I was recently chatting to a colleague who revealed something quite controversial: on a call with some fitness industry experts, she'd heard them voice the opinion that Les Mills Instructors tend to come across as "cookie cutter" i.e., everyone is the same.
Sounds harsh right?
Let’s unpack that.
The beauty of LES MILLS™ workouts and training is the fact that the workouts are pre-choreographed. They’re created so that no matter who you are – your background, where you're from, what you do – you can learn how to deliver a truly amazing experience.
As we know, Les Mills International employs a talented team of Creative Directors, Program Directors and Technical Consultants to source killer music, create banging workouts, and test them to ensure they're achievable, safe and, most importantly, that they work. And there are new releases and education provided every quarter, keeping Instructors upskilled in our programs and members engaged and challenged.
Yes, the casual observer may critique that Les Mills churns out Instructors who are “cookie cutter”, but in reality there is so much work that goes into the development of LES MILLS programs and training.
Think of it as a partnership. Les Mills brings the product to the party. What you bring is your beautiful individuality and awesomeness to create something that's truly special and unique every single time.
Here's why what could be a "weakness" is actually a strength
As a Les Mills Instructor you don’t have to spend hours of your time finding music, creating choreography or trialing different moves. This means that you get to invest ALL of your creative energy and effort into bringing alive the program your way. And you create a life-changing experience that is truly unique to YOU.
Here's a great way to frame it: think of it as a partnership. Les Mills brings the product to the party. What you bring is your beautiful individuality and awesomeness to create something that's truly special and unique every single time.
How about this: think of a scene from one of your favorite movies. One of my favorites is from Gladiator when Russell Crowe is standing in the arena and reveals his true identity to Joaquin Phoenix: "My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions…" This moment is one of the most cathartic scenes of the movie where our hero reveals his true identity to the evil and corrupt emperor. And yet, in the context of a film, that entire speech is simply words on a page – a script. We know he's not actually Maximus Decimus Meridius – he's an actor reading words and following the guidance of a director – and yet Crowe brings every single word to life. He makes them his own.
What does that mean for us Instructors?
Being a Les Mills Instructor means that, on the Les Mills side of the partnership, we’ve got all got the same music, choreography and coaching tips. That's what they're bringing to the party.
We Instructors come to the party with our uniqueness and who we are as a person. It's the different aspects of our individuality that we bring to the partnership that creates the difference from the next Instructor.
To help me ground myself in my authenticity, I use the following exercise to hone the qualities I want to bring into each class:
Step one: I think about hobbies, interests and activities that had an impact on my life.
For example, growing up I played rugby, I sang in choirs, barbershop and musical theater, and I was also a youth group leader at my church.
Step two: I reflect on how the qualities of each hobby/interest have shaped who I am today.
Rugby was about camaraderie, being accountable to my team, and the physical discipline of training. My youth group experience was about leadership and supporting and nurturing others. And choirs, barbershop and musical theater were about putting on the show and bringing music to life.
Step three: How do I use these qualities to create a unique "Benjamin Siolo BODYPUMP" class?
Here's what I've identified I bring:
- Camaraderie, accountability and physical discipline
- Leadership, support and nurture
- Putting on a show and bringing the music to life
So, a Benjamin Siolo BODYPUMP class is going to be:
Physically challenging with a sense of working as a team, like we're on the rugby field and accountable to one another's effort. It also means that I will lead, support and nurture my people – give them a sense of being deeply connected to me and our purpose. And finally, I'm here to put on a show baby! It's going to be entertaining, electric, spine tingling, and grounded in the essence of PUMP. I will bring my performance alive by using the music and all the experience I've had singing on stage and entertaining people throughout the years.
These are the things that make me who I am when I step on stage. But we’re all different, and what matters is finding what makes you, YOU, and bringing that into class to further heighten and enhance the experience.
How to find your unique qualities…
If you’re unsure where to start, begin by reflecting on what you’re passionate about. What defines you? Think about your family, hobbies, sports, if you played a musical instrument…
For example, I recently spoke to a BODYPUMP Instructor who’s also an engineer. She’s passionate about understanding how things work, and so she might apply this curiosity when it comes to understanding the how and why of certain moves – bringing this out in her coaching.
If you’re into reading or writing, think of language that moves you. How can you take a “standard cue” and put your own unique twist on it, by using words that nobody else would choose? How can you captivate your audience with your love of language?
However, what nobody can teach you is how to be YOU. The truth is that you can’t learn what makes you incredible from anybody else; you discover it on your own. That’s what makes you special, and that’s what makes your BODYPUMP class different from mine, or anyone else’s out there.
Nobody else can teach you your magic
Circling back to my point at the start – Les Mills gives you a million different tools to bring your classes to life. However, what nobody can teach you is how to be YOU. The truth is that you can’t learn what makes you incredible from anybody else; you discover it on your own. That’s what makes you special, and that’s what makes your BODYPUMP class different from mine, or anyone else’s out there.
So, get to work! Do this before your next class:
- Step one: Think about what makes you, you. This could include hobbies, interests, cultural background… everything that makes you special as an individual.
- Step two: Reflect on how these things have shaped who you are today.
- Step three: Work out how you'll use this unique and individual list of qualities to bring your class to life.
Imagine if everybody took the time to reflect on their own uniqueness and bring it to the fore, what wonderful diversity of Instructors we would see on the timetable!
Benjamin Siolo is the National Group Fitness Manager for Les Mills New Zealand. He is also a BODYCOMBAT, BODYPUMP, LES MILLS GRIT, BODYJAM, SH'BAM Trainer/ Presenter/ Instructor, a LES MILLS CORE Trainer/ Instructor and a LES MILLS SPRINT Coach. Originally from Wellington, he now lives in Auckland with his family.