health

Our interview with Michelle Bridges.

Nat with Michelle Bridges

 

By NATALIA HAWK

I’ve loved Michelle Bridges for a long time. She’s enthusiastic without being over-the-top. She’s encouraging without being completely unrealistic. She was once just another personal trainer – and now she’s a household name that appears on various TV shows, has a bunch of DVDs and books, and her very own fitness range – now extended to encompass clothes, workout gear, kitchenware and shoes.

She also runs own mass personal-training program online, called the 12 Week Body Transformation Challenge, which attracts thousands and thousands of participants each round.

She does a lot of writing and her opinions are all over social media and the web. And often she even gets attacked for those opinions – people notice a word or a phrase and rile up. But more than anything, her supporters are overwhelming. On Facebook alone, she sends status updates out to over 622,000 fans.

I was invited to interview her last week and see some of her new range (which we’ll talk about later in the post)

Have a read. If you haven’t been a fan of her previously – I think you will be by the end of this interview.

Some of the clothing range for adults

Nat: What made you want to get started in the fitness industry?

Michelle: I was born to do this! I know that sounds cornball, but I was literally born to do what I’m doing. I started teaching classes when I was 14 – I pitched the idea as a 14-year-old to the school mistress for the kids sitting in the school room pretending to do homework when sport was on.

N: At my school, for sport, we usually either went bowling or we watched vaguely sport-related movies like Cool Runnings.

M: (Almost falling off chair) You just put a knife in my heart! Oh my god!

Well – my sport mistress let me do it. So I’d make my mix tapes and get my leg warmers. I took the different principles from my hockey/netball/basketball training and pulled it together in what would be called now a circuit class. I had no idea what I was doing, I was just making it up.

I thought I was so awesome – so I rocked myself down at the age of 14 to the local squash courts. My mum was beside herself. I said to them: “You guys need me, I can teach fitness classes. The empty room downstairs? I can fill that with people.” And they let me do it. A 14 year old! But back in the day, you could get away with that.

I did my personal training course when I was 18 and have been doing it ever since. I just love it. Another journalist who came through [before] – was in her 50s and she said, “I’ve never exercised and I’ve only just started. I feel amazing. I didn’t have any weight to lose. I just feel awesome.”

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That’s exactly why I do this. It’s not about being a size 0 or looking good in your skinny jeans. It’s not about getting skinny, getting skinny, losing weight, weight loss! It’s about what exercise does for you mentally, spiritually and for your confidence.

N: What do you think about the whole “health at any size” movement?

M: I think it’s about time we had a different perception on body shapes and sizes. I am constantly saying, “no comparisons” – they are a waste of time and space, and frankly just boring.

Nat using her Michelle Bridges water bottle (with which she is somewhat obsessed). It tells you how much water you should have had by a particular time so that you stay on track.

That being said, the biggest catch cry in my program is “being the best version of yourself” – whether that be a size eight or 12 or 16, it’s about being the best version of yourself. I think once you start getting a BMI creeping up into the obesity levels, of course you need to address it, because that not only affects your psyche but your hypertension, blood pressure, early onset disease. It can shorten your life. But once you are at a place where you have a reasonably healthy BMI, your cholesterol and health levels are all around at a better place with good food and exercise, you don’t have to worry if you are a size 14 or whatever.

N: So many women say they don’t have time to exercise, and that’s their main problem. Obviously you must be so busy – how do you possibly fit it in?

M: I am adamant about training. It has to happen. It’s locked away in my diary and no one better come near it. Of course, there are days where it is literally impossible to train, where I’m up at 4am and getting home at 10pm at night. But for the most part, 95% of the time, I have them locked away. If they have to get shifted then I make sure they get shifted to a time I can still do. It’s just too important for me, mentally.

N: What about this whole idea of getting motivated to exercise? What do you think about exercise motivation? 

M: Motivation is like a bad boyfriend – they’re never when you need them. That’s my take on motivation.

I actually think motivation is a crock and I’m in the motivation business! I wrote a whole chapter in a book about this – why is everyone hunting me down for motivation, it’s annoying!

Let’s break this down – everyone wants to be motivated so they can get the job done. However, as a human being and as a personal trainer, I know for a fact motivation is not going to always be there. It’s like any other emotion, it comes and goes like the waves of the ocean.

So what if you’re not motivated 0 does that mean you can’t exercise? Really? Let’s take a look at it – when was the last time you had to pump yourself up to brush your teeth? Maybe if I have had a night out, but otherwise… I JUST DO IT! It’s a habit. I’ve been doing it since I was a child. That’s where I am a massive believer in habits and rituals. That’s why I have people train 6 days a week.

