Lifestyle Prior To Change
I was always very active and very into the "fitness lifestyle", meaning I worked out almost everyday of the week. However, my eating was all wrong and I was pretty much a "Cardio Queen" with some light strength training at the end of my workouts if time allowed.
At the gym, I've always been "on the clock", the childcare clock that is. My oldest child was born in 1996 and I joined Gold's Gym when I was pregnant with her and took her into their daycare as soon as she was old enough. I always made sure I did my cardio first as I believed it was the most important. Whatever time was left over I would kick around some weights.
I got married in 2002 and my husband and I enjoyed drinking wine (lots of it!) and eating high carb, high fat foods, snacking on chips, cheeses and other junk food in the evenings. When our twins (my 3rd and 4th children) were born in 2006 it became more important to me to get back into shape. A neighbor came over one day, saw our wedding picture and said "You were so skinny then." It hit me that I'd gotten fat, granted my babies were only 2 months old, but I was far from happy being a size 14. But the comment stuck with me and drove me to better eating habits and harder workouts.
My eating habits still weren't great. Not enough calories, weekend bingeing and way too much red wine. In 2007 I met a friend at my gym who became my training partner. He encouraged me to cut back on the cardio, increase my weights and eat more food more often. After training together with him for several months people started noticing how much my body was changing and was starting to get asked if I was getting ready to compete. I wasn't, but the thought had crossed my mind and now the seed had really been planted.
What Was Your Turning Point?
I was in a very unhappy marriage that was killing my self-esteem. It was verbally and emotionally abusive and I was miserable. It's also hard to admit this, but I was very unhappy being a stay at home mom. I had always worked outside the home, but the birth of my twins forced me to quit working and stay home. Training quickly became an outlet for me. As I began to see my body change and as I began to get stronger physically, I got stronger emotionally and mentally, which encouraged me to continue and push even harder.
I found that preparing myself for competition gave me a strength I didn't realize I had and the mental and physical discipline I had to practice for competing ultimately lead me to making the biggest life change - ending my marriage and moving on.
What Was Your Exercise Plan
I did a body part training split. I was lifting in the morning with my friend and training partner and then I would return in the evenings to do an hour of cardio.
What is your current training approach?
About a year ago I started with my current training split/routine. It works very well for me and has helped me add lean mass to my frame. I went from being "fat", to being skinny and lean but not much muscle to now having a figure athlete physique with this plan.
- Sunday: 60 minutes Cardio
- Monday: LEGS (I love legs!), 45 minutes cardio after
- Tuesday: Back, 45 minutes cardio
- Wednesday: Shoulders, 30-60 minutes cardio
- Thursday: Chest, 45 minutes cardio
- Friday: Arms, 60 minutes Cardio
- Saturday: Off or 60 min cardio
- Sunday: 60 minutes AM cardio, Shoulders, 30 min cardio
- Monday: 45 minutes AM cardio, Legs (quad dominant), 30 min cardio
- Tuesday: 45 min AM cardio, Back & Biceps, 30 min cardio
- Wednesday: 45 min AM cardio, Chest & triceps, 30 min cardio
- Thursday: 30 min AM cardio, Legs (Hamstring dominant) 30 min cardio
- Friday: 60 minutes AM cardio, Arms, 30 min cardio
- Saturday: Off or 60 min cardo
What Was Your Diet Approach?
I am very carb-tolerant and my body works well with a high carb, low fat diet. When I'm trying to drop body fat I find that a 3 day low, 1 day high carb cycle works very well for me. I try to limit my processed foods.
Sample current eating plan
I'm currently in contest prep and here's a sample of my diet:
- Meal 1: 10 egg whites, zucchini, 1/2 cup oats
- Meal 2: 1 cup fat free cottage cheese, 1/2 scoop whey protein, 1/2 cup oats
- Meal 3: 5oz chicken breast, 7oz veggies, 1/2 cup oats
- Meal 4: 5oz chicken or turkey breast, 7oz veggies, 1/4 cup oats
- Meal 5: Post-workout 2 scoops of whey protein (I'm currently drinking Optimum Nutrition's Cake Batter Gold Standard Whey)
- Meal 6: 6oz chicken breast, mixed greens, broccoli
- Meal 7: 1 scoop Elite Dymatize 12 Hour Protein or 1/2 cup fat free cottage cheese
What supplements do you use?
- Elite Dymatize Whey
- Elite Dymatize 12 Hour Protein
- Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey
- Body Effects
- Xenadrine RFA
- Scivation Xtend (grape!)
- Fish Oil
- Vitamin C
- Multi Vitamin
What Is Your Life Like Now?
