When Rick Davis retired from the Army in 2007, he expected that his lifestyle would change. He looked forward to spending more time with his wife and son and to living life at a more relaxed pace.
He knew that life in the civilian sector would be different, but he didn’t anticipate the effect that this change would have on his fitness and well-being.
“I had spent 23 years in the Army,” Davis said. “When you’re in the military, you’re always conscious of having to stay fit and maintain your weight. For a while, it felt good not to have to answer for it.”
Shortly after retiring, Davis accepted a position working as an information technology specialist for Fort Drum’s Network Enterprise Center. The majority of his work days are spent installing computers and software programs and providing the technical support that other Depart-
ment of Army Civilians need to perform their jobs.
“Largely, it’s a sedentary job,” he said. “There are opportunities to get out and do things, but by and large, you’re sitting at a desk for the majority of the day.”
Five years after retiring, Davis’ weight had gone up considerably, and his health and quality of life were suffering as a result.
“My cholesterol was high,” he said. “My triglycerides were high. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and placed on a CPAP machine. I just wasn’t feeling well in general.”
His health provider warned him that he needed to take better care of himself or risk developing even more troubling health issues.
“If I continued on the course I was going on, I was a candidate for heart disease, stroke and diabetes,” Davis said.
He knew it was time to take control of his health.
“My wife had back problems, and one of the things that really helped her, aside from physical therapy, was that she started going out walking every day,” he said.
Davis said his wife often invited him to join her, but it wasn’t until February 2012 that he decided to make daily walks part of his routine as well.
“I’ll be honest with you – it flat out amazed me,” he said. “I started slow. I walked two miles a day over the next two or three weeks, and in that time, I’d lost about five pounds already.”
Encouraged by his results, Davis gradually increased the distance he walked and then focused on increasing his walking pace. In no time, he was walking for an hour almost every day and logging four miles in each walk.
It was around this time that Davis decided to take part in the Civilian Fitness Program.
CFP is a six-month-long program that provides participants with three hours of administrative leave each week to exercise during the duty day. It is intended to introduce Department of the Army Civilian Employees to a healthier lifestyle, help them reduce stress and illness, boost productivity and improve quality of life.
“(CFP) basically fell into my lap, because at the time I decided to do something to take care of my health, they had opened up the season for it – from March to October. I talked to my supervisor and told her what I had been doing on my own and what I wanted to do.”
Davis’ supervisor, Cindy Kamper, fully supported his decision to participate and encouraged him throughout the process.
“We’ve got a really great management team at the NEC,” Davis said. “We’ve got a challenging workload most of the time, so for them to be able to make time for myself and others to work out is pretty awesome.”
Shellby Jones, Fort Drum health promotion officer, said an advantage of the program is that it provides supervisors with a means of supporting their employees, boosting morale and improving the overall productivity of their workplace.
“Not only is this program great for jump starting or maintaining personal fitness goals, but I love it when supervisors can give something back to employees,” Jones said. “Time to take care of oneself is such a great gift.”
Davis continued to walk at home, logging four miles nearly every day. Wanting not only to lose weight but to increase his muscle tone and stamina, he decided to seek the help of a personal trainer.
“I was using those three hours a week to go over to the gym, and I hired a personal trainer who was available through (Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation),” Davis said. “When you’re losing a lot of weight, you risk losing muscle, and I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen.”
His personal trainer, Alisha Williams, made sure that it did not.
“We worked all the major muscle groups,” he said. “We did a lot of cardio work in between the strength training exercises, and I actually gained muscle mass as I was losing weight.”
The workouts with Williams were challenging, but Davis said he always felt that it was important to give each workout his best effort.
“You can’t just sign on with a trainer and expect that miracles are going to happen,” he said. “You have to work. Nobody can make you work any harder than you want to.”
Using a special scale at Atkins Functional Fitness Facility, Williams tracked Davis’ percentages of body fat and lean muscle.
“I would go once a month, and I could actually see my muscle mass increasing and my body fat percentage going down,” he said.
While he did not exactly diet, Davis said he began paying more careful attention to his eating habits.
“It turns out that I wasn’t really eating a lot; I just wasn’t getting enough exercise,” he said. “I changed my snack habits and tried to be wiser about deciding where my calories were coming from.”
“I also drink a lot more water,” Davis said. “It absolutely helps with your fitness, and when you’re drinking water instead of fruit juices or soda, you get to use those calories somewhere else.”
Soon, his supervisor and co-workers began to take notice and compliment him on his weight loss.
“I won’t deny that one of the very best parts of losing weight and getting fit is when people start noticing and tell you how great you’re looking,” he said. “When you can grab onto that positive part, it validates what you’ve done and gives you the energy to sustain it.”
In May, Davis had a check-up with his health care provider. Both were amazed at the improvements in his overall health after a relatively modest weight loss of about 20 pounds.
“When my lab work came back, my cholesterol had gone down dramatically and my triglycerides were picture perfect,” he said. “I had been on a medication to reduce my cholesterol, and they cut my dose in half.”
“I think sometimes people don’t realize there are financial benefits to getting in shape,” he said. “With health insurance today, everything is geared toward prevention. Your insurance costs can be reduced significantly if you lose weight and are taking fewer medications.”
Buoyed by this success, Davis continued to throw himself into his workout efforts. By the end of August, he had lost 55 pounds.
“Everything that they tell you will happen when you lose the weight does happen,” he said. “You have more energy, it reduces your stress (and) you have a better feeling of wellness. There are all sorts of health benefits.”
Although Davis has completed his cycle in the CFP and is no longer working with a personal trainer, he said that he is committed to continuing to take care of himself.
“My goal in the beginning was to get to a place where I could work out in the gym on my own,” he said. “Now I’m really poised to move onto the next step. My ultimate goal is to sustain what I’ve achieved and build on it.
“The fact of the matter is your end weight is not the destination,” he said. “You have to take a long-term view. It’s not just about getting the weight off; it’s developing a plan to change your lifestyle so you don’t put it back on. I want to be fit for life.”
Davis said that while it took work, he was surprised to find that getting in shape was much easier than he thought it would be.
“If I had known it was going to be this easy, I’d have done it a long time ago,” he said.
When co-workers and friends compliment him on his progress, Davis encourages them to start putting one foot in front of the other. He assures them that they, too, can change their lives if only they are willing to take the first step.
“Life expectancy is increasing, and you have to look down the road into your 70s or 80s and think, ‘what kind of quality of life will you have when you get there?’” Davis said.
“Ten years down the road, there will be more aches and pains, and perhaps you’ll put on more weight,” he said. “The longer you let it go, the harder it is to take care of. It’s never easier to do something about your fitness than it is today.”
Individuals interested in learning more about the Civ-ilian Fitness Program may contact Nicole Bellinger at 772-0084.