Physique Canada’s inaugural event, the National Classic, was held last year on June 16. It was there that dozens of competitors turned up to take part in this history-making event and to begin a competitive career path within the Physique Canada tier system. Physique Canada’s tier system begins at Tier 3, which is for novice competitors, and goes up to Tier 1 Elite, which is for the more advanced competitors. Tier 1 Elite also has the added benefit of prize money ($1000 for each Tier 1 Elite class winner) and the ability to progress to the international level through Physique Canada’s international affiliate, the WBPF.
Probably the most-talked-about category in that event was Tier 1 Elite women’s muscular physique. It was in that class that day that relative-unknown Michele Steeves reigned triumphant over the other experienced competitors on the stage to become the first-ever winner of that class. And to prove it wasn’t some sort of luck, Michele competed again in the same category in the fall at the 2012 Physique Canada Canadian Championships and won all over again. As a result, within one year, Michele proved that she was a female physique force to be reckoned with.
With the 2013 competitive season now about to begin, Michele is preparing to defend her title at the 2013 Physique Canada National Classic, which will be held on June 22. I took the opportunity to talk to Michele recently to learn a little more about her, to reflect on her wins last year, and to find out what’s on her mind this year. Here is what she said:
Doug Schneider: I know it’s not polite to ask a woman her age, but you’re in such good shape I suspect you won’t mind. How old are you and when did you start competing?
Michele Steeves: I don’t mind at all. I’m 37 years old. I started training for competitions in 2009, when I did my first SAF competition. I have been competing regularly since then; it’s great motivation.
Nadine Young, Michele Steeves, Karine Pilon, and Nathalie Piche
DS: Physique Canada put on their first contest last June and you were obviously there – you won the Tier 1 Elite muscular physique class, beating out some notable competitors, including Nadine Young, who is one of the best competitors around. Were you surprised you won?
MS: I was more than surprised, I was shocked! I had been following Nadine’s career for a while before then and was immediately, deeply impressed by her. I respect and admire her determination and positivity. I was intimidated as well. Nadine is an internationally recognized athlete who is well known for her amazing physique, beauty, and stage presence. I went onstage bringing the best package I could but never thought I would come out ahead. It just goes to show that you never know in this sport. You just have to do the best you can and have fun with it.
DS: You came back in the fall for the Physique Canada Canadian Championships and won again. Were you as surprised the second time?
MS: Again, just shocked! Especially given that I had just come back from an intense military course where controlling my food was extremely difficult and getting to the gym was sporadic at best. And having competed with both Karine Pilon and Marie-Chantal DiGuardo before, I knew they were stellar athletes with great physiques. That being said, I did feel very confident on the stage. I was really enjoying the whole experience. I certainly did not expect to win, but it was a wonderful surprise.
Karine Pilon, Michele Steeves, and Marie-Chantal DiGuardo
DS: Did the wins boost your confidence?
MS: Of course they did. It was an amazing feeling. But, of course, as with all athletes, my immediate thought after winning was, “How can I improve for the next time?”
DS: You’re now going into the 2013 season as the champ. Do you feel any pressure?
MS: “The champ.” I like that. The only pressure I really feel is that which I put on myself. I try to stay philosophical about competing – good days and bad days; you can only do your best; there will always be someone better than you and not as good as you – that kind of thing. I am very much looking forward to seeing the amazing women I will be competing with in June. I know someone is right on my heels.
DS: Physique Canada drug tests at the competitions but also does out-of-competition testing. I know you were tested. Did the rigor of their testing surprise you?
MS: I wouldn’t say it surprised me. It impressed me. I am so happy to be part of an organization that follows through with its promises. I believe strongly in honestly and integrity and Physique Canada has proved its integrity over and over again. It’s comforting to know that all Physique Canada athletes are competing on a level playing field.
DS: Please give us a snapshot view of your training. How many days per week are you in the gym, and for how long each time?
MS: I usually get into the gym five or six days a week. That’s year round. I break it up into one muscle group per day. I usually work out alone, but I have a couple of friends I like to train with to keep things fresh and to push me. Over the off-season I all but abandon cardio. I may do a quick 15-minute warm-up, but that’s it. And in the off-season I will train heavy with low reps. I’m usually in there for about 45-60 minutes. When I’m getting closer to competition season, I will add cardio – sometimes steady-state, sometimes HIIT. And I will increase my reps and/or sets. I still go as heavy as I can for the sets I need to complete. I like changing the routine every so often to keep things interesting and to keep the body guessing.
DS: Do you take part in other sports or activities?
MS: Not really. Everything I do is in support of improving my physique. I do yoga, but other than that, not much. I, like many people, do not have a lot of free time.
DS: Besides competing, you work full-time and travel. Can you tell us about that?
MS: I am in the Canadian Forces, which is my full-time job. And being a member of the CF means that I can be sent away for course or tasking at any time.
DS: Does it make competing more difficult?
MS: It would be nice to be able to have the time I want to be able to train, but that is not realistic for the majority of competitors. When you’re passionate about something, you find ways of fitting it in. I am very lucky to have a spectacular gym at my office. I know not everyone has that luxury and it is not something I take for granted.
DS: Back to competing. Winning the Physique Canada shows this year would qualify you for the WBPF world championships in Hungary. Would you consider going to represent Canada?
MS: I would absolutely consider it – it would be such an honor! It would be so exciting to see competitors from around the world and to see how I stack up on the international scene.
DS: We think you’d make an excellent representative. Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, Michele.
MS: It was my pleasure. And very flattering that you wanted to interview me. See you in June!
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