As we cautiously walk into 2022, many military families are beginning to find a more normal, post pandemic tempo to life- if there even is such a thing as a normal tempo as a military family. Military spouses have a unique burden of being the “keeper of everything”- TDY info, appointments, finances, health records, grocery lists, favorite bedtime stories, family friendly restaurants in our area, social calendars, travel plans, PCS planning, pay changes- all of it. While carrying the weight of this burden can be enough to break to anyone, over the last two years we have thrown in the additional task of pandemic life, which is also enough to break anyone. Military families, and military spouses, get to carry both burdens at the same time, continuously. As we close out our second year of pandemic life, we MilSpos must take ourselves off of the back burner and begin to invest in our own well-being again, so that we can continue to be the backbone of our homes and the keepers of everything.
One of the most beneficial forms of self-care comes through movement of our bodies, and thankfully, military spouses have access to some amazing facilities to help us. Different forms of exercise have many benefits that are not related to weight loss or dieting, so let’s explore what you need to know about local fitness facilities to help them put their own health back in the forefront of their routines again.
Who can use the fitness facilities? Although every installation has varying pandemic protocols and varying equipment, one thing remains: military dependents can use the facilities free of charge– including military spouses. Some gyms have a parent workout area that includes space for young children to play next to some basic weights and fitness equipment. Our gym here in Alaska offers a child watch program through the Armed Services YMCA so parents can exercise kid-free. Each location has different rules, times, regulations, etc., so be sure to find out the details of your local gym.
The fitness facilities I’ve seen all follow a general pattern of available space and equipment: Weight area, weight machines, cardio machines, group fitness, basketball/racquetball area, functional fitness area. These facilities are equipped with quality equipment to fit whatever kind of workout you prefer. Dependents can try a group class like Spin or Yoga in the group fitness room or workout alone for cardio or for weight lifting. Some facilities even have an on-demand style kiosk available to stream the exercise of choice.
Some installations have restrictions around access times for dependents, so familiarize yourself with the expectations. In general, 2 hours before the workday, or 2 hours after the workday are going to be the busiest. It’s very common for service members to hit the gym before/after work, or have unit-based PT time during these windows, so be aware. Lunchtime can be hit or miss for crowds as well. Mid-morning, mid-afternoon, or after dinner are generally times that MilSpos won’t be competing for equipment or locker space.
Generally, you’ll find three main areas of exercise: strength training, flexibility, and cardiovascular training. Each area is beneficial when done safely and efficiently, and any variety is better than no movement at all. If you’re not sure where to start- decide what your goals are, then ask for help. Ask for an orientation, see if the facility has personal trainers they recommend, ask a workout buddy to join you, or find any number of online based workouts that you can try using all of the equipment available to you for free. If you’re wondering what kind of exercise if right for you, or you’re unfamiliar with the equipment, you must take the initiative to ask for help and learn. Try something new. Try something that you decide you hate. It’s okay to be learning, just don’t give up.
Our service members are held to a physical fitness standard based in risk mitigation and mission readiness. We, as military spouses, are largely left to our devices to take charge of our health and fitness. Research shows that exercise is beneficial for our physical and mental health in multiple ways that are not related to dieting or creating a smaller body through weight loss. Many professionals in the health and wellness environment are shifting to non-scale victories as a measure of success. What is a non-scale victory (NSV)? An NSV can be something like riding farther on the bike than you’ve ever ridden, lifting a heavier weight than ever before, completing a group class for the first time, trying a new form of exercise, sleeping better, having more energy in the mornings, etc. These are all ways to measure progress of fitness that have nothing to do with weight, body size, or scales.
Whether you are exercising to get stronger muscles, to improve heart health, to chase endorphins, or to have social time with friends- your local fitness facility will have what you need to get started.
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