Looking for community? 5 reasons to try CrossFit - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY FIT

Looking for community? 5 reasons to try CrossFit

“The military community just gets me. It’s like no other. Military spouses have a special bond. You don’t get it unless you’re a part of it.” I’m sure we’ve all heard these statements before, and some of us may have even said them. Yes, the military community is special, but there are other communities out there who do understand us, who do get us, who do have a similar sister/brotherhood.

One of those communities is CrossFit. Yes, please keep reading, I promise this is not all about the workout of the day and how much we can lift. CrossFit has a community; it’s one of the things people like most about it. The CrossFit community and the military community have so much in common that you find a lot of the same people in both. Here are some of the ways they’re the same.


Looking for community? 5 reasons to try CrossFit

(DVIDS)

1. They’re immediately welcoming.

When you show up to a new duty station as a military spouse, you start making friends before the boxes are unpacked. Within the first week, you have a hairdresser, a babysitter, at least one invitation for Thanksgiving, and some emergency contacts. When you walk into a CrossFit gym, you receive a similar welcome. You’ll meet new people immediately, they’ll start asking you questions, figure out what else you have in common, what mutual friends you have and you’ll be part of the group before the workout starts.

2. They show up for each other.

In the military community, we show up for each other day in and day out. Your neighbor will snag your kids off the bus if you’re not home or show up with dinner that night you are going to lose it. CrossFit friends are the same. One CrossFit friend, who works as a labor and delivery nurse, showed up to deliver her fellow athlete’s baby because of the bond they created at the gym. Sounds a lot like that military spouse who drove you to the hospital and held the camera so your spouse could watch the delivery downrange, right?

3. They cheer you on, even when they’re suffering.

There is nothing as heartwarming as watching a military spouse who just sent their spouse off on deployment excitedly holding the hand of their friend who is welcoming their spouse home. Being happy for our friends is what makes friendships rock-solid. In CrossFit, we can do the same. We cheer on new personal bests while we beat ourselves up for not going harder. We celebrate wins as a team, always.

Looking for community? 5 reasons to try CrossFit

(DVIDS)

4. They hold you accountable.

Everyone needs that friend who tells you when you have spinach dip in your teeth, and you’ll find that friend in a CrossFit gym and the military spouse community. The one who texts you at 4:45 a.m. and says they’re picking you up on the way to the gym. It may even be the same one who comes over and sits you down on the couch with your six-month-old while they fold your laundry, so you finally rest. They know what you need, and they make sure you do it.

5. They are truly a family.

From coffee groups to impromptu backyard barbeques, military spouses cling to each other when they live far from family. They put up with the good, the bad, and the screaming toddler while you’re trying to finish book club. CrossFit friends do the same thing. They hold your toddler so you can finish the workout, they tell you when to take a break and rest, they support you in every part of your life. Family comes first, and if you are a military spouse who CrossFits, you have two awesome families.

We see this in CrossFit affiliates and among the top athletes. Just like we see military spouses rally around the brand-new spouse while simultaneously showing up for the seasoned spouse. In the past few weeks, we’ve seen athletes cross goals off their list while competing against each other on an international level. We’ve seen tears of joy and frustration. We’ve seen pranks and fun head-to-head matchups, even one that took place at the US Army Warrior Fitness Center at Fort Knox.

BLUF: Community is everything. Find your people. Hold on tight.

MIGHTY FIT

Here’s what happens to a troop when they go without sleep

Most service members deal with pretty crappy working hours while on deployment. We wake up for patrol when we’re supposed to and attempt to rack out when we don’t have anything else going on for the day. Sure, you’ll hear some hard-asses out there say that “sleeping is a crutch” as they man the front lines, trying to stay up as long as they possibly can — just in case.

Since a firefight can break out at any moment, many of us to have to go days without even taking a nap. We know that going without sleep can make us cranky, but, biologically, that’s the least of your worries.


Various studies have shown that a lack of sleep will prevent our brains from making new memories.

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Prohibiting our bodies from getting proper rest increases the production of beta-amyloid, a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, when we don’t give ourselves time to achieve deep sleep, our brains are unable to wash away the unwanted proteins from our noodles. The more this protein builds up, the higher your chances of developing dementia later in life.

In fact, because of all the risks associated with this protein, the World Health Organization has even labeled nighttime work as a possible occupational carcinogen.

Sleep deprivation also affects our reproductive and immune systems, as well as reduces our testosterone levels.

That’s not good.

According to Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, once you’ve been awake for more than 16 hours, mental and physiological deterioration of the body begins. After 20 hours, the human mental capacity becomes impaired — similar to the level of being legally drunk behind the wheel of a car.

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Professor Walker recommends getting eight hours of sleep for ever 16 hours spent awake in order to repair the damage our bodies take from being awake.

Check out the Tech Insider‘s video below to hear, directly from Prof. Walker, how you should be sleeping.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

4 reasons military spouses are better prepared for a pandemic

Bring it on, virus! Not physically, of course, but as a figure of speech, we’re ready for your worst! That’s because, as milspos, we know a thing or two about dealing with things that are beyond our control. In a time of crisis, we are perfectly prepared to deal with whatever comes along.

