‘Michelle Bridges is Australia’s most recognisable personal trainer. She is currently shooting her fifth season of Australia’s The Biggest Loser and authored two best selling books, ‘Crunch Time’ and ‘Crunch Time Cookbook’. Her third book, ‘Losing the Last 5 Kilos’ was published in January this year. She is the in-game trainer featured on Xbox 360’s ‘Your Shape – Fitness Evolved’ and her online Twelve Week Body Transformation program has thousands of participants from all over the world.’
I’m in the motivation business. It’s what I do.
When people ask me to ‘train’ them, what they’re really saying is ‘motivate me.’ The actual exercises – the circuits, the routines, the techniques – aren’t rocket science. I’m not expecting a surprise inclusion on the New Year’s honours list or an honourary degree from Sydney Uni any time soon.
Let’s face it - the exercises and workouts are all readily accessible from the plethora of websites, books, blogs that myself and my colleagues love to litter the information highways with, soupcons of genius tossed out of the car window whilst on the road trip to physical perfection and fitness excellence.
When it comes down to it my potential clients could gather all the information that they need from magazines and the internet to whip their arses into pretty much whatever shape they felt like without any technical input from me.
What they feel they can’t get however, is the elusive ‘M’ word – Motivation. They think that the personal training fraternity exclusively holds the secret formula of the ninety eight octane fuel that can power us through the sweaty grind of hard training – day in, day out.
That us trainers, along with all other successful entrepreneurs and business men and women hold that magical key ingredient to self fulfillment and riches.
But for some reason, getting yourself physically motivated is held in the highest esteem – it’s the big cahuna, the toughest motivation of all.
Strip the average girl or bloke down to their underwear and walk them down the road and you’d be hard pressed to guess how they earned a living. A merchant banker looks the same as a greengrocer. A college lecturer is a dead ringer for a window cleaner.
Not so with my lot. My physical appearance lets the cat out of the bag every time and as a result I’m always being quizzed about the M word. Send me down George Street in a G banger and nine out of ten people would correctly guess what my office looks like – a gym, a boot camp, up the front of an aerobics class tormenting the participants.
With eyes narrowed and nodding sagely, you can almost hear the assessment – ‘here’s a person who knows about training, about exercise. She’s clearly a master of physical prowess and therefore knows the secret. The secret of… Mo-ti-va-tion…. maybe I should ask her to train me…’
As a nation we’re hooked, slaves to Motivation. It’s the subject of a never - ending quest by the entire population, to the extent that it’s taken on something of a mysterious aura. As if it’s unassailable, inaccessible to mere mortals.
Of all the questions that I am asked about exercise and healthy living, and God knows there’s plenty to choose from – what to eat, when to train, should I stretch, whether to do weights or cardio - there is one question that haunts me to the extent that I am literally wincing in anticipation (here it comes, any moment now… wait for it…) “so tell me Michelle, how do you stay motivated?”
I’m almost relieved when I hear it.
As some of you might be aware, I spend a lot of my professional time training a group of severely overweight contestants on Channel Ten’s hit reality weight loss show The Biggest Loser. As well as being an extraordinary exercise in human physiology, it’s also fertile ground to see what makes people tick. And trust me, the joint’s dripping with Motivation.
Now I’m picking that standing in your underwear on national television when you’re 170 kilos plus must take some Motivation, which of course it does. Powerful Motivation. In fact, gut wrenching tear streaming Motivation.
Motivation that allows a whole world to see the those soft squidgy bits that are better left hidden, preferably under several layers of loose fitting clothing. The soft underbelly that tells of a life spent, well, spent eating mostly.
None of those people are standing proud up there, and the floods of tears and remorse attest to the humiliation and regret that they feel. But does the Motivation that drives them to such a drastic demonstration of regret and self loathing ensure they meet their weight loss goals? This intravenous dose of super –Motivation?
And therein, my friends, lays the basis of my premise. That Motivation sucks.
That Motivation is to be avoided.
That Motivation, far from being sought as the holy grail of achievement, is in fact it’s nemesis.
Because even the super – Motivation of standing on a set of scales semi - naked in front of the entire population isn’t sufficient to guarantee your success.
I’ll go one step further. It will guarantee your failure.
Because ultimately Motivation will let you down. Because, like a bad boyfriend, you simply can’t rely on it always being there for you. It just isn’t. So you can stop grasping at clouds, stop reaching for the stars and let go of all those fuzzy pipe dreams and fantasies.
It simply isn’t there for you.
