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Senior NCO shares fitness success story

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (AFNEWS) -- If Airmen were trains and their career paths were tracks, then one senior NCO here  was a rusty, worn-out and derailed train a year ago, until he found a driving force strong enough to lift him back onto his track, grease his wheels and get him chugging again -- this time, on the express rail.

Master Sgt. Robert Stewart, the 436th Maintenance Operations Squadron maintenance operations center assistant NCO in charge, failed his third consecutive fit test in December 2006, then met John Walters, a Health and Wellness Center exercise physiologist, whose program completely turned the sergeant's life around.

"This all started the end of May 2006 when I initially failed my PT test," said the native of Greenwich, N.Y. "I received my Air Force Form 108 and went through all the necessary classes. I took the test in August 2006 and failed again. Then, I had to take the test in December 2006, and failed yet again."

Sergeant Stewart works in an office environment where he typically would sit in front of a computer screen for up to 12 hours a day, with the exceptions of occasionally getting up for a stretch or to go to lunch. With the lack of fitness at work, he had to devote time to fitness daily or he would put weight on.

Unfortunately, fitness has not always been an Air Force hot topic, Sergeant Stewart said. Once it came online, he seemed to be on a destined track toward failure.

"I had to change my attitude about fitness, I had to realize that fitness was part of my Air Force duty," the sergeant said. "That is what really cemented what I needed to do."

Though he was determined, coming back from a fit-test score of 47 was a challenge.

"Just prior to the December fail, I met with Mr. Walters for the first time," Sergeant Stewart said. "He told me sometimes you have to do things even if they hurt a little. I knew that I had to jump back on the bandwagon. This was the beginning of my transformation." 

Sergeant Stewart went before the fitness review board here Feb. 1. He discussed his fitness and admitted to all barriers preventing him from succeeding. His next step was to tear down the barriers and press on.

"I saw a fire with Sergeant Stewart immediately after his Fitness Review Board," Mr. Walters said. "I feel the fire to become healthier and fit was driven by his love for his family and Air Force."

A change was made.

"I started to run as often as I could," he said. "I ran in February's Warrior Run and ran the entire 5K without any problems. That was an extreme motivator!"

Fitness is about setting up a good workout routine and sticking with it, he stressed.

"Young Airmen should start now so they won't have to be like me, and fight a constant battle to stay fit," he said. 

It's not a solo mission, Sergeant Stewart said, who had a network of Dover Air Force Base Airmen to help him along in his quest.

He started attending the running clinic with Mr. Walters and Lt. Col. Philip Preen, the 436th Aeromedical Dental Operations Squadron commander. He increased his run time by more than a minute right away.

"I ran with him during his fit test run to help pace him," Mr. Walters said. "My thought is fitness is too serious to simply inform people and leave it completely on them. With time permitting, I would go out and run with any struggling Airman." 

Coaching and assistance came from others as well.

His commander, Lt. Col. Raymond Briggs, gave him coaching on lap swimming, which he said also has drastically helped him.

Lastly, he said he changed his attitude about eating and Master Sgt. William Miller, the HAWC nutritionist, helped along the way.

"I started writing down what I ate," he said. "I choose daily menus and keep a calorie count."

With a good diet, a support system and motivation, Sergeant Stewart increased his runs from two miles to 5.25 miles per session.

"I plan to run a 10K (6.2 miles) by this summer," he said. "It would be awesome to be able to run seven miles, but we will wait and see. I continue with swimming and lifting weights, too. I like to vary exercises for a great work out. Plus, it's fun!"

Sergeant Stewart scored a 79.3 on his latest fit-test and said he is very pleased with his score, though he would like to bring his run down another 38 seconds and max out his push-ups and sit-ups scores next time.

"Without a doubt, Sergeant Stewart has made the biggest gain in fitness scoring over a 90-day period I have seen," Mr. Walters said.

In three months, Sergeant Stewart went from 47 to 79.3 on his PT test. He said he hopes others can learn from his recent success as well as his early mistakes.

"Don't give up, stick with it and try to fit the puzzle together," he said, comparing diet, routine and motivation all to puzzle pieces. "Once the whole puzzle is put together and you can see the picture, it is all a whole lot easier." 

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