I first ran across Michelle James on Strong is the New Skinny on Facebook. Michelle has a great story and is a great inspiration no matter what your sport or goals. She pretty much says it all here, so I’ll just get right to Michelle and let her do the talking… -Adam
Here’s Michelle James In Her Own Words…
I used to be made fun of for my Asian look, but now I embrace it. I was laughed at when I ran because of my flat pigeon toe feet that made me look like a (very slow) ostrich – but now I run 5k’s with accomplishments like getting 25th (23:37) out of 250 women at the Arnold Classics in Columbus, OH. I have slight scoliosis that physically made my back ache when I was just sitting in a car and was told how skinny I was like it was a disease. But, last week I was doing 400lb rack pulls and I’ve held the state record of 347.5lbs in the deadlift. I use to not be able to even bench the bar but now I have deep squatted almost 300lbs. I used to be humiliated by coaches, teachers, and peers, but now I have learned to forgive but not forget so I can have the empathy and motivation to help others that they are worth something and CAN accomplish anything they put their mind to.
I used to think you had to be the best at something to try it but now I am not afraid to try and am perfectly content to just share the platform or road with those who I consider at the top of my sport. I used to be depressed and lost but now I have faith, real Hope and an understanding that I’m not going to be perfect and that I can only be “MY BEST”. I try not to dwell on my flaws but work with what I do have! I have decided to claim my body, my mind, and my soul back!
I am Michelle James (age 39). I’m married and have 4 birth babies and 2 step-children ranging in ages from 2 to 20. Like a large amount of mothers out there, I have struggled with trying to be that Wonder Woman. Our role has changed so much. Were expected to take care of the kids, cook, clean, do bills, be a taxi service to our kids’ activities, remember everyone’s schedule, be a great wife, volunteer, work outside the home, AND look GOOD all at the same time. I have realized one thing though….”If mama ain’t happy, nobody is happy” as the saying goes. After giving birth to our 4th child I came to a turning point! I couldn’t be an office manager outside the home AND be the manager at home anymore otherwise I was going to be checked into the local loony bin!
Between working most all my life and the society stigma of mom’s that stay home, I struggled with my self-worth at first. When I realized how much less stress I had and how my kids weren’t getting me at the end of my day, I quit feeling so guilty. I also quit feeling bad about taking care of myself. When I do my 5 mile runs on my treadmill it is instant “happy hormones” and so much cheaper and better for you than drugs. I remind myself that when I lift heavy at the gym I am keeping my bones healthy, preventing future injury’s, and sustaining a youthful look and feel. And when I work out I want to eat better too. All this is contagious to people I come across – including my family!
How I Quit Feeling Sorry For Myself and Made a Change…
I started working out consistently after my first child was born. I was trying to quit smoking and heard it took 5 years for it to get out of your lungs. So I worked it hard on the treadmill walking. I knew I wasn’t healthy as my diet included a lot of pop, beer, and junk food. I was that skinny fat girl with cottage cheese legs! I didn’t know what I was doing with weights that much, but I dabbled in it as I knew it was good at preventing osteoporosis which two of my grandmothers had. PLUS, I was sick of being this “pear shaped” girl with a flat chest & scrawny arms. I wanted to look tough! I couldn’t do much about the flat chest (besides surgery) but maybe if I emphasized what I could work with I could get motivated and get that inner athlete out that nobody thought was possible! With a few ups and downs like gaining 45lbs with one of my pregnancy’s I achieved the impossible and stayed pretty consistent.
In 1998 my husband competed in his first powerlifting meet. I was surprised as all get out when I saw the women that were competing there. I thought you had to look like some she-man to compete as a woman in this sport, wow was I wrong! There were women competing who were slender, round, and all sizes/ages and not one of them looked like a man… They represented beauty and being feminine all the way around. One gal deadlifted like 400lbs or something and was in the 148lbs weight class! All the sudden I was empowered to do what they do! I had flash backs of my Wonder Woman underoos I would never take off, my Wonder Woman Barbie Doll, and the Wonder Woman poster on my closet wall that I would pray to God would jump out, come to life and meet me when I was a 5 year old girl…lol! Men naturally have that label as “STRONG” but now I was also motivated to help those with that weak label (especially teens and women) to be STRONG too both emotionally and physically.
I started reading everything I could get my hands on about health and working out. I became an ACE certified personal trainer and later an ACE Lifestyles & Weight Management Consultant. I found out you should never idolize that skinny girl who eats whatever she wants and doesn’t work out. Her days are numbered! I have done fat percentages on those kinds of girls and they had very unhealthy body fat measurements. And I have measured bigger girls who DO workout and eat right who had “athletic” healthy ranges of body fat.
The more I learned about my body the more I understand WHY you need to exercise and eat right. It wasn’t to be the best at some sport or to look like a super model – it was about living a healthy life! I ran programs specifically for women and weight training because I wanted ALL women to get lifting and not be intimidated by the gym or heavy weights.
Now I’m in the Best Shape Ever and Motivating Others to do the Same…
Now with three little kids still at home (the other 3 have graduated) I find it hard to do the personal training and teach classes like I used to, but I have found that through the computer and my actions I can still motivate others. I try to be a positive influence on things like Facebook and other events I promote. By doing so I keep myself motivated as well by meeting everyday people like me. Everyone has a story and nobody just starts working out one day and becomes that fit strong person they are hoping to be – it takes time, consistency, patience, goals, not being afraid to fail, dedication, and self-worth!
I don’t live at the gym. I spend 1 hour on average per day 5-6 days a week training. I don’t starve myself, I just eat more good calories – I eat what I feed my family.
Besides a vitamin, omega-3 and whey protein I don’t supplement. Powerlifting meets and 5k runs keep me motivated and on track. In the past, I have refereed national meets, directed meets, volunteered at meets, and lifted nationally as well.
After a 6 year break I recently qualified for the USAPL Women’s Nationals (DRUG-FREE) being held next year in Orlando, FL. I will be 40 then as well and will be able to be in both the Open and Masters Division in the 132lb weight class. The women at Nationals are amazingly strong and beautiful at all ages and weight classes and totally inspire me. Because of the great inspiration to be STRONG not SKINNY I’m definitely in the best shape ever! And like so many others, I’ve come a long way since being “picked last in the gym” …..See ya at the gym!
~Michelle from Alliance, NE