Champion powerlifting Airman: 'It's all about fitness'

  • Published
  • By Thomas G. Kistler
  • Air Mobility Command Public Affairs
It doesn't matter that he holds 21 military national weightlifting records; or that he set eight American powerlifting records; or that he lifted a record-setting 1,492 pounds at the recent 2011 Raw World Powerlifting Championships; or that he has been selected for the rank of chief master sergeant.

What matters most to Senior Master Sgt. Troy Saunders, the functional manager of vehicle management for Air Mobility Command, is fitness. That's what got him started down this path, and it's still an important part of his life every day.

When Saunders was 8 years old, he decided to become a decathlete just like the star of the 1976 Olympics, Bruce Jenner. But to compete in the decathlon he needed to be fit.

"So I started running, and in junior high and high school I was doing all the decathlon sports," he said. "I was never a great runner as far as marathon distances, but I did it anyway."

Realizing he excelled in strength sports, Saunders concentrated in those areas and eventually focused on weightlifting. Even so, he competed in the shot-put on the 2010 Air Force track and field team.

In addition to Bruce Jenner, another influence on Saunders' life of fitness was Jack LaLanne.

"That's the only thing I knew about fitness when I was growing up," said Saunders. "My exposure to any kind of fitness thing was usually older stuff. Then, it was all about hard work, good diet, pride in yourself . . . Midwest values as far as working hard."

Those values of hard work and of doing what he said he would do carried Saunders along his path of healthy living and fitness. He said he would compete in the decathlon and he did. He said he would compete in powerlifting and not only compete, but also break records. He competed and now holds 21 records. He said he would get his professional card in bodybuilding, and today he's active in the sport.

Saunders' values and dedication to fitness and physical accomplishment also transferred to other aspects of his life.

"It was time to get my degree, so I became focused and finished it," he said. "It was time for me to really focus on what it took to make chief and focus on that aspect of my career. All the things I've done had a foundation in fitness very early in my life. It seemed like to me that if I set a goal to do something and took the steps, focused on nutrition and did the work, it would happen."

And happen it did. At the 2011 Military National Powerlifting Championship, he set a deadlift record of 644.75 pounds in the 198 pound class, which was a good match for the record he set in March 2010 at the Military National Powerlifting Championship in the 220 pound class by deadlifting 650.25 pounds. This success comes from his fitness philosophy.

"Fitness is a very individual thing," Saunders said. "Regardless of the fact that we have a fitness test that we have to pass, you should make fitness a part of your life."

"Do something as an integral part of your life that you enjoy, that you can sustain for lifelong purposes beyond your time in the military," he added. "Fitness is priceless from the fact that it offers you a lot of benefits health-wise, and long-term, when you're 60, 70 or 80 years old. If you've lived a long, fit life, like Jack LaLanne, you're going to enjoy life a lot more."

Saunders is scheduled to sew on his chief stripes in October. His next weightlifting competition is the World Raw Powerlifting Championships in March 2012.