Service members and their families work hard-on duty, at jobs inside and outside the home and at school. When it's time to play, your installation Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) program offers a huge range of activities, classes and facilities to improve your mental and physical well-being and encourage your personal development. You can work up a sweat in the fitness center, join an intramural sports team, learn how to change the oil in your car or enjoy an outing with a group of other service members and families who share your interests. Activities and programs vary depending on your installation, but wherever you are, your MWR professionals can help you and your family get involved in an activity you can all get excited about.
Hitting the gym
If you want to lose a few pounds, tone your arms and abs, or improve your cardiovascular fitness, your installation fitness center is the place to be! In rain or shine, heat and humidity, or freezing cold, you can work out in climate-controlled comfort and get both strength-training and cardiovascular workouts. Working out on modern treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike equipment also allows you to track your workout time, mileage and calories burned and to adjust the degree of difficulty to your liking.
Go it alone or work with a personal trainer to set fitness goals and develop a plan to help you meet them. For variety, sign up for a yoga, step, spin, pilates or martial arts class. To help relax tense muscles and ease stress, your fitness center may offer massage therapy. And if you have little ones who need supervision while you're logging miles on the treadmill, be sure to find out if and when child care is available or if the fitness center has a parent-child area.
In addition to the fitness center, your installation probably has many other indoor facilities and outdoor venues that let you get some fresh air while you get in shape:
- swimming pools
- running track
- tennis and basketball courts
- riding stables
- golf course
Mix it up by using a combination of facilities and activities to keep your workouts fresh. Also, varying your routine and incorporating low-impact activities can help you avoid injury. For a change of scenery, you can always go off the installation on a group hike at a nearby park or on some other "exercise outing." MWR staff can provide information on locally available programs and facilities.
And remember, exercise isn't just for adults. Get your kids in on the action by asking about children and youth activities. Ft. Belvoir's SKIESUnlimited, for example, offers instructional programs (including fitness classes) for children from infancy through high-school age. Find out what your installation has to offer for your kids!
Team sports are not only a great way to stay in shape, they're also a great way to meet people and strengthen social ties with the military community on your installation. Competition can help you push yourself just a little bit harder, and being part of a team also teaches valuable lessons on what it means to sacrifice for the good of the group-lessons that translate well both to military service and military home and family life.
In addition to the usual softball, flag football and soccer teams, your installation may also have intramural horseshoes, racquetball, bowling or other team sports. Visit your MWR office to find out about registration deadlines and how to sign up. Team sports for kids are also widely available, so remember to check out opportunities for them as well. As you get fitter and faster, you might want to explore competitive runs or other fitness competitions held on or near your installation (the Marine Corps, for example, hosts a series of Marine Corps Marathon runs, including shortened events for kids). You don't have to enter to win-you can also challenge yourself to achieve a specific personal goal or new "personal best" effort.
Meeting the President's Challenge
If you can't quite picture yourself fielding a fly ball or kicking the winning goal, here's another fun way to "team up" and get fit: by taking The President's Challenge. Open to both kids and adults, you can take the President's Challenge with your spouse, your child, a group of friends or on your own if you prefer. The President's Challenge lets you choose from two distinct challenges: The Presidential Active Lifestyle Award encourages more everyday activity and better eating habits, while the Presidential Champion's Challenge is designed for those who are already active but want to "take it to the next level." You earn points by logging your activities in a free online activity tracker and then earn bronze, silver, gold or platinum awards by reaching different point totals. Visit The President's Challenge website for more information.
Learning a skill
For service members and their families, learning a new skill has so many potential benefits-from providing a productive, soothing outlet for stress and worry to boosting self-esteem and even making or saving money. Your MWR program offers a great variety of programs suitable for family members of all ages and abilities. You could take a CPR or water safety course and learn to save a life. Auto enthusiasts might want to take advantage of the auto hobby centers that can be found on many installations. For a small fee you can rent a bay and get help learning how to do body work, change your oil or do other repairs on your vehicle. Learn to do it yourself and hold on to your money instead of giving it to a mechanic!
If you're the "crafty" type (or would like to be!), ask at your MWR program office about arts and crafts classes on your installation. You might be surprised at all the available options, like sewing, woodworking, stained glass, pottery, painting, and scrapbooking.
To up the fun factor, your installation may offer events like MacDill Air Force Base's weekly "Canvas and Cocktails," where you can learn to paint, chat it up with your friends and take home your own finished artwork at the end of the evening. Explore similar events on your own installation through contests or competitions that let you show off your skills.
If outdoor skills are more your (or your family's) speed, look into a hunter education, rock climbing, canoeing, white water rafting, paintball or similar activities. And take advantage of your equipment rental options, where, depending on your installation, you can rent everything from rock walls and kayaks to campers and moon bouncers.
The health and well-being of service members and their families is critical to family and mission readiness. Aside from that, though, you can have a blast getting in shape, picking up a new skill or hobby, and enjoying time spent with other service members and military families. For more information, check out the MWR website for your service branch:
Also, be sure to pay your installation MWR program professionals a visit. They're the experts on facilities, programs and classes on and off your installation and can get you started on the road to fitness, personal fulfillment and fun!