The Air Care Fitness Challenge

“Why are all nurses fat?” a young firefighter asked me during my days in the Fire Academy. At the time I was also an RN working nights in a cardiology unit and struggling to keep good, healthy habits on an overstuffed schedule. “Nice,” I thought. “Does this turnout gear make my butt look big?”

The firefighter’s tactless question has some validity, and not just for nurses. Visual evidence of obesity is readily obvious among hospital care providers and in EMS and fire departments as well. Moreover, weight control is merely one aspect of good health. What about strength, flexibility, balance, and endurance for injury prevention and just feeling good every day? And how can we possibly integrate healthy exercise and better nutrition into our busy lives?

At Air Care’s 2011 Fall Conference, Master Trainer Troy Huggett tapped into his EMS background to unveil “911 Fitness”, a 15-minute “kick-your-butt” strength-training workout you can do almost anywhere. Two of us at Air Care have jumped on board for three months to achieve our respective fitness goals through Troy’s plan for exercise and healthy diet changes. We are bravely sharing our results online so you can live through our experience vicariously—and just maybe be motivated to kick your own butt. Need a jump start? Call Troy and ask for the Air Care Fitness Challenge discount!

–Dawn Johnston

Visit Troy’s website at and call to set up your own fitness plan!

Flight Nurses Kevin Franklin and Dawn Johnston “glow” after Troy Huggett’s fitness testing.

Kevin Franklin

This year I began experiencing the dreaded situation of aging parents that have their growing pathologies finally sneak up on them. With a mother who is terminally ill with a respiratory problem and a father recently diagnosed with esophageal cancer I am now reminded more then ever that life is short. All good things though have some route to get to us and often this is through something “not so good” that has occurred within our lives, such as parents facing terminal illnesses. So when the opportunity arose this fall to be involved in a “fitness challenge” here at Air Care I took the plunge. Even though I feel I am in pretty good shape and have even spoken to groups about fitness, I know there is more that I can do to live a healthier life. Stress is also a factor. My chosen profession is NOT one classified into the Type B personality traits. So here we go on a 3-month challenge to get in a little better shape with a little better diet and a little more effective exercise plan.


I have always been involved in exercise since first enrolling in my paramedic education. At that time it was a required class so that all of us “new” EMS personnel wouldn’t task our employers with illness and ailments while we performed our daily care of patients in the field. It was then that I met a wonderful trainer in the college fitness center that showed me the ropes in the gym and how to exercise effectively and more importantly, safely. With that beginning I have spent the last 20 years diligently keeping myself in a reasonable state of health through weight lifting and some cardiovascular exercise. With time being such a premium with the kids growing up and my career reaching heights that I had envisioned long before, time to exercise is becoming a more difficult commodity to come up with. Troy’s fitness plan is so concentrated and time sparing, I look forward to fitting exercise into this daily routine of controlled chaos we call middle age. My plan is to complete the 20-minute workouts that he challenges me regardless of whether I am on or off duty. Combining this with my usual routines of weight lifting and increased dedication to aerobic exercise (stairs, running, or swimming) on opposing days should help me shed a few pounds and be just a little more fit. 

Food (Oh yea!)

Food and I have a true relationship of love with one another. It wasn’t long ago that the diet that I have cherished for years finally came into prime time media, the “See Food” diet. If I can see it, then I can eat it. Well, perhaps the See Food diet should have a few SMALL changes. Using Troy’s suggestion of eating 1 fist-full of food at a meal, I will work at cutting the amount of food that I eat and attempt to eat more often, especially not skipping breakfast. I can say for sure to all here that I won’t be giving up on macadamia nut cookies or pecan praline ice cream. However, I will attempt to eat these less often and less of them while instead increasing the amount of sweet fruits that I eat for snacks.

