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‘Are you feeling it?’ Instructor readies airmen for PT

Cross Fitness instructor Nerissa Atkisson leads her class as they work their biceps with a resistance band.

Cross Fitness instructor Nerissa Atkisson leads her class as they work their biceps with a resistance band.

The mass of hot energy curdles the air, and there is a more intense tone to the thunder than in your average aerobics workout den.

Nerissa Atkisson, 35, is a civilian who would make any drill sergeant proud. She leads a twice-weekly fitness class at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base for officers, enlisted personnel, employees and their families. But rank doesn’t matter. They’re all grunts to Atkisson.

“Usually men don’t like group classes. But I’ve noticed that more men are here every time,” she said. “A lot of men and women are here to train for the annual Air Force physical test.”

The hour class is a total body and mind exercise in strength and endurance. Her rapidly changing sequences and her polite but ringing exhortations get in the rushing blood of each individual.

“Are you feeling it?” she hollers.

“No,” is the reply in unison.

They want more of this drug called positive pain. She is goading the class to squat down on the aerobic step, heel up: “Use your ass for balance!”

A native Texan, she has taught aerobics and strength training to all social ranges for 16 years.

Master Sgt. Frances Bracks-Miller is in the class for the first time after having attended only tame-in-comparison aerobics classes.

“It’s different; it works everything,” she said. “She mixes in the cardio with muscle fitness.”

Atkisson said the trick is to ensure the heart rate doesn’t drop. She works her own plan and occasionally tweaks it.

“We like to do a lot of the legs in the muscle strength sessions, and we include upper and lower body,” she said. “Sometimes, a sequence affecting both, like the military press.

“Are you worked up?” Atkisson yells.

“No!” She does not believe it and her doubts are confirmed when, after abdominal crunches and aerobics, she hears a male voice, “I’m dead.”

Folks here are serious because the physical test measures an airman’s physical and mental worth and is used as a standard of excellence: the ability to complete the mission.

Bracks-Miller is preparing for it.

“Push-ups, crunches, running . . . this class will take care of all of it,” she said.

Instructor: Nerissa Atkisson
In time to the beat and instructor’s rapid-fire instructions and exclamations.

(Note: Cardio and strength training will alternate for 35-40 minutes)

1. Warmup/five minutes

• Alternate leg step: Pump left then right knee up to chest. “Use your butt!”

• Alternate leg pull-up: Kick and pump left then right leg to the side.

• Open-stance toe reach: Alternate left and right toe touch, knees locked.

• Forward lunge: “Hold it! Heel up and lean.”

2. Cardio

• March out: High step, alternating left and right leg.

• Hop on two feet: “Keep time with the beat.”

3. Strength training:

• Weight bench bar: Grab it from the floor and pull up from the floor. “Don’t bend the knees. Keep legs straight.”

• Military press: Lift bar from the floor to waist and up over head. Bend at knees not waist.

4. Cardio

• Jumping jacks: Make and “X” with your body, in time to the beat.

• Stretch forward: Right leg out as far as you can with left leg straight back. Switch legs.

• Return to jumping jacks.

5. Step aerobics

• Up and down: Step up on right leg three times bringing knee up to 90-degree angle. Switch legs.

• Squat down and heel on step: “Big push on front heel.”

6. Strength training

• Exercise stretch band: Grab from the floor, anchor with one foot and do bicep curls, two counts. Don’t move elbows.

• Dumbbells: Palms out, lift weights above shoulders for four counts.

7. Cardio

• Step: on aerobic step, “Blast off on alternate feet.” Slow down, speed up.

8. Strength training

• Triceps: Sit on step, tricep bends, keep elbow straight and down

• Squats: “Butt to back, chest at angle … if you can’t see your toes, get the butt out!”

9. Rest/five minutes

• Get your heart rate down, check pulse: “But we’re not done yet!”

10. Abs and core/10 minutes

• Crunches: Knees 90-degree angle ON BENCH? and lift trunk; then right knee to left heel; “Slow, feel the crunch.”

11. Cool down/five minutes

• Stretch it: Stand up and stretch to toes, stretch hamstrings; reach alternate arms to the sky, stretch the shoulder; pull arms behind in stretch; stretch legs sitting on floor left to right in hurdler’s stretch

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive. Also, a server that contained all of the databases for dozens of stories was accidentally erased, so all of those links are broken as well. However, all of the text and photos that accompanied some stories have been preserved.

For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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