From a little town on the South Island of New Zealand, Erin Maw has had the kind of group fitness success that most of us only dream of: as a presenter, fitness model, choreographer and international Trainer. We caught up with her to find out how she manages to keep her star in orbit.

Hi Erin! You work in the Les Mills International office in marketing. What does a typical day in the office look like for you?

Erin Maw: I get to work somewhere between 8 and 9 o’clock. My job is split into two roles: group fitness and marketing. In marketing, I work in the Les Mills partnerships team, helping to look after the relationship with Reebok. The other side of my role is the creative work I do for LES MILLS GRIT and our new workouts, CONQUER and CEREMONY. There’s always something going on for those programs: the music to organize, preparing the workout, researching the movements.

You’re originally from the South Island of New Zealand, and you moved to Auckland a few years ago. What was it like making new friends up in Auckland?

I'm lucky that, because of the gym, I came up and instantly knew a lot of people. But I haven't made too many more friends outside of the gym. That mainly comes down to just being so super busy that I literally don't have time to see people outside of work and training.

Do you hang out much with other Les Mills Instructors?

Rach [Newsham] and I live in the same sub division so we hang out a lot. Often on a Saturday night I will trot over to her house with my bottle of wine, in my Uggs and pyjamas and cardigan. I joke that I’m the walking party bus – it’s literally a 30 second walk door to door. That’s my Saturday night commute. What are we going to do when there’s no more Vikings! Haha.

You’re something of an introvert. How do you cope at large international events or at big filmings?

It's a real effort for me to be in large groups of people, it doesn’t come naturally at all. Being an introvert means that I have to proactively tell myself: remember to smile, and hug people and ask them questions. If I don’t do those things it's not because I'm rude, I'm just really shy. In a big group of people, I don't like to be the center of attention. I'll quite often just sit there and let other people talk and have their moment.

On the stage, it's completely different because I go into what Beyoncé calls her “Sasha Fierce”, my alter ego. I'm still myself but it’s an enhanced version of myself. But then off the stage, I go back to being Erin. A lot of performers suffer from being an introvert-extrovert, everyone's got their own fears and limiting beliefs.

Being an introvert means that I really have to proactively tell myself: remember to smile, and hug people and ask them questions. If I don’t do those things it's not because I'm rude, I'm just really shy.

So what’s your limiting belief?

That people won’t like me. They’ll like the stage Erin, but they won’t enjoy the off-stage Erin.

As a result of this, I have struggled to make connections with new people. In the past I've kind of just sat there and not given too much of myself to people. But as I've gotten older and been with Les Mills for longer, I’ve realized the importance of those connections.

It's just about making an effort. You know, we talk about being brave and stepping outside of our comfort zone. Talking to new people is my way of being brave and stepping outside of my comfort zone. I've got no issue getting up on the stage whatsoever. You could throw a track at me and tell me I've got to get up and teach it in five minutes and I wouldn't have an issue. But if you told me that after the class that would have to give a 10 minute speech on leadership and answer personal questions, that's when I would freeze up.
It's a work in progress and it's just about remembering that what I think others are thinking about me isn’t actually fact – it’s in my head.

So how do you combat that limiting belief?

Jackie Mills gave me the book How to Win Friends and Influence People and that’s helped a lot. It just comes down to this simple thing of asking people a question about themselves. I find as soon as I do that – as soon as I show interest – they immediately smile and respond well to me. Naturally, we like people that show interest in us. So when I kind of clicked to that, I realized that it's as simple as asking people questions about themselves.

I’ve also been doing this for a long time now. When I first started out on this journey, I sort of tried to please everybody and be this person that I thought I needed to be. When I actually really just needed to be myself. It's been about accepting that and just being cool with it.

What is your why?

My why has changed over the years.

When I was a student, as a theater major, it was 100 percent to be up on the stage, performing. I've been on the stage my whole life: musical theater, competitive gymnastics, aerobics, you name it. I've been in the spotlight my whole life. So naturally, I'm going to be drawn to that.

But throughout the years, as I've got fitter and my role has changed and evolved within the company I realized that I have become a role model, especially to women. A lot of women are inspired by my fitness and my coaching, look up to me and respect me and see me as physically aspirational. And that's really special to me. So that’s now my why: I want to be a really good role model and inspiration – for guys as well – but especially for females to show that, you know, girls are just as strong, just as fit and just as tough as guys. Fitness transcends gender.

I just think if you want if you want your members to be really inspired by you, then you want to aim to be the fittest one in the room.

Your mum has never been to watch you filming, is that right?

No, not yet.

My mum's partner, Gordon, actually has MS and he's blind because of it. He has now become quite dependent on my mum and she doesn't really like to leave him for long periods of time, which is very, very sweet. She is the most caring person I know. My mum loves looking after people, she’s incredibly giving.

She's also from Invercargill, which is a very small town in the South Island of New Zealand with about 50, 000 people. When I moved up to Auckland, she was freaking out about the traffic. So I’m not quite sure how she would handle being in a big city!

