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Think of yourself as an athlete!

Maj. Alan Flolo, 302nd Airlift Wing executive officer (right), jokes with Chief Master Sgt. Rocky Hart during the June 14 'Get Fit with Leadership' run at the Peterson Air Force Base track in Colorado. Each Sunday during Unit Training Assemblies, or UTA weekends, members of the 302nd AW can come out to the base track and run with leadership. Members shoould report to the track no later than 7:30 a.m. Chief Hart is the 310th Space Wing command chief, based at local Schriever AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Daniel Butterfield)

Maj. Alan Flolo, 302nd Airlift Wing executive officer (right), jokes with Chief Master Sgt. Rocky Hart during the June 14 'Get Fit with Leadership' run at the Peterson Air Force Base track in Colorado. Each Sunday during Unit Training Assemblies, or UTA weekends, members of the 302nd AW can come out to the base track and run with leadership. Members shoould report to the track no later than 7:30 a.m. Chief Hart is the 310th Space Wing command chief, based at local Schriever AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Daniel Butterfield)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- How would you behave differently if others thought of you as an athlete? Would you eat healthier? Work out more?

A big part of how we act every day depends on how we see ourselves. If you're a parent, chances are you're not staying out late regularly and most of your conversations revolve around your kids. The same holds true for recreational activities. If you like to take your motorcycle out for a spin around town, I'm willing to bet you won't be wearing a suit or dress. Our identities drive our choices and priorities on a daily basis, and have a noticeable effect on those around us.

In 2003, I was stationed in Florida. I went into a local bike shop because, frankly, I was sick of just running all the time. The guy working there asked me what I was looking for and I really had no idea. All I knew was the $50 mountain bike I'd had for five years was collecting dust and needed a tune-up. He asked me if I'd ever heard of something called Triathlon. Seeing the strange look on my face made him laugh, but he was patient and showed me almost every bike in the store.

Before I knew it, I signed up for my first triathlon, the "My First Tri" held on the base every year. It was a 400 meter lake swim, 18 mile bike and a 5K run to top it off. What the heck was I getting myself into? I started swimming at the base pool, found a cheap road bike and ran on a packed sand road a few miles from my apartment. On race day, I was a bundle of nerves. "A whole hour of intense exercise ... Oh My Gosh!" To my amazement, I finished first in my age group and was hooked from that moment on.

From then on, when I went to the grocery store I bought more fruits and vegetables. I started taking a lunch to work. I subscribed to Triathlete magazine. "VO2 Max" and "lactate threshold" became part of my vocabulary. Um, what? Then people started to notice and if I ever had a "Snickers" in my hand, the peanut gallery was up in arms!

Before I knew it, I was the squadron PT leader and known for giving some pretty tough workouts. I found that thinking of myself as an athlete meant I skipped some of the bad habits I used to have, and WANTED to do the good things. I didn't want to lose the identity I had built for myself. When people started coming to me for advice, I knew this was something I never wanted to lose.

In the last few years, the Air Force has made huge changes in the way it views physical fitness. We are adopting "fit to fight," taking our physical fitness and overall lifestyle seriously. If YOU take yourself more seriously in any way, you start to feel more pride in it and want to excel. It won't happen overnight, but identity can be a powerful tool in your arsenal.