I'm now a single mom of 4 amazing kids - ages 13, 6 and 3 1/2 year old twins. I am a personal trainer for Elite Fitness Training in Bellevue, WA. I'm also a nutrition coach. Being a single mom is very challenging and this last year has been, by far, the most challenging year of my life, but so many good things are happening for me and my kids and I love it. Life is extremely busy - my days start at 3:30am and end at 9:30 - when I'm not working at work, I'm working at home with/for my kids or working out.
Advice For Others
There's always time for things that are important to you and being a busy mom is NOT an excuse. I can't tell you often people tell me they don't have time to work out and eat right. That's when I let them know I'm a single mom of 4 who works full time and trains for competition. If I can find the time, anyone can find the time. Sometimes you have to MAKE time. I've been seen on the stepmill at 3am at my gym...sure, I'd rather be sleeping, but being fit, this lifestyle is that important to me and I want it "that bad". That's my answer when people ask me how I do it..."Simple, I just want it THAT BAD."
More from Julie Michaelson
I am so grateful to the wonderful people who I have met in the last 18 months as I've been on this journey to transform my physique and myself from the inside out. I am so fortunate to have been blessed with some amazing mentors, coaches and friends in the sport of physique competition. They truly have given me the love and support and encouragement I needed to realize my inner strength and my full potential. It is critical to surround yourself with people who support you, inspire you and push you to drive yourself harder all the time. Keep pushing the limits and setting the bar higher!
Great transformation. keep up the good work.It's not being easy job since your are a single mom with 4 kids.
Mahesh from Sri Lanka
I just want to say that I am so inspired by your amazing, and quick, body change! Your before pic looks like myself today, I'm probably a touch smaller but with an even higher body fat percentage. No matter how much logic I tell myself, I still fear too much weight training will make me bulky. Seeing your after with muscles that are downright sexy - thank you :) I'm going to go dust off the curl bar...
Hi Julie! Wonderful story. It is amazing how we find out what we can do to our bodies if we eat to gain weight or we eat right to stay lean. Mother of four and two grandchildren at my age of 34 makes me feel I have to maintain my body and mind. Because we all need to know that we r what we eat. So, I dedicate 1to 2 hours working out 5days out of the week and rest two days (Weds & Sunday's). Although I my goal is to look lean muscle just like your pics Julie. I read alot and Google most of my workouts. I've change my eating habits and stop drinking alcohol beverages. I've seen a major body change and I know it takes times to get there but, it's been hard to lift my glutes....
I don't know what I'm doing wrong¿ But, I sure need advise!
I am sorry to be rude but I am sooo curious. Meow old are you? I am 43. I have always been able to "get skinny" after babies and time off from the gym / or caring how I look anymore. Also known as depression. But now that I am 43 I find that I am just not motivated like I use to be. For starters, "skinny" now equals old looking. In all of the years of working out, some intense (mostly cardio) some not so intense I have NEVER had a but that was muscular and round. Round enough that is to pull up e loose skin that is there looking like cellulite. When I life this skin just little my thighs and my butt look smooth. Is it too late at forty three to do something I never managed to do when I was in my twenties? Which is to build a truly firm, round muscular butt. I will have to force myself to let go of the cardio is everything concept but before I dedicate myself to weights is it even possible or has the muscle just deteriorated too much at this age. I do have the time to put into this, my kids are in school most of the day and I am working part time. But where should I really dedicate my time to achieve this "muscular butt goal" if it is even possible. Perhaps the biggest obstacle for me is going to be my diet. I don't eat much all day I can go all day with just a diet coke and then a very light dinner or even just a candy bar. Hey, it worked when I was in my 20's. but now I know I need to change that. It's just that I HATE eating the kind of food you describe in your personal diet. Cottage cheese, chicken breasts etc. and where the hell are you keeping all this food? If I am going to the gym for three hours and then running errands etc...where the hell am I going to find chicken breasts and egg whites ready to eat on the run? Are there any other protein alternatives? Nuts? Etc? I am willing to dedicate whatever time I need to this if it means that for the first time ever, and at the age of 43 my butt can be round and hard and not skinny, flat and covered in cellulite. I'll even do the eating if I have to but I just need some alternatives. Please be honest though, how old were you when you did this? I'm guessing in your late 20's or early 30's. Can I do it in my 40's?
What an amzing story. I too am a busy mom who drinks too much wine! I was a 105 lbs at 5 feet and ran marathons prior to having kids- they are 5 and 3 now. I am fat now at 120 lbs, I eat their leftovers, fool myself by doing 10 crunches at night, pretending that I work out. This article is so inspiring. I am ready to start eating healthy and working out again... and cut back on the wine(that will be the hardest!