When you show up to take a group fitness class, there is a strong chance that the instructor has put in at least a couple of hours to prepare for what you will do that day.
As a Les Mills group fitness instructor, preparation is 100 percent part of the job.
Whereas freestyle group fitness classes are designed by the individual instructor, Les Mills group fitness programs are pre-choreographed to set music that is chosen by the Les Mills International company ahead of time.
That means the moves are consistent, the music is globally licensed and the quality is verified by teams of professionals, so 100,000 instructors across the globe in 15,000 clubs have the tools they need to deliver a world-class work-out, every single time.
Les Mills releases
The tools provided by Les Mills come in the form of Les Mills program releases, which are distributed to instructors every three months. A release kit includes:
- DVD/video of the full class with education
- CD/music for the class
- Choreography notes
Over the past year, the Les Mills company has started to transition to distributing digital releases in order to be green, which means instructors now receive digital video, music and PDF notes each quarter rather than a hard-copy kit. I’ve been receiving digital downloads for almost a year and it is pretty seamless (although it sure does take up a lot of space on your computer, and I’ve had to transfer the videos to an external hard-drive, which is not super convenient.)
Now that digital is in the picture, I’ve stopped adding to my “Les Mills” drawer. But yes, I do have one.
Now let’s get on to the main point of this post.
How do you learn Les Mills choreography?
Through a combination of reviewing the notes, writing a script, watching the class video and listening to the music.
When I first get a release, I watch the full video and do some of the moves just to get the gist of what to expect. From there, I watch the education sections to make sure I know the latest in the fitness industry, which Les Mills includes to keep instructors up-to-date with the company’s research and studies.
A couple of weeks before the official launch of the new program (which usually happens at a quarterly special event at the gyms I teach), I begin to learn the moves. The time before launch can be very stressful, so it’s best to start early.
Exactly how I do it is different for each program:
- For BODYPUMP, I learn the moves mostly by reviewing the choreography notes and listening to the music. (These are mostly stationary resistance moves, which will be performed with weights, but initially I practice with no weights.)
- For CXWORX, I learn the moves mostly by doing them with the video, then follow up with studying the notes to music. (These are mostly stationary standing and laying down core moves, sometimes incorporating a resistance tube or weight plate. I practice using a resistance tube, but no weight.)
- For BODYATTACK, I learn the moves by doing them full out with the video several times, before doing the moves full out to the video with the presenter voices turned off. This is the hardest program for me to learn and memorize, not only because I’ve only been teaching it for a few months, but also because it has the most intricate choreography and the most songs per class. (These are cardio, sports and strength moves with no equipment required.)
Here’s my messy, but effective means of scripting …
Which can also be done on the same page of the printed out choreography notes …
My advice to new Les Mills instructors is to over-prepare. If you are completely confident with the choreography and how it fits with the music, you will absolutely teach a better class, which you can tailor to your personality in your coaching style.
A beginner’s road-map to learning a release
- Watch the video while sitting on your couch and truly study how the presenters move
- Watch the video, while walking through the moves, getting a feel for the beats
- Watch the video and fully participate, going full-out
- Watch the video while sitting and write down the coaching cues you want to emulate
- Listen to the music without the video and begin to say the moves out loud
- Sit down with the choreography notes and write down your own scripting and coaching cues, exactly as you plan to say them in class
- Practice the moves, coaching and cues in an empty group fitness room in front of a mirror
With that process, you’ve incorporated visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning styles, so all your bases should be covered.
No matter what, you’ll always have to go back to this when refreshing …
How long does it take?
After a few years of instructing, I can usually learn a new BODYPUMP or CXWORX release in just a few hours, while it takes me a few days to learn a BODYATTACK release.
It’s a process I continue to perfect as I move along my fitness journey.
For Les Mills instructors, you can learn other tips and ways to improve your teaching by attending events. If you want to know more about Les Mills events or read class reviews, head on over to my Fitness page to see my recaps and reviews of those I’ve attended.
Question of the day
For all you Les Mills instructors out there, what are some of your tips and tricks for learning choreography?