LMAP( Les Mills Asia Pacific): Please tell us about yourself (e.g., name, your full-time job, period of teaching (since when and for how long), and what Les Mills program/s you are trained in (e.g. RPM®, BODYPUMP®).
I’ve been instructing since 2016 (whoa, time flies!). I started my instructing journey with BODYPUMP® and remained a single program Instructor for years before picking up THE TRIP®, LES MILLS GRIT® and BODYATTACK®, all in the past two years.
When I’m out of the group exercise studio and gym, I work in the business consulting and insights space, where I grew from a shy and meek analyst in 2015, to a confident presenter in client engagements and meetings. This is thanks to the public speaking skills I acquired from delivering Les Mills programs.
LMAP: What inspired you to become a Les Mills Instructor?
What got me into the group exercise studio was the challenge of the workout, the atmosphere, the super friendly participants, and the desire to not be judged WEAK by my mum (who shamed me into trying group exercise classes out when she noticed I can spend hours in the weights area doing not much more than fiddling on my phone!).
I was considering doing a freestyle cycling training course, just for the fun of seeing what it’s like to instruct after a year of being a super committed member, and the spin instructor recommended BODYPUMP as a great way to get my feet wet and master a relatively straightforward coaching model, so I could then start instructing from there. So, off I went into the other group exercise studio down the hallway for the next BODYPUMP course, and there began a life-long journey of being an instructor (although I didn’t know it at the time)!
LMAP: We understand that it took two attempts to successfully complete your Initial Module Training (IMT) for BODYPUMP. Could you tell us more about this experience?
The IMT for BODYPUMP 96 was the most humbling experience of my year. I went in blind, with no support from any existing Instructors, and with an over-inflated sense of confidence (I blame youth!). My butt got handed to me on a silver platter when I got a big fat “Re-sit” grade on my marking rubric. I immediately thought ‘that’s that, I’ve achieved my goal of giving instructing a try and this isn’t for me!’
Six months later though, I got an email from Les Mills Asia Pacific about retaking the IMT at a reduced rate. I told myself that I would conquer this challenge of passing an IMT (at the time, taking it to the level of actual instructing wasn’t even on my agenda; I just wanted to prove to myself that I’m capable of bringing home a passing grade!).
For my second attempt with BODYPUMP 98, I was way more prepared. I had sympathetic Instructor friends who coached me through the essentials of what’s needed to secure a pass; I did my homework; and really read the Instructor Manual instead of skimming through it! I scripted (and rescripted) my presentation track diligently, and I walked out of that IMT with the taste of sweet victory on my lips (and with a big fat “Pass” on my marking rubric this go round!). And that’s where things then sat for a good year or so! That is, until a very good Instructor friend (I would call her a mentor, but she refuses that label), lured me into the instructing life with an opportunity to team-teach with her at a small boutique gym.
One thing led to another, from covering classes in this small boutique gym, to auditioning for big box gyms, and now being a part-timer with a prestigious higher-end fitness brand. With plenty of sweat (almost daily workouts), blood (I scraped a shin badly once in the gym while rehearsing my script), and tears (self-doubt, overhearing snide comments, doors and opportunities closed on my face) along the way.
And that’s how I kind of accidentally ended up living the life of someone with a perpetually sweaty mic belt dangling from my bag! Of course, I have absolutely no regrets about treading this path, which has led me to discover so much joy and self-confidence along the way.
LMAP: What advice do you have for someone who also receives a “re-sit” outcome for their Initial Module Training?
First things first: it’s perfectly human to feel disappointed and kind of embarrassed (even if you’re kind of expecting it, as I was, when the trainer handed me my grading rubric back)! First thing on my mind was ‘oh no, I’m going to be humiliated when I break the news to my newfound IMT friends!’
It’s also okay to not share the news until you feel comfortable to! We are all inquisitive by nature, and I am as nosy as the next person (“Eh, you pass or not? Who didn’t?”). The re-sit experience made me way more sensitive about this and so ever since, I make it a point to not enquire about grades after any form of assessment, and to be extra tactful in such situations because you never know who may have gotten a less satisfactory grading than expected in the group, and you don’t want to force them to reveal the grading outcome before they have processed the news themselves.
