DECATUR, Ga. –
Physical training at home is less a luxury than an absolute necessity for Army Reserve Soldiers.
While this usually relegates these troops to solitary workouts, an online program under the 143rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) called VictoryFit is making their regular exercises a group effort again.
“Only doing PT once a battle assembly isn’t enough,” U.S. Army Sgt. James R. Moore said
Moore, the master fitness trainer for the 642nd Regional Support Group, leads morning classes three days a week using live video on social media. The group currently uses a private Facebook page where he also posts he workout of the day the evening before so Soldiers can ask questions and be ready to follow along.
“There’s a community building aspect to it,” Moore said. “What motivates folks is a sense of accountability.”
Brig. Gen. Pamela McGaha, outgoing commanding general for the 143rd ESC, started the effort during the pandemic lockdown after learning Soldiers were conducting physical training in the mornings at the beginning of their virtual battle assemblies.
“I knew how important staying connected was for our Soldiers,” she said, adding that it made her ask herself, “Why don’t we carry this through the rest of the month?”
McGaha presented the idea to the 642nd RSG know what she wanted and the brigade “ran with it,” creating the VictoryFit program at the beginning of this year. The subsequent results have provided Soldiers with a variety of benefits including free structured workouts without needing to have gym equipment.
“They’re also getting a personal coach and a team that motivates each other to stick with the program,” she said.
Moore, who joined the Army after high school, has long been involved in sports and fitness. He played soccer for decades, starting as a youth and then competing at Fort Carson where his team won the Rocky Mountain Military Soccer Tournament three years in a row.
It was when he was deployed to Iraq that he started following the Crossfit method. Through that program, he discovered functional movement – a workout system that emphasizes using common motions to improve fitness. For instance, Moore notes that as infants, everyone learns to hold a squat as they develop the ability to walk. Deadlifts and presses are also included in the functional movement program.
“Those are all movements we do in our everyday life,” he said.
Inspired, Moore expanded his understanding of nutrition, recovery and mobility routines. Eventually, he became a Crossfit coach in 2013 at a gym in Georgia.
“Functional movement challenged me in ways I had never been challenged before,” he said.
The VictoryFit program has given him a new audience to share his philosophy.
Aside from stretches, the PT sessions provide another type of flexibility to participants. In August, when Moore and the unit were taking part in annual training at Fort McCoy, Wis., McGaha used video conferencing to join in the workouts and encourage the troops.
“I love that I can do the exercises when I’m travelling wherever I’m at,” she said.
McGaha said Moore’s concentration on pre- and post-workout stretches will help Soldiers avoid injuries as the Army transitions to its new fitness test
“And for smaller units, VictoryFit helps fill in gaps where they may not have master fitness trainers,” she said. “We’re combining video technology with an awesome Army fitness expert – it’s a pretty simple equation, but I believe it’s a game changer for the Army Reserve.”
Col. Robert J. Coker, commander of the 642nd Regional Support Group, also joins in the VictoryFit workouts.
“I tried one and was quickly hooked,” he said. “My core strength has increased and my performance on the ACFT improved by almost 100 points because of Sgt. Moore’s coaching.”
Moore noted the videos of each workout remain on the VictoryFit social media site for those who miss the morning sessions.
“They can watch the video later and do the workout on their own time,” he said.
Holistic health became official U.S. Army doctrine at the end of 2020, with the new guidance citing five pillars of Soldier readiness – physical, spiritual, mental, sleep and nutrition. It emphasizes improving the whole body and a variety of exercises.
The old Army method for staying in shape was aimed too much towards the original fitness test, Moore said. Push-ups, sit-ups and the two-mile run. Physical training either used these exercises or a variation on them.
“It was just run, run, run, which led to injuries, injuries, injuries without any improvement,” he said. “The Army looked at what we were doing before and decided it wasn’t helping [Soldiers] do their jobs.”
Prior to finding functional movement, Moore also focused on just running to keep himself fit. Yet he felt that he wasn’t being a well-rounded athlete. Holistic training gave him a purpose behind the workout and he said he saw dramatic improvements in his strength, conditioning, body mass index and mental toughness.
When the Army adopted the new methods with the aim of troops being able to conduct their warrior tasks, Moore was more than prepared for the change.
“It was what I was looking for 10 years ago,” Moore said.