Is that really possible? I know quite a few marines, sailors, and soldiers that will tell you, absolutely! In April of 2007 we started a popular 12 week challenge at our military base Camp Fallujah, in Iraq. Being the MWR (morale, welfare and recreation) department, we wanted to offer a program we believe to be of great value to our troops.
The excitement and level of participation was exhilarating! Even working long days and out on missions, these people were on board with the program. They were in to win. It would have been really easy for them to quit or not even start at all given the limitations they had.
First, as I mentioned above, many of them work very long hours. It’s not uncommon to work 12-16 hour days, 7 days a week in Iraq.
I remember a Navy Captain telling me that after working in the operating room until after midnight, her commander was waiting for her to go work out. Her commander wasn’t even in the challenge but she wanted to support one of her nurses.
The second challenge is the limited equipment. One advantage that the troops had was that we are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I believe we have a nice gym and a good deal of equipment but, it’s not like the nice health clubs in the states.
Third, the climate. How many of us want to work out when it’s 130 degrees outside and the air conditioning inside can only keep it to a pleasant 90 degrees? Most of us, myself included, would be looking for a tall glass of iced tea rather than a treadmill.
Fourth, how do you get in 6 meals a day when the dining facility is open 3 times a day? Not only are you limited to the times you can go to chow, you are also limited to the selections you have.
Remember when you were a kid and your mother told you, « eat what’s on your plate or go hungry? » That’s pretty much the way it is. In between they had to hope the PX had protein shakes and bars or packets of tuna. They didn’t have the luxury of going to the local health food store, and although we can order online, it takes a while to get to Iraq. I know that each of them had their own challenges that I’m not even aware of. Although I believe MWR does a great job of offering resources for the troops, Dorothy… you ain’t in Kansas anymore. At each 4 week mark in the challenge we asked our challengers to come back in for body fat testing, a weigh in, and new pictures to compare to their « before » picture.
Remember the title to this message « Transform Your Body-Transform Your Life? » The change in their personalities was unmistakable. I have a few favorites that I would like to share with you. Early in March, Major Quinones came to me to talk about his weight. He was overweight by Army standards and he was getting some pressure about it. He wanted to know how to lose a number of pounds in one week. I don’t remember the number but it was completely unrealistic. We talked for close to an hour about nutrition, diet, exercise and the lifestyle changes that needed to be made.
I felt like I was reaching him but he actually hadn’t heard a word I had said. He was only interested in the pounds he needed to lose in a very short time frame. I asked Major Q to keep a food diary for me for the next few days. I was astonished to see he was only eating around 800 calories per day and putting in tons of cardio. There are rabbits that eat more than he did.
When I suggested he wasn’t eating enough and should add weight training he was listening but I think I lost him after I told him he needed to eat more.
When the challenge came along he decided to go for it. There are few more zealous than Major Q. He was all over it.
When he came to his four week body fat measurement he was actually smiling. He was once very tense but he seemed to have « lightened up. »
By the eight week mark, I was amazed at the definition in his body and the change in his demeanor. Could this be the same guy? The transformation in his body was making a transformation in his life. It makes perfectly good sense. When you feel good about yourself it spills over into every area of your life. You are more productive, you have a sense of accomplishment, and you feel better.
All of us want to succeed at what we try but few of us want to operate in self discipline and self control. But, self discipline and self control equal self confidence!
My next transformation hero is a marine. His name is MSG Thomas French. I always call him « Top. »
As Top will tell you, he was disgusted with the way he looked. The challenge that Top had was that although he knew everything there was to know about sports, he had no clue about nutrition, supplements, or working out.
Also, his schedule could sometimes be hectic. We spent all of our weekends together.
That was a bit of a teaser line so let me explain.
My job as an MWR Coordinator was to coordinate all the sports tournaments and events. Each and every month we offered softball, football, basketball, fun runs, horseshoes, soccer, and any other tournament we could think of. Top was always there to volunteer as a coach, referee, pitch, or any other place he could help out. If we had a tidily winks tournament, he would have been in on that too. He volunteered a lot of time.
Top began researching everything he could to find out more, and if I had a nickel for every question he asked me, I would be a rich woman. He took fitness classes and before long, he was teaching them. His marines began to ask him about the amazing changes he was making in his body. He started spreading the gospel of fitness and… people were listening.
Being out on the field every weekend, he also had the challenge of meals. He began loading up his back pack with protein bars and tuna packets and timed his meals to the minute. We might have even had to call time outs so he could eat. I’m exaggerating but only slightly.
By eating a clean diet both of the challengers overcame some health issues they were experiencing as well.
The funniest memory I have of Top was on the last day of the challenge. It was time to take the « after » pictures. He was the first one of the bunch and as we walked out to the tent to take pictures, they were setting up t-walls and of course, we couldn’t enter the area. I thought he was going to come unglued! He told them, « Get out! We have been working for weeks for the conclusion of this challenge and we’re not stopping now. »
I called the supervisor on the radio, cleared up the confusion, they left and we pressed on with the pictures. I think the adrenaline rush might have worked in his favor for the pictures. As I look for the common thread of these champions I would have to say it was the support system. The military, and especially in Iraq, support each other with everything they have.
They also had the support of the MWR staff. If we weren’t seeing the results they were expecting, we analyzed diet and exercise and made changes.
Second, I would say accountability. Those that stayed in the race knew they would be coming in for body fat testing and pictures. They did not want to fail themselves or anyone else. Transforming their bodies gave them the persistence, confidence, and perseverance to keep going.
I can say with complete confidence that if you transform you body, you can transform your life. If you would like to see pictures of Major Q and Top please go to the website listed below.
Here’s to your transformation in your body; transformation in your life!