Don’t believe us? Just take a look at your milspo resume and see how many resources you have to call upon in the current global situation.


We’re used to plans that change

Moving next month? PCS on hold? School dates changing and a delayed redeployment? That’s cake. Sure, we might stress about the details, but it’s not like this is our first go-round with order hitting the fan. Just sit back, take on each obstacle as you can and downplay the stress of those around you with you with your, “Been here before, rocked it!” attitude.

Looking for community? 5 reasons to try CrossFit

Crazy has lost its shock value

You’ve got to try really hard to shock military spouses with wild news. Sure, the pandemic might be getting close, but the most experienced of the spousal ranks are lowkey, asking, “So?” Think just how helpful it is to have gotten all your wows out in early military life so you can take the pandemic in stride.

Distance is our game

Living far from family is part of a military family’s definition. That means isolating ourselves from others is no big deal. Sure you might miss faces, but it’s not like you haven’t done this over and over again. Hunker down, take advantage of video calls and remember it could be worse. At least you don’t have to memorize a new address.

Looking for community? 5 reasons to try CrossFit

Entertainment on the go

With every move, with every adjusted plan, you’ve had to make a schedule on the fly. That means keeping kids busy, family meals that incorporate whatever’s left in the cabinet and more. Better yet, you can do it all with ease! Put your years of home service to good work through the pandemic with a family that’s fed and entertained, even through less than ideal circumstances.

What’s your best go-with-the-flow tip for milspouses?

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How to make a great living room obstacle course

Long before obstacle-course races became the dad fitness fad du jour, kids enjoyed crawling, jumping, and swinging from station to station in PE class. And they still do, even if not all of them want to train for a Mini Mudder. Most young kids have a good notion of what obstacle courses are (the world looks like one when you’re small enough) so getting them to race through homemade gauntlets is fairly easy and, when it comes to tiring them out, incredibly effective. It’s an activity that naturally builds on itself because kids will want to provide feedback on specific obstacles and courses can have endless permutations, at least until someone breaks something. The perfect obstacle course should be challenging, silly, and easily deconstructed or reconstructed. But, most importantly, it should be safe ⏤ so no fire pits!


Prep Time: About 30 minutes.
Entertainment Time: 20 minutes to two hours.
Energy Expended by Child: Mostly physical, unless you want to throw in a puzzle or two.

What You Need:

  • Things to jump over, onto, or from. Interlocking foam play mats and tumbling mats are great. So are ropes, toys, cushions, and very stable pieces of furniture.
  • Things to crawl under or through. If you don’t already have a play tunnel, pull a sheet taut and have them crawl under it, army style.
  • Things to throw. Make a station where aim is important. Throwing is a skill very young kids can develop.
  • Things to balance on. An extra piece of woods in the shed can be a balance beam. So can a floorboard if everyone agrees it’s surrounded by lava.
  • If you’re setting an outdoor obstacle course up in the backyard, there are plenty of ready-to-buy obstacles, as well.

How to Play:

The best way to play ‘Obstacle Course’ is by building several stations, each with their own challenge. Depending on the age of the kids, they can help with this part. Here’s an example (note that writing it down can be helpful and make comprehension part of the game):

  1. Balance beam.
  2. Knock down all the cans.
  3. Jump from block to block.
  4. Ride the tricycle across the living room while making a silly face.
  5. Crawl through the tunnel.
  6. Drag a heavy thing past the line.
  7. Walk a ping pong ball with a spoon.
Looking for community? 5 reasons to try CrossFit

The individual stations can be anything and are only limited by space and imagination. You can add special challenges as kids figure out how to manage certain obstacles. It’s also important to note that stations can reoccur in each running of an obstacle course. It is, for instance, a great idea to get kids to jump multiple times between activities that require more precise muscle control. This forces kids to engage different muscles and tires them out.

It’s also important to note that obstacle course are not merely physical. They are based on rules. It’s good to establish a points system that informs timing (plus 10 seconds for falling off the balance beam) because it incentivizes kids to really do the thing while turning you into a referee and arbiter of success, which puts you in a better position to encourage certain approaches or dish out positive feedback so kids feel like they’re making progress over time. If they aren’t, it also puts you in a prime position to obscure that fact.

To that end, it’s smart to make yourself one of the obstacles. Make kids dodge balls you’re throwing, chase you down, or play the levels game. This allows for you to make the course increasingly difficult and gets you directly involved, which is likely to ramp up interests (kids are predictable like that). On that same note, it’s a good idea to try to do the course — the parts you can fit through — to set a baseline time for your kid to beat. A bit of competition, no matter how silly, provides kids with a way to compete with mom and dad and understand their abilities and bodies in relation to other people’s. This leads to an ability to do a kind of athletic self-assessment that can be helpful later in life. It also tends to lead to absolute exhaustion.

