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Holloman Airman puts pedal to the metal

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Quion Lowe
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs

The U.S. Air Force has a reputation of holding Airmen to a high standard. For physical fitness specifically, that standard is assessed by a waist measurement, push-ups, sit-ups and a 1.5 mile run.

However, working out does not always have to be a chore – there are many avenues available where one can maintain physical fitness and boost their morale.

For Maj. Zachary Garrett, 49th Aerospace Medical Squadron human performance flight commander, he chooses elite cycling as a means to stay fit.

Garrett got into competitive cycling at a young age. After participating in many triathlons he eventually narrowed his focus to cycling and has used his talent and experience throughout his career in the U.S. Air Force. He even cycled with the U.S. Armed Forces cycling team for approximately three years.  

The benefits of playing sports at such a high level are not only physical, but mental as well.

Garrett said cycling helped him with setting and achieving long-term goals, a very essential skill for any career.

“I diagram it out and tell myself, ‘I want to be at this level of fitness around this week of the year,’” said Garrett. “It gives you some of that long-term planning that may be about a year in advance.”

In elite cycling, it is standard for races to last for hours and in some cases, like the Tour de France, competitors can ride for 90 miles a day for two weeks.

Garrett said daunting tasks like training for a race are great preparation for staying engaged during long workdays in any career field.

Although there are some similarities between having a successful military career and competing in cycling at an elite level, there are a lot of key differences that can be challenging when juggling both at the same time.

One challenge Garrett mentioned is how difficult it was when he was competing, getting to all the different locations of high level races around the world.

“When I was attending the Air Force Academy, (traveling to cycle) was much more restrictive,” said Garrett. “But once I was on active duty and competing with the Armed Forces cycling team, it was easier to go to the commander and say, ‘can I have two weeks off to go to Italy and Slovenia?’ It also helped to mention it was for the military world championship.”

Even though cycling is not an area tested in the Air Force Physical Fitness Test, and it takes extra effort to stay at a high level, finding a fun way to work out is worth the energy and it can be adjusted to fit AF PFT standards.

“For all the new Airmen out there, look around for stuff that interests you,” said Garrett. “If you don’t like running but you like swimming, let’s get you in the pool. Any beneficial activity that moves you will move you forward in the Air Force.”