“You are so much more than this, don’t let this trip you up” was something a colleague at work told me when I once received a less than stellar performance review. Which, in retrospect, is probably what I would have liked to hear when I received the ‘re-sit’ grade.
We are comprised of so many facets, like being a caring sibling, an excellent employee, a kind friend, and an effective instructor. A re-sit grade simply indicates not hitting all the essential criteria for successfully delivering that specific Les Mills program; it’s not a judgement that you’re a failure of a human, but simply an objective indication of key areas of opportunity where you can improve and perform better and, ultimately, obtain a future ‘pass’ grade.
Relatedly: YES, I AM A TWO-TIME RE-SITTER! I got a re-sit grade again for my THE TRIP IMT, and I am actually grateful to the Trainer for being upfront and identifying that I had technique issues to work on before he would feel comfortable passing me. If I had managed to finagle a ‘Pass’ grade somehow during that IMT, I would have hindered my own progression during formal auditions with gyms, as a result of my poor technique. The extra eight weeks I took to work on my technique before the subsequent ‘pass’ assessment paid off because I’m so much more knowledgeable, and capable to role model effective cycling technique than I was before. So, thank you, Mr K!
Thirdly, be kind to yourself. Give yourself the emotional space to process the outcome. I am a firm believer that every setback in life offers us precious learnings and opportunities for growth. So, if you receive a ‘re-sit’ grade then, when you are ready, chart out a plan to try again. I remember being super touched by a Trainer who took the time out after IMT, to help me explore possible next steps and isolate the things for me to work on, in order to pass my next attempt.
LMAP: What support did you seek and/or receive during your Initial Module Training retake?
In hindsight, being honest and vulnerable about ‘flunking’ was the best thing I could have done. I was reticent about opening up about my ‘re-sit’ grade and being judged; but when I opened up to a few Instructor friends about taking my next BODYPUMP IMT attempt, all I found was loads of encouragement and concrete, practical help, which I really appreciated.
They helped me by playing tracks from my IMT Release when I was in their class; after class they would explain the structure and logic of how and why they coached those tracks in that way; and they offered time for me to practise my script with them after class, to which they provided valuable feedback and pointers for improvement. I knew I had these awesome people supporting me, and I didn’t want to let them down by being less than prepared on my part. This helped to keep me going with self-practise in the studio, and scripting and rescripting until I had the perfect script ready to go.
This was the secret sauce to my eventual ‘Pass’ grade. And at the risk of sounding like an Academy Awards winner, to those people who helped me I say: ‘thank you for believing in me, for giving me your precious energy, and for taking time out of your day to help a young punk in his attempt to clear the IMT hurdle!’
LMAP: What do you love about being a Les Mills Instructor?
Originally, after getting my first gig to cover a class, my entire motivation behind putting on the microphone was simply to make a positive return on investment after my spend on IMT and resources. I pictured myself breaking even on the investment, and then calling it a day.
But along the way, I discovered that I love, and am super thankful, for this opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. So many members come in super grouchy after a long day at work; and they’re there in the gym just to tick off the ‘exercise today’ item on their to-do list. I am always heartened whenever they tell me after class, that they have no regrets taking that hour out, even though they were dragging their feet to get into the studio. Often, that workout makes their day, and so I am happy to have played a small part in creating that bright spot of delight!
The super awesome part of being a Les Mills Instructor is the community! I have numerous deep and fulfilling friendships that I’ve made through our shared love for Les Mills programs. And I’d have never made these connections if we weren’t on this Instructor path together. There’s a common resonance within and between all of us; I remember trying a BODYPUMP class in Japan and having an electric sense of connection with the Instructor and the other people in the class, despite not speaking a common language! Together, we are united in our love for movement to music and working out together.
LMAP: What would you tell someone who is considering becoming a Les Mills Instructor, but does not yet feel ready?
I’m probably real biased to be saying this, but DO IT!
Personally, this journey has been life-changing for me. If I didn’t tread this Instructor path, I think I’d be way more introverted and shy. I’d probably be the guy who’s hiding in the corner, too afraid to put himself out there. Instructing gave me the confidence, the poise and the realisation that the only person holding me back from great things is me, and my own fear and self-doubt.
Go for it! Be fearless! Take that brave step! I did, I stumbled (multiple times), but I still rocked it in the end, and you can too!
To follow Ryan Thng on Instagram go to @RyanThng