Reserve maintainer wins big at bodybuilding competition

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Shayna Hodge
  • 512th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

When Staff Sgt. Alyssa Poisson, 712th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, competed in her first bodybuilding competition at the National Physique Committee Mid-Atlantic Open and Armed Forces Show in November 2023, she didn’t expect to win the Women’s Wellness Overall trophy.

The amateur body builder not only beat her competitors to win overall in the Wellness Division, a division for women whose physique showcases more mass in the lower body, but also placed first in three Wellness Division subclasses – armed forces, height and true novice. 

“It was a shock to win, especially because it was my first show,” said Poisson. "I was so proud of myself. Winning gave me a confidence boost and solidified that bodybuilding is something I want to continue to do.” 

Poisson explained she began bodybuilding after hitting a peak in her personal fitness journey that left her wanting to try something new and challenging. 

“I’d been working with my coach, Tavish Steele, and had accomplished so much in just a few months that I wanted to see what else I could do with fitness,” said Poisson. “So, I decided to compete in a body building competition.” 

Poisson, a California native who grew up running track, swimming, horseback riding and playing volleyball, said the bodybuilders that influence her the most inspired her decision to compete in the wellness division.  

She said her 16-week competition training consisted of five, 90-minute to two-hour weightlifting sessions, two, 45-minute cardio sessions a day and eating healthy meals that required consistent meal prep. 

Her intense workout regimen coincided with full-time workdays at the 712th AMXS, online classes at the University of Louisville, where she’s studying to obtain a criminal justice bachelor’s degree, and holding down the fort at home while her husband, Senior Airman Kyle Poisson, a 709th Airlift Squadron flight engineer, was away on missions. 

Poisson credited her organizational skills, the routines she’s created for herself and the lessons the Air Force Reserve has taught her for helping her balance her fitness, personal and military life as she prepared for her first competition.  

“I’ve always been organized and enjoyed how routines make your days more efficient,” she said. “I also enjoy the routine of the military and how it reminds me of the importance of being structured.” 

Poisson also reflected on the resiliency the Air Force has instilled in her and how its contributed to her success with bodybuilding. 

“As a maintainer, I’ve handled aircraft issues that’ve pushed me out of my comfort zone,” she said. “In those moments, I had to be resilient enough to not shy away from challenges and to remind myself I had the knowledge, skills and resources to get the job done.  

I gave myself the same reminder before I competed in my show. I was nervous before going on stage but deep down I knew I had trained well enough to compete.” 

Poisson said her nerves quickly subsided once she walked onto the competition stage.  

“Being on stage felt like home and made me realize I was there for a reason,” she said. “I felt like I had just gotten off a rollercoaster after finishing my first performance. It wasn’t until then that I realized how much I loved bodybuilding.” 

Kyle Poisson expressed how proud he was of his wife for winning her show. Despite her initial nerves, he said he was confident she’d place in at least one category because of how hard she had trained for the competition. 

“She was so devoted to her training; I knew she would do a great job,” he said. “She achieves whatever she puts her mind to.”  

The Poissons are both dedicated to fitness and often have date nights at the gym. 

“We don’t work out together,” Poisson laughed. “But going together and seeing one another do what we both love is great. “Honestly, I wouldn’t be where I am with bodybuilding or the military without his unconditional support, motivation and love.” 

Describing his wife as dedicated and motivated, Kyle said he’s always impressed with her work ethic in the gym.  

“She inspires me to work harder,” he said. “And, that carries over into my job as a flight engineer too.” 

Kyle recognized Poisson’s maintenance job requires her to work in outside elements that are not always ideal. 

“As a flight engineer, I’m always on an aircraft, but my wife often works outside for long hours at a time,” he said. “But she never gives up no matter how hard a day might be. She’s always in the fight.” 

Poisson’s Air Force career began when she enlisted as a maintainer in June 2018. Prior to joining the Air Force Reserve, Poisson received an associate’s degree in fashion design and worked in retail. Eventually, she said she realized her work was not fulfilling her.  

“I kept going back to my childhood dream of being an astronaut,” she said. “Growing up, I loved aviation and aerospace; so, I got the idea of joining the Air Force Reserve. When I spoke to a recruiter, I realized there were opportunities for me to become a maintainer and to work with aviation like I always wanted to.” 

Since joining, she has served as a traditional reservist, an Air Reserve Technician and is currently serving a three-year active-duty order as part of the Active Guard and Reserve program that places guardsmen and reservists on active-duty status. 

“I fell in love with the work and the people when I joined 712th AMXS,” she said. “Watching an aircraft leave the ground after completing maintenance work on it and doing the work with people I consider a family is so rewarding. The people in the Reserve really make it great.”  

Poisson’s service with the 712th AMXS has been beyond commendable according to her supervisor, Senior Master Sgt. Joseph Therrien. He applauded her work ethic and acknowledged the role model she’s become to other Airmen.  

“Poisson is ambitious, dedicated and extremely humble,” he said. “Her dedication to her work and other Airmen is unbelievable and unmatched. She’s truly an outstanding Airman and a pillar of support in the unit.”

In addition to being a maintainer, Poisson is also the unit’s fitness manager. In this role, she ensures Airmen are prepared for their physical fitness assessments.

“Besides the administrative and logistical aspects of being the UFM, I try to be an example of good health and fitness to Airmen. I’m always open to answering questions about exercise and nutrition and make a point to connect with my Airmen to make sure they feel ready for testing.

“Life can be busy, but I think there’s always time to fit in a workout,” she said. “Being active is so important as service members. Not only for the mission but for ourselves and our families.”  

Poisson described fitness as a non-negotiable for her. At one point in her life though, she said she was the most stagnant she’d ever been.  

“I realized when I wasn’t moving my body I wasn’t as happy,” she said. “I knew I had to get back to my active self.”  

Since getting back into the routine of working out and competing in her first bodybuilding competition, fitness has remained a priority.  

In fact, she’s already went on to compete at the December 2023 NPC National Championships that her first place wins at the Mid-Atlantic and Armed Forces Show qualified her for.  

“I placed 12th out of 19 competitors at Nationals,” she said. “I was super happy about it considering the number of bodybuilders that competed and their skill levels.” 

Poisson also mentioned she will be competing again at nationals in December 2024 and hopes to place high enough to qualify for the International Fitness and Bodybuilding Federation Professional League.

“Once I accomplish that, I can start working toward my goal of competing at the John Weider Olympia competition,” she said. “Right now, though, I’m using my offseason to learn more about bodybuilding. I really want to enjoy the process of getting better, staying dedicated to my goals and building off the love I’ve found for bodybuilding.”

Click here to see photos of Poisson's competition