ESCANABA, MI and FT. LAUDERDALE, FL — Fitness facilities across the country are reaching out to the military world — to both recruits and family of deployed military personnel.
The Delta County YMCA in Escanaba, MI opened its doors in late October to military recruits. The facility already had a program in place for the families of local National Guardsmen who were deployed to come in and workout, but the new program targets those who have not yet been sent to boot camp.
Every recruit that has gone through the program has passed their first physical fitness test in boot camp — quite a feat since typically only about 50 percent pass on their first attempt.
“Their [fitness] has changed drastically with their confidence,” Erick Hoversholm, Escanaba Army recruiter, said of the recruits. “The confidence comes through, and they break through those mental barriers. I've seen a lot of improvement.”
Last year, Hoversholm came to YMCA Program Director Lisa Broman with the idea. Having a brother-in-law in the military, she was responsive and took the idea to the YMCA Director Gary Nash.
“We were already doing things for the National Guard. Any families of those deployed can come in and use the facility during deployment — it's a good stress reliever and keeps their mind off the situation,” Broman said. “I thought it would be perfect to let the recruits come in and do their training.”
Recruits can come in with or without a recruiter to workout, and have no time restrictions on their membership.
Hoversholm said recruits are usually in training anywhere from two weeks to eight months before they go to boot camp. Hoversholm runs recruits through a series of stretching exercises, conditioning drills, push-ups and sits-ups, and has recruits do cardio on their own. Although a few athletes come in, he said most recruits start from “scratch” and are sometimes intimidated by the weight room. To avoid this, Hoversholm focuses their conditioning on selectorized equipment. The program is especially helpful in the snowy, winter months when it's hard to workout outside, Broman said.
“We're hoping that [the program] will catch on in other fitness centers across the U.S.,” she said. “We do have to help them, whatever we can do to make it easier for them. They protect the country.”
Ladies Workout Express is also donating free memberships to the spouses of military personnel that have been deployed overseas. Announced in early February, those individuals will have full use of the more than 1,500 Ladies Workout Express, Lady of America and Workout Express Fitness Centers in the United States. The free membership will last for the entire duration of the spouses' deployment overseas.