When the camera goes on, Program Director Rachael Newsham always delivers. However, her professionalism can belie the very relatable anxiety around doing that which is out of our comfort zone. Here, Rach shares the intense vulnerability she felt around letting the camera into her home to deliver her first live streaming class, and how she tackled it.

My first live streaming class was delivered on Instagram for Les Mills New Zealand and it was BODYCOMBAT™.

I chose the “Invincible 14” release, which meant I had to learn all of the new cover music and boy oh boy it was a serious cramming session haha! All of the natural points in the workout that I intuitively knew were not as obvious, and my brain was tricking me into traps left right and center. It honestly took me an hour to get the Warm-Up right! I kept tripping up on the builds that were EVERYWHERE. Lol.

I need to put this in the context that I have consistently taught live experience BODYCOMBAT workouts every week, to both at home and overseas participants, since Release 6 was launched. So my timesheet is well and truly stamped up. There really is a whole host of experiences I can draw upon to help navigate this new “delivery room”, so to speak.

(Zoe Ballantyne and Chris Asahara [Les Mills International Social Media team] had also organized for me to teach on the Facebook streaming group. This group has 30,000 members and leading them through the workout was both a lifeline and a career highlight. However, that class was my second live-streaming experience and in this piece I am focusing on the first class.)

I could not get a Side Kick fully in shot, and since when did I have legs long enough for THAT problem?!

I was really excited to have been given the opportunity by Tau [Siolo] and the Les Mills National Office team to join them early on at the fun stage when everyone was green and a novice at live streaming. As a member of Les Mills Auckland City’s Instructor team, they gave me a spot on their digital timetable.

I got my speaker fully-charged and luckily had the good weather required for me to teach from my backyard. I rested my laptop and the speakers on bench stools from the kitchen, close enough for the camera to pick up volume and loud enough for me to hear it too. I discovered that it’s hard to move sideways on a live stream and stay in shot! I could not get a Side Kick fully in shot, and since when did I have legs long enough for THAT problem?!

The tripod didn’t go as high as I needed, which meant I had to squat down to get in the shot when I was close to the camera. That was another hilarious issue because I am not tall at all!

I hit the ‘go live’ and just hoped it would work! I delivered a quick intro and cracked into teaching. Turns out (as Tau had so helpfully tipped me off) my Instructor Right became my Actual Right when teaching live stream. As much as I had practiced for that one, habit took over in the heat of the track; usually when I showed a side profile and then would instinctively return with the wrong leg/arm before realizing 8 counts later that I was on the wrong side. (Or not at all hahaha!)

Home is my safe place. It’s my haven away from work, my hide away, my place where I can keep any work energy away. Opening this space up to the work world felt hugely scary.

Delivering the actual live stream wasn’t scary because it felt very similar to my mirror rehearsal sessions during filming rehearsal weeks. As soon as you start delivering Les Mills Masterclass, you grow a new set of skills around talking to walls, windows, doors, car steering wheels, shower doors. These are all things that replicate the worst-case class scenario i.e. receiving zero facial or verbal feedback from what you say, but you just keep delivering as if you have the world eating out of your hand!

In fact, seeing all the little love hearts on the bottom right-hand side and the welcome and appreciation comments scrolling up the screen was quite wonderful! I was in my happy place, doing what makes me happy and seeing how it was making others equally happy too. ☺

While teaching the actual class felt fine, the mental journey to get to the class was a different story. To be quite clear, building up to this was the hardest part. I was real anxious about one thing: letting the world into my safe space. Also, what would my neighbours think? Would they understand I was trying to do my best to support Les Mills, or would they judge me for being one of those social media crazies?!

Home is my safe place. It’s my haven away from work, my hide away, my place where I can keep any work energy away. It’s a place where Rach is the priority and the “Les Mills Rachael Newsham” doesn’t matter as much. It’s a place where I have a sense of privacy. In my work life, many people determine what I do and don’t do so when I’m at home, I’m in charge for once. It’s my refuge. Opening this space up to the work world was hugely scary and I felt very vulnerable.

It dawned on me that live stream classes were the antidote to people’s separation anxiety and I was the postman delivering parcels of joy via the internet.

However, the participants joining in that live stream BODYCOMBAT class wouldn’t have had a clue that that was how I was feeling! I was all-singing, all-punching and kicking Rach when that button went on, because I know deep down that anything that stretches you, grows you and well… I’d love to be a little bit taller 😉

I weighed up the risk of my not embracing the dark side… ahem!… I mean social media... and how that could be seen as my not supporting the business. I thought about how much I care about Les Mills and knew that my love for Les Mills outweighed any worries I felt around letting the camera in. What was the worst that could happen? (Let me just say that among my close circle of friends I’m known for always considering the worst-case scenario!)

I’ve got a thing about not being reckless with people or stuff and I hate to hurt people; I always endeavour to do my best by others. So the worst that could happen here was: I’d give up the backyard and the garage, the deck and the staircase inside the house and would be judged on the tidiness of all of those and thought…. ummm, they are pretty sweet so let’s just do it! The rest was mine. “What a bargain” I said to myself! “Win for the business and a win for me – a bit of growth goes a long way on a short arse like me!”

It wasn’t long before many, many people were also doing live streaming and suddenly the weird stuff seemed normal! My neighbours saw me on our national TV One channel and thought it was really cool. Some locals recognised me from LES MILLS™ On Demand teaching SH’BAM™ and told me how it had pretty much saved their sanity and helped their mental health during lockdown.

It was so amazing that my dance program SH’BAM, which has suffered stigma and stunted growth due to the human nature of shame and judgement, was now the champion, the man of the match! People are discovering how good dance makes you feel and how it helps lift your mood – so this lockdown has had a huge silver lining! People are now recognising how dance can promote good mental health!

It dawned on me that live stream classes were the antidote to people’s separation anxiety and I was the postman delivering parcels of joy via the internet! I felt such joy from this! It was all worth it. GROWTH was in the air. Growth was everywhere! I realized that our industry has been chipping away at trying to educate the general public on the benefits of health for decades without necessarily being successful. And yet, the phenomenon of having our freedom to choose taken away had caused people to actually crave health and fitness! WIN-WIN again dare I say?!

In a roundabout way, I feel that live streaming classes will be the making of us all, not the breaking. Many people have discovered a new-found appetite for exercise and plenty have fallen in love with LES MILLS™ group fitness classes via live streaming and LES MILLS On Demand. I hope that love affair lasts as long as mine has 😉