It’s spring: we’re out of hibernation (chunky knits, begone) and already enjoying lighter evenings, fewer layers and the buzzy countdown to summer. But, like the best nights out and a decent fake tan, hitting the beach can feel a whole lot better with some prep – and now’s the time to jump on it. We’ve enlisted PT extraordinaire Michelle Bridges to get you started.
She’s all about the long game – with 20-plus years in the biz, she knows what it takes to get results, but also how to make them last beyond bikini season. She’s the queen of helping people become fitter and healthier, which is why we couldn’t be more excited to share this with you: a kickarse workout from her new book Keeping It Off (which is chockers with recipes, tips and exercises), plus seriously-use-them-right-now insights to help you keep kilos in check, tone up and create health-boosting habits that last. OK, that’s enough from us. Over to Michelle...
1. My philosophy around health and weight loss is to keep it simple. Because fussy fad diets invariably fail. It's so easy to go down the rabbit hole with all the zillions of micro-isms when really, for most of us, it's about focusing on the macro-isms to be healthy and [within] a healthy weight range. Eat unprocessed, natural food in appropriate portion sizes, exercise regularly and get good-quality sleep.
2. Nutrition by far plays the biggest role in weight loss. I always say it’s about 80 per cent nutrition and 20 per cent exercise. Suitable nutrition fuels your body without stoking your fat stores and, if you’re [kilojoule] restricting (a common method for those who need to lose weight), you’ll still lose weight even if you don’t do any exercise because your body is in [kilojoule] deficit. Want to add exercise into the mix? You’ll be strengthening your soft tissues, building your bones and getting the feel-good factor mentally – the whole package! People can often overlook how much exercise positively impacts your mental state.
3. If a client approached me about getting in shape, this is the first thing I’d do is strip out all soft drinks. Often people are consuming massive amounts of sugar and excess [kilojoules] through soft drinks, and just changing that one thing can have a profound effect. The second thing? I’d get them eating breakfast, lunch and dinner consistently every single day. Lots of times people skip meals and then binge when they finally do eat, or they’ll eat pretty much continuously throughout the day. Instigating the habit of eating three set meals daily pulls things back into line and then we can fine-tune their habits more easily from there.
4. The workouts in Keeping It Off focus on both cardio and strength. Cardio trains the heart and lungs, which power your body. Think of it as charging your battery: with a full battery, you have the energy to hammer out strength-training sessions. My favourite workouts combine strength and cardio, so I might do a circuit of a 400m run + 10 push-ups + 10 overhead squats, and repeat that as many times as possible.
5. You need to get to your edge to evolve. Choose weights that cause you to fail on the last few reps – then you know you’ve hit your limit and training adaptations will occur.
With cardio, you want to feel like you can’t get enough air in and can’t talk. This is a sign you’re at your
limit and your body will adapt to improve its cardiovascular capacity.
6. At some point each morning, you’re going to need to get up to go for a wee so when you do, work out! Lunge from your bed to the loo – that’s your first exercise. While washing your hands, squat – boom, that’s your second exercise. Skip to the kitchen for your third. Push-ups against the bench top – there’s a fourth. If you’re done after that, all good. You worked out, and now have a big glass of water, breakfast and get into your day. If you’re feeling charged up and ready to go longer, grab my book and hit one of the workouts in there.
7. When it comes to results, both cardio and strength work are going to burn fat, give you energy and bolster your mental state. Weight loss will be different from person to person and week to week, but generally if you weigh less than 100kg you could reasonably expect to lose between 0.5 and 1.5kg per week if you are eating for calorie deficit.
8. Your plate is the key to toning up. If you don’t eat well, it doesn’t matter how toned your muscle are – because no one will see them under the excess fat stores. At the same time, make sure to do strength-training exercises that are higher reps and lower weight, so you’re toning your existing muscle mass rather than simply.
9. Keep a food diary for a week if you hit a weight-loss plateau. It’ll help you to see if there’s anywhere extra calories might have crept in. Often we get portion distortion; if we haven’t been conscious with our food, we can start to consume more than we actually need. You could easily have been drinking to excess – say if you’ve had more than a couple of boozy nights or a bunch of high-fruit smoothies. It doesn’t take long to go over what you need if your goal is weight loss. My book has a specific meal plan called ‘Stop Stalling’ with reset recipes to help you if you’ve hit a wall. Think about whether you’ve been pushing yourself too hard – overtraining is just as detrimental as under-training, so keep an exercise diary as well. Finally, has anything changed in terms of stress in your life and how much quality sleep you’re getting? Stress slows down your metabolic rate, so your body burns fuel less efficiently, while sucky sleep is a stress [itself].
10. Never go to a social event hungry. Fill up beforehand so you’re less likely to be tempted by food there, which is often high in bad fats and low in good nutrition. Number two, stand with your back to the buffet – out of sight, out of mind. Or if people are circling with canapes, have a drink in one hand and a plate in the other. No hands free automatically means no excess [kilojoules] consumed. Thirdly, have a champagne flute filled with sparkling water. Zero alcohol so zero [kilojoules]. Plus, people will think it’s champagne so won’t try to peer pressure you into drinking. Last but not least, remember you don’t have to go to every single event – exercise your right to say ‘no’. I’ve found having a child is one of the best excuses in the world. It’s worth having a child just for the get-out-of-jail/party-free card!