainer. Although she continues her involvement in the latter two on a limited basis, her new duties keep her plenty busy. Richard Simmons has nothing on this dynamo who puts fitness into practice on a daily basis. With the post gearing up for another installment of the commanding general's fitness challenge on April 28, Mejia is passionate about increasing the amount of physical activity, now, for all who work, live and play on post.

"I'm excited for the opportunity to encourage people to become more active and involved in physical fitness," said Mejia. To help encourage people to get moving, she is developing programs aimed at all segments of the population. Her intent is to see people stay with their fitness plans and make this activity part of their daily lives regardless of schedule changes or other distractions.

Mejia and a team of dedicated volunteers teach a full slate of fitness classes at all three fitness centers. Beginning at 6 a.m. and stretching to 7 p.m. classes vary from total body fitness, to aerobics, dance inspired fitness and abdominal workouts.

"We strive to provide classes throughout the day to meet the varying needs of our customers, and to educate and excite them to improve their fitness," said Mejia. She added fitness doesn't necessarily begin with a one-hour aerobics class, that even 15 minutes of physical activity each day can lead to improved well-being.

Mondays through Thursdays following her regular duty hours, Mejia teaches Fit to the Core and Body Pump classes at Goldner Fitness Center. Participants begin arriving 30 minutes prior to the workout as each gathers an assortment of barbells, dumbbells, mats and steps.

For Art Buck, an Army retiree and contractor who works at Reynolds Army Community Hospital, the fitness class is a perfect fit. Having accumulated 15 years retirement under his belt along with an extra 20 pounds, Buck realized he needed to make a change in his lifestyle. Like many people, he tried fitness "his way" with regular visits to lift weights. Despite his best intentions, Buck's results didn't match the effort he put in. Then, a co-worker suggested he try the classes Mejia taught, and Buck found a better workout with less time spent at the gym.

"I soon dropped the weight training because I got more benefit from Claudia's workouts," said Buck, who since August has whittled 20 pounds off his physique. "I also didn't have the knowledge of the exercises to work the various muscle groups, and that's something you get from the instructors who teach these classes <m> they really know fitness."

Buck restarted his fitness quest going to aerobics twice a week and worked out at his own pace. He appreciates the lack of pressure or insistence to do more than what he is comfortable doing. "The first couple times I was getting gassed from simple stuff, but, I didn't get down on myself," he said. Through consistent attendance, Buck didn't stop there and his fitness progressed a little further each time. "I still don't keep up with her 100-percent of the time, but I'm doing a whole lot more than when I first started."

The implications of his increased activity reached beyond mere appearance. Buck scheduled an appointment with his doctor for his annual physical, though he admitted the previous "annual" was five years ago. His commitment to improving his fitness earned him a 25-percent reduction in his cholesterol count. His count of 181 is well below the 200 standard recommended for total cholesterol in an article on WebMD.com. "Exercise did the job for me," he said.

Sandra Young, a wife of an active-duty Soldier, started her fitness quest in January and rapidly increased the frequency of her workouts. Having dropped 20 pounds, Young works out six days a week with the Body Pump and Fit to the Core classes. She has gained flexibility along with the energy to "chase my two-year-old" and is doing a lot of things she couldn't do before. "My goal is this summer I will not be the one in baggy shirts," she said. "I just plan to be more active and stay that way regardless of the season."

Moving from one exercise to the next, Young, drenched from her exertions, pointed to the floor at several drops of sweat and proudly exclaimed, "That's mine!"

Classes are just the beginning for Mejia. She is also developing a fitness club providing people a place to network, exchange recipes and interact in a mutually supportive environment. She intends for the club to meet once per month and share exercise routines and ideas. She will offer fitness assessments on a regular basis for club members.

"Fitness as a whole can only be achieved if people here work together," she said.

As for her motivation for the extra time she devotes to teaching fitness classes, she said she enjoys seeing her participants progress and hearing their stories of losing weight and feeling better about themselves.

"That's the best reward an instructor can get," she said.

For more information on post fitness programs, people can logon to www.sillmwr.com to view the current fitness schedule. For those seeking to develop workout routines, they should call Mejia at Rinehart Fitness Center. She also does fitness assessments to give people a baseline from which to begin their training.

Page last updated Thu March 25th, 2010 at 16:43