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Right to BRAG: Fitness advocate sets example

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Valerie Smock
  • Air Force Reserve Command Public Affairs
Capt. Ronald H. Helms, a mental health nurse with the 94th Aeromedical Staging Squadron at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., doesn't view fitness as a chore. He sees it as a joy.

"Most importantly, fitness is fun, it gets me outdoors, and there are lasting, overall health benefits," said Helms. "I am 56 years old, and it is imperative I stay fit for a variety of reasons. I believe a fit body allows me to live a longer life."

Helms said the benefits of a healthy lifestyle have improved his overall physical and psychological well-being. As an Air Force officer, he said it is his responsibility to set the example for co-workers and subordinates.

"I think it falls under the third core value of excellence in all we do," he said. "It is not possible for me to convince others to become active if I do not practice what I preach."

Helms joined the Air Force in 1979 and began his fitness journey. Just two years later, he placed first in the Armed Forces National Powerlifting Championships in his weight class.

He competed in many events over the years, sometimes against men 10 to 15 years his junior.

The desire to be physically fit has not always been in the front of his mind. After a quick start, the weight-training interest quickly subsided. There was a 20-year break in power competitions.

"During this time, I exercised just enough to get past the Air Force fitness tests and did little to improve my fitness," said Helms.

After leaving active duty in the early 90s, Helms joined the Air Force Reserve. Soon enough, a lack of dedication to a sustained fitness program resulted in an unsatisfactory score on a fitness test.

"I am in a leadership position, unable to meet standards approximately 100 squadron members observed it," said Helms. "Talk about being an embarrassment to my squadron and to me."

The low score was motivation to get into good physical condition again. Since then, his fitness scores have jumped back into the high 80s to low 90s. Helms has now dedicated himself to three-to-five days at the gym a week.

"All it takes is about an hour a day and a commitment to yourself," he said. "It is not easy at first, but with a little dedication it becomes much easier with the passage of time."

All of Helms' hard work has paid off with him going to the next level. In March 2012, he became a certified International Sport Sciences Association personal trainer and nutrition adviser.

Just three months later, Helms completed the Bicycle Ride Across Georgia, a 359-mile-ride from Fort Oglethorp, Ga., to Tiger, Ga., in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. While it may have been a long seven days, he had friends along the way for support.

Liz Volz, a friend for the past three years, said she looked forward to the BRAG. She said both of them normally lift weights and focus on strength training. The ride was more aimed at endurance.

"We spent three months training," said Volz. "It was a real experience. We met a lot of nice people and saw some beautiful places. It was a challenge but a really good time."

According to Helms, the work may be difficult, but winning competitions are a boost of confidence and self esteem.

"I can say I am not a couch potato," said Helms. "Since completing the bike ride, I now have 'BRAG' rights."