From dog food bags to national champion

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 9/14/22

FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island native Michelle Carlascio tells a funny story of her transformation from a non-athlete mom to a Supermom of sorts that is now considered a top powerlifter in the …

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From dog food bags to national champion

Posted

FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island native Michelle Carlascio tells a funny story of her transformation from a non-athlete mom to a Supermom of sorts that is now considered a top powerlifter in the United States and a possible world’s top powerlifter.

“Used to be we would go to the grocery store and I would get the 50-pound bags of dog food with my kids; both in their 20s, and they would ask to help,” said Carlascio, now a 2022 Powerlifting America National Champion and a 2022 NAPF Powerlifting American team 63Kg M2 gold medalist. “I just grabbed it, said I got this, threw it over my shoulders and walked away. I think it kind of freaks them out.”

Carlascio, 51, and husband Keith, 53, both were weekend warrior 5K runners, some crossfit training and some lifting.

“I was running 5Ks until I broke my foot at my own birthday party,” said Carlascio, a former pre-school teacher and now a fitness trainer in the First Coast YMCA system; mainly Barco Newton and Dye Clay YMCAs plus a crossfit Level I instructor at the Steel Mill gym in Fleming Island. “I never competed and I was always I would never like to compete.”

Now, both have returned from a NAPF competition for the IPF; National American Powerlifting Championships in Panama to qualify for the International Powerlifting Championship. Powerlifting defined as the Bench Press, the Squat and the Dead Lift disciplines.

In less than a month, October 14, both will travel to Canada, St. Johns Newfoundland to compete for a world title.

“The international title is for North America and gets you into the World games,” said Carlascio. “I have seven people in my weight class; from Sweden, from Australia, from Germany, and I’m at the bottom. It’s a big hill to climb, but I’m going for the experience and the thrill of just getting there. The win is just getting there for me and complete my lifts. Never in my life would I think I would compete in a world competition.”

Carlascio’s draw to the powerlifting community, in 2018, was a bi-product of her crossfit interests and, as a teacher and coach of crossfit, the powerlifting started to be the challenge. It was actually husband Keith who got the ball rolling.

“I found that just the training to lift more helps with anxiety and stress of the day,” said Calascio. “I find now a personal connection to the people I train because I’m in the game now. I think we found our niche and would be considered weightlifting nerds.”

Carlascio’s journey started at her unhealthy 160 pounds at 48 years old and have now brought her to her svelte powerful build of 63Kg of 138 pounds of dynamo power.

“Keith was into it first and I just kind of went along to the gym to lift and work out,” said Carlascio. “Now wer are both competitive and, at the kitchen table, it is all I do and, yes, there are the occasional kitchen table bets as to how many pushups, how much bench and all that.”

The trip to Panama City for the first national competition added some sightseeing excursions as well as the competition and gave the couple a bit of a vacation of sort.

“With the competition, we got to see some things and places that we’ve never seen,” said Carlascio. “I was good to see the Panama Canal, some other things from a history book.”

Carlascio, at 135 pounds, lifted dead lift at 250 pounds, bench press to 130, backsquat at 140.

Keith, at “a little more than I weigh”, dead lifted at 400 pounds.

“His guy at Panama was a back and forth competition and he had to be smart with his weight to win that title,” said Carlascio. “The competition is all about effecting the other guy. His guy picked up his last dead lift but dropped it instead of guiding it to the floor. We saw that and Keith did not have to exceed that weight, but just execute it clean and won second place.”

In her competition, Carlascio was in a similar two-way battle until her main competitor blacked out during a lift.

“I don’t know why she blacked out, but it happens because it is a total body exertion,” said Carlascio.

Lifters in competition get nine lifts at each discipline; three per event, to advance.

“I made nine of nine at nationals and seven of nine at Panama,” said Carlasio. “The two no-lifts were both technical; I think I hit the bench on my bench press and I didn’t lock out on my dead lift, but I still controlled the weight.”

Carlascio refers to a picture of herself at 160 on her refridgerator that motivates her.

“I tell the people I train to take a picture at the beginning and keep taking until the final product,” said Carlascio. “I still have mine and it still motivates me each day to keep improving.”

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