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Fighting my way back

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Jeremy E. Garcia, a 35th Fighter Wing public affairs officer, smiles for the camera before he begins his 5-mile run through Misawa Air Base. He began running to redefine his identity and turn himself into a better leader for his Airmen. He used running as a tool to develop mental resiliency. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brittany A. Chase)

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Jeremy E. Garcia, a 35th Fighter Wing public affairs officer, smiles for the camera before he begins his 5-mile run at Misawa Air Base, Japan, April 15, 2019. He began running to redefine his identity and turn himself into a better leader for his Airmen. He used running as a tool to develop mental resiliency. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brittany A. Chase)

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Jeremy E. Garcia, a 35th Fighter Wing public affairs officer, looks out into the field, ready to begin his morning run. Garcia began running to initially lose weight, but discovered it helped him become a more resilient Airman. He took on the challenge to help develop a mental edge when it came to dealing with adversity. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brittany A. Chase)

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Jeremy E. Garcia, a 35th Fighter Wing public affairs officer, looks out into the field, ready to begin his morning run at Misawa Air Base, Japan, April 15, 2019. Garcia initially began running to lose weight but discovered it helped him become a more resilient Airman. He took on the challenge to help develop a mental edge when it came to dealing with adversity. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brittany A. Chase)

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Jeremy E. Garcia, a 35th Fighter Wing public affairs officer, begins his run across Misawa Air Base to continue to lose weight and develop mental resiliency. He began running to redefine his identity and turn himself into a better leader for his Airmen.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brittany A. Chase)

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Jeremy E. Garcia, a 35th Fighter Wing public affairs officer, begins his run at Misawa Air Base, Japan, April 15, 2019. He began running to redefine his identity and turn himself into a better leader for his Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brittany A. Chase)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan --

Growing up in New York, I never made the gym a top priority because distractions and fun quickly stole my attention. As a city boy from Brooklyn, I took advantage of everything my home had to offer, including local restaurants, speak-easies and rooftop lounges.

I spent 25 years enjoying eating and living life in the fast lane. I hardly slept and being healthy was not one of my top concerns. I was too afraid to miss out on all the experiences Brooklyn had to offer, never taking the time to slow down and take care of myself.

Even after I joined the Air Force, I still did not take my health seriously and commit to training. I decided to enjoy the San Antonio and Austin life a lot more than I should have.

I continued to live like this until I finally made it to Misawa Air Base in September 2018. I was far away from the lavish city life and had to adjust to the piles of snow, which was something I hoped I would never have to witness again.

My first couple of months here were rough. I didn’t like the winter, missed the appeal of large cities and knew I was in a bad place with my health and weight.

I decided to buy a scale and face the truth. It read 214 pounds and over 30% body fat. I stepped off the scale and looked at myself in the mirror with disgust and disappointment; I knew I was better than that.

I always thought to myself I could do great things if I put my mind to it, but I never decided to take any action.

Being unhealthy, not being where I wanted to be professionally and feeling like I was continually failing at my relationships led me to podcasts and motivational speakers.

People like Joe Rogan and Eric Thomas made me realize I wasn’t alone. These gentlemen introduced me to a book written by David Goggins.

The book inspired me to fight my bad habits, say yes to the things I hate (including running) and face my insecurities.

As I began running and taking physical fitness seriously, I found myself and changed part of my identity.

I remember the first time I decided to get up at 4:00 A.M. in Misawa. It felt miserable. It was still dark outside – definitely cold enough to make me want to go back to bed and hit the snooze button – but I refused to let another day go by without making the change in my life.

I hated the first couple of times I ran outside. I thought to myself “You can go back inside and just diet for the rest of the day” and “No one will really know or care if you did the run anyway.”

I cannot begin to tell you how tempted I was to just forget all about the motivation I had and just go home. It was during my morning runs, when nobody was watching when I chose to be a better version of myself.

At that point, I realized taking care of my health and working out meant much more than just losing weight. The 4:00 A.M. wake-ups and two-a-days calloused my mind to be a more resilient, stronger Airman. It helped me develop into the leader my team needed.

The way I have trained myself to be has come by routine and embracing a grueling, time-consuming process.

I don't claim I get it all right every day. I sometimes cheat on my diet and have a major sweet tooth I wish I could get rid of, but I always win my mornings. Every morning, the goal is to get out of my bed by 4:00 A.M. I realized I need to suffer through a grueling process before I can start my day. It’s what helps makes me feel like myself.

Now, as I run through the familiar streets of Misawa City, I find peace and perspective. I see familiar locals who run at the same time I do, and we share a quick smile as we pass each other and continue on our run.

Running in the morning is not easy, nor is it fun, for me at least. There have been times when I ran when the weather was less than 30 degrees, and I could see my breath as my lungs began to hurt. Despite the pain and discomfort, I embraced every single moment.

There is a mental edge you gain by embracing the suck. You start to wonder “what else can I do?” or “what other challenges can I face?”

You begin to find people who are just like you. You see them in the gym with their headphones on, bobbing their heads to the music as they embrace their own challenges. I relate to those people. Now if you ever see me in the gym, you will probably find me dancing in the middle of the gym, in my own element as I face my own struggles and continue working on myself.

Fast forward a few months, I am now 28 pounds lighter and I’ve learned to embrace every challenge that comes my way, whether it is in the gym or the work place. Misawa has taught me to steel my mind and develop mental resiliency. I am grateful for being here, and I look forward to see how far I can go with my newfound lifestyle.

Now I work out to continue to develop myself into the best person and leader I can be. I hope to use what I’ve discovered and share it with my Airmen and those around me.