“My family,” he admitted with a pause.
There was weight to his words, but you could hardly tell. Not by the way he sat for his interview, chill as an ice sculpture amidst the cacophonous roar of ventilation and machinery filling the room – the constant breath of the 100,000-ton floating leviathan he now calls home.
He spoke about his family’s relationship with fitness, or lack thereof. According to him, they were not fitness inclined. He talked about his father, his sister and his worry.
“All he [his father] needs to do is talk to me and I can help him out. But he never has.”
He confessed that his family’s fitness situation is a problem he has always been aware of. For someone who’s been fit and athletic his whole life, the issue was not something he could take idly.
“I’ve always thought: ‘If I want to help my family, this is what I need to do.’ I work with a lot of different clients, from military to civilians, but the number one client I really want to help is my family. Having this basic knowledge is really for them, or that was my original intention.”
He didn’t seem like the average jock, high on pre-workout and muscle-fueled ego. He didn’t portray the image of a juiced-up beast that could crush anyone’s limbs or self-esteem with its bare hands. Instead, his toned, slender body sat casually in its chair. A wide inviting smile drew itself along his face as he spoke and his eyes gleamed with youthful energy in the spotlight cast by his glasses. A touch of relaxed asymmetry made itself evident in the earrings he wore – two in each earlobe, three of them black with a silver one breaking the pattern. His face was framed by a scruffy beard and a full head of messy hair in a ponytail streaked with a bold, golden stripe. Not the most conservative of looks, but one he seemed to embrace as enthusiastically as his role aboard USS Ronald Reagan.
May 17, 2017 - Michael Motohashi, the Fit Boss aboard the Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), demonstrates a stretch during a fitness class in the ship's hangar bay. Ronald Reagan, the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 5, provides a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Eduardo Otero)
His job is to keep more than 5,000 forward-deployed Sailors in fighting shape.
He’s expected to serve as an example of peak health and endurance for the kind of people who go out to sea for months at a time, leaving their loved ones and basic comforts behind to defend everyone else’s.
He wears shirts with “Navy Fitness” proudly stamped on the front. Others displaying words like “strength” spread across his back.
They call him the Fit Boss – a title he proudly welcomes as an alias, but if you ask how he’d rather be addressed, he states it simply. “Fit Boss is cool, but I definitely don’t wanna be called Sir,” he declared with weightless demeanor. “I’m Mike, dude.”
The son of a Filipino mom and Japanese dad, Michael Motohashi wears his heart on his sleeve, a heart that beats for Yokosuka, Japan.
“I was pretty much raised in Japan. I went for a few years to the States just to learn a little bit of English. I was raised at CFAY (Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka). I went to elementary school, middle school and high school in CFAY.”
Mike considers himself a military brat, a by-product of his mother marrying to a Sailor when he was approximately 8 years old. He attended college in the States when he was 19.
“For me it actually came as a blessing. In college, I was originally supposed to go in as a mechanical engineer. That didn’t work out really well and I decided to take some random classes.”
He took a class on fitness and nutrition.
“After that class, I was just blown away and I decided from that day on that the path I was going to go forth on was fitness.”
His iron-pumping, heart-racing, sweat-drenched life had begun. Some more fitness classes, certifications and internships later, his road to becoming the Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier’s Fit Boss began its bulking phase.
After Mike returned home to Yokosuka with his new-found passion, skills and knowledge, his family moved to the United States. He stayed, working at CFAY as a fitness coordinator for the Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) team.
“I couldn’t leave this place. They left two years ago and they offered ‘Hey, do you want to come with us?’ I told them ‘No. My career is here, my life is here, my friends are here. I’m not leaving.’ From there, I was on my own.”
Ironically, now he finds himself miles away from home aboard a warship packed to the brim with thousands of souls counting on everything he learned and what he can bring to the table. Fit Boss’ mission to keep the crew operationally fit has just gone underway, and he’s never sailed on a ship before.
“First time on a carrier. First time deploying out to sea in a boat, period.”
As a fitness coordinator for CFAY, Mike taught group exercise classes and command fitness leader (CFL) courses. He organized marathons and body building shows.
