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Soldiers Continue Fitness Training in Combat Zone

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KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Staying fit can be a challenge when you are stuck on a mountaintop.

U.S. Soldiers at Combat Outpost Bari Alai in eastern Afghanistan's Kunar province do not have access to a gym, a treadmill or even a running track, but they are not sitting idle.

In fact, a group of Soldiers with 2nd Platoon, Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Destroyer, are following a new program to improve their physical fitness.

Their tactical fitness workout, which is modeled after the Task Force Mountain Warrior CrossFit program, uses a repetitive circuit of exercises to focus on core muscle groups and increase cardio fitness.

"It doesn't make me great at anything, [but] it makes me good at everything," said Sgt. 1st Class Michael A. Donnelly of Coconut Creek, Fla. "Everything I do as a Soldier has gotten better."

Donnelly, the unit platoon sergeant, has been involved with CrossFit for five years and started the tactical fitness program partly as a way to prepare for the unit's return to Fort Carson, Colo.

The day after their first workout was a painful education for many of the Soldiers.

"I couldn't move my arms for a couple of days," Sgt. Joshuah C. Koboldt of Beavertown, Mich., said.

Koboldt, a squad leader, said he nonetheless began seeing improvements just a couple of weeks after starting the program.

"I'm trying to learn more about it so I can do it with my squad," he said.

A typical tactical workout for one day – after a warmup – included five rounds of the following exercises for time: 30 squats, 25 pushups, 20 situps, 15 kettlebell swings, 10 burpees, five deadlifts and one rope climb.

"If your body isn't used to it, it's a shock," Donnelley said.

Proper form, however, is more important than time or speed, partly because it helps avoid injuries, he said. In turn, the cycle of repetitions and varied exercises helps build the cardio strength the Soldiers are not getting because they are not running.

"I have a program where I can manipulate the heart rate as needed," Donnelley said. "We can do the workout at different levels and have the same effects."

The shorter workout times also make it easier to fit into a busy schedule. Koboldt said he is exercised more with the tactical fitness program than he did when he had access to a gym.

As much as he is getting out of it, Koboldt said his favorite part of the workout is when it is over.

"It definitely sucks while you're doing it," he said, smiling.

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