National Guard's summer fitness camp puts physical and mental strength to the test

Fairfield teenagers put their mental and physical fitness to the test at Iowa National Guard's fitness camp.

If you think you're up for the challenge of putting your mind and body to the test, the Iowa National Guard Armory in Fairfield is ready for you.

This week, the Armory is hosting its first-ever free fitness camp for high school students. The group of 40 teenagers is a mix of athletes and people just wanting to improve their agility and stamina. Monday's workout looked and sounded exhausting from the sideline -- and it's the easiest one of the week.

"It's harder [than I expected]," said participant Taylor Ferrel. "I don't know, I didn't expect to do this much."

"I thought it was a lot harder than what I expected," added Zach Martin.

The camp's participants began the morning with stretches and a warm-up, then dove head-first into an exhausting obstacle course that included lunges, push-ups, squats and more, with a 300-meter jog in between each exercise. After the group had time to catch its collective breath, they were split into groups to carry heavy water jugs as they jogged for a mile.

"It was harder -- a lot harder," said Abby Melcher. "Carrying 20 pounds while running? I'm not used to carrying things while running."

"It's definitely a lot harder than I thought it would be, it almost made me throw up because it's an intense workout," said Dakota Storto. "Carrying the jugs was pretty fun too, they push you quite a bit."

An exhausting day, obviously, but members of the National Guard and even some area coaches completed the workout as well, and everyone gets through it together.

"You work out as a team and we finish together and we all watch everybody finish," said Randall Stanford, Battalion Officer in Charge of the 224th Engineer Battalion. "We all were there until the very end, pushing each other, pushing that last person and so it shows teamwork and working together."

Everyone has their own strategy to push through the pain and getting to that final push.

"Just to get it over with, it's going to feel better once I'm done and just make it through," said Molly Ryan.

"My sister was catching up to me and I didn't want her to stay with me, so I pushed myself," Ferrel said.

But at the end of the morning, everyone walks out stronger physically and mentally.

"I hope they walk away better people. We're teaching the teamwork, but we're also really talking about values, we're talking anti-bullying and all kinds of things," Stanford said. "So we want them to walk out of here better students and better citizens for this community."

The camp is free for students entering their freshman year of high school to those who recently graduated. There's no sign-up or registration required, so if you're interested in participating the rest of the week or just a few days, head to the National Guard Armory in Fairfield at 9 a.m.