A highlight of my fitness career

So I’m fresh from filming BODYATTACK 119, which was a huge event held at the Excel Centre in London.  It included 31 presenters for this class (250 all together for the 2 day event) plus thousands of fitness enthusiasts attending the event live.

This release will be available next March for instructors plus on Les Mills on Demand across the world.  It’s huge!!  So I thought I would give an insight into what it is like to be part of such a filming.  From the preparation, the staging, the emotions, the challenges and the whole experience.

For those of you not familiar with Les Mills, they offer a huge variety of pre choreographed classes all of which have 4 new releases each year.  Most of the time they are filmed in New Zealand where they originate from,  but sometimes they will make it part of a massive event open to the public like this one – Les Mills Live London.

It is also an experience many instructors and presenters aspire to do in their career as it highlights you are an expert in this field.  So it was a massive honor to be selected to represent the Middle East, especially my chosen home of Bahrain.

Would I be fit enough for the filming?

About 8 months prior to the event I was asked and agreed to go and present – one of 9 from Les Mills Middle East.  At this point I didn’t know which program I would be presenting out of the 3 I train, present and assess in – BODYPUMP, BODYATTACK and BODYSTEP.

Now at the start of the year I had a massive injury to my hamstring insertion and also a knee misalignment.  This meant that I had to listen and trust the advice of a great physio and I did do I was told for once!  We had a timeline and a plan of action but it did mean pulling right back to build back up again.  I had to stop jumping and impact work plus no weights and not full range in lower body work plus lots of physio treatment and daily exercises to help strengthen what I needed to.  So this was my number one priority – getting injury free and then building my fitness back up and training relevant to the program I would be presenting.

The training was steady (and humbling) and with about 4 months to go we were notified of our programs we would be teaching.  This meant I could now tailor my training for BODYATTACK to get my cardio fitness back up and to improve my explosive power.

It was at this time that my path crossed with a specialist rehab trainer – Nick from Poseidon Performance.  Everyone comes into your life for a reason and I started to train with him.  I clearly remember my first leg session after 2/3 months of not training them.  The muscle soreness lasted for 3 days at least!!!  Struggling to get on and off the toilet! But at least the pain was in the correct muscles and had not aggravated my injuries.  Tweaking some exercises and changing things up was exactly what I needed and managed to build my athleticism, lose some kg and reduce body fat to be my fittest self for the filming.

Mastering the coaching and energy - but don't use a lyric!

With about 8 weeks to go we received the first draft of the BODYATTACK release to learn, plus videos on the highlights of each track and finales.  The music and choreography would be tweaked 3 times before filming.  Now I’m good at learning choreography, but knowing I had to be spot on with 14 others on stage added a pressure!

We then got allocated our track – 3 presenters per track and where possible keeping the teams together.  So basically about 1 minute 20 seconds of teaching on the mic! Team Middle East were teaching the core track – myself, Fernando and Caroline.

There is  a LOT of preparation to get us ready before we fly out.  We had to learn, script and film our parts to send for feedback from Lisa Osbourne the Program Director.  We had one big zoom call with all the presenters then two times the Les Mills Middle East team met her for our feedback.  She put in so much time to make sure we were all ready for that day.

My coaching developed a lot, and rightly so as everything we are coaching is being written in the notes for instructors as a learning tool.  From making sure all the set up cues are given early to including more intrinsic cues about feeling the power to explain the focus and difference in a new move we had.  What was also hard is that we could not use the lyrics as part of our coaching – and our track was all about “fire” – how great would this be to coach fire up the core?!  This is because due to music rights some music is changed in certain platforms so if a presenter is singing or referring to lyrics, it will look very odd if it’s different music!

Aside from coaching, the other aspect I learnt was to increase my energy and connection even in a core track.  It’s easy to bring the vocals up and the energy up in a peak or big track, but when lying down on your back…..not so much.  So finding the right amount of BODYATTACK energy for a core track that’s not boring or over doing it was an interesting challenge.

