Resilient and fit despite COVID-19

  • Published
  • By SSgt Tarelle Walker
  • AFCENT Public Affairs

On July 1, 2021, the Air Force will resume its physical fitness testing, following months of delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, Airmen of all ranks, ranging from new arrivals to those in the senior tier, have had to find different ways to maintain a healthy level of fitness despite obstacles presented during this unprecedented situation.

With the fitness tests resuming in the near future, U.S. Air Forces Central leadership stressed that maintaining a level of continual fitness is key to not only passing the test, but also remaining resilient as life begins to return to normal.

“My best advice for Airmen is to maintain a healthy lifestyle year-round. I've always found it is easier to stay in shape than to get in shape,” said Chief Master Sgt. John Storms, 9th Air Force (Air Forces Central) command chief. “I encourage Airmen to find a workout buddy, someone to hold them accountable and encourage them on days they may not feel their best.”

The COVID pandemic presented many challenges for Airmen to maintain their fitness level. However, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. William Kuryluk, non-commissioned officer in charge of Radio Maintenance at the Combined Air Operations Center, Al Udeid Air Base, found a creative way to keep himself in shape early on.

“During the initial COVID spread, everything was closed and I couldn’t workout in the ways I was accustomed to,” said Kuryluk. “Many of the outdoor hiking and running trails were super packed and basic fitness equipment was mostly sold out.”

Although these obstacles existed, Kuryluk didn’t let that stop him from staying fit.

“My dogs kept me active. I have two energetic German Shepherds named Bishop and Asher that need to work out daily. Incorporating them into my fitness routine kept me motivated.,” said Kuryluk.

COVID-19 restrictions impacted the fitness routines for all Airmen, including top leadership. Brig. Gen. David W. Smith, Mobilization Assistant to the Commander, 9th Air Force (Air Forces Central), overcame that reality by linking his COVID fitness routine to his goal of qualifying for the world-famous Ironman Triathlon.

“My focus on triathlon training not only helped me remain resilient during COVID, but it also helped me stay resilient in life,” said Smith. “Whether it’s Ironman training or any disciplined and regularly scheduled athletic fitness program, fitness contributes to not only our physical health, but also our mental and emotional health.”

Changes have recently been made to USAF PT test requirements, in a bid to assess Airmen’s fitness more accurately. Waist measurements are no longer part of the test score and age increments have shrunk from ten years down to five.

The U.S. Air Force encourages Airmen to avoid injury by consuming proper nutrition, staying hydrated, stretching and maintaining a consistent fitness routine, rather than relying on last minute efforts to prepare for the PT assessments.

“We have the greatest Air Force in the world, not because of our capabilities, but because of our Airmen and Guardians,” Smith added. “Remember that anything is possible. Set a goal and make a healthy fitness program part of your lifestyle. It will make you a better leader, but most importantly it will make you a better person, physically, mentally and emotionally.”