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Posted 2/9/2018

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By Stephen Baack
Huntsville Center Public Affairs


The commander of the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, has launched this year’s fitness and health initiative for all members of the organization.

Leading by example, Col. John Hurley officially kicked off the second-annual Commander’s Fitness Challenge by being the first to sign up at the Wellness Center.

The challenge is designed to give participants an opportunity to monitor and improve their fitness and overall health throughout the first half of the calendar year, and beyond if they should so choose. Hurley stressed that, like last year, this is not a weight-loss contest, nor is it a fitness competition.

“The main goal is just to inspire people to make a small change in their life that would result in them becoming healthier or to improve their overall wellness,” Hurley said.

This could mean setting aside even 10 or 15 minutes to take a walk with a co-worker during lunch, Hurley said, or squeezing in a quick workout before or after work. Because employees have such varied missions and schedules, any extra time they want to schedule during their duty schedule will have to be arranged through supervisors.

To help participants document their progress, the Huntsville Center Wellness Committee has created an online tracker on the Center’s SharePoint site. The tracker lets participants record fitness-related data such as body weight, steps, running and cycling mileage, minutes walked, number of fitness classes and others. Participants can track whichever metric they choose, or all of them.

Robert Jackson, a member of the Wellness Committee, said he is excited to be part of “Season 2” of the challenge and is ready to help employees reach their health and fitness goals. In addition to the tracker, Jackson recommends people take advantage of the equipment and classes at the Wellness Center on the first floor of the main building.

Jackson stressed that tracking one’s fitness goals and using the gym are not requirements to participate in the Commander’s Challenge, but he recommended that Center employees use “peer power” to help them achieve their goals.

“There are a lot of different reasons people decide to do this, just like any fitness endeavor,” Jackson said. “Some people just want to be healthier, and this gives them the push to do it, especially when you know a lot of other people are doing it. That sense of community can help foster that positive environment. ‘If I know some of my friends are doing it and some of my co-workers, that’ll help push me to do it and be more conscious about health as well.”

Jackson, who works as a mechanical engineer in the Mechanical Branch, said he and the other members of the Wellness Committee are also planning to host at least a few small challenges like a push-up contest, which they did last year. Participation in the mini challenges is strictly voluntary.

“Those challenges are just to help keep folks engaged and thinking about it,” said Jackson.

Hurley recommends participants approach this challenge from a sensible perspective by avoiding pitfalls common in starting a fitness regimen. These include working too hard too soon and setting goals that are too aggressive. He added that some people get hung up on the notion that, unless they can devote an entire hour to exercise, why bother? Hurley said this attitude can backfire especially for those with busy schedules, as they may end up not working out very much, if at all.

“It’s always better to do a little bit every day,” Hurley said. “Even if you don’t have time to go to the gym, a 10-minute walk is infinitely better than doing nothing.”

Jackson agreed.

“Whatever you do, just do something,” Jackson said. “Even if you just walked 30 minutes one or two times a week, count that. Then look forward to increasing that. Get in, get involved and just do it.”

Because physical fitness is only one pillar of health, the Center invited Mary Bouldin, a registered nurse educator from Fox Army Health Center’s Wellness Clinic at Redstone Arsenal, to speak to employees at the Center primarily about nutrition. Bouldin addressed subjects like portion control, the role of different nutrients in one’s diet, and knowing how to read a food label.

“My goal is to make you aware of exactly what you’re eating and then help you make a shift toward those healthier choices,” Bouldin told attendees during her Feb. 6 visit.

If you missed her presentation, Bouldin said both government employees and contractors are eligible to make appointments at the Wellness Clinic, where they have a variety of classes to choose from. Topics include weight management, tobacco cessation, relaxation and fitness. Employees should be sure to check with their supervisors before arranging to attend. To learn more, visit www.redstone.amedd.army.mil and find the Wellness Clinic link under the Services tab.

Hurley said, regardless of one’s health goals, he wants employees to consider the value of setting aside some time to focus on themselves.

“It’s my impression that people get consumed with work or with community activities or with family, and they often put themselves last,” he said. “As a result, they don’t eat as well as they should, they’re not sleeping enough and they’re not exercising.”

Putting a little more focus on oneself, Hurley added, benefits not only the individual, but the entire organization.

“If you’re a supervisor, don’t you want the person to be as productive as possible today?” he asked. “Don’t you want them to use fewer sick days? Don’t you want them to be a happier person on the team rather than cranky and tired and worn out? Don’t you want them to be able to put in a full career and not need to medically retire earlier than they should? There’s a wealth of literature out there that says this is good for organizations. And personally, this is just great for you.”

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