By MIKE CHAIKEN
When teens Erika Farrell, Amber Ouellette, and Brooke Murdock compete for Miss Connecticut’s Outstanding Teen later this month, they will be judged, among other things, on how well they represent a healthy and fit lifestyle.
To prepare them for the competition, which could potentially send them on to the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen competition, the trio has turned to Justin Michaels of Justin Michaels Fitness Studio on Terryville Avenue in Bristol for help.
Erika is Miss Forestville’s Outstanding Teen. Amber is Miss Bristol’s Outstanding Teen. And Brooke is Miss Plainville’s Outstanding Teen.
Michaels, who is the girls’ s sponsor, not only puts the three teens through a fitness routine to get them into fighting shape for the pageant competition, but he said in a recent interview that he prepares them to keep fit for the rest of their lives.
Michaels said: “For me, I shape my program around them learning, around them growing, around them building up their confidence, and around their ability as a person and as a young teen.”
The goal of his program is to get the girls to challenge themselves, reach their potential, and “reach outside of the box.”
“Most importantly, if at this age, they can learn to have a strong (physical) foundation, how to build a strong body, how to eat clean, and how to have self confidence, take care of themselves, make good choices, if they have that now, they will always have that,” said Michaels.
“Your body is the most important thing you have. As long as you’re here, your body will be with you,” said Michaels. “You should take care of that, first and foremost.”
For most teens, Michaels said, fitness often is an afterthought, but they’re not entirely to blame.
“There’s not enough guidance, there’s not enough mentorship to help young people live healthy lives,” said Michaels. “There’s a lot of misconceptions about what’s healthy and what’s not. And there’s a lot of commercialization that takes away the quality of what these kids are supposed to learn.”
Working with the three potential Miss Connecticut’s Outstanding Teen is seen by Michaels as a good opportunity… for himself and them. “I’m excited to be part of something that hopefully will have an impact (on showing the importance of keeping fit) and will continue that.”
When it comes to shaping a fitness routine to help Erika, Amber, and Brooke become pageant-ready, Michaels said, “It’s not the same objective as an athlete who is strictly trying to become faster. Or someone who is trying to manage their weight and drop some pounds. For them, it’s more about a well-rounded body, strengthening their core, strengthening their spine, and strengthening their joints.”
Michaels said his program is built around “functional fitness.”
Michaels said Erika, Amber, and Brooke use their bodies “in free space, with creative tools like medicine balls, kettle bells, dumbbells, barbells, and Olympic rings, we do a lot of plyometrics, squat jumps, box jumps, and we do a lot of movements that relate to every day movement regardless of what sport you’re playing or pageant you’re competing for.”
Michaels also provides the three teens with nutrition tips. “A lot of young people, they don’t really understand what good nutrition is. They don’t understand how often to eat and how much to eat.”
“In the very beginning of program when we first meet… I detail what they should eat and when,” said Michaels. “It’s important for these girls that they have a balanced diet, that they’re getting complex carbs… like sweet potatoes, quinoa, and brown rice. (I tell them to) stay away from white rice and white pasta. Those are simple sugars— a simple sugar is going to break down quickly and will turn to fat.”
“Complex carbs will break down more slowly,” said Michaels. “The body will learn to use them over a course of time…Because you’ll have more energy in your system that long, your metabolism will burn strong, that will keep you lean, and will keep your muscles building and developing.”
Additionally, Michaels said he has told Erika, Amber, and Brooke, “You want to have protein. Protein is the building block for the human body… You are made of protein. We have to eat protein. Some people think it’s optional.”
Also, Michaels said, “They’re not sure what has protein in it. Protein is any lean meat, chicken, lean beef, steak, and turkey. Usually, fish is always great for you.”
Finally, Michaels told the girls, they need to eat their greens. “They don’t have to be green vegetables,” he said. “All greens are good for you. They are high in fiber and help to keep your metabolism moving. They help keep you full, and there’s a lot of antioxidants and vitamins in vegetable.”
Ultimately, Michaels said he has told the three local pageant contestants, “To challenge the ability of your body, to get closer to your potential, and then eat properly at home, feed your body, recover, and come back stronger, and reach a little further in your efforts to expand your potential.”