How a Soldier Dropped 40-Plus Pounds, Changed Her Life Through Fitness

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U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ken Weichert motivates a scout during a fitness challenge.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ken Weichert, a six-time Soldier of the Year and motivational speaker for the Army National Guard, motivates a scout during a fitness challenge at the 2013 National Scout Jamboree in Summit Bechtel Reserve, W.Va., July 20, 2013. (Sgt. William White/U.S. Army photo)

My wife, Stephanie, and I get many testimonies daily from readers as a result of several years of providing fitness and health columns, videos and audio workouts to soldiers and their family members. Some testimonies "stand out" and deserve to be shared with others, because they may have an impact on you as much as they do on us.

The letter below is a superb example of something that stands out, and we encourage you to provide full attention to every word. It includes a short story of a soldier's life that clearly defines why we do what we do -- to change lives through fitness.

In the words of the second lieutenant who wrote the letter: "The culmination of improved fitness and health, for me, has also improved my life and my career." We hope that it will move you as much as it moved us.

SSG Weichert,

I am sure that your email box is swamped every day with tales of soldiers who have improved their fitness and overall health for the better. However, the culmination of improved fitness and health, for me, has also improved my life and career.

In 2007, I was at the peak of my weight gain. I weighed in at our PT test at my old unit, C Co 250th BSB in Jersey City, N.J., at 201 pounds and 49% body fat (that calculation seemed rather high to me; nonetheless, that's what the tape measure told my NCO). A few minutes prior, during the PT test, I could barely eke out 10 push-ups, 15 sit-ups and only managed to complete one lap around the track while running, and the rest, I had to walk.

It was the moment of realization for me, that I had let myself go, and that I was the unhealthiest I have ever been in my life. In high school, I was a great athlete. I trained with a personal trainer, was 12% body fat, ran my mile in 6:10 and had hopes of playing Division I field hockey. When I transferred universities, my sports dreams didn't transfer with it, and I began to slack off heavily, especially after AIT (advanced individual training).

I took up smoking, ate too much, partied too much and didn't put in half as much effort into my drill as I used to. As my health sank, I was also losing my desire to be a good soldier.

Even after that awful PT test, and my lack of overall effort, my commander still had hope in me. Major Mackenzie told me that I would make a good leader if I could get it together. He allowed me to go to the Officer Candidate School Selection Board and try to get into the program. I passed, barely, because my fitness was such a huge issue. But with that selection, I knew I had to get better.

I turned to all the resources I could find, one being your excerpts in Guard Experience. All your fitness and nutrition suggestions, tailored to those even at the lowest levels of fitness, helped me implement fitness into my daily life. I walked, then I ran, then I ran some more. I weight-trained. I did your exercises as best I could.

In March 2008, I started OCS. What a wakeup call. I weighed in at 169, 31% body fat -- a vast improvement, but I still needed more. ... The record APFT (Army physical fitness test) was only a few months away, and I needed to do well in order to ship to phase 1. So I took to the exercise routine with newfound urgency.

Thanks to help from your program, that May APFT was my best PT test ever. I did 45 push-ups, 70 sit-ups and ran my two-mile in 16:30. In a year, I dropped from 201 to 160, from barely being able to run a lap, to tapping into the 200s on my PT test.

I have stuck to your programs ever since. On my last PT test during OCS, I was pushing out over 50 push-ups, over 70 sit-ups and running my two-mile in 16 minutes. Had it not been for you and your wife's advice, I don't know if I would have graduated.

Now, I'm attached to the 150th Engineers as a second lieutenant. Going from an overweight specialist who couldn't care less about drill because of her weight and lack of fitness, to being a 2nd LT with desire to lead by example, is an amazing life change for me. (Oh, and besides the fitness improvements, my overall attitude toward life has improved. I graduated with a 3.82 GPA from Rutgers University. When I started, I had but a 2.7.)

My cadre at OCS called me a motivation and an inspiring leader, and I am going to continue that at my new unit and throughout my new career.

Thanks for all your help, SSG Ken and Stephanie Weichert. Your articles helped me improve my career, my health and my life. I am grateful that the Guard Experience team continues to print all of your priceless fitness advice. I hope there are many more stories that come your way, just like mine. You are truly changing lives.

Respectfully,

Allison Gaydosh

2LT, NJARNG

150th Engineering Company

Ken Weichert (aka "SGT Ken") is a six-time Soldier of the Year, master fitness trainer and veteran of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Desert Storm. Ken and his wife, Stephanie, a certified personal trainer, founded START Fitness, a group exercise and hiking business that delivers military-style workouts to soldiers and civilians since 1998. Ken and Stephanie currently produce health and fitness programs for GX magazine and the National Guard website.

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