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Fitness Improvement Program to help Airmen meet fitness goals

Airmen run the track in the Independence Hall Fitness Center on F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., March 4, 2014, during the timed run portion of their Air Force fitness assessment. The timed run, which accounts for 60 percent of the possible points Airmen can score on the assessment, is the portion of the assessment with which most Airmen struggle. The 90th Force Support Squadron Fitness Improvement Program aims to help Airmen improve their assessment scores, so cardio training is an important part of the program, which will help Airmen score higher on the timed run portion of the test. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jason Wiese)

Airmen run the track in the Independence Hall Fitness Center on F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., March 4, 2014, during the timed run portion of their Air Force fitness assessment. The timed run, which accounts for 60 percent of the possible points Airmen can score on the assessment, is the portion of the assessment with which most Airmen struggle. The 90th Force Support Squadron Fitness Improvement Program aims to help Airmen improve their assessment scores, so cardio training is an important part of the program, which will help Airmen score higher on the timed run portion of the test. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jason Wiese)

Airmen take the pushup portion of the Air Force fitness assessment, which entails doing as many pushups as possible within one minute, March 4, 2014, in the Indepence Hall Fitness Center on F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo. Test takers count the number of pushups a wingman performs correctly, and then the two switch and the other Airman counts while the first counter performs pushups. The 90th Force Support Squadron Fitness Improvement Program intends to help Airmen who want to improve their fitness assessment scores, and increasing the number of pushups they can perform is one way to improve. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jason Wiese)

Airmen take the pushup portion of the Air Force fitness assessment, which entails doing as many pushups as possible within one minute, March 4, 2014, in the Indepence Hall Fitness Center on F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo. Test takers count the number of pushups a wingman performs correctly, and then the two switch and the other Airman counts while the first counter performs pushups. The 90th Force Support Squadron Fitness Improvement Program intends to help Airmen who want to improve their fitness assessment scores, and increasing the number of pushups they can perform is one way to improve. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jason Wiese)

F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. -- Fitness specialists from the 90th Force Support Squadron seek candidates for a test group for their Fitness Improvement Program, an effort to help Airmen struggling to pass their fitness assessments or help others who just want to improve their score.

Anyone, from Airmen falling in the excellent range of scores to those at risk of failing their PT tests, can improve their fitness and help the budding program by being a part of the test group, said Andrea Bauer, 90th FSS Fitness Center director.

The program will require a two-month commitment to working five days a week from 7 to 8 a.m., she said.

The classes will be planned by fitness specialists and tailored to participants' needs, said Staff Sgt. Nicole Nielsen, 90th FSS fitness specialist. Cardio and strength training will be emphasized to provide well-rounded training.

Services Airmen are trained to help people reach their fitness goals, but they are not qualified to provide nutritional advice, Nielsen said. For this, the fitness specialists turn to the Health and Wellness Center.

"We've been working on this for a while," said Alison Morrell, 90th Medical Operations Squadron HAWC. "People always think there's a magic trick to weight loss or making strength gains. That's not the case."

Morrell said consistency and variety are key.

The biggest cause for PT test failure in the Air Force is the cardio portion of the test, which is a timed, 1.5-mile run, she said.

"Unfortunately, many Airmen gear training toward the test," Morrell said.

This means only working on pushups, sit-ups and running, which can set them up for failure, she said. Better training regimens provide variety and increase overall fitness, which in turn also reduces the risk of injury.

For this reason, the FIP incorporates a variety of training routines, she said. Fitness coordinators hope to teach participants successful workout regimens they can take with them into their life after the program. If the workouts are fun, encourage people to be consistent and create a sense of unity among participants, the program should be successful.

Failing PT tests is a big issue in the Air Force, Nielsen said. Commanders are cracking down and punishing failures, and for Airmen hoping to stay in the Air Force through its force reduction, failing a PT test can be a major mark against them.

"It can make or break them," Nielsen said. "Whether you're on the verge of failing or just want to improve your score, we're here for you."

Some Airmen might feel embarrassed or prideful and not want to seek help, she said.

"Put your pride aside," she said. "Do it for your career. Do it for you family. Do it for yourself.

"We treat every session confidentially, and nobody judges you."

Bauer said she hopes the program will become a tool commanders and supervisors can use as well as individual Airmen.

The test group will help uncover unforeseeable issues in the program and give them a chance to fix them before the program goes live, she said.

"Feedback is going to be important for us," Nielsen said. "It's going to help us help you."

While the program is designed for active-duty Airmen, those in the Guard/Reserve components and other service branches can also participate, Nielsen said.

Airmen interested in the program can contact Nielsen or Tech. Sgt. Theresa Pedro-Chapman at 773-6175.