Airmen turbo-charge their 2015

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Timothy Kim
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
(Editor's note: This is part one of a three-part series.)

The light tapping of rain could be heard on the cold, glass windows of the gym's second floor as gray, blank clouds loomed over the installation. Seventeen sneakers shuffle to the starting line.

A stench of sweat, vigor, failure and success permeates the gym, swirling anxiously around the group of runners stretching and warming up. The clock on the wall displays 6:20 p.m.

An Airmen, clad in a black T-shirt, gray shorts, white sneakers and her auburn hair tied up in a bun, nervously fiddles with her music player in a sea of smiling faces. Her eyes stay glued to the cerulean floors of the track, her gaze following the broad white lines marking the path before her.

"Is everyone ready?"

A buzzer blares as the stampede's thunder reaches a crescendo.

The 52nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron and the Eifel Powerhaus fitness center launched the Turbo-Charged Challenge #1 Jan. 13, 2015, at the fitness center, as part of the first of three challenges of the Largest Loser campaign.

The annual campaign is a program designed to help interested Spangdahlem community members lose weight, raise their physical fitness and learn healthier eating habits.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Denise Campbell, 52nd AMDS health promotion dietitian and native of Downington, Pennsylvania, and U.S. Air Force Airman Kimberly Collins, 52nd Force Support Squadron fitness apprentice and native of Morris, Alabama, oversaw the challenge that evening.

"With the new year, a lot of folks have health and wellness and nutrition goals," Campbell said. "So we just wanted to provide a venue for them to achieve those goals. Today was the first fitness challenge."

Campbell and Collins, co-facilitators of the campaign, oversaw the first challenge as both a health and physical specialist, respectively.

"I'm in charge of the physical assessments and help them improve physically, whereas health promotion is involved with the nutritional and lifestyle aspect of this campaign," Collins said.

"As Health Promotion, we are interested in helping people get healthier as well, so it made good sense for us to work together on this," Campbell said.

The first challenge aimed at creating a starting point for participants so they have something to compare themselves to as the campaign progresses. This particular challenge required participants to run 10 laps around the indoor track of the Eifel Powerhaus within a minimum of 10 minutes.

"I did the 10-on-10 because it's our first one, and I didn't want it to be taken lightly," Collins said. "They needed something to compare and measure to when they look back to today. It's to get them used to what the challenges are going to be like from now on."

The campaign launched Jan. 5 with two different challenge options: a six-week "Jump Start" program and a 16-week "Transformation" program. Both programs aim to achieve different fitness goals for interested participants.

"It's set around New Year's because everyone comes out thinking, 'it's the New Year, the new me,'" Collins said. "It's targeting the people who want to get into fitness, not necessarily those who have been working out year-round. It's to help people who want to be healthier, get a jump start and get into the fitness lifestyle."

Though the campaign emphasizes progress, Collins understands any anxieties people may have when starting a workout plan.

"We care a lot about beginning fitness levels," Collins said. "A lot of people are scared to come to the gym because they see these fit people working out and become intimidated. With this program, they have people starting off with them, so it's easier to stay committed when you're not coming in to work out by yourself. It helps them have a building block. We care so much about fitness because when you're healthier, you feel better overall with a better lifestyle, and you're happier."

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Andres Gomez, 52nd AMDS bioenvironmental technician and native of Orlando, Florida, participated in the first Turbo-Charged Challenge with the finishing time of six minutes and 23 seconds.

"I run every day, so it's more of a motivational thing for my coworkers," Gomez said. "It's to help them run faster for their physical fitness test."

A healthy and fit lifestyle can be achieved, but both Campbell and Collins stressed the importance of the journey to their goal.

"We're not here to judge," Collins said. "We have a group that will help them stick to it and push them to go farther. Eventually, they'll like fitness. Eventually, they'll get so far into fitness they won't even realize where they started. They won't even see the starting line - they'll just see where they're at and how to keep going."

"I am extremely passionate about people being healthy," Campbell said. "Health comes in many different forms and many different sizes. But when we're talking about the mission, you can't take care of the mission without being healthy yourself. To make the mission work, people must be healthy. Maintainers and operators will talk about working on the weapons systems and air frames, but as fitness and medical specialists, we think of the human body as the number one weapons system."

As her breath quickens and sweat drips down over her eyes, the Airman wipes the perspiration with her equally damp forearm. She looks over to her left, eyeballing her colleague running beside her. He had already finished the race way before she had.

She turns the corner of the track and draws in a sharp breath. Laid out before her - vulnerable, waiting, tantalizing - the finish line.

Her colleagues, waiting at the finish line, begin to cheer loudly as the large timer on the other side continues to tick.

9:55... 9:56... 9:57...

Without slowing, she crosses the finish line. Breathing heavily, she looks up at the bars of buzzing tungsten lights above, arms crossed over her head, taking in gulps of stale, gym air.

She had made it. She had finished the first challenge. She had made it to 2015.