Final furlong for Union Jack

Afghan column.
Afghan column.

Our correspondent Union Jack is into the last week of his deployment to Afghanistan. This week it is press monitoring over press-ups.

“One of the consequences of long hours at my desk has been rather fewer hours than I hoped in the gym.

Sadly, for me (and my wife) confident predictions by my Borders triathlon colleagues that I would arrive home “ripped”, have proved rather wide of the mark along with my waistline which remains consistently wide of my 32” aim (dream).

However, working with US Army paratroopers here in the office as well as out in the field at Mazar-e-Sharif is a motivating factor. In fact my whole command chain leads by example.

My PAO boss is a former US Ranger and the three star IJC commander can be found running round the base most mornings. Waking up to sunshine and blue skies almost every morning means there is no weather excuse for not getting up and exercising either.

But even when it does occasionally rain the large gym is impressively stocked with weights and cardio equipment.

Another motivating factor has been the sacrifice and commitment of others in this long campaign. This was dramatically illustrated when watching the movie ‘Lone Survivor’, based upon a true story, which was given extra poignancy by the fact we were watching it in Afghanistan.

US Navy SEAL lieutenant Michael Murphy, who sacrificed himself in the compromised 2005 mission to call for help, was awarded the US highest bravery award, The Medal of Honor, for his actions.

His legacy lives on in the world of CrossFit and the workout named after him.

The ‘Murph’ consists of a 1 mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 press-ups, 300 squats finished off by a second mile run!

True aficionados will wear a 20lb vest throughout to mimic the body armour Lt Murphy used to train in. Elite athletes can complete it in 25 mins. I am aiming to just be able to complete it when I am 50, which give me less than four years to train…

There are many CrossFit fans here at NKAIA and some very fit people. But when your life literally depends on your fitness, you have an added incentive to exercise. Answering hostile media questions is not so physically demanding, although pages of staff work at the computer and hours spent in meetings do require mental stamina.

The senior UK officer here is the Chief of Staff IJC or COS and his military aide is a very fit officer decorated with the Military Cross for former actions in combat. Led by him, all of team in COS’s office have developed a strong fitness ethic and conduct their own Cosfit routine once a week.

Having never made it before today and as I head for Kelso next week, it was my last chance to take part this morning and I ventured along at 0630.

This morning’s routine was 7 Man Makers (burpees + press-up + one-arm raises) with two 25lb dumb-bells followed by the rowing machine while your training partner did his 7 Man Makers and alternating like this for 30mins or if we reached a total of 100 Man Makers or 7500m in under 30mins.

However, as were all likely to reach the 100 target our coach changed the goalposts to 30mins or 7500m to ensure we suffered for the full 30mins. Fortunately, my training partner was a young athletic captain in the Coldstream Guards so we managed about 120 Man Makers and just over 6000m rowing. My discomfort continued as we had an abs workout to finish. With our instructor calling the timing and my two star general exercising on the next door mat, there was no way I could stop. Pity I didn’t start a proper workout routine back in October…

It was a very slow walk back to my accommodation for a shower and consequently I only had time to grab my breakfast in a box before the first meeting of the day. Next week will be the heat and dust of Helmand, before arriving home in time for Ladies’ Day at Kelso Races.”