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Journey to becoming Army Fit

drink water during the day on the warm daysWeek 5

Texas weather can be a challenge to beginning runners.  Since the new year, we’ve had very cold days followed quickly by warm days in the 70s and 80s. Cold and hot temperatures take a little more planning and preparation.  We learned the hard way that you have to drink water during the day on the warm days because it's too late to try and hydrate once you begin to run. 

When we run this week in the warm weather, both of us comment that we have a tough time swallowing because we are so parched and did not drink enough water.  We also have the pleasure of running with colleagues CPT Wayne Marrs and Amy Cowan. Their speed is quicker than our speed so (of course) we pick up our pace, only to be heaving and gasping for air and wanting water at the end of the two miles. We feel proud of ourselves for not quitting, and even prouder when we see that we took a minute off of our run time.

As for the pushups and sit ups, both of us are plodding along.  Tracy has found that having her 15-year-old sonhold her feet while doing her situps and saying, “Come on Mom, you can do a few more!”  helps her keep going and crank out a couple more.  Thanks to his coaching she is up to 18 situps.  Courtney's pushups look strong and she is able to have parallel arms on many of them.  She too is able to do 18 sit-ups.  That's only 14 short of her goal of 32.  

Physical Fitness Tips (learned the hard way):

•    Drink plenty of water throughout the day.  Recommended is 64 ounces. (Tracy finds that adding electrolytes by drinking coconut water or Emergenc-C Electro Mix packets mixed in water seem to help with cramping).
•    Running with people faster than you can motivate you to pick up your pace. 
•    Asking family members to help you makes the challenge of exercise more enjoyable.   
•    Having a goal about three months out helps keep up motivation when your body aches from the new activity and you just want to sit and watch TV.  For example, set a goal to participate in a 5K race. Make sure you pay for the race and get the T-shirt and the packet to remind you to keep training.  Old Race Rule- you can't wear the shirt until you run the race. 

Mental Fitness Tips: 

•    "For mild depression, physical activity can be as good as antidepressants or psychological treatments like cognitive behavioural therapy.”
•    “In some areas in the UK, GPs (family doctors) can prescribe exercise”.
•    “Exercise can also help you to cope better by improving how you feel about yourself and getting you together with other people”. 

from: Royal College of Psychiatrists (

Commentary by Courtney J. Lynch and Tracy K. Ward, Psychological Health Coordinators

TAG Talks: Major David Darsey

On this edition of TAG Talks Major David Darsey speaks on his ideas for maintaining a strong pre-mobilization instructor force. This force should be comprised of professional, technically and tactically competent non-commissioned officers within the Texas Army National Guard. TAG Talks are a series of unique presentations put together by students in The Adjutant General's Executive Leadership Development Program offering the perspective of future Senior leaders of the Texas Military Forces.

Journey to becoming Army Fit

SGT Cook and SGT De la Garza, Master Fitness Trainers, saw us and came to our rescue to give us guidance on proper form for pushups and sit-ups.Week 4

We planned to meet at the track after work to check our progress. How many pushups can we do? Sit-ups? And how is our time on the two-mile run?

Tracy went first and counted twelve pushups. Courtney did eleven. We then each did fourteen sit-ups. Or so we thought!

SGT Cook and SGT De la Garza, Master Fitness Trainers, saw us and came to our rescue to give us guidance on proper form for pushups and sit-ups. They demonstrated and helped us with our pushup form, hand positioning, and getting our upper arms parallel to the ground. 

After we tried our pushups and sit-ups using what they taught us, we realized we can only do one or two proper pushups (i.e. pushups that would PASS the PT test). We did have some success this week however, as we completed our two-mile run in 22:34, which is above the 60% standard for both of us!

The Master Fitness Trainers also demonstrated several exercises we should do prior to each workout, as well as exercises to help build upper body and core strength. Their knowledge is vast, their patience immense, and we so appreciate their willingness to help and teach us. 

Physical fitness tips (from the Master Trainers): 

  • Although doing pushups with arms placed out wide may be easier and will ‘pass’, moving hands closer together (directly under your shoulders) will help to protect your shoulders and joints from strain. 
  • Squeezing glute muscles will help you maintain a straighter plank or pushup position.
  • To build upper body strength, lie flat on the ground and lift your body into the push-up position, then return to lying on the ground, and push back up. 

Mental fitness tips: 
If you keep active, you are:

  • less likely to be depressed, anxious or tense
  • more likely to feel good about yourself
  • more likely to concentrate and focus better
  • more likely to sleep better
  • more likely to cope with cravings and withdrawal symptoms if you try to give up a habit such as smoking or alcohol
  • more likely to be able to keep mobile and independent as you get older
  • possibly less likely to have problems with memory and dementia

from: Royal College of Psychiatrists (

Commentary by Courtney J. Lynch and Tracy K. Ward, Psychological Health Coordinators

TAG Talks: Major Chol Chong

On our first edition of TAG Talks Major Chol Chong speaks about the current status of the Texas Army National Guard Medical Department, issues within it and proposed solution. TAG Talks are a series of unique presentations put together by students in The Adjutant General's Executive Leadership Development Program offering the perspective of future Senior leaders of the Texas Military Forces.

