“I didn’t go up there to die. I went up there to live.” – Reinhold Messner
Before I went to New Zealand, as the winner of Les Mills’ inaugural ‘The One‘ contest, I felt like I was on cloud nine! A week after I got home I’d passed selection to join the Les Mills UK Team as a Rookie Presenter. Far from feeling like I was at the top of the mountain I realised that really I’d only made it to base camp. The views are exceptional, but there’s a totally new, challenging and inspiring adventure ahead, with the pressure and intensity, once you reach this altitude, at a whole new level.
This post gives you a taster of my experiences in New Zealand filming Body Attack 93 and some insight into how I’m feeling as I embark on my first few months as a Rookie Presenter.
Spoiler alert: There are no spoilers for BA93 – apart from the kit in the photos – you’ll just have to wait for the DVD – if you are not an instructor, I believe this release will be on demand before too long!
Filming week was INTENSE – and in a way that I wasn’t expecting. Writing it now it seems naïve that I thought it wasn’t going to be as intense as it was, but let me explain.
Before I got there I thought that the main challenge for me would be looking like I belonged up on stage next to a group of “super-people”. I was really anxious that throughout the week, and subsequently when people watch the DVD, everyone would be nit-picking my technique and judging whether or not they thought I deserved to have won this competition.
When I got there I realised two things: I was on filming week with arguably the fittest and strongest team ever on a DVD and, whilst I might know how to teach a class, I had no idea how physically and mentally demanding it would be to get DVD ready in under a week, learning stage positions, exactly when to show options, performance moments, and any number of other things I hadn’t even thought about!
The team really were amazing. Ben Main is a beast – the guy’s full time job is to train, be athletic and live the brand. Basically the same standard as a sponsored athlete. Bevan is a highly successful endurance triathlete, whose tri times are insane and was in the middle of training for a marathon. Nate is the most intense, passionate guy I have ever met, and has the fitness to back it up. Then there was Lisa, who is an ex aerobics world champion (if you read that bit and turn your nose up thinking its just people dancing around, think again, its basically rhythmic gymnastics with some elements of breakdancing in it, check it out on YouTube – its hard!), and was training for the CrossFit open with a view to being in the Top 10 in her category (plus she’s the Programme Director for BodyAttack!). Everyone had been on multiple DVDs and survived multiple filming weeks. Ben was filming for three programmes this week, and took it all in his stride. And then there was me. With jet lag!
The whole team were extremely welcoming, encouraging and had high expectations (which I appreciated – they didn’t seem to expect any less of me even though I was only an instructor and not a presenter (although I wasn’t ‘allowed’ to speak!)). A typical day involved teaching a one hour class, watching it back with video feedback (THE most detailed and helpful technical feedback I could have imagined), working on specific parts of the release for up to 90 mins as a team, and then more video work as ‘homework’. I also have to give a massive shout out of thanks to Nate Jones for his help during the week. He took it upon himself to mentor me throughout the week and spent loads of his free time going over things with me and gave me a lot of support, thanks bro!
I’m not sure I have ever smiled as much as I did the first time I took to the stage in Studio 1 (and indeed how much I should or shouldn’t smile was a running theme in my coaching feedback all week), but looking back to the video of that first session it was brilliant to see how far we had all come in a week. Everything came together for the filming. And as to whether I looked out of place and held my own – you’re going to have to wait to until the DVD comes out!
So, the week after I got back to the UK post-filming (with yet more jet lag) I attended a selection weekend to become a presenter for Les Mills UK. Talk about the best way to avoid any kind of post-New Zealand blues! Total immersion with an exceptional group of Les Mills talent, all wanting to be the very best version of themselves. It’s an honour to have been selected as a Rookie Presenter, and also hugely satisfying as, throughout the whole DVD process I regularly reminded myself that I only ever entered The One in order to give myself a chance of being noticed by the UK team.
A lot of people have asked me if I felt a lot of pressure while I was out in NZ. The answer is yes and no. Although it was intense (so, yes), fundamentally, no!
Most people who make it on to a DVD are well into their Presenter journey and have been selected after the team in New Zealand have reviewed their DVDs. I’d won a competition as an instructor. This was the chance of a lifetime and I had absolutely nothing to lose. Everything about the experience was exciting and there were only upsides to the opportunity.
Now I’m a Rookie Presenter, and on Saturday I am up on stage in Excel along with the legends of the UK Body Attack Team (and Bevan again!). I am feeling under a lot more pressure now then I ever did before. This is such an exciting place to be (like Everest base camp), but I need to raise my game to get me to the summit.
As far as I can tell right now, the summit isn’t about any kind of label, or status,or check in the box. It’s about earning and owning my place on the team each and every time I represent LMUK. People will be watching the new recruits, just as I did in Glasgow this time last year, and thinking ‘I reckon I can do that’.
I have so much to learn from the experienced people I’ll be sharing the stage with, and hopefully I’ll also find a way to make my own contribution to the team effort. The rules of this new game (presenting as part of a team to huge audiences of instructors) is significantly different to the thing at which I have thus far succeeded (teaching, mostly by myself, to participants).
I’m approaching it with the same enthusiasm to learn as I did in New Zealand, and I’ve been filming my classes again to get feedback from the trainer team, but I’ll be honest… hundreds of people in Excel in my own country are significantly more daunting that the 100 people in the room on filming day!
Something to ponder
I’ve been thinking about how relevant any of this is for other people, and I hope it is. We all have our ambitions and goals, but what happens when we achieve them? I think it can go in three ways:
- You can be happy with your achievement and go back to have an easier life (maybe you climb your first real mountain and then just sit back and relish the photos from the comfort of your arm chair)
- You can stay where you are (keep climbing the same mountains)
- You can keep moving forwards, set yourself new goals, and see how far you can get. Lots of people have not reached the summit of Everest despite their best efforts, but they strive to see what is possible. They are still (in my opinion) some of the coolest people on the planet for giving it a go!
Being a fitness instructor is about helping people. In whatever form that may take, that may be helping people to lose weight, helping people become athletes, it may be providing emotional support for a client who really needs some self-esteem, or even providing an escape where a person just has to take orders for an hour and forget about what’s going on in their lives.
For me, being a presenter is about the same things. Sure, I absolutely love performing. Absolutely, I am excited about being on a big stage. But fundamentally I went into fitness because I wanted to make a difference to real people’s lives. I’m hoping that being a Presenter and one day a Trainer too will give me the opportunity to help effect those changes in an ever bigger group of people. So when I’m up there this weekend, wondering if I will do the team proud, I’m going to focus back in on what I said to myself on stage in Stockholm, ‘You do this every week’, and I’m going to remember that group fitness is about all the people in the crowd, it isn’t all about me.
And on that note… time to go teach my regular classes.
‘Reinhold Messner was the first man to climb Mt. Everest without the use of compressed oxygen. When he was interviewed by a reporter, he was asked…”Why did you go up there knowing you could have died? Why did you go up there to die?” He responded…
“I didn’t go up there to die. I went up there to live.”’