Local bodybuilders show muscle in first competition

Christine June, Story and photos
415th Base Support Battalion

***image1***Courage was the common trait shared by the three KMC members who competed in their first bodybuilding competition at the U.S. Forces Bodybuilding Championships held Oct. 16 in their own backyard at KMC Onstage on Kleber Kaserne.

Army Sgt. Brandon Herrington trained and dieted for two months to prepare for the competition. Pvt. Lawrence Shaw works out at the gym everyday but really didn’t pursue his dream until now. And, Nadia Gruner is a gymnast who was talked into the competition by some well-meaning friends.

The “home” event hosted by the 415th Base Support Battalion’s Sports and Fitness Office gave all three a day where they can say, “I did it!”

He was just six weeks away from competing in his first bodybuilding competition in the “Border States San Diego” when his unit, the 349th General Hospital, was deployed to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in February.

“I’ve always been interested in bodybuilding since I was a little kid,” said Herrington, who joined the Army when he was 17. “I trained on makeshift lateral pull down machines in my garage when I was really young, but the first time that I actually started training hard was the first time a girl broke my heart.”

Herrington, who works nights as a shift supervisor, kept working out at the gym so that when the unit’s tour ends in February 2005, he could still compete in the myriad of bodybuilding competitions held in California.

As luck would have it, he didn’t have to wait that long. As soon as he found out that a bodybuilding competition was going to be held here, he stepped up his training program.

He worked out two to three times a day. One of those workouts would be cardio with the other ones consisting of heavy lifting. His diet kept getting more defined during his two-month preparation for the competition. About two weeks before the competition, he was only eating plain chicken breasts, broccoli, brown rice and lots of egg whites.

“I’m glad to get back to normal eating,” said Spc. Mary Hall, who is also assigned to the 349th General Hospital and who supported Herrington during his training regime by eating the same stuff that he ate. “He did really well.”

Herrington placed fifth in the middleweight class and now has his first competition under his belt.

“I thought he had done it before the way he was out there posing,” said Charlie Carollo, a judge at the event and the International Natural Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation chairman. “He did excellent on his mandatory poses and his routine was very graceful during the pre-judging.”

He was at the Kleber Fitness Center every day after putting in a full day’s work as a network administrator at 1st Transportation Movement Control Agency on Kleber Kaserne. His hard work did not go unnoticed.

“I would see him in the gym working hard all the time,” said Quinton Floyd, Kleber Fitness Center and Gymnasium manager. “So I talked him into it because I felt he was in good shape and could compete here.”

Then, Shaw got more encouragement from his biggest fan, Paula Heggs, who works for a contractor in Ramstein.

“It was a dream of his for a long time and with all the duties of the military, he really didn’t have time to train,” said Heggs. “At the last minute, he said I’m going to do it, and I think he did great.”
Shaw placed fourth in the heavyweight class and is now on his way to pursuing his dream.

“When I was in the seventh grade, I wanted to get bigger because everyone was bigger than me, but I haven’t really pursued it until now,” said Shaw. “I’m really glad that I did it because the first one is the entry door to a lot more.”

She had the body but not the know-how. In fact, she didn’t know anything about bodybuilding.

“I was scared. I did not know what to do,” said Gruner, who has trained as a gymnast since she was five-years-old. “I came here with the wrong bathing suit, and I didn’t have the right tanning lotion. I came here not having a routine, just a song.
“This is not my world,” said Gruner, a native of Paris. “My world is gymnastics.”

Gruner also didn’t know the poses, not even the names of them, but she was able to improvise the poses and routines because she received help from her only competitor in the middleweight class.
“I went over the poses with her, but she didn’t look comfortable with it so I told her that we are all going to be on stage together so just look left or right and mirror what we do,” said Staff Sgt. Billie Dixon, Allied Forces North battalion school NCO. “And, she went out there and did it, and the judges who hadn’t come back stage before the pre-judging, probably didn’t know that she didn’t know what she was doing up there.”

One of those judges, who did go back stage and did know that Gruner was getting quick lessons from Dixon, was Carollo.
“I was very impressed,” he said. “She held her own on stage, and I think she’s got the bug now.”

Dixon and others at the competition also said that Gruner was now a bodybuilder, but after the pre-judging Gruner, who drives 45 minutes one way three times a week to train, was adamant that she was a gymnast not a bodybuilder. However, after the evening show, she changed her tune.

“I saw the men during the show. They looked like tigers,” said Gruner. “I want to be a female tiger.”