Military spouse, fitness professional reflects on Women's History Month

  • Published
  • By the Women's History Month Committee
  • Holloman Air Force Base
Women's History Month is celebrated every March in the United Kingdom and the United States to highlight the contributions of women in history and society. Women have played an important role both in the military and as the rock behind the scenes as a military spouse.

Paula Thomas -- personal fitness trainer, fitness class instructor, mother and wife of Col. William Thomas, 49th Medical Group commander -- reflects on her time as a military spouse and as a fitness professional.

What does Women's History Month mean to you?
As a fitness professional, I can reflect on how far women have come in the arena of physical fitness. The group fitness industry has been primarily powered by women. I love the fact that women now are tapping into their physical strength and empowering themselves with strong bodies.

What women have inspired you to become a strong leader?
My mother. She is an amazing woman. She balanced a career and motherhood. My mother is a strong woman and has survived very tough times with integrity and grace. She taught me that it is never to old to live your dreams. She finished her PhD in English and served in the Peace Corps in her mid-50s. Now in her mid-60s she is still a full time professor of English. In the fitness industry, it was a Japanese aerobics instructor, Chiko, at Misawa Air Base, who during her 60s was pushing us all to our physical edge. Mom and Chiko taught me not to let our ages hold us back.

What experiences do you have that can serve as encouragement to other women?
Be OK with where you are. As a military spouse of 19 years, I have had many ups and downs in my career. It can be frustrating starting over every year or two. However, I have just found that if I try to be OK with wherever I am stationed, and consistently do my best, I can be content wherever I am. I had to "start over" in my fitness journey in 2006 after severely breaking my arm and aquiring radial nerve palsy. That setback only made me stronger! I can do more pushups now than I ever could before the break. We are always having to start over in some capacity. The military lifestyle just highlights that a bit more. In a way, we are blessed to have those fresh beginnings regularly. Being a wife and mother has been the constant that has provided me with much satisfaction throughout my time as a military spouse.

Tell us about your current career field and what differences, if any, exist between male and female counterparts.
I am now a Personal Fitness Trainer and teach BODYPUMP, Yoga and Cycling classes. There might be a slight favoring of male trainers and instructors, but overall, I think the clients and students respond to an effective instructor, regardless of sex. Of course, men in my industry can generally do more pushups and lift more weight, but that is just genetics.

What advice would you give to women/girls on how to become a strong woman?
Don't be afraid of your strength! Do what you do best and do it unapologetically! Find mentors, accept feedback, and keep learning and pushing yourself every day, month and year. Get out of your comfort zone.