MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. --
Pushing his body to its limits, 26-year-old 1st Lt. Mycal Anders, body builder and Marine Air Control Squadron 1 air traffic control officer, can be found at the gym, every day twice a day, training for his first national qualifying body building competition.
Anders, born on Torrejon Air Base in Madrid, Spain, and traveling all over the world growing up as a military brat, was introduced to the world of body building September 1997, when his father took the then 13-year-old Anders to an Armed Forces body building competition at Air Force Base Camp Foster in Okinawa, Japan.
"I didn't know anything about body building then," said Anders. "I didn't know what all went into it. I was real skinny as a kid and always into athletics, but when I saw those guys on stage I was in awe."
Throughout high school, Anders participated in football and track to keep his physical fitness level high. After high school, he went to the Air Force Academy for two years, continuing his football career only to blow his knee out in October 2004. He finished the 2005 football season and later went to Texas A&M University-Commerce where he finished his degree in health and human performance kinesiology in 2006.
After school he was a personal trainer and fitness consultant with Gold's Gym for two years, and participated in his first body building competition, where he took fifth place in the novice middleweight division in the 2007 Heart of Texas competition with the National Physique Committee in Dallas.
"Being on stage was amazing," said Anders. "It was something I've never experienced before. After football I was in search for another goal, another activity that would keep me self-motivated and keep me training. That's what body building offered me."
Since joining the Marine Corps in January 2008, he has competed in Yuma's 2009 Wild Wild West championship with the American National Bodybuilding Association, which he took first place in the novice and open tall class.
He is currently training for his third competition hosted by the NPC in Los Angeles, March 26, 2011, in the light heavyweight division weighing in at 198 pounds. Although Anders is an amateur body builder for now, the March 26 show will be a national qualifying competition giving him a chance to compete at a national level.
Anders commits to a show about six months prior and keeps in mind the three key elements to training, cardio, weight training and nutrition.
His workout regiment consists of abs, calves and cardio in the morning and then weight training at lunch. The nutrition portion of it is an everyday thing, said Anders.
"I don't believe in the word diet," said Anders. "It begins with D-I-E. It eventually fails you. My philosophy in general health and fitness is eat clean all year long and you won't have to diet."
Being a Marine and body builder, Anders has to be conscious of all fitness levels.
"It takes a lot of commitment to prepare for a show," said Anders. "Regardless of the priority that body building has for me, however, it never takes away from my obligations to the Marine Corps. ... When I prepare for a show I'm also thinking about the physical fitness test I need to take soon. I need to keep in mind the Marine Corps side of it."
Anders makes the necessary adjustments in order to facilitate everything he needs to do on a regular work day and also accomplish the extracurricular activities that come with preparing for a show.
"When I was sent to Twentynine Palms three weeks ago for TAD (temporary additional duty), I came home that weekend before I left and cooked enough food to last four and a half days. I stored it and carried it with me to Twentynine Palms," said Anders. "I took care of the daily business out there and did it with a bag full of Tupperware."
The mentality Anders keeps about being both a Marine and body builder is always positive.
"I'm glad I can do both," said Anders. "As far as I know the Corps is the only organization where you get paid to work out."
Pursuing body building is a way of life and takes more than just going to the gym regularly. There are sacrifices that have to be made.
"Rest is a big obstacle," he said. "You have to make sure you're giving yourself enough time to recover. Even for me, having a degree and experience as a personal trainer with knowledge on my side, it's hard to make sure I get enough sleep. Late nights with friends are out of the question. If you're not at work, the gym, or in the kitchen, you're sleeping. It's a way of life you adjust to."
Another factor is nutrition.
"Nutrition is big," he adds. "There is no more fast food whatsoever. You have to keep in check what you put in your body. A lot of time is spent in the kitchen. You have to make the time to fit things like that into your daily routine."
Being a Marine and a body builder gives Anders the opportunity to give his junior Marines something to look up to.
"I enjoy it because of the way I have to prepare for it really highlights a healthy lifestyle and sets an example for my Marines," he said. "They see all I put into this and the commitment it takes outside of just going to the gym to maintain a higher standard of fitness. It takes a whole lot of dedication and that's what they can take from this."