Michelle Van Dusen – Muscle Is a Positive Attitude

World Powerlifting Championships in Poland- 2012, photo by Casey Groves of IPF

“I’d like to be remembered as a respected athlete and positive role model.”

Michelle Van Dusen

Activities: Powerlifter, USA Powerlifting Team Member, International Powerlifting Federation Member

Q: So you’re a powerlifter, can you explain what powerlifting is, and how it differs from weight training?

Powerlifting consists of many different federations. The federation that I compete in is called USA Powerlifting. USA Powerlifting is a Drug-Free Sport and is the leading powerlifting organization in the United States. USA Powerlifting Federation, is under the membership umbrella of the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF), the governing body of powerlifting internationally. The IPF embodies federations from eighty-three countries on six continents.

Weightlifting, is a sport made up of two lifts: the Snatch and the Clean-and-Jerk, where the weight is lifted above the head; whereas powerlifting comprises three lifts: the Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift. Powerlifting competitions may comprise one, two or all three of the lifting disciplines.

Athletes are categorized by sex, age and bodyweight. Each competitor is allowed three attempts at each lift, the best lift in each discipline being added to their total. The lifter with the highest total is the winner. In cases where two or more lifters achieve the same total, the person with the lightest bodyweight wins.

Q: How did you get started in powerlifting?

I started lifting at the young age of 14. My older sister, Katie Van Dusen and my High School Coach, Mr. Mach encouraged me to join the sport. When I first started, I actually did not like lifting because it required a lot of time, and dedication. As a teenager, waking up at 5:30 in the morning for practice seemed like a lot of work. Looking back now, I’m glad I stuck with it because I was able to learn so much, including how to be disciplined. In addition, I learned the true meaning of respect. While I had to be at the gym three days a week, my coach was willing to be there six. Mr. Mach put in countless hours and often woke up even earlier to make his rounds picking up lifters because we couldn’t drive yet. He showed me that he was willing to put in the work to succeed; therefore, I decided to change my attitude and become better so that we could succeed together.

Q: What events do you compete in?

Over the years in the sport, the events have slightly changed due to my age. However, I typically like to compete in one Regional or Wisconsin State meet, one National meet, and one International meet per year. One of the most prestigious meets that I’ve been able to compete in has been the Arnold Sports Festival located in Columbus, Ohio. The GNC Pro-Deadlift Competition is an invitation-only meet and it is composed of some of the strongest ladies I know. It is an honor to be able to lift there and be a part of it.

Arnold Sports Fest 2011 photo by Heinrich Janse van Rensburg of IPF

Q: What sports did you play growing up?

As a child, my mother always encouraged me to try out for everything. She strongly believed that I should give every sport a chance before deciding to focus on just one. So, if I didn’t like something I couldn’t say I hadn’t tried it before. Growing up, I was involved in swimming, gymnastics, softball, basketball, volleyball, track and field, and powerlifting. It was easy to be athletic because I liked sports and I have a twin brother who kept me going. My mother was wise to put us in so many activities so that we’d be able to learn core values, become team players, and most importantly be so exhausted from practice that she’d be able to have some peace and quiet at home.

Q: Beyond the obvious, how does powerlifting differ from previous sports you’ve participated in?

Powerlifting is a very unique sport because it is a team and individual sport. It really is a “You vs. You” attitude and involves having a strong mindset. I’ve never been part of a more rewarding sport with so many encouraging teammates. Powerlifting has taught me so much including proper nutrition, lifting techniques, and how to overall become a better person.

Q: What do you absolutely love about powerlifting?

What I really enjoy about powerlifting is the connections I’ve made within the sport. I’ve been able to meet so many talented people who are located all over the world who share the same interest as me. Powerlifting has opened so many doors and has really been a big part of shaping who I am today.

Team in Poland after World Powerlifting Championships 2012 photo by Cindy Peroutika-Kim

Q: What do you hate about it, if anything?

The hardest aspect about powerlifting would have to be the ability to build a high tolerance for pain. The geared lifters wear tight equipment to enhance their lifts. While everyone loves gains, nobody ever said it would be easy getting them. Once a lifter can build up enough tolerance to the gear it becomes a lot easier.

Q: What is your greatest powerlifting accomplishment?

I’ve had many great accomplishments in the sport. It’s definitely hard to pick just one. I think that aside from being part of the first class of the Wisconsin High School Powerlifting Association’s (WHSPA) Hall of Fame. I’d have to say just recently earning my fourth IPF World Championship title. It is a huge honor to finally accomplish a goal that I have been trying to obtain since my first year in the sport.

High School Gym Wall of Champion Powerlifters, photo by Michelle

Q: Do you find men respond differently to you than women, when they find out you powerlift ?

