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News > Focused on Fitness: Airman ‘womans up,’ proves strength in more ways than one
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Body Building and Fitness
First Lt. Hope Bell recently competed in the Supernatural Body Building and Fitness Competition in Suwannee, Ga. The aircraft maintenance officer placed third in the figure competition. It was the first competition for the 37-year-old mother of two. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tommie Horton)
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Focused on Fitness: Airman ‘womans up,’ proves strength in more ways than one

Posted 8/15/2014   Updated 8/15/2014 Email story   Print story


by Brian Shreve
Robins Public Affairs

8/15/2014 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- First Lt. Hope Bell can probably beat you in arm wrestling. And yes, she can maintain her femininity while doing it, shattering age-old misconceptions of women's bodies one flex at a time.
Bell, 116th aircraft maintenance officer, placed third in the Supernatural Body Building and Fitness competition held in Suwannee, Ga. last month, something the soft-spoken Airman had not exactly foreseen for herself.

"I'm a very conservative person," she said. "And to be on stage in a bikini with people judging me is totally outside of my personality. I never felt like I was competing against the other girls but just there to showcase my best - competing with myself. I've always been fit, but I just wanted the challenge of doing something outside the box."

She not only womanned up, she achieved an especially impressive feat in the realms of such events by placing in what was her first competition.

Bell, 37, competed in the figure portion of the event in which contestants were graded based on muscle development in relation to their womanly curvature; the women were also judged on leanness and minimum body fat and asked to perform a variety of poses to accentuate certain muscle groups.

The competition consisted of two other categories, she said, one for those with minimum muscle development and a body-building division for those with denser muscle definition.

Bell wore a bejeweled bikini that had to meet strict standards due to the event being family-oriented.

"It's a very elegant, feminine contest, and I didn't realize that beforehand," she said. "In fact, we were required to wear five-inch heels. I had to practice walking around my house in those for several weeks."

Contestants were also asked to tan - naturally or with spray - and apply high-gloss lotion to their skin for stage lighting.

Aside from physiques, the women were graded on make-up, jewelry, walking and overall confidence in their stage presence.

Bell's workout regimen includes meeting with a team comprised of several other women at the Fitness Center each day at 4:30 a.m. just as the doors are opening.

She began training six months prior to the event, intensifying her routine by taking on a second daily workout session with Richard Williams, a volunteer trainer who works with the group.

At 5'5", Bell weighed 126 pounds at the time of the competition but said she is comfortable being anywhere between 130 and 140 pounds.

"I carry the weight that's right for me," she said. "During the competition, I was around 10-percent body fat. But women need to realize that's not sustainable because our feminine functions are reduced, you become fatigued, it affects mental capacity and we become irritable. I am well at 17-percent body fat."

As for her diet leading up to the competition, Bell said it did not require going hungry, as some might expect.

"There were different stages, and at first I wasn't eating enough dense nutrition, so I had to increase my fruits, vegetables and whole grains," she said. "As the training progressed, I increased my animal-based protein and cut all carbohydrates. People might think they can't eat this or that, and they psyche themselves out and sell themselves short. But it's very doable."

Determined fitness queen. U.S. Airman. Bell, originally from Southern California, is also the single mother of two, ages 6 and 9, further proving herself the quintessential strong woman in more ways than one.

Bell said she is fortunate to have children who follow her example of staying fit and active, ones who go to sleep the same time as she and are early to rise, making her rigorous training schedule possible, and that she even included them in weekend workouts.

Next year, Bell plans to compete in another event with plans to go further now that she knows what she can accomplish.

"I'm fortunate that I placed third," she said. "But I'm intent on competing again, and next time I want to place first. That's my goal."

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