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Comprehensive Soldier Fitness

What is Comprehensive Soldier Fitness and can it help me?

Comprehensive Soldier Fitness was established in October 2008 at the US Pentagon and is a program that focuses on the entire US Army population to promote ultimate resilience, performance, and health. The program has applications for all people, soldiers and civilians alike. From CEOs to mail clerks, from a Private in the Army to a General Officer, everyone can benefit from the principles of this powerful program to strengthen the mind, body, and spirit. The ingenious program was spearheaded by Brigadier General Rhonda Cornum, a physician and former prisoner of war. As an experienced expert on what it takes to be physically and mentally “tough”, she further added extensive depth and credibility to the program by partnering with the best minds in this field from across the country and developing a powerful computer based test to assess one’s overall “comprehensive fitness”. The intent of the program is to increase the resilience and enhance performance by proactively developing five key dimensions of wellness and strength. It is based on the notion that to be strong is more than physically fit. It is mental and emotional strength as well. Comprehensive Soldier Fitness prepares, sustains, and enhances the force of the United States Army by:

1. Teaching resilience fundamentals including powerful, healthy thinking patterns (this is called preparation).
2. Providing leader education and deployment cycle training (this is called sustainment)
3. Teaching personal and professional skills that maximize individual performance.
(this is called enhancement)

What are the dimensions that comprise Comprehensive Soldier Fitness?

The five dimensions that comprise Comprehensive Soldier Fitness are the physical, social, spiritual, emotional and family dimensions. Developing and growing these dimensions through a systematic and purposeful way will help you become more resilient to external and internal stressors in all areas of life, both personally and professionally. A 16 year high school student can significantly benefit from the principles and techniques as can a seasoned 60 year old battle tested General Officer. The program does not focus on military tactics or developing a particular “military mind set”. Instead it focuses on developing an overall healthy, balanced approach to life and achieving one’s maximum potential. The heart of the program relies that a person’s performance and strength to overcome lies in being mature and developed in key areas of thought, relationships, physical stamina, and spirituality. Let’s take these dimensions one by one.
1. Physical – this means having a healthy body composition and excelling in physical activities that require strength, endurance, flexibility and aerobic fitness developed through exercise, nutrition, and training.
2. Emotional – this means approaching life’s challenges in a positive way through self control, stamina, and good character.
3. Social – this means developing trusted relationships that are personally fulfilling and foster good communication through a comfortable exchange of ideas, perceptions and experiences.
4. Spiritual – strengthening your set of beliefs, principles, and values that sustain oneself beyond family, institutional, and societal sources of strength.
5. Family – this means being part of a family unit that is safe, supportive, loving, and provides a healthy and secure environment (this may not always be one’s biological family).
The idea here is to proactively develop resilience through these five dimensions instead of waiting for a bad outcome to begin to incorporate these dimensions into your life. The program focuses on taking healthy soldiers and making them stronger. This way when life takes a turn for the bad, an individual is equipped to overcome and experience what we call “posttraumatic growth”. The program is built around training and education and a self-assessment tool call the Global Assessment Tool (GAT). The training is done online as well as at major academic institutions that have contributed to the development of the program. The information in the program has been the result of collaboration with many incredibly talented academic and scientific minds and institutions from around the country.
What is resilience training in terms of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness model?

There are core resilience training competencies that one will acquire when completing the master resiliency training that is part of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program. These competencies include:
1. Self awareness – identify thoughts, emotions, and behaviors and patterns in thinking and behaviors.
2. Self regulation – regulate impulses, emotions, and behaviors to achieve your goals.
3. Optimism – hunt for what is good, remain realistic, maintain hope and have confidence in yourself and in your team.
4. Mental agility – think flexibly and accurately and take other perspectives.
5. Strengths of character – knowledge of top strengths and how to use them to overcome challenges and meet goals.
6. Connections – develop strong relationships, positive and effective communication, empathy, a willingness to ask for help and help those that you meet.
Other competencies in resilience training include developing critical thinking and skills to overcome challenges and bounce back from adversity. An example of this is a tennis ball versus an egg. A tennis ball bounces back when dropped on the floor. An egg shatters and is destroyed. The curriculum development for resiliency training is based on demonstrative quality, efficacy and lessons learned. The emphasis here is on evidence-based model wherever possible. The resiliency training teaches that challenges are temporary and not permanent, that challenges are local and not universal and that challenges can be influenced by your own effort. You are not the helpless victim.
What are resilient mental skills as developed by the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness model?

1. ATC: (Activating event, Thoughts, Consequences). Identify your thoughts about an activating event and the consequences of those thoughts.
2. Avoid thinking traps: Identify and correct recurrent counterproductive patterns in thinking through the use of critical questions.
3. Detect icebergs: Identify and evaluate deep beliefs and core values that fuel out of proportion emotion and evaluate the accuracy and usefulness of those beliefs.
4. Real time resilience: Shut down counterproductive thinking to enable greater concentration focused on the task at hand.
5. Problem solving: Increase flexibility and accuracy in thinking about the causes of problems to improve problem solving.
6. Put it in perspective: Stop “worse case” scenario thinking, reduce your anxiety and improve problem solving by identifying the worst, the best and the most likely outcomes of a situation.
7. Energy management: Build emotion regulation, increase positive emotions and mental fitness.
These resilient mental skills were developed for the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania and are helping soldiers around the world. Perhaps they too will help you.

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