Wrap Up:

Obstacle courses are a great way for your kids to burn off excess energy. And if they ever get tired of the same old course, change the theme or turn it into a narrated adventure: Superhero tryouts, ninja training, find the hidden treasure. Younger kids will especially enjoy embarking on the course as a character on an expedition. In the end, not only is it satisfying to watch your kids challenge themselves but also to watch them enjoy something you all built … even if it was made with couch cushions.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

4 ways to engage kids with their deployed parent this holiday season

The holidays are near and while it’s one of the most exciting times of the year, for military parents, it’s also one of the most dreaded. For service members, of course, it often means holidays spent away from loved ones. And, for parents on the homefront, it means explaining to kids why Dad is away, why Mom can’t be there on Christmas morning, why other kids have BOTH parents for the holidays, and other virtually unexplainable questions.

Yes, military kids are resilient. But they’re resilient for a reason — they’ve had to deal with tough things that most kids never experience. 

But, dreaded or not, the holidays will soon be here. And for military families everywhere, that means having tough conversations with kids. 

However, being gone doesn’t mean that a deployed or stationed parent can’t experience the holidays with their families. 

  1. Making the most of holiday traditions

Video calls and mailed care packages are some of the most obvious ways to stay connected through the holiday season … but they aren’t the only options. Consider what’s special for your family and how you can incorporate current holiday traditions, even when apart.

Hand-written notes are a sentimental way to add value for all. There’s something about seeing a loved one’s handwriting — about waiting for it to arrive — that makes a message extra special. Teach kids the value of writing notes to their parents early on. (And the excitement of receiving mail that isn’t bills!) 

Printed pictures can also do much for enthusiasm. Print pictures for your service member and drop them in the mail. Take the kids to the photo doc and let them help choose and print. While it’s not as good as spending time with the entire family, this process helps them feel involved. Cash in on that excitement! 

  1. Consider making new family traditions

Together, decide new traditions that the family can explore. Volunteering? Baking cookies? Small homemade trinkets? Hot chocolate and holiday movies — whatever it is, talk about it together. The tradition doesn’t necessarily have to be for the holidays, but something that everyone can do once your loved one has returned. Make a list and vote as a family for your new tradition. 

Then, it’s time to plan. Making lists, shopping, and of course, the date itself. Kids might find that the actual planning stages are more fun than the actual event. The excitement involved with doing something for a loved one can be magical for kids, and this is a great way to let that magic shine. 

  1. Having the hard conversation

When age appropriate, you will have to have a tough conversation with your kids: Mom or Dad won’t be home this year, but that doesn’t mean you have to skip the holidays. Yes, it’s ok to be sad about it, and here’s what we will do instead. Just addressing this subject might sound scary, but once laid out and on the table, everyone can move forward and find ways to still enjoy the holidays. 

  1. Incorporate your service member whenever possible

Though your service member is far away, it doesn’t mean kids can’t engage with them regularly. Whether it be through video calls, sending gifts, or “cooking together,” albeit from a distance, including Mom or Dad into kids’ everyday lives will help them remember the time as being special. 

Show kids that there’s still family fun to be had, even when the entire family can’t be together. Involve them in planning, shopping, and mailing whenever possible to help them process this tough time, and to find joy, even in the distance. 

How do you celebrate with your service member while they’re deployed? Tell us in the comments. 

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Military spouse needs a kidney donor

Angelica Harris doesn’t look sick. Her happy, bubbly personality is radiating and it is noticeable the minute you meet her. But Harris is sick with life-threatening chronic kidney disease. If she doesn’t get a new kidney in the next few years, she will be on life-long dialysis.

“That’s the one thing I hear most times— ‘But you don’t look sick,’” Harris said.

Angelica with her husband, Navy Lt. David Harris

Harris’ condition is new to her. Although doctors have come to realize that her kidney function started to decrease up to 5 years ago, it wasn’t until this past April that Harris was officially diagnosed with kidney disease.

“The only other symptoms I had was in December 2016. We lived in Oak Harbor, WA and I kept getting [a] fever and chills— but only at night. The doctors ran a blood panel but not my creatinine levels,” she said.

Her doctors put her on antibiotics for a kidney infection but called a few days later for her to stop taking them because they weren’t working. After that, she felt fine and had no more odd symptoms. Occasionally, she would get bouts of extreme cold and fatigue but nothing pointed her to kidney disease.

After Harris and her husband, Navy Lt. David Harris, moved to Naval Air Station Key West in 2019, they visited a fertility doctor in Miami, FL. They had been trying to get pregnant for years. It was there that her doctor ran a battery of tests, including her creatinine levels, and discovered they were high.

“They ran all the tests in February… But then the pandemic hit and I didn’t get a call until April that I needed to be seen by my [Primary Care Manager],” Harris said.

Harris, who is originally from the Philippines and moved here in 2014 with her husband after several years of dating, only told family and friends for the first few months after her diagnosis. After strong encouragement from her loved ones and even her nephrologist, she decided to use social media to try to find a suitable living donor.

Harris created a Facebook page and shared her story online in August. Her initial reached over 10,000 users in about four hours. She has since reached out to local newspapers to share her story and even has a magnet on her car that says “Looking for a Kidney” with her contact information below it to advertise to locals in the community.

