by Les Mills Asia Pacific

Karen Russell has been part of the Mills Asia Pacific’s Trainer and Presenter (TAP) Team for the past 26 years – since LMAP was founded and BODYPUMP was launched in 1996. Having recently made the decision to leave the TAP Team, we caught up with Karen to learn more about her long and illustrious Les Mills journey.

LMAP: Karen, you are an original BODYPUMP® Presenter, in our markets, some 25 years ago! In this role, you have impacted and influenced the lives of so many instructors in so many communities – how does it feel to be hanging up your TAP team hat?!

I’ve been doing this for so long, it feels like part of my DNA. Whilst I will continue to keep teaching for as long as I am able to, it’s time to hang up my Presenter boots and let the next generation take over. I feel like I am leaving a strong legacy.

LMAP: Why did you become a Les Mills Instructor?

I first became a Les Mills instructor because the club I was at was one of the first in Queensland to train in BODYPUMP® - I was never going to turn down an opportunity to be part of something new and exciting!

LMAP: How did you come to the decision to leave the Trainer and Presenter team?

I think you just know when it’s time. The Trainer and Presenter team has incredible Presenters who will continue to inspire the Instructors.

LMAP: Please tell us a bit about your career evolution with Les Mills, and where your Instructor journey has taken you over the years

I transitioned out of school teaching and into the fitness industry full-time at the end of 1996, which was the year that Mike McSweeney took the very first BODYPUMP training in Queensland. This training was by invitation only, after having been personally interviewed by Bill Robertson. I still remember that interview – I was shaking like a leaf!

Following the BODYPUMP training I was invited to be a Trainer as LMAP rolled out BODYPUMP around Australia. This role then expanded into me becoming a Trainer and Presenter for BODYATTACK®, BODYSTEP®, RPM® and LES MILLS CORE® (formerly called CXWORX®), as these programs were introduced by LMAP. Alongside this, I relocated from Toowoomba to Brisbane (both in Queensland), where I became a Group Fitness Manager.

Today, 26 years later, I have transitioned through several GFM positions and am now the State GFM for Goodlife Health Clubs in Queensland, Australia. A few of my career highlights include:

  • 20 years of facilitating Les Mills training modules, including Pro-Instructor (who remembers that?), AIM1, & AIM2, and Train the Trainer Bootcamps
  • 26 years of Presenting at Quarterly Workshops
  • Attending 6 Les Mills International filmings.

One of my favourite things about my Instructor journey has been all the people I’ve worked with and met along the way. People who have inspired me to be better, who have been incredible role models, and people who I helped during their own Les Mills journey who are now changing lives as they forge their own path in the industry.

Another favourite memory is being on stage with the Australian BODYPUMP team at FILEX events. Having been the Head Program Coach for BODYPUMP for many years, I will be eternally grateful that I could be part of it all.

LMAP: What have you learned from being a Les Mills Instructor?

That it is a privilege to help people enjoy moving, in whatever form that is for them. People have so many reasons for being in the room, and it’s important to acknowledge that they made the effort just to be there. Also, being a Les Mills Instructor has taught me to be pretty good at learning choreography!

LMAP: What do you love about being a Les Mills Instructor?

There is so much I love! Mostly, I love knowing that I am making a difference to people's lives. It’s pretty special when you see people walk away from class with a smile on their face and feeling a buzz in their body, when the music and the energy collide to bring magic to the movement and the group moves as one!

LMAP: What is something you’ve learned from teaching, which has positively impacted your non-Instructor life?

Teaching is a passion for people, music and movement. I know that even on days when I don’t feel like teaching, I will always walk away from the class with a smile, feeling better for having moved my body, and with an understanding that the group experience was a huge part of creating that feeling. I get a great amount of intrinsic satisfaction from helping others to enjoy group fitness. So I’ve learned that teaching makes me happy!

LMAP: Will you still continue to teach? If so, what programs and where?

One hundred per cent, YES! I will continue to teach BODYPUMP, RPM, LES MILLS CORE, Pilates, Pilates reformer, and a few freestyle classes at Goodlife clubs in Brisbane.

LMAP: Please describe a typical day in your role as the State Group Fitness Manager for Fitness & Lifestyle Group (ANZ).

I teach a 5.30am class, go home for breakfast, make lunch and do school drop off (my youngest child, Kya is in Year 10 so we’re almost at the end of school!).

I’m likely to have several meetings during the day, and depending what day of the week it is, they could be face-to-face or on video. I do talk to a LOT of people on the phone (I’m usually sick of my own voice by the end of the day). In the afternoon I’ll then go to school pick-up, followed by after-school sport training (I’m the taxi), during which I’ll catch up on emails and spreadsheets from my car office, or on the sidelines at a track or sporting field somewhere.

From there, it’s either back to a club to teach a class, or home for dinner, and I’ll probably open the laptop to prepare for the next day, before I fall into bed for the night.

LMAP: How has the industry changed over the years?

Digital technology has probably brought the most change. Social media and virtual workouts have created so much more choice than there has ever previously been.

LMAP: What would you tell someone who is considering becoming a Les Mills Instructor but does not feel ready?

I always tell potential Instructors to trust the process. You may never feel ready, but the training process, support from the Trainer, the Les Mills office, your mentor, and other Les Mills Instructors will get you there. It’s like joining a huge international family who shares the tools and support you need to reach your potential if you’re willing to challenge yourself.

LMAP: What advice do you have for other Instructors who might like to join the TAP team one day?

Be patient, do the work, study your craft, know your WHY. Respect those who’ve come before you and learn from them.

LMAP: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

A HUGE thanks to Bill (Robertson) for saying ‘yes’ in the beginning, and to the original Les Mills International Master Trainers who had the vision and the passion to know that we could change the world. I’ll always be proud of the ripples I've created, and at peace in the knowledge that I’m handing the baton onto some brilliantly talented people who will continue to do the work to create a fitter planet.

A long and rewarding career as a Les Mills Instructor all starts with Initial Module Training.
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Les Mills Asia Pacific