It would be really nice one day for her to see me do this. But at the same time, she used to be an aerobics instructor herself, so she knows what I do. She used to teach freestyle at Gold’s Gym, plus did novice triathlons. She was a machine!

The fitness world can be pretty competitive, how do you cope with being in that environment?

I like it. I like being in a competitive environment because it’s what I’ve done my whole life. That's how I thrive and take my game to the next level. From the age of four, I competed in gymnastics. I like the high performance culture at the gym and that everyone's encouraged to lift their game up. I want to keep getting better and better, and I encourage other Instructors to keep leveling up their game too.

I want to create something that people will love. And so, when I get that feedback that some people don't love it, it hurts. It can be a hard pill to swallow.

What would be your top tip for LES MILLS GRIT Coaches?

I just think if you want your members to be really inspired by you, then you want to aim to be the fittest and most knowledgeable one in the room. And you have to show them that you care.

It’s a HIIT workout, so if you want people to take you seriously, you need to know what you’re talking about. Are you clued into what the training really is? Have you taken the time to educate yourself so that not only are you looking athletic, but you’re also inspiring with what you say? Because GRIT is an aspirational workout. You want to be inspiring with your athleticism, but you also want to be inspiring with your words.

OK, that’s like three tips!

What tip would you have for Instructors on how to keep progressing?

Well, it just depends what you want the outcome to be.

For me personally, I just want to keep getting fitter and progressing. There's no finish line to fitness, you're always capable of so much more. You've just got to put in the effort and the time. If you're serious about it and you really want it, then you do what it takes to get it. You'll put in the effort and the time and you’ll show self-discipline -– even on the days you don't want to.

If you weren't doing what you do now, what would you be doing instead?

I would be a professional actress. That's what I studied at university - acting. Yeah. I would have gone to L.A. and tried to make it. True story!

What one piece of advice would you to your 16 year old self?

People always say that things happen for a reason and at the right time. And it is so true. Looking back, there are some things that I wanted but I wasn't ready for those opportunities at the time. And because I didn't get them when I wanted them and I've got them later, when I'm more experienced and more mature, I'm doing better at executing them. So I would tell myself to be patient -– don’t get hung up on the opportunities that didn’t come your way when you wanted them. Keep working hard, perfect your craft, stay positive and it will happen when it’s supposed to. And also, to read more! Haha, my spelling is terrible!

Do you have any funny anecdotes from filming?

You know, I actually don’t! Haha sorry guys, no juicy goss! I mean there’s the usual things of [microphone] fluffies flying or words getting mixed up, microphones falling off, Ben Main getting snapped drinking someone else’s water… I always double check my wardrobe for any potential embarrassments!

In terms of training, what motivates you?

I do what brings me joy and I do workouts that excite me. My advice to people looking for motivation is to find workouts that excite you. I don't do workouts that I don't enjoy. I didn't love running to start with, but I knew how good running would be for my fitness [Erin is training for a half marathon]. And so that's what motivated me at the beginning. But now I actually genuinely like running. It took me about a year, but now it brings me joy.

You’re in a position where you are often receiving feedback on social media – on the GRIT choreography, on your presenting, how you look… how do you cope when the feedback is negative?

I don’t cope well! I take it to heart and I am super reactive to it, but I won’t respond directly to the comment. I will talk to somebody about it like you or Sophie [Hall, Product Manager Partnerships, LMI], someone that I trust – that’s my way of communicating that I'm hurting. That’s my way of releasing it, rather than saying something that I might regret by responding immediately to the feedback. I'll talk it through and generally my friends will help me see it from the other person's perspective and make me realize that, you know, they might have said this comment for this reason. That will help me to word a response or just accept where they are coming from.

A lot of the time the feedback is constructive, and I will genuinely keep it mind moving forward with other LES MILLS GRIT releases. You know, if someone's given some feedback about a move they don't like or a song they don’t like, I'll remember that and I won't do it again. But I will get hurt about it because I'm close to the program. I’ll take it personally and I am trying to let that go.

When you invest so much time and passion into something it is hard to not take feedback personally, but then not everyone's gonna love everything all the time. But you also hope that people will love it! You don't put in this much hard work and ever think, oh well, some people aren't going to like it. I want to create something that people will love and get excited about. And so, when I get that feedback that’s not so positive, I just have to take a breath, try and see it from the other person's perspective and be like, OK, they're writing this feedback for a reason.

Erin Maw (New Zealand) is a LES MILLS GRIT, BODYCOMBAT, BODYJAM, LES MILLS BARRE and LES MILLS TONE Trainer/Presenter, a CXWORX Presenter/Instructor, and a BODYPUMP Instructor. She is a Marketing Coordinator at Les Mills International in Auckland and is also a Les Mills Ambassador for LES MILLS GRIT, BODYCOMBAT and BODYJAM. Follow Erin @erinmaw