Hi my name is Michelle Gagnon and I like to lift heavy things and put them down. I also like food. A lot. I guess from that you can decipher that I am infact, a bodybuilder.
In all seriousness I am a 21 year old figure athlete and full time biopharmaceutical science student at Université de Montréal. What in the world do you do with a biopharmaceutical science degree you might ask (like I get asked every. single. time.)? To put it simply, biopharm englobes the research and development part of the pharmaceutical industry. Our classes include biochemistry, pharmacology, pathology, organic chemistry.. I am fascinated by the human body and I find it incredible that we are able to alter metabolic processes and responses with tiny molecules. I love challenges, and in research everything is a challenge. I somehow find the time to work part time in an optometrist office, too. Between school and studying, the gym, cooking and my part time job, I have very little down time. I exhaust myself sometimes, often during exams but I love what I do and I wouldn't change a thing.
I was always a very athletic kid, I did very well in every sport I did - and let me tell you I tried it all. I even came home one day and wanted to sign up for boy's baseball. My parents didn't ask any questions, signed me up and I played boy's baseball that summer. My parents supported every move I made and just went with my ever changing mind (I will definitely be talking about my amazing family in a future post). I also played soccer, ringette, hockey, gymnastics, track and field and tons of high school sports. Once I got into high school however, I started to drift away from sports and focused more on my social life (along with every other 14 year old girl). By slowing down on sports, I started to dislike my changing body that was coincidentally going through puberty too. I was by no means 'fat', but after having a gymnast body I was quite hard on myself. I remember the exact moment I decided to join the gym: I was sitting at home a few days after coming home from a week in Costa Rica with some girl friends looking at pictures of myself in a bikini. The next day I set foot in the gym for the first time. I haven't gotten out since!
A few childhood sports pictures
I ran cross-country and was quite good at it in highschool, so naturally when I started going to the gym I went straight to the treadmill. I did nothing but cardio - and a lot of it. I did about an hour on the treadmill followed by an hour on the stationary bike. I did this everyday, 6-7 days a week until the treadmill took a toll on me and I was forced to stop by a metatarsal stress fracture. I couldn't run and I was devastated. Little did I know that this was the biggest blessing in disguise! You'd probably guess that I took a few weeks off from the gym.. Nope. Actually, on the way home from the hospital and getting my cast I stopped by the gym and did an hour on the bike. I still went every single day to do my cardio, cast and all! I started to get quite a bit of attention at the gym, I was known as 'that crazy girl at the gym for hours a day with a broken foot'. After a few weeks I was getting pretty bored of biking so I started to do some upper body exercises too. I would just do all the machines, scared to look like a fool with free weights. I quickly started visibly gaining muscle and leaning out and that's when I really got hooked on weight training. Once my foot healed I introduced leg workouts to my routine and cut down quite a bit on cardio, doing maybe an hour evey two days (still way too much, by the way). A trainer at the gym approached me and corrected my terrible squat form, and I became good friends with him. He eventually introduced me to a proper training split with bodybuilding-like workouts. It was at this moment I decided I wanted to do a figure competition. Three years later, I'd step on stage for the first time.
Here's what I looked like every day at the gym. That cast turned heads let me tell you!
My first prep, like everyone else's, was the biggest learning experience of my life. What many people fail to realize is that a competition prep has as much of a mental component as a physical one. I went through quite a few hardships in my first prep and a very big event in my personal life almost derailed me from my goal. When I look back now, I am so proud of myself for pushing through, focusing on myself and getting to the stage. But it was hell in the moment - let me tell you. I might go more in detail about my previous preps in the posts in the next weeks, but moral of the story is that I still stepped on stage. And I won my class. I was extremely happy to have won first place in my first competition, but a big part of me was quite disappointed when I didn't take the overall title. What comforted me was knowing that from the beginning, my coach Larry Vinette and I had decided that we were going to coast into Quebec Open and make sure that my physique is at it's peak for the provincial championships, 9 weeks later. My shape improved, I got leaner for provincials and I took not only my class, but the overall figure title this time. This is the moment I truly saw my potential. I don't want to come off as over-confident, but I absolutely love the sport and I do good in it - why not push to the end? This bring us to now - I am currently 12 weeks out of the CBBF Nationals in British Columbia. I won't lie, I'm hungry for my pro card. Some may think it's a far-fetched goal but I am committed to get my pro card by the end of 2016.
A comparaison from the beginning of my prep to provincials and some stage/backstage shots
This is just the beginning and I can't wait to share this prep with you guys and really show the ups and downs. Prep is not easy whatsoever, and some days suck. Real bad. I want you guys to get to know me all while understanding and learning about the grueling process of a competition prep. I also want you guys to see that I am so much more than a figure athlete and I have a whole lot more going on in my life than my competitions. On stage we look absolutely beautiful but I will be the first to say it's hell to get there and quite frankly, at that point we have surpassed the definition of 'health' that we are supposed to be advertising up on that stage. It's ironic, really. Anyway, we will get into that in further posts but until then, thank you so much for joining me on this journey to the national stage!