MacDill retiree perseveres, becomes bodybuilding pro at 57

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

Last year, she continuously trained and competed all around the United States. This year, on July 19, 2017, she kept at it and after the USA Masters Nationals in Pittsburgh, she finally earned the title she had been striving for - an International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) Professional.

Maria Flores, a 57-year-old bodybuilder and retired U.S. Army sergeant first class at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, didn’t skip a beat preparing to get her IFBB pro card.

“I started a hardcore training routine in February of this year for the Masters in Pittsburgh,” said Flores. “It involved five days of lifting weights that were focused on specific muscle groups as well as an hour of cardio exercise every day during my week.”

At the Pittsburgh competition, she won in both the Over 40 and Over 45 categories, which allowed her to earn her professional status, which was her ultimate goal.

“I could not believe it when my name was announced as a new IFBB Pro,” said Flores. “It was a dream come true.”

On August 4, 2017, she made her debut as a professional in the IFBB Tampa Pro competition. At this venue is where she began her bodybuilding journey as an amateur, nine years ago.

“Even though I didn’t place in the top ten, it was incredible for me to be next to the IFBB women and men pros, I never thought it would become a reality,” said Flores. “I was in the same lineup with some of the best women bodybuilders in the world; these were women who have competed in the Olympia , whom I’ve idolized and respected for many years.”

After Tampa, Flores returned to Pittsburgh to compete, and placed third, receiving her first check as a pro.

“I didn’t change anything about my diet, or my workout routine,” said Flores. “Dedication to what I was aiming for is what kept me going.”

Additionally, her husband, Philip Cooper, the deputy chief of senior officer matters assigned to U.S. Central Command, provided Flores with the motivation and training when she first began the sport.

“Maria has both the desire and the perfect genetics to go far in the sport of bodybuilding,” said Cooper. “I have been training since 1972 and have been in competition ranging from 1979 to 2017, but in the past 11 years, Maria caught up and surpassed both my knowledge and my own competitive level in the sport.

“She’s just one of those rare individuals that has the ‘it’ when it comes to bodybuilding.”

Flores explained that through a rigorous and time-consuming routine, she realized something that she believes is very important for those striving to become a competitive bodybuilder.

“My advice to someone trying to go pro, is to be true to themselves, and most importantly, do not neglect your loved ones,” said Flores. “In the end, you don’t want to be standing with a trophy on stage and no one is there to share your victory.”