COVID-19 and beyond: Working to get you back in the studio

As clubs worldwide start to emerge from lockdown, what steps is Les Mills taking to ensure Instructors can get back to what they do best? We took your toughest questions to our leadership team to discover what the future of group fitness looks like.

As the world grapples with the COVID-enforced “new normal”, fitness professionals worldwide continue to wonder how long it will take before the industry fully recovers? What does the future of instructing look like? Will teaching livestream classes become a regular part of your weekly schedule – as natural as going into the club?

We know that this has been an incredibly stressful and uncertain time for you. Here are the answers to some of your burning questions, which we hope will provide clarity and reassurance on the future of instructing.

Some clubs don’t seem to be interested in allowing their Instructors to livestream. How is Les Mills working with clubs to encourage them to facilitate this?

Lots of conversations at every level! Livestreaming is a great way to maintain member engagement until they return to the club and it’s important that all clubs have both online and live options to keep existing members active and encourage new members to join.

Our team of experienced Customer Experience Managers are in continuous conversations with all of our club partners, supporting them towards successful reopening and relaunch with all aspects of group fitness, including livestreaming. We have support hubs online for clubs and Instructors, with livestream an integral part of this. Livestream is positioned as a new product for clubs to complement and support the ‘live’ group ex schedule, allowing them to connect and service all of their existing membership base, with the potential to also reach many more prospective members.

We’ve provided educational webinars and Facebook Lives for both clubs and Instructors to guide them through the technology of livestreaming, the best platforms to use, music licensing and how to build confidence in the livestream space. All of this content continues to be available. We are also sharing ‘best practice and success stories’ with all of our global partners when a particular club has implemented livestreaming with great success. With the upcoming WORLD UNITED event we’ve also encouraged clubs to offer live and livestream classes to maximize their member engagement.

Is there a future where Instructors will teach both live classes AND livestream?

This is already a reality for many Instructors, who are running both livestream and live classes right now.

In terms of how we see the future of livestreaming… it’s early days and we are looking at this proposition very carefully. This means reviewing the appetite from members, clubs and Instructors, as well as attendance levels to help make good business decisions around this for all parties. We will have a greater understanding in the coming months and will of course provide updates on how we will proceed.

What is the plan for future livestreaming releases?

As with our live classes, livestream is available through licensed clubs. A livestream class can be taught at a club or from another location, but is required to be on a closed platform which is only accessible to the club’s members and participants. These can be platforms like a closed Facebook group or Zoom. Clubs will need to have the necessary music licensing in place to livestream.

Depending on the local music licensing requirements, covers may be required in order to livestream. Programs with cover music are BODYPUMP™, BODYATTACK™, BODYBALANCE™/BODYFLOW®, BODYCOMBAT™, CXWORX™, SH’BAM™, BODYSTEP™ and RPM™. Covers of these programs will be provided, at no additional cost, for those Instructors who bought the standard release for 2020 Q1and Q2. The Q3 United releases will have cover versions for BODYPUMP, BODYATTACK, BODYCOMBAT, BODYBALANCE/BODYFLOW, CXWORX and RPM. We are working on a solution for back release covers, as we know many Instructors want the option to livestream some of their older material. Currently there is not a plan to provide covers for LES MILLS TONE™ or BODYJAM™. Due to the number of songs used within these programs, getting high quality covers for all the songs used is a challenge.

Why are you promoting LES MILLS On Demand when Instructors and clubs need people in both their live classes and livestream classes? Isn’t there a risk that it’s taking members away from the gym?

LES MILLS On Demand (LMOD) is one of our products that Instructors, club partners, club members and consumers have been able to utilise during COVID to support physical and mental wellbeing. The aim has been to keep clubs, their members and Instructors connected and engaged with each other to ultimately ensure these to come back to clubs once they reopen.

While LMOD is a great option for our workouts to be enjoyed when there is not access to a live class, we know this does not match the connection and interaction a livestream or live class provides and that we know our consumers enjoy so much. We know that those who do group exercise are more likely to remain with their club, helping our club customers build sustainable businesses, which in turn supports classes for Instructors to teach.

LMOD is also a way of introducing new people to group exercise. At the end of each class we have the “find a live class option” so they can then go and do their favourite classes at a club near them once they have gained confidence in working out at home. We have actually seen that LMOD can drive consumers towards the gym; those that experience it are more likely to have the confidence and knowledge to move into the live class space. We very much see LMOD as a tool to drive more people into the studio to experience our product at its best with the live Instructor.

Why do you have a virtual product in market when you have amazing live instructors that need classes right now?

As with LMOD, the Les Mills Virtual product is a tool to drive more people into the live class environment. Virtual timetables run alongside a live timetable, often utilising the studio space when it would otherwise be empty and unused. Members who have not experienced our programs before may try the workout and then build their confidence before ‘graduating’ into the live class space. Virtual helps bring awareness of our programs to a wider audience, ultimately driving more people to the ‘live’ studio space in our clubs. Industry research has shown that clubs running Virtual gain on average a 12 percent increase in live class attendances.

