PHILIPPINE SEA – Hands grip the bar, and a spotter gives the nod. Metal scrapes against the bar as it’s lifted off the rack. It’s more weight than last time, but with the right technique and good breathing, it’s just another couple pounds. The bar drops to the lifter’s chest while air is drawn into the lungs slowly and deliberately. The bar presses down in the same way it did last week, and the week before that, and the week before that. Heels push into the deck, and blood rushes to the chest and face. The spotter raises a thumb up to the overhead. Arms extend upward with a sharp exhale, and the bar lands triumphantly back on the rack.
This rush of adrenaline is something often felt by people who lift weights. Some Sailors aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) are helping others feel the rush as well.
Personnel Specialist 3rd Class Kevin Stauft is the assistant command fitness leader (ACFL) for Stennis’ Administration Department, and uses his own experience as a personal trainer to help those who are inexperienced in the gym.
Stauft said his favorite people to work with are those who don’t have much confidence in the gym to begin with.
“I like to focus on people who don’t necessarily know what they’re doing in the gym, but want to get in shape,” said Stauft. “I try to make them focus on leaving their egos at the door, and make them feel comfortable in the gym.”
Yeoman 2nd Class James Wainio, one of Stauft’s students, wanted to get back into shape after transferring to the Stennis.
“Stauft doesn’t compromise,” said Wainio. “He has the right attitude and the knowledge to train and motivate someone.”
Wainio said since he began training with Stauft, he has noticed not only a significant change in his physical appearance, but also in his power, strength, and confidence.
“My goals were to improve the way I look, and actually be able to put up more weight on certain Olympic lifts,” said Wainio. “He helped me get over a lot of my hang-ups at the gym.”
Fitness is not always about confidence and good looks. Stauft grew up playing sports and was a wildland firefighter, which trained him in perseverance and discipline. As a result of his previous lifestyle, Stauft said fitness can be a very serious matter.
“Being able to perform was a life or death thing at times,” said Stauft.
Good leaders set the example for the people they’re training. Stauft believes that within the Navy, Sailors should practice what they preach.
“If you’re in the military, you should have a physical standard you set for yourself,” said Stauft. “So I make myself an example for others.”
Stauft also said his workout routine has changed since deployment began. He is compacting his workouts to fit his schedule, and working out harder in the time he has. Stauft also capitalized on the stress relief opportunities the gym offers.
“The gym is an incredible place to de-stress,” said Stauft. “It completely changes my mindset. I walk away refreshed and ready for whatever is next.”
Jon Ciecko, Stennis’ Fit Boss, also believes fitness to be a great thing to be involved with on deployment.
“Staying fit helps you do your job and do it effectively,” said Ciecko. “Psychologically, being able to blow off steam in the gym is great.”
Ciecko also said there’s a variety of fitness activities people can use to achieve their personal and physical goals. Ciecko recommends Sailors who haven’t been in the gym should rely on people qualified to train, like Stauft.
“You could be an avid gym-goer, or someone who’s never stepped foot in a gym before,” said Ciecko. “Find someone who has experience and let them show you the ropes and get you comfortable in the gym, that’s the key.”
The Navy is filled with people willing to help others get into shape. Personal trainers and qualified fitness specialists can be found aboard Stennis in any department, and are waiting to help their shipmates.