25 August 2007

Skinny me

I never seem to be able to put on weight. Odd statement I know, but truth is, I'm a skinny guy, sort of a dark-haired, big-nosed scarecrow of a medium tall drink of water. I could pack away pancakes, buiscuits, gravy, and three meats for a month of breakfasts and not gain more than five pounds. I don't say it to brag, I know it is true because that is what I ate last deployment. In fact, I ate four meals a day (blessed be midnight chow!) and didn't change shape too much. Maybe it is the Mediterranean genes, perhaps a tapeworm. I don't know, but the point is, I'm a stick.

In the military, among other things, our corporation measures and regulates our fitness. For the Air Force, that means waistline, calesthenics and a timed run. After your vital statistics are fed into a double secret Price Waterhouse Oscar night formula, (test yourself!) the result is used to determine if you must be on a regimented exercise program, in fact, it is monitored exercise if you really tip the scales.

I tested in December. Then, in an effort to foster some comraderie, our flight of surgeons tested as many of us as we could gather together again in April. I'll pause to mention at this point that I'm falling apart. I could blame kids (there's some damage!) or perhaps a surgical oncology rotation when the 12-hour operations day after day left me limping home. Perhaps a marathon or two too many pushed my knees over the edge. Truth be told, I'm just getting old. (Heavens, no!) However, in spite of this state of shambling decrepitude, I passed these two recent fitness tests with a result of Excellent, as I always have. After willingly enduring the masochism of a surgery residency, forcing yourself through a mile and a half run and a few push-ups is a cake walk. It doesn't hurt that I get a big boost in my score because the formula unfairly rewards me for having the tiniest waist in the county.

So it came as quite a surprise to me that I had to fitness test again for deployment, to see if I needed to be on weight management program. The response came too fast; I couldn't repress it, "Why?" Never ask why, it betrays a blind belief that there is somewhere a hidden nugget of rationality. The answer was, they didn't know if my fitness test results would be valid for the full duration of my deployment. This time, I checked my instincts, and just scheduled a fitness test.

The next day, at 0-dark-thirty, I find myself driving in to the Warhawk Gym in my high-reflective Air Force Physical Training Uniform. After giving my tester fifteen minutes for the no-show, I return to the hospital and find him. (No aspersions here, he was helping another troop through an emergency.) As I'm on deployment time, it's well accepted that these deployment preparation tasks take precedence over other duties, so I was in no rush. I had asked him, could I fitness test in my armor? Armor is personal protective equipment weighing approximately 35 pounds, gear that I will wear for the majority of my waking hours during my tour. No I couldn't. Again, too fast, I let it slip, "Why?" The answer was that it was too hot out. I could get hurt. Sure, we have had some 95 deg days here. And even though the sun had just risen, it was already 82 deg, even with a light cool rain falling. Consider for a moment that it was 132 deg in the area of responsibility yesterday. I have been jogging in this armor for a week so it isn't such a shock to wear it when I get there. Once again, that was an argument based on logic, and had no place here.

Without the armor, I literally felt the weight lifted. I felt like Baron von Munchausen's runner with his weights removed. He hit the stopwatch and I was running! I was a running fool. I sleep easily knowing that I have once again escaped weight management. Even with creaky cartilege and a crusty attitude, it would seem that I am fit to fight.

Be well and enjoy the company of those you love.


No comments: