Learning to make a SHIFT at Les Mills advanced training

I couldn’t write about the experience of attending a Les Mills Advanced Instructor Module 2 immediately.  I needed it to sink in.

Two days later, I’ve absorbed what I learned and am starting to incorporate it into the classes I teach.

Let me back up and explain.  I’m about four years into teaching Les Mills group fitness programs.  Since I moved to San Francisco more than a year ago, I’ve added two programs to my repertoire of three and started attending more trainings to get better.  In February, I attended Les Mills Advanced Instructor Module 1, which was strictly for BODYPUMP instructors.  This weekend, I attended the second portion of advanced training at Bladium Sports & Fitness Club about 25 minutes outside the City in Alameda, California, which was open to instructors from several Les Mills programs.



Advanced Instructor Module 2 or “AIM 2” is a two-day training for instructors who have completed AIM 1 at least three months prior.

The weekend is all about immersing yourself in Les Mills and learning the little things that can pack a room and help you grow your classes.  It’s expected that your technique is nearly perfect, you know your choreography 100% and you are a confident instructor before you show up.  You learn advanced methods to coach a room of participants toward better outcomes.  It’s less about following a list of scripted cues and more about coaching each class as the participants need it that day.

California trainers

My AIM 2 was led by California-based Josef Matthews and Amanda Scales (shown below).  I’ve attended Les Mills Groundworks (informal workshop) event with Josef, as well as met him in person in the Les Mills West Coast office, and he is a stand-up guy.  Not only is he talented, powerful and knowledgeable, he is approachable and explains and instructs well.  Amanda Scales is a spunky and high-energy trainer, presenter and coach, who I had not spent much time with before (outside of one short introduction also at the Les Mills West Coast office).   Josef and Amanda were complete professionals.  They led us through the weekend, got into true Les Mills character during a few tribal activities, taught us new ways to think about coaching and teaching, watched us closely as we taught to the room and provided us specific feedback so that we can continue to grow.


Presentations galore

While I won’t bore you with the full schedule of an AIM 2 weekend, I will say that it was heavy on presentations.  Each instructor had to present two tracks, two times.  That’s four tracks per person.  We had 22 people.  That’s 44 presentations on day one and 44 presentations on day two.  Every time someone presented, we would all participate as the members in the room.  Most of the time we only did about two or three minutes or so of the track before Josef and Amanda stopped the music, but it was still a lot of participating.  This weekend included several BODYPUMP, BODYCOMBAT, CXWORX instructors, as well as one BODYSTEP and one BODYFLOW instructor.  We all wished there had been more instructors who taught BODYFLOW, because it was an incredible physical treat to stretch, relax and breathe in between hard-core PUMP, COMBAT and CXWORX sessions.  (Note to all instructors out there, you really need to look at the line-up of programs allowed at your AIM 2, because you spend a lot of time doing them, which is something I had not even considered.)

Here’s what it looks like when you come inside the room for nearly any Les Mills training to find out your track allocation for presentations.



I presented the shoulder track the first day and the squat track the second day off of BODYPUMP release 87. 

It’s scary to teach to a full room of very skilled instructors and two international coaches and presenters, but once you do, you’re glad you did.  The first presentation was a gauge of where we were, then we were given things to work on and improve for our second, third and fourth presentations.

Life lessons

AIM 2 is about group fitness.  But it’s also about life.

Some of the things we learned were so totally applicable to what you do everyday outside of the gym when relating to other people in your life, be it family, friends or coworkers.  We talked about personality profiles and personas.  Everyone has a different way of learning, and as a group fitness instructor you have to make sure you connect with those who like to be taught in a different way than you and not always rely on your favored style.  Also, you have to tap into some of your weaker sides, and use those as a contrast to your dominant sides to show a complete persona when you teach.  Very interesting, indeed.

Big takeaways for instructors:

  • Say less.  Be relevant and make it meaningful.
  • Coach to the outcome.  Don’t just cue to cue, but organize your thoughts and coach your participants with an end-goal for everything you say.  This is major breakthrough/shift in thinking for those of us who have always tried to hit required “compulsory” cues while teaching Les Mills programs.
  • Keep it fresh.  Create a new “class objective” for every class you teach to make every day different.

One of the most memorable exercises to me was so simple.  We were asked to discuss something with our neighbor while sitting on the floor.  Then, we were asked to discuss the same thing again with our neighbor, while incorporating some new body language and being a better listener.  We had to turn and face the person, look them in the eye, open our arms and truly listen to what they were saying before responding.  It seems so normal, but how often to you “actively listen” to someone while doing absolutely nothing else?  Give it a try.

