Nathan Peterson is vice president of strategic planning and governance for Sanford Health and chief of staff for president and CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft. He’s also a husband and father to three children, and an enlisted member of the South Dakota Air National Guard who recently returned home from a four-month long tour in Afghanistan.
Before going, he worked with Sanford POWER to come up with a military workout plan to follow while on active duty and also used products and guidance from Profile by Sanford. Here’s a Q & A about his experience.
What were your main goals throughout the process of working with Sanford POWER?
I focused on overall general wellness. Getting in better shape, looking better and feeling better was my goal. It’s not like I went overseas with a goal in mind of trying to increase my bench press by a certain amount or add on so much strength. I was really just trying to improve my overall well-being.
There were a number of improvements that I noticed while I was over there. For example, being able to get through a high-intensity military workout without having to take a break and also without feeling like I was pushing myself to the end. I can tell that my cardiovascular health really improved. You just start to see little improvements like that. You aren’t looking to get huge or looking to push boulders around. But you can tell that you are getting stronger and feeling lighter and feeling more fit.
From the sports science aspect of your time with POWER, what were some of your biggest breakthroughs?
I knew that I felt a lot better coming back than when I went over to Afghanistan. I didn’t quite know the extent of the progress I had made until I met with the POWER team. In the three to four months I was overseas, I lost around 20 pounds of fat without losing any muscle mass. The standard weight loss ratio is 3 to 1 — 3 pounds of fat to 1 pound of muscle. My ratio was 17 to 1.
What were some of the military workout training regimens that POWER gave you?
Sanford Health really gave me a number of things. It was certainly a partnership between the Profile team and the POWER program. The folks over at Profile got me on a nutrition plan that suited the unique lifestyle of living in a deployed location. They also took into account the military workout plan that the POWER team developed for me.
In addition, they sent me enough supplements to last throughout the deployment. I had the products I needed to be successful and I had access to my coach remotely as I was trying to assess which type of food would be available to me in the chow hall.
They were able to help me figure out which selections would work best with my plan. Being able to have that help in an unfamiliar and atypical environment was pretty critical to success. And then in terms of the POWER program before I left, I was able to meet with Scott Hettenbach (director of POWER) and Jesse Haines (strength and conditioning specialist). We talked about my goals, what I wanted to accomplish, what I have available for time, equipment and facilities, and they developed a customized plan to get me started based on where I was at.
We met a few times here at the Fieldhouse where they showed me the exercises and explained the importance of the knee injury prevention protocol, which is pretty critical for me. So I had a chance to walk through everything before I left. Then once I got overseas to Afghanistan, I was able to assess the facilities that were actually there. There were instances where a particular machine for one of my exercises wasn’t there and I could connect with Scott and Jesse and they would recommend an alternative. So they tweaked my program so that it worked for me over there.
At roughly the month mark they would switch up my workouts so that I wouldn’t have to do the same thing every day for the entire time I was over there. As I started to make improvements I could adjust to different types of workouts which was great.
How will being back in Sioux Falls effect your fitness routine?
My biggest fear coming back, because I was able to make improvements while I was over there, is that I fall out of a rhythm of working out and being active on a regular basis and that I let my diet go to crap. There will be some benefits and challenges to being back home.
Certainly my ability to control my diet will improve, provided I can exert the right amount of will power. There’s more access to fresh produce and healthy food, I can decide when I eat and I can prepare my own food. All those things will really help as long as I am disciplined about it.
When I was overseas and by myself, I had a 12-hour work day. I was responsible for me and only me. I had ample time to work out. There was no excuse not to go to the gym six days a week. Here, I’m back with my family and my work responsibilities. I have to maintain some sort of a workout schedule knowing that I won’t have the same amount of time to commit to it here as I did over there.
What does your experience prove about Sanford POWER’s ability to train people remotely?
The depth of expertise is really remarkable. If I had questions about nutrition, there was a sports nutritionist there that I could talk to. There were Profile coaches that helped me every step of the way. So I had a wealth of resources in that regard.
If I was struggling with what my military workout should look like, everybody could pull together at a moment’s notice to help address what I was working on. I didn’t come in saying “there’s one aspect that I was wanting to improve on and who is the expert that can help show me the way in that regard?” It was more “I want to develop a healthier lifestyle,” and that involves a myriad of facets in terms of how I live or play.
There was someone who could help me with every element of it. And a way in which I could stay connected with them even when I was half a world away. There were still some built-in ways that we could stay in touch. They could effectively coach me and make sure that I was adjusting as I need to continue to progress along the way.
How were you able to stay in contact with the POWER team while you were overseas?
The POWER guys hooked me up an app that they’re developing and testing right now that was really instrumental. It allowed me to track my workouts; they built the workouts right into it so I could follow along with what I was supposed to be doing on a given day and make sure that I was on schedule. They were able to access the data and so they saw what I was doing on a daily basis.
If I had questions or challenges, I could reach out to them through the app. If I didn’t know how to do an exercise properly or couldn’t remember how to do it they could take videos and upload them to the app. I could access them overseas. It was a really interactive way to stay dialed in with them.
What would you say to those who want to improve their lifestyle but are worried that Sanford POWER is only for elite or collegiate athletes?
I think it’s safe to say that I’ve never been an elite athlete or even anything close there to. Up to this point the best shape I had ever been in was when I came back from basic training almost 20 years ago now. I had this notion that I had a unique opportunity. How can I get back in shape and develop a healthy lifestyle?
Coming into the Fieldhouse was a very comfortable environment. They didn’t try to put me into the mold of every other collegiate athlete or Skyforce player. They were curious about my goals and how they could help make the most of my three to four months overseas. I could have easily walked into a gym at the airfield over in Afghanistan and be put to shame by some of the Army soldiers and Air Force guys who had been lifting weights for years.
That can be a very intimidating environment. But being able to work with trainers who say “nope, this is the right regiment for you, here’s how to do the exercises properly,” it really gives you confidence to go into any environment and feel good about what you’re doing. They allowed me to train along guys who more fit the mold of an athlete, without feeling pressure or anxiety.