I’m not someone who enjoys being the center of attention. It doesn’t come naturally to me. That might sound odd, given that I regularly get up on stage and present to thousands of people, but it’s the truth.
Being dyslexic meant that school was a struggle. I left at 16 and went straight to work on a construction site, specialising in cabinet making. I’d always played football (soccer) at a high level and I started going to the gym. From there I started working part time in a local sports center and then one day I just quit my job in construction. I literally picked up my tools, told them I was never coming back, and walked out. From there I went to work full time at the sports center.
One day the Group Exercise Manager told me she’d booked me onto an RPM™ module. I didn’t want to go. I’d seen the classes and thought they looked good, but because of the suffering I’d experienced at school, I didn’t want to do it. I’d never want to stand up and face the class and read out loud from a book. I’d never want to present anything – I didn’t have that self-belief or confidence. But she told me that if I didn’t go on it, she’d deduct the cost from my wages. So that persuaded me!
Giles Bryant did my training on RPM 25. I kind of hated the whole weekend – because of my lack of self-confidence – but luckily I had great people on my module so I felt comfortable. From there I started team teaching and then I got the bug for it… BODYCOMBAT™ with Steve Tansey and BODYPUMP™ with Matt Thraxton – I had some cool Trainers.
Eventually I ended up being mentored by Tanya Walker, who advised me to go on a program intensive for BODYCOMBAT. Rachael Newsham was taking the team and she gave me some great feedback: “If I listened to your class outside the studio, it would sound Iike it was going off. But when I look at you, you look like I-Robot.” From there I knew I had to relax more and bring more of my personality out in class.
I think my lack of confidence stems not only from my dyslexia, but also from my upbringing. I didn’t have a bad upbringing at all, but we didn’t have a lot as a family. We lived on a council estate in a high-rise building – it was two bedrooms and I was in a bedroom with my two brothers. My Dad worked two jobs and my Mum also worked, as well as raising three kids. When I played football, my Dad would come and watch and he always wanted me to perform at my best. When I’d come off the pitch he’d say, “You could have done that better, you could have done this better.” So now I always overthink things – I always want to do better.
Amsterdam was my first filming, for RPM 78. Kylie Gates saw us rehearsing and afterwards she gave me some feedback that was a huge turning point for me: “You know, you do everything right but if you carry on the way you are, when it gets to filming day you’re gonna walk off that stage and regret how you taught. You’re letting yourself down because you’re not letting your personality out. You need to believe in yourself and enjoy it, because you’re great at what you do.” It was like a coaching session in one minute. So I relaxed and had fun with it, and then I got invited to New Zealand to film RPM 81.
I went to Auckland with more confidence and self-belief, but then I got two tracks – five and six – to present that I found really challenging. They are both very music-driven and you have to coach them in a certain way to allow the emotion and the feeling of the music to come through. I needed to be silent for quite a while in track six to allow the music to be heard, and that was really hard. So I went back to that place of doubting myself and not feeling good about how I was teaching.
So Glen sat down with me and gave me some tips about how to express the music. For me he used football terminology – he talked about how the best football players always seem like they’ve got the most time on their hands, while the rubbish ones don’t have time and they don’t pass the ball and they get tackled… even though the game is obviously being played at the same speed. He said that’s how I need to deliver my coaching – like I’m a top football player and have a lot of time, so I’m relaxed and in the flow.
We talked about strengths, which is something I’ve been working on recently. I know my strengths are in Connection and Motivation. I’m not the best Educator and I probably need to give more Layer 2 cues, but I know that I need to sit in my strengths and not stress too much about the things I’m not so great at. So I did, and I hope when Instructors watch RPM 81 they see my enjoyment in teaching, and that it gives them the confidence to try something new in their teaching too.
Being an Instructor has brought so many wonderful things into my life. It’s how I met my amazing wife and four fantastic step-children. It’s also the reason I now have self-confidence. I’ve accepted the past and I always take the opportunities I’m offered, even when I don’t feel ready for them. Sometimes you’ve just got to try things out, even though it might feel uncomfortable at the time. And you never know where those opportunities may lead.
Lee Smith has been teaching for 15 years. He is a Trainer and Presenter for RPM, LES MILLS SPRINT™, BODYCOMBAT, THE TRIP™ and LES MILLS GRIT™. He also teaches CXWORX™, BODYBALANCE™/BODYFLOW™ and BODYPUMP. He is based in Scotland.