RCN, RCAF members bring home medals from Atlantic Classic
By Ryan Melanson,
Staying fit and leading a healthy lifestyle is essential for all CAF members, but a select few go all out in maximizing their potential, sticking to tough training plans and precise diets to sculpt a body worthy of showing off on stage.
And a group of members from Formation Halifax recently did just that, competing at the Atlantic Classic Championship in Moncton, New Brunswick, a bodybuilding, figure, physique and bikini competition that is the largest of its kind in the Maritimes.
For Cdr Jean Couillard, now MARLANT Chief of Staff and formerly the Commanding Officer of HMCS Athabaskan, the motivation for entering the competition, which was a new experience for the senior officer, was twofold. First, he wanted to test the limits of his own fitness and show that “abs can still be possible after you turn 40,” but he also hoped that his goals would inspire his crew to put an added focus on health and exercise. He said he’s an ardent believer that good physical health leads to better mental health, better morale and more productivity.
“My training was all done at sea in Athabaskan, so a big part of it for me was to inspire the crew,” said Cdr Couillard, who spent more than 200 days at sea with Athabaskan through the ship’s final 18 months in service.
He described waking up at the earliest hours of the morning for hundreds of sit ups, and training multiple hours of cardio each day, especially during the last few months before the show, while also pushing his galley staff to provide options at each meal that met the high protein, low-fat diet required during training.
“I was a little more privileged because of my position, I could tell the galley to scrap the fried food and serve some salad, but that benefited the others as well,” Cdr Couillard said. This included Capt Tyrell McElhinney, a member of Athabaskan’s helicopter air detachment, who also competed at the Atlantic Classic and placed third overall in his Men’s Physique category, while Cdr Couillard finished fourth overall in the Men’s Physique Masters 40+ category.
Cdr Couillard said he was happy to have another competitor on board to swap ideas and occasionally train with, and that he hoped the others took note of what they were able to accomplish while training in conditions that aren’t exactly ideal.
“We were doing it with limited equipment and busy schedules and limited food choices. It was super challenging to get to this level of fitness in that environment, but it shows that this is possible, and that you’re in charge of your own choices and your own fork.”
AB Alana Deschamps, another competitor, has also dealt with managing her training plan while spending lots of time at sea, bringing some of her own food on ship and cramming in workouts when possible. But currently, as a Sonar Op at Trinity’s Acoustic Data Analysis Centre, she’s free to hit the gym seven days a week, which she did in preparation for the event in New Brunswick, which was her fourth time competing in the Bikini category of a fitness competition.
“For me, it’s about being able to push myself as hard as I possibly can. I enjoy the focus on overall health and wellness in your day to day life, with all the work that has to go into the dieting and healthy eating. I just like being able to take my fitness to the next level and see the results in my body. It’s very rewarding,” she said.
She finished 12th in her class in Moncton, which wasn’t quite up to par with her results in other competitions, but being her fourth show in the span of about a year, she was still proud of the accomplishment. She now plans to take a year off to train before getting back into competition in the women’s figure category, which focuses more on strength and muscle mass than the bikini contests.
AB Deschamps normally trains with her fiancé, who is a fitness coach and nutritionist, but said knowing she also represents the CAF when she’s on stage provides an extra boost of confidence and motivation.
“It’s definitely a sense of pride for me. They announce who you are and what you do when you get on stage, so it’s nice to be out there and have people know who I am and that I’m representing the military and especially the Navy.”
Other formation members who competed at the Atlantic Classic event included LS Chris Barnes from Trinity, LS William Laidlaw of HMCS Halifax, and PO2 Steve Clark of NTDC(A).