Harris’ husband has three children from a previous marriage, and they are all older with two out of the house and one, a 17-year-old, living with her mom. But Harris has always wanted children of her own.

“I want 12,” she said. “I like noise and chaos, and I love hearing a house full of noise. I want that, too.”

But if Harris had never visited that fertility doctor in Miami, she may never have known she had kidney disease until it was too late.

Now, Harris is 36 and desperately looking for a viable living donor to help her live the life she wants to live.

In the Philippines, she worked as a sales manager in a hotel. Her most recent job was a similar position at one of the resorts in Key West. But she was laid off because of the pandemic and has not found work since.

“I spend my days sorting through messages on Facebook about potential donors, most of them coming from the Philippines,” Harris said.

Harris has had a few people contact her from the United States who are willing to donate their kidney. One even got as far as the initial screening process but then was denied because of a history of urinary tract infections. It was a heartbreaking realization for Harris that she could be put on dialysis if she doesn’t find a donor soon.

“I don’t want to be stuck to a dialysis machine my whole life,” she said. “It’s like a part-time job. Four hours a day, three days a week.”

Although the criteria for being a potential donor is an arduous one, people can be initially screened online for free to see if they are a potential match. If they pass that first phase, they can then move onto the testing phase, which is also free.

“A perfect blood type match is best but I can have A positive or negative, or O positive or negative,” Harris said. “A being in good overall health is required, too.”

Another person contacted her saying she was interested in donating, but she was denied because she previously had cancer.

“She has already gone through so much but she still wanted to give her kidney to me. That was amazing,” Harris recalled.

Although Harris is in a dire situation, she never once comments that she feels disheartened.

“I feel blessed. TRICARE covers all costs of a kidney transplant for me and my donor… Living in the U.S. itself is a blessing… If I was in the Philippines, I don’t think I’d ever find out. There, you don’t go to the doctor until you’re critically ill,” she said.

Military spouse with her husband

According to OrganDonor.gov, 118,000 people are currently looking for organ donors, and a new person is added to the national transplant list every 10 minutes. Moreover, 20 people die every day while waiting for an organ donor.

One person donating their organs at the time of death can save up to eight people.

At the writing of this article, Harris is still looking for a potential living donor.

If you are interested in learning more about the donor process or if you would like to see if you could be a potential donor for Harris, click here.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

I’m sure you’ve had a conversation with someone and asked, “Where are you from?” and the response was “Everywhere. I’m a military brat.”

At one time this response made me feel bad for them. I felt they didn’t have a real home or real friends because they never stayed put long enough. That was just my ignorance before I joined the military world.

Now I see all the amazing opportunities and environments that military children are exposed to.

Here’s 10 practical and healthy things we can teach our kids so that this lifestyle can benefit them in the long run!


1. Be open to friendships

Some kids have no problem making friends. And the other ones may need a bit of a push from us (parents). This is an excellent trait that will help your child throughout life, whether they are going to college, starting a new job, or relocating. You can grow this skill by simply teaching them conversations starters.

Looking for community? 5 reasons to try CrossFit

(115th Fighter Wing photo by MSgt Paul Gorman)

2. Try NEW foods

Keeping your palate flexible is the equivalent of keeping an open mind. Try a new restaurant once a month as a family, or let your child pick a new fruit or veggie when you go to the grocery store. I’ve experienced some of the best meals while traveling and eating outside of my comfort zone.

3. Learn a second language

What do you call someone who speaks one language? AMERICAN. It’s funny because for most of us, it’s true. Benefits our children can have from learning a second language can include a sharper mind, better job opportunities, and expanded connection to other cultures.

4. Layering

I grew up in Florida so it’s second nature to wear a light sweater with my clothes that I can peel off when the day warms. This valuable lesson will help your kids not to dress in thick sweaters for the day and then the weather goes from 55 to 80 within a few hours. It does that in certain places you know…

Looking for community? 5 reasons to try CrossFit

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Smelley)

5. Embrace other cultures

More than learning about other cultures, our kids get to experience them. Teach them to enjoy the differences. They might even want to start incorporating some into everyday life.

6. Journal

Everyone needs a private place to SAY IT ALL! Journaling is not only an excellent way of expression and getting your thoughts out, but it’s also a nice thing to look back on and reflect on how certain moments felt. The good, the bad, and the funny.

7. Take a piece of life to remember from wherever you go

There’s an interesting idea called a travel corner. It’s a spot that has photos of different places you’ve traveled and items/souvenirs gathered along the way. Not gift shop souvenirs, but shells, feathers, stones, and branches.

Looking for community? 5 reasons to try CrossFit

(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Aimee Fujikawa, 29th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

8. Don’t forget your friends

When your kids find a good friend who becomes a bestie, find ways for them to stay in touch. You can FaceTime every now and then. You can also have them create gifts for their friend’s birthday. How cool is it if they become pen pals and write each other letters? It’s quite possible that they may cross paths again.

9. Home is what you make it

It can be difficult to feel at home when every few years you’re packing up and moving again. This is an opportunity to teach your child how to create happiness. What types of things do they like? They can get creative with making their space reflect their personality and if this changes with every move, that’s fine. Let them take the lead on what type of vibe they want to surround them.