Journey to becoming Army Fit

We are getting pretty comfortable with the two-mile run.Week 3

We are getting pretty comfortable with the two-mile run. Now that we can comfortably run with-out any walking we are about to start timing ourselves and working on increasing our pace to make sure we can meet our 60 percent time standard (24:24 for Tracy and 23:42 for Courtney). 

There seems to be a long-standing myth that it takes about 21 days for a new habit to form. Many people have studied the concept of habit-making and there are varying ideas about the length of time it takes to form them. Some say days, some say months, others say it is about setting realistic and small goals.

We want running, pushups, and sit-ups to become habit, just like something small we do every day, such as brushing our teeth. When we brush our teeth, chances are that we give it no thought at all. If we do think about it, we are probably not thinking how much we dislike it, how we don’t want to do it, or even how it is good for our oral health. We just do it because it is habit and routine, and just what we do every day.

Here are some of the things that are helping us make physical fitness a habit:

  • If you are new to running, start by walking for 10 minutes. Then, for the next 15 minutes, alternate 30 seconds walking and 30 seconds running. End by walking for 10 more minutes. Do this three times per week. 
  • Work out with a partner, whenever you can. 
  • Make your workout something you can do anywhere, whether at home, at work, or somewhere else. For us, this means keeping spare workout clothes and shoes in the car at all times for lunchtime or after-work workouts. Make it difficult to talk yourself out of exercising!
  • At home, map out a two mile route in your neighborhood so that you can be ready to run at a moment’s notice. 
  • Do pushups or sit-ups during commercials of your favorite TV program. 
  • Schedule time for physical fitness and exercise. Put it on your calendar and, as much as possible, try to stick to a routine (i.e. schedule workouts on the same days/times). 
  • Involve family members; children might think doing pushups with you is fun! 
  • Here are some of the things you can try to make mental fitness a habit:
  • "Exercise releases endorphins—chemicals in your brain that boost your mood—giving you an instant surge in happiness…..Happiness Tip: Go on a short 20-minute walk. It will help you relax and make you more confident about your body." ( 
  • "By elevating your mood and energy levels, your morning workout will curb your cravings and motivate you to make other healthy choices throughout the day." (
  • "Don’t underestimate smiles," says psychologist Dan Hill. "When you smile, you pull more oxygen into your lungs. It makes you relaxed and open to possibilities…Happiness Tip: Think of something that makes you smile, like your favorite stand-up comedian or your team’s touchdown on Monday night. By making yourself smile, even when you’re feeling down, you really can trick yourself into feeling happier". (

Commentary by Courtney J. Lynch and Tracy K. Ward, Psychological Health Coordinators

Journey to becoming Army Fit

Courtney and Tracy here to give you another update on our journey in becoming Army-fit!

Week 2

Courtney and Tracy here to give you another update on our journey in becoming Army-fit!

Our motivation remains high, but the holidays threw us off our schedule just a bit. We are ready to get back to our workout routine and complete our first run of the new year, when we realize Tracy’s running clothes are in her locked car, along with her car keys. So Courtney completes her run without Tracy but realizes how much it helps to have a running partner. Tracy spends time making arrangements to get into her car and does situps and pushups in her office. That is dedication! She completes her run the next morning, and on her run is lucky enough to meet an amazing runner who also happens to be a Master Fitness Trainer at Camp Mabry (read about her team in the December Dispatch article!, and stayed tuned here for more highlights from their team). 

Week 2 Tips: 

In talking to the Master Fitness Trainer, she offers some tips for strengthening core muscles which will help us with sit-ups. We are both aware of the need for strengthening our core muscles, which feel especially weak after years of sitting for long hours in our previous jobs, and not always with the best posture. 

  • For core strengthening, the Master Fitness Trainer recommends side and front and planks, and leg lifts, holding each for 60 seconds. 
  • Weak core muscles might make one more prone to hip or low-back problems, so we’re told to try sitting on a ball or ball chair at work desks to help with posture and keeping core muscles engaged. 
  • Practice pushups on the knees. 
  • Having a workout partner is key to staying motivated (as Courtney learned when running without Tracy).
  • Avoid a heavy meal prior to workout. We both notice that running is a bit more difficult after a big meal. 


