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Discipline and Determination

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Karissa Dick
  • 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Hard work, discipline, integrity and determination all define Lt. Col. Steven Young, 377th Test Support Squadron commander, who has stepped back onto the bodybuilding stage for the second time in his life since 2007. Balancing the demands of military life and his unwavering commitment to physical fitness, Young has demonstrated the discipline and determination he uses in his professional and personal pursuits.

As a young adult, Young was always interested in having a good physique. Young expressed he did his best to maintain a healthy lifestyle, although he did unknowingly stray from his goals.

“We’re talking about my late teens and early 20’s, I was just trying to find the healthy stuff,” explained Young. “I was eating licorice and boxes of cereal, and nothing was happening to my body, but I was young and played sports so I could eat all that stuff. I didn’t realize there was bad carbs, sugar, and other unhealthy things in the foods I thought were okay for me.”

In 2000, Young enlisted as an Aerospace Propulsion Apprentice in the U.S. Air Force and attended ground school for his private pilot’s license in pursuit of his dream career as an airline pilot.

“I was just a kid playing baseball one day and I had always wanted to be an airline pilot for as long as I could remember,” said Young. “I didn’t think I had what it took to do well in college at that point, and I decided I would try to learn a little bit more about airplanes, so I became a jet engine mechanic. I was playing baseball one day, and the next day I was in San Antonio starting my Air Force career.”

While enlisted in the Air Force, Young earn his Community College of the Air Force degree and received a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps scholarship. After receiving his scholarship, Young attended college in 2005 as a full-time student at Farmingdale State University and Manhattan College in New York City.

During his time in college, Young was focused on being in good shape for baseball and achieving the physique and good diet he was striving for. He acquired a coach and trainer who helped him plan for his goals and guide him on the right path for his fitness. However, after months of training and improvement, Young’s trainer saw potential for something more. Young’s trainer encouraged him to compete in a bodybuilding show. Fortunately, there was a competition happening where he grew up in Syracuse, New York, and Young decided it was a good opportunity to experience.

“I started prep for that and I was learning a lot about my body, diet, nutrition, different types of weightlifting, posing, tanning, the camaraderie surrounding the sport and all the things that go into competing,” remembers Young. “So that’s where it all started.”

Although he worked with a trainer and prepped, Young did not place well in the competition. After only competing once, Young decided to continue maintaining his fitness without pursuing a competitive bodybuilding career.

“I learned what I learned and that was that part of my life. After that, it was just about keeping a good physique and diet while going to college,” explained Young. “I was still lifting weights, playing sports, and maintaining a decent physique, but I still wanted more.”

Young successfully graduated college, and in 2008, commissioned as an Air Force officer with dreams of eventually becoming an Air Force pilot.

“I wanted to do pilot training. I had good scores and everything I needed to become a pilot, except I was too short by half an inch,” explained Young.

According to Young, after reevaluating the lifestyle of a pilot he saw that it didn’t align with his fitness goals, yet he still yearned for a career that would allow him to maintain his active lifestyle, while also keeping him close to his passion: aviation.

Young became an Air Force officer working in the air traffic control, airport management and the airspace field, and currently serves as a the 377th TSS commander at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. Young is also a commercial pilot and Certified Flight Instructor.

“I love the aviation side,” said Young. “I have the best of both worlds. I get to do the physique and bodybuilding stuff that I want in fitness, and I still get to work in aviation and fly.”

After many years as an officer, several deployments, and changing duty stations, Young was happy with his career, but struggled with maintaining the level of fitness and the physique he desired.

“I was just looking in a mirror and I was not happy with my body,” remembers Young. “I was still doing a diet, but I was trying to figure it out myself and it never works out because I don't have the experience or expertise on this stuff.”

While at Kirtland AFB, Young decided to once again work with a trainer and get back on track with his fitness goals. He did research and found a trainer who he believed fit his needs and excitedly reached out to him.

“So, I called him up and I started a diet prep right away and that was February of 2023. So that was just to get a good body,” explained Young. “It was just to get back to a body that I'm happy with.”  

After working with his trainer for nearly a year, Young was finally feeling confident about his physique and fitness. With monthly check-ups, a regimented workout plan, and careful dieting, Young was doing well, and his trainer took notice.

