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NEWS | Sept. 9, 2015

'Fit to Win' competition saves JBLE member's life

By Senior Airman Kimberly Nagle 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

As the weight of her feet dragged across the floor, her eyes darkened with bags and the uncontrollable urge to yawn began to overwhelm her, Lisa Guthrie, U.S. Army Training Support Center computer scientist, knew she needed to make a change.
With that in mind, Guthrie, who works at Fort Eustis, Virginia, made the life choice to take part in an installation-wide fitness competition.

Guthrie decided to sign up for the Fit-to-Win Challenge, a three-month competition designed to improve participants' fitness capabilities as well as teach them how to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Just like any competition, there must be a starting point.  For Guthrie, hers was to first visit a doctor after being encouraged by Fit-to-Win staff to ensure all participants health was appropriate for the various levels of activity.

After a medical appointment and sleep study, she discovered she had sleep apnea, a disorder in which one's breathing continuously stops and starts throughout the night. Guthrie said her persistent exhaustion, frequent loss of breath and inability to lose weight, finally began to make sense. 

Now equipped with a machine to allow her to breathe properly at night, and the "okay" from her doctor, Guthrie was ready for the initial fitness test.

To begin the competition, contestants had to test on blood pressure, weight, body composition, aerobic capacity, strength and flexibility measurements.

"At the initial test, I wasn't even able to complete one of the exercises because my heart rate was too high," said Guthrie. "I was told if I had kept going, I was at risk of a heart attack, the way my numbers were."

Her performance motivated her to increase her dedication.

"I became more aware of what I was doing right and wrong every day," she said. "Never really realizing my health habits were killing me, I was ready to change all of that."

Guthrie said she took steps to change her lifestyle and received continued support from co-workers, friends and family, by changing the little things, such as her eating habits and joining a gym.

As she adjusted to her new healthy lifestyle, Guthrie recruited her 15 year old son to take part in her efforts to the change.

"I had my son join the gym with me, so he could help motivate me and so I could hopefully set a good example. I didn't want him to think it is normal to sit around and watch TV when you could go out and exercise."

Her son is very involved with his Boy Scout Troop as well as other recreational sports; Guthrie wants to be around for all of that, and not just on the sidelines.

"I can tell he notices a difference in me too," said Guthrie. "Instead of me watching his sport practices, I now walk around the field until he is done. So he is getting his exercise while I can get mine."

Guthrie She did not have a hard time keeping herself on track because she frequently reminded herself that at the end of the three months period, she would have to take a fitness test again. While that scared her, it also kept her motivated. She marked the date on her calendar; Guthrie said she wanted to see it every day as a reminder.

As Guthrie looks forward into her healthy lifestyle, she still remembers the hard times.

"I could remember when even walking across the parking lot was difficult," said Guthrie, thinking back on how she would run out of breath from just a short walk. "Now I feel like a new person."

After retesting and receiving her scores, Guthrie learned she had earned third place as a way of showing how improved her fitness level was. She said that she was able to lose at least a pound of weight each week of the competition, in addition to other health benefit changes.

"If it wasn't for this contest, I could easily not be alive," she said. "I could have snored myself into a heart attack or stroke. I owe the Fit-to-Win office my life."