Navy fit club

Navy Recruiter Nicholas Garrigues and his daughter, Kelsie, take an exercise break. The Navy will observe Youth Fitness Week July 11 to 15. Melanie Hammons/Whidbey Crosswind

Americans’ physical fitness is a hot topic these days. Even young people struggle with keeping their weight at healthy levels.

When you consider this is a national concern, you can only assume it is even more critical for America’s warriors, those who defend our country.

Just ask local Navy recruiter Nicholas Garrigues. He’s been on the job since 2009. His duties frequently take him to school campuses ranging from South Whidbey to Friday Harbor – so he sees a lot of young people.

“Most of the potential recruits I see are in the 17- to 25-year age bracket,” said Garrigues. “Theoretically, they’re in the best shape of their lives, at that age.”

If that is not the case, there are some ways that Garrigues, as a Navy recruiter, can help.

“First of all, we can deliver general recommendations on changing their diet, and moving more, sitting less,” said Garrigues.

“If they are military dependents, one of the first things we’d encourage is to make regular visits to the fitness center on Naval Air Station Whidbey. The personnel there do an excellent job of helping individuals assess their fitness levels and set goals,” he said.

Navy Recruiter Nicholas Garrigues

Garrigues has taken quite a few potential recruits to the base fitness center himself. If a young person is not already military-affiliated, he encourages them to check out the other fitness centers located in town. He notes that parents can help, too.

“Recently, I dealt with a young man who was interested in becoming a Navy search and rescue swimmer,” said Garrigues. “The physical standards for that classification are quite a bit more strenuous, as you might imagine – and he was having difficulty meeting those standards.

“But when his dad, a police officer, began working out with him, and coaching him through the tough spots, the results paid off.  I’m proud to say that he was able to pass the physical screening test required for a SAR contract,” he said.

According to Garrigues, the Navy and other military branches are much stricter on physical standards.

“Three physical tests are scheduled during recruit training – when recruits fail to pass physical tests, it results in their being held back during boot camp,” said Garrigues.

Once recruits do complete basic training, they find that is just the beginning. A readiness test which includes running, push-ups, and sit-ups must be passed twice a year. The standards vary depending on age, and also take into account unique differences in strength between males and females.

As far as the Navy and physical fitness go, the stakes could not be higher, said Garrigues.

“When service members repeatedly fail fitness tests, it adversely affects performance evaluations, and eventually, can result in early separation from the Navy. But it goes beyond that.

“What if the ship sounds the alarm for general quarters, and you have sailors who become winded after climbing three flights of stairs? That’s not a good situation for them or their shipmates,” said Garrigues. He explained that since everyone has an assigned job during general quarters, both battle and rescue/recovery efforts very much depend on the sailors’ good physical condition.

For Garrigues, the importance of getting, and then staying physically fit do not start with entering the Navy. It begins much earlier, at home – and it is something he puts into practice himself with his two young daughters.

“I don’t want them to think that TV is all there is – so I try to encourage them to go play outside in the fresh air and sunshine, whenever possible,” he said.

If the weather doesn’t cooperate, he finds things to do inside.

“We’ll do little things; for example, we’ll take a break from washing dishes, and do push-ups, or jumping jacks. They think it’s fun.

“These things are not hard to do. It’s the little things we do throughout the day that add up,” said Garrigues.

It is crucial for kids to develop these good habits now, said Garrigues, while they are still young.

“Staying physically fit doesn’t have to be expensive or boring,” he said. “Around here, there is camping, and there are trails to hike. Everyone can find something they enjoy being active at.

“It promotes a healthy lifestyle,” Garrigues continued. “And that’s a good idea for anyone, whether they’re in the Navy or not.”