The 5 AM Club

  • Published
  • By Capt. Sarah J. McElhenny
  • 319th Contracting Squadron commander
It is 4:50 a.m. and the alarm clock sounds. Briefly you think about turning it off and just getting another hour of sleep ... because who is crazy enough to workout at 5 a.m. anyways? Well, maybe tomorrow you'll hit snooze, but today you'll make the effort and drag yourself out of bed and go to the gym. You know that once you're there you will not be alone. There is a small but hardy group of souls that make the early morning journey across the base, arriving just in time for the gym doors to open. They are the members of the 5 AM Club. Some members are obviously not up for any morning conversation, while others are disgustingly cheery for such an early hour. The majority though are somewhere in between and are ready to start their day off right with an intense workout.

The 5 AM Club members show up for different reasons. For some, 5 a.m. is the only time that fits their schedule, some prefer morning workouts, some enjoy how un-crowded the facility is, and some are just gluttons for punishment. Regardless of the reason, all have committed to making physical fitness a priority in their lives. Whatever time of day that you choose to work out, we should all strive to make the same commitment to becoming and staying physically fit. Whether you are one of those few early birds or choose to work out during the workday, before, or after, physical fitness is a personal responsibility that takes a high level of determination to maintain. And if you are in the Air Force, physical fitness is something you NEED to maintain.

Now, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence out there about the declining health and fitness of our nation, whether it is a news cast covering obesity in America, Dr. Oz telling us how poorly we are eating and what exercises we need to do, or even 20 very large contestants on the "Biggest Loser" trying to win our hearts, lose some weight, and feel better about themselves. The fact of the matter is that we are a more sedentary nation than we have ever been in the past. Much of our "time savers" have also become "physical activity savers", from cars to the internet to video games to telecommuting. There is a real danger in this increased ability to lead a completely sedentary life style. If we, as a nation, do not compensate these life styles with other physical activities, we become "soft."

President Kennedy saw and attempted to combat the early warning signs of this in his December 1960 article for Sports Illustrated titled "The Soft American." He claimed it was essential to have the knowledge "that the physical well-being of the citizen is an important foundation for the vigor and vitality of all the activities of the nation". When we lose that knowledge, our nation as a whole becomes complacent and in danger of losing the ability to overcome whatever great struggles rise in our future, placing us at the mercy of our opponents. In a sense, "our growing softness, our increasing lack of physical fitness, is a menace to our society."

Kennedy's article goes even more in-depth about the need for continual physical fitness to be an everyday part of our life, starting from our youth on forward. His main point is clear: in past years America has met and overcome exceptionally great struggles through our vitality, stamina, and strength. These characteristics are nurtured and grown through our physical fitness and wellbeing. So, whether you are part of that hardy group of souls in the 5 AM Club or find a more reasonable time to work out, physical fitness is key to our personal health, to our continual success as an Air Force, and most importantly, to the survival of our nation.