Commentary by Courtney J. Lynch and Tracy K. Ward, Psychological Health Coordinators

CSM John L. Hoxie Named Texas Army National Guard Senior Enlisted Advisor

Command Sgt. Maj. John L. Hoxie, assumed responsibility
Command Sgt. Maj. John L. Hoxie, incoming Texas Army National Guard Senior Enlisted Advisor, addresses attendees at his change of responsibility ceremony held at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, Jan. 30, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon).

Commentary by Michelle McBride

AUSTIN, Texas (Feb. 4, 2015) – Command Sgt. Maj. John L. Hoxie, assumed responsibility as the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Texas Army National Guard from Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Milford, Jan. 30, 2015, in a ceremony held at Camp Mabry in Austin.

During the ceremony Hoxie thanked his family for their many years of love, support and sacrifice. He also took time to thank the soldiers who make up the Texas Army National Guard.

"I want to thank all of the soldiers who made it here today," said Hoxie. "You have no idea how much you have influenced my career and helped me get to where I am."

Hoxie’s previous leadership positions include Squad Leader, Section Sergeant/Senior Scout, and Master Gunner. His awards include the Bronze Star w/V-Device, Meritorious Service Medal 4th award, Army Commendation Medal 5th award, Army Achievement Medal 3rd award, Southwest Asia Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Multi-Force and Observers Medal 2nd award, Combat Infantry Badge, Excellence in Competition Badge (Rifle), Omar Bradley Leadership Award Recipient, Order of St. George, as well as numerous other awards and decorations.

"I’ve taken on quite a bit in this position and I truly have some big shoes to fill," said Hoxie, speaking to Milford.

As the Senior Enlisted Advisor for the Texas Army National Guard, Hoxie will advise the commander of the Texas Army National Guard on all enlisted matters affecting training, effective utilization, health of the force and enlisted professional development.

Journey to becoming Army Fit

Freezing Cold, and we’re out on the track in several layers of clothing.

Week 1

Freezing Cold, and we’re out on the track in several layers of clothing.  Northerners would think we are real wimps putting on this many clothes for 40 degree weather. Coat: check, Gloves: check, Hat: check.  Extra clothes: check. Stop Watch: NOPE.  Not today.  Today's goal is to make it around the 1-mile track at Camp Mabry twice without passing out or throwing up.  

We run some and walk some but complete the two miles feeling pretty accomplished!  Actually it is not bad at all.  We’re talking (good sign, that means we are breathing) and laughing and sharing about ourselves.  We really do not know each other very well because we just met 2 months ago and work in different buildings. We agreed to try a routine of running three times a week at a minimum, at the end of our work day. 

After the run we decide to humble ourselves a little bit by trying the pushups and the sit ups.  

I did 5 pushups (I don't believe they are “legitimate” but there is time for that) and Courtney is so kind she tells me good job.  Just so you know, I did embarrass myself by asking a Lieutenant if I could do my pushups on my knees.  She kindly informed me that all pushups had to be done on the toes.  She gave me more information on how to do the pushups correctly but I was spinning from the idea that I had to do them on my toes, so I do not have that information at this time.

I then try the situps.  I dread this.  I hate situps and my core is MUSH.  I am not only NOT Army Fit I am Citizen Mush when it comes to the core.  I definitely need some guidance in this area.  HELP.  Anyway, I push through 10 really ugly situps.  Again, Courtney is nothing but supportive, but now her turn.

Run, not bad, but slow as she goes! I get through the two miles relatively unscathed but only because Tracy (too humble to tell you she’s a former runner) slows her pace to stay with me the whole run. 
Pushups are another story altogether. I quickly learn that my form is hideous at best. I thought I was doing pretty well cranking out a second push-up when Tracy nicely complimented my plank position form. “I’m doing pushups!” I manage to say.  I’ve been told that the correct form is when upper arms are parallel to the ground, but at this point I’m finding parallel to be very overrated. Sit-ups went a bit better but I’m pretty sure I won’t be allowed 5-minute breaks between each sit up, so I’ll have to work on pace. 

Commentary by Courtney J. Lynch and Tracy K. Ward, Psychological Health Coordinators

Journey to becoming Army Fit

Join us as two behavioral health therapists train to become mentally and physically “Army Fit.”

I am Tracy Keating Ward and I am Courtney Lynch.

Hi! I am Tracy Keating Ward and I am Courtney Lynch.  We are Psychological Health Coordinators (PHCs) for the State of Texas and we are located at the beautiful Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.

Being therapists, we have spent a good portion of our lives learning the ins and outs of mental / emotional fitness.  However, due to busy lives and a deep desire to help others, we have found ourselves failing at being physically fit.  This has a lot to do with sitting for long hours in a chair, as therapists sometimes do, driving long hours commuting (traffic, traffic, traffic), and not prioritizing any type of regular exercise routine.  This level of poor fitness does not just appear suddenly. It creeps up day after day until you realize you now get winded going up a flight of stairs.  UGH. 

