Being a multi-awarded Lady Spiker and former PBB housemate turned beauty queen, Michele Gumabao is expectedly a lady in her prime especially when it comes to fitness. But when asked when she seriously went into the aesthetic aspect of it, she has this cute anecdote to share with ABS-CBN Lifestyle, "The first time ever that I went on a diet—and it wasn’t even healthy—was when I wanted to wear a killer prom dress back in high school. I was always into physical activities and sports. That’s my bonding with my family. But the time that I really wanted to look good and feel good about myself, was for prom. I wanted to wear a bare back dress. I wanted it red and, of course, I wanted to look good in it. That was when I think I started my fitness journey."
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Now that she has so much on her plate when it comes to juggling her duties as Binibining Pilipinas Globe 2018 and being a celebrity athlete, balancing her career and social life while living an active lifestyle is almost close to impossible. The sports stunner explains, "If it’s the social life where you have to go out and stay late at night then I really don’t do that anymore. Siguro, two years ago. I gave it up because I came to the conclusion that it’s impossible to stay up late, stick to your diet, and wake up early the next morning to get your ass to the gym. My workout suffered, volleyball suffered, and when you drink and you’re on a hangover, all you want to do is eat. That was when I realized if I want to live a healthy lifestyle, I really have to commit myself to sleeping early. My social life now consists of seeing my friends, going out, dinner, having wine. It’s really hard to stay fit and healthy, nakakapagod din. When you’re part of a team and you train for a competitive sport, you have to do what the coach tells you to do even though you’re tired and sore. There are no excuses!"
On a normal day, you can find Michele at the gym. But once pageant season kicked in, you'd find her all over the place. "It’s very hard because I have to look differently and perform in different ways. In volleyball, it doesn’t matter if you’re thin or muscular. As long as you’re strong and you can do the work, and you can do it effectively, you’re all good. But during pageant season, it’s all about how you look. Of course, you have to look good in a bikini because you’re gonna walk in front of so many people. Right now, I’m preparing for both. I have a season starting in September and I have to leave first week of October for Miss Globe. I have to be strong for training yet not too muscular for Miss Globe so it’s really hard."
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Of course, one’s diet plays a big part in looking and feeling fit. Michelle for her part spills the beans on her not so special diet. She says, "I love sweets, so it’s really hard for me to give up sweets. I don’t eat meat, I eat seafood. I’m basically pescetarian but my sweet tooth is really hard to control. At first, it was more of a dietary concern because of my indigestion. My doctor told me to give up meat for two weeks, but it became a habit so I gave it up altogether. As long as I have cake and ice cream, I’m good. I get help with meal deliveries. I love cooking but when it gets hard, I have my meals delivered to me. Intermittent fasting has been really helpful. I eat after practice but I stop eating at around 8 PM."
What this beauty queen-athlete does at the gym is a different story. She does cross training with yoga and pilates when volleyball training gets too intense. But when training is light, she cross trains with High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT. Lifting weights is still part of the routine but mainly for functional purposes—all volleyball-specific weights in order to play better.
When it comes to being pressured to be in perfect shape all the time, she admits that it is actually a self-infliction for her. "I feel pressured to perform but I put that pressure on myself. I work better with pressure. I believe in having a balance in everything that I do and that’s how I maintain everything in my life. Setting priorities that are kept in balance and making sure you’re happy. If you’re unhappy doing something then you won’t last and I think that’s the most important thing when you’re living a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it’s challenging but you have to be happy while doing it or else, it’s just gonna be another fad. You’re gonna lose weight and gain it all back again. That’s what I always make sure of. If I’m on a diet, I always have cheat days. Some people don’t believe in it, but I stand by it."
Michelle considers her long and strong legs as her greatest physical asset. Being a volleyball player, she says, everything revolves around your lower extremities. "I always call my legs my bread and butter so they’re athletic legs and this has been my number one insecurity when I joined Binibini because everybody’s just so thin. I can be thin but my legs can never be as slim as theirs. That was when I told myself that I’m an athlete. I train everyday and everybody knows me as a volleyball player so I don’t have to conform to what normal standards have to say or what normal beauty queens look like. That’s the moment I told myself I’m gonna compete and I’m really gonna win."
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As for her fitness motivation? "It has to be a decision coming from inside you. It can’t be just because other people are telling you to lose weight, selfish desires, or anything that has to do with being envious of other people. It has to be a conscious and personal decision to be happy. Your best motivation is yourself and your goals. If you set the right goals and focus on them, you’d be able to stick with them and motivate yourself because it’s a daily commitment. It’s a daily process you have to go through. Most of the time, you’re just by yourself. Yes, you have friends and a gym trainer, but if you don’t make it to the gym, that’s all useless. It’s a constant effort and commitment that you do for yourself."
She leaves us with this surprisingly enlightening thought, but pay close attention coz Michelle thinks that comparing yourself to others is healthy and this she had to say: ‘I live in a very competitive world so comparison is normal and that’s how you get better. But when you base your happiness and your sense of fulfillment on others, comparing your achievements towards others, then that’s a totally different thing. I compare myself to other volleyball players. I look at their form, their jump, speed and these become the bases on how I can improve myself. Having a benchmark and having someone to compare yourself to is healthy but when you base your decisions and happiness on that, it becomes unhealthy and detrimental to you. With social media now, the standards are being raised so high but as long as when you compare yourself to them, you don’t feel bad about yourself, you’re good. If you tell yourself you’re happy and you’re contented with who you are, it doesn’t matter how other people look and how other people make you feel, then it’s okay. But in sports, it’s very important. It’s totally important that you have that comparison because we compete with each other every single day. Even with your teammates, you have to compete. You have to take it constructively—that’s something that will motivate you and help you.
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Produced and styled by Camille Santiago | Photography by Vyn Radovan | Video by Tin Zabat | Edited by Lui Jimenez | Makeup by Hannah Patriarca | Hair by Jan Jonas Lucas| Shot on location at The Ascott Makati | Special thanks to Heidi Manabat