AFM Fittest Reviews

By AFM Team – August 1, 2013
Photo by Tea Eiland

Testing My Fitness Levels

My Return to the AFM FITTEST by Enrique Peña

Hitting the gym after a long day at the office is hard enough—but grinding through sprints and burpees in hopes of pushing that anaerobic wall farther and farther back is truly a challenge. Even for those of us who find the deep inner drive to exercise despite all that our professional and personal lives throw our way, the routines can sometimes become predictable. Every so often, a new journey presents itself to break those mundane training rituals. Fitness professionals and enthusiasts alike now have June to aim toward.

My first encounter with the AFM FITTEST was at the inaugural event in 2012. Finally, there was a standard with which to reexamine my own personal fitness. The first iteration of the event taught me two things: I am not as “fit” as I thought, and the fitness community in Austin is truly that—a community. The sense of friendly competition and camaraderie that was present last year was magnified in 2013. I was welcomed by a sea of friendly faces and was pushed harder by my fellow competitors cheering me on, giving me high fives, and asking about my progress. The Pull-Up seemed to draw a particularly large crowd of spectators, and their cheers pushed me to keep going. This year my girlfriend was present, supporting me while braving the Texas heat and despite feeling a bit under the weather. I could hear her while I pushed through the Interval Run, and, despite a personally disappointing finish in the sixth interval, the energy from the spectators’ cheers took me farther than I might have gone otherwise. The sense of friendly but intense competition is truly the strength of the event. I noticed groups of competitors moving across the expansive Camp Mabry field with entourages of toddler-sized fans in tow.

Looking at the events as a whole, they are a reasonable measure of strength, speed, and agility. The addition of the Mystery Tests was a brilliant method of testing fitness from the power and balance standpoint. On the other hand, I can’t shake this feeling that something seemed a bit off as I marched on with my 30–39 male division that day. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m 5 feet 3 inches and 150 pounds, not exactly a match for many of the other competitors. I suppose it’s as if the welterweights and heavyweights mixed and mingled for the bench press competition. Although further categorizing the divisions may provide some logistical headaches, more precisely matching cohorts of competitors might produce tighter competition and further improve the events in measuring true fitness.

The use of electronic timer systems to measure the 40-Yard Dash and One-Mile Run are technologies that enhanced the event and potentially reduced the errors introduced during some of the other events. I must have had at least ten separate conversations about the difficulties with judging during burpees. Despite taped lines and clear directions, the number of burpees seemed to be judge dependent. My personal experience of having done 39 last year and 26 this year is a case in point. I wonder if there is a way to integrate technology toward some of these other events as well.

Many of the other events work fairly well with the flow of the competition—although I’m still not sure what component of my fitness the Precision Throw measures. Despite a lifetime of playing competitive and recreational baseball, I mustered only three out of ten in the target. My feelings toward the event may be more a personal vendetta at this point rather than objective feedback.

Nonetheless, the best way to express my feelings with regard to the 2013 AFM FITTEST is that I’m looking forward to 2014! I assume Version 3.0 will be even further refined. My only complaint is about the weather; can you do anything about that, guys? Can anyone say “indoor arena”?

AFM FITTEST from a Nutrition Standpoint

Evaluating food intake and energy output at the 2013 event
by Laura Ugokwe, R.D., L.D., Haley Hall, R.D., L.D., and Obinna Ugokwe
Laura Ugokwe, R.D., L.D.

As I reflect back on the 2013 AFM FITTEST, these two words immediately come to mind: proud and inspired. I am proud of the fact that I set and accomplished the goal of participating in the competition this year. I am inspired by the number of fit people who participated in and watched the event. From a registered dietitian’s perspective, I am proud that I nailed my nutrition strategy, even with some hiccups. I am inspired by the number of people who offered to give me extra nutrition when I was in need. Austin is a unique place in that it is full of people that care about health and also about each other.

I followed the nutrition plan we created in Part 3 of the AFM FITTEST Nutrition Series: Nutrition During Competition. For breakfast, I had my usual bowl of oatmeal with a spoonful of almond butter and frozen fruit on top. I added honey for extra fuel and chia seeds for hydration, since they can soak up to ten times their weight in water. I drank a big glass of water with breakfast and sipped on Gatorade on the drive there. During the competition, I used Shot Bloks, Gatorade, and water as my fuel. All, however, did not go as planned.

