131MayMiles Challenge promotes unit fitness during physical distancing
By Airman 1st Class Joseph Geldermann, 131st Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 18, 2020
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- The 131st Bomb Wing is in the midst of a wing-wide fitness challenge with the goal of increased member connectedness and readiness while maintaining physical distance.
Participants in the #131MayMiles challenge do their best to log 131 miles by the end of the month. Members can log miles by running, walking, biking, swimming, rowing or using an elliptical machine.
“There are multiple facets to this challenge,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jessica Settle, 131st command chief. “Motivate one another, get out and get moving, and most of all, have fun. Even if you don’t complete 131 miles, participation is success in itself.”
According to Settle, the idea came out of a need to find creative ways to encourage members to maintain connections through a time when it is easy to feel isolated from others.
“It can be challenging to feel like a part of the team, especially as a drill status Guardsman,” she said. “It’s more important than ever to look for other ways to reach each other and check in on your wingmen.”
Members are using a mobile app that tracks their miles and allows participants to see everyone’s progress toward the goal, which adds an element of competition to the challenge. Guardsmen can also submit their mileage to their first sergeants, offering the opportunity for more personal communication.
Settle said though many of the wing’s members are already getting competitive, she hopes that participants will take part in the camaraderie the challenge offers by interacting virtually.
“It’s not about the 131 miles,” she said. “It’s about connectedness, getting physically fit, and bringing together Airmen from both sides of the state.”
Capt. Shallyn Troutman, a maintenance officer with the 131st BW, is one of almost 200 wing members that have already signed up to participate in the challenge. The former triathlete said at first she was nervous about joining the challenge.
“I would have totally done something like that in my triathlon days, but I just had a baby,” Troutman said. “I definitely don’t want to log my embarrassing low mileage out there for the world to see. What I’ve realized, though, is that this is not about me. This is about having fun and staying connected, a key component to maintaining resiliency.”
Troutman said the mileage goal is reasonable for people of all levels of fitness and she is enjoying watching fellow Guardsmen climb the leaderboard.
“Already, since my husband and I began logging our miles, we've had fun seeing the other people in our unit doing the same,” she said. “This is something that we can all do together.”
Settle said that many Guardsmen have been feeling the effects of being confined to their homes, and are finding it difficult to stay motivated and connected while isolated and distant from one another, especially during a time where virtual drill has replaced in-person attendance.
“When the gyms closed, I had to refocus and readjust my routine,” she said. “And like many others, I’ve been looking for new ways to stay fit. Physical fitness tests have been postponed, but that doesn’t mean we can take a break.”
Master Sgt. Ben Middleton, an additional duty first sergeant with the 157th Air Operations Group, said he found the challenge a welcome motivation to get out and get moving.
“Coming off a six and a half month deployment, I was in the best shape of my life,” he said. “Adjusting to being home has been interesting, and trying to get back to the gym coincided with all the gyms closing down. I’m looking forward to using this challenge to get my ‘game’ back.”
Middleton said he is also looking forward to building camaraderie and esprit de corps across the wing during these turbulent times.
“I look forward to the friendly competition and banter throughout the month,” he said. “I can already see that this will be a blast.”
Settle said that she would love to see all the wing’s Airmen participating, even if it is just one mile a day.
“I’m just really excited that this challenge has taken off,” she said. “There’s nothing like 1,200 fellow Guardsmen holding you accountable.”
The #131MayMiles Challenge is scheduled to run throughout the month of May 2020. Wing members who would like to join the competition can obtain an access code from their first sergeant.