I believe that to an extent, yes, men do. I believe this because in my experience with lifting weights most men can relate to them more easily. Growing up, I believe most men are exposed to the weight room at an earlier age than most women. For example, in middle school boys are already given lifting exercises so that they can become stronger for various sports such as wrestling, and football. I think that men have a lot of respect for a woman if they know that she can lift a lot of weight because it’s not as common. I’ve lifted at various gyms throughout my life, and while most women may consciously think that I am strong it is the men who more often say something. The women, whom I’ve come across in the sport of powerlifting may relate to me at the highest level just because they understand being a female in the sport.

Q: Do you ever find yourself worrying about potential long term affects of lifting heavy weight?

Yes, of course. Powerlifting is just like any other sport in that aspect. Our bodies can only handle so much. If I’m going to lift heavy, I’m going to do it now while I’m young. This is when I can reach my full potential in the sport. I understand that it wouldn’t be healthy for my body to do it forever but I can definitely still be a part of it. I like to lift whether the weights are heavy or not. I think it is important to enjoy the moment and give back to the sport so that others can enjoy it too.

Q: What other things do you do to stay in shape?

Aside from powerlifting, I love to go bike riding, running, and add HIIT to my workouts. High Intense Interval Training (HIIT) has always been a challenge but it is a perfect workout for those who are looking for that extra kick. In addition, I have tried CrossFit for a nice change in pace.

Q: What does your diet consist of?

My diet consists of a combination of proteins, carbohydrates, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, and some healthy fats. Based on my BMR calculator, I have determined that my daily caloric expenditure falls between 1,500-2,000 calories per day. It’s very important to structure your diet so that you can get the most out of your training cycle. My typical day starts off with a glass of water, a multi-vitamin and I shoot for 30 grams of protein and some fruit for breakfast. Throughout the day, I also try to drink at least 60 ounces of water and consume one gram of protein per one pound of bodyweight. I try to consume a lot of protein because it is a costly macronutrient for the body to metabolize. It is essential to focus on food quality. Food quality means “whole foods in as close to their natural form as possible.” This includes meat, veggies, nuts, seeds, and no additional sugar. When we take the time to place an emphasis on whole foods we gain vital nutrients without a dense caloric intake.

Q: Where did you grow up?

I grew up in the small town of Necedah, Wisconsin. Necedah is about 45 minutes northwest of Wisconsin Dells. Necedah is known for their National Wildlife Refuge and strong group of powerlifters. For a small population of about 900 people, I’d say we’ve definitely made a name for ourselves.

Q: What do you do for a living and how do you find time to train for competitions?

I currently work for an outsourcing company called Alta Resources. I started working at Alta Resources through an internship program at UW-Oshkosh. Alta Resources is a company that is a global leader in customer management. We really focus on using our guiding principles to create solutions and maximize our relationship with our customers on a worldwide level.

I have always enjoyed training in the morning; however, I have been training during the late afternoon hours. I have been training during this time because that is what works best for my coach and me. It can definitely be tough to find the motivation to train but it needs to be done at least 3-4 times per week. Once I am finished with my workout, I always feel a lot better about the day. It’s all about attitude. When I am in the gym, I am there to lift and give it my all.

Michelle and her world coach Curt St. Romain in Hungary, she just found out she won, IPF photo

Q: What are your long term career goals?

When I was a freshman in high school, I had created a list of goals that I had wanted to accomplish in powerlifting. Today, I have been able to look back at that list and say that I’ve accomplished most of them. Some of those goals included becoming a 4-time WHSPA State Champion, a 4-time Varsity HS National Champion, a 4-time IPF World Champion, and breaking multiple records.

Today, I would really like to re-shift my goals on how I can give back to the sport. In the future, I definitely foresee myself becoming a certified judge and being more involved in keeping the sport alive. If anything, I’d like to be remembered as a respected athlete and positive role model.

Q: You have a positive vibe, where does that come from?

I’d first like to thank you for the compliment; positive vibes are always a good thing. I’ve definitely tried my best to have a positive outlook on life. Over the past few years, I’ve begun to understand that we cannot change the inevitable; however, what we can control is how we react to it. As Irving Berlin said, “Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it.” Attitude is everything.

Q: Why did you agree to be a part of the MCBMI campaign?

I agreed to be a part of the MCBMI campaign because I’m a firm believer in helping others. I have read a lot of what MCBMI has to offer, and I wanted to be a part of the outstanding women whose stories truly make a difference. My fitness journey through powerlifting may be far from someone else’s fitness journey but I believe that we all have a similar message to tell. That message entails believing in yourself so that you may succeed. It all starts with making a choice, to take the chance, if you want anything in life to change. When we give our time to make a difference in others, the more out of life we’ll receive.

Michelle deadlifting, photo by Vlad Dodan)

To see Michelle in action, check out her Youtube Channel at http://www.youtube/mevandus

Sources: http://www.usapowerlifting.com/who-we-are/ (USA Powerlifting)