Yes, it’s true. I spent a significant amount of the filming week of BODYCOMBAT™ 87 wondering how long I could cross my legs for. Why? Because, my friends, we were not in a studio in Auckland or any kind of standard film set, but out in the great outdoors, the big backyard of the Fiordlands of Aotearoa: Lake Te Anau.
Les Mills went back to the South Island to film the latest releases, but this time with waaaaaaayyyy more snacks, sunscreen and layers of clothing (we learned the hard way last time). Here’s a sample of my thoughts and experiences of that week!
Monday January 25th
To do: buy snacks and insect repellent because the crew already down there reported they couldn’t see the view for sandflies EVERYWHERE. PACK! Clean the house, oh my gosh, am I my mother?! Why do we clean the house to leave it empty? I used to take the rip out of mum for cleaning the house before we went on holiday so the burglars would appreciate it and now I do the same thing! Hahaha!
Last team rehearsal at the Les Mills office. I taught my tracks into the mirror and it felt so good. I mentally drifted into the mountains where we will be filming... The team's ready, I can feel it. Let’s GO!! Dammit I need to pack, but I hate packing. I will just eat this bowl of yummy fruit first. Does anyone actually enjoy packing? It’s getting late. Maybe I can wake up really early and pack then? That’s ridiculous Rach. Go pack. Wait, Maino [Ben Main] just texted. Answer him first…
Tuesday January 26th
So the good news is that, due to bad weather down south, my flight has been delayed which means I have the entire day to pack. Definitely should do that before tonight. Do my upper body weights. DEFINITELY have that Greek salad from the local café one more time because it’s yum…
I’m glad I went into the office and ran the class in its entirety one more time. Even though I've heard the music waaaaaaay too much, it felt good to sweat one more time, especially since I thought I’d be filming today. I think Vilz [Fifita] is going to explode he’s THAT ready!
I hope the weather clears up and we go tomorrow because Dan [Cohen] might make us do another rehearsal and no one wants to hear my Stephanie jokes anymore LOL! Not sure what to wear on the plane in the morning. It’s so sticky hot, but I know that plane air conditioning will be freezing…
Wednesday January 27th
Plan for today: don’t sleep in. Make the flight and don’t get car sick on the two-hour windy-ass drive to Te Anau. Wish all roads were straight. No one on a horse and cart got horse-and-cart-sick did they? Of course not! You couldn’t go fast enough back in those days. Wonder if they had allergies though because I would definitely NOT cope sat behind a horse for the day. Ooh yeah, must take allergy tablet. Don’t want to be sneezing in the middle of Side Kick combo hahaha!
[Arrived in Te Anau]
The good news is I achieved all of the things I had to do today. The bad news is I haven’t sweated once and I feel sluggish but I seriously cannot do my tracks anymore. I could have joined Dan and Vilz in that tiny hotel gym but, well, I know if I do either of their workouts I won’t feel my legs tomorrow, so best stick to the plan of resting! So glad we made it down here and this is actually going to happen. The weather isn’t looking great. How is it SO cold here and so hot in Queenstown? Glad I have my puffer jacket.
Wonder when call time is tomorrow and if I have time to find a good coffee first? In saying that, I’d best stick to one coffee because apparently there aren’t any loos on location. Khiran [Huston] filmed RPM and told Vilz they had to pop a squat and mimi [pee] in the bush. How do we do that sober? This is another moment in my life when I can say it sucks to be a girl. Apparently there is a chemical loo being carried into location that we can request to use, but WHO is going to do that? Definitely not me. It’s not even a flash porta loo - it’s a box you sit on that they put a shower curtain around you. NOPE. That’s a no from me BOB. Ohhhhhhh and the finished product is going to look SO flashy and no one will know that we were all starving / intermittent fasting ourselves to avoid needing to go!
Found a fab place for dinner. How good was that blue cod?!! Love this little gastro pub. Also really nice to sit with Dan, Vilz, Maino and Antoine [Sagne] and de-brief on the day. LOL the waitress’s face when Maino ordered two main courses for himself! [Ben Main is on the South Island to film BODYPUMP™].
Thursday January 28th
Things to do today: pack every possible Reebok outfit (I’m either going to freeze or roast but either way a girl needs options and if I have to wear the same outfit for three days – for continuity purposes – I’d better feel comfortable). Go to the loo. Pack snacks. Sunscreen. That tin of hair spray and hairbrush. Some make-up. Go to the loo again. Pack my book to read when it’s not my track. Take laptop and start writing the choreography notes. Yes, do that. Be that organized. Go to the loo again. Teach the heck outta your tracks and be a thousand percent present and soak up this incredible moment. Ooooh FLY SPRAY!!