Those Biggest Loser contestants might reach their goal, and they might not. Some lose amazing amounts of weight and re-invent themselves, and some don’t. But I can guarantee you that the ones that didn’t reach their goals were the ones relying on that same hyper Motivation that had them sobbing on the scales on day one to see them through.
Motivation is fickle. It’s unreliable. It is a seducer – it gets you when you’re least well equipped to embrace it – when you’re emotional, anxious, vulnerable. It drags you in with promises of success and fulfillment, then it throws you aside like yesterday’s bran muffin. Sweet and alluring one day – stale and hard the next.
Motivation is not your friend.
Motivation is your enemy.
Just let that sink in – your enemy.
But don’t lose heart. Because as any successful athlete will tell you – any experienced personal trainer, any wizened coach – there is a friend out there that will support you, that will take you where you want to go. A friend that understands what you need to get you to where you’re going.
A friend that by it’s own definition will always be there for you. That won’t let you down. That friend is consistency.
Be consistent and you will achieve. Rather than find yourself caught in the frenzied hoopla of enthusiasm, nuzzle into the balmy comfort of regularity.
Which then begs the question that inevitably follows – how do you stay consistent? What I love about this question (as opposed to the fractious ‘how do you stay Motivated?) is that it answers itself.
You stay consistent by… being consistent. Consistency isn’t something that you need to wind up like a coiled spring every morning. You don’t need to plug it in and re-charge it every few hours. It doesn’t need regular doses of super nitro octane petrol that’s only available at one in three hundred servoes.
Consistency is that steady, yet relentless, journey to an end. It doesn’t require profound thought. You quite literally just do it. In fact I have a tee shirt that makes the point a little more emphatically by boasting my favourite acronym on the front in bold letters – J-F-D-I.
When I’ve racked up a fifteen hour day and I’m driving past the gym on the way home do I feel Motivated?
When it’s seven degrees and raining and my alarm goes off at 5.00am do I feel Motivated? Are you nuts? Sure - Motivated to stay in bed! The modus operandi for me on such a morning is simple, and one that personifies those who worship at the Altar of Consistency.
First, don’t think. Just do. Just put on your gym gear, head out the door and get over it.
Second, don’t start bargaining with yourself. No trade offs – none of that ‘maybe I could skip this morning and go for a run at lunch time’ bullshit. Just get on with it.
Third, if you feel yourself wavering, apply The Ten Minute Rule. Do what you need to do for just ten minutes. If you still don’t feel like it after ten minutes, then treat yourself to going back to bed and a lie in. Trust me – it doesn’t happen. In fact, some of my best workouts have come off the back of a Ten Minute Ruler.
Last year, knowing that there was a marathon component in this season’s The Biggest Loser I agreed with my girlfriend to compete in the Melbourne marathon. Now some of you might say ‘oh it’s alright for her, she’s fit, she can do a marathon no problem’, but in reality us fitness types usually stick with one or two modalities and I’m here to tell you that long distance running definitely ain’t one of mine.
So taking on a marathon was a big deal. But I made the commitment not when I was all fired up with the idea, but after I’d done a couple of practice runs with my colleague and had done a bit of research about marathon running.
Then I allowed Motivation a short moment in the lime light. But it was measured – I wasn’t going to be crowing about my marathon ambitions all fired up and Motivated, because I knew I couldn’t rely on Motivation to see me through.
What I could rely on was consistency. Consistency in training, consistency in preparation, consistency in diet and support.
Marathon Day approached. I had carefully given Motivation some toys to play with and locked it in its bedroom.
When I was at the half way mark, twenty one kilometers, there was a lot of pain. But I avoided the ‘come on, you’ve gotta finish’ mantra because I knew it wasn’t enough to support me. I replaced it with ‘you’re strong, you’re well prepared, you’re powerful’.
This wasn’t Motivation – this was affirmation.
At thirty kilometers there was more pain. A great deal of pain actually. My instincts wasted no time in informing me that a grain of self doubt would have seen me stop ands pull out. My mantra was well rehearsed: ‘one stride at a time, there you go, there’s another one, you’re doing it, you’re doing it. Don’t think, just do.’
This wasn’t Motivation – this was determination.
At forty kilometers I just didn’t care. Yes there was pain, but the day was mine and I knew it. If I could do forty kilometers then I knew I could not only do another two kilometers, but I could also grab them by the throat, shake the shit out of them and kick them to the kerb.
This wasn’t Motivation – this was jubilation.
And if yet another journalist had met me at the finish line with the same old question, the tired, wrung out enquiry that dogs me year in, year out – ‘how do you stay motivated?’ my answer would have been the same as it always is – ‘honey - I don’t. If you want to know my recipe for success, just read the tee shirt girlfriend….’
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