Physical resiliency: HAWC strengthens

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Michelle Vickers
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
Editor's note: This is part two in a five-part series on resiliency. The characters in the series are fictional and any resemblance to real-life individuals is coincidental.

Thinking back over the course of his recent deployment, Senior Airman Gregory Cissell cannot pinpoint the exact moment he hurt his back. The injury may have come on one of the patrols his unit took, weighed down by gear, or it may have just come from loading up equipment in preparation for a convoy. Wherever it came from, the pain is one souvenir Cissell wishes he could have left behind.

After a deployment during which it was impossible to do regular physical training, an injury is the last thing Cissell wants setting him back from getting in peak shape. As he pushes to bounce back from injury, Cissell will not be working alone, Hurlburt Field's Health and Wellness Center can help him and his family every step of the way.

"The HAWC's mission is to cultivate and support a fit and healthy force ensuring physical readiness," said Anna Armstrong, the HAWC's health promotion flight health educator. "We have three main goals: to increase the health and fitness of Airmen, increase workforce productivity and increase family and community health and resilience."

Helping a service member overcome an injury is one way the HAWC can increase the health of Airmen while building their physical resiliency.

"The HAWC exercise physiologists and health and fitness specialists have the ability to help a member figure out what they can do physically, even with their injury," Armstrong said. "Individual appointments can help set members up with an exercise prescription that will help them stay as fit as possible during recovery. Likewise, our registered dieticians can help members keep an eye on their diet to avoid gaining weight while recovering."

Besides individual appointments, the HAWC offers recurring classes that cover proper exercises for frequently injured body parts. For those looking to improve their running performance, the HAWC also conducts running clinics.

"Several of our programs provide a group setting to address some of the most common injuries (knee, back and neck/shoulder)," Armstrong said. "We also offer a running clinic with gait analysis. This goes over the basics of form, which is a great refresher if you've taken a break from running. The gait analysis involves real-time video, allowing our exercise physiologists to check your gait while running and walking. With this information they can provide information on any muscle imbalances you may have, as well as recommend the best running shoe for your stride."

Although exercise is one key element towards creating greater physical resiliency, proper nutrition is necessary to fuel a body in motion. Service members and their family members who have certain health issues like high blood pressure or diabetes must take care to address special dietary needs.

"Specialty classes are offered for people who need help with diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol," Armstrong said. "We also provide Bod Pod analysis in a small group setting that allows members to find out their percent body fat and resting metabolic rate, which can be powerful information when addressing your nutrition and fitness needs."

Another factor that affects physical health is stress. Stress can be compounded by the drastic change in routine for both service member and family upon return from deployment.

"Our Sleep Smart program can help families get on track, especially post-deployment with a healthy sleep routine, which is often turned upside down with the return home," Armstrong said. "Likewise, Stress 101 can help provide some ideas and skills that will help deflate tensions that often occur during the reintegration process for the family."

While building physical resiliency is important for service members like Cissell to be fit to fight, it can also help reunite them with family members post-deployment. Physical activity like family bike rides, hikes or playing catch can increase the whole family's ability to respond to physical stress.

"The most important thing I could emphasize is to be patient with what can be a joyous but also difficult time," Armstrong said. "Making time to bond is important in rebuilding connections - family outings that involve physical activity are an excellent place to start, as physical activity boosts your mood while decreasing stress."

For more information, please contact the HAWC at 884-HAWC (4292).