With fitness centers closed and unit PT on hold, service members at the Presidio of Monterey are overcoming the challenges of limited exercise equipment and absence of structured physical training.
Physical fitness is a fundamental component of military life. It’s not only required for service members to stay fit, but can mean the difference between life and death.
Therefore, many service members go beyond their basic PT requirements in pursuit of fitness excellence. The military has programs such as the World Class Athlete Program and Armed Forces Sports for service members to compete against the best athletes in the military.
Regardless of whether service members are training for competition, or exercising to meet basic PT requirements, the COVID-19 pandemic created challenges that have forced them out of their training comfort zones and into new exercise regimens to maintain their fitness.
Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Donehue, Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center command sergeant major, said now is a perfect opportunity for service members to challenge their discipline and resilience to stay in shape without the structure they are used to.
“You don’t always have a gym to go to when you’re deployed,” Donehue said. “The more innovative you can be now will prepare you when you’re in a more spartan environment.”
Airman 1st Class Garrett Wagner, a Defense Language Institute student studying Spanish with the 311th Training Squadron, said he prefers strength training over running and calisthenics, but has had to change his training mentality.
“At the beginning it was upsetting when the gym closed, but we’re looking at this is an opportunity to learn more and get more creative to improve on things we may not enjoy,” Wagner said. “We have different people with different fitness backgrounds, so we are able to put together a variety of challenging workouts.”
Exercise is often an individual activity, but some DLI students are teaming up to help each other and maintain their motivation.
During college, Airman 1st Class Angela Miller, a Chinese language student with the 314th Training Squadron, worked as a personal trainer. Since the pandemic started, she has used her experience to create personalized exercise programs for fellow DLI students.
“A lot of people don’t know what to do when the gym is closed,” she said. “I am being more creative with my own workouts and in turn putting together fun programs for other people too.”
Miller added “I’m a runner by nature and love the gym too. But honestly, COVID has allowed me to get back to my roots and do more of the workouts I used to do. It’s been a lot of fun for me to try to come up with new things.”
DLI drill sergeants have taken it a step further by offering online PT sessions, so students can comply with social distancing guidance by doing PT in their rooms.
“I am proud of our drill sergeants for being creative and instructing PT sessions over Microsoft Teams,” said Donehue. “They are making extra effort to keep our service members trained and ready.”
Seaman Martel Carruthers, a Chinese language student with the Information Warfare Training Command, will be shipping off to the U.S. Naval Academy in July. He said that before the pandemic he mostly did strength training to gain weight with the goal of playing football with the Midshipmen.
“They closed the gyms, so I’m out here doing track workouts now,” he said. “Additionally, I do 500 push-ups every day and a lot more pull-ups. I also changed my diet to keto because I don’t want to sit in my room all day snacking on junk food.”
Carruthers added he is using his down time to maintain his PT standards. “I don’t want to walk into my next PRT and not be able to do 50 push-ups. I’m keeping up on my push-ups and sit-ups as much as possible.”
Spanish language student Pvt. Jayson Pinnock, 229th Military Intelligence Battalion, said service members are trying to find every reason to get out of their rooms.
“I see sports bringing people together, track and field for us, and soccer for others. I saw people out here playing ultimate Frisbee the other day,” he said. “I think it’s going to be good for us going forward because when we’re off quarantine more people will come out and enjoy time with each other.”
Wagner said he has noticed an increase in camaraderie between service members. “People are coming together more to help each other regardless of their branches or ranks. We are all going to be better and more resilient when this is over.”
The Department of Defense is committed to the health, safety and well-being of our service members, and remains trained and ready to accomplish any mission.