Before the 40-Yard Dash, I got bitten by an ant. Because I am very allergic to ant bites, I was forced to take a Benadryl (which can cause drowsiness and an extremely dry mouth) to prevent hives. Although I typically listen to my body in regard to hydration, the medication made this impossible; I overhydrated to compensate for the dry mouth, which diluted my electrolytes. Thankfully, a kind person provided me with a bunch of pretzel chips, which got me over the hump in terms of sodium replacement.

The other challenge was that our heat took two more hours than planned. I was unprepared, but I was lucky enough to have other participants offer to share their extra fuel. I made it through the competition feeling tired but performing well. As I ran past the finish line of the final event, I had nothing left in the tank. I am confident that I would not have made it if it weren’t for my generous competitors who shared their food. Lessons learned: Bring more nutrition than you think you need…and stay away from ants!

Austin is not only a fit city, it is a city full of people who care about their health and support the fact that others do, too. Fitness is contagious, and the AFM FITTEST was a breeding ground. Check it out next year; I guarantee you will feel proud and inspired.

Haley Hall, R.D., L.D. 

I survived my first AFM FITTEST competition! I have to admit, it wasn’t easy. As a primarily endurance-focused athlete, I had to train my body well outside of my comfort zone. Fortunately, that’s why I chose to compete: I wanted a new challenge. From training to event day, it was a good experience.

Initially, training was tough, simply because I wanted to be out running. Once I got back in the in the swing of strength- and power-based training, I was having fun and enjoying the process. I trained with the help of Jackie Brumbalow and John Barr, two personal trainers at Pure Austin Fitness. When the day of competition arrived, I was able to consider it a success, knowing that I had met my goal of training my body differently. I think this attitude took the edge off and helped me perform well mentally.

The event was fun and well organized. The stations were clearly marked and flowed well from one to the next. It was helpful to have a team leader to guide us through the day to each test. Plus, she was a huge encouragement. My division (Females 19–29) moved through the tests slowly because we were bottlenecked behind the highly populated Males 19–29. This was great because we got to see the men perform, but it was tough as I fought to stay mentally focused. The two-hour delay also required some adaptations to my nutrition and hydration plan. See below for my detailed competition day sports nutrition consumption.

If I had to do it over again, there are a few nutrition strategies I would keep and a few I would change. First, I would keep my pre-exercise meal and snack. Oatmeal with peanut butter and a banana is my favorite breakfast, whether before a workout or before work. It is delicious, convenient, and filling. My hydration strategy also worked really well. NUUN replenished my electrolytes while adding enough flavor to increase my desire to drink water consistently. In the future, I would plan for the unexpected and pack extra snacks. Better safe than sorry!

Overall, the AFM FITTEST was a huge success in my book: I was challenged physically, I had fun, and I got to compete among the fittest people in Austin.

Obinna Ugokw​e

The AFM FITTEST competition gave me a reason to change up my training regimen. I enjoy working out and staying active, but going to the gym five days a week can get monotonous no matter how many Zumba classes you include. When my wife Laura told me about the competition, I was very interested. We immediately agreed to sign up and kick start a new workout plan based on the known events in the competition.

Training for the contest was fun, especially since Laura was doing it with me. We got in the habit of setting two alarms just in case one of us happened to hit snooze or, worse still, the ignore button. More often than not, we looked forward to the workout, and we held each other accountable. Although we tried to place equal focus on each event, we ended up neglecting a couple of them, which hurt us in competition.

The day before the competition, I made my way to H-E-B to stock up on snacks to consume during the course of the event. I followed the nutrition guidelines that Laura wrote in Part 3 of the AFM FITTEST Nutrition Series, using sports drinks and Shot Bloks as fuel. That night I spent time visualizing each event and going over my technique.