10. Find the “takeaway” in every experience

Teach kids to adapt to their situation rather its an unwanted duty station, or new school. Find the good because ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING!

If you’re a “military brat” what’s a practical lesson you learned growing up?

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

6 of the most important core exercises you’ll ever do

When gym amateurs think about doing core exercises to get rid of love handles and to gain ripped abs, they probably think they must do tons of sit-ups and leg raises.

The truth is when we refer to “ab exercises,” we’re typically only targeting our transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, and our internal and external oblique muscles. These are the four muscles that make up our abdominals. Our “core” consists of our abs plus many “stabilizer” structures like the pelvic floor, hip abductors, lower chest, and lower back. These are the areas many athletes target when they put themselves through a tough core workout.

Aside from getting those abs to pop out, having a strong core directly relates to how our bodies are balanced and our agility levels. As a bonus, a strong core helps promote our immunity, which can fend off colds and cases of flu while in season.

Unlike most muscle groups, putting ourselves through an intense core exercise program can be accomplished without using a single weight or having a ton of space. These movements can be done in virtually any location.

Out of the dozens of core exercises out there, we tend to go with these six movements three to four times a week to improve our overall health and wellness… and (we’re not going to lie) to get ripped abs.


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The “dead bug”

The name of this exercise might make it sound simple, but the dead bug is a lot harder to pull off than you think. You start off by positioning yourself like you’re a dead bug turned over on its back. With your legs and arms extended upward, keep all those core muscles we spoke about as tight as possible before lowering one of your legs down to the floor. As you slowly lower your leg, your back will want to arch itself to assist you with the load.

Don’t allow that to happen.

Keep your core tight as you bring your leg back up, and then repeat the whole process with the other leg. Continue onward until you hit failure. This is one of the best core movements in the book, so always keep this in mind when you’re looking to tone up your tummy.

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Scissor kicks

This is an exercise that many veterans want to forget about. We’ve done thousands of these bad boys during our command-led fitness adventures. Although you might not remember enjoying them during all your years of service, scissor kicks are a hell of a way to boost your body’s balance and get those abs ripped.

This supinated exercise is as easy as just moving your feet sideways while contracting your core muscles. However, you can exhaust your core in a matter of moments. After you hit 40 or 50 reps, you can quickly move into conducting a series of flutter kicks while you’re resting from all those scissor kicks you just did. Super setting your exercises burns more calories, which means you’re going to tone up faster.

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Russian twists

Although this movement sounds like a delicious vodka drink, it’s actually one of the hardest core exercises to master. Sure the idea of twisting your body so your fingertips can touch your hips sounds easy, but to do this movement correctly, you must balance yourself or risk falling over.

And no one wants to be seen falling on their side at the gym. It just looks bad. So, to master it, slow the motion down until you build up enough core strength to balance yourself perfectly.

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Alternating heel touches

We put this exercise here for a good reason. It’s not just an excellent movement but it’s also a great transitional motion after doing some Russian twists for a minute or two. Your core will probably feel like it’s on fire but alternating heel touches can help you catch your breath while still allowing you to tone up. By merely going from the same Russian twist position, start to touch your hands to your heels and an alternative motion.

You’ll feel this movement in your obliques and lower back.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riAutegDqdI

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V-ups

Remember how we talked about gaining balance through these core exercises? V-ups are one of the best movements to train the core to stabilize itself. By starting in a supine position, raise your lower and upper body up from the floor and attempt to touch your fingertips to your shins.

As you continue to get better, the goal is to touch your fingertips to your toe without falling over. Strengthening your body is a gradual process, so alway monitor your pain levels at all time.

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Two-point planks

Since the majority of the world has either heard of planks or seen someone do them, we want to challenge you by increasing its level of difficulty. After getting into a pushup position, raise up one leg up while lifting up the opposite arm to maintain your personal balance. After both limbs are extended for a second or two, lower them back down and proceed to lift your other limbs to complete the exercise.

We know it sounds super easy, but after a few cycles, you’ll feel your whole body start to shake. Don’t worry — that’s normal, even for advanced plankers.

Fitness is all about making goals and then destroying them once you’ve achieved them. So, set that goal and then break it.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

A letter to the spouses of the mission essential personnel

Dear spouses of the mission essential:

There’s been so much written lately about the heroes on the front lines. The selfless men and women bravely going to their jobs to serve their country and their communities. The ones who are knowingly going to work with patients or customers who could infect them. Yes, we rightfully applaud the truck drivers hauling supplies to replenish depleted stores. We extol the cook at our favorite restaurant who keeps making meals and the employees whose tips have been practically eliminated but still run our orders out to our cars. We watch with sheer amazement and horror as our doctors, nurses and medical staff go into the line of fire lacking basic, necessary protective equipment. We honor you all. We salute you all. We love and respect and are grateful For You All.

But this letter isn’t about that. Nope.


This letter is to you — the spouses of the mission essentials.

