'It whacked me': Michelle Bridges on sleep deprivation and returning to exercise

Michelle Bridges is the face of Personal Better Day, September 3.
Michelle Bridges is the face of Personal Better Day, September 3.  Photo: Wesley Nel

Michelle Bridges knows a lot about health and fitness, but when she became a mum she had to learn a few lessons the hard way – just like the rest of us.

The mum of Axel, 8 months, told Essential Baby that the biggest challenge she faced as a new mum was sleep deprivation. ("Welcome to the club," chorus the countless mums who have been in her tired shoes.)

"I had no clue," she says. "I thought 'I'm fit, I'll be fine', but it whacks you – it whacked me, anyway.

"I'd wake up in the morning and feel like I had been hit by a truck – the last thing I felt like doing was going to train."

On those challenging mornings, Bridges says that putting her trainers on and going outside was a good start.

"Just getting outside was enough," she recalls. "And it was great for my head space too.

"You feel like you've done something and that you're back in society. My tights may have been on inside out, but I was back!"

 

A photo posted by Michelle Bridges (@mishbridges) on

Although there is no need to rush back into exercise, Bridges says that even going out for a walk with your baby is great for your mental health.

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"Exercise decompresses you, it brings you back, and it is extraordinarily good for your head space. Forget about weight loss, do it for your head space!" she says.

"You'll come back from every walk feeling fresh and decompressed – everybody needs that."

Bridges has recently become an ambassador for Medibank and will be the face of Personal Better Day this weekend. The initiative will encourage Australians to join their local park run for a 5km run, jog or walk.

Now in its fifth year, parkrun Australia has held more than two million of its free, timed five-kilometre events, which take place every Saturday morning in parks and open spaces across Australia.

Bridges says that running is great exercise for mums because it doesn't come with any constraints. "You can pretty much do it anytime anywhere - you just need to get yourself out the front door," she says.

She also notes that if you do want to get fit, running is a good choice.

 

Sunday hike! #funfitness #mbactive #fitnessforeveryone

A photo posted by Michelle Bridges (@mishbridges) on

"You get great results. Your fitness comes up pretty quickly and if you're looking to lose a few kilos, running will definitely help," she says.

But there are other benefits to running too. "I find running quite meditative," she says. "You're outside, you get into a rhythm. You feel like you've really achieved something."

Of course, running isn't for everyone and even a short weekly run might be a bit ambitious for new mums with young babies at home. But that doesn't mean you can't do any exercise.

Bridges says that if you want to start working on building up your fitness you can look for opportunities to include small bursts of activity into your day.

"I have to defrost Axel's puree in the microwave; it takes one minute. So I have one minute to do as many push ups as I can," she says.

And of course, you can also use your baby as a weight to build up your upper body.

"If I'm picking him up I'll do 10 squats and push him up in the air – he loves it!" she says.

Even putting your baby into a carrier or sling and popping out to the shops is a great way to get some exercise into your day.

"I put Axel in the Ergo – he's 11kg now so that's a decent whack!"

"Anytime, anywhere, anything," she says. "It all adds to the greater picture."

Note: consult your GP or health care provider before embarking on a new exercise regime.

Learn more about Personal Better Day or find your local parkrun.