BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Bodybuilding is not a sprint, it's a marathon. Airmen got a chance to show off their hard work and dedication to fitness as they participated in a bodybuilding competition open to all servicemembers and civilians on Bagram Airfield. The arena was packed with spectators as the bodybuilders prepared backstage, oiling up and getting pumped to entertain the crowd. Like rock stars, the bodybuilders entered center stage to perform their individual routines to a cheering crowd holding posters and rooting for their favorite contestants.
For some competitors this is a lifestyle and was not their first show. Others, such as first timers Capt. Michelle Ruehl and Staff Sgt. Adam Nicola, both from the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing, were not easy to pick out during the competition, even though they had mere weeks to prepare for the event.
"This was my first competition," Ruehl said. "I had a great time training for it, but I knew I was limited on time." Nicola had taken up bodybuilding in college but this was also his first competition. "I work out hard every day at the gym and like the way it makes me look," said Nicola, who deployed from Joint Base Langley- Eustis, Va. "Getting on that stage and showing what I worked for is just a bonus." Competing in the bodybuilding event is also part of a bigger picture to some Airmen. At the Air Force Academy, Ruehl played rugby to stay fit but noticed in her mid-30's staying fit takes a little bit more work. As the unit fitness program manager for her squadron, she wanted to show the younger troops that fitness is more than just a standard. "It's better to set an example than to just tell people they 'should' be fit," said Ruehl, who deployed from Beale Air Force Base, Calif. "You can stay fit and strong at any age." For many these competitions are about getting out of their comfort zones and pushing it to the limit of their physical capabilities to impress the crowd. "Hearing the crowd roar is the best part of the competitions for me," Nicola said. "They make you want to flex even harder than you should already be flexing." Ruehl and Nicola both placed in top positions in their divisions and are hooked on the sport. They are already planning to participate in more competitions back at their home stations.