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Silver Eagles flex wing, stay strong on ship

22 Oct 2004 | Lance Cpl. Justin V. Eckersley

On land, Marines rarely have trouble finding ways to exercise. With plenty of options open to them, most Marines try to keep their bodies ready to defend America against her enemies.

The situation is different on a ship, according to Gunnery Sgt. James D. Park, powerline noncommissioned officer in charge, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115. There are few places to safely practice pull-ups and crunches, and running space is nearly nonexistent. The few pieces of gym equipment such as treadmills and bicycles are often packed with other service members. Despite these difficulties, Marines find ways to keep in shape.

“I find that running is the most difficult thing to compensate for, because there aren’t a lot of places to do it,” Park said. “The hangar bay and the flight deck are large enough to run on, but you can’t really use them when there are operations going on.”

The lack of running space may be tough to overcome, but the steep ladder wells between decks help to keep legs strong, according to Park.

“I don’t really do much running, except maybe when I can go up to the flight deck when we’re in port,” Park said. “I prefer to hit the gym and go powerlifting.”

Working out in the ship’s gym is a great way to not only stay fit, but improve physically as well, according to Park.

“The fact is, we really don’t have much else to do out here on ship, other than work and lift,” Park said. “I find that it’s much easier for me to maintain a steady schedule out here than it is in Beaufort, because there is nothing to distract me out here.”

Since there are not many distractions on a ship, some Silver Eagles hit the weight room four to five times a week, like Master Sgt. Robert J. Freiler, avionics division chief, VMFA-115.

“I do the usual exercises: Chest machines, lat and pull row machines, curls, dumbbell lunges, pull-ups and dips with dumbbells between my legs,” Freiler said. “As for running, I despise treadmills and bicycles, so I go to the hangar bay. I find the most open area and hit it as hard as I can. It can be a bit tricky, with twists and turns, oily patches and pedestrians, but I make do.”

One of the most important parts of staying in shape, whether or not a Marine is on ship, is to regularly continue to work out and have goals, according to Park.

“You have to stick with it,” Park said. “As we get closer to port call, I see all sorts of people cramming into the gym to try and trim up. That really doesn’t do anything, they just make it harder for other people to find places to work out. When you get in the gym, you should really be there with an objective in mind.”

When it comes to finding a good schedule, timing is everything, according to Park.

“Just a couple of days ago, I was in the gym at around 11 a.m., and there were only four people in there,” Park said. “I don’t know if that’s just because we only just got underway, but if it works, stick with it.”

Marines should also consider, choosing an appropriate gym partner. Not all Marines were built the same, so they may be at different levels of ability in the gym, according to Park.

“You really want to get in there with someone who has the same goals,” Park said. “That way, you’re both maximizing your potential by helping each other out.”

Partners also help each other through mutual motivation. Where one person might not really feel the need or desire to go to the gym, having a partner will often give them the extra push they need to keep their workout habits regular, according to Park.

More partners does not necessarily mean a better workout, according to Park. One or two partners are plenty, because having too many people means longer wait times in between sets.

Fitness is not just about the number of sets completed, nor the partners involved, according to Park. One of the most important aspects of staying fit is eating right. Eating regular, well-balanced meals is essential to any healthy lifestyle.

“You can’t live off the chili bar and expect to do your workout any good,” Park said.

While Marines on ship may find the tight quarters hard to deal with at first, doing their best to keep a regular schedule, having a solid partner, and eating right will keep them strong and fit.