Fierce winds. Frozen sleet. Scorching heat.
These do not deter Brig. Gen. David W. Smith.
Whether his challenges arrive as extreme climates or as leadership responsibilities scheduled from dawn to dusk, Smith persists through all to pursue his goals as an Ironman triathlete.
“My first Ironman Triathlon was in Lake Tahoe,” he said. “It snowed the night before and was freezing the morning of the race. We had to wear extra layers of clothing for every event. For these races, which can last 10 to 12 hours, you have to adapt and be prepared for anything – wind, cold or heat.”
Smith’s accomplishments as an Ironman triathlete reflect a lifetime commitment to fitness. He has completed six of these extreme triathlons, with a goal of one a year. In 2022, he will compete in the event’s World Championships.
Smith’s discipline and a relentless passion for achieving his goals have inspired and motivated his journey through decades of training. Balance has been the foundation.
“As long as you have a regimen, set a goal, and allocate your time to balance military, personal and civilian life, you can achieve what you set out to do,” he said. “It took me roughly 10 years to reach my goal to qualify for the Ironman World Championships, but I never gave up.”
Ironman training ‘a whole-person activity’
For Smith, who joined the Air Force Reserve in 2002, training is a way of life – and an activity that extends beyond the physical.
“I think of my training sessions as personal time,” he said. “It’s a whole-person activity for physical, mental and emotional health. When I train, I’m not on my device or taking phone calls. It’s personal time for a full, well-being experience. I treat it like meditation.”
Through the years, Smith has explored and discovered his own path to achieve his dreams. As a father, friend and military leader, he inspires by example.
“Pick a goal or an event that will drive you to have a goal and a fitness plan,” said Smith, who will be 53 in November. “When we talk about balancing goals and schedules, it’s important for guardsmen and reservists to know it’s all about time management. You can navigate all of your commitments as long as you allocate the time. You can achieve whatever fitness goals you want to achieve.”
Smith believes establishing and maintaining a consistent training schedule is vital. He also considers nutrition and care of the body essential.
“Nutrition is very personal, and every person is different,” he said. “I believe in everything in moderation, but I don’t put faith in any one regimen. I listen to my body, and I believe proper stretching, hydration and nutrition are critical to success. Hydration is key, and you should practice your nutrition before you compete.
“As fitness becomes part of your life, it will improve your emotional and mental well-being.
It also improves your resilience, and you’ll be more prepared to deal with what you have to deal with, short or long term.”