Name: Michelle Risley
Weight: Off-season 115 lbs; contest 106 lbs
Current Residence: Raleigh, NC
Sports: Figure Competitor, Model
Why did you become vegan?
Many years ago, I watched Meet Your Meat and became aware of the horror and abuse I was contributing to by consuming animals. This knowledge, coupled with my love and empathy for all sentient beings led me to initially become vegetarian, then eventually vegan. The health and environmental benefits are a nice bonus. But for me, it’s all about my love and compassion for animals, and causing the least harm possible.
How would you describe your training program?
My training is a combination of weight training, variable amounts and types of cardio (depending on my specific goals at the time), and yoga.
When and why did you become interested in fitness?
I first became interested in fitness in the mid-80s. Since that time, it’s been an ongoing evolution. My interest in nutrition, living a healthy lifestyle, and disease prevention have become more of a focus. Being vegan fits into all of those aspects.
How would you describe your nutrition program?
I eat a very clean, nutrition-dense, whole-foods diet. We really are what we eat. And for me, nothing tastes as good as being healthy feels.
What kind of supplements do you use if any, and why?
I’m currently only supplementing with BCAAs, l-glutamine, creatine, and various protein powders. I feel it’s best to get as much as I can from my diet.
What are some common misconceptions about veganism?
There are so many. But most commonly, many people think that vegans don’t get enough protein, that we are weak and malnourishised, and that eating in this way is both difficult and boring.
What do you think the most important aspect of fitness is?
Being healthy is most important in any fitness program, regardless of your goals. Too many people take their health for granted. Being healthy AND fit is a very powerful combination. You can’t help but to exude an inner glow and beauty that very little can compare to.
What do you like best about being vegan?
For me, it’s the knowledge that I am living the kindest and most compassionate life possible. As an added bonus, being vegan also happens to be one of the best things that I can do for my health, as well as our planet! It’s win-win-win!!!
What do you like best about being fit?
I love the way I look and feel. But I also like the fact that, as a fit vegan, I can be an inspiration and role model for others.
What are your strengths as an athlete?
I am very determined and focused when I set a goal for myself.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking of becoming vegan?
Educate yourself. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. Take advantage of the many great vegan websites like this one. But most of all, be patient and kind with yourself. You may not be perfect at first; it’s the intention that counts. If you stray off-course, recommit and begin again. It’s a journey, as well as an awakening. Embrace it. You can’t imagine the many wonderful things that will come into your life once you begin to live in harmony with all of the other sentient beings who inhabit our planet.
What motivates you to continue to be a successful vegan athlete?
I want to be an inspiration and role model for what being vegan can look and feel like.
How has the website www.veganbodybuilding.com helped or inspired you?
It’s not only a wealth of information, but a great way to connect with other vegans. Everyone has a different story and reason for becoming vegan. But in the end, regardless of our individual reasons, we are all helping animals, improving our health, and doing the best thing for our planet.