Vilachack Ladara is a family-oriented man who's been happily married for 20 years. His wife, Valerie, supports him in all of his training endeavors by cooking healthy meals. The couple has two children - 13-year-old Gaven and 7-year-old Madeline - who motivate their parents in everything they do.
Vilachack, a Floridian, also serves in the U.S. Air Force as a full-time active duty member. He enlisted right out of high school, and has been serving ever since.
Vilachack began lifting weights at age 22 when he was sent to Thule, Greenland (located inside the Arctic Circle). The social life left something to be desired, so there wasn't much to do besides work out and read books - often books about working out.
Vilachack isn't a gifted or unique athlete. He's not the fastest, strongest or leanest guy in town. But the gym allowed him to maximize his potential. He spent most of his free time lifting weights. Thanks to bodybuilding magazines and workout tips from the pros, he grew from 165-to-200 pounds.
After his days in Thule, Vilachack maintained a muscular foundation, but was never lean enough to have 6-pack abs. He continued to workout on and off for the next several years without a defined goal.
In 2006, while lifting in the gym, Vilachack was approach by a bodybuilding promoter who was putting on a show at Kadena Air Base in Japan. The promoter asked Vilachack to enter. He was hesitant at first, but took the challenge. Before the competition, he read as much as possible about contest preparation and dieting. But he found most of his information on Bodybuilding.com.
Vilachack continued to question entering the contest until he went to see a local bodybuilding show, which put him all in. He realized he could and would follow through with the competition.
He trained hard for 12 weeks and took fourth place in his weight class at 169 pounds with six percent body fat. Vilachack learned a great deal from that contest, but never competed again.
Talk about muscle memory: Thanks to his show five years ago, the 39-year old understands his body well enough to know what foods and exercises work best for him. The 2011 Military Challenge was the spark he needed to gear up again and focus on his goal.
Hailing from Hurlburt Field in Mary Esther, Florida, Vilachack used his spare time to cut his weight from 200-to-185 pounds and his body fat percentage from 15-to-8. The end result was exactly what he hoped for - a defining victory in Bodybuilding.com's 2011 Military Challenge!
Q&A with Vilachack:
Q: Congratulations on winning the 2011 Military Challenge! What inspired you to enter the challenge?
I was just going through the motions by working out a few times per week without a clearly defined goal. This contest gave me the deadline I needed.
Having that deadline and knowing that others were suffering along with me were my main inspirations for entering. I'm more inclined to follow through on something if I have a defined goal that I broadcast to my friends and family. Not wanting to disappoint them or renege on my words keeps me focused.
Q: How surprised are you at the extent of your transformation?
I'm pleased with my transformation, but I'm not 100-percent satisfied. I still see areas of my physique, like my back and chest, needing improvement. That's why I'm still hitting the gym hard and eating clean.
Q: You obviously stayed motivated throughout the contest. Any noteworthy or unique tips for our readers?
I had to battle through my emotions and negative thoughts. There were plenty of times where I wanted ice cream or cheesecake so badly I could taste it. I'd tell myself: "Just one bite, this one time," or "You can always do extra cardio."
The first few temptations were the most difficult to resist, but once I passed on one and two, then three, it was easy to stay on track. I didn't want to see my improvement diminish!
Q: Were there any moments you wanted to give up? If so, how did you push through them and continue training?
There were plenty of moments where I thought about quitting. Once I told my friends and family I entered the contest, I wasn't going to back out. Once I'm in, I'm all in.
Q: What was the single hardest aspect of your transformation?
Q: Any helpful tips for readers who might struggle with the same issue?
To ensure your nutritional goals are met, plan meals in advance. I wrote down menu items for the week based on the dining facilities menus.
If they were serving something that wasn't on my meal plan, I would resort to chicken breast or tuna. In short, outline a plan and stick to it!
A lot of people are going to read this and think, "Nah, I couldn't do this. Not me." Tell them why they're dead wrong.
The biggest excuse I hear is "I don't have the time." I work full time, on the road about half the year, have a wife, two kids and a dog. Yet I still manage to find time to work out.
I'm able to do it because I make working out a priority and build it into my schedule. Most people can overcome a time-crunch hurdle by planning ahead. Schedule your workout time like it's a meeting or appointment and then make sure not to miss it.
Q: Now that you've tackled this fitness goal, what's next? Want to get shredded like cheese, ripped like paper or climb Mount Olympus? Fight pirates? Build a fitness career, perhaps?
I'm not 100 percent satisfied with my physique, so I want to get more shredded. I'll continue to train and diet until I reach that goal. I will retire from the military soon, so I'm definitely looking into fitness as a second career.
I'm a certified fitness trainer, but I still take courses to expand my knowledge. I'm thinking about going back to school to become a licensed dietitian because I think nutrition is the most critical aspect of physique competition. I hope one day to own and run my own gym.