“EVERY CLASS CAN BE A FILMING CLASS IF YOU SHOW UP WITH THE RIGHT MINDSET”
by Sarah Shortt
Hi Reagan! You were one of the Shadow Presenters on the BODYCOMBAT® UNITED Release. What was it like to film this from your home in Malaysia?
It was really hard. During that time [of filming] I wasn’t able to leave the front door of my house because of COVID-19 quarantine. So I couldn’t go and film outside in some beautiful location. I ended up buying a partition to cover up my shoe rack, and I didn’t have very much space to move in! So everyone else on the video has these great views, and there’s me with my partition and my shoe rack, haha!
And how did you get into the fitness industry?
My background was in competitive swimming. I trained from the age of 7 up until 15, and then I stopped completely. I had to make a choice between going to sport school or a normal school and I chose the latter. I was training 8 hours a day: 5-9am in the morning, and then from 4-8pm. And I just got sick of it. It was constant training, staring into a black line.
I went from swimming every day to really doing no exercise. I was studying and I started to gain weight, so my dad suggested I should join the gym. When I first joined I was just lifting weights, then one day I saw all these people going crazy in a studio – it was RPM™. I tried it and just got hooked. The cardiovascular intensity was the closest I could get to the training that I used to have from swimming. I started doing one class a day, then two classes a day, and then one of the Instructors said, “Hey, you want to try being an Instructor?” I was 19.
You own two fitness studios in Malaysia. How has it been coping with the challenges of the pandemic?
It’s been really tough. Revenue has dropped tremendously and as a business, we had to pivot really quickly by offering classes online. As a new business owner, this has been a very steep learning curve.
You know, the business goes on and you still have to pay rent. There were a lot of numbers, man. You have to consider if you want to take a loan, or what the timeline might be until the business closes down. I’m constantly asking myself, is this the best decision to make? What can we do to stay relevant, despite the whole situation?
One of the things that’s got me through this is knowing we’re all in it together. If I’m feeling this way, I’m sure a lot of other people are feeling the same.
How have you found the experience of teaching online?
I love it, actually. I love rolling out of bed 15 minutes before class and not having to get on a bus or a train to get to work. I get everything set up the night before, so the amount of time I get back is awesome. And you know, you might be talking to a camera, but once you’ve got everything up and everyone’s there, it makes no difference. I might have 50 or 60 people in a class and they love it.
We post a lot of content on social media to keep the engagement going outside of class, and we have a lot of new people coming to the classes who we didn’t have in the studios before.
You’ve been on many Masterclass videos. Have you had any really challenging experiences in filming?
My most memorable experience was going in to film BODYCOMBAT® 67, because it’s one of my weakest programs. I feel I don't teach it very well because I don't have confidence in my moves. When I stand next to Dan or Rach, you know, I don’t feel as confident as in BODYPUMP® or LES MILLS GRIT™.
I felt there was big pressure on me to deliver. However, in the midst of all that, learning was more important than the fear of failing. I pushed myself really hard during the filming rounds, both physically and mentally. The first three Releases were probably the hardest presentations I’ve ever had to do.
So how did you get through that?
I'm super grateful to be Dan and Rach, who are also my really close friends. Dan always gave me tips on how to train, how to look like a fighter, how to look like a boxer. I took notes on every filming and watched my presentation on every Release to see what I could do differently in the next one, or what I could improve on. By the time I hit BODYCOMBAT® 70, things started to feel really natural, and that's when I start to find my own flow.
You’ve done Advanced Training. Would you mind sharing your WHY and your limiting beliefs?
My WHY for teaching is that I feel fulfilled when I can help people to feel good about their day. I want people to enjoy it. I love it when someone comes into my class for the first time and I can see they’re genuinely enjoying it, and at the end of the class they say, “Hey, I think I’m going to come again”. That’s the best feeling in the world.
My limiting belief is a feeling that I’m not good enough. Take BODYCOMBAT® as an example. People may look at my performance on the Masterclass and go, “Hey, that actually looks pretty good to me”. But my perception is that it wasn’t good enough.
And how do you overcome that limiting belief?
Practise. I just try to not to feel sorry for myself, and go do something about it.
You’ve taught to some massive crowds in Masterclass filming. Have you ever taught any really small classes?
