Honoring fallen through fitness
While this was its fourth consecutive year, the competition took on additional meaning this time around. The final stage of the contest was filled with challenges dedicated to the memory of the 19 firefighters who lost their lives battling the Yarnell wildfire July 1 in Central Arizona.
Twenty-six teams of four athletes gathered Sept. 6 at the 56th Force Support Squadron Bryant Fitness Center to compete in this year’s Warrior Fitness Challenge. The teams were made up of service members, competitors from fitness groups off base, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and members of the Phoenix Fire Department.
“This event started four years ago as a 9/11 memorial, but has added meaning this year with the recent tragedy of the Granite Mountain Hotshots of the Prescott Fire Department,” said Sherri Biringer, 56th Force Support Squadron fitness specialist supervisor and organizer of the Warrior Fitness Challenge. “This is an event of mental ability, strength and agility. It’s meant to help people in ways that are useful to their daily lives. Everything we do is functional fitness.”
About eight months ago, Senior Airman Eric Vail, 56th Aerospace Medicine Squadron public health technician, couldn’t see himself in a fitness competition like this.
“I didn’t like warrior fitness, I thought it was stupid,” he said. “My superintendent recommended I try it, so I did, and it kicked my butt. But I’ve been coming back ever since.”
While pushing hard and doing his best is important, Vail said the meaning behind this year’s competition will give him a little extra motivation.
“It gave us something to push for, it gave meaning to the workout,” he said.
The event began with words of encouragement from Brig. Gen. Mike Rothstein, 56th Fighter Wing commander, followed by a safety brief before the workouts began. The sun began beating down on competitors as they walked from the fitness center to the track to begin the first round of the challenge.
As the weather creeped its way to triple digits, competitors prepared for the first event, which included running around the track with a medicine ball, pushups, squats and pull-ups. Event two was no easier, and included 15 repetitions of dead-lifting either 225 or 155 pounds, depending on your abilities. After the first two events, the final event was no joke either.
The third event was dedicated to the firefighters who lost their lives in the recent tragedy, and it began with a 50-foot tire flip, a 500-meter row, burpees, a fire hose run and a victim carry.
By the end of the event, competitors said they were exhausted. For many, the pride in doing this event to honor the fallen heroes was the greatest part.
“Just being in public service, we are in the same vein as firefighters,” said Brigette Ruiz, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office deputy and participant in the Warrior Fitness Challenge. “It’s really touching that the military community would do something to honor the public service community.”
While some may feel warrior fitness is not for them, Biringer said she has seen tremendous results for those who decided to try it.
“I’ve seen people with fitness test fails go on to pass,” she said. “I’ve seen people lose significant weight. It’s nothing to be afraid of. We start you off with a fundamentals class, and, as you become more fit and familiar with the proper form, our coaches scale you up, adding the appropriate weight, time and so on to your routine.”
For more information on how you get involved in Warrior Fitness go to www.LukeEvents.com and click on the Sports and Fitness link or call 623-856-6241. For more information on the Granite Mountain Hotshots, go to www.cityofprescott.net/services/fire/hotshots.