Working in a military setting and being surrounded by a large number of fit people really opens your eyes to evaluate your own fitness level.  Seeing service members running in the morning, during lunch and after work (no matter the temperature) makes you reflect on your own lack of commitment to exercising.  We have decided that we want to be role models and be both mentally fit and physically fit.

How do we do this? In talking to service members, we learn that taking a PT test every six months is a big motivator in their staying fit. So we decided to challenge ourselves to see if we could pass a PT test on March 23, 2015. Please note that we said we want to PASS the test, not EXCEED.  Passing means getting a score of 60 percent on each of the three skill sets: two-mile run, pushups, and sit-ups. 

Tracy:  That means for me, who is a 52 year-old female, I have to do nine pushups in two minutes, 28 sit-ups in two minutes and run two miles in 24 minutes and 24 seconds.  

Courtney:  And for me, at age 43, I have to do 12 pushups, 32 sit-ups and a 2-mile run in 23 minutes and 42 seconds.

We’ve begun to talk to others about our goals. Service members we have talked to have been encouraging, respectful, and did not die laughing when they heard how few pushups we had to do.  (Just like a service member to always be respectful). 

We have committed to blogging weekly about our progress.  If you are so inclined to join our fitness mission, or just want to follow our progress, please do.  If you are a civilian employee, contractor, or family member, and want to join us in becoming “Army Fit,” go to to find the standards for your age and gender. Remember, if you just want to pass like us, look at the numbers that fall in the 60 percent column.  Also, if there is a medical reason you cannot run, you are allowed to walk (a very fast walk), swim 800 meters, or bike 6 miles.  

Every journey starts with the first step.

Strengthening Your Mental Fitness

Commentary by TXARNG Counselors Renee Senn, LCSW and Tracy K. Ward, LPC

"I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained
and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills."

Excerpt from Soldier's Creed

After the holidays most of us find ourselves with some additional weight and tighter clothes... two "signs" that our physical body needs a little tune-up and a little extra attention. An important aspect of being a service member is to maintain a level of physical fitness and a readiness to serve. Knowing you have Army physical standards and a PT test increases your awareness of your body and physical fitness level.

The Soldier's Creed emphasizes that soldiers maintain not only their physical toughness to serve but also their mental toughness as well. How do soldiers measure their mental toughness or know when it needs some attention?

I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained  and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.

A mental fitness tune up is needed when you BEGIN to:

  • lose sight of Army values
  • pull away from  family and  friends  
  • smile less 
  • laugh less 
  • drink more alcohol 
  • smoke or increase smoking
  • use illegal substances
  • have more arguments with those you love  
  • no longer engage in activities you enjoy
  • skip family events 
  • sleep more or sleep less
  • have mean thoughts toward yourself or others
  • hold grudges 
  • feel an increase in sadness, anxiety, boredom or anger
  • no longer engage in spiritual practices like attending worship services, praying, etc. 

When you notice your physical body is beginning to be out of shape it is wise to make changes early. For example, making changes when the waist band is too tight, versus waiting to react when all your clothes no longer fit.  The quicker you recognize the signs, create an action plan and make changes, the smoother and easier the process. This is also true for your mental toughness.  Pay attention to the early signs.  Notice when you BEGIN to lose sight of your Army values.  Knowing your personal signs, creating a plan of action, and engaging in the plan will create quick changes to your mental fitness and decrease the chance of a crisis.  

It is important to create a plan of action with lists of people, places and activities that mentally strengthen you and uphold Army values.  Choose people who will tell you the truth, listen with compassion, advise you, and will help you get back on track. Choose from a combination of your friends, family members, Battle Buddies, a chaplain, a therapist or anyone who you trust and believe will have your best interests at heart.  This does not include mischievous friends.  Mischievous friends may be fun to be with but can lead to trouble and they may not honor Army values.
A plan should also include places and activities that replenish, strengthen and build resilience. Participate in activities that make you smile, laugh, move, talk, and engage with good people.  All of these activities may strengthen mental fitness.  This plan does not include long hours of video games, stressful movies and social media (each of which is shown to increase stress and anxiety). 

Just as you must exercise at least 3x a week to keep up your physical fitness, you will need to make an effort to use your mental fitness plan 3x a week.  That means having personal contact with good people, engaging in activities that you enjoy and going to places that increase your level of relaxation.  Continuing to do this weekly will help your mental fitness and will reward you with a level of mental toughness that will serve you well in and out of battle. 

Tracy K. Ward,  Renee Senn and Courtney Lynch are counselors located at Camp Mabry and  have made a commitment to honor and accept the physical and mental standards of the Army.  At this moment they aren't willing to post their physical fitness status so watch for quarterly updates on their progress.  If you need help creating a mental fitness plan or have helpful advice regarding their physical fitness progress, please contact them in Bldg 34 or at 512-782-6791.