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Troops Wage Friendly Competition in Pentagon Fitness Challenge

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30, 2009 – Army Lt. Col. Chris Carlson thrives to stay physically fit, and neither his ripe age of 46 nor his heavy workload here at the Pentagon could prevent that.

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Army Lt. Col. Chris Carlson, a program analysis and evaluations officer for the Army, sprints through the shuttle run event of the Pentagon Athletic Center's Ultimate Fitness Challenge Oct. 29, 2009, in Washington, D.C. The competition included the shuttle run, 35-pound sandbag carry relay, 60-second box jump and obstacle course and tested the overall strength and agility of the competitors. DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
  

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Carlson, an Army program analysis and evaluations officer, and several other military competitors showed off their speed, agility and dedication to physical fitness yesterday in the Pentagon Athletic Center’s Ultimate Fitness Challenge here. The competitors shared Carlson’s enthusiasm for fitness and agreed that working behind a desk in the Pentagon doesn’t mean you can’t maintain fitness.

“[The competitors] were serious about staying in great physical shape, [and] I think all of us want to maintain ourselves at the best possible shape that we can,” Carlson said. “I think it’s a tribute to the professionalism of all the services that we want to stay in the best possible shape.”

The four events were a timed shuttle run, a 35-pound sandbag-carry relay, a 60-second box jump and an obstacle course.

Despite the best efforts and confidence from the field of competitors, the challenge was surprisingly more difficult than expected, Carlson said. The object of the shuttle run was to sprint and retrieve 14 tennis balls, seven of which were positioned about 15 feet away from the start point and the other seven about 30 feet away. It’s safe to say that most were beginning to feel the burn afterwards, as almost everyone was hunched over at the waist and drenched with sweat with still three events to go.

“After the first event, we were all starting to feel the muscles tightening up, [and] you knew it was going to be a contest,” Carlson said. “I think we were all pretty fired up.”

The next three events were equally exhausting, he said. But the most notable aspect of the challenge was how the competitors came together and bonded through a little friendly competition.

“Everyone had a lot of camaraderie,” Carlson said. “We were all obviously competitive, and you could see that, but everyone was cheering for each other despite the fact that none of us had ever met before.”

Carlson called the challenge an “eye-opener” to include even more variety into his workouts, which regularly include weightlifting, biking, running and martial arts. Although he believes he’s in the best shape of his life, he said the competition showed him he needs to work out even harder.

That sort of competitive spirit was evident in many of the competitors. But for Navy Capt. Tyrone “Chappy” Payton, who unofficially finished second in the challenge, being fit is just part of who he is as a servicemember, he said.

Staying healthy and in shape is the individual servicemember’s responsibility, said Payton, deputy director of the Navy staff. Although he acknowledges that it’s easy to get “bogged down” with work here at the Pentagon, “you still need to make it your business to incorporate time to come to the gym.”

“I think the military, in general, lives a healthy lifestyle” the 50-year-old sailor said. “We represent the country, so why not be in the best shape that you can and set an example for your country.”

Payton also tries to set a good example for younger servicemembers, he said. Establishing good nutritional, physical and mental strengths at a young age is a message he often communicates.

“I think it’s important for young people to make time to build good habits, because it’s much easier to start the habit now and maintain that throughout your career in the military,” he said. “I suggest to all the young people who work for me to make time and get to the gym, because when they get to my age at 50, it’ll be a little bit easier to maintain.”

The results of the competition are pending, but for the participants, competing and showcasing their athleticism was rewarding enough.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageNavy Cmdr Kevin "Preacher" Sandlin grabs a 35-pound sandbag during the sandbag relay of the Pentagon Athletic Center's Ultimate Fitness Challenge Oct. 29, 2009, in Washington, D.C. The competition included the shuttle run, 35-pound sandbag carry relay, 60-second box jump and obstacle course and tested the overall strength and agility of the competitors. DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAngela M. Ross, administrative officer for security division of the Headquarters Marine Corps' Plans, Policies and Operations section, times a competitor in the 60-second box jump event of the Pentagon Athletic Center's Ultimate Fitness Challenge Oct. 29, 2009, in Washington, D.C. The competition included the shuttle run, 35-pound sandbag carry relay, 60-second box jump and obstacle course and tested the overall strength and agility of the competitors. DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageNavy Capt. Tyrone "Chappy" Payton, deputy director of the Navy Staff, sprints through the obstacle course event of the Pentagon Athletic Center's Ultimate Fitness Challenge Oct. 29, 2009, in Washington, D.C. The competition included the shuttle run, 35-pound sandbag carry relay, 60-second box jump and obstacle course and tested the overall strength and agility of the competitors. DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageNavy Lt. James Kotora, Navy operations division, reaches for a tennis ball during the shuttle run portion of the Pentagon Athletic Center's Ultimate Fitness Challenge Oct. 29, 2009, in Washington, D.C. The competition included the shuttle run, 35-pound sandbag carry relay, 60-second box jump and obstacle course and tested the overall strength and agility of the competitors. DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden  
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