By MCC Daniel Pearson, Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center
Builder 1st Class Deanna Dimeo has a hobby that meshes well with her job in the Navy – competitive bodybuilding. In the Seabees, where physical fitness is especially valued, the hobby is a perfect fit for the Rochester, N.Y., native. In addition to her regular duties, she is the assistant command fitness leader for the 31st Seabee Readiness Group (SRG) where she serves as training and readiness leading petty officer and quota manager on board Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) Port Hueneme, Calif.
Dimeo, who has always been active and involved in sports, says she got serious about nutrition in 2009 and had aspirations of becoming a bodybuilder. Then in 2011, while stationed in Egypt with Naval Support Unit, State Department, she made up her mind. “I told myself I’m going to get a personal trainer and make this happen,” she said.
Within a few months she was competing in her first event, the Ironman Naturally (IMN) Championships, where she placed seventh in the figure category. “I think Petty Officer Dimeo did a great job at the IMN for her first-ever contest,” said Lonnie Teper, event organizer. “I hope she’s back on stage in January at the IMN. I think it’s great to have members of the military enter contests; some current military people are among the best in the industry.”
Dimeo competes in the figure category, which is judged on overall muscle tone and definition while still maintaining a degree of femininity. “Too often women and girls are continuously exposed to women that are the stick figures you see on the runway,” she added. “I think it’s more realistic to think that you can be consistent and maintain a healthy appearance.”
Dimeo’s fitness regimen is more about a healthy lifestyle, though. For more than two years before she took up bodybuilding, she began a health regimen based on nutrition. She says that a healthy diet improves her mood, energy and even her complexion. Her experience helps her provide guidance to people at her command to promote fitness and nutrition in her role as assistant command fitness leader.To maintain a healthy lifestyle, Dimeo doesn’t have to spend all day at the gym. She works out for only about an hour a day, six days a week. When preparing for a show, however, she works out with a personal trainer for about an hour-and-a-half per day and gradually lowers her calorie intake.
“When I’m getting ready for a competition I use a personal trainer, because you never push yourself as hard as somebody else will,” Dimeo observed. “Even my personal trainer has a personal trainer.” Three to four weeks before the show, Dimeo enters the cutting stage. During that phase she doubles her cardiovascular workouts to drop her body fat to between 10 and 12 percent, down from 17 to 18 percent normally.
After 12 weeks of preparation, it’s time for the competition. “You have to have a special suit, shoes, make-up and spray tan that allows judges to see definition better,” Dimeo explained. “The day of the show can be a waiting game depending on how many classes are competing. There’s always prejudging where you perform your poses and are scored, and you go on stage again for the finals. The finals are when they place you and you get your trophy – or don’t,” she laughs. Dimeo did get her trophy at the All-Forces National Bodybuilding Championships where she placed third.
The competition is when all her hard work pays off. “You’ve been starving yourself and you’re dehydrated, but the feeling of being on stage and showing off the hard work is amazing,” she said. “You feel like a million bucks!”
The effort she puts into bodybuilding isn’t about winning a trophy, though. “It’s so incredibly rewarding to have all that hard work pay off no matter where you place,” she said. “Even if you come in last, you feel like a princess.”
Dimeo’s nutrition and workout regimen isn’t all about appearance, however. “It’s an overall better feeling – better health, better energy,” she explained. “I can’t remember the last time I got a cold, and I think it helps my attitude as well. I’m more positive, and I don’t stress out.”
Dimeo agrees having overall better health makes her a better Seabee. Being able to handle physically and mentally stressful situations is easier when she is at the top of her fitness level, which makes her better able to perform for her unit and her country.