Take your workout cues from Navy ROTC

Friday, November 7, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:12 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

I can remember my freshman year of college; I would get up at 7:30 a.m. — quite early for an 18-year-old — to take a shower. As I walked into the bathroom, Kevin, another freshman on my floor in the Navy ROTC, would be fully dressed and complaining about his sore body. He had been up since 5:45, already had worked out, showered and was ready for the day. Maybe we can learn something from the ROTC program.

Capt. Lee A. Hawks remembers his early years in the Navy when no one cared about a healthy lifestyle.

“You saw in our ready rooms a box of doughnuts, pot after pot after pot of coffee and about 75 percent of the people smoking,” Hawks said.

Things have come a long way in his 30 years of active duty. Now as the commanding officer of the Navy ROTC at MU, he sees the Navy focusing on fitness.

Two times a week, the midshipmen, students in the Navy ROTC program, line up in checkerboard-straight formation on the green turf of MU’s Stankowski Field at 6 a.m. Not 6:01 or 6:02. You don’t want to be late to physical training, or PT — the Navy has acronyms for everything.

First they stretch, then go for a run. When they get back, they do sit-ups and push-ups. Then they’re done. Easy, right? Nope.

“Four-year varsity athletes, people you would think are in pretty good shape, come in and struggle for a little while,” Hawks said. “They don’t understand how robust the standards are.”

Hawks is quick to point out their program varies from week to week, sometimes taking advantage of the weight room, other times playing a game of basketball. Their routine is not “enough to establish the high level of overall fitness that is required” for the Navy’s standards, he said.

With the limited time they have, though, their routine of push-ups, sit-ups and running works well, he said.

Ah, time constraints. That’s something we can all relate to. For those who don’t have a lot of time and don’t have access to a gym, consider the Navy way. Of course, you don’t have to do it at 6 a.m.

Yvette Nieto, certified personal trainer and owner of Grindstone Fitness Studio, said that although the old-school approach to fitness might not be the most well rounded, it can do the trick.

“Anyone that wanted to train like the ROTC, would definitely gain strength,” Nieto said. “The running is good for the cardiovascular system. The push-ups add to upper-body strength. And the sit-ups develop core strength.”

So what does Hawks do when he works out? It varies, of course, but for a recent workout he ran 2 ½ miles, did 100 sit-ups, 40 push-ups and 20 leg lifts. Not bad for a 52-year-old.

“I don’t consider what I do for fitness an extra effort,” he said. “It’s part of who I am.”

Now that’s an attitude we could all learn from.

If you have a comment or fitness topic, e-mail

Carlson at

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