Meet the Air Force vet serving on the President's Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition

Eye on Veterans
March 04, 2019 - 1:50 pm
A photo of Air Force veteran Rob Wilkins alongside Yankees legend Mariano Rivera and multi-sport superstar Herschel Walker

Photo courtesy Rob Wilkins


He used to go by Master Sergeant Wilkins before he retired after 20-plus years in the Air Force.

These days? He's The Honorable Rob Wilkins, one of 23 members of the President's Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition, alongside the likes of Mariano Rivera, Dr. Oz, and Herschel Walker. As it happens, standing alongside luminaries, such as these, is nothing new to Wilkins. 

In 1983, about a year into his military career, the young airman – who was also training to be a bodybuilder – was stationed in Germany. One day he sent a letter to Ben and Joe Weider, the founding fathers of bodybuilding, to let them know how inspirational they were to him.

The Weiders, known among many other things for bringing Arnold Schwarzenegger to America, not only responded but soon invited Wilkins into their world. Through that relationship, Wilkins became an ambassador for the International Federation of Bodybuilding Fitness (IFBB) before Ben Weider recommended a new avenue for Wilkins to reach a large audience.

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"He said, 'Would you like a column in Flex magazine, Muscle & Fitness?' And I said, 'I can't write'," Wilkins recalls. "He said, 'You go to the community college and you learn how.' Basically, that was my intro to the world of bodybuilding and writing."

Rob Wilkins Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ben Weider
Photo courtesy Rob Wilkins

Wilkins' involvement in the fitness world continued for the duration of his time in the Air Force and led to his appointment to the council by President Trump. It's an opportunity, Wilkins says, he is incredibly grateful for and one he's using to reach as many people as possible with his message on fitness. It's a message he says is based first and foremost on setting realistic expectations.

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"So many folks go in and think they want to get right back to where they were," Wilkins says. "So if they worked out many years ago, they want to get right back to where they were. They want to lift 200 pounds or 300 pounds. Well, maybe that's not the best place to start."

So where should someone who has been out of the gym for an extended period start? Wilkins recommends the essential first step is a check-up with your doctor before implementing any workout plan. After getting the medical all-clear, finding the fitness regimen that works best for you is the key. And Wilkins says you shouldn't limit the search to the "traditional" ways of working out like hitting the treadmill or lifting weights. 

Rob Wilkins of the Presidents Council on Sports Fitness and Nutrition
Photo courtesy Rob Wilkins

"It could be yoga, it could be taekwondo, it can be whatever makes you want to move," Wilkins says. "It could be gardening."

RELATED: Air Force Association: "Our mission is to promote a dominant Air Force"

While he remains partial to hitting the gym, the method someone chooses to stay fit or get back in shape isn't the important part according to Wilkins. What matters are the results and the improved quality of life he knows they'll achieve based on his own experience.

"It's the fountain of youth to me," Wilkins says. "At 55 years old, I'm not trying to win any contests, but I'm still trying to be active and still be able to shoot a jump shot or run if I have to. And I find that staying in the gym just keeps me in shape good enough to keep up with my son."

You can hear the full interview with Rob Wilkins and White House chef Andre Rush below. 

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