Oh my gosh what a day! So glad I took the heavy ass laptop in my fricken heavy backpack to type the choreo notes I never even started… Who did I think I was for a second there? Rach ‘Marie Kondo’ Newsham??? Hahaha…
I feel vindicated on the fly spray front at least. I managed to escape Sandfly-bite free, but Maino got a big one on his neck and eaten alive on the legs, poor thing. Antoine got mauled in the field as soon as we stood in place to record Tracks 1a and 1b. Note to self: tiny flies leave big bites and the grass is not grass, it is shards of glass disguised as soft pretty green grass. Every time I put my hands down I was sliced a million ways!!
Second note to self: the drone drivers have passed their drone driving tests Rach and will be able to keep it away from your head. Even though, when it flies overhead from behind whilst I’m doing a block of knees, it feels like it’s going to take my hands straight off the ends of my arms!! Thankfully that first take of the cooldown was just visual recording and no audio because that shrieking and giggling is NOT in the essence of BODYCOMBAT girl!
Feels weird to have filmed the Warm-Up and then the Cooldown, knowing we still have all the other tracks left to film. Happy with my choice of tights over shorts and thermals under singlet. Those lads today looked hella cold. One time I was happy to be a woman wearing tights!
(Probably should get dressed into filming outfit at the hotel now I know there isn’t anywhere private. Pretty sure I flashed a few people by accident.)
Super grateful for the public toilets that flushed that were a short drive away. PHEW! Wonder if we will be that lucky tomorrow? To be honest I hope we get better weather for everyone’s sake. Cold Combat is not my favorite… I really hope my outfit dries in time for the morning. I don’t fancy wearing damp tights.
I didn’t wash my hair because, given the choice of clean hair or a full tummy, I choose food every time, so just extra hairspray tomorrow. Bet the lads didn’t even have to THINK about washing their hair… so unfair…
Friday January 29th
Note to self: take more snacks because there is a lot of sitting and waiting. Thank goodness for Diana’s [Archer Mills] snacks yesterday. Get into your filming outfit BEFORE you leave the hotel. Leave the laptop.
I’m so glad we got up really early to find breakfast and coffee and then sit around and wait for the clouds to not even lift… Eye roll… and then drive around for forever and get car sick until lunchtime. Eye roll, eye roll… stomach roll.
In saying that, WOW, what a location for today's filming! I seriously think I had a spiritual moment standing on that boulder in that quarry with the rapids rushing past me when I taught that track. There is ZERO amount of rehearsal that can prepare for what I experienced today. The motivation and energy was next level. I’d go as far as saying I feel 100,000 percent alive after today, even though I’m physically wasted and sunburnt on one side of my face and look like a dried prune. I LOVE BODYCOMBAT and teaching it and knowing where today's footage is going to go and who is going to appreciate it makes it all worthwhile. I didn’t wanna get off that rock, I wanted to do more and more!! I was in total flow and vibing and channelling every rehearsal class and using every tool and it felt so good. I LOVE TEACHING GROUP FITNESS!
Dan smashed Track 6. Such a one-take guy. Can’t blame him though because stuff doing that track more than necessary! Antoine taught the best ever and Vilz FINALLY got to unleash his Track 2. Half stood on a rock and half avoiding the sand pit behind him. The man. Diana rocked her tracks in BODYPUMP (LOL see what I did there, hahaha dad jokes yeaaaaah) and brought mega party vibes in her tracks and had us all dancing on the rocks!
In other news, I made it all the way through the day from the last loo opportunity, which – ewwwwww – is what’s called a ‘long drop’ (use your imagination #noflush). Lads said meet in the lobby and head to the ranch for dinner in ten. I agreed but knew I’d be at least twenty. Again I was bursting for a wee. Felt sooooooooo good to pee!!! Every silver lining has a cloud though, and as I sat down (sorry: overshare) I felt an earring tumble away from my ear and into the loo. Argggghhhhhhhh dammit!! Oh well. Sorry Ross Boss [Ross Peebles, Producer]. For health and safety reasons there will forthwith be no continuity with regards to my earrings. At that point I decided to shower and do laundry at the same time in the shower (the glamor), and yet again, sucks to be a girl and have to wash hair because we all know that isn’t going to be done in ten mins either. Silver lining though, that pony tail will hold itself up tomorrow if the elastic breaks! Hahaha! Girls – I'm sure you can relate!