May 17, 2017 - Michael Motohashi, the Fit Boss aboard the Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), leads a fitness class in the ship's hangar bay. Ronald Reagan, the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 5, provides a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Eduardo T. Otero)
“I bring in a lot of experience in that aspect, but doing it with such a small community as the ship is brand new to me.”
And just like any other first-timer, the Fit Boss is not immune to the worries and fears that come with forward-deployed life.
“I’m really petrified to be honest. One thing about me is I hate missing out on things, especially missing out on what happens between my friends – what happens between my family. I’m not used to that.”
According to Mike, however, none of this will get in the way of enjoying his time aboard Ronald Reagan and fulfilling his new responsibilities.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it. I can already see how much sacrifice you guys go through, especially when you deploy. It’s crazy. I’m able to do this and I’m ok with this because I’m by myself, but for those who have families, pets, kids – that is something I would not be able to do. With me being here as the Fit Boss, my main goal is to keep you guys in shape, but I’m definitely going to work close with the Fun Boss to make sure you guys have something to do on the ship – cool activities, competitions – fun stuff to keep your morale up.”
Mike is in his element when he teaches a fitness class, but what will a typical workout session be like with the new Fit Boss?
When the sweat starts pouring, muscles start tensing and his heart starts pumping more blood, Mike goes into an adrenaline rush and everyone in the class bears witness.
“When I start teaching classes, I’m easy, just like a warm-up, nice and easy. But when it’s down to working time, I change. I’m a pretty mean guy – not like a drill instructor, but oh, I’m yelling.”
As Mike described his classes, he lit up. There was passion in his voice, excitement in his expression.
“Let’s go!” he imitated a shout. “Aaaaahh! And I have them yell too.”
He continued his telling, dramatizing it as he went on. He ended his story making a panting sound, as if he had actually just finished teaching a class.
“We’re out there wild ‘n out, balls to the wall going crazy. We’re sprinting, we’re running, we’re jumping, everything.”
The Fit Boss’ responsibilities range from teaching classes, to giving advice on nutrition, training other fitness instructors and managing the gyms aboard Ronald Reagan, but Mike’s goal reaches well beyond that.
“If I get my way, what I want is to change the whole community of this ship. Everybody works out for different reasons – to look good, to stay in shape or just to relieve stress. I think fitness is a lifestyle. I want them to come to class to enjoy the class – to get that good sweat going.”
He also wants his passion to be contagious, to not only change people’s health, but their life as well – training potential instructors to help make fitness a lifestyle for everyone.
“If I can get some people like that, I’ve pulled someone who’s a normal person into the fitness realm. That’s a huge goal for us, having more people like that surrounding you.”
In May 2017, Mike had six other instructors willing to teach classes and work with him. His goal is to find 20 to 30.
After his run on Ronald Reagan is over – hopefully not for another 2 to 4 years, according to him – Mike plans to become CFAY’s fitness director, a similar job, but spanning the entire naval station.
May 17, 2017 - Michael Motohashi, the Fit Boss aboard the Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), with participants of a fitness class in the ship's hangar bay. Ronald Reagan, the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 5, provides a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Eduardo T. Otero)
Mike’s goal of being joined by his family in his fitness lifestyle may or may not come true. Either way, for the next few years , Sailors aboard Ronald Reagan can count on their Fit Boss being shoulder to shoulder with them on the deck plates, be it for a fun class, valuable training or maybe just cool conversation. Because for Mike, just being able to influence anyone’s life in a positive way is enough.
“Like I said, if I get that one person, then I know I’ve changed someone’s life. Just like that teacher who taught that one nutrition class. She didn’t know me but her class essentially set me on the path. I want to be that person for someone else. To me, that’s what fitness should be, it’s about changing someone’s lifestyle.”
As Ronald Reagan steams along through its 2017 Summer patrol, the new Fit Boss gets to work. According to him, not only is he ready for the job, but he welcomes the challenge that comes with it.
“Now, I’m at that point where, you know what? I’m ready,” Mike said, flexing a confident smile from ear to ear. “I have the tools that I need to be a successful Fit Boss. I have the experience as well. I think it’s time for me to challenge myself, and that’s pretty much the reason why I’m here. I like a little challenge.”
By U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Eduardo T. Otero
Provided through DVIDS
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