Staying ‘Fit to fight’


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Tech. Sgt. Clifton Somers performs cleans and presses during a CrossFit workout at Hanger 5 Fitness Center on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Oct. 25. Somers has lost 20 pounds in the last three months doing CrossFit. He is assigned to the 673d Medical Group. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

PHOTO BY STAFF SGT. BRIAN FERGUSON; USAF

As the military changes and adapts, so must military members. Deployments are the norm in today’s military, and with new physical fitness standards, every service member must remain “fit to fight.”

One Airman from the 673d Medical Group has embraced this new lifestyle, losing more than 55 pounds in the last two years, 20 pounds of that in the last three months.

“In 2006, I threw my back out, and gained a lot of weight feeling sorry for myself, constantly making excuses as to why I couldn’t work out, or walk, or just exercise,” said Tech. Sgt. Clifton Somers. “In late February 2009, before relocating to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, my grandfather passed away, and I watched him suffer. He didn’t complain about anything. It was that moment that I decided I had to change.”

Somers realized that at 5 feet 4 inches tall, his weight of 225 pounds was too much, so he started running.

“The running helped me lose a few pounds, but didn’t seem to be enough,” he said.

That is when Somers decided to take up CrossFit, and he has not looked back.

“I have been CrossFitting for almost two years now. Typically I spend about an hour working out, between the warm up and the workout of the day,” he said.

CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning program and can be done almost anywhere, with no specialized equipment. Every exercise and movement can be modified to a person’s fitness or skill level.

On JBER, civilians, military members and dependants meet at Hangar 5 to get a thorough workout.

Air Force Col. William Routt, former commander of the 3rd Operations Group, helped start Arctic Crossfit on JBER and trained regularly at Hangar 5.

“CrossFit is about constantly varied functional movements, done at high intensity,” he explained. “It specializes in not specializing. The WOD is like having a drum of bingo balls - until you take one out, you never know what the workout will be. You draw, and sometimes you say, ‘Oh, I hate that one!’ but you do it.”

Somers said the great thing about CrossFit is there are so many different aspects, you could never do the same workout twice if you did not want to.

The workouts themselves can range anywhere from five to 50 minutes. Typically they range between 20 and 35 minutes and include an array of different movements. One day the workout may have wall balls and box jumps, another day may be pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups and run, and other days may include dead lifts or cleans and runs or rowing.

“It incorporates olympic weight lifting, gymnastics, body weight movements and pretty much anything in between,” Somers said. “There are so many different movements to CrossFit it is hard to nail down specifics.”

Diet has also been a big part of Somers’ weight loss.

“I eat a lot, about six times a day. Our family also implemented paleo foods in August, which consists of natural foods - things that grow naturally from the earth. Nothing processed and no sugar,” he said. “I try to ensure all my meals, snacks included, have a fat, carbohydrate and protein source. I eat very little processed food. If you are shopping at the commissary, you mainly buy from the right side (produce) and the back wall (meats and eggs).”

Somers’ enthusiasm for working out has also spread to his family. His wife, now doing CrossFit, has lost more than 35 pounds.

“Jamie started seeing results pretty quickly as well. She soon became addicted, and we started working out together, and with groups,” he said. “Even my 6-year-old daughter, Aubreigh, gets involved. I limit her on what she can do because she is so young, but she does love the box jumps.”

Somers has seen drastic changes since he began his mission to get healthy, with the most significant being physical. He said he has also gained a lot of confidence since he started, and now helps train others, something he never envisioned himself doing.

“I have lost a total of 55 pounds and have gone from 38-inch waist pants to 33 inch comfortably. My goal is to get to 150 pounds, so I still have about 20 pounds to go,” he said.

Somers’ advice to others is, “Don’t give up, and don’t get frustrated. Get out there and start. The results are well worth the sacrifice. If you can get your family involved that makes all the difference in the world, and if you chose CrossFit, there are many people at many levels in each WOD. There is always a way to scale each workout to what you are able to do.”

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