By Tech. Sgt. Wes Wright
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Its 3 a.m. on Monday as the blaring, annoying “beep, beep, beep” of an alarm clock shatters a still, peaceful slumber.
Most people might contemplate a quick and destructive demise of the mechanical entity daring to pull them from the sweet abyss of sleep. Throw in the idea of going to the gym minutes later and the most common response is likely to be: “nope.”
Staff Sgt. Alayna DeHerrera, executive assistant to the 50th Space Wing command chief, isn’t most people. The 5’3,” 120-pound, muscular Airman started her fitness journey in 2012 and hasn’t looked back.
“When I first started, I had no idea what to do in the gym or what movements target what body part,” DeHerrera said. “If I went to the gym and did 30 minutes on the elliptical or ran a mile, I thought I was really getting after it. I also I had no idea what proper nutrition meant.”
When her husband, Staff Sgt. Derrek DeHerrera, vulnerability remediation supervisor with the 561st Network Operations Squadron, deployed in 2012, Alayna took “getting after it” to a whole new level.
“I began lifting daily, educating myself and cleaning up my diet,” DeHerrera said. “I started following bodybuilders on social media and found myself continuously inspired. This continued for about three years, I found myself always driving to cardio harder and lift heavier; I found myself constantly being approached by strangers asking if I was a competitor.”
While she couldn’t answer yes then, she can now. She placed first in the 2017 National Physique Committee Colorado Muscle Classic open class division. She followed that up by placing first in five different categories of the 2017 Nspire Sports League Colorado State Open.
DeHerrera isn’t stopping there. While her wins are no small feat, NPC events are often considered the minor leagues of bodybuilding by athletes. For natural competitors like DeHerrera, the next step up is trying to earn a pro card through the Nspire Sports League.
“I am working toward earning my NSL pro card in July of this year at the Denver Pro Qualifer,” she said. “Winning your pro card advances you to a more competitive pool of athletes where there is often a monetary payout for those who place well. More than that though, a pro status is a testament of drive, hard work and relentlessness.”
For DeHerrera, the theme of relentlessness permeates everything she does. The cardio that starts her day is just workout number one.
“Post cardio, I typically eat breakfast and then go lift for about an hour,” she said. “I typically train five or six days a week. From the gym, I head straight to work. At night when I go home, I ensure I get as much rest as possible along with prepping for the next day … that means making sure my meals are ready, my gym bag is packed, and my clothes are set out for the morning.”
On top of all that, DeHerrera finds time to pursue her bachelor’s degree.
DeHerrera’s coach, Sandi Townsend, herself a pro card-carrying fitness enthusiast, is impressed with her client.
“Alayna is one of the hardest working clients I have, hence why I believe she can earn her pro card in such a short time,” Townsend said. “Her biggest strength is her work ethic. She never gives up or backs off her goal. She is hard working, and keeps her goals in mind as she juggles her training, fulltime career and home life.”
According to DeHerrera, juggling her life wouldn’t be possible without support and inspiration from everyone in her close circle.
“While this is an individual sport, I know I’m not doing it alone,” she said. “My husband, coach, friends, family, and team drive me every day. This is a sport where you quickly find out who truly supports your dreams and goals. Some days are harder than others; a great support system and attitude are everything.”
Teamwork is a theme in the DeHerrera household, as husband Derrek also competes and supports his wife.
“We may eat different amounts, but most of the food we eat is the same,” Derrek said. “If one person has more time available, they will cook up the food needed in bulk for us both and vice versa. In the end, being able to spend time on the same stage and cheer each other on is pretty cool and fun.”
The couple’s fitness journey isn’t without its challenges.
“The biggest challenges with our fitness life has to be the differences in our plan, our work schedules and how those affect our time together,” Derrek said. “In order to overcome it, we try to work out with each other, go out every weekend to eat and motivate each other whether we are together or not.”
For Alayna, the hardest part is the mind game.
“The mental aspect is hard,” she said. “It’s not always easy to get up at 3 a.m. I have never been a morning person and I have a love for food. It has taken a lot of discipline.”
While Alayna may see the mental aspect as her biggest challenge, Townsend sees it as her biggest strength.
“I think what impresses me the most about Alayna is her ability to overcome obstacles that stand in her way,” Townsend said. “She has been through a lot of challenges during her preps but she always pulls through. Where others may have given up she seems to always come out on top.”
Alayna said she knows facing physical and mental adversity in bodybuilding has helped improve her as an Airman.
“It has fortified a disciplined lifestyle and has been a true lesson in resiliency,” she said. “You have to give 100 percent every day and withstand the desire to give up on the hard days. It has taught me the power of proper nutrition and exercise that the body needs to perform at its best mentally and physically, both of which are essential pillars of wellness.”
Though he admits he is biased, Derrek feels Alayna is a prime example for others to follow.
“Her motivation and perseverance are truly inspiring,” Derrek said. “Regardless of what her goals were over the years, she has always accomplished them. She does not stop when she loses and does not take it negatively. Instead, she takes the constructive criticism and tries to better herself for the next goal.”
For anyone considering starting down their own fitness path, Alayna has words of advice.
“It’s a personal journey unlike any other,” she said. “It’s not for the weak hearted but absolutely worth the effort; it’s mind over muscle.”