Michelle Wright is not only the matriarch of her very own Brady Bunch-style brood, she’s also a women’s health advocate who, like BBB’s Jen Dugard, is determined to change the way women exercise through pregnancy and return to training postnatally. Jen and Michelle will be presenting together at the Women’s Health and Fitness Summit later this year but, in the meantime, we took a few minutes to find out more about Michelle and her training business, mishfit.
mishfit has some similar beliefs and principles as we do at Body Beyond Baby. Tell us about what you do:
Jen and I connected many years ago and we bonded over business and our similar beliefs about exercising safely. We have both lamented many times that the fitness industry seems to plead ignorance to the specific needs of (especially) postnatal women. We are both passionate about providing safe exercise and education for women returning to exercise after having children.
I have a lot of respect for what Jen does, and what she has achieved with Body Beyond Baby and getting the message out there. I am honoured to call her my friend.
What is your background and what brought you into the world of health and fitness?
Although I come from a sporty and very active family, sports and I were never the best of friends. Do you remember the days when sport’s captains had turns choosing their teams…? Well, those days still fill me with dread! Even in my family my lack of ball and sporting skills provided much entertainment. But, I was always a keen swimmer and loved aerobics and anything ‘non-competitive’, but basically I was a bookworm and an academic! I rediscovered exercise as a way to deal with postnatal depression after my second child was born (my husband left when I was pregnant and being new to Australia with no family… I fell into the depths of despair).
Turning my newfound love of exercise into my profession after years as a teacher came as a surprise to myself and others! Through my own experiences, I had found out the hard way that returning to standard exercise regimes postnatally did more harm than good (with incontinence and pelvic floor dysfunction), and when I realised how many woman this affected (for a long time I thought I was the only one!) I realised I found my specialisation.
Around 13% of the Australian population attends a gym (and this is higher than most Western countries) but if you look around the fitness industry, they all seem to be fighting for a part of that 13%. I wanted to offer not only something that was different, but something that was tailored to pregnant and postnatal women. I wanted to provide a fitness option that educated women about their body’s changing needs. Each of our mishfit franchises is aligned with women’s health physiotherapists and registered dietitians. Our program ‘mishfit mothers’™ provides safe exercise and education.
Incontinence and/or prolapse stops women from exercising the way they would like to or often, instead of doing something about this completely curable problem, women will just ignore the leaking and exercise with a pad. It is a huge secret that impacts on what women can and cannot do and very importantly, how they view their bodies. Because of this, I am driven to share my own experiences of incontinence and through education show how it can be improved and reversed. It is not okay to leak when you work out!
I believe the fitness industry is perfectly placed to help women.
Also as a single mother, I needed to create a business model that worked around my family commitments. mishfit does that.
What are the things you have found the most challenging and how have you overcome them?
Being different is okay now that my business is established and flourishing, but for a long time I felt like I did not fit in. I was openly critical of how the fitness industry ignored women’s changing needs, yet was poorly regarded by women’s health physiotherapists and incontinence specialists.
It was a bit like at school when those leaders were selecting their players and I was last option for both teams!
However, I really relate to this meme!
I have strong goals around achieving a standard in the fitness industry that both lifts women up and appreciates that we need different training and exercise and that those needs change during different phases of our lives.
I have overcome these obstacles but staying focused on my goals, building positive networks and relationships, and committing to my own learning to keep improving my business and my service.
Tell us a little about your family, we hear it runs like clockwork:
I was a single mother for seven years with no family and limited support in Australia. In dealing with my divorce, I learnt that if I was going to survive (and by proxy my young family, too), I had to factor in my own health and wellbeing (both physically and mentally). Dedicating every moment of every day to the upbringing of my children, for me, was going to be a recipe for disaster. I prioritised my own needs and exercising everyday was an important part of this survival plan.
Three years ago, I remarried a wonderful, loving and supportive man and with Mark our family has become 6! We are the Brady bunch without the nanny. Upon moving in together (the kids were then aged 14, 12, 10 and 8) we had a family meeting and discussed how our newly joined home would work. The conversation went something like this:
Me: Ok, hands up who wants to be in charge of all the cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping, school lunches and running around for after school activities?
The Kids: Not me! Are you kidding?!
Me: Yeah! Me neither!
It would quite literally be impossible to do all of that for the family and run my business and prioritise my own exercise needs (which keeps me healthy and sane!). So jobs are allocated and everyone is expected to do their share of household chores. We believe that this not only teaches our kids responsibility, but that being in a family is like being part of a team… everyone needs to do their share for everyone to share in the success.
What is the number one thing that gets you out of bed in the morning?
Without a doubt my business! I love what I do. I am particular about details but I am learning that ‘done’ is as good as ‘perfect’.
