While many of us start our fitness journeys trying to lose weight, Myrissa Scales started hers from the other end of the spectrum — she was trying to gain weight. The Indianapolis-born track star who currently resides in Terre Haute, Indiana had been running for so many years that she found herself being told on more than one occasion, including by doctors, that she was smaller than she should be. Committed to changing that, Scales turned to weight training and a protein-packed diet. Before she knew it, the naturally lean athlete was building up muscle in an incredible way and hasn’t stopped.
Now 28, the certified trainer and fitness expert (she’s not just posing for likes on Instagram — she studied and obtained a degree in all things health and fitness in college) is changing the bodies of countless clients. She’s also informing her more than 260,000 followers on how to eat healthy and train dirty while taking them on her own unique fitness journey. Check out her story.
MadameNoire: So tell me about your fitness background. I see that you were naturally skinny at one point, so what spurred the decision to go for a more muscular build? A lot of women avoid that, the idea of packing on muscle, so what motivated you?
Myrissa Scales: It all started with sports. I used to run track so I was always running. I was running six days a week. For practice you would have two-a-days. I would go to doctors and they would tell me, “You’re a little underweight for your height, but you’re super athletic and healthy so that really doesn’t matter.” But over the years, I wanted to be the weight for my height. I started to look into what I could do about that as far as upping my calories, lifting heavier weights. I would work out but it would just be with bodyweight exercises, so I just started looking into the things that would actually put weight on my body.
How long had you run track for?
I’d been running track since the third grade. The third grade all the way up to college level.
Did you participate in anything else?
I did play basketball. I did do lacrosse. I was on a cross-country team, and I did cross-country in college as well. I was always running and that really kept my body from adding on any extra weight because I was actually burning more calories than I was eating.
How tall were you since people kept saying you didn’t weigh enough for your height?
So how big were you around the time you were running that would qualify you as underweight?
[Laughs] I would say around 108, 110 pounds.
Oh, wow! So how often were you training and what were you consuming to aid in your efforts to build muscle and body mass?
I was still running track when I was deciding to put on more weight so I started to actually go to the gym more to lift weights, lift heavier weights and things like that. I started incorporating machines and then I started incorporating free weights. As far as eating, I actually started eating more frequently. So instead of your normal three meals a day, I would try to eat five and one shake as well. I added in a shake in my diet, which helped a lot. To balance out me running so much, I just tried to keep my calories up as much as possible.
I know you were drinking shakes, but were you consuming a lot of protein?
Yes! It was actually a weight-gainer shake. It had a lot of protein in it, it had a lot of carbs in it, and it had extra calories in it as well.
What is the weight you’re at now?
I’m at 148.8.
So how many years ago did you start this transformation?
It’s been a little over four years. The first year was actually a lot of trial and error as far as what I should be eating and what my regimen would be as far as lifting weights. So that first year was very shaky and a little inconsistent. But yes, it’s been a little over four years.
You’re so strong and I know you’re proud of the work you’ve done, but do you ever receive flack from people who’ve said you’re too big or “too strong”? If so, how do you handle that?
There are a lot of people that don’t like my body type. They’ll say things like, “I wouldn’t want a girl that’s stronger or bigger than me.” But I’m like, I still don’t weight that much. I’m still an average-sized individual. When people say that, I just try to ignore the negativity. I try not to entertain all of that because it doesn’t lead anywhere.
How has your family responded to the changes with your body? Because sometimes old-school parents can be like “Eeeeh…” How have they treated your transformation?
Well, before my mom passed away, she was actually excited that I was putting on some weight and some muscle because back in the day she used to want to be a fitness competitor herself. She was actually pretty happy about that. I would come home and she would say, “Oh my goodness look at your legs!” or “Look at your arms!” So yeah, my mom was very supportive. Of course, my friends were very supportive, so I was happy as far as my support system.
Your legs and glutes are crazy! So what are your go-to moves for building up your legs and your behind for those who are currently trying or starting to work on those areas?
For my top three, the first one would actually be deadlifts. You can do them with dumbbells or kettlebells if you’re starting out and work your way up with weights until you’re able to do the barbell. But Romanian deadlifts are amazing. So that would be one. Two, would be the squat, of course. There are so many different types of squats. You can do sumo squats, the regular standard squat. You can use any weight. Even if it’s just your own body weight, you just up your reps and do more than when you would use weight. Any type of squat is amazing. And lunges! I love lunges. I like walking lunges. I like to incorporate walking because I feel the burn more and it actually lifts your butt more. And if you want to add a fourth, sprints actually work. They really tone up your legs nicely. I still sprint. I haven’t stopped running. I still sprint twice a week. They give you really lean muscle in your legs and it really does help your total body a lot. You can sprint on the treadmill. I know some people can get it up to 8.0, 9.0 — whatever you feel comfortable with. Do it for 15 seconds at a time, go back to the jogging and then go right back into the sprint. Do about five to six of them. It helps your abs a lot, too. That would be number one for my abs, sprinting for sure.
What at this point would you say keeps you motivated to keep working on your body or to keep working out in general? I think people reach a point where they reach goals that they had for themselves and then they’re kind of like, “What now?” That’s when many of us start backtracking. So what keeps you inspired?
My thing is, I always add on something. I always add a new goal to my fitness, whether it’s to max out at a certain weight or to change up my routine. I just always try to add on to what I’m doing as far as something new, so that helps a lot if I keep doing something new. Changing my routine or I try to reach a certain goal with an exercise. Things of that nature. It keeps it fun, especially for people who don’t like to work out. It just keeps you wanting to go back to work out. Or even, I’ll get groups of my friends and we’ll go for a run or a hike somewhere. You just have to keep it fun! You have to keep adding on new little goals to your fitness, and that’s what I do.