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Fitness lifestyle takes commander to fourth Ironman

Col. David Smith competes in his fourth Ironman competition last month in Mont-Tremblant in Quebec, Canada.

Col. David Smith, 419th Fighter Wing commander, competes in his fourth Ironman competition last month in Mont-Tremblant in Quebec, Canada. (Courtesy photo)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah – The 419th Fighter Wing commander is leading by example when it comes to physical fitness. Col. David Smith recently finished his fourth Ironman Triathlon last month in Mont-Tremblant in Quebec, Canada.


Ironman is a competitive triathlon that draws world-class athletes to conquer a rigorous 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run.


Smith finished 21st out of about 300 competitors ages 45-49, one of the event’s most competitive age groups. He finished in 11 hours, 1 minute, and 44 seconds. 


“I try to do one full Ironman a year,” Smith said. “It’s pretty training intensive, but when fitness is a priority, it becomes a lifestyle.”


Smith was involved in swimming and water polo in high school and college, but his fitness journey kicked into high gear during his assignment to Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, from 2011 to 2013. He was inspired by a friend to make exercise a priority, at which time he became “addicted” to health and fitness, dropping more than 30 pounds.


Since then, the F-35 fighter pilot said he has participated in “six or seven” half Ironman events and four full triathlons. He said he makes time for one hour of exercise every morning, and will sometimes squeeze in a workout during lunch hour.


“It doesn’t take as much time as people think,” Smith said. “One and a half to two hours a day and you could compete at the Ironman level.”


Smith said competing is just one way to motivate himself to stay healthy and fit throughout the year, but he also wants to motivate the roughly 1,200 Airmen under his command.


“Airmen shouldn’t be PT test warriors, they should adopt a lifestyle of fitness,” Smith said. “A healthy lifestyle leads to readiness.”


Smith said fitness is one important aspect of making an Airman deployable.


“If our Airmen are physically fit, they’re going to be more mentally prepared for some of the stressors that go along with combat and the places we deploy.”