Hi Khiran! How did you first get into group fitness?
I was going through a tough time in my life, one of my lowest points actually. A friend of mine suggested I go to and try a LES MILLS class at the gym. She said it would make me feel better and to give it a go. But a promo to grab a free pair of Nikes is what actually got me through the door!
Anyway, I went, and discovered SH'BAM™… yes, that’s right, the dance class SH'BAM. I loved SH’BAM – the expressive nature of it really appealed to me. It helped a lot with my mental health and pulling me out of a not-so-great place.
You’re now a regular presenter for many programs, including BODYPUMP. How did you find your feet in fitness?
When I first started BODYPUMP™ I would only go for 30 minutes it was so freaking hard! I would literally hold on until the tricep track and then leave. I was terrified of the lunges. I was like, we’ve already worked our legs in squats, why do we need to do them again? Eventually, I made it to the lunges and then finally the full class.
I started teaching BODYPUMP and then LES MILLS GRIT™, and I didn’t teach anything else for a long time because I just wanted to get really good at those programs. Then my manager at the gym asked if I’d thought about teaching cycle? I was pretty dubious, but I went along to another Instructor's RPM™ class and was like, oh my god she’s a DJ goddess on a bike! The lights and the mood and everything just felt like this crazy dance party. I picked up cycle and then the other programs came later on.
“I genuinely want every single person who does a workout with me to feel successful.”
What's your best advice for others who are just getting into exercise?
Start small. You want to create good habits, and these will come from being consistent. You also want to feel successful. It may sound ridiculous to just do five minutes of the workout but if you go too hard, too early, you're not going to enjoy it and you won’t get those feelings of elation. Which means you're less likely to create the habit.
So start small, be kind to yourself, but do challenge yourself to do the extra rep or the extra minute or whatever the thing is that will make you feel successful.
And what do you love about teaching and helping others in fitness?
That I have the opportunity to make people fall in love with fitness, and movement in general. I think it's really cool that if you provide a good experience for people, you can instill this love of movement. And it doesn't have to be high intensity – just getting people to feel happy about moving their body in whatever way makes them feel good.
I never think about the aesthetic – although I know it’s often the initial motivator for people to start coming to the gym. I’m all about the feel, so I try to break down the way something feels in the body and get members to connect to that: whether it’s the feeling in the moment, or afterward.
In the moment they might be thinking, ‘Oh woah I hate you right now Khiran,' or 'Please stop shouting at me,' (especially in a HIIT class) but then afterward they experience those feelings of elation, joy or relief – like, ‘I had a really hard day and I was really stressed out but I now I feel really good.’
“Start small … if you go too hard, too early, you're not going to enjoy it and you won’t get those feelings of elation.”
And how do you bring that into your coaching?
I try to create a lot of intrinsic motivation by encouraging people to self-assess and take ownership of their fitness.
People often underestimate what they are capable of, especially when it comes to trying new things. They might tell themselves 'I can’t do that jump', or 'I can’t keep going for five more seconds.' My job is to ask, did you even try? When was the last time you tried? You just set your alarm to get up at five o'clock in the morning and you're not even going to try? Don't do it for me – do it for you. That sort of thing.
And your personal experiences really help shape your coaching? Tell us how …
I have a deep belief in people's potential because when I first started, I wasn't very fit. But I knew that by trying to do the leaps in SH’BAM or trying to pick up the bar or put an extra weight on in BODYPUMP, that challenge would make me feel good. And as a result, I got better.
I want to show people what I see in them – almost be a mirror for what they can achieve. So when I coach, I think ‘What is the thing they need to hear or see that will show them that they’re so much more than where they are in this particular moment?’ Because everybody starts off as a beginner and new things are uncomfortable. I want my participants to feel like I have their back, 150 percent – like I’m their groupie, their biggest fan.
And what’s been the most challenging situation you’ve faced in life?
Well, I wouldn't call it a situation, but the most challenging thing about my life was being a teen parent.
I got pregnant with [my daughter] Piper at 16. And that's scary because now she's 16, and I look at her and think, you can't even make your bed!
