Fitness ‘sanctuary’ for families

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Sanctuary is often defined as a place of worship and a place to take refuge. Fitness enthusiasts who seek a ‘sanctuary’ to practice their craft often find themselves in a common place of ‘worship’—the fitness center.

This is true, as the fitness center at Whiteman Air Force Base (AFB), Missouri, seeks to provide a gold standard facility by offering a healthy sporting and fitness environment and creating lifelong athletes fit to defend.

Although the fitness center is 58 percent undersized for the base population, the success of the fitness center is extremely important to Team Whiteman.

“We play a large role in executing the 509th Bomb Wing commander’s priority,” said Angela M. Anderson, the 509th Force Support Squadron (FSS) fitness center director. “Families … support those who sacrifice to support us.”

The center provides Whiteman families a place to take refuge by offering an average of 16 classes per week, all free, excluding the adult and youth Jiu Jitsu classes.

“The gym provides classes like spin class and yoga,” said U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Fredy Velasquez, a public health technician with the 509th Medical Operations Squadron. “The fitness center helps me maintain a healthy state of mind by releasing stress and transforming it into physical energy.”

In addition, the fitness center is currently providing 96 Fitness Improvement Program approved classes during the month of February. Some of these classes are initiated based on customer feedback such as FitForce.

“Since August of last year we’ve had 296 classes with 1,325 participants in the FitForce class,” said Anderson. “This is just one of the ways our programs enable the 509th’s 96.9 percent fitness assessment pass rate.”

With the 24-hour access option available, the fitness center provides Team Whiteman a place to decompress.

“I am able to have steady 45 minute to an hour workout three to five days a week along with the sauna,” said Velasquez. “It helps me relax my mind after a productive work day at the clinic to support the mission and our fellow Airmen.”

According to Anderson, the facility and programs are enhanced by customer feedback. In response to the feedback, the fitness center recently launched “Ladies Night at the Bar,” which is a program that helps women become more familiar with the benefits of weight training. The center plans to incorporate a bi-monthly support group in the near future.

“The feedback we received from ‘Ladies Night’ is that it offered an opportunity not only to be educated about the equipment, but also a support system,” said Anderson. “Accountability and courage in numbers.”

In conjunction with Air Force Global Strike Command’s “Year of the Family” campaign--focusing efforts that greatly affect families and quality-of-life programs, the Whiteman AFB fitness center added a family element to most of the programs offered.

“This year we are executing programs through the Air Force Fit Families initiative which encourages children, teens and their families to ‘Get up, Get out, and Get fit, Together’,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Shonta C. Simes, the 509th FSS fitness center, fitness and sports section chief.

On June 3, 2017, the fitness center is scheduled to host the AF Youth and Teen Cohesion Challenge and Whiteman’s 2nd annual Youth Triathlon in August.

“We are also in the process of lowering our age requirement from 13 to 12 years old to permit youth in cardiovascular, weight equipment and group exercise rooms, with qualified adult supervision,” said Simes. “This will encourage training in preparation for participation in school sports programs.”

The fitness center staff at Whiteman AFB understand their role in providing the best quality of life for those who serve and their loved ones.

“Our programs are extremely important to Team Whiteman,” said Anderson. “When a customer comments that this is their ‘sanctuary’ we take it seriously. We see the relationships built during group sessions in the weight room, or during a class—this is the gold standard we strive for.”