My ideal day is to get up, answer emails and make sure all the kids get off to school okay. I go to yoga, come home, shower and then train a few clients before lunch. I like to schedule meetings / calls / work for the afternoon. Around 4pm, I shop and cook dinner and hang with my family. Eating together every night is very important to us, especially now that we have three teenagers! Usually I work in the evening as well (on some of my bigger projects) and plan for the next day. I do enjoy a couple of nights on the couch watching some of my favourite TV shows with my husband though!
Tell us about your own fitness routine?
My fitness regime has changed over the years and reflects the changing needs of my body!
I started doing hot yoga about two years ago and have found a beautiful school not far from home that not only challenges me physically but also balances out my natural ‘monkey brain’ reflex. I love it that you can do it everyday and my phone is left for two hours in the change room. The world can survive without me for two hours a day!
I have always loved swimming and do that regularly outside, all year round. My kids often come with me and we negotiate how many laps they are going to swim before they can play. They are now old enough to leave me alone to swim… the bonus of older children – to the mums of young ones… be patient, it will come!
I am also passionate about Power Plate (whole body vibration training). I use it personally to improve my strength, alleviate aches and pains, and to keep my pelvic floor strong and functional. I use Power Plate with my clients also. I recently returned from a ‘Master Training Course’ held in China and I have been developing a program that uses Power Plate for clients who have prolapse and other pelvic floor dysfunction.
NOTE: Jen Dugard has been trying for years (unsuccessfully, I might add) to get me to join in her Tough Mums obstacle racing team. Bless. Not a hope! All that mud! However, it does make me appreciate that it is different strokes for different folks and exercise, in order for it to become a maintainable habit, needs to be something that you enjoy!
You have recently founded the Women’s Health and Fitness Summit – tell us a little about that?
I am passionate about women’s health.
I started off training women and improving their pelvic fitness, because exercise without adequate understanding about my pelvic floor had failed me. I had healed myself and I wanted to share those skills with many other women. So I created an exercise/ education group program (mishfit mothers™) in order for more women to have access to this knowledge in order for them to rehabilitate after birth and enjoy safe exercise (no matter what it is that rocks their boat!) Like Body Beyond Baby, I knew that it needed to be an option that included children and babies to further remove boundaries of mums exercising.
Then I franchised this training system and the business, so even more women could access the service and I am growing the number of franchises as other wonderful personal trainers have come to share my vision.
Now my sights are set even further. I believe that we need to see more women presenting in the fitness industry in order for women’s health to have the attention it deserves. The Women’s Health and Fitness Summit is literally quite different to any other industry event. Not only will it provide education specifically devoted to women’s health, but unique to this event, it will also provide an opportunity and pathway to encourage more women working in the industry to put themselves forward for presenting.
This years Women’s Health and Fitness Summit is the rockstar event of presenters and participants as it is the curtain raiser for what we aim to be an annual event. In 2015, the Women’s Health and Fitness Summit will be held over a weekend and will include worldwide presenters united by women’s health. I am already being contacted by fabulous presenters from around the globe wanting to be involved!
Additionally in 2015 there will be six TED-type presenting opportunities for first time presenters. Those attending this year’s summit will be given pre-selection preference!
What would be the key message you would give to all mums?
Incontinence affects one third of all mums and perhaps more alarmingly prolapse around 50%. It is not okay to leak and educating yourself about how to exercise safely during the different phases of your life is essential to improving your overall performance now and avoiding issues down the track.
Not all exercise options were created equal! Our current industry education simply does not include the changes that women see during their cycles of life, so don’t be afraid to question the status quo. In doing so, you lift the standards for everyone.
Where do you see mishfit in five years’ time?
Currently, mishfit is collecting data on how our program positively impacts women’s continence. This is going to take time… but in five years I would hope that a program like that of mishfit mothers™ will be available for all mums and pelvic floor health will be seen as a normal matter of course. I see mishfit as integral in this industry change and leadership.
I am excited about the prospect of my franchisees becoming renowned leaders in the industry and integral players in building the business to provide even more services to women and more opportunities for trainers!
I fully expect that in five years mishfit will not only be in every state, but overseas as well.
Not one to let the grass grow under my feet, I do have some other business projects in the pipeline… so watch this space.
mishfit will always work collaboratively with other women’s health and fitness business that have integrity – like Body Beyond Baby.
Thank you for this opportunity to be interviewed and I am looking forward to Jen presenting next month at our Women’s Health & Fitness Summit!
If you are interested in attending the Women’s Health & Fitness Summit, don’t forget to use the code of WHFS2014 for a 10% discount on the price and be prepared for lots of ‘extra’ goodies! Visit: http://www.womenshealthandfitnesssummit.com.au to register.