In the world of discipline, dedication, and determination, few individuals embody these qualities as intensely as Sgt. Darion Martinez, a U.S. Army Military Police Soldier currently working in the 8th Theater Sustainment Command’s Protocol Office. He not only serves his country but also dedicates his off-duty hours to sculpting his body into a masterpiece of strength and symmetry.
Martinez’s journey into the world of bodybuilding is nothing short of inspiring. Throughout his life, he has always spent time in the gym lifting weights and building mass, but competitive bodybuilding was not on his radar.
He recalls working out with a friend and hearing him talk about Ronald “Ronnie” Coleman in 2015. Coleman is an American retired professional bodybuilder, and the winner of eight consecutive Mr. Olympia titles.
“After seeing him [Ronnie Coleman], screaming ‘Yeah, buddy’ and watching Ronnie Coleman videos, I was inspired to want to compete,” said Martinez. “I was like, okay, this is something I want to do. I already work out so why not go out there and present my body.”
A few years went by and in 2018 Martinez raised his right hand and joined the Army as a military police officer.
Martinez’s first competition was in April of 2021, going for the national qualifier title he didn’t know much about the sport.
“At that time, I didn't really know what I was doing. I didn't have a coach or anything like that to guide me through,” said Martinez. “So I was just like, let me just go out there and just try it to see if I like it. I fell in love with it.”
Martinez did not place in his first competition, and after placing 15th of 18 in his second he almost threw in the towel.
“I was angry. During that hour after knowing that I didn't place where I wanted to place, I called to my mom immediately,” said Martinez. “She was like, ‘you just started you know, this is just the beginning. You have more competitions coming your way.’”
Martinez said he learned from his first competition and then the second, each time getting better at the sport, until he placed first in his class.
“My third show I placed first in my class,” he added. “Winning the national qualifier, I can compete in the pro qualifier, which I did this previous April.”
He placed 13th out of 50 in his first pro card competition, but wanting to win, he was not satisfied with that result, he said. Martinez had some improvements to make.
Martinez's passion for bodybuilding intensified. Balancing the demands of military service, family life, and the rigor of bodybuilding competitions required a level of commitment that few can fathom. His regimen consisted of late-night workouts, meticulous meal planning, and an unyielding dedication to pushing his physical limits. Dedication that has been noticed by his coach.
“I have definitely seen him change physically from monitoring his check-ins week to week,” said Kyron Holden, coach and International Federation Bodybuilding professional. “The character changes that accompany any physical transformation also occurred with Darion -- increased focus, dedication to a goal, discipline, and mental toughness.”
Beyond the gym and his family, Martinez's story is a testament to the symbiotic relationship between his military service and bodybuilding pursuits. Having dedication to lifting before the Army helped him in his military pursuits, and the discipline instilled by the military has translated into an unparalleled work ethic in the gym, while the physical demands of bodybuilding have enhanced Martinez's overall performance as a soldier.
“The bulking phase can affect my run, but the cutting phase can improve my run. As far as the bulking phase I'm so heavy, because I'm usually getting up to like maybe 210 to 215 [pounds] versus the cutting phase when I'm down to like 170 to 160 [pounds]. At 160 [pounds] I'm able to fly right though the run, as far as everything else the events are easy,” said Martinez.
“There are crossovers from competition prep and military life,” said Holden. “The obvious one being discipline, and mission-driven, that the job has to get done regardless of how you feel.”
Martinez's dedication to both his military service and bodybuilding pursuits has inspired fellow Soldiers, but it’s not all roses. Between lack of sleep and a very strict diet, Martinez has a love-hate relationship with being competitive.
“It [training for competitions] really doesn't have an effect on my personal life. I mean, other than it's a lot of sacrifices. I have a love and hate relationship with it, so the hate is the sacrifice part. The sleep sacrifice, that's the hate part,” said Martinez. “I leave here from work, being stuck in almost an hour of traffic and then getting home and having to attend to the kids and see what they need help with, and they have homework and projects and stuff like that. I'm hitting the gym, like eight or nine o'clock at night.
My current carb cycle is three low days of 100 grams of carbs, I can’t go past that, and one high carb day, which is 400 grams, my favorite day,” he added.
Despite the sacrifices, he serves as a living testament to the idea that strength is not just about physical power but also about mental fortitude and persistence.
“I'm going again in December for the Pro Card, the National Championships,” he added.
“I think he’s going to do very well; his dedication to the plan and work ethic is admirable,” said Holden. “He’s the ideal athlete for any coach.”
Martinez often emphasizes the importance of balance in his life. He acknowledges that bodybuilding provides an outlet for personal growth and self-discovery, contributing to his effectiveness as a Soldier. Martinez's story serves as an inspiration to others, proving that it is possible to excel in multiple aspects of life through hard work, dedication, and a relentless pursuit of one's goals.
His next Army goal is to become a drill sergeant and develop the next generation of recruits.