ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE -- Probably the most common New Year’s resolution is to become more physically fit, and it’s also probably the one that most quickly gets forgotten.
Soon out-of-shape people will flood into fitness centers, with the crowd typically getting back to normal by the end of the month.
For those looking for a way to stay on track throughout the year, The Telegraph turned to some people who have to stay fit to keep their job.
About 6,000 airmen at Robins are required to pass a fitness test at least annually. Those who don’t score a 90 or higher have to take it twice a year.
Scott Peavy, a fitness specialist at the base who works with airmen having trouble with the test, cited several keys for those just starting a fitness program.
But the biggest, he said, is to start slowly, especially people who have not been active much at all.
“The main thing is making it a routine,” he said. “Don’t go in and try to do too much too soon. If you can just make sure you are getting there and getting into the fitness center, that’s the biggest step, because once you start making it a routine, you will start seeing results.”
Walking, he said, is a perfectly good exercise for someone starting to get into shape.
It’s also important to have a reachable goal. For those seeking an overall level of fitness, calculators for all of the military fitness tests, which varies for each branch, can be found online. For the very ambitious, that includes the Navy Seals.
For the Air Force, a male under the age of 30 would need to do a minimum of 33 pushups in one minute, 42 situps in one minute and run 1.5 miles in 13 minutes and 36 seconds. He also would need a waist circumference of no more than 39 inches. If the minimum isn’t met in any of the categories, he fails the test.
Airmen who do not pass the test within a 24-month period can be kicked out of the Air Force.
A decade ago, the Air Force put a priority on fitness and increased the standards. The rules have been tweaked over the years, and at one time the pass rate at Robins dropped to about 80 percent, which caused great concern.
That’s when Peavy started the Total Force Fitness Program for those who failed the test twice consecutively. Now the overall pass rate for the base is 94 percent, according to base figures. The Air Force, which does its calculations a little differently, actually puts the pass rate at Robins at 98 percent, said John Enterman, the base’s fitness and sports manager.
As Peavy and Enterman talked about the Air Force fitness program at the base fitness center recently, a group of airmen were taking their fitness test.
One of those was Lt. Col. Kurt Stegner, who at 46 routinely gets either a perfect score or very close to it. He was the top finisher among the airmen doing the 1.5 mile run. He finished in 10 minutes even for a total test score of 99.9.
An avid runner who has competed in marathons, he still runs a couple of half marathons a year. To get ready for the test, he goes through each element of the test every day for 21 days prior to the test. He takes a four-day break before the test.
“It is absolutely miserable,” he said.
But he does it, he said, because as a leader he has to set the standard. His advice to anyone looking to start a fitness program is simple.
“The key to getting in shape is discipline,” he said. “That’s it. If you have discipline to go out and do something, no matter if it’s walking for 10 minutes a day or running two miles, you’ve got to have that discipline to do that at least three times a week. You’ve got to maintain that through the holidays and everything. You’ve just got to make time in your life to do that.”
Staff Sgt. Will Sheets did his 1.5 mile run in 11 minutes 14 seconds. He averages about 90 or higher on the test.
He said the key to sticking with a fitness program is to find a reason to stay motivated, which may vary for each person. He, for example, hates to run, but he loves to box. He boxes two days a week at a Macon gym, and that’s what motivates him to run.
“If my fitness isn’t there, I get my butt kicked,” he said. “I don’t like getting my butt kicked.”
He works out just about every day except on weekends.
Peavy said individual differences are an important consideration in staying motivated.
“There’s nothing magic about it,” he said. “You can’t find the one thing that’s going to work for everybody. ... You just have to experiment with routines and programs and your approach to the whole thing.”