by Air Force Staff Sgt. Wes Wright
JBER Public Affairs
4/23/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Clink, clink, clink.
Marble falls to the floor as the sound of hammer on chisel reverberates
through an empty room, empty except for the artist, his tools and his
masterpiece. He takes a step back to analyze his creation with critical
eye. He's been working on this project for years. To the outside world,
it appears flawless. To him, it's nowhere near ready. He's pressed for
time. There is a showing in the next few days. This will have to do for
now. He hopes it is good enough.
Such was the mindset of Airman 1st Class James Jones, 673d
Communications Squadron cyber systems operator, as the days drew closer
to his first ever bodybuilding contest: The 2015 National Physique
Committee Alaska State Championships on April 4. He spent more than a
year preparing, chiseling at his physique slowly but surely every day.
Hundreds of hours in the gym, a diet that would drive many people insane
and an entire lifestyle designed to push his body to its maximum
potential, would be validated or destroyed by a panel of judges when all
his hard work was unveiled under bright stage lights.
Cue the lights and the music. Jones went through mandatory pose after
mandatory pose as his body was critiqued. A panel of judges examined his
work and compared it to his competitors, looking for the slightest
flaw. The result was not only a first place clear-cut victory in his
middleweight class, but a landslide victory in the overall men's
category, becoming the youngest person in the contest's history to win
the title and only the second ever to win it in his first try.
In competitive bodybuilding, contestants' physiques are judged on size,
shape, symmetry and definition. For many top-tier bodybuilders, their
champion physiques are built through years, often decades, of work. Many
are in their early to mid-30s. Standing 5 feet, 7 inches and weighing
165 pounds at 21 years old, Jones was just hoping for a high placing in
his first-ever competition. He got that and then some.
"I hit all my mandatory poses and then we waited for the judges to
tabulate their scores," Jones said. "My heart was pounding. Of course,
it seems like they drag out the announcement forever. Then, I heard my
name called, that was amazing! All the time and money I put into this
... it let me know everything I put into this was all worth it. It was
one of the best feelings in the world."
With more than a year's worth of work culminating in a few brief moments
on a stage, Jones was not without worry or retrospection. Did he do
everything he could have to create the best possible version of himself?
"When I saw the other competitors, I realized many of them were a lot
bigger than me," Jones said. "I was a little worried. I felt they could
win on sheer size alone. However, the biggest guy can be big, but if he
isn't lean it does him no good. You also have to be lean and
symmetrical. I knew I had good proportion, and thankfully it resulted in
Jones said when people view his contest photos, he is humbled by the
praise. He is often asked "How can I look like that?" However, few
people are prepared for his answer. The hundreds of hours in the gym is
the easy part. The hard part comes in the thousands of hours spent
outside the gym.
Bodybuilders typically structure their year in two seasons: offseason
and competition or "cutting" season. The offseason is spent bulking and
competition season is spent trimming down. Just as in sculpting, it is
better to start with too much material than not enough.
For Jones, a typical offseason day sees him rise at 2 a.m. to drink a
protein shake, before going back to bed. He sleeps until 5 a.m.
Breakfast follows as soon as he awakes. It's the first of six meals, not
counting his shake, which he'll eat.
"Right now, I'm eating 350 grams of protein a day and 400 to 500 carbs,"
Jones said. "I eat every two to three hours. That's a very difficult
thing to do. You spend time preparing all that food. You spend time
eating all that food. You're carrying Tupperware containers of food
everywhere you go."
Jones said another common question he gets is, "Hey, what supplements do you take?"
"I don't mind sharing that with people, but even if I tell you,
supplements only represent a very small percentage of what you're going
to need to do to be successful. You still have to eat the right food in
the right amounts to make gains in the gym."
Jones said the hardest part of bodybuilding is the long-term rigid discipline the sport demands.
"The biggest challenge is consistency," Jones said. "You have to eat
your meals every day. You can't skip a meal. If you skip one, it's going
to show. Starting a year out, I knew I had to get every training
session and every meal in. If I lost, I didn't want it to be because of
something I could have prevented through discipline."
According to Jones' coach and trainer, George Hartley, Jones' ability to
discipline himself sets him apart from many competitors.
"James is driven beyond his years and has an exemplary work ethic,"
Hartley said. "I believe his time in the service has helped him mature
in ways other men his age don't have until their thirties in the
civilian world. He understands bodybuilding is a lifestyle and becoming a
great bodybuilder is something that takes years of training and
Jones shared that while he is self-motivated and possesses tremendous
drive, he wouldn't be able to do it without two secret weapons in his
bodybuilding arsenal: his personal faith and his family life.
"One of the main reasons I was able to accomplish my goals of competing
was because of my faith in God and amazing support from my wife, Emily,"
Jones said. "She helped me cook my meals when I was physically drained
and provided constant motivation throughout the final weeks, letting me
know 'It's almost over.'"
The discipline and attention to detail Jones exhibits in his personal
life has a direct correlation with his workplace performance, where his
leadership recognizes him as a leader among his peers.
"His level of professionalism is top-notch and unsurpassed," said Master
Sgt. Aaron Hazen, 673d Communication Squadron network operations
section chief. "He is one of those Airmen you can assign a task to and
not have to worry or follow up. Airman Jones doesn't linger on what he
can't do; he finds what he can do and runs with it. We've been able to
assign him responsibilities normally reserved for noncommissioned
officers. He will go far in his career and in bodybuilding if he stays
Having conquered the top bodybuilding event in the state, Jones is
hoping to use the momentum of his success to propel him to greater
heights. He has his sights set on the 2016 Emerald Cup in Washington.
"The Alaska competition qualified me to go do this bigger show in
Washington," Jones said. "If I place high enough, it will set me up to
eventually earn a pro card. That would officially make me a professional
and that's a big deal."
Currently, Jones is still considered a novice, having competed in a
National Physique Committee event, which is considered to be the amateur
league for the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness
organization. The IFBB is recognized throughout the world as the premier
bodybuilding organization, drawing an overwhelming majority of top-tier
athletes. Winning at the Emerald Cup and a subsequent national-level
competition would award Jones professional status with the IFBB.
"Once that happens, you start talking about being put in magazines,
supplement and clothing line endorsements, not to mention being
recognized as being in the top percentages of bodybuilders in the
world," Jones said. "It would be a dream come true."
In addition to the gratification Jones receives seeing his hard work
rewarded with a title, he also gets personal fulfillment from being able
to positively influence people around him through bodybuilding.
"Bodybuilding opens a lot of doors," the state champion said. "I get to
meet new people, make new friends and have an impact on their life.
After I won this show, I had a promoter for one of the high school
bodybuilding shows ask if I would come guest pose at their competition.
For me, that is awesome to be able to reach out to high school kids and
help motivate them to achieve their goals."