Fitness instructors demonstrate proper sit-up form to Connecticut Soldiers
Fitness instructors demonstrate proper sit-up form to Connecticut Soldiers attending the CTARNG Fitness Improvement Program at the Regional Training Institute, Niantic, Conn., Jan. 29. It is the first time the CTARNG has hosted the course that aims at providing Guardsmen with the tools to achieve their fitness and health goals. (Photo courtesy of the CTARNG Fitness Improvement Program)

NIANTIC, Conn – The Connecticut National Guard aided Guardsmen striving to achieve their fitness and lifestyle goals at the first-ever Fitness Improvement Program, held at Camp Niantic Jan. 22-Feb. 2, 2019.

Over the course of 12 days, 37 Guardsmen attended a course aimed at not just providing a heavy dose of strenuous physical activity, but a holistic approach that included education on fitness, nutrition and other topics.

Soldiers begin each day at 6:00 a.m. and conducted morning physical activity, followed by breakfast and classroom education in nutrition and behavioral health. The second half of the day focused on a more nontraditional physical training regiment.

Guardsmen were schooled in different training methods that they may have never been exposed to before. CrossFit-style circuits, instruction by a certified yoga professional, and other aerobic exercise were just a few examples of the programs introduced to the attendees

The FIP was developed by Connecticut National Guard leadership with aid from academic experts at Yale and Central Connecticut State University.

"I would like to thank Dr. Jason Melnyk and his colleagues from Central Connecticut State University for helping with the curriculum and lessons that were taught to the Soldiers in the Fitness Improvement Program,” said Capt. Ryan Michalak, Fitness Improvement Program Coordinator. “CCSU and Yale both played an integral part of the planning and development for this course."

To aid in the Guardsman’s lifestyle transformation, the National Guard recruited the aid of Mary Savoye, a registered Dietician, and Dr. Alicia Londono, a child and adolescent psychiatry fellow, both from the Yale School of Medicine. Together, they instructed the class in behavioral health and dietary changes. Using algorithms and diet logbooks, Savoye helped Guardsmen plan out their required caloric intake, broken down by fats, carbs and protein. Savoye showed the class healthy food options, clean eating habits, food portioning, and ways to simplify weight loss.

Dr. Londono instructed Guardsmen on behavioral health attitudes necessary to make changes. She emphasized goal setting and practicality in achieving goals, highlighting the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and the complications that come with poor health choices.

“This course has shown me the error in my family’s eating habits,” said Sgt. Leonard Williams, 142nd Area Support Medical Company and class attendee. “I am going to make changes to my family’s diet by substituting unhealthy food with replacements such as fruits, vegetables and lean meats. This course will help change my lifestyle and provide me with the nutrition he needs to be able to play and keep up with his son.”

Guardsmen also took classes in food preparation. Spc. Kawonna Golden-Broughton, Culinary Specialist assigned to the Connecticut Training Center played a role in preparing meals and instructing attendees on healthy ways to prepare food for themselves. Golden-Broughton’s goal was to show Guardsmen healthy food choices and the correct way to prepare dishes for themselves.

“The Guardsmen have shown an improvement in eating habits,” Golden-Broughton said. “Unhealthy snacks are left out during food service and all the Guardsmen now know to avoid such choices and pick the healthier options.”

Although the course ended on Feb. 2, the attendees’ journey is far from over. Participants will periodically meet over the next three months to talk about challenges, success, and new goals they are pursuing on there health and fitness journey.

Michalak says that he is excited for the course to develop further and is looking to include even more fitness instructors into the program.

“We are looking for registered dieticians and certified volunteers in Pilates, Cross-Fit, Tabata, Zumba, MELT, and Aerobics to help expand the experience for the students,” Michalak said. “The idea behind this is to introduce the students to different forms of fitness.”