LMAP: What inspired you to become a Les Mills Instructor?
I was in the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company in Wellington (New Zealand), and the Les Mills Extreme gym was a sponsor of the Company, so we received free gym memberships. We all loved participating in the group fitness classes; they were fun and the Instructors were epically inspiring!
Coming from a professional career in ballet, I had always enjoyed movement and music, so I immediately connected to that combination that Les Mills programs offer. What I found really exciting was the way the Instructors made every workout accessible for everyone, and how they focussed on the reasons for training which included benefitting one’s quality of life. This really resonated with me, because I realised that I too wanted to help people do all the things they want to in life for longer, share experiences, and have fun!
So, in 2009, I expanded my personal trainer experience by becoming certified in my first Les Mills program, which was BODYPUMP.
LMAP: Congratulations on joining the LES MILLS SHAPES™ Trainer team! Now that you’ve completed the training, what are your thoughts about the program?
LES MILLS SHAPES is a program that really hones in on the disciplines I have transitioned through during my own life and fitness journey; so for me, it was love at first sight!
LES MILLS SHAPES is a unique workout that fuses Pilates, studio barre, and power yoga, which is set to an epic playlist of house and disco beats. It's a low impact workout that really brings spiciness to muscles you didn’t know you had, which leaves many participants feeling like it’s the workout you didn’t know you needed!
I love a challenging workout, and LES MILLS SHAPES is humbling! What I really love is that you have complete control over the intensity throughout the entire workout. This means you can go for the challenge when you want it, stay in that hot spot, and have fun there! You can laugh, cringe, awkward smile, eye twitch, it’s all there and keeps you going!
LMAP: LES MILLS SHAPES is a new program incorporating Pilates-style exercises. What sets LES MILLS SHAPES apart from other Pilates classes?
Yes, LES MILLS SHAPES incorporates exercises inspired by Pilates, and if you’re familiar with Pilates then you may notice the names of some of the movements use similar terminology. However, what sets LES MILLS SHAPES apart from Pilates classes is the interval-style training approach. By this I mean, we generally use blocks of 30 seconds to focus on target muscles, as this allows us to find what we call the ‘Hot Spot’. Once we find it, we then try to stay there for as long as possible.
The workouts are guided by bell sounds throughout, with one bell initiating a change of exercise, and three bells indicating the start of a working or recovery block.
Also, in LES MILLS SHAPES we take inspiration from both Pilates mat work and Pilates Reformer work by using different exercises to strengthen the core musculature, improve flexibility, and increase overall strength. Instead of a Reformer bed, we use sliders to mimic the feel and challenge created by certain Pilates Reformer work.
LMAP: Is LES MILLS SHAPES suitable for beginner exercisers?
Absolutely! LES MILLS SHAPES is suitable for all fitness levels and abilities. Like all Les Mills programs, the focus of this workout is also to enable people to take from it, what they want to. Meaning, you can choose to move off the beat, or on the beat with the Instructor; you can slow everything down if that feels best, or you can stop and take a recovery at any time you want to.
Equipment can be used - or not - it's totally up to your own discretion and comfort. And - what I love - is that you can do the workout in shoes or barefoot.
As a participant, your Instructor will deliver intelligent, focused cues to educate you around the benefits of all the different choices you can take during the 45-minute class. LES MILLS SHAPES takes an intentionally inclusive approach to ensure everyone feels successful.
LMAP: What do you love about being a Les Mills Instructor?
I love educating people on the benefits that each class can deliver. And I don’t mean the superficial or aesthetic benefits, but more so the postural, functional, strength, and confidence gains that participants enjoy.
I also love creating a space where people can feel safe and separate from everything else that is happening outside of the studio. And, of course, I love to see people in front me grow their confidence and notice themselves becoming stronger and doing something that they didn’t think they could, or something someone else told them they couldn’t!
LMAP: What would you tell someone who is considering becoming a Les Mills Instructor, but does not quite feel ready?
Start by chatting to your favorite Instructor. There’s likely to be something specific about their classes that you love, so that's worth exploring! Most Instructors will be happy to chat about their ‘origin story’ - i.e., how they became an Instructor, and hearing it can often inspire people into action.
You might feel scared about putting yourself out there and in front of people; but know that we have ALL been in your shoes. We ALL felt nervous when we started out, so be patient with yourself; think about why you want to become an Instructor, and what you want to pass on and share with your future participants, in order to change the world for each one of them.
You can feel assured that the certification process to become a Les Mills Instructor is fully supported. In addition to the Facebook group, where you connect with your fellow Trainees, it’s always a good idea to find a certified mentor that you really connect with, who can help support you through the learning journey as well. Some gyms have formal Mentor programs that will connect you with experienced Instructors; and in such situations often the Group Fitness Manager will also be an additional touchpoint for support.
To follow James on Instagram check out @jamesabrennan22