Some clubs are cancelling Les Mills licenses to cut costs. How are you helping clubs to be able to retain licenses?

We are actively working to support each of our club partners through a range of initiatives. Depending on the club and its current requirements/ challenges, these initiatives include reduced licensing fees and added value options such as additional or new VIRTUAL programs and livestreaming (at no extra cost). In addition, we’ve focused on ensuring club partners have the right information at the right time to support their members through lockdown and to bounce back strongly. We have been providing a range of webinars, articles and direct support covering: group exercise best practice guidelines, marketing during lockdown, re-building timetables, the importance of Instructors in building your community and how to use technology to thrive.

In the UK, we have created 3 short term partnership options for clubs to take advantage of.

  • Option 1: Additional venue – clubs will be able to hold classes in one additional venue for 3 months
  • Option 2: Additional program – clubs can launch one additional program, at no additional cost, for 6 months
  • Option 3: New facilities – non Les Mills clubs and facilities can launch one programme, at no cost, for 6 months.

These will provide you with more opportunities to teach.

For clubs that have already cancelled licenses, what is the plan to get more licenses up and running so Instructors have classes to teach?

Our team of Customer Experience Managers will re-contact those facilities that have cancelled to review whether they would like to restart once restrictions begin to ease. We are always reviewing our local market business models and continue to evolve them based on the particular needs of a market. In countries with established club partners, such as the US and UK, we are exploring what instructor autonomy could look like and how this works in partnership with supporting clubs.

However, our club network is over 2,300 so it’s important we continue to work with facilities on retaining the hub of the communities where possible.

In the UK, I’ve heard that some clubs are going PPL-free. What does this mean for me as an Instructor?

If you’re teaching at a club that has decided to use PPL free music, you will just need to download the PPL version of your release from the Instructor portal (or use your LM app) at no extra charge and teach to this music. We do not currently have PPL versions for every programme, for Q3 we have BODYPUMP, BODYATTACK, BODYBALANCE, RPM, CXWORX BODYCOMBAT, we are working on providing these for our other programmes in future.

If you would like PPL-free music for releases prior to Q1 2020, in some markets, such as the UK, you can purchase the back release. This is the full release, so it is a standard release cost. Please just contact the office to let them know your club has moved to PPL-free and they will make the necessary adjustments to your account. We are working on providing an option just for music only for those that have already purchased the release, but that will come at a later date as we are prioritizing having the current releases ready with original and PPL-free music.

You announced at Global Summit that there is a plan being put together around an Instructor licensing model. Could you share some further detail?

We’re constantly looking at how we can best support our Instructor team and club partners – now more than ever. That means assessing the business model in each country and continuing to evolve them based on the particular needs of each market. We currently have Instructor license trials running in South Korea and India.

Will we have an Instructor licensing model in the UK or US anytime soon?

In markets where we have high density of clubs it’s unlikely that we will bring Instructor licensing for the main programs. We are looking at what greater Instructor autonomy could look like and there are many options that could be taken given different countries’ needs. To set expectations, that’s not something we take lightly or will be a quick evolution. We need to get it right for Instructors and club partners. I know that likely doesn’t give you the certainty most of you would love to hear today, but it’s an honest reflection of the early stage of this project. We will be involving clubs and instructors to get your feedback and input. Make sure you’re subscribed to emails to be able to provide input along the way.

You also talked about changing assessment to include an Instructor tiered system. Could you expand on this?

Similar to many development programs, such as ballet, piano, karate, we are evolving our certification system to include grades and levels based on an Instructor’s strengths in the 5 key elements. This will support Instructors to continue their development based on their individual needs. In addition, this system will recognize those Instructors who are further along their journey to mastery. We are still in the early stages of development, but you can be reassured that we will recognize the development you have already undertaken.

Some gyms have closed permanently or let go of Instructors while they’re closed. How is Les Mills supporting me to make sure I can still teach?

When many clubs were closed, we provided an easy way to skip a release with no impact on your compliance. While some clubs are reopening, we do understand that not all Instructors are back to teaching so you can put your certification on hold while you find a new facility to teach with. For those teams with the Instructor Portal, just log into the Instructor Portal and click “pause certification” to pause your certification for up to 6 months. If you have any questions or need help, please contact us.

We also connect Instructors looking for places to teach with facilities looking for Instructors. Again, if you have the Instructor Portal, please be sure to have yourself marked as available to teach: go to ACCOUNT SETTING and click the box that says “I’m available to teach.” Also check out YOUR FACILITIES to see a list of facilities in your area with the programs they offer. If they are actively hiring they will have a red flag that says HIRING.

How can we support you? Get in touch at instructor@lesmills.com with any suggestions or questions, we love hearing from you!