Paralegal builds strength in and out of the gym

  • Published
  • By 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

After working a long day in the extreme heat of the desert, most Airmen are ready to relax for a few hours or maybe they even head straight to bed, but not Master Sgt. Nikki Walberg. She is on her way to the pool for her first workout of the day.

Walberg, assigned to the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing as a paralegal, works out up to three times a day to keep her body and mind away from a dark place she said she was in not too long ago.

Leading up to her deployment, her body was breaking down. First, she had a bone removed that was rubbing against her Achilles tendon, which had ruptured on a previous deployment back in 2012. Shortly after that, there was a procedure to repair a bulging disk in her back. Still, the hardest one was the partial hysterectomy that was needed to stop severe abdominal pain caused by benign tumors.  

“I was only 36 at the time and that thought of never having another child significantly impacted me,” said Walberg, a mother of two. “I was depressed, and eating more and more.”

Anyone of those procedures individually could sideline the most in shape person. From November of 2016 to February of 2017, Walberg was bedridden or on the couch, as she was unable to participate in physical activities. 

“I had three surgeries within a month,” said Walberg who had complications with two of the procedures. “I had a hard time coping and not being able to work out so I ate, a lot. I gained more weight than when I was pregnant.”

Recovery and rehabilitation are hard physically, but there was a huge strain mentally. She had gained nearly 30 pounds. When she stepped on the scales at the pharmacy showing her body mass index as obese, for Walberg it was “literally the worst feeling in the world.” 

As she felt her body was start to heal, there were questions whether she would be able deploy. Walberg pushed herself to be ready to meet the physical standards but also knew she would need help with her mental fitness as well.

“It’s mind over matter, that’s the most important thing,” Walberg said. “You have to get yourself right mentally before you can physically, and it took me a long time to get there.”

Leading up to her traveling overseas, she went to therapy and talked with family and friends, who supported her. As she was becoming mentally fit, her body began to change too which continued when she arrived in theater. Even though she has been busy traveling through the area of responsibility providing legal service to members of all the branches of U.S. military service and civilians, she focused on putting time in the gym.

Walberg has lost 26 pounds and 5.5 inches off of her waist during her six months here.

“I’m at the pool at 3 [p.m.] to swim laps,” said Walberg, the Air Forces Central Command senior non-commissioned officer paralegal of the first quarter. “After that, I go to my CrossFit workout then head straight to the gym for cardio, lifting and abs.”

When Walberg returns home from her deployment, she understands she won’t be able to work out as much. Her days will be filled with being a mom of two teenagers, working at a busy installation plus an upcoming permanent change of station, but she plans to work out twice a day.

“I feel healthier and am happier all around,” said Walberg. “I am so thankful to have a good support system here and the time to focus on being a better me. My CrossFit family really helped me along the way.”

Those CrossFit workouts are difficult and a challenge to complete both physically and mentally. Even though Walberg has said she had some choice words to her coaches for the pain they are inflicting during the sessions, she is thankful for Lt. Col. Fernando Waldron and Tech. Sgt. Blake Martin, her coaches. They are happy to see the participants in those classes meet their fitness goals but they are especially proud of Walberg.

“Tech. Sgt. Martin and I put a lot of thought into programming workouts so all the athletes are given the opportunity to become better versions of themselves,” said Waldron, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing comptroller. “Master Sgt. Walberg's physical change shows the dedication it takes to make real lifestyles changes through diet and exercise.”

Now that she has showed her resiliency by overcoming her challenges and working herself into shape both mentally and physically, she is looking to do the same for others.  When she returns home, Walberg is planning to teach CrossFit or become a physical trainer.

“Honestly, you are not going to lose weight unless you feel good on the inside,” she said. “It is going to be painful but you have to keep at it, keep going one day at a time.”