Different waitress, same faces only more sunburnt, same tummies just as hungry and same orders. I’m going to be a Blue Cod soon. Feel quite bad actually. The kitchen was only doing bar snacks by the time we all made it to dinner. Some production crew had got there before us and were chomping on the fries. We needed more than snacks after the day we had. You can imagine our faces and hearts and souls slowly crying and dying inside, given that we had been looking forward to this alllllllllllllll day.
The restaurant manager recognized us sat in the same spot again and gave us the full menu. We did feel bad but we recognized a gift horse and knew better than to look it in the face/mouth so swiftly ordered and then repented our sins into the beer glasses/raspberry lemonade glasses and avoided eye contact with any production crew who had been stuck with bar snacks…
Interesting how we all were quite happy to chat and not sit with faces in phones. Being off the grid was bringing us all back to basics and keeping each other company. I really enjoy these family dinners.
Saturday January 30th
YAY the clouds lifted, which meant we could go to Lake Erskine. We were all up early again, and it was all go real fast. Vilz got put on the first chopper with the film crew to go record his Muay Thai up some mountain. Me and Dan got choppered into the same spot about an hour later thinking he’d have it in the bag. Glen [Ostergaard] was teaching the BODYPUMP Shoulder Track on a rock above us as we touched down. WOW. INSANE. This is stuff I can’t begin to explain. So much snow on the ground, but the sun was so hot and burny!
Dan and I got up there and turns out Vilz hadn’t even filmed… It was clear why. He made a great call: there was no way he could do a Muay Thai on that rock that Ross Boss had found for us to film on. His energy levels would have been more in the Warm-Up zone levels and after all the preparation he had put in, it would not have done him the credit he and the workout deserved. Also it wasn’t safe for Muay Thai as it was SO SMALL. When you are teaching to camera you can’t really focus on not falling off the rock and down the mountain… yikes!! Proud of him. He could have done it because the location is out of this world amazing and the shots would have been fire BUT it wasn’t safe to do those moves and he would not have been happy with the end result.
Turns out they had flown us up there to see if we could film our Track 8 there. Dan and I had it all scripted as a team teach but they said only one person on one rock. Yeah that could work but again, it wouldn’t do justice to what we’d prepared. Coach Dan did a recce and we decided to give it a good go. We’d have to reduce the range on one of the moves, but we wanted to find a way to make the magic happen. And guess what?! A very rare mountain bird called a kea flew into my shot and landed on the rock behind me as I was teaching. OMG that was amazing!!
Once we got that done, Ross Boss asked if anyone felt confident enough to scramble over the all the rocks and boulders above us to the very top on the ridgeline and film some promo content with a drone. I said yes because YOLO! (Can I still say that in 2021 or am I lame for saying YOLO…?!)
The uphill climb was fine but the actual descent was scary as hell. Honestly – I laugh now – but at the time it wasn't funny AT ALL. Once I’d done the hard bit scrambling down the pile of loose rocks and boulders, and got to the grass, I lost my footing and proceeded to slide on my ass down this vertical drop straight towards the medic/mountaineer who was in front of me, taking his legs out from underneath him! I was pretty much a bowling ball and he was the pin. He did a swift flip around and landed on top of me as I laughed hysterically – partly out of fear and partly because a bit of me thought I was about to kill us both!
Anyway, I think the tracks that were filmed in the field, at the lake and on the mountain edge are gonna be epic. Just you wait! Honestly, every struggle the team and crew went through – as bizarre and tough as it was – will be worth it. We know how lucky we are in New Zealand right now and to share our backyard with the world and bring the outdoors to your indoors is an honor and a privilege. I can’t wait to see it all come together.
Speaking of ‘can’t wait’ and ‘the great outdoors', this was also the point I couldn’t hold it any longer. I had to mimi and I couldn't wait to find a loo. It was a first as a sober adult. And before any of you judge me, people can die from burst bladders… I think…
I have to say, it was very liberating! I was one of the last to surrender (she says with pride hahaha). Everyone had their own experiences. I will say this much: It requires a great deal of leg strength and planning. The gradient of the land needs to be assessed, as well as the direction of the wind and you must possess the ability to ghost the group without people noticing – because that’s awkward.
None of these details were considered when popping a squat as a drunk youth.
That brings us to the conclusion of this short story of 'Where is the wharepaku?'
The diary of a Program Director who held on for the loo…
And filmed BODYCOMBAT 87 too…
Rachael Newsham is co-Program Director of BODYCOMBAT. Originally from the UK, she is based in Auckland. Follow Rach on Instagram