Olympic Gold Medalist Michelle Carter Knows That Athletes Come in Every Size

Michelle Carter's workout routine is enough to blow your mind. The professional athlete, who in 2016 became the first American woman to win Olympic gold in the shot put, does a lot of lifting and throwing weights to hone her strength. Muscle, though, is only part of the equation. In the small space of a shot-put ring, Michelle needs to be quick and agile, generating as much power as possible in a short amount of time. She does sprints and plyometrics and even incorporates weekly Pilates to work on her stability and smaller muscle groups.

"I do a little bit of everything," Michelle said, speaking with POPSUGAR ahead of her appearance at the 10th annual ESPN W Women + Sports Summit. "You have to be an all-around athlete to take advantage of the power and the time that you have in the ring."

A successful and powerful competitor, Michelle also considers herself a plus-size athlete. "In a lot of worlds, plus-size and athlete wouldn't go together," she said, "but that's what I am. . . . I'm fast, and I'm strong. I am a plus-size woman, and it doesn't exclude me from being an athlete."

The way Michelle sees it, your body is an opportunity. "I am big, and I am strong. What can I do with my body?" she said. "What can I teach my body to do?" It's why she encourages young girls to try different sports, even the ones they might not typically consider. That's how Michelle discovered her own career. "I just tried shot put. I found that I was good at it, and I stuck with it," she remembered.

Still, it can be difficult when people make snap judgments about her body and life at first glance; to have people look at her and not consider that she might be an athlete. But Michelle's perspective about her body, and about other people's perceptions of it, changed when she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. The condition, caused by underactive thyroid glands and lower-than-normal hormone levels, led Michelle to gain 100 pounds. Carrying that extra weight and knowing that it's out of her control is hard, Michelle said, but it's also emphasized the fact that your body doesn't define who you are. "You never know what kind of journey someone's going through, just by looking at their bodies," Michelle told POPSUGAR.

And her weight, size, body, or any other characteristic will never hold her back from accomplishing amazing things, such as qualifying for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo — Michelle's next goal. No matter what your body looks like, or what stage of life you're in, Michelle said, "I still believe that everybody's body can do something great."

— Additional reporting by Kahnita Wilkerson