Brains and Brawn: An interview with Ms. SMU 2018


Image via Michelle Kaiser


For most of the year Michelle Kaiser is busy pursuing her MBA at the Cox School of Business, but this semester she participated in and won SMU’s annual figure competition. We asked her a handful of questions to help out anyone curious about following in her footsteps or just curious in general!

HCSMU: Why do you participate in competitions? What got you started?

Michelle Kaiser: About a year ago, I toured the campus for “Welcome Weekend.” As I went to Dedman Center to scope out the gym, I noticed the wall that had pictures of former Mr. and Ms. SMU winners. At that moment, I knew that I wanted to compete! I have done Olympic weightlifting competitions and I participated in the SMU Strongman competition. It only made sense to me that I wanted to try bodybuilding too. I love having a physical challenge and a goal to pursue. That helps keep me motivated in the gym.


HCSMU: When and where do you work out? What do you wear?

MK: I work out at the Dedman Center on campus and also at LA Fitness. I love hitting the gym first thing in the morning as it energizes me for the day. I usually wear shorts and a sleeveless tank top at the gym, and one thing that’s a must for me is tube socks! I started wearing them to protect my shins when doing snatches and clean & jerks. I have had one too many accidents from dropping the barbell and now have scars on my legs.


HCSMU: How much time do you spend in the gym? What’s your typical daily or weekly routine?

MK: For years, I have been working out consistently about five to six days a week and I kept this format when preparing for the competition. In the gym, I lift weights first and then add some cardio about twice a week. This routine usually takes me a little over an hour.

On a typical day, I always start on the cardio machine for about five minutes to get my muscles warmed up. Then, I head over to the squat rack for about 5 sets. I work some type of leg muscle everyday (quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, etc.) and then split my upper body on different days of the week. My cardio is either high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for 10 minutes or stairs for 20 minutes.

During the two weeks leading up to the competition, I performed an extra 30 to 45 minutes of cardio in a slow-steady state. I was able to hold a conversation while doing it and thankfully, I have great friends who would hop on the machine next to me and keep me company!


HSCMU: Favorite and least favorite part of your gym routine?

MK: My favorite part of my gym routine is definitely getting stronger and adding more weight or reps each week. I like being able to quantify my progress and see the results. I write my workouts on index cards and wrap them around my water bottle. It keeps me focused and reminds me to stay hydrated.

I have to admit, stretching is not my favorite. I love yoga, but I really do not like stretching out at the end of my workouts. Once I lay down to stretch, it is very hard for me to get back up. My body thinks it is nap time!


HCSMU: Favorite and least favorite part of competitions?

MK: My favorite part is practicing the posing routine. I was very fortunate to work with the Assistant Director of Fitness here at school, who really spent the time to guide me through everything from tips on how to stand, to how to wear 5-inch heels with finesse.

There wasn’t much that I didn’t like, because everything was temporary. The diet is a little strict and I had to add extra cardio time to my workouts, but I knew that it was only for a short while. I tried to look at this experience as an experiment. How would my body change if I did this or changed that for a week? It was fun to see the progress.


HCSMU: What’s your diet like? What is a typical meal for you?

MK: I eat mostly whole grains, lean protein and good fats. I also love chocolate and have a few pieces every day. As the competition was approaching, I added a lot more chicken, asparagus and almonds in my diet. One of my absolute favorite meals is sweet potatoes, grilled chicken and brussel sprouts.


HCSMU: How much does this cost you (if there’s any notable expenses)?

MK: I spend a few hundred dollars between my gym membership, workout clothes and accessories. For the bodybuilding competition, I also had some extra cost because I got a nutrition coach to help me with “peak week”. This is the week before the competition. She helped me with diet, workout guidelines and last-minute tips.


HCSMU: How do you think it’s different for you as a female (if at all)?

MK: As far as training, I am not sure there is a big difference for me as a female. Men and women can structure their workouts very similarly to achieve great results. I think the main difference would be with the diet. From my experience, women can be very tough on themselves with setting strict expectations with food restrictions and that can pose various health issues. I would definitely recommend using a coach when training for a competition, especially if it is your first one.


HCSMU: How do you manage a good school-life balance?

MK: Devoting so much time to bodybuilding really made me prioritize the rest of my life. Thankfully, my friends and family are very supportive of my goals. Some of my friends worked out with me to keep it fun, one of them helped me choreograph the dance, and my Aunt even flew over to help me for the actual competition. It really helps to have a strong support system. I also have a very good time management system which helps me plan out my day/week ahead of time, so I have time for everything from tests and projects, to workouts and time with friends. This helps me see where I am spending my time and keeps me focused on my goals.


HCSMU: Has being a body builder impacted any other areas of your life? How?

MK: Participating in the competition was an amazing experience because it helped me learn that I am strong and beautiful every day. Gaining that self-confidence is what helped me walk on the stage and truly believe that I gave this my best effort. To get there, I had to practice patience, determination, and having faith in myself. I have a motto to “thrive in life and be body positive” and the competition really helped me embrace it on a higher level. This carried over to other aspects of my life, especially when I feel stressed out about school or life after I graduate. Now I try to always focus on the bigger picture and have patience that things will work out with hard work and determination.