When Clayton Lizaona was an E4 specialist in the Army, he was used to a lot of physical activity. Drills included running, push-ups, sit-ups and ruck marches, where he hikedÂ with a heavy pack on his back.
But when he became a student-veteran at the University of Southern Mississippi, his fitness level decreased. Physical activity became something that was no longer required, but an act of self-will.
“I kind of slowly got off of it,” the junior said. “When I was in (the Army), there was that extra boost of motivation.
“When it was just myself, it was ‘go to the gym or not go to the gym.’ I got pretty lackadaisical. I didn’t stay with fitness like I should have.”
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But now Lizaona is getting back in shape, thanks to a special fitness program set up by the university’s Center for Military Veterans, Service Members and Families.
The program, planned with the staff at the Southern Miss gym, the Payne Center, provides student-veterans and their families the chance to participate in organized physical conditioning opportunities.
The fitness program was launched earlier this month, with sessions from 6:30-7:30 a.m. Monday and Wednesday and a mid-day session Friday.
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“We thought it was a good way to look out for our students and give them an incentive to live a healthy lifestyle,” said Doug Robinson, Veteran Outreach coordinator. “A lot of them have been used to doing a regimen Monday through Friday, but they got away from that ‘fit to fight’ mentality.
“There are a lot of distractions hereÂ â classes, jobs. It was a change from the normal regimen of fitness to having to make it part of their plan.”
So far, 15 student-veterans are workingÂ with trainers from the Payne Center on Monday and Wednesday, lifting weights, doing cardio and participating in stretching. On Friday, theyÂ have a freeÂ day, where they play basketball, volleyball, whiffleÂ ball or some other fun activity.
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The program is expected to expand with nutrition and healthy lifestyle planning along with a gradually more competitive workout plan.
Robinson said the fitness program shouldÂ help the student-veterans with their staminaÂ and approach to academics.
“It gets them up, gets them motivated,” he said “They feel invigorated to work through the day.
“It makes them more alert, gives them energy moving through those morning classes.”
Lizaona said theÂ workouts have helped him.
“It’s definitely turned into a hobby,” he said. “Whenever I get done with classes, I go to the gym.
“It hasn’t had any negative effectsÂ â only positive.”