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Returning home

You are the ones left behind each morning. The ones left to deal with homeschool and meals and kids unable to play with their friends or understand their math homework that they didn’t quite grasp in a packet.

You are the ones left to carry the emotional burdens of children who are frustrated at a Zoom classroom and don’t understand why they can’t have a sleepover or go see grandma or even play at the park. You are the ones who field countless requests for snacks, a thousand utterings of, “I need help,” and even more declarations of, “I can’t do this.”

You put your own work on hold, your own health, your own sanity to muster one more ounce of patience, one more hug, one more deep breath, all while balancing that other nasty, invisible weight: the burden of your own anxiety. Anxious about the world. Anxious about your spouse. Anxious about their health and your health and your parents’ health and your kids’ health and their screen time and your elderly neighbor’s health and the teachers’ health and your job and your neighbor’s job and the economy and your kids’ education, and given your one hour of free time a week, why you suddenly identify with a character on Tiger King.

Here’s the thing: It’s all too much. And it’s going to feel like you’re failing.

Failing by definition means, “a weakness, especially in character; a shortcoming.” But if we’ve seen anything in this time of pandemic, we’ve seen your strength. Your resolve. Your gracious heart. We’ve seen you stay home and help flatten the curve. We’ve seen you take on additional responsibilities so your mission essential spouse could keep being mission essential. We’ve seen you offer encouragement to your friends on FaceTime when you have none to give yourself. We’ve seen you reassure your exhausted partner that everything will be okay, all the while knowing you will lie awake in the dark in the middle of the night, the echoes of your own fears so deafening you can’t fall back asleep.
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We see you. You’re going to be okay. Reframe your measure of success to include a bar that allows for just getting by. Find time for gratitude. Make space for prayer or meditation or simply a silence that isn’t broken by fear or anxiety. We are all in this together and your best is good enough. As my seven year old reminded me yesterday, this is his first global pandemic. Ours too, bud. Ours too.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what an unarmed chaplain brings to the battlefield

Chaplains are some of the most misunderstood troops in the formation. While they’re exempt from the minor stresses of the military, like going to the range or pointless details, they’re not above doing the one thing every troop is expected to do: deploy.

This puts them in a unique position. Sure, they have an assistant that’s kind of like a mix between an altar boy and an armed bodyguard, but they themselves are not allowed to pick up a weapon of any kind to remain in accordance with the Geneva Convention.

But that minor detail has never held any chaplains back from serving God and country on the front lines.


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It doesn’t matter which religion is on your dog tag, everyone gets the same respect.

(U.S. Army)

Their main objective is to facilitate the religious and emotional needs of all troops within their “flock.” Even if a chaplain was, say, a Roman Catholic priest back in the States, they accept anyone from any faith into their makeshift place of worship down range. They remain faithful to their personal denomination and preach in accordance with their own faith, but they must also learn enough about every religious belief in the formation to properly accommodate each and every troop.

This is because there is no alternative for deployed troops. Chaplains are few and far between in a given area of operation. When the worst happens and a soldier falls in combat, that Catholic chaplain needs a complete understanding of how to perform funeral rites in accordance with that troop’s faith, no matter what that faith may be.

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“Oh father, who art in Heaven, have mercy on this F-16’s enemies, for it shall not.”

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Eugene Crist)

Given that there are so few chaplains deployed, and even fewer of any single denomination, they will travel the battlefield — sometimes an entire region command will be under the care of a single chaplain.

It’d be far too costly to send each and every troop around theater each week for a single religious service, so chaplains will come to them. It’s not uncommon for a chaplain to travel to a remote location to give a sermon to just three or four troops. And since there’s only one chaplain performing the ceremonies across the theater, this often means that Easter Mass won’t be given exactly on Easter Sunday, but sometime around then.

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Being named as a Servant of God by the Pope means he’s on the first step to sainthood. If the church canonizes the miracles done in his name or designates him as a martyr, he could become the Patron Saint of the Soldier.

(Father Emil Kapaun celebrating Mass using the hood of a Jeep as his altar, Oct 7, 1950, Col. Raymond Skeehan)

A chaplain and their escort never go out looking for trouble, but trouble often finds them. They’re constantly on the move and, as a result, many chaplains have been tragically wounded or killed in action over the years. To date, 419 American chaplains have lost their lives while on active duty.

Captain Emil Kapaun, an Army chaplain, was said to be one of the few Catholic chaplains in his area during the Korean War. He personally drove around the countryside to administer last rites to the dead and dying, performed baptisms, heard confessions, offered Holy Communion, and conducted Mass — all from an altar that rested on the hood of his jeep. He’d often dodge bullet fire and artillery just to make it to a dying soldier in time to give them their final rites.

He was captured and taken prisoner by the Chinese during the Battle of Unsan in November, 1950. While prisoner, he often defied orders from his captors to lift the fighting spirits of the troops in the prison with him. Even while captive, he’d perform ceremonies — but was also said to have swiped coffee, tea, and life-saving medicines from guards to give to his wounded and sickly troops.

Father Emil would die in that prison, but not before giving one last Easter sunrise service in 1951. For his actions that saved the lives of countless troops in captivity, he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He became the ninth military chaplain to be bestowed the Medal of Honor, along with being named a Servant of God by Pope John Paul II.