An inspiring welcome, a gift and a billion steps

Finally we get to London and we have 2 days to prepare as a team. We kick off day one at 7.30am with a full team meeting of all the presenters and Program Directors.  Jackie Mills as always is inspiring and we receive our pounamu – a hand crafted pendant from New Zealand and given to every person who presents on a release.  All of our necklaces were carved from the same piece of stone highlighting unity.

It is then full days with the BODYATTACK team to run through the release (a few times!) to check coaching, stage placements and learning the options and about a billions of steps each day on my tracker.  In BODYATTACK everyone is teaching a track, just one person has the mic.  This means we all deliver the options at the same time and move together as one.  


Sweat and wear again!

The second day of practice is the dress rehearsal.  There is a theme through the releases – black and white all from our new clothing partner, Adidas.  We check sizes, see if you’re happy with your look or if you want to change your top style etc.  Then onto the stage to run through the main tracks for stage placements and lighting.  In BODYATTACK we had 3 tracks that were split room or taught down on the floor with the participants.  Setting this up with space and safety was going to be key.  It also meant we changed the order of the class for filming and it will be split back to regular order when released.  So we finished with tracks 6,7 and 4 in filming.  Now we sweat in this class, the unglamorous side to filming is then you take these clothes off – leave them in wardrobe and put them back on the next day as is!!!!  Hoping your sweat has dried out and they don’t smell too bad!

One shot, no stopping

Finally filming day is here!  We meet up and have a run through of everything, change then get the mic on.  We had to wear blue shoe covers when not on stage so as not to take bits on with us, there were also sticky pads under the shoes (one of mine came off half way through the class).  The mic is stuffed in the bra but it was the most stable I think a mic has ever been and actually did not get in the way when I was lying on my back.

When we film it’s one take non stop.  The only time it is stopped is if there is an electrical or sound error and it’s stopped by the director or the program director on stage if they notice something.  So if you mess up or forget a cue, tough!  You will be edited out!  

Now with all the mics to get organized amongst 31 presenters it’s a big job.  The first time you speak it may not be audible to the crowd there live but it is being recorded.  We were taught to carry on and do not raise your voice thinking people cannot hear you – trust the process.  Because sometimes you cannot hear the music or the coach well on stage or on the floor – the sound was geared for recording the releases not necessarily for the live event.


Show time! Then it's over so fast

Just before we go on – goosebumps!  You are waiting behind stage, the sound, music and lights creating an amazing atmosphere and energy and excitement with the crowd hyped up and so close to the stage we have no idea how they will move!  Then we run on and it is magic.  We all brought flags to represent our countries (not sure Lisa got permission for that we just did it!).  It was great to see familiar faces – even those I haven’t seen for years!

My first 2 tracks were shadowing which gave me a chance to get used to being up there – I did forget to show an option! But by the time it was our track the prep and autopilot kicked in.  The script all came out, I didn’t mess up the legs, I think I had enough energy in my voice – well lets see when the masterclass is released!

It was over so fast.  Then it was back to the dressing room to put Reebok gear back on and down to meet and greet – and finally eat!

It makes you appreciate the huge amount of work, people and prep that is involved.  Not just from the presenting side but there was a massive sound and lighting crew involved.  To give you some idea of how big a production it was, the cameras and cameraman / van behind the scenes was worth about 25 million pounds and was last used for Queens funeral in the UK.  There was also a large amount of work for LMUK who did a great job in managing the people and the event.  Plus it was not just the masterclasses and filming going on, all the Program Directors did a meet and greet in the Athlete Village a place to store bags, kick back and relax and watch what was happening in the main hall on TV screens.  There were also vendors such as the mini massage gun place which I think sold all the minis to the Middle East team!

Keep your goals in site

I’m super proud and honored to have been a part of this – a real highlight of my fitness career.  It also makes you appreciate the amount of work and time involved for all of this.

Keep your goal in site, keep focusing on what you can do to keep heading towards it and do the work on yourself for yourself.  I for one work so hard behind the scenes on everything I do.  Whatever it is you want from life, hustle and go grab it with both hands because the end feeling is amazing.

Check out BODYATTACK 119 in March 2023!

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