What inspired you to become a Les Mills Instructor?
I grew up being overweight as a teenager, which was a result of thyroid issues at a young age; by age 14, I weighed 90kg. I knew I had to do something about it before my health spiralled down. I did my fair share of exploration as a new gym-goer, and I ended up falling in love with SH’BAM® (contrary to the expectations of many!).
Not long after I found SH’BAM, I discovered RPM®, which is still my all-time favourite program today! When I was 15 years of age, I lost 28kg in the span of seven months, solely by attending RPM and other classes after long days at school. I was inspired and hooked on the combination of rhythm and movement that catalysed an adrenaline rush on a bike! Ultimately, this feeling kept me motivated to attend class after class. I was inspired and driven to take things up a notch by becoming an Instructor. Over the years, my whys have definitely changed, but my initial why was to create a space where people can pedal their hearts out after a long day at work!
How do you juggle being both a student and an Instructor?
At times, things felt incredibly overwhelming. When I felt vulnerable to burnout and no longer wanting to master the juggle of these two huge elements in my life, I did find myself questioning whether I should continue pursuing the journey. There have been phases where I felt like throwing in the towel and not teaching anymore.
However, I have learned that the name of the game is prioritisation.
I started teaching before I graduated from high school, and I continued to teach throughout college and now during university as well. Though the student workload has increased over this time, successfully juggling the demands of teaching with being in school requires time management and planning.
Before the pandemic, the Quarterly Releases kept clashing with my final exams. After going through that once, I quickly learned from it and so began jotting down important dates into my Google calendar (assessment dates and deadlines, Les Mills Quarterly Workshops, Les Mills Quarterly Releases). I would then take it week by week and prioritise whichever was more urgent during that time.
Has your journey inspired any of your friends to fall in love with fitness or become an Instructor too?
Yes! I have inspired some of my friends to set time aside to exercise, and slowly they are turning their sedentary lifestyle into an active lifestyle. Every time when a friend tells me that they normalise taking care of themselves by exercising and are turning it into a lifestyle habit, I am inspired too! It reminds me to continue doing what I am doing.
I did inspire some friends to become Instructors, but they didn’t end up doing it due to certain circumstances in their lives. Nevertheless, it is heart-warming to know that I have had a good impact from teaching class after class.
When you first became certified, you were only 16 years of age. How did it feel to put that mic on and teach participants who were older than you?
It was intimidating!
At the age of 16, I stepped into a room knowing that I was about to teach participants who may have lifted or cycled longer than me, and who probably knew the choreography better than me. Thankfully, I was blessed with participants who provided constructive feedback, as well as helpful tips and tricks for conducting great classes. This reduced my fears a little.
Teaching at a young age to a room full of adults, also meant that I did face negative remarks and some belittlement. Looking back at the experiences I went through (which is a culmination of the good, bad and in-betweens), I think they all played an important role as I grew from a nervous teenager to a confident adult Instructor. It was definitely a tough and rewarding experience at the same time. At the end of the day, it adds up to the bigger picture of wanting and committing to delivering the best class possible, every time.
Often, students pick up a part-time job doing shiftwork or working in a café. Do you think being an Instructor a viable part-time job for a student?
Yes! However, it’s no ordinary part-time job as it requires dedication and hard work to deliver the best one-hour on stage. It is rewarding though, to know how that this one-hour can inspire people to face the struggles in their life, or improve their day. And of course, nothing beats seeing the smiles on the faces of participants after the class – that’s priceless!
You’ve completed upskilling courses including AIM1, AIM2 and Advanced Training. How does this regular upskilling help your teaching career?
It helps me by shifting my perspectives on how to deliver a class. Recently, I attended the Advanced Training module for RPM, and there I learned the tools to connect, motivate and educate. Prior to the course, I never thought of blending and using these dimensions in a holistic manner to create a better experience for my participants!
This type of upskilling has also taught me how to better cater for first-time exercisers, as well as tips to help keep the regulars returning. To me, upskilling and being open to feedback are the keys to staying relevant and in touch with the participants.
Are there other things you do, to keep developing your teaching skills?
Yes! Since the pandemic happened, I allocated more time to explore other Les Mills programs such as BODYBALANCE®, LES MILLS CORE® and LES MILLS GRIT®. This helps me to develop my teaching skills because I get to observe and learn cues from the Masterclasses, which are applicable in the programs that I am teaching. This helps me to keep my classes fresh.
I have also explored CrossFit and weightlifting, for a new perspective on how to lift and move weights. This helps with my teaching, because I get to experience what it is like to try new moves as a participant. Often I ask myself, “If I am doing this for the first time, what do I want to hear from a coach?”. This can also help my regular participants because this type of exploration helps me to coach differently in my classes. So even if they have been coming to my classes or doing the same movements for a while, I can still teach them something new.
I also love to read health and fitness articles that pop up on my social media feeds. This additional knowledge helps me to develop a better understanding of how the body works and functions, which is useful when answering questions from my participants regarding their progress.
Tell us about one unforgettable moment that you’ve had as an Instructor
I had a first-timer in my RPM class who had no previous exercise experience. What made it an unforgettable moment was the conversation that we had after class. She spoke to me about the health complications she had at a very young age, and I resonated with it because I faced health complications too as I grew up. Although it was the first time that we met and spoke, she completely opened up to me about her experiences, which was special. The conversation lasted for about 15 minutes, and she thanked me for the experience that she had on the bike. I remember leaving the class feeling inspired by the conversation, to keep doing what I have been doing all these years. Months flew by, and she lost almost half of her bodyweight just by attending daily Les Mills classes. For a person who had no former exercise experience, that is a remarkable achievement. She also contemplated becoming an Instructor.
What would you be doing if you were not a GX Instructor?
I may have ventured more into being a dancer and/or an actor! I was pushed to perform on stage a lot as a child, and I was in the aerobics team for a couple of years before I graduated from primary school. I enjoyed performing and the adrenaline rush that comes before hitting the stage. Therefore, if I was not a GX Instructor, I would probably have still developed that artsy side of me but taken it elsewhere.
What is the best part about being a Les Mills Instructor?
The best part is the ability to impact the lives of many, one class at a time. With such a great platform, we may not know how that one-hour positively affects the participants in our classes. It could be the motivational cues that we said, the technical cues that have helped them to move better, or even the energy that they felt when they left our classes. All of these elements add up to a bigger picture of turning fitness into lifestyle. The satisfaction of successfully leading my participants to achieving things that are only possible as a group is unlike any other experience that I have seen or felt.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about becoming a Les Mills Instructor?
Find out your WHYs for being an instructor and stick to them! The journey of training to be a Les Mills instructor is not linear; you may feel like some days are tougher than others, and it takes everything in you to be up there on stage on those days. But when everything feels tough and you want to give in to the voices in your head, fall back to your WHYs, and recalibrate from there. Also, never give in to the critics who belittle you or tell you what you can or cannot do. You have what it takes to push through your own personal, physical and mental boundaries to lead your participants in your classes to success and greatness.
You can follow Jack on Instagram at @jackk.wj.
To start or expand your own journey to Instructor greatness visit lesmills.com.au/instructors/become-an-instructor.