Fighter Wing officer committed to fitness training for Airmen

Written by  //  August 30, 2012  //  Feature Stories

Garcia spends his own time creating training and nutrition plans to provide guidance and assistance to members of the 125th Fighter Wing, Florida Air National Guard to meet their fitness goals. (Air National Guard photo by MSgt. Shelley Gill)

By Master Sgt. Shelley Gill
125th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Aug. 30, 2012) — 125th Fighter Wing Health Promotions Officer Capt. Jesus Garcia, along with his partner Christina Sox , owner of Crossfit Fortitude, South Daytona Beach, led a fitness enhancement class in the 125th Fighter Wing dining facility during August drill for anyone who was interested in improving their fitness level.

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.

125th Fighter Wing Medical Service Journeyman, Staff Sgt. Mariam Abdallah, performs pushups as 125th Fighter Wing Health Promotions Officer, Captain Jesus Garcia (second from right) keeps count, as, 125th Fighter Wing, Jacksonville, Fla, August 18, 2012. (looking on are 125th Fighter Wing Chaplain's Assistant, Senior Airman Winter and 125th Fighter Wing Chaplain First Lt. John Williams) (Air National Guard photo by MSgt. Shelley Gill)

125th Medical Group Medical Service Journeyman Staff Sgt. Mariam Abdallah 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.  They recommend first eating a low-fat, high-protein diet to reduce the size of the fat cells, while increasing the size of the muscle cells. They then recommend exercise. In this case, it’s not just any exercise. The key is high intensity repetitions based on what’s called Tabata. Tabata is 20 seconds of vigorous exercise such as pushups, sit-ups, lunges and squats separated by 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight times. After each round of eight 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 it turns out, 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 their full-time component, 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, there aren’t resources here at the 125th for members to go seek guidance and ask questions. This is where Garcia, and Sox come in. Together, they have filled a gap, often with their own time, to help the 125th Fighter Wing members in need of direction and help passing their Physical Fitness Tests.

“There is a (need to assist) Airmen that 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 in California and Germany.

Garcia said he is driven by wanting to help members of the 125th 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.”

125th Fighter Wing Medical Service Journeyman, Staff Sgt. Mariam Abdallah, recovers after a 400 yard run, as 125th Fighter Wing Health Promotions Officer, Captain Jesus Garcia explains the next round of high intensity exercise, 125th Fighter Wing, Jacksonville, Fla, August 18, 2012. (Air National Guard photo by MSgt. Shelley Gill)

In addition to volunteering their time, Garcia and Sox run Crossfit Fortitude and Garcia is an Emergency room nurse at Florida Hospital in Orlando. In their fitness center, Garcia and Sox also work with diabetic, stroke and cardiac patients to help turn them around their health.  One of his clients, a 65-year-old man that had undergone open heart surgery and has a pacemaker, has seen drastic improvement in fitness, and lost 15 pounds after just six weeks.

Garcia said that if he 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 (here) what I do with civilians who are never going to be asked to serve their country,” he said. “That’s what I am passionate about.”

Garcia pointed out that if there was a full-time trainer at the unit, there would be resources for every Airman at any time and 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 said it is all worth it.

“To get an Airman to an optimal quality of health is worth more than whatever I can get paid in the civilian sector,” he added “…it’s worth its weight in gold.”