Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/washington/news.aspx?id=75841
Story Retrieval Date: 5/21/2013 1:05:44 PM CST
WASHINGTON -- Looking for abs like an airman? Glutes like a G.I.?
How about some Pilates with Lt. Jason Payne?
No joke. In an effort to break into lifestyle television, the Pentagon Channel has started up a fitness show.
“We’re funded for news and information,” said Jim Langdon, executive producer of the show and the channel’s director of operations and programming. “I think this probably shocked our audience.”
“Fit for Duty” is a standard workout show with step aerobics, squats and a slight military flavor. Although Langdon said the channel doesn’t care about reaching a non-military audience, the show is available for anyone to watch on the Pentagon Channel, and the station launched a video podcast version this month.
High-energy hosts from various branches of the armed forces put together their routines and improvised the dialogue. The channel tried to keep costs low by using its existing news production staff and volunteers and filming on the basketball court at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington.
The show came out for television in June, after the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs requested lifestyle programming on the military-focused channel. Since then the station has added a cooking show and is looking for more military lifestyle niches.
The “Fit for Duty” podcasts, which started coming out this month, were downloaded about 1,600 times from Jan. 7 to 14. That compares with about 20,100 downloads during the same period for the channel’s monthly documentary show Recon. Still, even that much of a following is a bit surprising for some of the people who put it together.
“They told me people were sending e-mails about the show,” said Marine Capt. Antony Andrious, one of the show’s hosts. “It was like, ‘What? You lost weight doing this? You actually watch this?’”
Andrious, a public information officer and former infantryman, said he started helping the show by tracking down fitness instructors for pilot episodes. Then the producers talked the former gym owner into coming up with his own routines.
“I was hesitant,” he said. “I was thinking about the Marines deployed thinking, ‘Who is this twit?’ and friends on some ship being like, ‘Dude, are you on television?’”
Now Andrious is into it. He said he finished a martial arts instructor course this fall and has started planning ways to cater more to deployed men and women with exercises that use alternative equipment such as sandbags and water jugs.
The channel isn’t alone in its attempt to capitalize on a culture where the body’s ability to move can mean life or death. Military.com, a subset of the employment information Web site Monster.com, launched a new military fitness section last week.
The site has aggregated columns on healthy eating, tips on how to prepare physically before joining up and playlists of workout music submitted by users.
“Fitness has always been big with the military,” Military.com editor Ward Carroll said. “This is an audience that is very involved with physical fitness.”
Military physical fitness tests vary based on branch, age and sex. The Army checks up on soldiers twice a year. Failing two times in a row can be grounds for discharge and meeting the maximum requirements can move soldiers closer to promotions.
For the basic training physical fitness test in the Army, a man 17 to 21 years old must do a minimum of 35 push-ups in two minutes, 47 sit-ups in two minutes and a two-mile run in 16 minutes and 36 seconds.
“Our standards are pretty clear,” Army spokesman Tom McCuin said. “An infantryman has to be able to run quickly with weight on his back and be able to fight at the end of the run.”
Programs like “Fit for Duty” that contribute to the physical and emotional health of soldiers and their families are a plus, McCuin said.
“But I would doubt you would have a unit (training) along with the show. Well, it’s possible,” he said.