MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina --
Sweating until there’s nothing left, lifting until the muscles in their bodies can barely push out the last rep, maintaining proper nutrition and constantly staying hydrated is only a small portion of the team’s daily routine.
The team consists of Master Sgt. Demetrius A. Crofts, staff noncommissioned officer in charge for the Infantry Squad Leader Course at the Advanced Infantry Training Battalion; Staff Sgt. DJ Snyder, motor transport chief with 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division; Staff Sgt. Timothy Mooney, motor transport operations chief with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; Staff Sgt. Christopher Holmes, academic specialist with School of Infantry East Academics and Kate Judy, dependent of Staff Sgt. Christopher Judy.
Saturday, four of the five bodybuilders competed in a local competition held in Wilmington.
Crofts took fourth place in the men’s over 40 category, Snyder took first place in the novice category, Holmes took first place in the super heavy weight category and Judy took second place in the women’s category.
While many consider bodybuilding a sport, any bodybuilder will say that it’s much more than just that – it’s a lifestyle.
“It’s the ultimate challenge and probably one of the most recognized forms of self-discipline,” said Crofts. “It’s definitely one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done or taken up. It’s just having the self-discipline and willpower to know that you have one more set, one more rep but still being carb depleted and pushing through it.”
Many of their days consist of waking up at 3:30 a.m. just to prepare for the gym, making sure they get in a good meal and get their minds right for the next workout they’re about to attack. They arrive to the gym by 4:30 and workout for about an hour and a half, sometimes including cardio.
After working a full day with everyone else, most of them head back to the gym to get in their second bout of cardio or weightlifting, and run through posing sessions to prepare for their next competition.
“A lot of times, I’ll come in at 3 a.m. to do whatever workout I have planned for the day and then do a six-mile hump with the students,” said Croft.
Snyder, who began lifting with Crofts in November of last year, has now been involved in bodybuilding for five months.
Starting at 128 pounds, his goal weight was 185. He now weighs 172.
“I’m constantly eating,” said Snyder. “You’re talking 12 to 16 hard boiled eggs a day, three cans of tuna, four pieces of steak or chicken, ground beef, a pound of yogurt a day and two gallons of water.”
All of that is just to put on the weight, but when preparing for a competition, they start depleting to show off the most amount of muscle definition.
During depletion, the team eats all clean food: broccoli, greens, ground turkey, ground chicken, tilapia, chicken breast and start consuming less and less water, eventually only eating ice cubes when necessary.
“I tell them a couple days out how much longer they have to cheat,” said Crofts. “After that, no more pizza, no more beer and I can’t have my honeybun every Saturday.”
While gaining and dropping weight rapidly and often, this elite team also has to keep up with Marine Corps standards.
“I put on 42 pounds, and I recently had to run a Marine Corps (physical fitness test),” said Snyder. “I don’t know too many bodybuilders that are within Marine Corps standards as far as making weight, but they come in as far as their body fat percentages. I was nine pounds over at my last weigh-in and wanted to tape me, but I went and ran my PFT and I outdid everyone with a 298.”
They not only train for appearance but also ability.
“I’m an (infantryman) from day one,” said Crofts. “I look around the Marine Corps and there’s Marines with hurt backs, hurt legs. There’s a proper form and a proper technique to every lift, so if I’m going to lift up an ammo can or a crate of ammo, I’m going to do the same thing. Whereas other Marines are going to bend over and fling it up and next thing you know, they’re throwing their back out.”
Being Marines and bodybuilders also gives this team the opportunity to give their junior Marines something to look up to.
“When I was a corporal I didn’t really have anyone to look up to that was in great shape,” said Crofts. “I’ve had Marines come up to me after class and ask me ‘Can you help me with this?’ or ‘I’m preparing for (Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command), what should I be doing to train?’”
But most importantly, discipline is the greatest thing any bodybuilder can gain. Discipline gives them the ability to inch toward their goals every day and turn their bodies into the works of art they have created.