When fit to fight isn’t enough: One Airman’s journey to her dream body

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Marianne E. Lane
  • National Air and Space Intelligence Agency
Airman 1st Class Paige Ryser, command support staff Airman, started lifting for fitness and recreation in October, 2013, but recently realized she wanted to take herself to the next level. She had a new goal: compete in a bodybuilding competition.

For more than five months, the 22-year-old Ryser dedicated herself to eating and working out a specific way in order to achieve her goal, and on Saturday, Sept. 26, she competed for the first time at the NPC Ohio State Championship in Columbus, Ohio.

She went from 115 pounds to 100 pounds and her body fat percentage dropped from 17 percent to 15 percent. She has sacrificed and suffered to the point of wanting to give up, but had the support of her trainer, family, friends and co-workers to help keep her on track.

“Make sure you have at least one supporter,” said Ryser, a New Lexington, Ohio native. “just one person to go to at the end of a long day when you feel like giving up, someone who will be there for you to get you through it. I have days when I am hungry or tired or work was horrible and I want to just ’be normal.’ I have a great group of people I can turn to and they’re there to remind me of my hard work and remind me why I am doing this.”

Despite the intense workout schedule, the majority of Ryser’s dedication and discipline comes into play with food preparation battle.

“Nutrition is where my true passion is,” said Ryser, who joined the Air Force in May, 2014. “I typically take in 1,500 calories a day. Every day I eat four meals and three snacks. Meal planning usually takes up all of my Sunday. I will cook everything and put them in individual containers. I weigh out all of my food on my food scale as well so I know exactly how many grams of everything I have.”

Ryser’s co-workers have also noticed a difference, not only in her appearance, but in her drive to be the best version of herself.

“I thought she was intense about her eating and work out plans before she even started for her competition,” said Staff. Sgt. Katie Perry, Ryser’s supervisor. “I was shocked with how much she was able to step up her level of commitment and dedication once she started training harder.”

To prepare for her competition, she focused her workouts in order for her to gain muscle while losing fat. A competitor must exercise to gain the muscle they need, and they need the diet to show the muscle they have gained.

“I work out six days a week,” Ryser said. “Of those days, I do five days of 30-minute cardio sessions. After cardio, I go into my lifting session, with the exception of Saturday where I only lift. Sunday is my rest day. I typically lift for 45 minutes to one hour. I also do sprints once a week, sprinting 12 times for 20 seconds as fast as I can.”

Some of Ryser’s preparations the week before her competition were things most people wouldn’t think of as part of the process. They include things like posing sessions, tanning and touch-ups to her hair, nails and makeup.

“The judges want to see a certain definition of muscle and muscle groups,” Ryser explained. “These sessions show you how to position your body to show a specific muscle or how you can ’fake it.’ I was told you may have the best body up on stage, but if you do not know how to project that, you will not place well.”

After placing tenth in her overall class and eighth in her novice class, Ryser felt such a sense of accomplishment that she will be competing again in two weeks.

“I am very proud of myself for finally getting out on stage, completing the process of prepping for a competition, and going out and giving it my all,” she said .”Doing the competition has made me rethink the dieting process, I feel like it is definitely worth it. This competition has re-motivated me enough to go back and do it again.

Ryser’s dedication to going above and beyond has even motivated those around her.

“Ryser has set a great example, not only for the people in our section but around the building,” Perry said. “We are all very proud of her accomplishments.”