NEWS | Aug. 20, 2020

Sailors, civilians discover innovative way to promote fitness

By Travis Weger, MSCEURAF Public Affairs

For many, maintaining a fitness routine during the pandemic is proving difficult. Oftentimes alongside inactivity comes unhealthy habits. As military gyms closed and running outside was restricted due to COVID-19 mitigations, maintaining a healthy lifestyle presented new challenges.

The team at Commander, Task Force (CTF) 63 came up with an innovative solution to combat inactivity, a team-based fitness challenge that members could complete individually at home during their own time.

CTF 63’s Command Fitness Leaders (CFL), Logistics Specialist 1st Class Shilong Zhou and Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Emily Bongolan, came up with the idea after seeing Logistics Specialist Master Chief Noel Navidad, senior enlisted leader for CTF 63, inspire Sailors online to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“Master Chief was posting his workouts on social media, and people were congratulating him asking what workouts he was doing,” said Bongolan. “We went to him with the idea of doing a command fitness challenge; he liked it, so we ran with it.”

Zhou and Bongolan put their heads together and developed a plan that was based on the Navy Physical Readiness Test (PRT): pushups, sit-ups, planks, biking and running. Points were awarded for number of sets done or miles completed, and the prize would be bragging rights for the winning team. 

To promote inclusion, the team wanted to open the competition up to civilians in the workplace as well.

“It was really cool getting civilians to join since they do not have to complete the PRT,” said Bongolan. “Even though we all work in the same office we are in different workgroups, so this was a great way to get to know everyone outside of work and have some fun.”

Sailors from CTF 63 work side-by-side with civilians and U.S. Navy reservists from Military Sealift Command Europe and Africa, and even though they work in the same workgroup, this provided them an opportunity to bond in a different way. 

“I think it was a much-needed activity, to have inclusion of military and civilian culture,” said Steve Drexler, a civilian with Military Sealift Command Europe and Africa. “It was a fun and friendly competition. The best part was to see people’s different workouts on the group chat.”

When the team came up with the idea for the competition they thought they would get only a few people to join. After the invitation went out to the command, emails began pouring in asking to join. By the time the competition started 37 participants had joined, which accounted for 70% of people at the command.

Participants were split into blue and gold teams with one CFL per team as the lead. To track progress and inspire others to reach their goals, Zhou and Bongolan each started group chats with their respective teams.

“I would wake up and give small daily challenges to motivate my team,” said Zhou. “I would send them photos of my run to help challenge them.”

The first week, both teams pushed themselves with the blue team pulling ahead with the most points. This kicked the gold team into high-gear, and by the end of the challenge, the gold team won with most overall points.

Overall, the challenge was deemed a success with teams scoring more than 16,500 points, which equaled an average of 13 PRTs per person throughout the month.

“Physical training is for everyone,” said Zhou. “Gaining weight because of quarantine can impact the mission, so this was a great way to keep morale up while encouraging teamwork at the command.”