Running to success

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. James M. Hodgman
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs
The sound of dozens of feet pounding the treadmills can be heard inside the fitness center here. Some are trying hard to maintain their pace, while others seem to be moving with ease.

Soon, a voice yells out to the runners, "Increase your incline to eight percent."

The runners follow the voice's instructions while trying to maintain their speeds.

One Airman struggles to maintain a six mile-per-hour pace as sweat drips from his brow. He's tired, his muscles are starting to fatigue and he wants to collapse.

Then he hears something he wasn't expecting.

"Increase your incline to 10 percent," the voice yells out.

The Airman complies and pushes through the discomfort, knowing that every step he takes is a step toward a better life.

Health and wellness center officials at Offutt Air Force Base offer a fitness class, called Get Fit Run, to both service members and civilians. The class consists of roughly 45 minutes of running, followed by a cool-down period and stretching.

The class focuses on improving run times, while teaching members safe and effective running techniques, said Marcy Jameson, an exercise physiologist with the 55th Aerospace Medicine Squadron and the HAWC flight chief at Offutt AFB.

This is done by using a variety of training methods including endurance, sprint and agility training, as well as hill drills, she said.

The class is for all ability levels, Ms. Jameson said.

"I don't want people to be fearful because we run three to five miles each class and they may be a beginner runner or new at running," she said.

"Maybe they can only run two miles or a mile and a half," she continued. "As long as they're challenging themselves, that's the purpose. They'll get better every time they come back."

For one staff sergeant, attending the class on a regular basis has greatly improved his fitness scores and his overall health.

In February 2010, Staff Sgt. Alan Shovan, an alternate missile warning center shift supervisor for the 55th Strategic Communications Squadron, weighed 250 pounds and had never run the mile-and-a-half in less than 13 minutes, 15 seconds.

Today, he runs the mile-and-a-half in 11 minutes, 35 seconds, and regularly runs up to five miles. His most recent fitness score was a 96.6, nearly 20 points higher than his highest score six years earlier.

He's also lost 60 pounds.

All of this success, he said, is because of his commitment to the run class and the impact Ms. Jameson has had on him.

"She gave me a diet that I needed to follow because I was a bad eater," Sergeant Shovan said. "I enjoyed eating the good stuff like burgers and fries, and she got me to actually change my eating habits."

Along with providing Sergeant Shovan with a healthy diet plan, Ms. Jameson also refused to let him quit during run classes.

"I hated running, and she wouldn't let me stop," Sergeant Shovan said. "She wouldn't let me give up. She pushed me."

As a result of all that pushing, the sergeant said he can feel the difference both physically and mentally.

"I've never felt this good and I've been in the Air Force for a long time," he said. "This is probably the most physically fit I've ever been."

Ms. Jameson said success stories like Sergeant Shovan's are the reason why she does what she does.

"I absolutely love it; that's why I do what I do," she said. "It makes me so proud because we get to see the person change. They (begin to) understand that this is not only running -- it's a lifestyle change."

Ms. Jameson also said she's apt to do cartwheels when she hears about people who reduce their run times, or score in the 90th percentile on their fitness assessment for the first time.

"That's a proud coaching moment because you get to see people realize their potential," she said. "When people achieve their best scores or fastest times in their careers, it's fascinating."

Since the Get Fit Run class was started in September 2009, more than 900 people have attended the class at least once, with 603 taking part in 2010.

Ms. Jameson said she hopes to see more people participate in the class in 2011, including even walkers or people who may be coming off a medical profile.

"If (people are) doing the walk test, or coming off a profile and want to get back into running, but do so safely, they're more than welcome to come in and we'll work with them," Ms. Jameson said.

For information about fitness programs at your base, contact your local HAWC.