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Navy Lieutenant Kayla Tawoda (center), an air-naval gunfire liaison officer with I Marine Expeditionary Force command element, is awarded first place in the 2016 International Natural Bodybuilding Association Team USA Professional-Amateur competition. Bodybuilding is a disciplined and regimented process of physical conditioning that requires an extreme level of dedication. Tawoda said, “My military core values translated really well into bodybuilding. There’s so much discipline and willpower involved.” (Courtesy Photo)

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Bodybuilding: shaping a competitive spirit

4 Nov 2016 | Pfc. Robert Bliss I Marine Expeditionary Force

Tawoda has competed in numerous bodybuilding competitions, such as the 2015 World Beauty Fitness & Fashion Los Angeles Professional-Amateur competition.

“This all started in 2012. I was very into the research behind the ‘why’ of physical fitness,” Tawoda said. “Why do our bodies work the way they do? Why does certain nutrition affect my energy levels differently? I got really into the research side but I took it one step further and started conditioning myself.”

Tawoda recalled she was in the gym one day working out when she was approached by two female bodybuilders. They said, “Hey, we see you here all the time, would you like to do a show with us?” She took them up on their offer and has been hooked ever since.

Bodybuilding is a very disciplined and regimented process of physical conditioning that takes an extreme level of dedication.

“I maintain a very, very strict diet, I train every day. There’s a lot of mental focus and self-discipline involved,” Tawoda said. “I think that’s where my military core values translated really well into bodybuilding. There’s so much discipline and willpower involved.”

Tawoda started competing in the All-Natural Bodybuilding Association. 

“What sets the [All-Natural Bodybuilding Association] apart from other bodybuilding associations is that competitors are drug-tested the night before a competition to ensure that no one is taking illegal steroids or substances that are not safe,” Tawoda explained. “It all goes back to integrity and that military discipline. You commit to something and you don’t take the fast-track or the easy route to achieve the things you want.”

Every day Tawoda commits time to achieving these goals, but also realizes what works for some may not work for all.

“Something I’ve developed over the years is what I call ‘intuitive resiliency and refinement,’” Tawoda said. “It means listening to your body and not just adhering to the first exercise or fitness craze you read about, but rather taking the time to understand your body and trying different methods to see what works for you. Everyone’s body is different; everyone reacts differently to certain things. I’m not going to train the same way a 200-pound man would train.”

Tawoda said this method has helped her in her own training. She competes in specific bodybuilding categories that have fitness objectives that are unique to her physique.

“I compete in the bikini and sports model categories, as well as a more recently created category within the International Natural Bodybuilding Association called ‘angel,’” said Tawoda. “Listening to your body, taking rest days when you need them and not just grinding nonstop is very important. I’m a very big proponent of injury prevention.”

Injury prevention is a large part of preparing for a season of competition, especially when the season includes an intense schedule of back-to-back shows. 

“I did shows in March, April, June and September,” Tawoda said. “My final show this season will be the ‘Natural Olympia’ in Las Vegas on November 10th.”

Although her final show for the season is just around the corner, Tawoda said this year has been a huge step forward for her career as a competitor.

In June, Tawoda competed in the 2016 INBA Southern California Championship, where she took first place and is now the reigning champion for her category. Tawoda is now recognized as a professional competitor within the INBA.

“Going pro was an exhilarating feeling,” Tawoda said. “But I never could have done this without the military. Being a Naval officer and a service member has instilled in me the passion, confidence, and the commitment to compete at this level. That’s something I would never have been able to do without the support of my brothers and sisters in the Navy and Marine Corps.”

Tawoda plans to continue her journey as both a service member and as a professional bodybuilding competitor by representing the INBA’s Team USA at an international competition in Rimini, Italy.

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