On Monday night, after some of the weekend had sunk in, I shared with Dave this lesson.  Lo and behold he was playing on his iPhone as I started the story and by the end he had turned his body around and was looking at me as I spoke.  Yup … he hadn’t been actively listening.  (That’s okay, he’s just so cute.)


For those who are interested in attending AIM 2, I won’t share too much.  Don’t be scared.  Don’t worry about being something you aren’t. The best thing you can do is show up prepared to teach any of the tracks on the current release for your program and do it how you normally would in your class.  You will learn new ways to prepare and think about teaching, and you will be assessed on whatever it is that you normally do — that’s where the SHIFT comes into play.  It takes a lot of effort to change your ways.  And every instructor who attends AIM 2 is going to have to step up to the plate to try to make the shift.

Getting people moving

The beautiful thing about being a Les Mills group fitness instructor is that you are part of something bigger than you.  It’s One Tribe.  There were people there who were on their third or fourth AIM 2, trying to become the best they can possibly be, some of them said they learn something entirely new every time they attend AIM 2.  They are continuing to improve themselves to become rock-star instructors, who fill up the group fitness room and get more people moving in their clubs.  More people moving in group fitness means a healthier globe, which is exactly what Les Mills is after.

It’s not easy to spend an entire weekend immersed in all things physically and mentally challenging.  I walked out of the weekend pretty drained.  I could have been gallivanting around wine country, or Christmas shopping or doing so many other things.  But I didn’t.  I chose to work, and I’m better for it.

It’s going to take a lot of effort to SHIFT into the advanced instructor I hope to become.  Preparation, practice and making sure I am accommodating to all types of people by continually stepping out of my own comfort zone.


Unlike a Les Mills certification training, you don’t walk out of the door with an outcome.  But you do receive one.  In about a week, I will receive my official outcome from my four presentations this weekend, at which point I can become an Instructor with a Plan (more work to do to become advanced), an Advanced Instructor (advanced in most criteria), or, which is pretty hard to come by, an Elite Instructor (who completely excels at everything).

My final thoughts?   Do it.  Challenge yourself.  If you want to be better, you have to put yourself out there and put in the work.

If you don’t take my word for it, just check out the folks below, who clearly mean business.


I’m winding down my last week in San Francisco before I head to Florida for my birthday and the holidays.  That means I only have a few more days of work and a few more classes to teach before I take a big mental and physical break.   Even when I’m away, I’m going to be thinking about what I learned at AIM 2 and hopefully actively listening to all the friends and family that I get to see.

2014 is right around the corner, and it’s the perfect time to for change.  I’m ready to make a SHIFT!

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  1. I loved your post! I am from Mammoth Lakes, CA but am getting in shape and “training” away from home. I stumbled on your blog because I did a search for Tahoe and Les Mills. I will be going to my very first initial training for Pump this spring with hopefully Step and CX to follow. You had some good pointers and advice and helped me on what I should expect! I’m working with the director at my gym on correct form and she is going to help me get ready for training. I have completely transformed my body through Les Mills classes and can’t wait to inspire others. Thanks for the good read. 🙂

  2. Hi Annaka,

    So great to hear from you. Thank you for reading and stopping by. Sounds like you are on your way to becoming a devoted Les Mills tribe member. You’ll never regret taking the chance to get in front of the class as an instructor instead of a member. Best of luck at your trainings! Don’t forget to bring some warm clothes to put on during the sections of training when you do book work.


  3. Wow!! That is a great summary of our weekend! Can I also say that when you went up to present, you blew me away. I did not expect such a big, powerful voice to come from such a small (framed) person!!!! You immediately grabbed my attention and I knew you meant business :).

    This was my second time around doing AIM2 (previously did it for BODYATTACK) and it is my favorite training because, as you mentioned, everyone who attends is serious about improving themselves and being the best instructor they can be. I, too, was completely drained by then end. Today will be my first day post-AIM teaching BODYCOMBAT so I’m pretty excited to start the shifting process 🙂

    Excellent post, thanks for sharing!!! -hx

  4. Great write-up Ashley. You nailed it, both in detail and more importantly, in spirit! You will make the shift. We already started witnessing it over the weekend. Keep up the fight my strong warrior woman, keep up the fight.


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