For more in the dangerous, righteous life of an Army chaplain, be sure to catch Indivisible when it hits theaters on October 26, 2018.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Policy change allows soldiers to voluntarily seek alcohol-related healthcare

With the signing of a directive by Army Secretary Mark T. Esper on March 25, 2019, U.S. Army soldiers can voluntarily seek alcohol-related behavioral healthcare without being mandatorily enrolled in a substance abuse treatment program. This policy encourages soldiers to take personal responsibility and seek help earlier therefore improving readiness by decreasing unnecessary enrollment and deployment limitations.

The directive’s goal is for soldiers to receive help for self-identified alcohol-related behavioral health problems before these problems result in mandatory treatment enrollment, deployment restrictions, command notification and negative career impact.


“This is a huge historical policy change that will address a long standing barrier to soldiers engaging in alcohol-related treatment,” said Jill M. Londagin, the Army Substance Use Disorder Clinical Care Program Director. “Alcohol is by far the most abused substance in the Army. Approximately 22 percent of soldiers report problematic alcohol use on Post Deployment Health Reassessments.

However, less than two percent receive substance abuse treatment. This is due, in part, because historic Department of Defense and Army substance abuse treatment policies and practices discouraged soldiers from self-referring for alcohol abuse care.”

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(Photo by Audrey Hayes)

Substance Use Disorder Clinical Care (SUDCC) providers are now co-located with Embedded Behavioral Health (EBH) teams across the Army. “SUDCC providers being integrated into our EBH teams allows for more seamless, holistic, far-forward care than we have ever been able to provide in the past,” said Dr. Jamie Moore, Embedded Behavioral Health Clinical Director.

The directive creates two tracks for substance abuse care: voluntary and mandatory. Soldiers can self-refer for voluntary alcohol-related behavioral healthcare, which does not render them non-deployable and doesn’t require command notification like the mandatory treatment track does.

Soldiers enter mandatory substance use disorder treatment if a substance use-related incident occurs, such as a driving under the influence violation. Under the voluntary care track, treatment is not tied to a punitive process and is a choice a soldier can make before a career impacting event occurs. Soldiers in the voluntary care track may discontinue care at any time and can also choose to reenter care at any time.

The treatment process begins when a soldier notices signs of alcohol misuse, which may include frequently drinking in excess, engaging in risky behavior, such as drunk driving, lying about the extent of one’s alcohol use, memory impairment or poor decision-making. Next, the soldier self-refers to Behavioral Health for an evaluation. The provider and the soldier will then develop a treatment plan directed at the soldier’s goals.

The length of treatment will be based on the soldier and his or her symptoms. HIPPA privacy laws require that soldiers’ BH treatment remains private unless they meet the command notification requirements in DoDI 6490.08, such as harm to self, harm to others, acute medical conditions interfering with duty or inpatient care.

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(Ms. Rebecca Westfall, Army Medicine)

“Only those enrolled in mandatory substance abuse treatment are considered to be in a formal treatment program,” Londagin said. “Self-referrals that are seen under voluntary care are treated in the same manner as all other behavioral health care.”

The previous version of the substance abuse treatment policy, Army Regulation 600-85 (reference 1f), required all soldiers to be formally enrolled in a substance abuse treatment program just to seek assistance, which discouraged soldiers from seeking help early.

“The policy also limited the number of enrollments permitted during a soldier’s career, preventing the soldier from seeking more support at a later date without risk of administrative separation,” Londagin said.

“During a pilot phase, 5,892 soldiers voluntarily received alcohol-related behavioral health care without enrollment in mandatory substance abuse treatment,” said Londagin. “This supports our efforts to provide early treatment to soldiers prior to an alcohol-related incident and has led to a 34 percent reduction in the deployment ineligibility of soldiers receiving care.”

“Early intervention for alcohol-related behavioral health care increases the health and readiness of our force and provides a pathway for soldiers to seek care without career implications,” said Londagin.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Recent changes with the 2020 NDAA and how they impact you

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is an annual piece of legislation which gives authority and funding to the United States Military. While it is a detailed body of work that doesn’t make for light reading, it should be read. This legislation is filled with items that impact the military family directly.


It addresses military pay

The 2020 NDAA provided a 3.1% pay raise to military service members. This pay raise was the biggest one to be received in the last decade and was reflected in the first paycheck received by service members of 2020. The bill also extended specific bonuses and special pay. One of the big take-aways of this bill is the focus on supporting not just the member, but the military family as a whole.

Military spouse education and employment

Within the bill there are increases in support of professional licensure for spouses. With the new 2020 bill, spouses are currently eligible for up to 00 in reimbursement for licensure costs accumulated when moving. This is twice the amount that was authorized in last year’s bill. It also addresses license portability by giving authorization to the Council on State Governments to research ways to create reciprocity across state lines.

