In The Beginning - Part II 2013-04-18
By Clare Hallas
Last month in the first part of our “In the Beginning” series Clare introduced us to the first wave of LES MILLS Trainers and Presenters. In part two we meet the Training Managers of years gone by: Kylie Gates, Tommy Koutsonikolis and finally your current Training Manager, Michelle Dean.
The role of the Training Manager is to build, inspire and develop a team of fitness professionals (Trainers and Presenters) whose goal it is to deliver world-class instructor training and quarterly workshops. Currently, the team sits at 155 people for Australia and South East Asia and is one of the biggest in the world.
THREE DECADES OF LMAP TRAINING DIRECTORS
Kylie Gates is one of our well-known originals who has enjoyed a 17-year career with LES MILLS, and is currently working as Creative Director for LES MILLS International. Kylie was first and foremost a dancer and it was upon her return from overseas where she had spent seven years as a Cabaret dancer, that she stepped into the world of fitness and was inspired by her instructors to teach freestyle aerobics.
After seeing the BODYPUMP® showcase when it came to FILEX in 1995, Kylie remembers, “When I saw Emma, Mike and Steve at FILEX I knew I wanted to be part of what they were doing.” She’s been part of it ever since in many different roles throughout that time, including Training Director of LES MILLS Asia Pacific (LMAP) for six years. Not surprisingly, the highlight of her career was launching BODYJAM® and BODYATTACK® in the USA.
Tommy Koutsonikolis (pictured) has always combined his two professions, as a High School Teacher and Fitness Consultant, since he started teaching in 1991. In 1985 Tommy was running group exercise classes in squash courts in Sydney’s south west. He remembers, “I was using an cassette tape deck which sounded awful.” How times have changed! Tommy says, “It was about smashing our members with an enormous amount of repetitions of high impact moves and really not much thought behind it.” As excruciating as it sounds Tommy maintains that, “the classes were popular. I remember one of the most admirable instructors would spend most of the class running on the spot with high knee lifts. It was about being super fit on stage and seeing if people could follow!”
Tommy ended up in the role of Training Director for LMAP for two years, during which time he expanded the trainer/presenter team and developed many new kids on the block. Tommy went back to teaching and is about to embark on an exciting new adventure in Vietnam, with his wife and two young children, where he will take on the role of Director of Member Services for California Fitness and Yoga. Tommy is excited to be able to develop a brand new fitness culture and states that, “the company’s motto is ‘Making Life Better’ and our LES MILLS classes are certainly part of this direction and experience.”
Michelle Dean, LES MILLS Asia Pacific’s (LMAP) current Training Director, has been a fitness superstar throughout decades, which is no surprise since she says, “to be honest, all I know is fitness.” It was in 1986, at the tender age of 14, when Michelle began teaching group fitness. Rather than wait until she could be officially trained at age 16, Michelle began team teaching three times a week at 6am and getting feedback. Ambitious, dedicated and talented, Michelle was, “a freestyle girl for years, working for some of the big Sydney gyms back in the day.” The big trends at the time were, as Michelle remembers, “New Body, Slide Reebok, Cardio Funk and Step Moves.”
Michelle met Bill Robertson (Director of LMAP) while working as Group Fitness Manager (GFM) at Chatswood Fitness, which was one of the first clubs to get BODYPUMP® in NSW. “It was immediately popular and changed the industry, as it was during a period where group fitness was struggling. We had people like Michelle Bridges, Shannon Cleary and Shannon Ponton all teaching back in those days”. Michelle made the transition from freestyle to LES MILLS and, “in 2001 I trained in my first program whilst living in Hong Kong”, which happened to be BODYCOMBAT® with Joe Waide.
Michelle describes her position at LMAP as, “my dream job.” Proudly, Michelle notes that, “We are the biggest agency in the world with the largest and most experienced trainer team. I am so chuffed to be working with these guys everyday.”
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.