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Running toward virtual excellence

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Greg Erwin
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. - Reluctantly crouched at the starting line, a lone Airman shakes with nerves before the timing official asks if he is ready. After a deep inhale and exhale, the Airman responds with a nod, signifying he is prepared to start the running portion of his PT test. His nerves fade as the laps click off in succession, each lap faster than he has ever run before. Upon completion, he is told of the time – a new personal best.

When asked how he improved, the Airman, bent over and panting for breath, says “Run clinic.”

The Scott Air Force Base run clinic is an eight-week program held Monday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. It is designed to help improve a person’s run time for the 1.5 mile run portion of the Air Force physical fitness test through speed and endurance workouts. Anyone 18 and over can participate, whether military, contractor or civilian. Runners are put into groups based on their 1.5 mile time taken at the first day of clinic, and then paired with coaches who help participants improve over the course of the clinic.

Heather Braundmeier, 375th Medical Group health promotion coordinator, explained that the clinic has been running under her leadership for 49 iterations, and in her opinion it has helped build well rounded participants through the camaraderie and accountability of the program.

“It is imperative that we continue to bolster Comprehensive Airman Fitness and equip organizations and individuals with the resilience to not only cope in this environment of uncertainty but to thrive,” said Braundmeier. “I understand the struggle with fitting in a healthy lifestyle and physical fitness, while being able to respond effectively to whatever change brings.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the clinic shifted to a new virtual format. Instead of participating in-person, members were able to complete the workouts from home when they could fit it in and check in with the coaches when their workout was complete. While members always have to be mission ready, attempting to maintain that level of fitness without being able to meet in-person created challenges.

“Social isolation is difficult,” said 1st Lt. Robert Walker, 375th Civil Engineer Squadron section commander and Group 1 leader. “Taking the time to focus on health – both physical and mental – will help in these challenging times. We can still find ways to come together – even virtually – to support one another.”

Obstacles that had never presented themselves in previous clinics arose due to the virtual only option. Members experienced technical issues during live streams of workouts, but throughout the uncertainty of when the clinic could start back up, it was the dedication of the group leaders that kept the clinic going, Braundmeier said.

“This clinic was created to improve a member’s speed for their fitness assessment, but the relationships that are built in a hands-on, face-to-face clinic are priceless,” Braundmeier explained. “The support that has been provided throughout the 49 sessions is absolutely outstanding.”

When deciding on how to still effectively coach and lead the participants, the team decided to create videos to post to the Scott Air Force Base Health Promotion Facebook page to explain the daily workout and go through stretches for the participants watching. Even in the face of adversity, the change has also brought forth some positives for the coaches.

“We have found new locations to run,” Walker added. “Coaches have gotten better and faster. We learned that even in the face of a near total shutdown, the team is still willing to support each other and the participants of the run clinic.”

While this session was virtual only, the next session will go back to the in-person format, albeit while following the social distancing guidelines. Knowing that PT testing will resume in October, Walker had a final note for anyone wanting to join for the next clinic.

“The run clinic wants you to be ready, I want you to be ready,” Walker stated. “Come join us, follow the program and see where you improve.”