Expectations :)

I don’t expect to lose a lot of weight during this journey. With a goal of losing 10 pounds over the next 3 months I certainly won’t be fitting into size 28 jeans. What I do expect is to lose some of that excess body fat that we often carry around our middle when we hit middle age. I also expect to increase my level of fitness and run a little faster and a little farther. It is only important that I can run a little faster and farther then the next guy while being chased by a hungry mountain lion! Lastly, I expect to arrive at my final destination, skidding in sideways, totally used up, and hopefully at 100 years old when my time runs out. So here we go, working out hard to live better longer.

Dawn Johnston

This year I officially crossed over-the-hill. Such a milestone birthday not only made me reassess my life, but also made me more aware of my body’s “use-it-or-lose-it” tendencies. Controlling one’s weight is just one part of a healthy lifestyle. I want a healthy, functional body my whole life and I better start early because the women in my family live to be 100. I don’t want to slow down as I “mature” and I certainly don’t want to be side-lined by the typical EMS back injury. I’m seeking a maintainable routine that promotes muscle retention, good posture, flexibility, and balance for the long-term. It has to be a quick routine too, because like many of my EMS colleagues, my work hours frequently creep up to over 70 per week.


I joke that I’d be as big as a house if I didn’t run, but the truth is I enjoy running even though I originally started doing it for weight control. I’ve always done some amount of running and abs, but largely neglected my weight training needs because all that time started to add up. That’s what I like about Troy’s approach—a 15-minute “max out” routine and I’m done with weights. In addition, I recently added some “hot yoga” classes to my schedule, terrific for meeting many of my fitness goals AND mitigating EMS stress. After a consultation with Troy, he gives me the green light for the following exercise plan:

  • Running 3-4 miles 3 times per week
  • 15-minute strength-training, 3 times per week on non-consecutive days
  • Yoga session 2+ times per week.


I keep my nutritional approach simple by eating whole, unprocessed foods and packing my own lunches. Working out makes me crave more nutritious food, but it has to taste good or I won’t eat it. I eat regular meals, mostly vegetables with some turkey or fish, fruit, cheese, and various kinds of good quality bread. I add reasonable amounts of salt, olive oil, and butter. I don’t do much fast food or big starchy meals like pasta with bread on the side – they just sit in my system like cement. I drink lots of fluids like hot green tea, soymilk, and all kinds of juice that I dilute with water because it tastes better to me. I’m not very hungry in the evening but I’m starving in the morning so I typically have a hot breakfast like oatmeal and eggs with fruit. I haven’t had a soda pop addiction since high school and I don’t smoke or drink much alcohol. However I do have a treat like chocolate most days and once a month my husband, son, and I will bake brownies or cookies and eat them all up. I don’t own a scale or count calories, but the mirror and my clothes are unfailingly honest and motivating. My sweet treats are really not consistent with Troy’s recommendations, but having no soda pop helps evens things out a bit. In general, I find the approach of moderation to be realistic and maintainable. I can happily eat like this the rest of my life.

Great Expectations

When I was 18, my grandma taught me “it’s easier to stay out of trouble than it is to get out of trouble,” and I’ve found that’s so true of one’s health. Every major life change has presented a potential setback for my health and has required that I adjust my habits to stay healthy. I expect nothing less down the road, but I also expect to enjoy life and not feel deprived. My most helpful attribute is that I start over each day. With Troy’s encouragement, I hope these new habits will go with me well beyond the next three months.

911 Fitness Challenge Follow-up

July 9, 2012

Kevin Franklin

Well here it is July of 2012 and it has been a long road since I took my fit test with Troy’s 911 Fitness Challenge. In the beginning I was a little disappointed with my measurements and my overall performance test results. It was one thing to have them taken by a trainer and receive feedback, it was quite another to be published out in cyber-world for anyone to read, especially when I considered myself to be a pretty healthy guy who exercised regularly at the gym. The result of that first evaluation was to begin my journey with Troy and his fitness method with a goal of losing a little weight, increasing my endurance, and improving my final numbers a bit. Along the way, I hoped to find out a little more on eating better, exercising a different way, and generally shaking things up a bit.

