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Health and Fitness

Fit to Spin

George Washington Leadership Puts a New Spin on Physical Fitness

Sailors aboard USS George Washington (CVN 73) are pedaling to keep up with senior khakis in spin classes underway.

Lt. Cmdr. Pablo Capistrano, from Chicago, and Senior Chief Intelligence Specialist Shannon Shropshire, from Boston, both serve as top leaders in the ship's Intelligence Department. Capistrano is the aircraft carrier's vice intelligence officer, while Shropshire is his leading chief petty officer (LCPO). After working hours, this khaki duo also share leadership by teaching individual 60-minute cycling classes Monday through Friday at sea. With 15 bikes, an MP3 music playlist, a set of speakers and 90-degree temperatures in a stuffy room nicknamed "The Sweat Box," these two are challenging the "gerbil gym" monotony by offering crew members a different spin on underway exercise.

"I already lost 30 pounds," said Cryptologic Technician (Technical) 2nd Class Elizabeth Stanton, from Camas, Wash. "I've been attending both classes for about six months and I love my results. I do the bike for the physical readiness test (PRT), so aside from the weight loss, I've also been able to increase my calorie loss [on the bike] simply because my legs are so much stronger. I'm getting a score of 'outstanding' on my next PRT! I just know it."

Other faithful spinners shared similar testimonies.

"I used to burn about 80 calories on the bike, now I'm burning up to 130," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Augenetta Shelton, from Birmingham, Ala. "[Shropshire] brings a lot of energy and probably has the harder class of the two. Capistrano's class is challenging too because he does more hovering than sitting, yet lately, her class has gotten tougher because she took away the rest songs. There are no breaks. Now I'm tighter, toner, and my legs are definitely stronger."


The best feeling is an hour later when people leave your class sweaty, tired and drained, yet they are actually thanking you.

Just six months ago, some Sailors in Capistrano and Shropshire's very own department were confronted with their second physical readiness test (PRT) failure in less than four years. According to Navy instruction, Sailors who fail three PRTs in 48 months will be discharged from service with limited to no educational or financial benefits. Shropshire said that it was the thought of her Sailors potentially losing their careers that inspired her to lead spin.

"I felt a personal responsibility to my department and those struggling throughout the ship," said Shropshire. "We had seven out of 43 Sailors [in my department] who had failed their previous PRT when I checked aboard last year. So I attended a few spin classes hosted by [Capistrano], did my research on the Internet, downloaded about 200 songs and began teaching. I just knew I could do it.

"Now I love it," said Shropshire. "The best feeling is an hour later when people leave your class sweaty, tired and drained, yet they are actually thanking you."

Capistrano candidly confesses how empathy was his motivation to lead spin as well.

"I was never an athletic person, and I feel a lot of the same anxieties that some folks have with the performance portion and the weigh-in process of the PRT," said Capistrano. "Spin was my way to build cardio strength to a point where I was not trying to just pass but to max out my score. I wanted to excel versus survive and I think that appeals to a lot of our class attendees; they want to succeed. I see us all in the class as athletes, just at different levels."

Shropshire's passion for cycling was born at her previous duty station in Hawaii where she once trained for the Honolulu Marathon, yet for Capistrano his love for biking and teaching didn't arise until he came to George Washington.

"I wasn't interested in cycling at all," said Capistrano. "In fact, I'd never been to a spin class until I came to the ship. I attended a spin class taught by one of the medical doctors aboard who was looking for a fellow officer to pass the reins to. I didn't know it would be me.

"I got addicted to the class and started teaching in his place," said Capistrano. "Soon, [Shropshire] attended one of my classes and ended up liking it so much that she too began teaching."

Capistrano is also one of the founders of the George Washington Warfighter Cycling Club, which was initiated from his newfound passion for spin. The no-cost Morale, Welfare and Recreation-sponsored club offers George Washington Sailors of all ranks a chance to enjoy road cycling and mountain biking on the weekends upon the ship's return to homeport in Yokosuka, Japan.

"We just want to introduce cycling and physical readiness to everyone," said Capistrano. "We'll leave nobody behind whether in spin class or on the road. At the end of the day, physical fitness is all of our duty. The command, the khaki leadership, we're just doing what we can to make it available for our Sailors."

Shropshire also plans to maintain the spinning momentum by teaching classes for George Washington Sailors at the base's local gym.

"My husband said he'd actually attend my spin classes if I can get a room reserved at the gym while the ship is in port," said Shropshire. "I challenged him and so many other skeptical [male] Sailors to try it, they just might enjoy it. They may find it more challenging than they think. The other day a once-previous skeptic thanked me for helping him pass the weight portion of his fall PRT. He said this was his best weight yet."

Thanks to the cycling Intel duo of Capistrano and Shropshire, George Washington Sailors are spinning their way to better health, better PRT scores, and most of all a better life.

For more information, visit:
www.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/usnavy, or www.twitter.com/usnavy.

Editor's Note: We're always looking for physical fitness success stories from Sailors both at sea and ashore. Send us your stories or workout routines with photos or videos to allhandsmagazine@dma.mil, and we'll find a home for them on our site. We look forward to hearing from you.