Rachael Babiracki is well known among US Instructors as a Les Mills Presenter, Trainer, Assessor, and Assistant Director of the LMUS TAP (Trainer, Assessor, Presenter) Team. Her group fitness journey started at age 13. Her parents owned a gym and both parents taught classes. She attended her dad’s BODYCOMBAT class and mom Lisa’s BODYSTEP and BODYFLOW classes.
At age 16, Rachael wanted to join her parents as Instructors. She started with yoga and BODYFLOW. “After that, my parents needed BODYPUMP Instructors and forced me to go through training. I didn’t really want to! But I am so glad they did because I fell in love with it, and it helped me pick up weight training and cross training. Fifteen years later, I am still going strong!”
“Going strong” is an understatement. This month, Rachael is onstage with the New Zealand team at LES MILLS LIVE in Orlando and San Diego.
Rachael and Lisa have flip-flopped being ‘in charge’ over the years. “She [Lisa] has been my boss as a club owner and GFM when I worked at the family club,” says Rachael. “Now as Assistant Director I am her boss on the TAP Team.” Lisa joined the TAP Team shortly after Rachael about a decade ago and is currently a BODYPUMP and BODYFLOW Assessor. “We actually work really well together, and I think it comes from setting boundaries and clarifying the working relationship early on.”
Mom and daughter Kimberly and Brooke Mennella started their Les Mill journey together eight years ago. Kimberly was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and was fearful about her future. “Not knowing too much about MS, I was unsure of the long-term situation and feared the worst: severe disability, wheelchair-bound, or death,” says Kimberly. “At the time, my four daughters were very young and needed me to be healthy. I had two choices. I could fight the disease to the best of my ability or fall apart and let it take over my life. I chose to fight.”
When her doctor prescribed physical therapy, Kimberly joined a gym and was determined to make exercise a key part of her new lifestyle. “My oldest daughter, Brooke, was 12 years old at the time and was very overweight. I thought we both could join the gym together,” says Kimberly. “We took our first Les Mills class and it was ‘love at first movement’ for us both.”
That first class had a huge impact on their lives. “The power of group fitness enabled Brooke to lose 90 pounds in less than 10 months and assisted me in staying healthy,” says Kimberly.
Kimberly became a Certified Instructor and Brooke soon followed after seeing the effect teaching had on her mom. “Watching my mother's confidence level boost and how she was helping others inspired me.” says Brooke. “She did not let MS take over her life. She fights every symptom an MS patient struggles with, and you would never know her condition by looking at her.”
Drew Lamy got hooked on group fitness at the young age of 11 without any coaxing from mom, Sherri. “I just always remember her teenage years being at the gym,” says Sherri. “Drew was always active in sports in high school. Taking Les Mills classes kept her fit and was a huge part of her life.”
Drew says she was initially drawn to the Les Mills music. “My mother had started teaching BODYPUMP and practiced all the time and listened to the music ALL. THE. TIME. And, of course, I fell in love with the songs. Then when she started teaching BODYFLOW I could not get enough of the amazing songs and tagged along for a class.”
Rachael and Drew both say they liked to “hide” in the back of their respective mothers’ classes. “I remember singing a lot because I had already heard the songs thousands of times,” Drew says. “The room was dark and the stage was well lit. I felt safe and comfortable knowing my mother was there. She was very good not to call me out in class, and let me dissolve into the participants.”
While Drew’s first love was BODYJAM, her first Initial Training was BODYSTEP at age 14. “My mother actually attended the training with me and helped me prepare for it. Without her I wouldn’t have known what to expect and would have probably felt too overwhelmed to even consider a video submission. She was so supportive.”
Rachael and Lisa also attended several trainings together before Rachael went to college. They have loved having the opportunity to team-teach. “It feels great to teach with someone you know so well,” says Lisa. “It makes shadowing so easy when you can predict their move and mood.”
Drew and Sherri share the same sentiments. “I love teaming with her,” says Sherri. “She is a hard act to follow and an amazing Instructor.”
Brooke and her mom Kimberly echo the others. “These experiences are precious to us both,” says Kimberly. “Being that we have the same passion, drive, and dedication, it naturally shines through every time we team-teach.” Brooke adds, “We are able to connect with each other and engage the participants in the room even more. I feel we inspire others to stay healthy and encourage healthy family units.”
The two often attend AIMs and Quarterly workshops together. Kimberly says she’ll never forget her first Quarterly with Brooke. “I thought our faces would break with the big smiles we had, plus I think we cried a little too.”
Having two Instructors in one household can also have its challenges. Daughter Drew remembers some tense moments after class. “If she brought it up on the car ride home, I had no escape, and then the mother-daughter fighting would begin – tragic!”
But these moms and daughters say the shared experiences and fond memories of teaching together far outweigh any challenges. Rachael and Lisa recently had an opportunity to take it to a whole new level when Rachael gave Lisa feedback at an Instructor workshop in Colorado. “There is something special to that mother-daughter bond. As she taught and I worked with her, there was a really cool energy and feel in the room, and there were even a few tears from those participating once her track was over. It was pretty powerful.”
All three moms say it’s critical to model healthy lifestyles for children, and exercising together makes a big impact. The daughters say they’re grateful their moms led them along this path, and that their fitness careers started at a young age. “It gave me focus,” says Drew, who adds that teaching helped her develop time-management skills. “It set me apart from my peers and taught me how to be a leader. It grew my confidence exponentially.”
It also shaped Drew’s career. “That step into group fitness led me to a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology.” Today, in addition to teaching classes, Drew works as a medical technician for an ophthalmologist.
Rachael has had the same experience. “Being an Instructor during those years helped me interact with my body in a different way. It was less about what I looked like and more about what I could do physically. And that gave me a healthy respect and love for my body that I think can be hard to find, no matter your age.”
She also notes the impact that teaching has had in other aspects of life and work. “Now I can walk up to anyone and start up a conversation, or talk in front of a group of people and feel totally in control and chill about it.”
“I would highly recommend anyone become an Instructor,” says Brooke. “You have the power to change the lives of others!”