A little knowledge, support can be big
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Sometimes all it takes to move a fitness journey off the slow path and on to the road to success is a little instruction.

Last summer, Staff Sgt. Ronnie Frazee had a permanent walking profile because of pinched nerves in her feet. She was getting overweight and became flagged.

When she was recommended for the Fit Nation program, she was apprehensive.

"I came into it thinking this was going to be the end of my military career -- this was a place I was going to pretty much end it all," she said. "But it wasn't the case. I came out stronger on the other end."

She now leads 1st Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade Soldiers in Fit Nation.

Her initial fears were based on lack of knowledge. She heard the program had a lot of weightlifting and battle ropes.

"I had never done any weightlifting or anything like that," she said.

But she watched as Soldiers went in because of an Army Physical Fitness Test failure or being overweight and come out successful.

"They either lost the weight they needed to or passed the APFT like they needed to," she said.

When she first started, she realized she was out of shape and the program was not easy.

As she went along, to her surprise she learned something.

"It was a lot of fun," she said. "Once you were complete, you felt like you worked every muscle in your body -- you felt like you earned that workout time."

Having never experienced just what she was capable of in the gym, she stepped in cautiously. She didn't push herself and stayed with the other females in the group, lifting and squatting what they were doing.

She worked under the direction of Stafford Gosser, Fit Nation project lead, who showed her how to use the equipment and encouraged her. Just having someone guide her through and explain the equipment made a world of difference.

But Gosser did one other thing that helped turn it around for her.

"(He) told me I had more," Frazee said. "He pushed me a little bit further until I started surpassing what I was doing. Eventually, I got up to where I was lifting as much as the males and running as fast as the males. That felt good."

A solid dose of confidence and a little knowledge went a long way. She went from a Solider who was not motivated to exercise and who thought her military career was just about over, to meeting all her goals and helping others do the same.

"I'm really enjoying this," she said. "It is something I've never done and I am really proud of what I could do. I'm in the best shape of my life now."

Her success in the fitness arena spilled over into other parts of her life.

"It's even given me confidence to try other avenues -- to do yoga and tempo running and destination running," she said. "Now, I have a whole new idea of fitness and what you can do."

Her success led Gosser to ask if she would be interested in helping with the next group that was going through.

Now, in addition of having pride in her own accomplishments, she said it makes her feel "awesome" to see Soldiers who were in the same place she was -- succeeding.

A woman's concern

Frazee shared a concern with many women -- she didn't want to lift weights, bulk up and look like a man.

As she became stronger, toned up and learned about fitness, she found out women have nothing to worry about. And she tries to pass that on to the female Soldiers she works with.

"I'm not bulky, but I can lift as much as everyone else," she said.

She used to be a tomboy, but also has that feminine side. It's all about finding a balance. She'll do like other females and doll herself up sometimes, but the lipstick and nail polish get set aside when she goes to the gym.

"I may look like a girl and sound like a girl but I'm going to lift like a boy," she said.

In the eight months she has been with Fit Nation, Gosser said Frazee has improved by about 100 pounds in the deadlift and the squat.

She went from deadlifting 145 pounds to 295 and squatting 185 pounds to 275 pounds

"And the best part," Frazee said, "is just because you are a female you can still look like a female. I haven't gotten big or bulky, but I have better muscle definition. Just to see your muscle tissue go up and see your muscle measurements go up, it's a very gratifying feeling. It makes me feel like my mass is for a reason."

Her next goal is to drop her profile. She plans on being reevaluated soon. Even if she feels like she can run ok, she doesn't want to push it too far, too quick and potentially cause more damage. One of the points she said Gosser has stressed is the importance of listening to one's body.

"I am able to run, jump, everything that I couldn't do before," she said. "I feel like either I'm stronger or I figured out a way to work myself a round it where I can run 2 1/2, 3 miles with no pain."

In fact, not only does she run -- she enjoys it and even goes out on the weekends and runs just for the fun of it.

"I just feel stronger," she said. "I'm more willing to, on my off time, go into some type of fitness. I am in the gym. I am pushing my limits. I'm trying more things. And the confidence you get from that alone is worth it."

She brings that confidence home with her. She and her husband, Staff Sgt. Matthew Frazee, who is a recruiter in Manhattan, Kansas, trade off their exercise time with watching their young sons.

"When I go to the gym, he watches them; when he goes, I stay with them," she said.

She joked that he is getting jealous of her fitness success.

"I had the whole mom bod going on," she said. "But he likes the glute lift, the toned belly, the toned thighs and my arms are almost as defined as his."

When she looks back over the past eight months, she said it's amazing the difference. It hasn't been lost on Gosser who brags on her.

"Staff Sgt. Frazee exemplifies what can be gained from participation in the full program when dedicated and motivated," he said. "She has set the bar high in terms of individual improvement as well as application of knowledge gained."