CAMP AL TAQADDUM, Iraq --
Pumping iron, loading up on protein and doing maximum repetitions to get beefy, buff and ripped can only benefit a Marine or sailor if they take the right precautions.
Hydrating, eating healthy and fully preparing for a workout with a warm-up and cool-down routine are what make physical training effective.
These things are important to any service member maintaining weight and fitness standards. Marines and sailors in a deployed environment have to strive to achieve these things to stay healthy and fit, but most importantly, to stay in the fight.
A healthy diet is important to Marines’ and sailors’ overall health during deployment. The Department of Defense dining facilities offer a wide range of food options at every meal.
“The dining facility offers a variety of healthy options, everything from fresh fruits and salad to grilled chicken breast and panini sandwiches,” said Chief Warrant Officer Christine M. Reliford, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) food service officer. “It's all about making the right choices when dining in the DFAC.”
The DFAC also displays nutritional information with every entree and side dish they serve. This makes selecting the right foods easier for diners.
However, eating healthy is not always possible for Marines and sailors spending days at a time on missions where their only choices are meals-ready-to-eat and the snacks provided to them, which aren’t typically healthy.
“It’s hard to maintain a healthy diet when Marines and sailors are on missions,” said Chief Petty Officer Monique C. Boyd, the independent duty corpsman with 2nd MLG (Fwd) regimental aid station. “When they return from their missions they need to eat right again and counter balance the unhealthy diet with a healthy one that is high in protein.”
Aside from eating healthy, it is essential that Marines and sailors drink an ample amount of water to stay hydrated. This is especially important during the summer months in Al Anbar province, Iraq, where the temperatures rise well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Hydration is very important because the Marines and sailors are always in motion,” said Boyd. “Whether it be walking back and forth from the chow hall, the post exchange or their [living quarters], on missions or participating in physical training outdoors, it is essential that they replace electrolytes lost in sweat.”
Petty Officer 2nd Class Herico P. Incoy, a hospital corpsman at the 2nd MLG (Fwd) regimental aid station, recommends drinking at least four to six liters of water per day if conducting minimal activity or physical training.
“If the Marine or sailor is taking supplements or is in the heat a lot, they should add at least one bottle of water [to the recommended amount] to stay hydrated,” Incoy said.
Physical training is another important aspect of staying healthy and fit during deployment.
“Staying active in a deployed environment keeps your body in shape and your mind at ease,” said Reliford, who also instructs the aerobics class on base. “It's a great way to get away and work off some of the frustrations of being away from home.”
Before beginning a workout, it’s important that Marines are fully prepared to prevent injuries.
“Warming up and cooling down is essential to any type of physical activity,” Reliford said. “Working out muscles that are not warmed up are primary candidates for injury. Basic movements, such as jumping rope, jumping jacks or even jogging in place, are excellent warm-up exercises, as it encompasses most parts of the body.”
Not following these guidelines is what lands many Marines and sailors in Boyd’s office, aching of back, shoulder and knee injuries.
“We see a lot of patients for musculoskeletal issues. When they come in, the first thing we ask them is if they warmed up before their workout, and the answer is usually no,” said Boyd. “Before you even start your workout, you should have a good idea of what you are going to do. You should listen to your body, and try not to strain any muscle group.”
What service members do after their workout is just as important as the precautions they should take before.
“Stretching after your workout is also important for the simple fact your muscles have tightened up during the workout and need stretching in order to prevent unnecessary soreness and post-workout injuries,” Reliford said.
For some, making time for a workout can be a struggle. Marines and sailors who spend days at a time on missions find it hard to stick to a physical training schedule.
“The easiest way to get a quick workout on busy days is to simply pick up the pace,” Reliford said. “While walking back and forth from the dining facilities or billeting, try to get up to100-110 steps per minute. It's hot, so adding those few extra steps per minute turns your body into a burning fat machine!
“Also, every time you walk by a pull-up bar, do 20 pull-ups followed by 20 push-ups,” she continued. “And if you have to be in the gym to feel like you are getting a workout, simply take your blouse off and hit a few core exercises alternating with a major muscle group. Being busy is not an excuse to skip your workout.”
For a fun way to stay fit, the base offers competitions, scheduled races and physical fitness classes, such as the aerobics class taught by Reliford.
“I started teaching aerobics in February,” Reliford said. “The previous instructor was with 1st MLG, so when she departed I saw the need for an instructor. I kind of just fell into place. I scoured the internet for workout music, practiced a routine everyday at lunch for about two weeks and was off teaching the class in no time.”
Reliford also plans to start a yoga or stretch class in the future.
With the help of a healthy diet, hydration and a consistent physical training schedule, Marines and sailors will stay fit and healthy during their deployment.