Face of Defense: Soldier Balances Bodybuilding With Army Life

While most soldiers are waking up and preparing to drive into work at 4 a.m., 2nd Lt. Angela M. DiMattia is already starting her day here with an hour of high-intensity cardio.

DiMattia’s cardio session was only a small portion of a grueling 14-week workout and diet regimen. DiMattia is the family readiness leader for 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.

Her regimen consisted of at least one hour of cardio twice a day, a lifting routine, and six planned meals throughout the day, in addition to juggling the responsibilities of being an Army officer.

“I have to keep my heart rate at a certain number when I do cardio,” DiMattia said. “I usually don’t know what we will be doing for physical training [PT], so I have to do my own workout and whatever we do for PT is just extra.”

‘Focus on the Finish’

In order to look her best on the stage, DiMattia has to follow her workout and diet plan meticulously.

“I’m still a soldier, so I have to go to [field training exercises], ranges or have to work early days or late nights, but I always have to be one step ahead of things I can’t control,” she said. “On those days I’m tired and it’s been a long day, I tell myself, ‘You just have to focus on the finish.’”

DiMattia is no stranger to the stage.

“This will be the fourth show I’ve competed in, but my first national pro qualifier show,” she said. “My first show, in 2015, was really small and located in my hometown, but since then I have mixed a little bit of all my [fitness] experiences into one.”

Although DiMattia’s passion for the stage began in 2015, her commitment to nutrition started much earlier.

“I was 2 years old when my mother was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes,” she said. “As long as I can remember I watched her [inject] herself with insulin and monitor her carb and sugar intake. She made me very aware of how important it was to take care of yourself.”

DiMattia’s knowledge of nutrition was quickly followed by a passion for fitness.

“I ran 5Ks since kindergarten and I started playing softball at 5 years old,” she said. “My first research paper in sixth grade was about the importance of nutrition and exercise. I even made a video of me doing pushups and eating celery.”

Seeking a New Challenge

DiMattia played softball throughout college and slowly progressed into more endurance-based sports such as marathons and ultra-marathons, ultimately participating in Ironman.

But that was not enough; she needed a new challenge.

“CrossFit was really big and new back in 2012, so I joined that community,” she said. “I started lifting and got stronger; I was having so much fun.”

She was still involved in endurance sports and began volunteering in her hometown’s annual soldier marathon as the fallen hero coordinator.

It was then that DiMattia’s interest in joining the military grew. Her grandfather was a retired Army first sergeant.

“So, I was no stranger to the military,” DiMattia said. “I have journeyed my entire life and the military was a common pattern throughout the years, but after volunteering and seeing the names and the history behind the fallen soldiers it struck a chord in my heart that I could no longer ignore.”

DiMattia ended up enlisting into the Georgia Army National Guard and going through Army ROTC.

New Coach

Following an injury three years ago, she turned to her now coach, bodybuilder and Strongman competitor Thomas Wade.

“He and I are on this journey together, and I don’t want to share it with anyone else,” DiMattia said.

Wade said he saw her potential immediately.

“When I first met [Angie] and she told [me] about her athletic background and that she was military. I quickly knew she had what it took to push herself when things got difficult,” he said.

He said bodybuilding takes dedication, discipline and competitiveness. DiMattia showed all those qualities, Wade said.

Wade said bodybuilding takes a lot of physical strength and it is extremely important to have mental toughness.

“You have to be strong, mentally, for this sport because at the end of the day regardless of how many people you have behind you or what is going on in your life at that moment, you have to make the decision to push yourself that extra mile,” he said.

Mental Strength

DiMattia said mental strength is a good quality for a soldier and leader in the Army to have.

“You have to be resilient in times when you think you can’t push yourself anymore,” she said, “because as a leader the straighter line you walk the more you can influence others.”

DiMattia also said she enjoys helping friends, families and soldiers fulfill their fitness goals.

“There is nothing more rewarding than helping someone with their own health, lengthening their life and giving them tools to become a healthier person,” DiMattia said. “I truly believe that fitness and health are the foundation of happiness and your effectiveness to living.”

DiMattia’s goal for the near future is to earn her International Federation of Bodybuilders professional card, which allows her to compete at higher levels and be supportive of the families and friends of the soldiers with 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

“If I can help the families here so that the soldiers downrange can do their jobs in order for everyone to come home safe, I will be happy,” DiMattia said. “And if any family members need advice on fitness I am definitely happy to help.”