Wellness Highlight: Warden Brian Koehn

Byline: By Christina Vinson

If you were to ask Brian Koehn what it’s like to complete an Ironman Triathlon, he would tell you it's not for the faint of heart.

Brian Koehn biking in the half Ironman Triathlon Brian Koehn presses through the bike race portion of the half Ironman Triathlon.

An Ironman Triathlon includes a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride, and a 26.2-mile marathon, raced in that order. And no, you cannot take a break.

Koehn, who currently serves as the warden at CCA Florence Correctional Center, has been involved in a variety of fitness activities throughout his life. He’s tried his hand at mountaineering, ice climbing, rock climbing and hiking. He even completed the infamous Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim hike/run in less than 24 hours.

But, until 2015, he had never done an Ironman. When a friend challenged him, he said yes. “I couldn’t say no to a challenge from my best friend.”

He completed a half Ironman in August of 2015 outside of Henderson, Nev., and did a full Ironman in November at the age of 50 in Arizona. While the race in itself is an extreme challenge, Koehn explained the training is the toughest aspect.

“The race is a sum of the training; it’s done before you get there,” he said. “Training correctly is the key to success when you are racing for 140.6 miles. The training challenges the mind and body. When you ride your bike for seven or eight hours straight, your mind wants to quit.”

ARTICLE: Working for Wellness

Koehn did three hours of training every weekday and made the weekends his long training days. Monday was the only day off, and he admitted, “It’s a huge sacrifice; all of your waking time is at work or training.”

For Koehn, the most intimidating factor of the Ironman was not the marathon or bike ride; it was swimming 2.4 miles in the water.

“When I first started training for the race I could barely swim two laps in a pool. By the time I was finished, I was swimming 130 laps in the pool,” he said. “The only way to get good at swimming is water time."

The race day swimming was much tougher than he imagined. “You’re in the water with 3,000 athletes, and you’re getting kicked and elbowed,” he said.

He pushed through biking in the rain, becoming hypothermic at 112 miles, and running the marathon. When he finally finished, he felt an enormous amount of pride. “You’re so physically and mentally tired; It took me 14 hours and 38 minutes to finish. My parents were there — my mom said she never saw me smile so much. I was pathetically happy.”

Because Koehn is proactive in his physical fitness, it’s not surprising that he wants to see those around him taking care of their bodies too.

“Living a healthy life is very important because corrections is a high stress occupation,” he said. “We need to take care of ourselves physically and mentally in order to not take it home to our families.”

At Florence, employees have the option of participating in a wellness program. And of course, Koehn tries his best to inspire his colleagues.

“I talk to people about fitness all the time. I model it because everyone knows what I do and how much training I go through,” he said. “The Florence facility strives to support a healthy environment."

Included in the wellness program are a fitness room for staff (with pull-up bars, dumbbells, cardio equipment and more), a monthly bulletin with coaching tips and fitness ideas, weight loss competitions, and a free salad for every staff member on every shift.

“We’re constantly reminding others that fitness is a personal choice,” Koehn said.

Editor's Note: At the time this article was written, Brian Koehn was warden at CCA Florence Correctional Center. He has since transferred to CCA Cibola County Correctional Center as warden.

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