As the unit administrator for the 100th Missile Defense Brigade of the Colorado National Guard, Army Sgt. Kelly Loftus is used to doing the heavy lifting of managing the performance of a variety of technical, analytical, advisory and coordinating duties for the brigade.

She is also accustomed to lifting heavy-metal objects like dumbbells, weight plates and kettlebells in her free time.

Competing in her first-ever weightlifting competition March 4, Loftus lifted more weight than any other woman in her age group and weight class to set four Colorado state records at the 2018 Natural Athlete Strength Association Colorado State Powerlifting Competition in Denver.

"I've always been interested in weightlifting and have been doing it for the better part of a decade," said Loftus. "But people always asked me, 'What are you training for?' Now I had a reason why.

"It was validation of my hard work," Loftus said. "I did this. I'm a real powerlifter now."

Powerlifting consists of lifting the most weight with a single repetition in three events -- squat, bench press and deadlift.

Loftus competed in the women's intermediate retro powerlifting category, setting NASA Colorado state records with a 236 pound squat, 160 pound bench press, and 286 pound deadlift. Her combined total weight of 682 pounds is also a new NASA Colorado record. Loftus explained that a retro powerlifter doesn't use any supportive equipment or braces, other than a weightlifting belt.

Loftus described powerlifting to be complex, and that it's not about big muscles for show, but actual strength. During her train-up prior to the competition, Loftus said she would work out two to three times per day, six days a week.

"I would typically do a cardio workout in the morning," said Loftus. "At lunch, I would do my big lifts (bench, squat and deadlift). After work I would train accessory movements, like pushing and pulling.
"I also ate a lot, cut out alcohol and got lots of good sleep."

Loftus had the help of another weightlifting Soldier within the brigade during her training -- Army Sgt. Eric Roberts, the training noncommissioned officer of the 100th Missile Defense Brigade. Roberts, a veteran of weightlifting competitions, lent his expertise to Loftus' training plan and helped motivate her throughout the process.

"She's a savage," Roberts said of Loftus, endearingly referred to as "She-Hulk" by some Soldiers in the 100th MDB. "I was there to encourage and help her, but she put the work in."

Loftus, who moved from the Montana National Guard to the Colorado National Guard in July 2017, is also an Army Master Fitness Trainer and has offered her fitness expertise to help other Soldiers in the brigade.

"I do have people come to me and ask me to train them, and I'm happy to do it," said Loftus. "I'll work with them outside of work in the evening, that's what I love to do. I love to train people. I'm here."

Loftus said she is eyeing the NASA Regional Competition in Denver in October. To anyone who is considering getting into weightlifting or powerlifting, she offered this advice, "Go for it, but seek advice before you jump right into it."