Sunday, May 20, 2018
Health

New Tampa veteran wins bodybuilding competition, with help

TAMPA — As Neyda Moyet stood waiting to hear the results of the Tampa Bay Classic body building competition, posing in a way she had learned mostly from YouTube tutorials, her trainer, Rafael Velez, stood in the audience, bouncing from seat to seat.

They both think he was more nervous than she was.

But when the announcers called out that Moyet, 42, of New Tampa had won first place in four categories in her first body building competition, both were ecstatic. Three and a half months of grueling training had paid off — for Moyet and for Velez, who is more than her trainer.

He's also her husband.

When the two met last year's winner of the Tampa Bay Classic in the fall, Velez, 49, said he looked at his wife, who always had body building on her bucket list, and sized up the two.

Maybe, he remembered thinking, it was possible. She would just need a little help.

Though his background as a drill sergeant and master fitness trainer for more than 20 years in the military left him with plenty of experience running large conditioning classes, Velez had never trained just one person before, much less his wife.

Though they never worked out together, both had always been into fitness, largely because of their military backgrounds.

The two met when they were stationed in Germany, but Moyet was relocated to Colorado as the war in Iraq started and the two fell out of touch before they met again in Kuwait. Moyet finished active duty in 2004, and the two were married in 2005.

In the civilian world, staying fit can be more challenging.

"The Army makes you do it," Velez said. "Out here, no one makes you do it."

To Moyet, working out is relaxing.

To Velez, it's therapy.

While on one of his tours of duty in Iraq, a motor explosion left him with a broken back, two ruptured discs in the neck, a traumatic brain injury and posttraumatic stress disorder.

After falling out of shape, it took months of intense physical therapy and gym work to rehabilitate himself. Velez promised himself he would never again let himself go slack. Because he was declared disabled and unemployable, Velez said he has plenty of time for therapy.

"Working out keeps me busy and keeps my mind off of things," he said.

Moyet agrees.

"You can go to the gym and forget about everything," she said. "Everything else is all out there."

So six days a week, Velez and Moyet went to the LA Fitness gym in Wesley Chapel first thing in the morning for two hours of intense workouts. After Moyet finished hers, Velez did his.

Being married, they said, worked to their advantage.

"Because he's my husband, he can really push, push," Moyet said. "If it's somebody else, he's not going to say that the way he said it to me."

Velez agreed.

"I can really say what I want her to do without a problem, without worrying about feelings or anything," he said.

Moyet, he said, is the hardest working person he has seen at the gym.

"She grunts and yells and screams," he said.

But even the hardest working person, he said, needs a trainer. If she wanted to stop after eight reps, he would make sure she did eight more.

"It's all mind over matter," Velez said. "I'd say these little things to her, like, 'Pain is just weakness leaving the body.' "

"And I'd say, 'Yeah, right!' " Moyet said.

Within the first couple of weeks, the two fell into a pattern that found Moyet peaking at her optimal physical form earlier than expected.

Others would stop them, asking both Velez and Moyet if they would train them.

The two are considering starting a team to train others.

But while the gym is the "fun part," Moyet said the challenging part was in the kitchen, where she followed a strict diet in which everything, including water consumption, was portion controlled and measured.

Training for a competition, they said, is best done with minimal distractions. But in the middle of training, the two went on a weeklong cruise and a retreat for veterans. Though food was abundant, Moyet remained disciplined.

"At all the meals, people would ask, 'Where's your wife?' " Velez said. "I'd say she was back in the room, cooking all her own meals."

The night Moyet won the competition, a friend from the gym left a bouquet of flowers and a key lime pie, her favorite food, on the couple's doorstep. For a week, Moyet ate whatever she wanted and took a break from the gym.

But this week, she's back training, preparing for the Aug. 16 Florida State Championship for body building, a national qualifying event.

She hopes to someday become an International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness professional.

"I want women, particularly women over 40, to be able to look at me and think 'If she can do it, so can I,' " she said. "I want to show them you can go and compete and win."

Though her bucket list item has been crossed off, Moyet and Velez don't have plans to slow down quite yet.

"I'm going to keep doing it until God says, 'No more, mamacita,' " she said.

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