First Aid Trainer, Natasha Ekmekjian (known as “Tash”), has been teaching Les Mills programs since 2005. She is certified in BODYCOMBAT®, BODYJAM®, SH’BAM®, BODYBALANCE® and LES MILLS GRIT®, and also used to teach BODYPUMP®, BODYSTEP® and LES MILLS CORE®.
LMAP: What inspired you to become a Les Mills Instructor?
The sheer JOY on the faces of the Instructors of whose classes I’d participate in, was SO contagious; the result was that my energy and intensity during workouts also shifted to a crazy-high level! I never felt the need to look at the clock during a class and the time would go by so fast!
I wanted to be the one to bring that same JOY and amazing sense of community that my Instructors did for me, when I was a participant. I thought it would be an awesome job where you go to exercise, lead a bunch of people through the exercise, share the exercise with them, sweat with them, laugh with them AND get paid for it! What a gig!
LMAP: Tell us about your journey to become a mentor and any challenges that you’ve faced while in that important role.
A GFM I was working for, contacted me one day to ask if I’d like to be a Mentor for new Instructors who’d be coming through their Mentoring Program. The GFM said they’d recognised some great teaching skills in me and thought I’d make a good Mentor.
I have since faced a few challenges while mentoring. For example:
- Mentoring is an additional job with great responsibilities which, for most people, is required to be weaved around their existing work schedules. So finding the time to provide Trainee Instructors with feedback and implement weekly Action Plans can sometimes be challenging.
- Having to have a difficult conversations with Trainees. Reasons can vary from feedback not being applied; Trainee is inconsistent or unreliable in attending my team-teaching classes; and sometimes you do even have to end a Mentoring relationship).
- Adapting to a Trainee’s learning styles if they are vastly different to my own.
LMAP: What qualifications or experiences do you think Mentors should have?
In addition to the standard Certificates III and Certificate IV in Fitness, I believe aspiring Mentors would greatly benefit from studying a Coaching or Leadership type course. Because being able to give feedback in a clear and succinct way, whilst remaining supportive and understanding, will have a hugely positive impact on a new Instructor’s development. Knowing you have someone in your corner helping you grow and who will help you get back on your feet if you fall, is a great confidence-booster!
LMAP: What is your advice for Trainees who take longer time to apply feedback
During the eight-week roadmap to Day 3, time is of the essence; so, being able to apply feedback week-by-week is crucial for a Trainee’s success. To help them with this, I’d firstly ensure that I’d give only one to three points of feedback to a Trainee during their first one to two weeks of teaching; with the expectation that they’d apply these points in their next week of team-teaching with me.
If they don’t or are not able to, we’d have a sit-down chat and I would ask questions around how and why the feedback wasn’t applied. I’d then work with the Trainee to create a more achievable Action Plan for the following week, so they can implement the feedback provided.
Time and availabilities permitting, I’d also meet up with the Trainee outside of class times and do some 1:1 training sessions around whatever it is they need additional support with. Alternatively, in the past I have organised for Trainees of mine to team-teach with other Instructors, and have them send me videos of themselves teaching, for me to review which is then followed by 1:1 video feedback sessions with the Trainee. This process has proven especially beneficial when availabilities for either myself or the Trainee have been quite limited.
LMAP: Has being a mentor helped you as an Instructor?
It absolutely has! Being a Mentor has brought about a greater level of awareness to my own quality of delivering the basics of teaching to a world-class standard because Trainees are constantly looking at AND listening intently to us! Being a strong representative of the programs I teach, is something I hold in very high regard; I like to ‘Walk the Talk’; that is, I DO and SHOW what I SAY I’m going to do and show. As a Mentor, I believe this is the best way to earn a Trainee’s respect which hopefully, in turn, inspires them to work hard and hone their skills so they can become an amazing Instructor.
LMAP: What do you love about being a Les Mills Instructor?
- Teaching programs of such high-quality, which are backed by years of ongoing and extensive science and research, gives me the confidence that every workout I take people through, will be effective.
- Being free to inject ALL of my energy into delivering a workout that is already well-established.
- Motivating and impactful music makes every class so much FUN!
- Being able to share this FUN with fellow Instructors who you create a community with, and being able to get more people moving and falling in love with exercise.
LMAP: What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a Les Mills Instructor but does not quite feel ready?
This one is hard to answer because everyone has their own perceptions and reasons behind WHY they’d feel like they’re not ready. My best advice would be to ensure you have a great support network around you whilst you pursue this awesome venture; have trusted and valued teammates who will support you; pick a Mentor who you know will be honest and supportive of your development; and ensure you can allocate the required time to practice, practice, practice – especially in the first few weeks and months of your Instructor journey; because ultimately, we are never really ‘ready’… we are only ever ‘prepared’!
To follow Natasha Ekmekjian on Instagram check out @lmdancingninja