LES MILLS; THE AIR GUITAR OF EXERCISE
This has been a long time coming.
As someone who's been in the industry long enough to know a thing or two about fitness, fads, and falsehoods, it's about time we had a talk about our friend Les.
Not Les himself. He's a rich bastard (and ex-olympian) sunning it up and sipping cocktails funded by people's sweat and athletic ignorance. I'm talking about the brand.
Les Mills did to exercise what McDonalds did to Hamburgers
Les Mills is an exercise class format that profits primarily from the lack of creativity and cult like loyalty in their instructors.
Each year they trot out four (yes four) new choreographed routines for the masses to follow, under the banner of Body Pump, Body Attack (quite literally), or Body whatever the next thing they can legally bandwagon. We're awaiting the launch of 'BodySit', whereby Les Mills successfully copyrights sitting down in order to squeeze a few more pennies from the loyal idiots who pay them every 3 months.
Is Les Mills a Cu*t?
Les Mills has often been likened to a cult (what did you think I meant?).
It's a bit like a North Korean exercise regime for it's lobotomised citizens. Participants don't think, nor learn, they just follow the man at the front and believe fitness and good health will be bestowed upon them from their great leader. And the man/woman/moron at the front actually pays Les Mills for this choreographed catastrophe, thus stifling all creative development and ensuring that instructors remain poor, and Les Mills gets another cocktail. Sounds like a cu*t to me...
Les Mills took exercises usually reserved for athletes and coached by actual coaches, and then allowed less than average instructors butcher the exercises and shit them out onto the public like a gigantic muck-spreading exercise machine.
Les Mills is set to profit BIG off the back of the Coronavirus, as people everywhere turn to home exercise, and poorly managed leisure facilities are poised to fire their hard working instructors and provide a half-arsed digital solution to our socially distant problems.
That's a sad truth we must confront if we wish to maintain any semblance of grass roots exercise, and reward hard working instructors instead of greedy exercise copyright artists (I include Zumba and other homogenous choreographed exercise providers in this too).
As virus life takes hold and our dystopic nightmares slowly become reality, you can expect to say bye bye to your friendly familiar instructor from the gym and hello to Chad from California (Chad is an imaginary creation of mine representing the new breed of online instructor who is set to replace that real person you used to talk to. Chad also has great abs, branded neon clothing, and a really cheesy demeanour that could make Ant & Dec vomit with jealousy).
'Chad' already exists. He's been trialled by several companies as a way of reducing instructor costs, increasing revenue, and lowering the bar in terms of personalised coaching and instructor:client rapport.
Chad also has a tiny penis and no character whatsoever. He wouldn't even look out of place on Holby City the smarmy tosspot.
Chad ONLY ever wears branded clothing (always available to purchase for that special kind of sucker), is apparently immune to ageing, and is FULL of generic motivational quotes. "You can do it", "Feel the Burn", and other useless quips.
THE EXERCISE EQUIVALENT OF AIR GUITAR
I guess I just don't get it when it comes to Les Mills unique style of exercise. All that hoo-ha & woop woop. It's all wretch and no vomit. All fart and no poo.
It lacks any specific training purpose or methodology other than providing the 'feeling' of a productive workout. It's a workout alright, i'm not denying that. But so is running up the stairs when you're late for work.
Getting a workout isn't hard. Getting a productive one is.
For what Les Mills lacks in athletic productivity it makes up for in atmosphere and ra-ra motivation. It's a bit like dressing up and lighting candles to have a wank, you might feel better afterwards but all that atmospheric grunting is frankly unnecessary.
A typical 'class' incorporates epilepsy inducing lighting effects and sped up trance music that would send the most hardcore of ravers recoiling into their armchairs to listen to some Bob Dylan.
This anxiety inducing atmosphere is clearly designed to distract you away from the troubling fact that the instructor is nothing more than a trumped up Level 2 Gym Instructor in branded leggings.
Yes, they may be gurning like an ecstasy freak sucking on a sherbert lemon, but it's what they're NOT doing that matters. They're not coaching, they're not paying attention to your biomechanics, hell they're not even fucking listening?!
Now unlike Chad (the prick), Susan is real. Iv'e disguised her name incase she ever gets round to reading my tripe, but be very aware, Susan is a real person.
I first met Susan several years back while PT'ing out of a private studio. A client brought her along and warned me she was 'very fit indeed'. Susan was a diehard Les Mills convert. She attended several classes a week, and had done for the last three years. She knew all the routines (it's not hard), she'd heard all the songs (poor bitch), and knew exactly when to 'hoo' and when to 'ha'.
Little shitty branded sweatbands, check.
Chronic knee injury, check.
Wait hold on...
Susan rocked up to my Squat workshop with two knee braces and an arse as flat as a pancake. She said she already knew how to squat, a skill honed through years of enduring techno-bollocks Les Mills classes, and she was just here for the ride.
