Benjamin Tang is one of Les Mills Asia Pacific’s most senior trainers. Based in Singapore, Ben continuously shares his knowledge and passion with instructors at initial modules and lights up quarterly workshop stages across South East Asia with his inspiring BODYCOMBAT® and BODYBALANCE® master classes.
While Ben won’t admit exactly how many years he has been teaching GX for, he says, “I still remember when LMAP used to be LMA (Les Mills Australia) and the highest program numbers were under 40, with many of them still in single digits.” While the big stage and bright lights are like familiar friends to him now, they weren’t always so comforting. Ben’s very first GX teaching experience was on a big stage at his university, with 200 people attending the aerobics marathon he took part in. “It was unnerving, to say the least!”
Surprisingly, given his impressive physical ability and natural style as a leader, Ben’s fitness journey was not a natural progression. Of his background, Ben remarks, “I had no sports or fitness background and was actually very sickly as a kid. I suffered from childhood asthma that made everything feel like it took thrice the normal effort and I overcompensated by being too cautious to try things.” On top of his own health issues, Ben adds, “My maternal and paternal health genetics were also working against me. Heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney failure, cancer, alcoholism – you name it, one or more of my extended family suffered from it. As a result I made a decision to start taking my health and fitness seriously and I never looked back.”
Ben explains, “It was actually chance and necessity that brought me to this industry. Chance because I just happened to start attending step classes at my local ‘Y’, and necessity because it was a suitable part-time job that I needed to put myself through college and then university.” Luckily for the rest of us, chance worked its magic and Ben turned a necessity into a passion and a way of life.
While Ben’s first programs were BODYPUMP® and BODYCOMBAT®, over the years Ben has also taught BODYATTACK®, BODYSTEP® and BODYJAM®. In February 2004, Ben attended a Les Mills Trainer boot camp and has been a Trainer and a Presenter for BODYCOMBAT® and BODYBALANCE® ever since.
Ben’s relationship with each program is different. He explains, “BODYPUMP® has been a natural extension of my love of weight training. Nothing beats a good BODYPUMP® workout after you hit the weights hard.” Ben says that, “BODYCOMBAT®, on the other hand, was something totally out of my comfort zone, coming from a ‘traditional’ step/hi-lo aerobics background.” And yes, Ben freely confirms, “I had my days of wearing leg warmers and leotards!”
“BODYBALANCE® was just an absolute challenge,” says Ben. “The deep internalisation of yoga was in total opposition to my ‘drill sergeant technique’ and loud singing ways.” Like every great challenge, BODYBALANCE® has rewarded Ben for his hard work. “It has helped me immensely to find different facets of myself; and that has only made me grow, especially as a leader. As a result it I have found new ways to guide my Fitness First team here in Singapore.”
Of his Les Mills journey, Ben says, “It’s been amazing. In the early days, to have the responsibility of inspiring current Instructors and educating new ones was overwhelming, then challenging, and then fulfilling... and sometimes all at once! To have an insight into how every component of each program was put together and how they all fit holistically was fascinating; especially when relating the concepts through methods of adult learning.”
In 2012 Ben was involved in the production of a pump home workout program, distributed directly to the USA consumer market by home DVD workout specialists, Beachbody. Ben says, “Not only did I get to see the mechanics behind how a ‘Hollywood’ style video product is made, but I also got to hang out with the most insanely talented, warm and gorgeous group of international Les Mills tribe mates.”
Ben’s philosophy is simply this: “YOU are ultimately responsible for yourself. Make a decision to move, however slowly, as long as you do. Over time, you can look back and see how far you've come and it will push you to go even further.”
Ben’s Top Five Tips for teaching a fearsome BODYCOMBAT® class are:
1. Get yourself into a martial arts class, anything from tae kwon do, karate, or pad work. Just start somewhere. You will look and most importantly FEEL different.
2. Don’t over coach. With the accumulation of knowledge we all tend to force feed our members and drown them. As much as we get better bit by bit through practice, our members get better bit by bit through well-spaced information.
3. Watch the DVD again JUST before launch and a week after launch. You will hear and see things you’ve missed; sometimes even being aware of what the DVD presenters do NOT do really helps (e.g. shut up and let the music speak). This will not only deepen your appreciation of the track and flow of the release but also help you realise how completely brilliant our two BODYCOMBAT® Program Directors are.
4. Get to know your members so you can find out what they enjoy about BODYCOMBAT® OR realign their expectations so YOU create a culture that is authentically in the essence of BODYCOMBAT® that will continue to evolve with the program
5. Have fun. It’s ok to have a laugh in BODYCOMBAT®. There is no need to look all serious and constipated all the time!
By Clare Hallas
Clare comes from a marketing background and currently works for Les Mills Asia Pacific as a National Trainer and Presenter in BODYATTACK®, BODYSTEP® and CXWORX®. She also teaches BODYPUMP® and RPM™ and is based in Melbourne.