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Officers find motivation to feel younger, stay healthier

  • Published
  • By Nicole Singer
  • Air Force Materiel Command Public Affairs
Col. Mona Vollmer has scored 100 percent on her Air Force physical fitness tests for years. This year was no different ... except she scored 100 percent in the women's under-25 age group.

Colonel Vollmer, an Air Force Reserve public affairs officer assigned to Air Force Materiel Command headquarters, previously had tested in her own 40-to-44 age range.

"I had been scoring 100 percent for the past few years and I felt unchallenged, so I decided to set a new goal for myself," she said.

She joins another officer at Wright-Patterson AFB who worked hard to achieve a similar goal. Lt. Col. Gary Hopper increased his physical training and lost 10 pounds, helping him score 100 percent in the men's under-25 category. Colonel Hopper was 50 at the time of his test.

"I divide up my training into three separate categories," said Colonel Hopper. He lifts weights three days a week to keep muscle strength. On the other days he runs four to six miles at a medium pace or does interval training.

"Interval training is the best workout you can do, even if it is only once every week or every other week," Colonel Hopper said. He believes strength training is important, but thinks that many people overlook the overall training.

The colonel said he emphasizes the importance of fitness to his troops. He knows that training will be the key if they find themselves in a high-stress event like a firefight.

All Airmen must take the Air Force physical fitness test and they must meet the requirements for their gender and age group. Airmen are required to complete a 1.5-mile run and a bike test to assess their aerobic fitness. Their abdominal circumference is measured for body composition and they must complete a specified number of push-ups and crunches in one minute.

The aerobic tests are worth a maximum of 50 points. Body composition is worth 30 points. Push-ups and crunches are each worth 10 points. Airmen must receive a 70 percent or above to pass the test. The ratings are split into four categories: excellent, good, marginal and poor. These categories determine how often the physical fitness test must be repeated.

"I took the test right after I returned from my deployment (to southwest Asia)," said Colonel Vollmer, "I had a lot of time to work out and it was easier to eat healthy."

Colonel Vollmer said she became more health conscious after joining the Air Force. She became involved in weight lifting and gained more interest in fitness.

She is helping others get in and stay in shape too. Colonel Vollmer said she was asked so often for advice that she decided to become a certified personal fitness trainer.

"Friends would ask me for help so I figured I might as well get trained so I know what I'm talking about," she said.

An important component in Vollmer's success has been healthy eating. She and her husband have been following the Zone diet, which requires three block meals a day and snacks in between.

"It allows me to keep my energy up," she said. "It might sound like a lot of food, but you lose weight."

With the Zone diet, each meal should have a balance of low-fat protein, vegetables and fruit, with a dash of good fats such as almonds or peanut butter. Snacks are also allowed between meals to keep energy up and hunger down. String cheese, half an apple or a cup of strawberries are good examples of healthy snacks.

"It doesn't allow your sugar to fluctuate, so you don't ever feel hungry," said Colonel Vollmer. "I'm a big advocate for the Zone."

A regular workout schedule is essential to staying in shape.

"I try to get in three good runs a week," said Colonel Vollmer.

She switches between interval runs, pace runs and hill runs for aerobic exercise. She also tries to hit the gym about four times a week to work on her upper body.

Colonel Vollmer said she believes the key to success in fitness is persistence.

"Set the goal in small, achievable steps and keep going," she said. "If you have a bad workout, it's not time to quit. The next day is a new day."