Could she squat? Could she fuck...
Her squat pattern resembled that of your nan trying to shit in the woods...
Now Susan is a lovely lady who quickly realised she'd been squatting wrong all those years, and listened intently to correct the mistakes she'd been making.
She also quickly realised that all that poor form inevitably led to the chronic knee pain she'd been experiencing, and subsequent physiotherapy bills that ensued.
Susan was not happy. She cancelled her membership at the local Les Mills providing leisure centre and signed up with us at the private studio. And guess what, she managed to improve her squat, reduce her knee pain, and reduce her overall financial outgoings from endless trips to the physiotherapist.
Then Susan did something amazing.
Susan became an instructor. Not a Les Mills instructor, but a fully qualified Level 3 Personal Trainer who understands biomechanics and good form.
Susan is one of the most inspirational characters iv'e ever worked with. She wasn't afraid to confront the uncomfortable, and cease and desist the thing she thought she loved in favour of a less enjoyable but more productive workout style. She chose results over atmosphere.
SUSAN VS CHAD
Unfortunately Susan and Chad can't do mortal battle as we'd all like to see. Partly because Chad is made up, and Susan could well be dead by now for all I know (she's not).
But let us take a voyage of the imagination to decide who we'd rather be, and who's exercise mindset is better for the publics overall health.
In this imaginary battle, Susan is armed with rational thought, a mind that is willing to learn, and slightly painful knees. Chad enters the arena with his tiny penis and retina burning neon clothing, to the inaudible tune of regurgitated dance music.
Each contender mounts their metaphorical stage, set to coach several clients in the complex biomechanics of athletic movement. They coach Squats, Lunges, Rows, and all the usual requirements of an exercise class.
Chad begins by pumping the music up to 11, snorting a line of cocaine, and helicoptering his tiny penis round and round to whip up a frenzy of excitement in his menopausal followers.
Susan on the other hand takes the slow approach. She keeps the music low, her attentiveness high, and insists on not actually doing the exercise, but watching and adjusting her clients as they do theirs.
It's a novel approach we in the industry call 'coaching'.
After one hour the apparent winner is obvious. Chad leaves the arena feeling victorious, leaving his clients in a pool of sweat & unable to walk as he power lunges off into the distance after another line of cocaine.
Susan and her clients look happy, content, but their overall calorie output was lower, theres not much sweat, and they didn't even get a glimpse of penis.
But fast forward one month and you start to see the real winner. After a month, Chad's clients are starting to complain about knee pain (one or two are also experiencing Tinnitus). Luckily Chad is on hand to sell them Les Mills branded knee supports...
Susan's clients have now mastered the squat. The Glutes are now driving the move, and they're starting to increase the intensity and develop an arse of enviable beauty.
I'll let you decide the winner here.
THEY'RE JUST CAPITALISTS IN LEGGINGS
Les Mills have essentially stolen every exercise concept under the sun, and then repackaged it as their own. They do Les Mills Barre, Les Mills Boxing, Les Mills Step, you name it, they've nicked it. I'm beginning to think Les Mills is actually a Scouser...
They took exercises previously coached by your friendly local instructor, and copyrighted the fuck out of them until the world was convinced that they owned them all along.
The difference between mega-corporations like Les Mills and your local friendly instructor is simple.
Les Mills & Zumba prioritise their wealth before your health
Not. Fucking. Cool.
I'm not here to attack Les Mills contribution to global health. They've allowed thousands of people to exercise and have fun, albeit while potentially developing a few injuries along the way. And as I always say,
Any exercise is better than no exercise.
However I do wish to make people think and understand the consequences of opting for the glitzy, high-octane approach to exercise, and to become aware of the physical and socio-economical impact of choosing big brands over local instructors.
For every bad rep you complete, that's another bad rep you need to correct.
For every generic online class with mass attendees you choose to sign up to, that's another local instructor you choose to put out of a job.
For every 'brand' you follow, whether its Les Mills, Zumba, or whatever the next big brand is, you're putting a nail in the coffin of grass roots personalised exercise, and advertising for the bastards at the same time.
A friend recently told me 'your money is your vote', and I like to think thats true. For every purchase you make, you're shaping the future of the world you'll leave behind.
If you pay McDonalds now your'e ensuring they will survive to feed your kids crap as they grow up.
If you pay Amazon now you're accelerating the decline of small businesses that actually pay their tax.
And if you pay Les Mills & incompetent leisure facilities like Freedom Leisure & Places for People now you're ensuring that your local instructor loses a job while endless knees get ruined, and Chad does another helicopter to celebrate.
So I implore you all to PLEASE think before you sign up for the next cheap exercise offering.
Think about your health, think about local instructors development, think about what kind of person you're actually paying your money to.
And most importantly, DON'T PAY CHAD.