Sailors can get worn out from working long hours making sure an aircraft carrier is well prepared for the Board of Inspection Survey (INSURV). The last thing on some Sailor’s minds is going to the gym or worrying about what they are eating.
Nonetheless as USS Nimitz and her crew undergo INSURV, physical fitness and health are still important aspects of the military lifestyle that should not be overlooked.
“We’re all in the military and Physical Fitness Assessments (PFA) are required,” said Airman Christian Sigurdson, a native of Eau Claire, Wisconsin and self-proclaimed health fanatic who doesn’t miss a day at the gym. “Basically, it’s a part of our job to stay in shape. Everyone needs to do their duty and work on their fitness in addition to their job on the ship.”
Sigurdson tries to work out for at least an hour or more a day even while out to sea. He says it takes a lot of mental toughness, but having a gym partner helps him get motivated.
“If you pick someone who is at your physical level or higher, you will have an unspoken competition to push yourself to try to do more and more,” said Sigurdson.
Sigurdson says being around the same people every day and the added pressures of work, can be aggravating at times. Getting a good sweat in and working out can be a great way to relieve that stress. It can also release endorphins, which make you feel good and give you more energy throughout the day. Feeling good and seeing progress in the mirror can be a great self-esteem booster as well.
Nimitz has six different gym spaces and 88 pieces of cardio equipment on board. These areas are open 24 hours a day, so there is plenty of accessibility.
There are also plenty of people on board willing to help. Elizabeth Winsper is Nimitz’s Fitboss, and her entire job is devoted to the health and fitness of Nimitz Sailors.
“I’ve always been passionate about working out and being athletic,” said Winsper. “My family has a military background, so this job is the perfect combination of both.”
Right now Nimitz is busy with workups, but once Nimitz returns to a consistent out-to-sea schedule on deployment, Winsper will run two to three fitness classes each day. The different classes include yoga, spin, dance fitness, boot camp and TRX (Total Body Resistance Exercise) suspension training.
“It’s hard to not be lazy after your work day,” said Winsper. “We schedule most of our classes in the evening to help accommodate for that. Even if your schedule doesn’t match up or the gyms are slammed with people you can do your own work out in the hangar bay.”
Nimitz’s next PFA is in May, over a year since the ship’s previous assessment. Sailors should be looking at where they are at physically and should start working on getting to a passing level of fitness if they aren’t where they need to be.
“The ship’s schedule is relatively the same day to day, so if you add working out to that schedule and do it for a while it will eventually become part of your daily routine,” said Winsper.
Working out is only part of being healthy, your diet and what you eat is also a huge factor in maintaining your health. Even while you’re underway and don’t have much choice in the food provided to you, there are still ways to ensure you are eating healthy.
“Most people will know when they’re not eating healthy,” said Winsper. “They will see it in their appearance and they won’t feel as well as when they eat healthy.”
Both Sigurdson and Winsper said that portion control is one of the most important factors of eating well.
“I know that food can be comforting,” said Winsper. “Especially when you’re away from your family and loved ones. It can be hard to avoid those monster pieces of cake and the tubs of pudding. I believe in enjoying the junk occasionally, but if you limit your intake you will see and feel a big difference.”
For Sigurdson, breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day because it helps get him going. He also eats small snacks throughout the day so he doesn’t eat larger meals than necessary.
“If you eat breakfast, your body starts metabolizing right away in the morning,” said Sigurdson. “A bigger breakfast and smaller dinner will help because you’re up and active during the day, which burns more calories. When you eat dinner you’re probably going to bed a few hours later so your body doesn’t work off all those calories, and they just sit there.”
In order to help you make better food choices, the Sailors who work in the galley place color-coded cards to show how healthy the food is. Red cards mean that the food isn’t too healthy and intake should be pretty limited. Yellow cards mean that you should still be watchful and only eat it occasionally. The green cards mean that the food is your best choice if you’re trying to be healthy and watch what you eat.
A healthy diet and fitting a bit of time to work out into your long days can be the key to looking and feeling better. If you use your resources and pay attention to what you are doing while underway you might even return home to your loved ones feeling a little better, faster, stronger or even smaller around the waist.
Story by MC3 Weston A. Mohr