Twice a month, Coast Guard All Hands will feature “From the Homefront,” a column for Coast Guard spouses by Coast Guard spouse Shelley Kimball. Shelley has been married to Capt. Joe Kimball, chief of the office of requirements and analysis at Coast Guard headquarters, for 14 years. She serves as an advisor for the Military Family Advisory Network and a research analyst for Blue Star Families.
Written by Shelley Kimball
Every move means finding a new way for Laura Overstreet, a Coast Guard spouse, to schedule her fitness. Making her workouts a nonnegotiable appointment in her routine has kept her on track for 13 years.
“Each time we moved, I had to figure out how I was going to get my runs in with our new schedules,” she said.
Overstreet started out when her family was stationed at Air Station Borinquen, Puerto Rico. She would put her twin boys, who were toddlers at the time, in the Child Development Center to make time to workout.
“That was my running time. I never used that time for anything else, and made exercise a priority,” she said.
Then on to Indiana where she joined the YWCA, and her boys could go into the childcare center while she ran on the treadmill. After that came Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and she found a YMCA with childcare.
By then, the boys were in kindergarten, which meant a little more time and more options.
“I went back to work part time, and my hours allowed me time to run in the mornings after they got on the school bus,” Overstreet said.
The next move to Traverse City, Michigan, meant after-work runs. Less appealing, Overstreet said, but she made it work by packing her running gear with her each day. Now they live near Washington, DC, and the boys are old enough to stay home alone while she runs.
Finding time – it seems to be the obstacle to most fitness plans. Coast Guard spouses are nothing if not resourceful, and a few of them have found some sure-fire ways to make fitness a part of their regular routines.
Rosemary Talley, ombudsman for the 7th Coast Guard District, is an integrative health coach. She works one-on-one with clients to help identify goals and any obstacles that may be blocking them from a healthier life.
“I stress adding in the good things rather than taking away or traditional dieting,” she said. “I help them to become healthy in all areas.”
When it comes to finding time for fitness, she said she recommends two things to her clients: journaling and work out with someone.
“One thing I use with my clients is to have them keep a journal of how they spend their time. Ultimately they get a picture of where they waste time or have free time, and they find where fitness will fit into their day,” Talley said. “And of course the best way for making time for fitness is have an accountability partner.”
Maggie Doyle, a Coast Guard spouse, said she and her husband act as each other’s accountability partners.
“Having someone to be accountable to for you workouts is key. It helps motivate me to do the work out vice having to tell them that I was to lazy to do it,” she said.
Over the past three years, she said she and her husband have made fitness a priority by training for triathlons. They set out a weekly workout schedule to help keep them focused.
“The biggest things that have helped has been having a weekly workout schedule and accountability,” Doyle said. “We’re both are lucky that we have a tri coach who writes our workout schedules for us. But even if you sit down every Sunday and write down what days you are going to work out and what activity you are going to do (run, bike, yoga, strength, etc.) that helps start the second part: accountability.”
Some Coastie spouses said they get creative with scheduling their workouts. Ashley Segura said that she makes sure to get it out of the way early in the day before anything comes up.
“I make time in my schedule for my workouts early in the morning before everyone gets up,” Segura said. “That way, I know it’s done for the day, and I don’t have to worry about it later.”
Danielle Kimmel said she works out at home when she can, and tries to make time for early morning runs.
“I run super early in the morning before my husband goes to work or bring the baby in the running stroller while our older son rides his bike,” Kimmel said. “If my husband is out, I use a babysitter once a week for longer runs.”
They key for these Coasties is finding a place in their schedules, no matter when it is, and making the commitment to fill that spot with exercise. Stacey Bilodeau said she now works out in the morning after going through some trial and error. She found that waiting until midafternoon meant her workout would take a backseat to kids’ sleeping longer at naptime or getting caught up in dinner preparations.
“Being a stay-at-home mom with two toddlers, ages 3 and 2, it’s hard to find time and motivation to get out the door just to go grocery shopping. So finding time to workout kind of made it harder. But we do it,” Bilodeau said.
That commitment has meant going from being unable to run a mile to now running six miles at a time and (nervously) preparing for a 10-mile race. She said she goes to the gym midmorning, and she takes the kids with her.
“No rush and no pressure,” she said. “I also learned that if I can only do 20 minutes at the gym, then that’s better then no minutes at all.”
Jasmine Dekker said she relies on an online fitness program that includes YouTube fitness videos that she can complete while her kids are occupied. The convenience of having it at her fingertips whenever she has time has made it much easier, she said.
“I do it while my kids are eating breakfast in the morning so they are occupied, and I’m hands free,” she said.
New mom Gladys Hester said she works her baby into her fitness routine.
“I do yoga with the baby, and moms can do this with kids of all ages too,” she said. “I plan on walking and jogging with baby in the stroller even if it is just around the block. I like to use YouTube videos and do exercise at home. This way I can pick a video that matches the time and energy I have. Even if that means only a 10-minute stretch and destress video.”
Some other ways for Coast Guard families to access more fitness opportunities is to check out what’s available at the nearest station. Air Station Cape Cod is in a unique position as it is the only Coast Guard station chosen to participate in the Department of Defense’s Healthy Base Initiative, a study on how to improve the health of active duty members and their families.
One of the more popular efforts at Air Station Cape Cod is ‘Fitness on Request,’ which is a kiosk-type of fitness station with a variety of accessible video classes.
“The theory behind Fitness on Request was that it could be used by anyone without a fitness instructor,” said Gary Scheer, the director of MWR for the Coast Guard.
However, like any fitness activity for parents, finding a way to do it without childcare is a can be an obstacle. As a solution, they are looking for a way to put it in a space in which families could park strollers near it while they work out.
“One of the challenges that Cape Cod is facing in providing this equipment is finding a space that is easily accessible to all. Ideally, the location would be within ‘stroller roller’ distance, but even on an installation the size of Cape Cod, finding adequate space that fits that need is difficult,” Scheer said. “Hopefully, the space the command has selected temporarily, the equipment is portable, will meet the needs of spouses who do find it difficult to work out with other demands on their time.”
Local gyms may also provide discounted memberships for military families. The YMCA’s military program is not available to Coast Guard families because it is a partnership with the Department of Defense. However, some YMCAs will provide substantial military discounts to Coast Guard families.
Check out running or walking events, especially those that take place at a local duty station. Look into running clubs – Stroller Warriors is a popular running club for military spouses, and there are chapters all over the world. Or find a fun race and rope some friends into doing it together.
Overstreet said she uses races to motivate herself to keep on track. She signs up for a few, then uses them as reasons to organize a training calendar.
“Please note that I am no superstar runner,” Overstreet said. “Everyone in my family is faster than I am, and I plod along at about an 11-minute mile on a good day. But I am persistent, and sticking to it for all these years has brought great benefits.”
Thirteen years of commitment have meant that Overstreet is 20 pounds lighter than she was when she started. She said she is healthier, stronger, more fit, and she has lower blood pressure and cholesterol to show for it, too.
“I’ve gone from knowing I could never run a 10K to having successfully completed nine half marathons, one full marathon, a sprint triathlon, and multiple other 10, 8, and 5K races,” Overstreet said. “That is an amazing confidence booster and a motivator to keep it up.”
How do you find time for fitness? Share in the comments below!
The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not to be construed as official or reflecting the views of the Commandant or of the U.S. Coast Guard.