Guard and Local Athletic Program Eyes Plan for Post COVID-19 Fitness Preparedness

Story by Army Maj. Gustave LaFontaine

After concluding their season by clinching bowl wins for two years in a row, the University of Kentucky football team has high ambitions for the 2020 season. However, there is uncertainty about the future of college football. Will a season begin on schedule this fall?

University of Kentucky football players take part in team workouts prior to the 2018 season. (Stock photo)

Will players compete in vacant stadiums? Will there even be a college football season? How does a team or prepare in this moment?

University of Kentucky head strength coach Mark Hill offered his expectation for the team.

“There’s always something you can do. Even if you’re stuck in the house for 24 hours there’s always something you can do.”

He added, “We’re focused on what you can do as opposed to don’t have and what you can’t do.”

The Kentucky Army National Guard is in a similar position. The Army Combat Fitness Test becomes the physical fitness test of record beginning in October 2020. Does the state of affairs with regard to COVID-19 change that? According to the incoming state Command Sergeant Major, Sgt. Maj. Jesse Withers, not at all.

“The Army has suspended the requirements of the ACFT until further notice, but as Soldiers we must remain disciplined in maintaining our personal physical fitness standards and be prepared for a test of record later this year.”

Understandably, some Soldiers will wonder how they will conduct physical training in an environment where gyms from Boone National Guard Center to their local fitness facility are closed. Group activities, including Army-sponsored physical training sessions, are off limits. Kentucky’s football team faces the same facility, equipment, and gathering limitations. Hill says the key is to create opportunity rather than create excuses.

“At the end of the day it’s about accountability, we always talk to our guys about being accountable. First to themselves and then to their teammates. We talk about it all the time in this program.”

Hill has prescribed his players a variety of body weight exercises featuring push-ups, burpees, bodyweight squats, bodyweight lunges, couch dips, and sprints on the sidewalk.

Staff Sgt. Zac Casey, Kentucky Army National Guard ACFT NCO, also suggest bodyweight exercises as an effective physical fitness tool during this time.

“I am asked repeatedly during this time about workouts without equipment. I tell everyone that they are the machine.”

U.S. Army Soldiers practice for the new physical fitness test. (Photo by Stars and Stripes)

Casey recently launched an Instagram account on behalf of Kentucky’s Attack Exercise through Education (AXE) program to educate Soldiers about fitness during a time of stay at home orders and facility closures.

“As equipment limitations continue, workouts have to become more creative. The purpose of this account is to educate Soldiers on how to maintain their fitness during this time.”

The Army has also published resources to assist. Specific guidance is included in several places. A Google search of “ACFT” will lead to the Army’s combat fitness website. There, Soldiers will find exercises to prepare for the ACFT. The website features at least one bodyweight exercise for each event. There will come a time when football will resume. Just as certain is that the ACFT will be conducted. Withers offered his thoughts on how to deal with the current conditions in the meantime.

“We are all dealing with a change to our daily lives. It’s the discipline we display and the resilience we muster that will help us succeed during this change. Readiness through physical fitness will help us navigate these changes in a healthy and productive way.”

You can follow Kentucky’s AXE program on Instagram at kyarng_axe.

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