5:55 am. Winter. I’m cold. I’m tired. It’s raining. I’d rather be in bed. But here I am, standing at the gates of the iconic fortress of fitness, Les Mills’ Auckland City gym.
I can only imagine the countless individuals who have embarked on exactly the same journey I’m about to – transcending existence as a mere mortal to be reborn as a pumped, chiselled, fitness deity ... Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme. But you get the picture – I’m here to get fit.
Since it opened its doors in 1968, Les Mills has firmly planted its flag as the international home of group fitness. Over the years it has continued to raise the bar (literally) around the world by reshaping the lives and bodies of people just like me.
So why am I here? Long story short, I’m on a mission to experience the Les Mills’ world of fitness and give other people a personal insight into what the workouts that some refer to as “the world’s best” are really like. And, if I do it right, maybe in the process I’ll gain an ab or two myself.
Speaking of honest reviews, it’s only right that I review myself, right? I’m 24 years old, and I live in Auckland, New Zealand, home of Les Mills. I’m relatively active and have played football at a senior level, but while I’m familiar with the euphoric rush of endorphins that follow an early morning jog, I’m also a sucker for the snooze button. So I wouldn’t call myself a fitness fanatic. Trying these workouts will be a new experience and I’m excited to find out how LES MILLS workouts will work for me.
Considering it’s Wednesday, I can’t think of a better way to kick off hump day than by getting sweaty with the most popular barbell program on the planet. If you’re familiar with BODYPUMP you’ll know the class is almost exactly what the name suggests – a full body workout designed to burn fat fast through reps, reps and, you guessed it, more reps: between 800-1,000 in fact, which is enough to build up a sweat just thinking about!
Heading into the studio, I’m not sure what to expect. But I’m pleasantly surprised to see bodies of all shapes, sizes, and ages. Before I grab my equipment, I scan the room to see what everyone is working with. I set up at the back of the class with my bar, bench, and a smorgasbord of weight plates, playing it cool so no one catches a whiff of me being a nervous first-timer. That’s the thing about group fitness, I’m learning – you can learn a lot from the group as well as the instructor.
The high-octane beats give your body a wakeup call and each track fits specifically to suit a different set of exercises.
Hot tip for beginners – BODYPUMP is all about high reps and low weights. You’ll be working all the major muscle groups doing all manner of lifting moves, from rows to presses, carefully demonstrated by your instructor. I should have figured this before loading up my bar with more weight than I could comfortably lift repeatedly. Turns out that just because you’re at the gym, it doesn’t mean that you can lift like Mr Universe straight away. Start light and work your way up.
The clear benefit of this kind of exercise is that it rapidly raises the heart-rate and helps build muscle faster, while also improving bone strength and density. In other words, it’s really good for you. You can see why it’s so popular.
Music is also a huge part of BODYPUMP. Not only do the high-octane beats give your body a wakeup call (perfect for 6:00am) but each track fits specifically to a different set of exercises. Throughout the class you’ll listen to 10 tracks in total and work different areas of your body for each. It’s amazing how the sound of Metallica in your eardrums can make your brain push your body harder.
As we switch between muscle groups, I lower the weights and get in the groove. Coordination is key in this class, and being tall like me doesn’t always help. But as we progress through each track, the thumping bass keeps me on tempo, the instructor guides my moves, and my body starts to really enjoy the challenge.
Before I know it, the hour’s up and I am warming down to one of Beyonce’s biggest hits. I’m tired. I’m sweaty. But I’m genuinely fulfilled. I’ve officially completed my first LES MILLS workout, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be my last. BODYPUMP is exactly what it sounds like – a full-body workout that challenges you in every way. One of the best things about the class is that anyone can do it, and I was inspired to see how fit the other people in the class were – especially the veterans, who are maybe the best marketing a class can have.
The thumping bass keeps me on tempo, the instructor guides my moves, and my body starts to really enjoy the challenge.
I couldn’t have asked for a better start on my Les Mills fitness quest, and would highly recommend BODYPUMP to anyone thinking about trying their first LES MILLS workout. Take it slow and steady and you’ll be seeing results in no time, that much is clear. So am I a pumped, chiselled, fitness deity yet? Not quite, but I’m definitely feeling the burn, which is a great start.
Next stop, LES MILLS GRIT. Wish me luck!