SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
For Airmen, the fight in “fit to fight” doesn’t just mean fighting overseas. It encompasses the smaller or unknown battles as well, the everyday struggles, the clash of fading confidence, the conflicts of setting the example, the duel between self-discipline and yourself.
Some Airmen are stuck in trenches waiting for the battle to end. Some charge over the hill and succeed, though at a bloody cost. One Airman here has defeated these demons before and now hopes to help lead the charge to help new Airmen in the same way he helped himself.
Airman 1st Class Matthew Graves, a traffic management Airman from the 82nd Logistics Readiness Squadron, and the 1st place winner of the classic physique portion of the Organization of Competition Bodies’ Shamrock Cup Classic bodybuilding competition at the University of New Hampshire, was not always mistaken for a well-tanned Greek statue.
He said he referred to himself as chubby back in the day.
“Fitness has really changed my life,” Graves said. “I used to be a really big guy out of high school, but then fell in love with fitness. Obviously, it’s important for your health, but it’ll get you in the habit of feeling better about yourself.”
Now in a committed, some would say serious relationship with fitness for about a six years, Graves now sees the world, himself and what he could be able to do in a new, very bright, very big, light.
“For me, it’s more of an addiction,” Graves said. “I’m a bit of a fitness fanatic, I have a passion for it. I can see there’s a difference between me loving bodybuilding and just striving for a healthy lifestyle. Most people just strive to be healthy and that’s good, but it’s all about consistency.”
Graves said his addiction to fitness ultimately forces him to go to the gym to gain his dream body. He recognizes that might not be the case for other Airmen. They might not find the time or reason to go. Their minds might lean toward the "dark side", which entails burgers and sour cream.
Most agree that motivation and discipline can be one of the biggest road blocks on the road to tight calves.
“I personally think the biggest problem with the Airman for fitness is the motivation,” Graves said. “Especially the first part of working out where you don’t see any results. You need to have that discipline to live this lifestyle. To make time to keep going to the gym, to keep on a diet.”
Graves said mastering these two things will lead to success, but it all hinges on one thing keeping the two in balance, that thing being – balance.
“Everyone’s too 'busy,' but I’m not always at the gym,” he said. “I always find the time with friends, I hang out with my dog. I just see that as a problem for young Airmen because some don’t know if they can fit that one-hour fitness session in. They just need to find balance.”
Graves expressed that he does not feel like the young Airmen are going after their true potential. He wishes they could also see the benefits of fitness. Confidence and discipline. He hopes to show others what he saw when he first started.
“I know it’s intimidating sometimes to go to the gym. The biggest fear I had when I started was, 'Am I doing this right?' because everyone around me was bigger than me and I did not know what I was doing, but what they (the Airmen) got to know is these big guys in the gym aren’t there to show off, well some do, but they’re there to do their work out and go home, not to judge.”
Another of his passions is seeing his fellow Airmen succeed safely. Graves said safety is his biggest fear now in the gym. He has already helped others with plans and diet schedules and he hopes to see other Airmen take their lifestyles in a positive direction.
Do not worry though, Graves does not go around forcing people to do jumping jacks and push-ups …even though he could… he doesn’t. Instead, Graves uses his personal motivation to hopefully help others.
He said he will continue on the path to be a bodybuilding champion and one day a personal trainer in his own gym. Yet, he said he will always have time to help someone who just wants to better themselves.