All couples have some form of common bonds that keeps them together. For Nicole and Allen Leth, one of those common bonds is fitness. Nicole’s commitment to personal excellence goes back to her childhood, when she was trying out for sports teams in high school.
“I definitely had heart hustle,” she said. “I tried out for track, swimming, but I think since I didn’t have experience with youth sports, I wasn’t at that level that my high school peers were at.”
She would eventually make the crew team in college and made it to captain for over a year, which was the spark that lit her passion for fitness. As for Allen, he did what most boys from southeast Texas did, played football, baseball, and basketball, and it was the drive to get better that led him to the world of training.
“It was the school sports that led me to weightlifting, and I liked it. I liked it a lot. I played football so I could have access to the gym,” he explained. That commitment paid off for him in several ways, including seeing success as a powerlifter as well as winning a strongman event in Hawaii without even training for it.
“When I showed up, they were short on strongman competitors and asked if I would be interested in competing in their competition. I thought that was more interesting than seeing how many times I could bench my bodyweight. I entered it and I won.”
His talent for fitness has also served him well throughout his career in the United States Army. Nicole and Allen met on a flight and started dating shortly after. Along the way, they each started running and would enter marathons. They even did one together when Allen came back from a deployment, and he finished third overall out of all the men in that race.
“Who does that?”, Nicole asked with a smile. “He had just come back from deployment three weeks and did that. It’s insane.”
What may have started as personal reasons for both of them individually became much bigger commitments for them both as a couple and for their country. Col. Allen Leth is the current Chief of Staff of the Army Chair for the National Defense University as well as an Associate Professor at the National War College. Nicole is the Director of the Fort Belvoir Armed Forces Wellness Center Services in Fort Belvoir, VA. Even though they have different roles, they both want to see the Wellness Center get more attention because of the benefits they can provide servicemembers.
“We provide body composition testing, mostly with the Bod Pod, metabolic testing, VO2 testing, fitness testing, cardiorespiratory assessments, grip strength, back strength, flexibility assessments, and stress management.”
Nicole and Allen Leth Are Working for Wellness for All
There are 35 centers around the world, and each of them is very important to those that defend our nation as well as their loved ones. They also serve Department of Defense civilians, retirees, and active-ordered members of the Reserves and National Guard.
“Even if the center was on a predominantly Army base, we always cared for all branches and family members.”
The Wellness Centers are more vital than ever because the health of our military members is more vital than ever, and that doesn’t only apply to physical health. They can even help with mental health, which can benefit them long after they transition from active duty to veterans. Nicole cited breathing techniques as an example of how they can objectively help the people they serve see improvement.
“We can coach someone on their breathing, go into meditation, get them into a higher level of coherence so we can switch them from a lot of sympathetic nervous system engagement into parasympathetic.”
The various centers are at different locations because servicemembers may have to go from one place to another. The good news is that there is a common database system and all the professionals can help these members based on that information. Nicole explained that there isn’t a need to do new assessments or re-testing.
“Wherever they go, their information can go with them.”
Allen isn’t as involved with the Wellness Center directly as Nicole is, but he is well aware of the value they provide and is very supportive of the work they do. He’s also very supportive of Nicole’s efforts to reach and positively impact as many people as she can.
“It’s very much worth it, and it provides a great benefit. I’m glad that Nicole is able to have the outreach that she does. We need to increase awareness of these benefits and services. For all the things the Wellness Center does and the services it provides, to servicemembers, families, and retirees, it’s great that she’s doing so much to get the message out.
Fit to Serve Their Family
Even as busy as they both are, they still find ways to spend time together as a family. Something else they do is support the other when it comes time to train, which they don’t do together that often, but feel it’s necessary for them to be their best selves. Nicole said, “I think we’re better parents and humans because of it. It’s even how we shape our days and giving grace to the other person when they want to get that workout time in.”
They even find ways to be somewhat competitive with each other. Nicole concedes that Allen is the faster one, but she shared that they both enter and compete in races and events so they can try to one-up each other in terms of races.
“He’s done two half-Ironman’s, I’ve done two, and I think we’re matched on marathons too,” she stated. Allen then followed up with a challenge for Nicole.
“I’m trying to get her to do a strongman contest so we can be even across the board.”
For those that are trying to find either a career or a way to get in better shape, the Leth’s have some simple advice that can speak volumes. Nicole suggests finding someone to train with, whether it’s a spouse or someone else in your community.
“It’s not only for self-care and perhaps mental health therapy, but for those that know about this life, that’s huge.”
As for Allen, once he found his talent, he thrived and found it helped him in many ways. He said it could be a matter of finding that thing that can help you get joy from the experience.
“When you find something you’re good at, it’s a little easier to get after it.”
You can learn more about the Armed Forces Wellness Center Services on their website.