'The Italian Stallion' hosts Fitness 101 class

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. R.J. Biermann
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
Most everyone has a fictional or real-life person who they aspire to be like or somehow emulate. When I was a young teen, that person was Rocky Balboa.

I can vividly recall where, when and on what channel I caught the entire Rocky Balboa saga for the first time.

Sure, Balboa and I don't have anything in common. He dropped out of high school, lived in the slums of Philadelphia, fought in amateur bouts in a local chapel, and collected loan debts for Tony Gazzo. I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, finished high school, have never gotten into a fight and never broke anyone's thumbs because they didn't pay their debts.

Balboa caught his big break when Apollo Creed decided to give the no-name a chance to fight for the title - all because Creed liked Balboa's nickname, "The Italian Stallion." Balboa and his trainer, Mickey Goldmill, prepared for the fight and lost in a controversial split decision. "Rocky II" focused on Balboa and Creed's rematch, where Balboa became the victor and World Heavyweight Champion (was never sure how the 5' 11" Balboa was ever considered a heavyweight).

Fast forward to 1985 and "Rocky IV," this being arguably the best Rocky Balboa film of all six.

Balboa's now close friend, Creed, comes out of retirement to fight Ivan Drago. During the second round of the exhibition fight, Creed is mortally beaten by Drago. Out of anger, regret, remorse, revenge (take your pick), Balboa organizes a Christmas Day match with Drago in Moscow.

Balboa travels to the mountains of Siberia, Drago's own back yard, to train for the fight; while Drago trains in his own gym, fully equipped with state-of-the-art equipment (and steroids).

When I first saw that "Hearts on Fire" pre-fight workout montage, my life was forever changed. Just watching it made me want to go run, lift some weights or punch something. There's nothing like some high-intensity jump roping, sit-ups off a barn balcony, wood chopping, speed bag practice, triceps extensions with a net full of huge rocks, leg lifts, shadow boxing, trunk twists with a cattle yoke, push presses with your wife, brother-in-law and trainer in a cart, and running away from your foreign national sponsors and up a mountain in ankle-deep snow to get the blood pumping. I can still hear Tony Evers, Balboa's trainer, repeatedly chanting, "No pain, no pain."

*Spoiler Alert* Balboa knocks out Drago in the final seconds of the last round.

That was more than 12 years ago. Since then I've had my fair share of physical fitness up and downs. The first two years after I watched the Rocky Balboa saga, I focused strictly on definition-building workouts for two hours every evening. For almost a decade after that I considered myself an avid runner. Running was about all I did. For a short bit I "let myself go." In 2008, before my first deployment and while my wife was pregnant, I gained 30 pounds of "sympathy weight" and was the heaviest I'd ever been at 190. I ate ice cream nearly every night and could care less about what I ate at meal times.

While deployed, I was introduced to functional fitness-style workouts. Functional fitness exercises are those that better prepare you for everyday life. Every day you push, pull, drag, carry, or somehow move objects that need to be moved. The aforementioned "Rocky IV" pre-fight workout would be a perfect example of a functional fitness-style workout. After four months in the desert I dropped the 30 pounds and completed my first half marathon. I increased my physical fitness score by 10 percent after I returned home, and finished my first full marathon shortly thereafter.

In all the years I've been focused on physical fitness, the most important thing I've learned is this - make it a part of your life, your DNA ... you. I understand that it's a part of our careers, but it should always be on our mind. Let's chase a rabbit here for a bit. As I always tell my Airmen, physical fitness is half of your job. You're an Airman 24/7, right? (The correct answer is yes) So preparing for your fitness test shouldn't simply include cutting snacks and jumping on the treadmill a month prior to your test. Don't be that guy or gal who goes to extreme lengths to prepare for your fitness examination - it's far easier to prepare for if you make fitness a part of your life.

So, how do you make fitness a part of your life, aside from putting in the necessary time and effort? Don't take the elevator when you can climb stairs. Instead of driving your car two miles to work, ride your bicycle. When you're hungry and need a snack, stuff your face with fresh strawberries or some other fruit or vegetable, not potato chips. When the sandwich artist at your favorite submarine sandwich restaurant asks what kind of sauce you want, kindly smile and tell them, "Nothing. That mayonnaise is where all the fat's at." And turn off the stinking TV or video game system and hit the streets.

Like Mixed Martial Artist Joe Riggs said on a recent mixed martial art reality TV show, "It feels like you're dying every time you cut weight." Of course, these types of athletes drop weight in drastic fashion; but if you have 30 to 45 pounds to lose it's bound to be a tough journey.

During that first deployment the security forces captain I worked for told me this, "You should always have two fitness goals: to look the way you want to look and to do the things you want to do." Since then I've always strived to meet those goals. With functional fitness-style workouts, my regime is never the same, never gets old and helps me meet those goals.

Balboa didn't beat Drago without putting in his fair share of sweat, blood and tears. Above all, think healthy and you'll be healthy. Good luck on your journey.