RUfit? Thriving outside the biodome

Comprehensive Airman Fitness is a program comprised of skills and tactics used to engage Airmen physically, mentally, socially and spiritually, and to foster resiliency fitness. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Erin O’Shea/Released)

Comprehensive Airman Fitness is a program comprised of skills and tactics used to engage Airmen physically, mentally, socially and spiritually, and to foster resiliency fitness. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Erin O’Shea/Released)

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- Staying fit, sharpening our knowledge about suicide and building resiliency are all hot topics in today's Air Force. As all of these elements are crucial, resiliency encompasses almost everything that weighs heavy in our day-to-day missions.

Military families know how difficult times can be when their loved one is deployed or in harm's way. Learning how to cope with these hardships is important to live a healthy, productive lifestyle and strengthen your relationships within your unit and home.

Resiliency is having the ability to endure, recover and grow in the face of stressors and life-changing demands, and built on four pillars: spiritual, physical, mental and social wellness. Understanding these concepts and practicing them daily can help improve the way someone copes with mental and physical strains dealt by today's ever-changing society.

The Air Force adopted a formal service-wide program called Comprehensive Airman Fitness. The program is comprised of skills and tactics used to engage Airmen physically, mentally, socially and spiritually, and to foster resiliency fitness. Here at RAF Lakenheath, U.S. Air Forces in Europe has provided a tailored campaign called RUfit for Airmen at all levels.

In every work environment, people endure stress from various sources. Resiliency is one of the best tools I've embraced and practiced throughout this past year to overcome life's challenges.

While stationed at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, I received an email seeking resilience trainer assistants. Although I've never been fond of public speaking, I knew the importance of resiliency. I wanted to expand my knowledge and share what I would learn with others, especially Airmen new to the military lifestyle.

As each of us knows, once you leave the comfort of your home to head off to basic military training, endure deployments and experience the life of a military member, the years ahead can drastically change your life. Stress, confusion, shock and terror are all obstacles that can affect one's well-being. Facing these challenges puts a strain on mental, physical, social and spiritual health, but having a balanced foundation of all four pillars provides strength and wellness to be an overall healthy individual.

RUfit also follows the four resiliency pillars and emphasizes the importance of each one. I like to think of the concept of resiliency as a table. Without all four legs, the table can't stand on its own and quickly loses stability. When I experience altercations, I use what I've learned from the program to see which leg is unbalanced. With the skills I have developed in the military, I can more easily observe my faults and target ways to improve them. I find it amazing how much of a difference I live day-to-day after taking the time to pay attention to where I'm falling short.

As it's impossible to go through life without experiencing adversity, we're forced to overcome our mental and physical obstacles. Challenges are a normal part of life and, when overcome, make us more resilient and teach us valuable lessons about ourselves and our inner strengths. When I fall, I take a step back and look at the life lesson being presented to decide how to best overcome it. I try not to look at a situation in a negative way. I create a mindset that allows me to see that things happen for a reason, so I can relax and focus on what's important in a positive light. When one door closes, another one opens.

When I first went through RTA training, an instructor referenced a tree growing in a glass bio dome. The tree was not exposed to any outside adversities: wind, rain, sunlight or storms. Without daily challenges, the tree couldn't thrive or build resilience once it was removed from shelter and endured a harsh environment. The tree eventually became weak, lifeless and collapsed.

There are many new and ongoing campaigns in today's Air Force, but I think RUfit emphasizes what makes up an Airman and encourages us to go forth and embrace our daily missions to the best of our ability.

As Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III stated in a recent article, "Our focus is on the well-being and care for ourselves, each other and our families so we can be more resilient to the many challenges military service brings."

To learn more about the services our base provides, visit the Lakenheath website www.lakenheath.af.mil/library/rufit/index.asp or the main USAFE website www.usafe.af.mil/library/rufit.asp.