OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. - Are you ready for the challenge? If your new year's resolution is to get in shape, lose weight, and improve your diet, or you just desire a healthier lifestyle, then you are more than ready for the Cold Steel Challenge.
The Annual Cold Steel Challenge, a fitness contest open to the entire Offutt community, kicks off Jan. 31 challenging servicemembers, retired military, civilians and family members to compete individually or in teams to earn the most points for being healthy.
"Basically it's a program for the winter months to help keep Offutt personnel and their family members in shape and to motivate them to continue to work out even if the weather is bad outside," said Sergeant 1st Class Matthew Hobbs, U.S. Strategic Command Army Element senior enlisted leader and CSC organizer. "It also encourages participants to eat healthy, reduce or quit tobacco use, and to stay more mentally and physically fit for combat readiness if you're military. "
Sergeant Hobbs said one of the competition's main motivating factors is the friendly, competitive spirit inspired by the challenge.
"Competition, esprit de corps, the challenge of working out to compete against or alongside other participants is great motivation to exercise more â€¦ as well as some of the prizes and awards that will be given out in the end," Sergeant Hobbs said.
This year's 12-week challenge will be identical to last year's event. It requires participants to track their exercise routines, food intake and weight, and log that information online at www.coldsteelchallenge.org. Points are awarded based on metabolic equivalent to tasks, or METs. One MET is the amount of energy, or oxygen, the body exerts during physical activity. Users can also track caloric intake and recommended servings from the four basic food groups by visiting www.mypyramid.com or www.livestrong.com.
Last year's challenge was a great success, but Sergeant Hobbs said he would like to improve participation.
"Based on some feedback I received, I heard some people say they would have loved to participate last year but didn't know what it was, when it was running, and how they could become a part of it," he said. "One of my goals is to get that information pushed out to as much of the Offutt community as possible to allow people to know what they can do to participate. "
He also hopes to have more family members get involved.
"Throughout my career I've seen all kinds of events where family is highly encouraged to join in, but a lot of times there are no family members there," Sergeant Hobbs said. "It's one of my personal goals to get more family members to take part in the challenge because if you know you're getting good family participation, nine times out of 10 when the family is involved, the servicemember will be involved. Also, you're not just making that servicemember healthier, but you're also contributing to his big picture and morale. "
One Air Force spouse, who received the Top Overall Male Award in the family member category for USSTRATCOM, said he enjoyed the competition and is looking forward to competing again.
"What I liked about it is that I could see how I compare to people I knew," said Scott Jones, spouse of Col. Diane Jones, USSTRATCOM Air Force element section commander. "The biggest motivator was there's a guy here in STRATCOM who I went to high school with who I believe has six kids, working 12 hour days, and he had more points than I did. "
He then added with a smile, "I don't have an excuse if I can't exceed his score so that was motivation for me. "
An avid runner, Jones personally logged more than 1,000 running and biking miles each in 2011. He took part in the challenge after joining his wife's team for the J13 office. He said the CSC was an added boost to his normal daily exercise routine and the healthy lifestyle he and his wife embrace. He attributes much of his drive to setting up and working toward goals.
Jones, who has had his share of ailments, said those who want to participate but don't regularly exercise should start off slow and do things incrementally so they can be safe and avoid injuries. He also said the competition was an enjoyable experience that provided a sense of accomplishment.
"It was fun and I didn't expect to get a plaque out of it, that was an added benefit," he said. "That felt good. "
The event officially kicks off Jan. 31 until April 25 with an award ceremony slated to take place soon after.