When people think of bodybuilding, they think of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ronnie Coleman or Lou Ferrigno, bodies bulging with muscles and the image of superhuman strength. Here at Luke Air Force Base, a group of athletes gathered at the base theater to compete in a bodybuilding physique, figure and bikini contest Saturday. The competition was not just about the show of muscle, but a celebration of hard work and a healthy lifestyle.
The competition began at Luke four years ago with Pernell Stoney, 56th Force Support Squadron fitness and sports manager. He brought the idea with him from his overseas tours in Asia.
“I used to do this when I was overseas with the Army and Marine Corps in Japan and Korea,” Stoney said. “We held bodybuilding competitions every year. Once I came here, I brought up the idea and was told they used to do it 15 years ago. So I said OK, we’ll do it again.”
The biannual bodybuilding competition is held at the base theater. The event is open to all active-duty military, civilians with military sponsorship, Defense Department employees and family members. Participants must be at least 18.
Trophies were awarded in two categories divided by height and age. Winners received trophies for placing first, second or third. Winners who placed in fourth and fifth received medallions.
Bodybuilders say the process has been life-changing. It’s hard work but the benefits are tremendous.
“People involved in bodybuilding have told me it changed their lives tremendously,” Stoney said. “They live a cleaner lifestyle. Bodybuilding competition teaches how to eat properly, how to work out and get results from what you are doing. It’s not only about getting up on the stage, it’s about changing your lifestyle. It creates a whole new dynamic in the person.”
Bodybuilders follow strict diets and work out up to five days a week, training for competition and spending long hours in the gym each day. Consequently, not many people sign up for the biannual competition.
“It’s very difficult to get people to compete,” Stoney said. “People like to watch, but they don’t like to participate.”
The contest is not just about competing, it’s also about keeping Airmen battle ready.
“For us as fitness center employees our goal is to try and offer programs that get everybody involved, so they can change their physical abilities, do the things they need to do, keep themselves combat ready and physically fit,” Stoney said. “It’s a fantastic way of getting people involved in fitness and training.”
Bodybuilding not only benefits the competing individual, but also those in the audience who aspire to improve themselves physically.
“One of my key things about doing a competition, it’s not just for you,” Stoney said. “You are setting an example for someone else who is sitting out there saying, ‘Wow, I like the way that person looks. I wonder what he did to get that way.’ It’s a twofold thing: You face your fears getting on stage, and you help someone else get involved in physical training.”
Susan Smith, 56th Maintenance Group maintenance scheduler, placed third in the bikini competition. The event helped her grow as a person.
“Participating in this competition meant a lot,” Smith said. “I didn’t have a lot of confidence, and I wanted to do something to push me out of my shell. This was the perfect thing to do.”