MILITARY MONDAYS: Mental and physical strength

MILITARY MONDAYS: Mental and physical strength

FORT SILL, Okla. (TNN) - We are continuing our Military Mondays series with 7News reporter Hunter McEachern. Today on Post, Hunter learned that not only does it take physical strength to be a solider in the Army, but mental strength as well.

Hunter began with a biofeedback session for mental strength. It measured two energy systems.

One of those is rest and digest, which is comparable to the feeling you have after eating a big meal - full and calm. The other is fight or flight, a mental state in which you are highly stressed or excited.

The goal is to find the sweet spot between these two states. That is where you will reach your peak performance.

On Fort Sill, experts use biofeedback technology to help soldiers find that sweet spot. It is done by clipping an attachment to their ear that monitors heart beats.

“What we then are looking for is that high heart rate variability, so high amount of space between those heart beats tells us that the mind and body are in connection and therefore, you’re in a state where you can recover energy," said Briana Salter, master resilience trainer - performance expert on Fort Sill.

The goal is to have 100% balance between these two energy systems. That indicates that the body has found the optimal mindset to have a better performance with any task at hand.

At first, Hunter’s rest and digest and fight or flight were battling each other for control. But as she progressed, Hunter discovered that being positive, or talking about things she was passionate about, made her levels jump to over 80%.

With that information, Hunter now knows how to recover energy to complete a task with an optimal performance.

“This becomes really important when we’re training soldiers, because at the end of the day the conditions in which soldiers are performing in is changing. It’s changing all the time," said Salter. “The weather might be changing, when they’re asked to do things, the time crunch of when they’re being asked to perform is always changing, and so being able to be in control of how much energy you bring to your performances day in and day out is important.”

Next, Hunter visited with health educator, Stacey Oliver, about training for the Army Combat Fitness test.

“A lot of what I have written for you are similar exercises that I’ve given soldiers to help prepare them for the ACFT without actually doing the ACFT events," said Oliver. "A lot of the things on there are putting your body and your muscles under fatigue and are going to force your grip to do a little bit more, will force your legs and your lungs and your heart to really jump in and do a little bit extra, which is going to kind of reflect similarly to how you’re going be feeling when you’re in the middle of doing the ACFT.”

Oliver said the new ACFT includes more functional fitness.

“I feel like it does a lot more kind of real life application of what soldiers would have to maybe see out in the field or overseas when they’re deployed," said Oliver. "Being able to sprint, drag and carry is a big thing. Being able to lift something very heavy, whether that’s their equipment or whether that is a fallen comrade. So I think a lot of the tests that they’re doing in the ACFT is very applicable to a soldier’s duties and their ability to perform their job.”

Oliver and other health professionals at the Fort Sill Army Wellness Center said they are available to meet with active duty soldiers to help them better prepare for the ACFT, such as writing out personalized exercise programs like they did for Hunter, or through their ACFT class.

Tune in next week as Hunter and Fort Sill health experts go over her nutrition program to assist with her ACFT training.

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