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Taking back their health

Heather Baxter has transformed her body and health by regulating her diet and dedicating time to fitness. The Vital 90 class helped Baxter take charge of her health after the birth of her second son. (Courtesy photo)

Heather Baxter has transformed her body and health by regulating her diet and dedicating time to fitness. The Vital 90 class helped Baxter take charge of her health after the birth of her second son. (Courtesy photo)


Heather Baxter works as a captain in the 19th Force Support Squadron civilian personnel flight through the week and serves as a

captain on the weekend in the Air National Guard. She is another person who’s transformed her body and her health with diet and


So Heather, what made you decide to become consistent with diet and exercise routine?

I have always been into fitness, however over the years my routine was up and down.   I would stick with something for a

while, especially preparing for the PT test and then drop off shortly afterwards, only to do it over again.  I worked really hard

to get in shape after the birth of my first child and preparation to attend commissioning school.  Not long after returning from

commissioning school, I became pregnant with my second child.  It was after his birth, that I realized that I needed something

 that I could stick with for the long run and my boss told me about the Vital 90 classes on base.  I decided to try it and was

hooked from there.  It had a sense of community that made you want to do better and show up every day.  I no longer wanted

to be in the cycle of 6 months on 6 months off preparing for my PT test and knew this type of approach for exercise was going

to be the turning point for me to stay fit all year long.  While attending Vital 90, I began to learn more about proper nutrition.  I

have always considered myself a healthy eater, but quickly realized what I thought was "healthy" was not necessarily as

healthy as I had thought.  I have learned a significant amount about nutrition over the last couple of years and continue to

research along my journey.  Most namely, Whole30 has been eye opening for me when it came to nutrition. 

Can you tell us the difference between how you previously trained to get ready for your PT test and how you train now?

I would train to the test and feel like working out was a chore.  Running 2-3 miles a day and practicing push-ups and sit-ups. 

Since doing V90 and CrossFit I now understand how other forms of exercise can help you achieve your goals and as a result

have improved my fitness score significantly. 

What is the most significant change you’ve made in your training program?

Adding strength training is the most significant change I’ve made.  My former routine did not include strength training at all. 

 Strength training is the core of my program now.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned through your fitness journey?

I have learned that you don't have to be the picture perfect fitness model to be fit.  Everyone's body is different and we all

come in different shapes and sizes.

Which is the most difficult battle when it comes to fitness: the mental of physical battle?

I would say mental.  There are many times that I view a workout and sometimes tell myself there is no way I can do that, but I

 have a support team of friends and coaches in my community that quickly help me realize YES I CAN!  Never under estimate

 the power of a great support TEAM.

Do you have a favorite training method?

CrossFit, because it’s something different all the time and has really help me increase my strength. 

Do you have a diet strategy? Explain.

Yes.  I try to make the healthiest choices I can in any given situation.  I am not perfect by any means, but see food way

differently than before.  I meal prep for the week to keep myself on track.

What is the most significant change you’ve made in your diet?

I stopped eating processed food.  When I thought I ate healthy before, it was a lot of so-called "diet food", pre-packaged

portions, cereals, low-fat, etc.  Those things don't have a place in my regular diet any longer and learned that eating the right

kind of healthy fats and good carbs (vegetables) are actually better for you.  I am much more cognizant of what I choose to put

 in my body now.

Do you have a go to food and what is it?

Sweet potatoes, I eat so many!  Oh and a good steak to pair my sweet potatoes with. 

How has being consistent with exercise changed your life?

I don't cycle in and out of being fit anymore, which in turn makes me ready for my PT test all year instead of leading up to it.  I

 have more energy to play with my kids and for life in general.  It also helps me with everyday tasks through functional fitness


What advice do you have for Airmen who are struggling with their fitness assessment and weight?

"Fitness is a journey, not a destination, you must continue for the rest of your life." Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH 

This quote finally set in for me.  My destination was always my PT test or losing a certain amount of weight.  I would tell

airmen struggling to never give up; we all have to start somewhere and you have to want to take that first step forward.  Seek

out advice if you need help from peers, friends, your PTL's, HAWC Staff, etc.  Finding a friend that will work out with you or

 encourage your fitness goals.  My best friend and I attend CrossFit together and look forward to our time together there.  We

 push each other to be better.