News: Pregnant and pushing
By Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf
3rd BCT PAO, 1st Cav. Div.
FORT HOOD, Texas – A flurry of Improved Physical Fitness Uniforms and running shoes cross Old Ironsides Avenue enroute to Starker Functional Fitness Center here.
Some of the soldiers dash hurriedly, so as to avoid being late for formation. Others meander as quickly as they can safely manage to get to physical training in the morning.
But these Soldiers aren’t performing heavy Olympic lifts or toning up their abs. They are a part of a program that guides them through giving the gift of life. Fort Hood’s Pregnancy Postpartum Physical Training program is designed to safely maintain their physical and mental fitness during and after their pregnancy, and many of the soldiers enrolled are assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
The Army implemented the P3T program in 2010.
“The program recognizes what a soldier that has just given birth goes through to get back to the unit and mission ready,” said Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Johnson, a P3T instructor trainer from 3rd BCT. “The program is focused on each trimester group.”
P3T divides the soldiers into four groups, one for each of the three trimesters and one for postpartum.
The separation of the groups is meant to help pregnant Soldiers through their pregnancy and to support when they transition back into their units’ Physical Readiness Training schedule after delivery.
Soldiers within their first 12 weeks of pregnancy fall into the first-trimester group.
Soldiers in their first trimester can still conduct modified PRT workouts and perform limited amounts of running.
“I’m expecting to stay in shape throughout my whole pregnancy and make it easier to transition out of the program,” said Pfc. Raquel Warren, a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd BCT, who is in her third week of the program. “We are encouraged to do our best, and it is still a relaxed environment.”
The next three months comprise the second trimester, and these Soldiers phase out of PRT into more cardiovascular movements and into walking more.
“Their physical training changes with their pregnancy,” Johnson said. “The goal is for the Soldiers to stay in shape without putting stress on the baby.”
Soldiers in the final three months, or third trimester, focus on finding and familiarizing themselves with their center of gravity and performing more stretches.
After delivering their babies and recuperating for at least 42 days, they move on to the postpartum group, where they remain for six months. The goal then turns to building their fitness level back to where they comply with the Army standards.
“I believe I had a better experience being in the Army and going through this program than if I wasn’t,” said Spc. Ariel Combs, a Pahokee, Fla., native, a postpartum Soldier assigned to the 3rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd BCT.
If enrollment in the program wasn’t mandatory, Soldiers who became pregnant would have to train on their own or not at all and still meet the Army Physical Fitness Test and body composition standards six months after postpartum.
“Our purpose is to improve fitness levels postpartum, and so they will be ready for when they return to conducting PT with their unit,” Johnson said. “Intentions are to increase the APFT scores along with improving the height and weight pass rate.”
In addition to supporting Soldiers’ fitness, the program promotes camaraderie within the groups by surrounding the soldiers with others going through the same experiences.
“Most females say they had stopped exercising and don’t have the motivation to work out on their own,” said Sgt. 1st Class Shawanda Jackson, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the P3T program with HHC, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cav. Div. “When they come to this program, they have their peers along with trainers that care about what they are doing.”
“All of the girls stuck together,” Combs said. “It’s fun to go through pregnancy with somebody else so you don’t feel lonely and don’t know what to do.”
An exercise routine is not the only benefit the program provides. Classes covering many subjects from conception to household safety precautions are offered.
“The classes promote a healthy lifestyle,” Johnson said. “They learn what they need to know about being a mother.”
“When I was here 10 years ago, I was never introduced to a program like this when I had my two children,” said Jackson, a Gulfport, Miss., native. “This would have helped the soldiers progress through the pregnancy back then. I’ve seen throughout my career Soldiers have gotten out, because they couldn’t get back to their pre-pregnancy weight. They didn’t know that this program can help them.”