“In September of last year, after he checked in every month, we talked more and he said ‘Hey, have you ever done a bodybuilding show’,” remembers Young. “I said, ‘I have’ and it just happened from there.”

The trainer believed Young had very defined muscles in his legs that would compete well in bodybuilding, which provided Young with the encouragement he needed to re-enter the bodybuilding competition world again. Young quickly began prepping for an upcoming competition with his trainer and was confident that he would do better than his previous competition.

“My preparation, between my diet, the posing practice, and the weight training and the cardio, I was ready,” said Young. “It really is true that if you practice enough, then the game becomes routine.”

Leading up to the competition in March of 2024, Young had dedicated half an hour every day to practicing poses in addition to his extremely regimented diet and daily workouts. His workouts consisted of varying amounts of sets and repetitions that increased leading up to the competition, including cardio every day. While his workouts had become routine, Young’s diet required more self-discipline as they included six planned meals per day that were limited in size and often consisted of lean proteins and greens, in addition to his pre and post workout supplements.

On March 17, 2024, competition day finally arrived, and Young was more than ready. He was scheduled to compete in the Organization of Competitive Bodybuilders Albuquerque Natural competition in Albuquerque, N.M. He competed in three categories: Men’s Bodybuilding Novice, Men’s Bodybuilding 40+, and Men’s Bodybuilding Open, with several fellow competitors.

Young had gotten spray tanned and was sprayed in oil to highlight the striations and definition of his muscles while on stage during his many poses. He also had a list of ‘pump’ workouts to do prior to walking on stage to help define his muscles.

“When you do the pump before the stage, or anytime you see people working out, their muscles just get bigger because they're lifting the weights and the muscle is filling with blood,” explained Young. “So that's what the idea of the pump is because you want it when you go on stage. You want to already look pretty big.”

Young’s excitement and determination were visible as he prepared to showcase the results of his dedication and perseverance, driven not by the desire to win, but by the satisfaction from sharing his journey and inspiring others with his commitment to self-improvement, regardless of the outcome.

“I was truly enjoying myself on stage and having a genuine smile and a good time,” said Young. “I can't say that I had that for the first show, where I had no idea what I was doing, but this show I was well prepared. I was enjoying the moment and thinking I want to look good, I want to celebrate my hard work, and to be up here I want to have fun.”

After strenuous posing in front of a captivated crowd and panel of judges, Young’s months of hard work and effort had paid off. Young impressively won first place in all three categories and was presented with three swords as trophies. After his achievement in the ‘Open’ category, Young now qualifies to compete in the Pro divisions in future bodybuilding competitions.

“It was absolutely crazy! You try to compete against other people, to compete against your hard work, and to compete for yourself. If you put your body together that well and know that you nailed the prep, you have to be proud of it,” exclaimed Young. “In that moment on stage, it’s the culmination of all that cardio, all that food you didn't get, all that hard work, the discipline, the integrity to stay in your diet, and the cardio and weight training. You're showing off your hard work, and you're feeling good about it. The camaraderie is just like you would find in the Air Force. It’s such a tight knit unit and everybody's cheering each other on, and the sportsmanship is there with most people.”

Although Young was encouraged to compete by his trainer, ultimately this was a way to prove to himself that he was achieving his fitness goals and was capable of more than he originally planned. He will continue on his path of fitness excellence by competing in the National Gym Association CinciNatty Natural Bodybuilding Championships in Ohio on May 4, 2024. Driven by relentless passion for pushing his limits, Young’s ultimate goal extends beyond regular competing as he aspires to compete at the professional levels in other bodybuilding organization competitions.

“I just wanted the next level of physique, and I knew I could get it and it was a great challenge,” said Young. “I knew my coach and I could get there together, and I knew I had a good shot at it. I knew my prep and my conditioning was going to take over. My prepping and conditioning weren't even there close to there in 2007.”

According to Young, bodybuilding not only demands hard work, but also cultivates discipline, resilience, and a strong work ethic, which he applies to various aspects of his life, fostering a well-rounded and determined personality. These characteristics directly transfer to his Air Force career as he dedicates time to training, adapts well to challenging situations, and is committed to mission success, ultimately contributing to our highly effective force.