A resilient state of mind, body: overcoming failure
By Senior Airman Philip Webb, 436th Maintenance Squadron / Published February 14, 2017
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. --
First off, I want to start out by saying that a 91 on a physical fitness test is nothing. It’s what’s expected of me. It’s what I should strive for every time.
To tell the whole story I have to go back to my last week in Basic Military Training, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas; I failed the sit-up portion of the test and was held back.
What was it like failing the fitness test in basic? It was heart breaking. I spent two months just working towards graduation, and then got pushed back. I didn’t get to graduate with my flight. I had to call my family and let them know that they had to cancel their travel plans and I couldn’t give them a date for when I was expected to graduate.
I was the only trainee to get recycled back for PT in my flight. I had a few flight members rooting for me and motivating me but my heart was still filled with doubt.
The 319th PT flight was a different experience, which goes without saying. The training instructors who led the flight were less focused on the everyday basic training routine, we had to be the first ones to eat in the morning and worked out all day. Every day consisted of running drill everywhere we went, sprinting up the bridges, alligator pushup crawls, stopping halfway to plank for what felt like hours, and strength training in the gym. After one week of all that I barely passed. At the end of BMT I weighed 190 pounds and at 6-foot-3, that’s pretty light.
After getting to Dover I kept a decent workout routine. After all, the gym was right down the road from me. I was eating decently and I did my best to keep junk food out of my diet. I got satisfactory scores for a year and a half, until I started slacking.
I think I started getting lazy when I moved out of the dorms. I wasn’t being responsible for what I ate and the gym wasn’t as convenient to get to. Diet and stress were probably the main factors in my first set of fails. I was doing sit-ups during commercial breaks or between matches during Xbox time but it never seemed to be enough. I paid a little more attention to my breathing and sit-up technique during mock PT Tests, and I was able to pass after two official fails.
Six months later I received orders to go to Germany and then the stress really hit. I’d gone through a majority of the out-processing checklist but when it came down to one PT test, and I failed the sit-up portion again, lost my orders and lost my senior airman stripes just a few months after receiving them. I lost so much in such a short amount of time, and I was ready to give up. Thankfully I had people around who cared, who pushed me every day and kept me motivated to stay healthy. I was able to keep passing for two years and got my stripes back, which is something you don’t see often. I’ve had a few coworkers of mine lose stripes and then just give up and get out.
A PT failure was not going to be my downfall. I’ve dealt with a lot of changes since then, I wrecked my favorite vehicle, switched shops and then switched schedules in that shop. It was rough re-learning my old job after being in the Wheel and Tire section for two and a half years. Needless to say, I wasn’t ready for my PT test this past November.
After getting passes for the last couple of years, I started to get lazy. I wasn’t working out regularly but I thought I wouldn’t have a problem. I passed all the minimums for the test but it wasn’t enough. I scored a 73.1, running the mile and a half in 13:06 with a 38-inch waist, but I wasn’t going to let a PT failure bring me down again.
I started making my own food for lunch instead of going out to eat. I immediately started waking up at 4:30 every morning just to get a good workout in at the gym. I felt that I had more energy and put more effort into my workout in the morning compared to going after work. I sent an email to John Walters, 436th Force Support Squadron fitness program manager, telling him about my fail and enrolled in the 90+ program. I was familiar with the class from the past fails, and I was ready to give it everything I had.
90+ is no joke. I know there are much tougher workout programs out there but it’s a great start if you’re recovering from a fail or if you have become complacent. And, if you stick with the class, eat healthy, and give 100 percent effort, you will improve greatly. The effort is the tough part. You will likely want to slow down or take breaks during the classes, but that’s where you hurt yourself.
I started the class during the end of the fall season and worked out over the holiday break. Every day I worked out and I was there when the class started back up. I brought my 5k run time down from the 30 minute area to a 24:26 and that is subject to change because I am still in the class even though I am no longer required to take it.
On the morning of Jan. 31, 2017, I passed – not just with a 75, or in the 80s – but a 91.4. I ran the mile and a half in 11:25 with a 35-inch waist. I managed to take nearly two minutes off my run and lost three inches from my waist in less than three months. This was the first 90 I’ve made in my five and a half years in the Air Force.
This is a great class, and if you don’t have your own workout routine, I would encourage you to give it a try.