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They say 6? Yep! Not every day has to be a gut-buster but just the idea of habit and turning up everyday is laying down those habits. Otherwise you get what I call ‘paralysis by analysis’ – should I train in the morning? Should I train in the evening? Should I train after I have eaten, or before? Should I train when my lunar cycle is in my warrior princess phase of my star sign? Just freaking train! Anytime, anywhere, anyhow – just do SOMETHING!

“When I’m coughing up a lung – am I having fun right now? No!”

N: And what about this whole idea of exercise not being fun – I know you wrote that article about it not being fun

M: I got in so much hot water about that. Let’s be real – it’s not always fun. When I’m coughing up a lung – am I having fun right now? No! Am I digging deep and finding out how powerful I really am and I’m challenging myself, coming out of that, thinking damn I’m a strong chick? Yes. But was I having woo woo awesome fun? Maybe not so much.

N: Let’s talk about the 12 week transformation program. You’ve built such a huge community of women – why do you think it’s been so successful?

M: I think it’s tapped into that feeling of being able to speak to other like-minded women. Because it’s an online program, there’s a little anonymity with that, which gives you some safety for you to speak how you really feel. And for some women, that’s a conversation that never really happens in their house – so they get all the baggage that has been holding them down. It starts opening people up so they can feel more empowered.

Couple that with good nutrition, Couple that with exercise – you are also starting to tap into your mindset and empower yourself. You’ll feel confident. These women just blossom. They become the woman they were meant to be but they just pushed it down with various issues – life, kids, career.

I have all different catchphrases like JFDI (“just fucking do it”). There’s a reason that when you get on the plane, they ask you to put your air mask on first. That’s not selfish. That’s survival 101. Take the guilt and emotion out of it. It’s not selfish to put yourself first. In fact, it’s selfless, because everybody else gets the best of you.

That’s why the community has expanded – because they say, ‘you have to know what this feels like because this feels amazing’, and they grab their friends and bring them along.

N: What inspired you to start the program?

M: Everyone wanted me to train them. I can’t, really. So I knew there was something in the online space that I wanted to go into but I couldn’t quite piece it together. It took me a while to work out how I wanted to do it. I was adamant I want us to all do this together.

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The collapsible items from the kitchen range – containers and measuring cups.

On the books, an accountant would say – “you want to close the doors for 12 weeks? That’s not very smart.” I don’t give a shit. I’m not in this for business, I’m in this for it to work. I visualise all us going together – that’s going to work. We’re going to be moving as a team.

I couldn’t be happier. I’ve always felt in my own little way making a difference, with my DVDs and the show and columns I write but with this program I know I am making a difference. I really am. We’ve lost 800,000 kilos in the 4 years of this program. That’s not a drop in the ocean anymore, that’s changing the psyche of the country.

N: When did you come up with the fitness and kitchen range?

M: I’ve always wanted to do it. I was very proud to be an ambassador for Nike and Adidas for years. But in the back of my mind, I always wondered what it would be like to do my own clothing.

It always seemed like too much of a daunting prospect. Then over the years, I thought – I could do this. It needed to follow my principle of being able to inspire as many people as possible. Someone with a mortgage and three kids can’t afford a pair of tights for 100 bucks. That’s not inspiring. That’s just another road block.

I had a lot of people say, “so you’re going to go from being an ambassador for Adidas to doing a clothing line with Big W, really?” I’m like, “Yeah! Damn right!” Everyone can afford it. It’s realistic. I’ve been in this fitness industry a long time and been wearing this gear for 25 years. I know we could do better at price. I look at some of my tights and think $150 for this, COME ON! Really?

And the size thing, why do they stop at size 14? What are you, invisible once you go over size 14? It’s a slap in the face to the industry. Size 14 is a normal size now. Even when we were putting the stock in the area, plus-size pieces went in the plus-sized area. I was like no! No! All together. Because then, as a plus sized woman, to me that’s another kick in the face. So it goes from sizes 8 – 26. Nobody feels like they are being judged.

This is not a sponsored post for Michelle Bridges – I just loved chatting to her and chose to write about the range. It’s available at Big W now for cheap-cheap-cheap if you’re interested.

The Athlete’s Foot want you to get out of the house and get involved in the 2013 running season. For the next fourteen weeks, you can Tweet or Instagram a picture/post/video of yourself pounding the pavement with the hashtag #IDIDIT for your chance to win a free fitting and pair of running shoes from The Athlete’s Foot. Oh, and don’t forget to tag @theathletesfootaustralia. Visit the website for more details. Happy running!

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