MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII --
Michelle Lee-Dominique is unshakeable. She is a 5-foot-2-inch ex-police officer, turned fitness guru. She is determined to beat sickness, sexism and pain. Unshakeable.
Michelle Lee-Dominique has a unique love for fitness, but it wasn’t just for the looks or the physical strength. She began her obsession with fitness in 2001.
“What really kind of catapulted my fitness obsession, was my mother,” Lee-Dominique said. “She was diagnosed with cancer and that kind of hit home. So once that happened I was like I don’t want to get sick. I didn’t want that to happen to me so I figured I might as well try to strengthen my body to cope with whatever elements do come.”
At first she wasn’t looking for big muscles, fast run times, or maxed out bench presses, she was looking to protect herself from unpredictable illnesses. She was looking to strengthen her body to where it could battle what illnesses might come her way, but her view on fitness has changed over the years.
In 2004 her mother lost her battle with cancer, which pushed Lee-Dominique harder into her fitness obsession, learning everyday what working out and nutrition could do.
A battle to fight
She entered the police academy at the age of 25. When her classmates struggled with physical training, she dominated. Her seemingly effortless ability to overcome physical challenges was mostly due to her five-year obsession with fitness. She even received the fitness award for her class, beating not only the females but also the males in her class.
The day of graduation was a very special day, not just because she had finally achieved the title of police officer, but because it was also her wedding day. She married her long-distance Marine boyfriend that night.
Her journey as a policewoman in New Orleans lasted one year and three months. Lee-Dominique battled sexism during her time on the force. She was mission oriented, and said she loved her job, but would not let the daily fight with discrimination shake her character, she eventually decided to pursue a different dream — fitness.
When her days as an officer ended in 2009, she packed up and moved from her home in LaPlace, La. to Yuma, Ariz. to live with her husband.
Pursuing a dream
She brought her love of fitness with her across the country. She began going to the gym religiously at 4 a.m. every morning with a few friends.
During one of the aerobics classes at the base gym, she had an epiphany. She wanted to be a class instructor.
“It was a group exercise instructor who inspired me to do it,” Lee-Dominique said. “Andy Scheeler, I went to her class and I was like she’s got rhythm. I liked her. She was full of energy. She’s good at what she does and I was like I want to be like you. She motivated me and she pushed me to do it. She was my mentor; my inspiration.”
In 2010, she got her certification to be a group instructor. With that she could teach any group class she wanted. She started to teach classes at the base gym and enjoyed every minute of it. You can see the passion she has for instructing classes. You can hear it in her voice and see it in her face. This is something she loves.
“You have to love what you do,” Lee-Dominique said. “Fitness to me is very important not only for your well-being but for life. It’s a lifestyle.”
She had finally found her niche. She began teaching classes from cycling to step. She taught whatever they needed her to teach, sometimes subbing for other instructors.
Beating a stereotype
"I'm not afraid to lift weights,” Lee-Dominique said. “I think a lot of the misconception is that if girls lift heavy weights they are going to look like a dude. No, if you take steroids you will look like a dude. So don’t take any steroids.”
There is a misconception that women must do cardio and lose weight because lifting weights is for men, but Lee-Dominique has the opposite mindset.
“I’m trying to get as heavy as possible,” Lee-Dominique said. “I’m trying to put the 45-pound weights on there. I’m trying to back squat more then the guys. I want to put two 45-pound weights on. What I like to do is when I’m doing shoulder presses I like to grab the 40-pound dumbbells and sit there and do it and watch a dude with 25-pound dumbbells. But I’m not going for 20 repetitions; I’m going for 30. I’m going for the weight and the reps. Women should not be afraid to lift heavy.”
During one of her usual workouts she noticed some women who wore knee high socks. The next day her and her friends all came in with colorful socks. That was the beginning of Michelle “Crazy Socks.”
Everyday after that she wore different color and pattern socks, not even trying to match the socks. It fit well with her bubbly personality.
“I figured I might as well look good and have fun while I’m enjoying it,” Lee-Dominique said. “It was just a thing. I love socks and I love colors. It’s an easily identifiable thing. They might not know who I am. So I’m ‘the girl with the socks.’”
That’s when her fitness pastime turned into something more.
In February her husband was given orders to Marine Corps Base Hawaii. Coming to Hawaii branched out her career even more and gave it an upgrade. She received a High Intensity Circuit Training certificate and an Aquatic Maximum Power Interval-training certificate, both through Marine Corps Community Services. The MCCS classes were brief and the certification only applied to classes at MCB Hawaii.
With these new certificates, she could now teach classes that were off limits before. She could now spread her wings in her profession and show everyone what she was really capable of.
“My enjoyment is that everyone has a good workout,” Lee-Dominique said. “Seeing the faces like, ‘That was awesome but I don’t want to do it again.’”
In August she will be working to get certified as a personal trainer. But she isn’t going to stop there. She has set more goals for herself, each one bigger then the last.
“I’m considering joining the Navy,” Lee-Dominique said. “I want to think about it for a year. I want to finish my biology degree first. My mom got sick while I was in school so I had to work and pay bills. I didn’t rely on anyone but myself so it got hard after a while and I couldn’t do it. Now I’m getting back on track. I’ve been blessed because my husband is letting me use one year of his G.I. Bill and the other year I’ll pay for out of pocket. I want to finish in biology and hopefully go for a masters in kinesiology.”
Next time you go to the gym, look for the woman with crazy socks. She can be found teaching a class in the gym at lunchtime or squatting at the squat rack. She’s almost always around and willing to help. Don’t be intimidated. Take one of her classes, which are clearly marked on the schedule with the trainer name, Michelle “Crazy Socks.”