Through Airmen's Eyes: First sergeant flexes natural muscle
Master Sgt. LaJuan Fuller, 366th Civil Engineer Squadron first sergeant, practices posing to music he selected for his upcoming body-building competition to ensure his timing and poses are proper in Mountain Home, Idaho, April 25, 2012. Fuller uses has a membership at a gym off base which allows him to take his shirt off while practicing his poses and utilize a tanning bed to even out his tan lines before competitions. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Heather Hayward)
by Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton
366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
11/30/2012 - MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho (AFNS) -- (This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)
Where are you at 3:40 a.m.? Master Sgt. LaJuan Fuller, 366th Civil Engineering Squadron first sergeant, is at the gym. He's been up for more than an hour and is alone inside the building.
"Being a shirt, I can get a phone call at any time," said Fuller. "Weight training this early in the morning ensures I can concentrate on my workout without being disturbed."
He is a self-described natural body-builder and a member of the National Gym Association. As a member he is forbidden to use performance enhancing supplements or drugs, only protein.
"As a member of the NGA and a professional bodybuilder, I feel it's important to promote healthy, overall fitness and follow the guidelines set forth by the International Olympic Committee," he said. "Steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs are deadly as well as not necessary to achieve maximum results."
While exercising he counts repetitions in his head, always in rhythm. He understands the physical training is necessary to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This is how he earned 18-inch biceps.
"The human body is a machine capable of pushing itself farther and farther," said Fuller. "So I stay with the rhythm of the music regardless of the pain or stress throughout the workout."
Eventually, another person enters the gym bringing the new grand total four in the entire building. Fuller doesn't seem to notice as he is concentrating on his workout. His mind clears during workouts, he said. He knows it takes concentration to win competitions.
The 20th Annual NGA Northwest Natural Pro-Atlas Bodybuilding and Figure Championship is a week away.
"This close to a competition the lighter weight repetitions help me to burn calories which tones and defines my muscles," said Fuller.
His eyes convey no emotion just that same driving, focused peace, while his muscles twitch and strain as he goes through his routine.
"It takes time," he said. "I target specific muscle groups to get my desired results."
To achieve perfection he works out standing, sitting, lying down and even on his knees. Like everything from his personal life to his military career, he is dedicated to be the best.
"There are two types of bodybuilders, competition and recreational," said Fuller. "I am a competitive bodybuilder because ultimately, I want to win."
The morning of the competition is chilly and dark. If he is nervous when he arrives, it doesn't show. Fuller is surrounded by fellow competitors who have thick spray tans across their bodies. They listen to music and wear gym shorts and sweatshirts while standing in line to check-in and receive their complimentary gift bags and assorted goodies.
The mood among the athletes is relaxed as always, said Fuller.
"Most of us are focusing on our routines and trying to conserve energy because once we hit the stage, we leave it all out there," he said. "Sometimes people work an entire year or two for those five minutes of competition."
Meanwhile, family and friends roam throughout the hallways of Timberline High School in Boise, Idaho, where the event is held. They talk amongst each other while enjoying the atmosphere before the competition begins. They are a very tight-knit group.
"The bodybuilding scene, especially the professional category, is close because everyone understands how difficult it is to become a pro and how much effort we put into this lifestyle," said Fuller. "Normally, we all do the same shows a year and we just want to see everyone succeed."
By evening, the standing-room-only auditorium is a mad-house. The audience members cheer, scream and applaud during the routines. Regardless of who is on stage, they shout advice and compliments to each competitor.
As he walks onto the stage, his oiled body is shimmering beneath the bright lights. Pose after pose begins to take its toll physically on Fuller. The judges give him his instructions and he follows without hesitation despite the twitching of his muscles.
"It takes a lot of practice to hold each pose again and again," said Fuller. "I have to block out the heat from the lights or the crowd distractions and hit each pose perfectly.
Regardless of the pain or twitching I keep my face controlled and serene."
These are the poses he has practiced thousands of times and executed each move with seemingly inhuman precision.
Now, his training comes down to a few moments in front of the judges. But Fuller is calm and collected. He is prepared.