News: Airman begins career sharing strong motivation and fitness message
Story by Tech. Sgt. Vernon Cunningham
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - If you walk into a gym on any given day, some people will be working out with partners and others will be following instruction within a group. Team motivation and shared experiences are major factors in helping an airman achieve his individual physical fitness goals. One airman embraced that concept and brought the motivation that made him a fitness leader at his home station to Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.
Senior Airman Nicholas Gooden, 455 Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintainer, is a spin class instructor at Bagram. He is deployed from Aviano Air Base, Italy, where he is a physical training leader and a certified physical trainer.
"It all started with wanting to help people," Gooden said.
A first-term airman, Gooden adopted an early routine which started him hitting the gym at his base in a personal pursuit to raise his fitness level. Day after day, he worked on his overall strength and endurance.
At Aviano, one of Gooden's friends approached him to become a workout partner in hopes of improving his physical training score. What his friend didn't know was that he gave Gooden a reason to begin a progressive chain of service that would be an outlet for Gooden's desire to help others.
While helping his friend, Gooden decided to expand his knowledge and became a physical training leader. While leading his unit to its fitness goals as a PTL, he decided to expand his sphere of influence by becoming a certified personal trainer. While being a personal trainer for his base, he started taking spin classes. Feeding a strong desire to share the benefits of spin class, Gooden became a certified spin class instructor.
Now, Gooden is deployed to Bagram. Although it is his first deployment, it only served to bring more passion to his outlook on fitness.
"From seeing people who come back to home station from deployment, I noticed a lot of them lost weight or pushed themselves to the gym more," Gooden said. "They knew they needed to be fit to fight, fit to do the mission.
"Now that I am deployed, I see that a lot of us don't have a strict PT schedule that we are directed to uphold, like when we are at home station. So, by offering a variety of stuff that people want to get involved with, you are able to step out there and help get airmen's motivation up ... get them involved," he said.
And that is just what Gooden decided to do.
Upon his arrival to Bagram, Gooden immediately contacted the base gym and asked if they had spin classes available. When he heard there were no classes or equipment, Gooden volunteered to teach classes and worked with the Expeditionary Force Support Squadron to bring the time, space and equipment to The Rock Fitness Center at Bagram.
EFSS coordinated to get spin class equipment from a gym in theater that was closing down. The classes were set up and immediately filled by Bagram deployers.
An EFSS spokesperson said Gooden's classes grew so popular, so fast, that they are working to get more bikes and offer the class more days a week.
Even going from 10 bikes to 15 bikes, and increasing to four instructors, they are still turning away spin students. Behind Gooden's motivating leadership, his spin sessions have helped deployers move toward their fitness goals.
"It drastically improved my run time," Staff Sgt. Dustin Withrow, spin class student of two weeks, said. "The first time I ran at Bagram, it was harder to breath with the elevation ... not any more. Spin makes for a great addition to your current cardio workout."
Army 1st Sgt. Alicia Newton, spin class student since its inauguration, said the classes have greatly benefited her.
"Spin class has improved my muscle strength, endurance and cardio fitness," she said. "There are a variety of exercises which other people are doing with you. You have competition to motivate you and push yourself harder."
Gooden's influence goes beyond promoting physical fitness. The mental health aspects of Comprehensive Airman Fitness are also a resource he wants to share with Bagram deployers.
"Since I have been teaching the class, I start seeing the same faces," he said. "They now have the class as part of their routine."
It doesn't take multiple deployments to figure out the importance of having a deployed routine.
"A Monday today is a Monday tomorrow," Gooden said. "Then it starts again until you have Mondays all week. To break it up, you have to allow for different options. It seems to help relieve stress. By relieving stress, you are allowing them to do the mission to a higher standard because they feel less tension. They have an avenue to relieve stress which improves their physical and mental health."
His continual work with the 455 EFSS was recently recognized during one of his spin classes.
"On behalf of the 455 EFSS, we want to say thank you for your support," Lt. Col. Thomas Forrester, 455 EFSS commander, said while coining Gooden for his outstanding efforts and dedication to fitness.
Although he is still early in his enlistment, Gooden continues to seek ways to help airmen achieve their goals.
Following his deployment, he is going back to Aviano for a few months before changing stations to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. There, he will begin his tour as a military training instructor.
"I am excited about that," he said. "I always loved leading. I think leading from the ground up will enable me to help airmen even more."
Spin classes are available on Mondays and Wednesdays at 8 p.m. in the Rock Fitness Center on Bagram.