Afghanistan is Where This Life Fitness Employee Works Out
About the Author: Darchelle Caces is a program manager at Life Fitness, and a dedicated reservist in the United States Navy. In June 2017, she was called to active duty for a year-long deployment in Kabul, Afghanistan. Despite leaving a husband, three children and her friends at Life Fitness, she has never complained about being shipped out and sees it as her duty. Darchelle is just as dedicated to her workouts and spends a lot of her time in Afghanistan training for an Ironman Triathlon.
All of us at Life Fitness are extremely proud of Darchelle. Here’s her story.
I started my career with the United States Navy in 2001 by accepting an ROTC scholarship at Purdue University. I graduated and commissioned in 2005 as a Surface Warfare Officer, which means I perform any job on board a surface ship.
During college, I ran seven marathons including the Boston Marathon. There was one race however, I kept thinking about, but just couldn’t find the courage to train for—the Ironman!
Training at Sea
From 2005 to 2007, I was stationed on the USS Essex out of Sasebo, Japan. Despite being at sea most of those two years, I kept running and ran two more marathons in Japan. From 2007 to 2009, I was stationed on the USS Rodney M. Davis out of Everett, Washington. We were out to sea most of the time, but I still trained for two more marathons.
In late 2009, I began a two-year shore tour thinking I had a great opportunity to finally compete in the Ironman. I registered for the Ironman Wisconsin 2010, but life had another plan for me. I gave birth to my first daughter in July 2010, which put my Ironman dreams on hold.
"I could choose to be upset all the time, counting every second until I go home. Instead, I choose to be happy, stay positive, make friends, and work out!"
By 2011 it was time to trade full-time military life for part-time military life and a civilian career. I continued to serve on the weekends as a Navy Reservist. I was fortunate enough to land a job with Life Fitness where I work in an environment that encourages gym bags and sweat. I'm living my dream. I could not ask for a better place to work. My three kids (two girls and boy) think I work out and race for a living. As a civilian working for Life Fitness I ran five more marathons including the 2016 Chicago Marathon.
Ironman on Hold
Following the Chicago Marathon I finally had the courage and the perfect support group and was ready to dedicate the next year to the Ironman. I registered for Ironman Louisville in 2017. Just days after registering the Navy contacted me and told me I was called back to active duty and would be leaving for a year in Afghanistan in June 2017. My heart sank and once again my dream of becoming an Ironman was crushed.
Life in Kabul
Last June, I left my family and co-workers at Life Fitness, who I consider family, for a year-long journey to Afghanistan. For many it probably doesn’t sound right to have a Naval Officer in the desert, but the Navy is here supporting the U.S. Army and NATO missions.
Nearing the halfway mark of this deployment, I reflect on what gets me up every day and keeps me positive as the days tick by. There is a choice. I could choose to be upset all the time, counting every second until I go home. Instead, I choose to be happy, stay positive, make friends, and work out!
"Thankfully our gym is fully stocked with Life Fitness Integrity treadmills for me to use to put in my miles. It feels like I’m stepping on a piece of home every time I run."
I am once again registered for Ironman Louisville and will finally become an Ironman in October 2018. Through this deployment I take advantage of the time I have. Most days I have the opportunity to work out once in the morning and once in the afternoon. These workouts keep me going and give me something to look forward to. The outdoor air quality is poor in Afghanistan, so thankfully our gym is fully stocked with Life Fitness Integrity treadmills for me to use to put in my miles. It feels like I’m stepping on a piece of home every time I run.
This year is long and it is hard being away from home. I am proud to be here serving my country and helping Afghanistan earn its freedom. Every day I get out of bed knowing that I am one step closer to home and one step closer to becoming an Ironman. Not only am I excited for the day when I will hold my babies and kiss my husband, but I can’t wait until I am reunited with my Life Fitness family and my training buddies.
Darchelle’s Weekly Workout in Kabul