Fabulous Michelle McCall from Hartbeespoort was recently crowned Miss Fitness South Africa. We talked to this 31-year-old beauty, fitness model, mother and personal trainer about a woman’s journey into the world of fitness and bodybuilding.

How did you get involved in the bodybuilding/fitness business?
I have always been very sporty and enjoyed fitness while growing up. I decided to start competing in 2012 and trained for a full year on my own to enter my first bodybuilding competition. I fell in love with the process and the results and the rest just followed.

What is your favourite and least favourite part of the body to train?
I enjoy any upper body training and don’t like leg training at all, but unfortunately it is the most important part for a woman on stage.

What is your exercise routine and philosophy?
“Where the mind goes, the body will follow.” This is a 100% mental game, the body will do anything the mind tells it to.
I am quite old school when it comes to training. When I am not competing, I like to lift heavy. I train six days a week and on Sundays I rest. I do minimal cardio excercises.
When I prepare for a competition, I do something called depletion training. It takes about 90 minutes to get through each session. It is four sets of 30 repetitions per exercise to rip and push water out of the muscles.

What does your diet look like when you are preparing for a competition?
It really depends on the show and the division. Four weeks before the competition I mostly eat egg whites and spinach, lots and lots of fish and green veggies, cucumber, grilled chicken, whey protein and peanut butter.

What foods do you always have in your kitchen?
Peanut butter, fish, pineapple, chicken, green vegetables, cucumber, whey protein, sweet potato and Jasmine rice.

If you could give someone one fitness tip what would it be?
Be consistent, 70% of people who attempt an exercise and weight loss program quit. I also have bad days, but pick yourself back up and carry on.

How important are supplements?
You will always find me with a whey Isolate as eating every 3 hours can be a challenge, especially on holiday.Vitamin C is very important. Someone that is physically active should never go without it. Omega oils assist with cravings and L-Glutamine is needed for muscle recovery and cravings. I do take a multi-vitamin but these are the things I will never go without.

How do you prepare for a competition from an exercise and nutrition perspective?
We talk about peak-weeking. This is where we basically cut all carbs and salt from the diet in the last week while water-stacking. By the end of the week we consume 1 liter of water on the day of re-introducing carbs and salt to our diets. It is known as carbing up the night before a competition in order to peak. Things that aid in the water drop process are things like bathing in Epsom salt baths four days before competitions which helps draw water out of the body.

What it is like to be a fitness model?

People may not realise the constant sacrifices we have to make.

Don’t get me wrong, I do go out and eat pizza and drink red wine, but one needs to be selective as to when and how often. It never gets easier choosing a piece of fish over a slice of cake.

Most women fear lifting weights will make them ‘bulky’. What do you think?
99% of the time when someone starts working out with me I hear: “I want to lose weight and I want to tone.” The definition of toning is to lose fat and build lean muscle mass. The only way to do this is by lifting weights. The more lean muscle you have the faster your metabolic rate will be. Cardio only burns calories for as long as you are busy with it. That is why you will always see me with a weight in my hand and never on a treadmill.

What motivates you to train hard each week?
My passion for weight training. There is something about it that makes me feel extremely happy. I can be in a space where I am free and worries don’t exist. I never get tired of the training, it is probably what I enjoy most in life.

How do you deal with cravings?
It is tough at times, but there are a number of ways to keep the cravings at bay. Often a cup of tea will sort a craving out. I also chew sugar-free gum. I flavour my water with water infusion drops which help me through the day. Re-direct your attention… a craving only lasts about 15 minutes before passing. And I say to myself: “The food will always be there, but my goal won’t”

What is your greatest achievement?
Without a doubt, giving birth to my now three-year-old little girl and watching her grow and learn each day.

How did you experience the recent International Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation (IBFF) World Championships?
The IBFF World Championships took place in Slovenia this year and I was fortunate enough to be able to represent South Africa . I competed in the Miss Fitness Division where I was placed 5th. The competition is tough there and on another level. It was definitely a great experience and I learnt a lot.

What food is your guilty pleasure?
Pizza for sure, and red wine. Followed by a giant slab of chocolate, and I do not share!

What does the future hold for you?
My fitness goal and dream is to win the USN Face of Fitness. I would also like to obtain my Fitness division Pro Card in the bodybuilding industry and have been working very hard at this. I would like to launch my own brand.