Trainee breaks 90 percent, never looks back

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Grace Lee
  • 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
"Lee, get off my track!" the instructor yelled. The time clock showed that 21 minutes had passed. Everyone in my flight was finished with the mile-and-a-half run except me. I didn't finish.

Before that we had been mock tested on the sit-up and pushup portion of the test. I performed six sit-ups and zero pushups -- zero! I could not believe I was that out of shape, and I worried I wouldn't pass the official fitness assessment toward the end of basic training.

Throughout basic, all I thought about was that dreaded test. I couldn't imagine myself doing a proper pushup, performing the minimum number of sit-ups or finishing the run in less than 20 minutes. Although I'm not religious, every night I prayed God would give me the strength and ability to pass the test. If I passed, I promised to never, ever let my physical fitness slack again.

I knew I couldn't do it alone and asked the fittest girls in my flight to help me do one proper pushup. After weeks of worry and hard work, I passed the test, and not only did I pass, but I got a little over 90 percent.

I couldn't believe how far I had come. Weeks earlier I was contemplating asking my family to cancel their flight plans because I wasn't sure I'd graduate. When family and friends were given permission to find their loved ones, I remember the moment my mom found me like it was yesterday. She was crying and she rarely cries. They were tears of joy, and she told me how proud she was of me.

Fast forward more than three years and that Airman, me, has kept her promise. Year after year I've scored more than 90 percent on my fitness assessment test, and I intend to keep it that way.

I had also been a smoker for several years. I made a decision to stop and found a book that helped me do just that. I've been smoke-free for more than two years.

People who don't know me well or how far I've come may think it's easy or that I'm just naturally athletic, but that's not the case. It takes dedication, motivation and effort to stay physically fit.

Each year I know exactly in what month I'm testing, and in addition to my regular workout routine, I begin training specifically for the test three months in advanced. My preparation isn't just running every day and performing pushups and sit-ups but also cleaning up my diet, which helps my physical performance. Recently, I've put more emphasis on strength training and lifting weights, which has helped in the pushup and sit-up portions of the test. In addition, I do cardio throughout the week.

One may think it's too much effort, but I know my body and do not want to be the "Trainee Lee" I was before. It sounds corny, but I want to stay the "Airman Lee" who makes people proud to stand behind her and to serve with her.

So, the next time you feel like "you can't," tell yourself "you can," and take the steps to not only meet the standards but exceed them. If I can do it, anyone can.