MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan --
The concept of slowing down, not doing as much or easing on the brakes as we get further along in years is one many of us have probably heard in our lives.
We’ve heard it from both our peers, who are still learning if this is true, to those who have lived long enough to know there is some truth in the saying.
Many of us may feel old because of the various types of physical and mental stress we have encountered in our lives.
For some of us, that may be from playing sports our entire lives, various physical jobs or serving in the Marine Corps - these stresses may have lead to the birth of the concept.
For Master Sgt. Shelly D. Bothwell Jr., Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12 aviation supply department supply management division staff noncommissioned officer in charge, the thought of slowing down has inspired him to rededicate himself to crafting his body into a temple of strength.
Bothwell, a 47-year-old Weirsdale, Fla. native, qualified in the 231 pound weight class in the bench press category at the Japanese nationals and Masters Division in Hofu in December with a weight of 473 pounds.
“I wanted to do my best to not only represent myself, but the Marine Corps as well,” said Bothwell.
Bothwell has been a powerlifter since he can remember. Growing up in Florida, he was exposed to the sport in high school, competing in several meets.
“I was introduced to weights in the seventh grade, and I competed on the high school powerlifting team,” said Bothwell.
After joining the Marine Corps late in life, Bothwell put away the thought of competing in order to serve in the Corps.
He stepped away from the sport for a number of years out of obligations to God, country and family, and it was by chance he went back to actively competing in powerlifting.
“I was just going through the motions for a while, a non-competitive mode,” said Bothwell. “That changed when I saw a 74-year-old Japanese gentleman competing in the (2011 Summer Slam Bench Press Challenge). I thought to myself, ‘If he can compete at that age, then I’m not too old, either.’ So I decided to get back to powerlifting.”
Bothwell still had doubts, even then.
“At first I was a little hesitant,” said Bothwell. “I thought I was at a point in my life where I was getting too old for this sport, but when I saw him lifting, I realized you’re only as old as you feel. He motivated me.”
As Bothwell sits reminiscing about the beginnings of his resurgence in competitive powerlifting, a quiet reserved confidence exudes from the strongman. An overly muscular bronze statue from the 2011 Far East Bodybuilding Competition flexes its exaggerated metallic frame in an intimidating pose behind Bothwell. On his desk, another statue of a disproportionately muscular bulldog statue wearing a campaign cover conveys the impression of the bestial strength which is unleashed when he trains. These and several placement trophies remind him why he competes.
Coupled with his impressive feats of strength, his commitment to the sport is something which does not come as a surprise to fellow powerlifters who frequent the gym.
“He’s stubborn,” said Abe J. Roman, fellow powerlifter and trainer. “Not a bad stubborn. He’s stubborn in the sense he doesn’t know when to quit. He’s self motivated, interested in learning and wants to better himself.”
Roman is not only a fellow gym rat, but also serves as a mentor/coach/peer to Bothwell helping him to prepare for competitions.
“I was used to just going to gym and working out,” said Bothwell. “(Abe) helped me with my technique, strategies, training programs for the bench press contest, because I hadn’t done competitive powerlifting since high school.”
It is through this training, Bothwell went from 250 pounds to 228 pounds. This lighter frame not only keeps Bothwell within Marine Corps’ weight standards, but helps to reduce some of the pain in his joints.
Bothwell said powerlifting has not only helped him to maintain his weight standards, but has also helped relieve stress over his entire body.
The longing to compete never leaves those who have been exposed to the powerlifting bug. It may get pushed to the back of your mind over the years as other responsibilities come to the forefront, but it never truly leaves. For Bothwell, this way of life is not something he foresees himself ever truly giving up.
“I’ve been fortunate to have no major injuries,” said Bothwell. “I can see myself competing for another 5, 6 years. God has definitely blessed me so far.”