I realize now that the pounds and the numbers I was looking for weren’t nearly as important as the other benefits I received from working with a trainer. For starters, I didn’t really take into account how all of the “little” calories I would normally consume throughout the day added up, especially on days when in the office and limited on working out. I now work at incorporating more whole grains, more vegetables and smaller portions of meat into my diet. A friend of mine has a saying on their locker showing a large gorilla that reads, “This 400-pound vegetarian can kick your carnivorous butt”. When I think of it that way, it helps keep in line what I am probably supposed to eat. 

I also realized in this journey that changing up your routine and trying something completely different is a good way to stay out of a rut. Prior to Troy’s 911 Fitness Challenge I had my way of working out that had taken care of me for 20 years of EMS work. On Day 1 when I barely completed the fitness performance tests, I knew that I had some room for improvement. I still do things a little more “my way” but now I add in more challenges to my cardiovascular exercises. In fact, this spring I ran my first 5k road race and it felt great. I also have renewed by desire to get back into swimming as an alternative cardiovascular workout a few times a week. 

The big benefit I received from the focused assessment and program, though, was being more realistic with my own perceptions on weight, exercise, and diet. It is through this focused effort to evaluate what I do each and every day that helps me keep focus on what I want to do 40 years from now. I recently have started a new saying: “I can use an exercise therapist and gym now or a rehab therapist in 10-20 years”. It’s my choice and either way I will end up seeing one of them so I might as well do it now and enjoy all of the years before and after. Thanks to Troy for providing a great challenge, and getting a 40-something going again. 

Dawn Johnston

If you’re female, you know what a “Fat Day” is. Certain items in your wardrobe mysteriously shrink overnight, thrusting you into the Five Stages of Grief, starting with “denial”. Unless I’ve been getting my hopes up for nothing since January, I’ve believe I’ve finally found a way to have no more of these irritating days and I could kiss Troy for putting me through his program. Not only has it made daily dressing a less emotional prospect, it’s given me a chance to make healthy changes through strength-training and better nutrition.

Because I began Troy’s program within my ideal body weight and fat percentage, my improvements at the end of three months were modest. Troy noted I lost “back fat” (ew!) and made small improvements in all performance tests at our final visit. Personally, I felt the change all over by the way my clothes fit. Encouraged, I wondered what would happen in the coming months if I continued on with my new habits. After all, a life change was the goal. 

Today I still run on a regular basis, and I’m pursuing a more advanced approach to weight-lifting by targeting specific muscle groups on rotating days. With a highly variable schedule, this is not easy, and being consistent with yoga has been difficult, too. Nonetheless, my weight continued to slowly and safely drop after my program with Troy officially ended, and I dropped a pant size and stayed there. Weight-lifting surely contributed to the weight loss, but I was also eating less “crap”.

I always thought my diet was pretty good, but I’ve made some important changes this year, like eating less junk food and getting more carbs from high-nutrient vegetables rather than bread. For several months I’ve been getting at least half of my food from fruit and vegetables, even at breakfast. I did this partly through experimentation and partly by finding the most recommended recipes online or in library books. Now I even prepare vegetable-based meals with my family that we all enjoy (Taco Salad, anyone?). When it comes to sweets, though, I never thought I could lay off the brownies. Yet somehow I’ve cut all sweets to an occasional 2-bite treat and feed persistent sweet cravings with hard candy, which lasts longer (Hmm... are the vegetables taking over my mind?) Mostly I snack on small portions of nuts and dried fruit which are much better for keeping my energy levels up. 

Not everything was easy and wonderful on Troy’s 911 Fitness Plan. It was a lot of hard work and I’m glad I don’t have to “max out” every time I lift weights now, but it’s much easier to work in 15 minutes of lifting on any given day now that it’s a habit. There’s nothing like an intensive period with a trainer’s expertise to help make new, healthy patterns of living. It’s still working well for me, and it may work for you, too! Thanks, Troy!

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