By Eric PilgrimMay 10, 2018
When Sgt. 1st Class Lacey Hancock arrived at Fort Knox four months ago, she fell back into her usual routine.
The single mother of a 12-year-old boy came here at that time to join the ranks of 83rd U.S. Army Reserve Readiness Training Center. Each day, she instructs Soldiers in the Unit Pay Administrative Course.
Hancock's usual routine starts outside the classroom at one of the four physical fitness centers on post -- bodybuilding; a passion she has pursued since she was 16.
"Every time I think this is my last time, I find myself back here [in the gym]," said Hancock. "Fitness is my passion. It's also an accountability thing for me. People look up to me and depend on me, so I feel like I owe them."
Hancock said people matter a lot to her; they represent a necessary support network in her life and in work, an encouragement -- people like Staff Sgt. Curtis Nelson.
Hancock met Nelson at Smith Physical Fitness Center about a month ago when they kept running into each other early on Sunday mornings. She soon discovered they share the same love for bodybuilding. They became instant friends.
"Now we're always talking and chatting with each other," said Nelson. "This sport is like that. It's a big family. I'm always meeting somebody new backstage and swapping email addresses."
Hancock and Nelson returned at the end of April from the 2018 NPC Kentucky Derby Festival in Louisville sporting swords: one sword for Hancock, three for Nelson.
"They used to give out trophies to the winners, but these days they're giving us swords," said Hancock. "The guys like them a lot. I think I would prefer getting crowns, but this is great."
Both said they don't compete for trophies, though. It's more personal.
"It's a hobby of ours, but it's also our jobs," said Hancock. "We're warriors."
"Worriers?" Nelson said, grinning as he paused between sets.
Hancock laughed. "Yeah -- worriers, too."
For Nelson, bodybuilding became a needed outlet for him. He said he was very successful at football throughout high school, so much that he earned a college scholarship. He had dreams of making it to the National Football League. While in college, he was forced to give it up his dream when his father became ill.
After joining the Army later, Nelson eventually got into bodybuilding after much urging, and financial assistance, from a noncommissioned officer buddy. Nelson admits being reluctant to get involved at first based on his preconceived notions about the sport. Four years later, he has no desire to stop.
"Doing shows is very fun. It took the place of football for me," Nelson said. "But it's different. When I'm up there, I'm always competing against myself."
Nelson said while the posing is itself a workout, the workouts prior to a competition are actually the easiest aspect of bodybuilding.
"The diet is the hardest thing," said Nelson. "It's very intensive."
They explained how they go through a pushing and purging process leading up to the competition. This involves pushing water intake while closely monitoring food intake. The week prior, especially three days prior, water and food intake are greatly reduced. The effort results in larger muscle appearance and sharper definition.
Hancock lost 24 pounds in preparation for her show. Nelson lost 55. Both said they have since regained some of it back in the last week, as a reward for doing well at the show.
Hancock said others are beginning to catch the fitness and diet bug among her friends, some of which attended the competition to cheer her and Nelson on.
"My whole team went on a diet with me. They've all lost weight," she said.
Nelson said he regularly encourages others to get fit and eat right, including among his family members. They both admit there is one person, however, who ultimately inspires them to keep going.
"At the end of the day, we're just so blessed," said Hancock. "We've got great friends, family, and we've got God on our side."
"Yes, that's the most important part," said Nelson. "God first."