(Editor’s note: Throughout the month of June, Navy Medicine is celebrating Men’s Health Month by urging our male Sailors, Marines, civilians and family members to “Get Healthy Like a Man.” Paul Ross, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery deputy public affairs officer, will be blogging about living healthy during the month.)
By Paul Ross, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery deputy public affairs officer
I stared out at the 340-foot long obstacle course ahead of me and questioned why I was here on a drab Friday morning, stretching with the sun as it let out a weak groan across the horizon – unable to stop the pending rain.
As I started my goal to “Get Healthy Like A Man,” I knew I’d have to overcome obstacles. But I thought they’d be metaphorical ones, like convincing myself that plain Greek Yogurt didn’t taste like wallpaper paste or that sneaking downstairs at 3 a.m. to eat the entire chocolate portion of the Neapolitan ice cream in the freezer was unacceptable.
While the month has contained many symbolic challenges, metaphors were the last thing in my mind as I took in the meticulously pieced together puzzle of wood and metal – these obstacles were as literal as it gets.
My friend and public affairs colleague, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Mark Fayloga, was putting his Marines through some physical fitness training that morning and invited me along as part of my Men’s Health Month quest. I assumed he invited me out – because like most good friends – we take pleasure in making each other look like idiots.
But I soon found that the camaraderie displayed by Fayloga and his Marines is the exact reason I loved serving in and working for the military. I wasn’t going to fail because they were going to ensure I achieved success. That’s not to say that it would be easy, or that I’d overcome each obstacle flawlessly. But when I needed a boost up, there was a camouflaged knee there for me to stand on. When I needed a hand, a Marine’s firm grip was extended.
I have to admit that when I saw the course I thought that I’d be able to complete it. But after we stretched and did a walkthrough of how to navigate all the obstacles, Fayloga let us know that we would be running through the course multiple times – or until the rain made it too dangerous to complete.
We were instructed that if we could not complete a certain obstacle, we were to step off to the side and complete 10 up-downs, or burpees, and then jump back onto the course.
I went through the course once. I was able to complete all of the obstacles except for the 20-foot high rope climb at the end. I made it up about halfway when I started losing my foothold on the rope. I slowly climbed down, expecting the band of Marines to embarrass me and let me know how pathetic I was. Instead they all were telling me how great of a job I did and how this course was far from easy.
But before I could let them convince me to pat myself on the back, I was back at the start. I ran through it again, this time my upper body muscles burned and became tight. Each obstacle was harder to overcome, but with some help from Fayloga and his Marines I made it back through. I tried the rope again even though I knew I wouldn’t make it to the top, getting halfway again. When I couldn’t complete it, I did my up-downs and headed back to the start.
We were now running the first third of the course, and then we headed back to the beginning. Then we ran the first two-thirds of the course and back to the beginning and so on and so forth until we ran through the entire course again from start to finish.
By the time we were done, my muscles were as tired as a narcoleptic on Nyquil. My arms and legs were bloodied and bruised. I’m sure I did a great job of making the obstacle course look harder than it is. But I had a lot of fun, and aside from wearing sweat pants (because I couldn’t get my old BDUs to fit) and being out of shape, it was the closest I’ve felt to being in the military since I was honorably discharged in 2008 – not because I had just completed my first obstacle course since basic training, but because I was reminded of the type of camaraderie possessed by those serving in uniform.
As I try to live healthy for the rest of June, I will face many more obstacles. And I will rely on those around me for motivation and support. The support will come in different forms – my wife cooking a healthy meal even though she didn’t sign up for this Men’s Health Month challenge, or Staff Sgt. Fayloga showing up at my door the day after the obstacle course to go on a four-mile run, while encouraging me the entire time to pick up the pace.
It is those around me that will ultimately give me the extra push I need to overcome my obstacles and change the way I live – not only for June – but for the rest of my life.