I first started teaching when I was 19 and at that age, everyone’s out at the weekend, partying and hanging out with friends; but I was so into teaching that I actually put my hand up for a 9.30pm class on a Friday night.
The studio was quite large, and the first time I taught the class only two people showed up. But I loved it! The feeling of teaching that class was no different to the feeling I get now from teaching hundreds or thousands of people. I had that exact same feeling of wanting to motivate the people in front of me. The class grew and went from 2 to 5 to 10… to 15. It was such a good time. There was me, this crazy guy lifting weights and screaming at the top of my lungs on a Friday night when most gyms are pretty much empty.
Do you have any funny anecdotes from filming you could share?
Oh yeah. My first BODYPUMP® filming was Release 93, and I was teaching the Back Track. Before I got on stage, I put some moisturiser on my hands. Honestly, I don’t know why I did that, but I didn’t wipe it in properly. I was presenting the Back Track and halfway through a Clean & Press the bar just fell out of my hands. It felt like a bomb had gone off and you could hear everyone in the crowd just go “Oooooh”. I just stood there. And then the first thing I said was, “Hey Jackie [Mills], am I fired?”
It was so funny, and everyone in the room (it was a big stadium) was laughing. Now I always tell Instructors: if you’re going to film, do not put moisturiser on your hands!
My limiting belief is a feeling that I’m not good enough. Take BODYCOMBAT as an example. People may look at my performance on the Masterclass and go, “Hey, that actually looks pretty good to me”. But my perception is that it wasn’t good enough.
You were very young when you first started presenting on Masterclass. Did you find it intimidating when you first started, teaching next to people like Glen Ostergaard?
No, no. I enjoyed every second of it. I came to New Zealand with an open heart and open mind just wanting to learn. I was just this young guy from Asia, and I told myself, this could potentially be my last gig. Every filming round could potentially be my last opportunity. So why feel intimidated or nervous? Every second, every minute I spend being scared or nervous is time wasted when I could be learning something new. I just wanted to learn, take the knowledge home, and feel good about it.
You’ve had a very successful career as a Trainer and filming Presenter. What advice would you give to Instructors wishing to emulate your success?
Focus on your everyday classes. Because that’s where the real stuff happens.
I really enjoy teaching my normal classes, because I get to make to a difference to the people in front of me, every day. You know, you watch the filming classes and they look very fancy and everyone is wearing cool clothes, and it’s great to be part of the show. But the real stuff happens on the ground. Everyday classes are where the fun is, and where you can be yourself.
My advice is to teach regularly, learn about yourself, learn from others, and help the new people in class to become your regulars. It sounds cheesy, but every class could be a filming class if you show up with the right mentality. And if you can’t do your normal classes right, there’s no way you can perform on a filming stage.
Why do you think people come back to your classes?
Because I focus a lot on connection. I focus on making people feel like they’re the only person in the room. I learn names and I try to talk to everyone in the room, to make them feel connected so that the next hour is just you, me, the music and the workout. I want them to forget everything else that’s going on in their lives so we can just focus on what we're doing. Then when they leave the class, they feel a lot better about themselves.
How do you keep growing as an Instructor?
I film myself regularly and self-assess. I ask others for feedback, and I particularly love to get feedback from participants. The participant mindset is very different from the Instructor mindset, and I can ask them questions like, “when I said XYZ how did that make you feel? When did you zone out? Which part of the workout made you feel like you were most connected?” I want the participant mindset, because then I can make the class better for them.
How do you stay optimistic and positive in these challenging times?
One of the things that’s got me through this is knowing we’re all in it together. If I’m feeling this way, I’m sure a lot of other people are feeling the same. Bigger companies than mine are struggling. Some have shut down completely. The aviation industry has come to a complete standstill.
I know a lot of Instructors are definitely struggling with not being able to teach, not being able to do what they love. But my advice to them would be that this will be over soon. When you feel discouraged, remember that the reason you were given the power to teach is to make a difference in the world. And that’s not going to change.
Reagan Kang is a Les Mills Ambassador, based in Malaysia. He has been an Instructor since the age of 19 years old and teaches BODYCOMBAT®, BODYPUMP® and LES MILLS GRIT™. Follow Reagan on Instagram @reagankang