HMCS Queen Charlotte fitness challenge keeping reservists in ship shape
By Joanie Veitch,
Naval reservists at HMCS Queen Charlotte are getting more active, with some unit members lacing up their running shoes for road races or riding fat bikes in the snow this past winter. The Naval Reserve unit is also planning a multi-day bike ride across the province in the coming months.
It’s all part of a health and fitness initiative led by the unit’s administrative officer, Lt(N) Michael Bergeron, well known to many for his joggling ability — juggling while running — a talent that earned him a Guinness World Record.
A natural and enthusiastic athlete, Lt(N) Bergeron began thinking about what he could do to boost health and fitness levels at Queen Charlotte shortly after he arrived in July 2019.
“On PEI, compared to every other province in Canada, we don’t have PSP (Personnel Support Programs) so we don’t have a gym here. When I was in Halifax I used to run a running clinic through the gym there, so when I moved here I was thinking about that…and other ideas to increase overall fitness,” he said.
Lt(N) Bergeron began a fitness challenge with participants receiving a set amount of points for different activities, like running, cycling, rowing or walking. With 25 points equalling a ballot, the more points collected, the better the chances to win a gift card in a monthly draw.
The challenge began last January before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and provincial public health restrictions shut down all group activity in the province, including for the Naval Reserve. Lt(N) Bergeron restarted the initiative in October and said he’s pleased to see an uptick in reservists getting involved.
“We’re trying to reach those people who don’t exercise regularly… the ones who do better with a challenge and when there’s competition and some peer pressure. It’s been good, we’re seeing people getting out and being active, and they are saying they’re enjoying it and feeling better,” Lt(N) Bergeron said.
An avid runner, Lt(N) Bergeron is on the board of the PEI Roadrunners Club and has been closely involved with planning and getting approval from Public Health to hold running events on the Island. This year the club staged their Freeze Your Gizzard run in February, with distances ranging from five kilometres to a half marathon, as well as a St. Patrick’s Day run in March and Bunny Hop run over the Easter weekend.
Wearing both his Naval Reserve officer hat and Roadrunner president hat, Lt(N) Bergeron organized a contingent of reservists at each of the running events, all wearing blue shirts with the HMCS Queen Charlotte logo and name.
“It’s good for us, for our fitness, and it’s good for recognition and outreach…to maybe recruit new members,” Lt(N) Bergeron said.
LCdr John MacDonald, Commanding Officer at HMCS Queen Charlotte, said the increase in activity has had a positive effect on the unit beyond the fitness benefit — especially this past winter, given the COVID situation.
“When winter hit this year, we all felt it, I think. I guess you’d call it the winter blues…but getting out and getting active, it really helped. Unit members are putting forward ideas now for other activities we could do. I think we’re really moving in the right direction,” he added.
“It has really increased morale and given the unit a greater sense of cohesion, especially during a time when people have been more isolated and have had to stay inside more due to the pandemic.”
Looking forward to the Navy Bike Ride, which is being held virtually this year from June 12 to August 29, Lt(N) Bergeron and others from the unit are planning a multi-day “tip-to-tip” bike ride across PEI, totalling about 270 kilometres. Ten unit members have already signed up, Lt(N) Bergeron said, and he’s hoping that number will continue to grow.
“It’s a lot of distance, but it will be a fun event. People can either do the whole distance themselves or join as part of a relay team,” he said.