Story and photos by St. Alfred Tripolone III, 65th Theater Public Affairs Support Element
Change is hard. Change is foreign. Change is daunting. With the correct tools and education, change is attainable.
The Massachusetts National Guard hosted the inaugural Tier 1 Warrior Fit class presented and designed by 02X Human Performance over the course of eight days, spread across three months. More than 100 MANG Soldiers participated in the 02X classes and functional training, tracking progress throughout.
Members of the National Guard, as citizen Soldiers, have all the responsibility of maintaining military readiness while simultaneously working their civilian careers. The monthly weekend drill is typically used to accomplish baseline training, maintain equipment and Soldier readiness.
The doctors and sports scientists at 02X were bringing their version of exactly this to tactical athletes around the country. Training athletes on the importance of a well-rounded approach to life, both at work and home. 02X focuses on providing a toolbox of knowledge that will help participants achieve their goals, through consistency and making positive 1 % changes every day.
The weekend sessions of the inaugural Warrior Fit program with 02X were spread across three summer months. During each session participants were educated during class time on a wide variety of topics including: Nutrition, Sleep and Fatigue Management, Foundations of Movement, Injury Prevention, Resiliency, Optimizing Performance When it Matters, and many others.
Each class is taught by an 02X specialist with expertise in their chosen field.
“We have more than 200 human performance specialists that go out and teach,” said Adam La Reau, a Co-founder of 02X Human Performance and former U.S. Navy SEAL. “So 200 Megs or Joshs that are able to interact and have personal experience to draw on.” This allows students to ask questions in real-time from the same specialists that would be answering their questions through the online portal (and soon App).
“We wanted to connect with service members, Soldiers, and support personnel no matter where they are,” said La Reau. “So, obviously the need for a virtual component, based on the decentralized nature of the Guard is important.”
“We wanted to connect after the workshops and between the workshops, because there are questions that come up,” La Reau continued. “They ask the question, we filter it through to the specialist, and within 2 4 hours they have an answer.”
Being able to work together with leadership from the Massachusetts National Guard helped O2X’s team tailor the program to meet the needs of such a diverse group, La Reau said.
One person in particular, Dr. Meghan Garvey, an O2X On-Site Specialist and exercise scientist, is in a unique position to best understand and communicate with the Soldiers participating. Dr. Garvey has a desk in amongst the cubicles of the Medical Command building on Hanscom Air Force Base. She regularly speaks with participants about struggles they encounter, and ways to maximize effectiveness while minimizing risk.
“One of the biggest things is consistent communication,” Garvey said. “Making sure they know it’s ok to build-in terms of what should be done and when. When to push a Soldier, and when to stop and say, ‘this isn’t modified; but to live in this space.’ So that in the next month you’ ll be stronger rather than more worn out.”
Having the ability to look at things from a place of understanding the military culture, and also the science of exercise, specialists like Dr. Garvey are able to bring fresh perspectives on training. This is especially true when it comes to things like training on the Army Combat Fitness Test.
“For me, I’m not military, but when they first told me about the ACFT, I was very excited,” Garvey said. “The test is bookended by two events that are super linked. The deadlift and the run. . .. The hex bar deadlift is the only thing that directly relates to speed.”
With the added requirements the ACFT brings, Garvey believes that a more tailored approach, based on current ability, is the safest and most effective way of ensuring the force stays fit to fight.
“I think that once we have a consistent way of talking about how someone should be moving their body, in the correct movement patterns, and how do we recognize movement dysfunction and address it is the biggest hurdle,” Garvey said. “Making sure [Master Fitness Trainers] stay up to date and get consistent verbiage on how we should be moving will be key going forward.”
Communicating with anyone is easiest when you have a common background. Many of the members of the O2X team that led this iteration have a military background.
“Specifically for working with the National Guard, based on my history, I like to work with people I relate to,” said Josh Stuart-Shor, O2X Lead Instructor and former Special Forces Officer. “Having spent 10 years in the Army, I speak their language, I understand the culture, and I’m passionate about it. It’s a way for me to give back to the community, too.”
Having come from active duty and now working with the Massachusetts National Guard, Stuart-Shor recognizes the unique challenges that many traditional guardsmen face.
“On your side, you’re here two days a month, and so you have this whole other set of stressors to deal with. Your personal life, whether it’s personal or professional can be contributing to the difficulty you have,” he said. “Active duty, it’s their full-time job. But here you have people pulling you in several different directions with competing priorities.”
What each participant takes from the program and uses is very much a personal decision.
“When it comes to the resources I think it’s different for everybody,” said Stuart-Shor. “For me, I’ve always been able to focus on my physical fitness well. But, I was somebody who ran hot, and wore my emotions on my sleeve. So the mental resilience aspect of the program really resonates with me.”
Stuart-Shor believes that, for some, identifying and mitigating stress will be the most beneficial thing they take away from the course.
“We’re in a high stress job. You’re put in hostile situations and expected to be able to perform your particular job,” he said. “That skill, being able to control your stress is probably the biggest thing. Because once you can do that everything else will fall into place.”
Within the Massachusetts National Guard, the program is still a bit of an enigma. Soldiers and their leadership alike don’t know what to make of it.
“A lot of times we hear that people view O2X as a fitness boot camp, where it’s just led by a bunch of gym people,” Stuart-Shor said. “We aren’t body coaches. We aren’t mind coaches. But what we are is an education company. We provide tools and resources for you to use, based on your needs.”
As education about what the Warrior Fit Program is and how it can be adapted for Soldiers around the Guard spreads much of the confusion around it will dissipate.
“My readiness NCO called to ask if I was interested about the program,” said Pfc. Robert Browne, a Signal Support Systems Specialist that participated in the program.
“Warrior Fit was always described as ‘fat camp.’ So, I anticipated that it would be working out the majority of the weekend, all weekend,” said Browne. “However, this wasn’t the case. While we did work out a lot, the classroom portion, where we learned all around fitness (mental, emotional, physical, etc.) was the majority of the weekend.”
Word about the program is spreading and with it a better understanding of what it offers.
“This program is not ‘fat camp.’ It is a robust program, conducted by people who are dedicated to our success,” Browne continued. “Not only is it a great workout plan, it provided information that I would not have thought about in terms of overall fitness, like sleep and mental resiliency.”
The biggest takeaways for many of the participants are the 1 % changes they learn they can make. Which is what the program really is about: manageable positive changes made daily.