General practices what he preaches when it comes to fitness You Military News

By Lt. Col. Elizabeth Magnuson

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — It took 10 years and six races, but Maj. Gen. David Smith, director of Air Force Reserve plans, programs and requirements here, finally made it to the Ironman World Championship race in Kona, Hawaii, in October.

Triathlons are grueling events involving a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run, and only 6% of Ironmen participants worldwide qualify for the World Championships. Smith qualified for the 2021 Ironman World Championship by placing third in his age group at Ironman Florida 2020. However, the 2021 championship race was canceled due to COVID, so his entry was delayed until this year.

Smith started running in high school, but it wasn’t until he was assigned to the US Northern Command that he was introduced to Ironman races by a colleague in the Canadian Armed Forces.

“I was working shifts at the time and my friend and I talked about doing some training together,” Smith said. “He was a professional athlete and I asked him if he thought I could do a full distance race and he said absolutely. We started training together and then I did my first half Ironman around 2010. Then I ran a full Ironman in 2012 and the rest, you might say, is history.”

But this story isn’t just about finishing a race. Although only 0.00006% of the world’s population makes it to the Ironman World Championship, Smith firmly believes that what makes those who do succeed are the same things the Air Force recommends to create better leaders: resilience , dedication, time management and goal setting.

“I believe that athleticism and routine actually make for good leadership,” Smith said. “I believe the accomplishments I’ve had throughout my Air Force career are because I’ve competed in the Ironman. High achievers, whether in fitness or sports, are also high achievers in their everyday lives, whether it’s their work, leadership or personal life. It will contribute to your mental health and physical fitness and make you a better leader no matter where you are in life.”

The general said his goal is to inspire an airman or guard to make fitness a part of their life.

“I’ll be 54 in November, and if a 54-year-old officer can do an Ironman race, guess what, our 20-, 30- and 40-year-old airmen and keepers can too,” he said.

“Just make fitness a part of your life,” Smith said. “If you look at the endurance spectrum that General Brown and Chief Bass are trying to articulate to our Airmen, physical fitness spans three of the pillars of the endurance spectrum. Fitness helps you take care of yourself by reducing stress, keeping you physically fit and helping your mental health. It also promotes peer and social bonding, as fitness often involves working with other people. I have made some lifelong friends through my competition.”

Smith said he believes in the Ironman slogan: Anything is possible.

“Although not everyone will become an Ironman, if you set a goal, have a plan to achieve that goal, and dedicate your daily life to achieving that goal—whether it’s running a marathon, competing in an Ironman race, or even finishing school—you will achieve your goal.” , he said.

Smith offered some advice on setting and achieving a goal:

• Have a goal. You can do almost anything you set your mind to as long as you have a goal and then manage your time appropriately. Sometimes goals change due to work/life balance, and that’s okay. You should constantly evaluate your goals and adjust them as needed.

• Time management. People often ask me how I find time to train for an Ironman between a military commitment, civilian job and family. I tell them that I manage my time very carefully, prioritization is essential, and I fit my schedule around my goals.

• Accountability. It’s also a goal-setting thing. When you set your goal, you need to be accountable for accomplishing it, whether it’s to yourself or someone else.

• Take time for yourself. I think of my study time as personal reflection time, meditation time, or wellness time. It’s time to disconnect, disconnect from email, social media, or other distracting events and focus on the task or study, dedicating that time to me.

• Balance. The balance between work, family and personal routine is extremely important. Everyone has to find their balance. I try to only do one race a year to keep my work/life balance.

• Give an example. I strongly believe in our leadership (officer and soldier) leading by example. I did the Ironman when I was a Group Commander and as a Wing Commander. People are always watching, and if our Airmen and Guardians see our leaders making fitness and mental health a part of their daily lives, they will hopefully be inspired to make fitness a part of their lives.

• Customize it. Customize your training and tailor your time to whatever your goal is.

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