Michelle Bridges is like a health and fitness oracle, so when she speaks we can't help but hang on her every word. She's been in the fitness business for decades, which adds weight to her advice not many can match. But in our recent chat with the successful mother of one, and Medibank and Black Dog Institute ambassador, it was her real approach to motivation that left us pleasantly surprised.
"This is the thing with exercise," Michelle begins. "It's always portrayed as how to get into your skinny jeans, lose five kilos, prepare for the City2Surf, or whatever, there's always that pressure around body image." And this representation concerns Michelle. For the 45-year-old, exercise has always been her mental rock, and in her eyes this is what people need to focus on instead of being heavily goal based. "Exercise will always be my rock mentally and I think often this message gets lost. Doing some form of exercise is so good for your mood, the way you think, your perception around who you are and who you want to be, your perspective on your life, family and job . . . exercising takes the steam out, so to speak," says Michelle. "Sure your problems, and all the sh*t you've gotta get done, are always going to be there, but your perception of them will be completely different with the help of exercise."
Letting go of the pressure to "look good for Summer" and realising how good exercising makes you feel mentally, is the best thing you can do for a happier, healthier you. Perhaps it's wishful thinking on Michelle's part, but the benefits of exercising could extend globally: "We could have world peace if everyone exercised!"
But what about the relationship between exercise and motivation, surely you can't have one without the other? Wrong-o. "I think motivation is a crock — and I'm in the motivation business," Michelle announces. "Yes! It's great to be motivated by a goal or an event that's coming up, but what happens when that goal has been achieved and that event has passed?"
In Michelle's opinion most people self-sabotage instead of understanding that motivation is like the waves of the ocean — it comes, and it inevitably goes. "We use the self-sabotaging technique of 'I've gotta be motivated to eat healthy and exercise all the time'," Michelle says. "Which to me is just adrenal overload. Who can be like that all the time? I don't want to be that person." Instead, be motivated like the waves of the ocean — waves are consistent and consistency is king, especially when you haven't got a goal or event on the horizon to strive for.
So how does Michelle do it? "Every day I do a little bit of activity, a little bit of exercise, every day I choose to predominantly eat well and those are the things that keep me in good check. Just like I brush my hair, make my bed and shower every day, these are the small things I do every day to look after myself," Michelle says. "Every now and again I'll go out for dinner and have a couple of glasses of wine and that's OK, I'm not going to beat myself up over it, I'm just not going to do that every day. For the most part, 95 percent of the time these are the things that I do to have myself be the best version of me."