Once upon a time, long before I had ever heard about Les Mills, I was that nervous first-timer trying out a new, exciting, and honestly slightly intimidating exercise class… ‘Body Combat’ they called it. Like so many other novices before me, I stepped through the door, clocked the rest of the class, and immediately felt self-aware and conscious of my lack of experience. Straight away I slid into the farthest back corner where I could hide in the crowd and no one would ever notice my inexperienced, uncoordinated self!
Confusing new challenge
Throughout that first grueling hour I made my best honest attempt to kick and punch the calories away, but that self-conscious voice told me I looked clumsy and gangly. I looked like I was flinging my arms and legs around swatting at invisible flies! The new class was confusing, and I got especially frustrated with the instructor’s style of facing the class – it forced us to follow her mirror image in what seemed like an unnecessarily disorienting challenge in perspective. I was honestly relieved when the class finally ended, and I vowed at that moment never to come back again ( … little did I know).
Everything has started with classes
Fast forward a couple of years, I had become a regular at some other classes the gym offered (Step/LBT/Spin and Tone), and this year they added a cardio kickboxing class to the timetable. I was friendly with the instructor and had no hesitation in joining the class. This time around I found I was thoroughly enjoying it. After about a year the instructor announced she was leaving, and while I was obviously sad to see her go I was extra worried about the fate of the class. How could they possibly replace what, as far as I was concerned, was the most fulfilling class and engaging instructor the gym had ever offered!
Something sat at the back of my mind
Well, in the end, the class was replaced with a new Les Mills Body Combat class so, with my past disastrous experience now fading into distant memory, I thought why not give it a go? I suppose if you read my job description you could guess that I absolutely LOVED the class! This instructor was so much better for me that we are still great friends to this day. This second try was during Body Combat 32, and at 4 releases a year, we’ve now made it to release 78. You can see I really never looked back! I got into a routine of attending two combat classes (three when I was feeling really energized), one Body Attack and two Body Pump classes a week. I absolutely loved the classes and it was during this time that the gym became my favorite place to be. It was like having another family; I made some of my best friends to this day in these classes, both with my peers and my instructors.
Late in 2011, the bombshell hit: the gym chain had decided to close a number of its branches and the one I attended was on the chopping block. Where was I going to get my combat fix now?! My only alternative gym didn’t offer combat or (anything even remotely similar) on the timetable! Panic set in… but something sat at the back of my mind. I had recently decided that if I had the money and if I gave up smoking, I would really like to train to be an instructor. By doing this, I could still participate in all the classes I loved, this time as a teacher, and on top of that get paid for doing something I love! It wasn’t about the money (I have a full-time job and can tell you instructing is not well paid), it was just the love of the sport.
What it takes to become an instructor
It just so happened that I came into some money at the perfect time, just as I had successfully quit smoking: it was time to look into starting my fitness journey. One fitness company offered level 2 ‘Exercise to Music’ qualification with one Les Mills program as a package so I booked to start the course In July 2012. I completed the course and undertook my Anatomy and Physiology and practical exams (making up and delivering choreography for an aerobics class was the hardest part of the journey!). Once all this was completed and passed, I was able to book onto my combat training, which was a 2-day workshop around September 2012. I passed my training, then had 8 weeks to produce a filming of myself teaching my first entire hour-long class. I received my pass not long after, which made meant I was finally a fully qualified Les Mills Instructor. My journey had officially begun. I started off just covering classes, but by March 2013, I was offered my first permanent class as a maternity cover in a city gym. I then had an audition for another permanent class, at a new gym in the heart of the west end. I attended the audition after sustaining a nasty injury to my foot (in Muay Thai class – horrible timing, I know) which left me barely able to walk. It was worth it though, I learned I had smashed the audition with a Muay Thai track – nothing like making things as difficult as possible for myself – and was offered the class. Straight away I was teaching two combats in one evening… one in the city that finished at 7 pm before I had to hotfoot to the West End for my second class at 7.30 pm!
At the office by day in the gym studio by night
Since my journey began I have taught around 5 classes a week, covered numerous classes for different gym chains, qualified to teach Body Pump in 2014, and more recently RPM (cycle). On top of all this, I work a full-time office job in the public health field. Managing a business support team all day presses my teaching schedule to the evenings and weekends.
I enjoy teaching so much, mainly because it gives me so much joy to see other people thriving in the programs as much as I do, and the pride an instructor gets in seeing her classwork towards their personal goals is something special. I’ve also met some fabulous people along the way and I know I will continue with it for as long as my body allows me to!
If you haven’t tried a Les Mills Body Combat class yet… try it! You can work out, have fun, burn calories, sweat loads and destress in this nonstop city.
Keep it real and stay with the fight!
Les Mills Body Combat, Body Pump Instructor