There are certain moments in your life that you will always remember because they leave such a deep imprint. I had one of those moments over the course of an intense, physically demanding weekend a few months ago. I was a participant in a three day Personal Trainer workshop. Part of that workshop included a class called ''Operation Fit to Fight'', created and instructed by Staff Sergeant Ken Weichert. He proved to be a source of inspiration that I will remember for the rest of my life.
When Ken was a senior in high school, he had what most young men would dream about. He was a key player on the football team, and was being recruited by colleges nationwide. However, during one tragic play, he was badly injured. Doctors told him he would probably never walk again—but he proved them wrong. Not only did he go on to walk, but he is now a six-time ''Soldier of the Year'' recipient, a Veteran of both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Desert Storm, and has spent the last 20 years ensuring that National Guard Soldiers are ''fit to fight''. His mission was inspired by these sobering statistics: 18% of men and 43% of women of recruiting age are too overweight to be eligible for military service of any type, in any branch, and 3,000 troops were discharged in 2003 alone because of excess weight. Ken and his wife, Stephanie (also a certified personal trainer) founded the START Fitness program in San Francisco, and now also operate in Nashville, with the mission to help recruits and service men and women all around the globe to become fit enough to serve their country. Ken's story inspired me so much, and I came out of his class a changed person.
Almost eight months prior to the class, I underwent a surgery to reattach my bicep tendon on my right shoulder, and was on the long, slow road to recovery. Going into surgery, I wondered if I would ever be able to freely use my arm/shoulder like I wanted to. I had a very real fear that I would lose the ground I had made during my healthy lifestyle journey on SparkPeople. Down 95 pounds and maintaining, living a life of fitness, I wondered if this would be the bottom of the drop of the yo-yo. Would I start on my way back up, like the numerous times in my life when I had lost weight before? I was standing at the opening of a long, dark tunnel and wondered what I would find on the other side.
I let Ken know right off the bat that I was going into this class with an injury that wasn’t fully healed. He was so accommodating throughout the entire weekend, making sure I had alternatives to the exercises if needed and that I remained uninjured. I ended up making it through six classes with him over the course of the weekend. Ken closed the weekend workshop asking us to remember three basic steps when hunting for better health: Be resolute, Be accountable, and Be thorough. While doing the cool down stretches at the end of the class, I had tears running down my face. I’m sure Ken was wondering what was up with me. It was at that moment where I realized I had come out on the other side of the tunnel and saw the light. I was alright and the yo-yo was not a part of my life.
Ken gave me hope and made me see that I had a strength I hadn’t realized up until that point. One particular thing that he shared really resonated with me and has stuck with me to this day: the word ''calisthenics'' originates from a Greek word meaning ''beautiful strength''. Think on that next time you are in a boot camp class trying to crank out one more pushup. You’re creating a beautiful strength in your body every time you work out.
You can follow Sgt. Ken on Facebook, check out his website, or reach him at 877-ARMY-FIT. If you’re ever in an area where he is teaching, I would highly recommend his classes. They are challenging, and he is motivating.
After finishing one his workshops you will be certified to teach ''Operation Fit to Fight'' boot camps. If you’re a personal trainer, you can register with this link to donate your time to train members of the military and their family members.
I’m now looking forward to getting my Level 2 certification with Ken when he comes back next year. I plan on beating my record from this year for his obstacle course and shouting out a big ''Hoo-ha!'' Thank you, Ken, for giving me an inspirational weekend and helping me find a new level of strength to fight the fight against obesity. In the end, I also owe thanks to two other gentlemen in this story. One is ''SparkGuy'' Chris, who helped me get started on this journey. Without him, I wouldn’t have been in that class. The second is my personal trainer, Mitchell, who I’ve always referred to as Mr. Squat Police. During Ken’s class when I couldn’t do all of the pushups, I was doing squats while everyone else did pushups. I guess that squat training was beneficial after all!
Is there someone in your life who has motivated you to stay on your healthy lifestyle journey? Give them a shout-out here and let them know you appreciate them.
More From SparkPeople