Capt. Linda Baltes Monsolillo, 752nd Medical Squadron biomedical science officer, is no stranger to fitness. As a fitness model and personal trainer, her healthy lifestyle is the reason she said she bounced back so quickly after her Feb. 15, 2015 delivery of a healthy 9 pound, 2 ounce baby girl, Emerson Zoe.
“I grew up in really active household, playing soccer, basketball and running track,” she said. “When I first moved away from home, I kept active.”
In her early 20s she was a full-time college student, a reservist and working full time. Such a packed schedule caused her to put her fitness on the back burner for 10 months to a year. She was not feeling well and a doctor’s visit revealed cholesterol issues with a potential for diabetes she said. That’s when she vowed to get back into shape.
She maintained her fitness into Officer Training School where, in 2008, she sustained an injury.
“We were doing a patient-litter-carry obstacle race. When we lifted the liter, the team took off before I could turn my foot the right way and my boot got stuck,” she said. “I heard a snap and wasn’t sure what had happened. When I returned home it took the doctors two years to correctly diagnosis it.”
“Basically my side butt muscle, and other supporting structures in the hip were damaged. They are used in stability and to lift your leg,” Monsolillo said. “The injury meant I couldn’t walk without severe pain, let alone run much. I had to modify my routines to indoor cardio like the elliptical until I taught myself to swim.”
After a lot of physical therapy and frustration she said it took two surgeries to repair a torn gluteus medius, a labrum and release the IT band. (According to americanhipinstitute.com, the gluteus medius is the hip muscle used to move the leg away from the body, stand upright and walk without a limp. Health.ucsd.edu describes the labrum as a rim of soft tissue surrounding the hip socket helping stabilize the hip. Finally, Upmc.com states the IT band is a thick band of fibrous tissue that runs along the outside of the leg providing stability to the outside of the knee joint.) The avid runner was on the road to recovery and getting back to her fitness routine.
“I did my very first triathlon one year after the second surgery was completed. I did the Santa Barbara Long Course, and let me tell you, I was humbled! I didn’t know how to fuel correctly and my training was lacking,” she said. “I survived and have since gotten much better at both of these things, but most importantly I kept moving and had some fun!”
Monsolillo co-founded March FITT (Fitness and Inspiration Through Teamwork), a private organization, to try to spread wellness initiatives on the base. She also became a personal trainer and helped fellow Airmen with fitness through the development of a pacing program for runners in her squadron.
Lt. Col. Kris Kraiger, 452 AMW director of inspections also an avid runner, met Monsolillo about five years ago when he organized a group of runners to go to the U.S. Air Force Marathon at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
“Linda was one of nearly 100 runners who ran one of the several races that weekend in Ohio,” he said. “Linda’s fitness IQ and ability to motivate people became very apparent that weekend and with (the commander’s) encouragement we continued the success of that first organized running group, March FITT.”
For several years after that first marathon, Kraiger said he and Monsolillo worked closely together managing March FITT, where she was key in generating outside corporate sponsorships with fitness-related organizations.
“Linda was an ever-present motivator in her squadron and would often get groups of people together to run or do core workouts,” he said. “While March FITT was active, Linda’s support was critical in generating interest both in exercise and in nutrition. She helped organize several Lunch and Learns on UTA weekends with the base nutritionist and there was a positive change in the meal offerings as a result.”
“I enlisted in the Air Force in 1996 and was issued a set of blues. I still wear the skirt. My goal is to retire wearing that same uniform,” Monsolillo said. “(And) if I get the call, I have to be 100 percent ready.”
Monsolillo’s fitness routine would soon change again. When she learned of her pregnancy, she said she was given the option to complete her fitness test or skip it. To demonstrate to her fellow Airman that fitness is her lifestyle, she completed the test, scoring a 98.
She encourages others to modify workouts as needed, but to never stop working out. Some of the Airmen in her squadron joined her in her pregnancy workouts at the base gym.
“I really walk the walk. I try to motivate everybody no matter their speed or expertise, to be surrounded by others who are moving and eating well,” she said. “My troops hide their donuts when I walk in the room. I’ve become a walking billboard (for fitness).”
One of her biggest concerns, during pregnancy, was that as her body changed there was a potential for overdoing it, she said.
“I needed to give myself permission to do what was right for the baby. I’m not an expert (in pregnancy workouts), so I had to get someone to help me devise a good plan,” Mosolillo said. “As my joints became looser and my heart rate increased, I knew I couldn’t go 110 percent.”
Because of her previous injuries the cardio side (running) was not the best option for her through pregnancy. Her joints were just too loose, she said.
“I focused a lot more on my core to help with labor and help offset carrying the extra weight,” she said. “I worked on my flexibility, and adapted my cardio from high-intensity workouts to more moderate workouts with shorter intervals.”
Ashley Peters, Monsolillo’s best friend and training partner, adapted her workouts to fit Monsolillo’s throughout her pregnancy. The two met in 2010 and began working out together in Monsolillo’s home gym last February.
“There was more of a focus on core (for stability), but not sit ups and crunching,” Peters said. “When we were together, I did her work out, (but) I still did stuff on my own.”
Their workouts sometime included planking, using stability balls, and performing functional movements with lighter weights. Other times they would just walk their dogs, or do a guided workout from a trainer, Peters said.
“It’s great being motivated by someone who is pregnant. If she can do this, I can do it,” Peters said. “She’s pretty tough, like a little slave driver, an inspirational lady all around and a good motivator and partner.”
Mosolillo said her labor was incredibly challenging. She is a petite person, measuring 5 foot 7 inches with a pre-pregnancy weight of 120 pounds. Delivering a larger baby speaks to what exercise can do (to help). Emerson was thriving she said.
“Because of my fitness she had incredible nutrition and oxygen levels even though she was 10 days late.”
Thinking her labor and delivery would be easy because she had maintained her fitness, Monsolillo labored for 27-hours before doctors made the decision to perform a Caesarian Section.
“It was daunting, but I was walking within 12 hours of her delivery. My doctor said they normally keep people four nights but I left after three because I was so strong,” she said. “I was able to use the strength that I had built to help get myself out of bed and moving. Had I not been as fit that would have been impossible in such a short time.
“My recovery is unbelievable. It’s only three-and-a-half weeks post-partum and I started a modified weight routine this week,” she said. “My doctor said that because I stayed so healthy, my body is healing must faster than expected for a 37-year-old who just gave birth.”
Now her workouts are about maximizing their time together. Monsolillo and Emerson take walks and often without the stroller. Mom carries her daughter in a sling and uses her in place of a 10-pound weight.
“Right now I’m focused on strengthening my back, which is critical as I carry her in the future,” she said. “As she gets bigger, and we get permission, her jog stroller is ready. Then she’ll be in the gym with me so I can use her there as my weights.”