Michelle Bridges thinks personal betters are the new ‘PB’
Was I nervous about a 7am training session with one of the country’s most prominent names in health and fitness, Michelle Bridges? Yes. I’ve seen Biggest Loser, I know what goes on.
But aside from the numbat who suggested we run 30 laps as opposed to the 25* we were threatened with by Bridges and some painful (I did legs the night before like an idiot) stretching, it was an insightful experience learning what it means to achieve a personal better (as opposed to best) and how to overcome some of the more common self-imposed hurdles when it comes to taking part in regular exercise.
September 3 is Personal Better Day, an initiative launched after new research from Medibank found “only one in two Aussies have exercised in the last 3 months” and Michelle Bridges has been named official ambassador. It also coincides with parkrun Australia — a weekly running event now in its fifth year taking place in over 180 different parks across Australia.
In it, but not necessarily to win it
Personal Better Day, in their own words, is “not about performance but about everyone making it over the finish line”. Whether that means you come second or 102 is irrelevant.
The fact you’re out doing something active and improving is, for Bridges, what really counts.
“I think the idea of ‘personal better’ allows people to have a little bit of breathing space,” she tells The Juice Daily.
“We, as human beings, have a tendency to put a lot of pressure on ourselves — if we can’t be the best, then I don’t want to play.
“We think ‘Oh, back in the day I used to be number one footballer or number one netballer, I was in the A grade team’. Well that’s great, but what are you doing now as a 45-year-old man or a 39-year-old woman? And you don’t have to be the best — you just have to be improving or aiming to get better in a progressive way without putting so much pressure on yourself.”
But this pressure to be the best is something that anyone who has taken part in competitive sports has probably felt.
Growing up, personal bests were a weekly goal at swimming training. Saturday mornings, racing the clock (and other swimmers) trying to crack the time we did the week — or month — before.
It was a singular focus that, looking back, clouded a lot of the achievements I made along the way like form improvement, strength gains, and simple cardiovascular health. All that mattered was the time. Unsurprisingly, I ended up hating it and quit the sport altogether.**
What’s the worse that could happen?
Aside from the pressure we often put on ourselves to be the best, two of the biggest roadblocks we can encounter with exercise is fear and a lack of motivation.
Even for seasoned members, the gym can be intimidating. New equipment, new exercises, new trainers — it can be tempting to stick to what we know and avoid changing it up. And motivation can be pretty hard to come by, especially when we’re tired or have hit a plateau in our training and aren’t seeing the results we’re used to.
According to Bridges, overcoming that fear is the first step to achieving a personal better.
“The first step is stopping that fear factor from kicking in – and you should know, this kicks in for everyone,” she says.
“I had a friend of mine, a personal trainer, who always wanted to train me. And I told my friends, ‘Joe is going to train me’ and they said ‘are you serious? Aren’t you scared?’ and inside I was thinking ‘no, but now that you’ve said that maybe I am’.
“But I sat down and asked myself ‘what’s the worse that could happen?’ Well, I get tired. And I can’t do it. And I need to stop for a moment and catch my breath. If that’s the worse that can happen in this training session, what I have got to be afraid of? So I guess when you really break it down — war, I’m afraid of; earthquakes, I’m afraid of. A little bit of exercise? Not so much.”
Motivation isn’t everything
As far as motivation is concerned, she’s equally as candid.
“Motivation is like a bad boyfriend — never there when you need them,” she says.
“I’m in the motivation business, and I think motivation is a crock! If you were [constantly motivated] you would be in adrenal overload and I would never want to be that person, constantly feeling like I have to be wound up like a spring coil just to get a training session done.”
Acknowledging those times when we’re bored or uninspired can also be a sign that we need to try something new and get out of your comfort zone.
“It might take you months before you feel reignited again to set a new goal. Or it might come quickly if you change it all up. This can be going to a trapeze class or going for a run instead of doing what you normally would It could simply be training outdoors instead of training indoors, or vice versa if you’re an outdoors person and do an indoor swim.
“Just by doing something different one morning or afternoon could be enough to have you thinking ‘that was actually really nice and I’m ready to get my groove on again’. But I think it’s important to acknowledge that you’re not always going to be motivated and that’s OK.”
Personal Better Day and parkrun Australia will take place nationally on Saturday, September 3
*We only ran one lap. Well, Michelle and the others ran. I heavily loped.
** I may even try donning the cap again this year – 100 fly here we come.
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