The bill also extended opportunities for spouses for education. The My Career Advancement Account program is an example of this, as it is a valuable resource for military spouses. It offers up to 00 in assistance for licensure, certification, or an associate’s degree in a field that is portable. The eligibility for this is limited to E-1 through E5, W-1 through W-2, and O-1 spouses. The initial pilot program had it available to all spouses but rising costs and enrollment forces restrictions in who can utilize this benefit. In this bill language, Coast Guard spouses were also included even though they fall under the Department of Homeland Security.

Military housing reforms

One of the key elements of this bill is that it addresses the issues within military privatized housing. The bill created new accountability for these companies by enforcing quality assurance measures. It also increased the number of required inspections. This bill provides an additional 1.8 million dollars to make sure that each housing office has the vital personnel it needs to ensure military families are taken care of.

One of the tools that will be utilized going forward is a way to assess and evaluate for risks within military housing. This includes things like mold and lead. It also allows for the BAH to be withheld from the private housing entity until issues or disputes are solved. Another key piece is that it forces transparency by requiring these entities to disclose repairs or issues prior to lease signing. There will also now be a required Tenant Bill of Rights and minimal livable standards established.

Military family needs

The NDAA also authorized million for the STARE BASE program, which is a DOD youth program. It is an American military educational program for grades K-12 that teaches science and math in hands on ways. It was created to tackle the low rates of readiness in these subjects by implementing a program that makes math and science fun and interactive. To learn more about this program and to see if it’s located in your area, click here.

One of the chief concerns outlined in the 2018 Blue Star Families survey was that 72% of military families cannot find reliable childcare. An amendment was included in the NDAA for 2020 that creates more coordinator positions on bases to assist with childcare and extends childcare hours for families.

Another key piece to this legislation is that it created the ability of military service members to sue under administrative claims for medical malpractice by a military provider. Although there was existing legislation for under the Federal Tor Claims Act, the United States itself was immune. After countless hearings within congress over a decade, this amendment passed within the NDAA. If a service member sustains injury or death they can file a claim and receive up to 0,000 as long as they file it within two years.

Surviving spouses receive relief

Finally, one of the biggest parts of the 2020 NDAA is the elimination of what is known as the “widows’ tax” in phases. For multiple decades surviving families have not received their full benefits as they deserve, even though they paid into the benefit programs. This is a piece of legislation that has been debated and fought over for almost twenty years. Finally, change is coming and it will be finalized by 2023.

If you’d like to look through the 2020 NDAA, you can find it here. Fair warning, it is 1119 pages long. However, a pro tip is to utilize the search ability within the document to enter terms that you want to specifically read about. This will bring you exactly where you need to go. Happy reading!

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

DoD tests cyber warriors in deployment-like conditions

Exercise Patriot Warrior featured airmen, sailors, and soldiers practicing their cyber defense skills in highly challenging environments.


“We have to stay ready at all times to defend our networks at home and abroad,” said Air Force Senior Airmen Christopher Hillen, an exercise participant. “This exercise is so important, once we get deployed and experience different situations we’re going to lean on the training we received here and apply it to real world situations.”

One part of Patriot Warrior enabled Air Force and Army personnel to interact and train together in realistic scenarios providing both services with a unique perspective on the exercise and future missions.

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Staff Sgt. Michael Bigee and Airman Steven Hilton, 265th Combat Communications Squadron cyber operations specialists, work on systems at Fort McCoy, Wis., June 12, 2015.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrea Salazar)

Challenging Scenarios

“These scenarios provide our soldiers and also the airmen with a very realistic outlook on what both entities could expect in the real world,” said Army Maj. Robert Bell, 261st Theater Tactical Signal Brigade operations and plans officer. “Everyone learns great lessons in trainings like this, it develops different skills that each other has learned and also builds confidence in our airmen and soldiers.

The exercise was comprised of joint forces from around the country to showcase deployment capabilities and was hosted here. The exercise hosted Army, Navy and Air Force personnel from 22 different bases.

“Working with other services is an invaluable experience for our Airmen and their development as cyber operators,” said Air Force Maj. Bennett Reid, director of operations.

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Airmen and Soldiers gather during Exercise Patriot Warrior for cyber defense training on Aug. 8, 2018 at Fort McCoy, Wisc. Patriot Warrior is Air Force Reserve Command’s premier exercise, providing an opportunity for Reserve Citizen Airmen to train with joint partners in the combat support training exercise.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Xavier Lockley)

Cyber Combat Support Training

“With this being the first time that we’ve integrated with the Army in a cyber combat support training exercise, it allowed us to see areas in which we aren’t as strong and fix the issue as team,” Reid said. “We got to work with a network we’d never seen before, and we had to learn how to get plugged into our weapon system which we had to learn but it helped us understand how to operate other networks outside of our comfort zone.”

Exercises like Patriot Warrior provide critical contingency oriented skills for all members who participate, but there is also a bigger picture in mind.

“The way the fight is won nowadays is through cyberspace,” said Air Force Tech Sgt. Christian Coleman, a reservist from the 911th Communications Squadron cyberspace operations controller and member of the Cyber Mission Defense Team.

“All branches continue to evolve as the battlefield changes and now the World Wide Web is where we have to maintain dominance,” Coleman added.