KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – Thanksgiving Day marks the beginning of the Holiday Season for many of us, presenting multiple occasions to indulge in exquisite meals and enjoy plenty of extra relaxing time.
As the new year approaches, conversations about "new year's resolutions" commonly revolve around fitness goals, leading many individuals to consider gym memberships. This surge typically results in a significant increase in gym memberships during the initial months of the year, often leading to overcrowding as people strive to improve their fitness, shed weight, or embark on a healthier lifestyle journey.
Recently, the U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz announced 24/7 access for most of its fitness centers, expanding availability to all employees within the footprint. This initiative ensures that the facilities will remain open and available at all times, regardless of holidays, weekends, or the time of day, providing greater flexibility and convenience to individuals seeking to prioritize their health and wellness.
“Providing 24/7 access benefits the Army as a whole because it supports readiness and enhances service delivery without mounting costs,” said Daniel Washington, fitness, athletics, and aquatics chief.
The first Physical Fitness Centers (PFC) to start offering 24/7 access were the Landstuhl Fitness Center and the Mountaineer Gym in Baumholder in June 2019, added Washington.
Of the seven Army fitness centers within the USAG Rheinland-Pfalz’s footprint, three more now offer unstaffed PFC access: Rhine Ordnance Barracks, Kleber Kaserne, and Sembach.
Washington said that, since 2019, almost 14,000 passes have been processed.
“Our night owls and shift workers are the ones who benefit the most from being able to access the gyms after hours,” he said.
While some people prefer to work out in the evenings or early mornings to avoid large crowds during the busier daytime or afternoon hours, others have work schedules that make it virtually impossible for them to work out during traditional gym hours.
Police officers, firefighters, medical professionals, and retail employees represent a few of the occupations that frequently operate on rotating shift schedules. Because of time constraints (before or after their shift) some might try to rush through a workout, increasing their risk of getting injured. Having 24/7 PFC access provides them with a safe environment to relieve the stress from their jobs while accommodating their own lifestyle.
Kirk Lambiotte, information technology specialist for the 102d Signal Battalion, 2d Signal Brigade in Baumholder, said that having a gym that offers extended hours gives him and his wife the opportunity to spend some quality time together.
“We love to work out together, but with both of us having day shifts and working at different locations, we never get the chance to do that during regular gym hours,” said Lambiotte. “Now we have the option to exercise together either in the evening or on weekends, and that is great!”
All current authorized patrons over the age of 18 (or 17 if Active Duty) can be granted access to PFCs during unstaffed hours. Personnel need to register their Common Access Card (CAC)/ ID card through the front office of the fitness center of choice, and then sign a Statement of Understanding, Release of Liability, Assumption of Risk Form, and receive a brief orientation on safety policies and procedures. Violation of the signed agreement could result in the loss of 24/7 access privileges and subject the patron to further discipline.
Younger patrons (12 and older) can also use the facilities as long as they are always accompanied by their parents and after receiving the safety orientation. Because the PFC does not provide supervision or assistance on using the facilities and equipment after normal hours, patrons are expected to conduct themselves responsibly and to assess potential risks before engaging in any activity that could cause personal injury.
“To date, the feedback we received from patrons concerning 24/7 access has been mostly positive,” said Washington. “They love it!”
He highlighted that the primary challenge lies in ensuring the smooth operation of the necessary automation systems.
“I must applaud our IT team; they have been on it!” Washington said. “Ensuring the smooth functioning of automation systems require careful attention and proactive management. We have been lucky to have a well-trained team dedicated to making sure our patrons are taken care of.”