MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Sgt. Yuri Astorga is not your typical Miami girl. She may be from there, but mini-skirts, high heels and sunglasses that cover half of her face were never really her style.
Since ninth grade, she has spent most of her life at the gym, training to have a fit body and compete as a female body builder.
“My best friend’s sister did competitions and I used to hang out at her house and I was always amazed by her muscles,” said Astorga. “So we started working out together and I did my first competition when I was in 10th grade. I placed third.”
Throughout high school, Astorga competed in several fitness and figure competitions, maintaining a strict diet and rigorous workout schedule.
Upon completion of high school, she was given the opportunity to take advantage of a soccer scholarship to Florida State University, but instead decided that she would make the Marine Corps her career path.
“(My father) was a retired (Chief Warrant Officer 5),” said Astorga. “I just wanted to follow in his footsteps.”
Now, as a corporal’s course instructor aboard Camp Johnson, she juggles her Marine Corps career along with preparing for her first bodybuilding competition, August 20, since joining the Marine Corps six years ago.
“I’ve always trained but I’ve never thought about competing because of the Marine Corps and my job,” said Astorga. “The Marine Corps comes first, but if I can do both then I’ll do it.”
As a corporal’s course instructor, Astorga provides junior noncommissioned officers with the skills necessary to lead Marines by teaching them warfighting skills, core values and basic Marine Corps knowledge. The course gives them the mindset necessary for effective leadership of a team and subordinate Marines.
“When they go back to their units, they will be better leaders and more versatile,” said Astorga. “We teach them how to make command decisions and make them good leaders. Instead of just sitting in the background and complaining, they’re doing something about it.”
But before breaking off her corporals every morning, she gets up early to slay herself in the gym. When she gets off work, she heads back for another two-to-three hour workout followed by posing practice.
Since recently deciding to get back into the bodybuilding world, Staff Sgt. Christopher Holmes, a combat instructor at the School of Infantry East aboard Camp Geiger, has taken her under his wing as her trainer and mentor.
“I hit a plateau,” said Astorga. “I felt like my muscles were used to my workout, my body was used to my diet and I decided I needed help so I called (Holmes). I was stuck and I was making no progress on my own, and then within a week, the definition in my muscles was showing up. In two weeks, he had me down five more pounds and more cut and now I’m pushing more weight and I’m losing more weight.”
Holmes, who has been bodybuilding for nine years, helps her with her workout routine and diet, as well as posing.
“I watch her body weekly,” said Holmes. “I’ll say, ‘Eat this, see how you react to it and we’ll go from there.’ It’s a lot of experimenting right now because I just picked her up three weeks ago. She knows what she’s doing, she just needed someone to push her harder and that’s how I came into play.”
With work and the gym, Astorga doesn’t have much time to have a personal life.
“I barely talk to my family,” she said. “I don’t have time. My mom calls me and I’m like, ‘I’m headed to the gym. I’ll call you when I get out of there.’ I get done at midnight, sometimes one o’clock in the morning and I’m ready to kick it again in the next day at four o’clock in the morning, go to the gym, do my cardio and start my day all over again.”
When it comes to her Marine Corps career, her workout schedule pays off.
“Being a female Marine, for some reason you have to prove yourself,” said Astorga. “I went down to Mexico to train their Spanish Marines and their armed services do not have any females. They didn’t respect me until I took them out for their first (physical training) session. Once we started running and I started doing pull-ups, they realized ‘she can out run me and she can out lift me.’ It helps out a lot.”
Bodybuilding not only gives her the respect she deserves but also gives her students and junior Marines a mentor to look to up to.
“A lot of the corporals come up to me and ask ‘How do you get your pull-ups up?’ or tell me they need some kind of plan,” she said. “They start looking up to you and it’s a good feeling.”
However, being a body builder isn’t as easy as just going to the gym and eating healthy.
“You have to have a lot of discipline and heart,” said Astorga. “You have to love it. If you have inspiration and you love what you do, you don’t need motivation. You want to do it, you want you better yourself and you can’t wait to hit the gym no matter how tired you are because once you’re in there, you feel better.”
She added that her inspiration and motivation to push herself when there is nothing left and her muscles are exhausted comes from her husband.
“When I am tired and all I want to do is rest and crawl into bed, I think about my husband being in the front lines and defending our freedom,” said Astorga. “He is due back in August, which means he will be able to support me during my upcoming competition.”
Through her dedication, Astorga continues to perfect and sculpt her body as a female body builder and performs to exceed the Marine Corps expectations on a daily basis.
“She is absolutely outstanding as a noncommissioned officer,” said Holmes. “She is an exceptional leader and will do big things in the Marine Corps.”