Gunny inspires Marines through fitness

25 Apr 2013 | Lance Cpl. Andrea Cleopatra Dickerson

When Gunnery Sgt. Michael Dougherty joined the Marine Corps 19 years ago, nobody would have suspected there was a champion bodybuilder lurking beneath his lanky 115-pound frame.  But Dougherty had a dream ... that he would develop into a plan ... and build into a reality.

Now, just a year shy of retirement, Dougherty’s hard work paid off when he took first place in the Men’s 35+ Physique Tall Category and the Men’s Physique Overall at the 2013 Bio-Engineered Supplements and Nutrition Incorporated National Physique Committee N.C. State Championships April 13.

As a boy, Dougherty dreamed of one day competing as a professional bodybuilder. He wanted to be chiseled like the guys he emulated in fitness magazines.

“I was very active as a kid,” he said. “I used to hang muscle and fitness magazines and posters on my walls. I used to say to myself, ‘I want to be big, just like them.’”

As he got older, he realized he would not be able to build extensive muscle mass like traditional body builders. Then he discovered physique competition.

Physique athletes distinguish themselves from bodybuilders by focusing on a “beach body” look.

While on his first deployment in 1996, Dougherty said he gained 30 pounds of muscle, which really sparked further interest in the sport.

“After that, I was hooked,” he said.

The Marine Aircraft Group 14 Personnel Support Division acting first sergeant says that despite his hectic work schedule and the demands of raising a family, he finds time to train daily. Dougherty hits the gym at 4:30 a.m. and again after work.

“People always say they never have time to do certain things,” he said. “If you want to be good at something, you have to make it a priority in your life.”

With a smile on his face, Dougherty said he hopes his dedication to doing something he loves and the athletic abilities he shows both on and off duty helps motivate his troops.

“As the MAG first sergeant, one of the best feelings is coming back to work seeing the Marines inspired by what I do,” he said. “When we get on the stage, we do it for ourselves because our hard work has gotten us there, but it also means a lot to have the respect of the Marines I lead.”

Because he took the title for his weight class at his last competition, Dougherty is eligible to compete on a national level for the next two years. He will move on to compete at the 2013 NPC Junior USA Bodybuilding Championships in May.

Dougherty admitted that without the support of close friends who work out with him and help him with contest preparation, he would not be as successful as he is today.

Staff Sgt. Nicholas W. Byrd, a close friend, said the two work out together at least five times a week.

Not only does the duo train together, they help each other prepare backstage during their shows, said Byrd. The two plan to compete at national-level shows together in the near future and they are working their way toward earning professional cards.

“My friends have really helped me keep my head in the game,” said Dougherty. “They have been right there pushing me saying, ‘You can do it!’ If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

When he retires next year, Dougherty hopes to continue competing.

“This has been my lifelong dream,” he said. “Not only do I want to continue this as a career, I would like to train people and help them change their lives for the better.”

Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point