Age is nothing but a number: Award-winning bodybuilder sculpts her way to better fitness

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Adam R. Shanks
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

She’s in the gym regularly, always pushing herself harder. Beads of sweat drip from her forehead as she looks at herself in the mirror, assessing her progress.

One minute later she’s back to it; lifting 70 pound dumbbells above her body, repetition by repetition.

It may sound unreal, but for award-winning bodybuilder Maria Flores, a retired U.S. Army sergeant first class, bench pressing her own body weight isn’t a difficult task.

Flores, who retired at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, in 2016 spends her free time sculpting her body at the age of 56.

She’s won women’s bodybuilding middleweight titles in the over 40, 45 and 50 age categories at the 2016 National Physique Committee United States Masters Nationals.

Flores also went on to win the open middleweight title at the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness competition in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania earlier this year.

However, her progress in bodybuilding did not happen overnight.

“Originally, I was a runner,” said Flores. “All I did was run, but my husband, who has been a bodybuilder for more than 30 years, asked me to train him with his cardio routine.

“So, I started running with him and in return, he got me into bodybuilding.”

Flores started bodybuilding in 2007. Over time, she developed a mindset of getting bigger, better and becoming a competitor.

“I would look at fitness magazines with these women in such good shape,” said Flores. “I thought to myself, ‘I want to look like that!’ and I started sculpting my body.”

Preparation for these competitions isn’t a walk in the park either, it requires a very strict diet, and of course workouts.

“Diet makes up 70 to 80 percent of  your fitness,” said Flores “I see people all the time working hard in the gym, exerting their muscles, pushing themselves, but if they don’t eat correctly, all their effort is for nothing.”

Flores explained that workouts must be consistent as well. Working out every day is not ideal either because muscles need rest. She recommends isolating muscle groups such as hamstrings, quadriceps, shoulders and arms for each day. She also mixes in cardio during the week to boost her metabolism.

“My metabolism is slowing down because of my age,” laughed Flores. “So I run twice a week in order to keep it going.”

As a woman, Flores noticed her passion for bodybuilding has caught the attention of others in the MacDill Short Fitness Center.

“There have been times where I’ve watched someone who didn’t really have a plan come to the gym and do random exercises, but I could see them watching me,” said Flores. “The next day, I’d come in and see that same person doing exactly what I did the day before.”

While passively inspiring others is a bonus, she’s no stranger to helping others one on one.

“Maria has helped me prepare for a competition of my own,” said Chase Chandler, an information technology specialist at U.S. Central Command. “She has a very intense focus with her fitness in and out of the gym.

“The 110 percent effort she puts out on her own diet and workouts is the same she gives to others.”

Chandler explained that Flores can see when he isn’t giving his all.

“I notice when others aren’t following their diet or exercise completely,” said Flores. “If results aren’t being seen, it can either be genetics or a lapse in their eating.

Flores is currently training for competitions beginning in the summer of 2017. To some, this time would be considered rest, but Flores thinks otherwise.

“For me, there is no off season; I keep a strict diet and keep getting better…,” said Flores. “When the competition comes, I’ll compare myself to last year and I’ll see the improvement I worked so hard for.”

Even with the holiday season right around the corner, Flores still plans to stay on track.

“No matter what time of the year, I have to stay determined,” said Flores. “I am my worst critic, so I need to stay true to myself.”