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'Alterior' Motives: Adopting a mindset for a fitter future

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England - Gina Burton, Lakenheath Fitness & Sports Center Fitness instructor, leads the Cardio Kickboxing class Feb. 16. The class is one of 26 the center holds each week for servicemembers and families to get in shape in a team environment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman David Dobrydney)

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England - Gina Burton, Lakenheath Fitness & Sports Center Fitness instructor, leads the Cardio Kickboxing class Feb. 16. The class is one of 26 the center holds each week for servicemembers and families to get in shape in a team environment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman David Dobrydney)

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England --
(Editor's note: This is the third of a three-part series on healthy habits.)

When I was in basic training, exercise was a ritual that never seemed to change; push-ups, crunches, laps around the track; and the occasional Indian run. I can still hear the cry of "last trainee up!"

Fitness is no less important once we leave basic training, but memories of grueling workouts die hard and exercising can be seen as a necessary evil rather than a positive habit.

In order to find a way to make exercising fun again, I spoke to Lorraine Botwright at the Lakenheath Fitness & Sports Center. I learned there are 26 classes every week, ranging in length from 15 minutes to one hour, with exercises from yoga to the good-old-fashioned push-up.

"Working out at home, it's easy to get distracted," said Ms. Botwright.

Fitness classes, however, not only provide focus, but also camaraderie between the participants.

"You're in an environment where you have the encouragement of other people," said Ms. Botwright, adding that the presence of an instructor safeguards against injury.

At the "Legs, Bum and Tum" class Ms. Botwright leads every Thursday, I met Master Sgt. Christina Coston, 48th Logistics Readiness Squadron Small Air Terminal section chief.

Sergeant Coston has been coming to the Fitness Center three times a day for more than two months.

"I want to be fit to fight for deployments and my eventual retirement," she said, adding that the fitness classes have helped her lose 25 pounds and make new friends along the way.

"We sponsor each other and make sure we come," she said.

On the other hand, Ms. Botwright said the physical side of life must be balanced between the mental and emotional.

"The physical can help the mental ... ultimately helping us function more efficiently and effectively, even prolonging our lifespan," she said.

While the classes Ms. Botwright and her co-workers lead help our physical sides, the Health and Wellness Center works to help the mental and emotional sides.

Anyone who has been in England for very long knows there are times when the weather is cloudy for days on end. This can sometimes lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder.

According to the British National Health Service, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression characterized by episodes that recur at the same time each year. When the sun doesn't come out, people can feel lethargic and less sociable.

To counteract this, the HAWC maintains a light therapy room. The lightboxes emit low-level UV rays that mimic the sun, provding the skin with vitamin D.

By sitting in front of the lightboxes for approximately 20 to 30 minutes, three times a week, a person can help negate the affects of Seasonal Affective Disorder, said Tech. Sgt. Delain Hayes, 48th Aeromedical Squadron nutritional program NCO in charge.

One of my co-workers, Airman 1st Class Erin Zabarnick, agreed when she tried out the light room recently.

"I just spent a few minutes in there, and I felt much better than when I went in," said the California native, who has worked with me on this series in her job as a broadcaster.

"I think the light room can be a big help to those Airmen who come here from a sunnier climate, and even those who don't," Airman Zabarnick said.

When all is said and done, Airmen and their families have many tools to help them stay fit and happy. Even if they brought good habits with them into the Air Force, places like the fitness center and the HAWC prove that no one is ever too old to learn something new about how to feel better.