By Master Sgt. Shelley Gill, 125th Fighter Wing
/ Published September 04, 2012
Who would have thought that an interest in drama in High School would one day lead to a career in health and fitness? For Captain Jesus Garcia, this is just what happened. A goal of staying fit and agile for key roles in the school play evolved to a caree -- Captain Jesus Garcia, 125th Fighter Wing Health Promotions Officer, along with his partner Christina Sox, who both operate Crossfit Fortitude, South Daytona Beach, led a fitness enhancement class in the 125th Fighter Wing dining facility during August drill for anyone interested in improving their fitness level. Captain Garcia is committed to doing what it takes to help the wing excel physically. In addition to the class, Garcia and Sox dedicated several hours after drill both Saturday and Sunday to explain and demonstrate the form, flow and structure of all exercises. Staff Sgt. Mariam Abdallah, Medical Service Journeyman 125th Medical Group, was the great sport who performed the rigorous workout from start to finish as we all watched, out of breath with empathy, yet motivated by visions of what our own bodies could become with a little effort.
Garcia and Sox use a very simple yet effective plan. First, eat a low-fat, high-protein diet to reduce the size of the fat cells, while increasing the size of the muscle cells. Second, yet just as important, is exercise. In this case, it's not just any exercise. The key is high-intensity repetitions based on a fitness program known as Tabata. Tabata consists of 20 seconds of vigorous exercise such as pushups, sit-ups, lunges and squats separated by 10 seconds of rest, repeated 8 times. After each round of 8 repetitions is complete, a 400-yard run revs up the heart before the next interval of muscle building takes place. This interval training, combined with proper nutrition, is a very effective way to build lean muscle, burn fat and increase stamina.
Members of the Florida Air National Guard are held to the same fitness standards as their active duty counterparts, but unlike the full-time component, they often do not have access to the same resources. Active duty military bases have Health and Wellness Centers where Airmen can go if they need any type of advice on training or nutrition. However, those same resources do not exist at most Guard and Reserve units. This is where Garcia and Sox come in. Together, they have filled a gap, often with their own time, to help 125th Fighter Wing members in need of direction and help passing their Physical Fitness Tests.
"There is a big need here for Airmen who are either borderline failures or have failed their PT tests," said Garcia. "There is no real source for them here on base to go ask questions, so they can get in better shape."
Garcia added that many of them often turn to the commercial sector, and pay high out-of-pocket fees for guidance and support. He added that he felt compelled to share his knowledge because of what he had learned from his active duty years while stationed at Travis AFB, Calif., and Ramstein AFB, Germany. Garcia is driven by wanting to help members of the 125th FW succeed.
"If it means writing out a whole nutrition plan for them, or writing out a whole training plan for them, then I have to do that because I was blessed to be in these bigger Air Force bases, and I learned from those trainers," said Garcia
In addition to volunteering their time, Garcia and Sox run Crossfit Fortitude in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Garcia is an Emergency Room Nurse at Florida Hospital in Orlando, Fla. In their fitness center, Garcia and Sox also work with diabetic, stroke and cardiac patients to help them turn around their health. One of their clients, a 65-year-old man who has undergone open-heart surgery and has a pacemaker, has seen drastic improvement in fitness, and has lost 15 pounds after just six weeks. If Garcia could turn a couch potato with a heart condition into a lean machine, just imagine what he could do to help those who would be called to fight for their country.
"I like to implement what I do with civilians who are never going to be asked to do serve their country; I like to do that for these guys," said Garcia. "That's what I am passionate about."
Garcia pointed out that if there was a full-time trainer here at the unit, there would be resources for every Airman at any time. The results would be palpable.
"That's less failures you are going to see, and more productivity this base is going to have--that's what you get by simply adding a full -time health and wellness trainer."
Despite the busy schedule and extra personal time, Garcia says it is all worth it.
"I fell in love with a lot of these people here. To get an Airman to an optimal quality of health is worth more than whatever I can get paid in the civilian sector," he said. "It's worth its weight in gold."