It was and continues to be challenging. To create a life when you’re 16 years old – that baby doesn’t know that their parent isn’t emotionally or financially ready for them. Neither Vili or I have big families, so we pretty much did everything ourselves. It was incredibly tough.
I left school and I worked to make a life for her. I’ve been working since I was 15; I grew up in a household that was pretty poor so I worked part-time from an early age to help my family. And that’s just something I’ve had to deal with, you know what I mean? In life, you get dealt certain cards and you have to make the best of them. I refused to be a product of my environment.
It’s been a lot of sacrifice. After we had Piper I went back to study and I built my career and future with her always at the forefront of my mind, because it wasn't about me anymore. It's always about her and how can I give her everything I never had, and make her life as easy as possible? Because I would never want her to go through the things that I went through.
So yeah, it’s challenging but I would never change one struggle or moment with her because she is my moon, star and sun. Although now she’s got to an age where she no longer thinks Vili or I are cool, so, you know, it all comes crashing down! Haha
And you’ve found that challenging yourself with exercise has helped you in all aspects of life?
I remind myself why I'm training – because I didn't join the gym for the aesthetic benefits. I always think, how can I shift my mood? How can I feel better about myself? And so when I'm stuck in a rut or I've hit a plateau, I'll ask, "Why are you doing this again Khiran?" And if it's because I want to get stronger, then it's like, "OK, is this thing going to get you stronger? Is stopping going to get you stronger?" I focus on my why.
“I dial into how the music and the workout make me feel. When I need extra motivation I just turn the music up louder!”
What are your tricks to getting through the tougher moments of the workout?
I can't work out without music, so for me, it's focusing on the builds of the song and the drops. I dial into how the music and the workout make me feel. When I need extra motivation I just turn the music up louder!
If I'm doing burpees, for example, and I'm starting to slow down, I'll tune into the banging beat of the music or how it's feeling in my legs. I might not be jumping as high but I will focus on the things I like about the training, telling myself, "You like to be breathless – this is what you like! If you keep moving this way you're going to get the feelings you came for." That sort of thing.
What’s other advice do you have for exercisers who want to stay motivated and at the top of their game?
Challenge yourself. If the same old workout isn't doing it for you, then you try out a new program or training style. For example, if you like the feeling of lifting weights and doing BODYPUMP but you're never tried LES MILLS GRIT Strength, push the boundaries and challenge yourself. Do pick a like for like in terms of finding something you enjoy. If you don't enjoy running but think you have to start running to find a challenge… you're probably not going to stick with it.
What are you currently doing? What do you like the most? Explore the different ways you can achieve the same feeling. If you love the music and that's what drives you in BODYJAM™, perhaps try out another program that is music-driven – like RPM.
What's your all-time favorite workout and why?
LES MILLS SPRINT™. I love the feeling of empowerment on the bike because you're not restricted by how high you can jump or how heavy you can lift. It's just you and the bike and it's the closest we get to pure HIIT training – and that stuff's addictive. The music is also just perfect. It's low-impact but high energy and you get it done in just 30 minutes. The workout is guaranteed.
What do you wish everyone who does your workouts knew about you?
That I genuinely believe in people, and I genuinely want every single person who does a workout with me to feel successful.
I don't expect people to be lifting the heaviest weights or be putting on the heaviest load or moving their legs at the fastest pace – that's not what I want. But what I do expect is that you give yourself and your body, your health, your fitness, your mind, 100 percent of your attention. Do it because it's not for me, it's for you. So don't turn up and not give yourself 100 percent.
Khiran Huston is on the Les Mills New Zealand TAP team and is Head Coach for BODYPUMP and LES MILLS TONE in NZ. She is a Trainer/Presenter for LES MILLS SPRINT, LES MILLS TONE, THE TRIP, RPM, LES MILLS GRIT and BODYPUMP and is also a CEREMONY Coach. She is a Les Mills X Stages Ambassador and is based in Auckland where she works as a Scrum Master/ Agile coach for a software company.
You can experience Khiran's coaching when you work out with LES MILLS On Demand.
This article originally appeared in the Les Mills Instructor Insider.