Friday, February 10, 2012


To those who read my old Yahoo 360 blog, this is very similar to a post that I wrote on Yahoo 360 about being a "fitness program reject."

It's that time of year again. I'm not referring to it being ski season or time to bring out the ice spikes. Every February the Healthy Lifestyle Challenge takes place on base. But, alas, I won't be participating in it. The reason I'll be on the sidelines while others on base are collecting points and accolades for their participation in the program is because I'm a fitness program reject. Why am I a fitness program reject? I'm too fit.

The Healthy Lifestyle Challenge was not the first fitness program that turned me down. The US government has a civilian fitness program for its employees. If you're accepted into it, you can take off from work one hour early three days a week. At the time I applied to participate in the Hohenfels civilian fitness program (1997-98 time frame),  one of my major goals was to run a 10K race in under 50 minutes. I had come tantalizingly close several times, but never seemed to be able to crack the 50-minute barrier. I finally did it in 2004, but that's another story. I heard about the civilian fitness program at the gym, got an application, and filled it out. There were several goals listed on the application: lose weight, quit smoking, quit drinking alcohol, lower blood pressure, improve aerobic fitness, improve diet, and other. I checked the "other" block, wrote, "Improve my 10K and marathon times," and gave it to my supervisor to sign. My supervisor signed it because he knew that I could get my work done even if I took off three hours a week to train. But his supervisor rejected my application and said that improving my 10K and marathon times was not printed on the form. Therefore, they were not valid reasons for participating in the program. He also said that this program is a short-term program for people who are unfit to get them started on what will hopefully become a permanent fitness routine. Being a long distance runner made me too fit for the program. If I was an obese alcoholic with high blood pressure who smoked, then I would have been readily accepted.

When I got the rejection from my supervisor's boss, I tried the "glory through sports" angle. Hey, it worked for the Soviet Union and the former East Bloc countries. It's a real unit pride thing in the military, and among civilian organizations working for the military, to do well in on-base and inter-base sporting events. Softball and volleyball tournaments as well as running races are great ways for units to get accolades. I told the big boss that improving my race times and placing high in on-base and local races would bring glory, or at least good publicity, to our division. But he didn't budge from his position. If it wasn't printed on the form, it was a no-go. He knew that I didn't smoke, didn't drink much, and didn't need to lose weight. My blood pressure was good, as was my aerobic fitness. I could have checked the block about improving my diet. But ice cream and chocolate really should be their own food groups. Fitness Program Rejection Number One.

During my first winter in Garmisch, I saw fliers at the gym for the Healthy Lifestyle Challenge. It sounded interesting, so I thought that I'd try to do it. When I talked to one of the gym employees about it, he told me, "You're not the kind of person we want for this program. You're too fit." He explained that the program, like the year-round civilian fitness program, was designed to help the unfit learn more about exercise and diet and to (hopefully) permanently incorporate what they learned. Fitness Program Rejection Number Two.

I think it's great that the government is encouraging unfit people to get into the gym and take those first steps toward a healthier lifestyle. But  I think that those who are already fit should also be encouraged to participate in its programs. Even those of us who are physically fit still have goals like being able to lift more weight, becoming more flexible, or running faster. It would be nice if the existing fitness programs had goals that accomodate both fit and unfit people. But until that day comes, I will live with the honor of being a two-time fitness program reject.

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