The morning of the event I woke up ahead of my alarm and full of energy. I was pumped and ready to get to Camp Mabry to compete. Since this was my first year participating, I did not fully know what to expect. The crew of volunteers at the site made it easy to get from event to event and understand the instructions. The competition got off to an ominous start when I foot faulted my first try in the Standing Med Ball Toss. I was able to recover by posting personal records in Pull-Ups and Standing Broad Jump. I can honestly say I didn’t focus on the Precision Throw nearly enough during training, and it showed. The flow of the competition slowed a bit about halfway through the day, so I followed my wife’s recommendations and took the opportunity to refuel.

At the end of the competition, I was exhausted. I had been pushed to my physical limit for over four hours. All in all, I would highly recommend competing in the 2014 AFM FITTEST. I am already looking forward to participating in the 60+ division in about 30 years.

I “Lost” the Contest

One competitor’s view of the 2013 AFM FITTEST by Darrold Smith

I trained for the AFM FITTEST for ten weeks. I was talking to friends about it. It had scared me off the first year (2012) because of the softball throw but, in 2013, I decided to just practice and learn it.

There were 12 events; we had information about ten of them, and two were unknown. I paid for an official training program from one sponsor who, in turn, paid my entrance fee when I finally got my nerve up to register.

Everyone slows with age, but runners measure this literally. I had lost my seven-minute mile back there somewhere but, I figured, so had the men I would be testing with (we were the oldest group, ages 60+, what I call the "Geezer Class"). I knew how competitive Austin was and, like many, I worked out and ran. I also had a daily Ashtanga yoga practice, which I thought might give me an edge in endurance—and maybe in evaluating my goal in all of this.

This didn’t go so smoothly, but that didn’t stop me. I injured myself in training but kept after it. I got a sinus infection and was on medication but kept going. Before the event, I decided to only give 80 percent to avoid injury. I worried about what the competition would bring. The first year, there were five Geezers; this year, there were seven of us. I hoped I wouldn't come in last.

On June 15, 2013, I arrived at Camp Mabry at 6 a.m. to warm up, knowing our third event was a sprint. Our first event was the Med Ball Toss, which I had practiced in the gym, but this was on grass. My first of two tries was disqualified since my feet came off the grass. My second try counted…but I wished it hadn't.

I had no sense of how the other guys were scoring. Some of them seemed as competitive as the younger men, but some were more friendly and relaxed. I was satisfied with my performance on some events and disappointed with it on others. For example: I thought my second Broad Jump and my second Agility Cone Run were ok. My Precision Throw wasn't as disastrous as it could have been (I had imagined scoring 0 out of 10 in front of full bleachers). I thought my Vertical Jump, the Balance Beam Hurdles, and Interval Run were all lousy. My Burpees, on the other hand, were good.

The last event was a one-mile run, which no one felt like doing after the other 11 events. But crossing the finish line meant that we had made it through the entire contest. I began to feel elated; I had finished without injury. I was one of only a few Geezers who had taken on the AFM FITTEST.

I had just enough time to clean up and attend a reunion meeting (my high school reunion was the next week). I was floating on air, feeling clean and fit, wearing my finisher’s dog tag.

I talked about it all that week and wondered how I would compare with the other Geezers. My private fantasy was that I would do well and tell everyone about it. But what I said was I hoped I didn't come in last.

After six days of waiting, the results were in. Based on placements in the 12 events, I came in seventh out of seven. I placed first on Pull-Ups (12), third on the One-Mile Run (8:20), fourth on three events, sixth on four events, and seventh on three. My self-image slipped from athlete to nerd.

The six days of waiting impatiently for the results yet feeling positive were over. I felt deflated. I took off the dog tag. Now I was not talking everyone's ear off about the details. Secretly, I ordered 12 photos in case I never did it again.

My high school reunion was on June 22, the day after the results were posted. First thing in the morning, I cracked my big toenail all the way across. I might not be able to run for a while. The reunion I had worked so hard on, though, was a huge success, and it was a beautiful night. Summer had begun and the moon was full.

As in all things, failure mixed with success in the AFM FITTEST. I tried something new and faced my fears, persevering through difficult training and even pain. I kept to my goal, finishing all 12 events and living to tell about it. My ego and pride took a hit, but maintaining them was never the point anyway. While I was fantasizing about the win and glory, I was doing something that was strengthening my body and my will.

Did coming out on the bottom of the heap tick me off enough to try it again? Ask me again when training season rolls around. Or maybe I should stay in training, just in case…


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