Meet Traci Fuhrman: exercise physiologist

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In October 2013, the secretary of the Air Force published a revision to Air Force Instruction 36-2905 that eliminated mandated funding at Tinker for the exercise physiologist position as part of the fitness program.

Exercise physiologists disappeared from the Health and Wellness Center staff almost overnight.

Exercise physiologist Traci Fuhrman is a locally funded contractor and earned accolades for her performance intervention classes and Fitness Improvement Training program.

“I created the Fit Program in 2012 and I believe with the success of the program my value as the EP was recognized and that is why I am still here today,” Fuhrman responded in an email.

It’s difficult to determine how many Air Force bases currently have an exercise physiologist on their local payroll. But after consulting with HAWC representatives from 11 military bases, including Luke AFB, Laughlin AFB, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Hurlbert Field, the former was the only other installation to fund an exercise physiologist position.

Instead, the Health Promotion Coordinators, backed by AFI 40-101, have largely adopted those responsibilities as additional duties.

Fuhrman, 38, has found success not only pushing Airmen to meet the Air Force standards but to also accomplish their own physical goals.

“I joined the FIT class because I had just recently had my son, and I was having problems with my PT,” Staff Sgt. Jenny Zeine said recently during a phone call. The noncommissioned officer with 72nd Logistics Readiness Squadron, was able to knock four minutes off her run-time while suffering plantar fasciitis.

“She will push you to do your absolute best … I lost 10 percent of body fat and gained four pounds of muscle. I still join her class every now and again if I have free time,” Zeine said.

When the position became available, then Health Promotion Flight Chief Karen Blackwell, who changed careers in 2013, immediately notified Fuhrman.

“I met Karen when I worked at Tinker from 2006 through 2008 and worked with her a bit on the civilian Fit for Life program,” Fuhrman said. She also worked as a fitness specialist at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island from 2004 to 2006.

Fuhrman graduated from Emporium State University in 2012 with a master’s degree in health and physical education. She earned a therapeutic recreation degree from Slippery Rock University in 2001.

According to Fuhrman, the FIT program has helped increase Tinker’s physical fitness passing rate to between 75 and 80 percent, but she said she isn’t satisfied with the fitness culture on base.

“I would like to see more Airmen being consistent with their fitness programs, and see more commander fitness policies in place with structured unit PT programs,” she said.

(Originally published in The Tinker Take Off)

Elliott Scott