I was always somewhat fit—in high school, I dabbled in volleyball and dance team—but it wasnt until I joined the Air Force that fitness truly became a passion.
I wasn't feeling confident about my future, and I couldn't picture what my life after college might look like.
So I thought about two people I admired: my older brother, who was in the Navy, and my older sister, who was in the Air Force. And, after talking it over with my dad, I decided to join the Air Force as well. I was confident this would be a win-win situation: I could pursue a career in the military, and continue to work toward my degree through their education program at the same time.
That's not to say I wasn't a little scared going into it—any new experience is intimidating. But mostly I was anxious to get started, and excited for the new challenges I was about to face.
After I enlisted, I went straight to basic military training.
Everyone I met there came from different physical fitness backgrounds and body types, but we were all held to the same standard.
To test our physical fitness, we went through three challenges: pushups, situps, and a mile and a half run. To pass, we had to do a set number of pushups and situps in a minute, then run the mile and a half under a certain time, based on our gender and age. It was no easy feat!
Knowing I'd be put through these physical tests, workouts quickly became a big priority of mine, and I started weight lifting a few times a week. I also took advantage of the free classes available, including aerobics, strength training, and CrossFit.
I mostly trained on my own, but I discovered there was a lot of camaraderie within the Air Force, and everyone tried to help each other out. If someone was taking a fitness test, for example, there was usually someone by their side, running with them. The philosophy: We never leave anyone behind.
During training, I started to get really into fitness.
I wanted to do more to help my Air Force community stay in shape to meet the standards that were set for us, so I volunteered to became a physical fitness leader.
To assume this role, I had to complete Air Force-specific training, which includes CPR/AED certifications. And then I was in charge of making a monthly schedule of workouts for my squadron of about 30 to 40 people.
We would get together three times a week, and we would either do a workout at the track or at an indoor area big enough to fit the whole group. The track workouts I planned would include intervals or sprints, mixed with bodyweight strength movements. Indoor workouts usually included a more strength-focused session with equipment.
On our training days, I gave everyone a rundown of each workout, lead them, and provide modifications as needed. I would do my best to make them sweat and work hard, but also have a good time.
I'm really grateful for that experience, because I think it gave me the confidence I needed for the next stage in my fitness and Air Force journey.
Now, my spin class is a huge part of my life.
I teach my spin class twice a week, with usually around 20 people per class. I have a number of regulars - there are several women in my classes who have lost weight, increased their cardio endurance, or just improved overall. They come to every class. I have women of all ranks, all branches, all coalition forces - and they all love it.
It's so incredible to see how hard everyone works in my class. They're so motivated and that keeps me motivated, too.Whenever we're in that spin room, no matter how challenging our day or week had been, we have such a great time.
Fitness helps me stay grounded and focused.
Deployment is absolutely challenging, and I miss home every day while I'm away. But I also try to remind myself that I'm fulfilling a mission, which helps me stay positive and live in the moment.
I often do some of my workouts - like lifting or running - alone, as a mental escape, to help me get rid of negative emotions.
But having the support of my fellow Airmen also helps get me through the day, which is another reason the spin class is so great.
I'll play all kinds of music - from EDM to hard rock like Rob Zombie to pop songs. Between the lively music and intensity of the class, it's how we "embrace the suck," which is a military phrase we use a lot. In this class, we're all doing it together.