NEWS | April 8, 2020

VNG MFTs offer tips on staying fit while staying hime during pandemic

By Staff Reports JFHQ Public Affairs

RICHMOND, Va. — With gyms closed and sports cancelled, the Virginia National Guard’s Master Fitness Trainers are teaming up to provide some tips on staying fit while staying home. 

“There’s no reason people can’t come out of this more fit,” said Master Sgt. Ramon Abreu-Perez, master fitness coordinator for the Virginia National Guard. 

The role of an MFT is to increase performance while reducing injury. MFTs are capable of providing a wide range of services, from creating fitness programs for individuals and units to teaching proper form and technique for running and weight-lifting, developing and administering fitness assessments and educating Soldiers on fitness, nutrition and the importance of rest and recovery. 

Here’s some advice from two of our master fitness trainers on what they’re doing to stay fit while staying home along with some tips, tricks and workout routines:

Master Sgt. Ramon Abreu-Perez – 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute 

It has been almost four weeks since a state of emergency was declared in Virginia in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the most challenging things during this time is figuring out how to establish a daily routine that will allow you time to not only accomplish your required job responsibilities, but also yield time to maintain and improve your physical health. It is very easy to become sedentary and inactive during these times and drift away from our fitness goals. The thing to remember is that this situation is not permanent and eventually we will all come back to our “normal” lives and will be expected to be meet physical fitness standards. 

Here are a few things that have been key in helping me meet my fitness goals:
  1. A pre-existing healthy activity routine and physical fitness goals established before the stay-at-home order.
  2. At-home fitness equipment like pull-up bars, resistance bands, adjustable dumbbells.
  3. Adopting a mindset that physical fitness is still required as part of my job, therefore PRT is part of my workday.
  4. Establishing healthy eating habits by preparing and consuming whole food-based meals instead of relying on highly processed, ready-to-eat, pre-packaged food. 
  5. Having a spouse who is invested and shares the same goals and enthusiasm for fitness as I do. My wife has been instrumental in helping me meet my fitness goals as she cooks meals and is responsible for most of the fitness equipment acquisition in our home.
My fitness routine has consisted predominately of logging a good amount of running miles, around 25-35 miles a week, and incorporating muscular strength and endurance training at least twice a week. For my strength training I incorporate a mixture of resistance training with weights, bands and body weight. 

Practicing mental toughness and resiliency has also been a big part. I listen to a great deal of health and fitness podcasts. Listening to podcasts has been a great tool to keep my brain exercised and engaged. As I have learned from listening to one of my favorite podcasts, mental toughness is not a gift but rather a skill that can be learned and developed. Perhaps the best example of personally practicing mental toughness took place recently, when several races I was scheduled to run were cancelled. I was planning to race at the Shamrock Half Marathon in March and the Lincoln Marathon in May. Still, I maintained my training mileage and decided to virtually race my half marathon.

On March 22, I set out to run my half marathon on a course free of vehicle traffic and conducted my virtual race. Racing by yourself is tough. There are no crowds to cheer you up, there are no water stops or support. It is you against you. You must be self-sustained. One of the toughest parts is that you must manage the fight against your mind which is telling you to slow down, that your pace is not sustainable. Your body goes into self-preservation mode. Your body hurts and your legs are telling you that they have had enough. Your breathing is heavy, and your heart rate is high. But, somehow you still manage to shut off your mid off and you tell yourself, “come on, this race must go on, you have a goal to achieve.” And then, right towards the end, you look at your watch and you can say, “Hell yeah! I did it!” All the hard work paid off, the sweat and the sacrifices were all worth it and you can pat yourself.

In May, even though the Lincoln National Guard Marathon has been cancelled, I still plan to run a solo marathon. It will not be a marathon to establish a personal record, but it will still be a challenge. 

Being isolated does not need to result in a loss of your fitness level. Physical and mental fitness can be sustained and improved, even through difficult situations. It is up to the individual, it is up to us. 

Master Sgt. Abreu-Perez’s Podcast Suggestion List:
  • Mind Pump: online radio show / podcast dedicated to shedding the light on various fitness, health, and wellness topics
  • The Strength Running Podcast: running and coaching tips for beginner and advanced runners
  • Endurance Planet: news, reviews, advice and free audio interviews about triathlon, marathon, ultra-running and endurance sports
  • The Marathon Training Academy: running podcast that helps you unlock your potential to master marathon training and life

Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti – Virginia National Guard Recruiting & Retention Battalion 

Don’t get me wrong, I really miss the gym, but I’m still working out at least six days week and alternating my strength days with my endurance days, just like I usually do. I’m a runner and I’m bummed that all my spring races have been cancelled, but I’m taking the time to work on speed and form. At home, I’ve got a pretty basic set-up, just a few hand weights, a 10-pound medicine ball, some bands and an almost-100-year-old house with doorframes sturdy enough for me to practice my pull-ups and leg tucks. 
Exercise isn’t just about maintaining your physical health; it also plays a part in maintaining your mental health. It’s really easy to feel overwhelmed by all the uncertainty in the world, especially when so much of what’s going on is outside our control. I’m someone who has struggled with depression in the past, and what’s helping me is making sure I’m moving regularly throughout the day and knocking out a daily workout. I make sure I move throughout the work day, even if that means just running up the stairs a few times, knocking out a set of push-ups, or chasing my dogs off the porch. 

You don’t need much for an effective at-home workout and what I’ve included here can be completed with regular household items, like a towel, a bag of dog food, a chair or your dining table. 

SFC Gatti’s At-Home Arms

Warm up by running up and down your stairs 3-5 times, then knock out a quick set of 10 burpees and wake up your tiny muscle friends with the Shoulder Stability Drill (one set of 5-10 reps for each exercise). 

Complete 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps of each of the following: 

Dining Table Pull-Ups: Position yourself under your dining table, with the edge of the table at mid-chest level. Grip the end of the table and pull-up, focusing on squeezing your shoulder blades together as you come up. Adjust your feet to adjust the difficultly level of this movement.

Hand-Release Push-Ups: In the prone position, place your hands so your index finger is inside the outer edge of your shoulder, keep your feet no more than a few inches apart and push yourself up then lower all the way back to the group, extend your arms into a T, and then take it from the top. Make sure you’re keeping your spine in a generally straight line – that means making sure you’re not tucking your chin or tilting your head up.

Dog Food Bag Upright Rows: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, grip the dog food bag and pull it up, keeping it close to your body, until arms and parallel with your shoulders. If you don’t have a giant bag of dog food, you can use a suitcase, rucksack or backpack filled with books or other other household items. You can even use a small child if you’ve got one of those available. 

Dining Chair Dips: Put two dining chairs a little more than body width apart, put one hand on each chair, stick your legs out in front of you and dip. Easily modify this movement by using a couch, a single chair, a bench or step, and adjust the difficulty by moving your feet further or closer to your body. 

Towel Bicep Curls: Roll a towel up lengthwise and stand with feet hip-width apart, then loop the towel behind one leg while gripping the ends of the towel in each hand. Pull up the towel, using the weight of your leg to create resistance. If standing on one leg and doing this makes you feel off balance, modify to a seated position. 

Pair this workout with a few ab exercise of your choice (v-ups, reverse crunches, plank holds, sit-ups, toe touches, sitting twists, bicycle crunches, side planks). Then, grab a golf ball, tennis ball, lacrosse ball, frozen water bottle or a foam roller and work some self-myofascial release magic on your muscles.

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