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First female member to receive top physical fitness award

International Women’s Day, celebrated annually on March 8, is a day that celebrates the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. This year marks the 100th year since its inception and the Defence Team, along with LGen André Deschamps, the Defence Champion for Women, will celebrate under the theme “Equal opportunity to excel.”

By Sgt Eileen Redding

Call it committed, dedicated, disciplined, a little bit obsessive compulsive – call it what you want. Master Corporal Kelly Christensen, an aviation technician at 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron from 19 Wing Comox, B.C., has made fitness a lifestyle and not a chore; it has become as routine as brushing her teeth.

WomanAthlete_STORYThis extraordinary level of discipline and commitment will garner a Physical Fitness Award for Aerobic Excellence, the highest fitness award in the Canadian Forces. Only a handful of members have ever succeeded at attaining an award at this level and MCpl Christensen will be the very first female.

MCpl Christensen began her training regime three decades ago when she referred to herself as being “chunky”, 50 pounds heavier and not in very good shape. She made a pact with a colleague to practise for their upcoming physical fitness test – both could only walk and jog but they completed the 1.5 mile test route, without giving up. Encouraged by friends she began losing weight and started feeling better.

Today she has kept off those 50 pounds and has never looked back.

She signed up for the Aerobic Incentive program in 1981 and only one year later would complete her first marathon in Vancouver, B.C., with a time of 3 hours and 28 minutes.

MCpl Christensen’s workouts are comprised of three disciplines: running, swimming and cycling. She alternates her exercise and remarkably has not missed a daily workout since 2004. What is also remarkable is the fact she logs every workout in a runner’s day-by-day journal and has kept the last 30 years worth!

WomanAthlete_STORY2Even while traveling in India she managed to get her run in. She and her husband were on an 18-hour bus trip so she asked the guide to let her and her husband off the bus when they were about ten kilometres from their destination. In the middle of the desert, with nothing around except a large tree with vultures, they got off the bus. Her husband, Ted, who is incredibly supportive, ran those last kilometres with her so she would be safe and wouldn’t miss out on her daily regimen.

Her level of dedication to her personal fitness has been nothing short of outstanding and she credits it for having survived ovarian and endometrial cancer 2001.

“They only gave me a 20 percent chance of living two years,” she said. “If I hadn’t been in such good shape I wouldn’t have been able to receive ‘the most toxic chemo available’”.

The CF Award of Aerobic Excellence is divided into seven levels of achievement that are broken down into six sub-levels (red to gold seals) that each require completing 2,000 units of aerobic exercise moving on to the next seal.

To put this into perspective, one unit equals swimming 400 metres, cycling three kilometres and jogging one kilometre.

At the completion of each level, a member will have completed 12,000 units of aerobic exercise.

Two years was the time frame allotted to completing a seal; MCpl Christensen was averaging one every six months.

On Dec. 27, 2010, she accomplished several “lasts”: the last kilometre, the last gold decal for the last scroll of the CF Aerobic Award for Excellence. It took her 30 years, but she did it!

Reprinted with permission

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Canadian Military Family Magazine