Path to BODYATTACK instructor certification

2019/02/09

Two days that I keep strong in my memory are the day we recorded the video that earned me the Les Mills BODYATTACK instructor certification, and the day I received the assessment results.

While I had been attending BODYATTACK classes for several years before pursuing the instructor path, I also started the process with a lot of doubts. How does one go about memorising the choreography for 11 tracks that run for a total of 55 minutes? Before learning a full choreography, you must also learn proper technique, which must be executed properly for your class to see and mimic. The execution must also stay strong for the whole duration of the class. You are a role model now.

Once you know what movement to do and how to do it, you soon realise that you are only halfway there. It's time to talk: you have to coach the class. Coaching the class requires that you anticipate every single move. Before the next move starts, you have to cue it: either call out the name of the move, preview the movement, or both. If you do the move just in time, your members will get lost. They want to see what's coming so that they can plan ahead and not lose a single beat. They want to be as precise as you are. Coaching becomes like signing and dancing, since you have to land words and moves in sync with the music. If English is not your first language, you are signing up for an extra layer of difficulty. And remember there are mandatory safety cues too, which should ideally be dropped in the first block of every track. Otherwise, you put your members at risk of injury.

All of the above -- technique, choreography, and coaching -- must be done instinctively. This is so that you can focus on the moment, on the class, to challenge and motivate people and lead them throughout the release. If you need to stop and think about technique, choreography, or coaching, you compromise your instruction.

Once you have mastered the art of anticipating every move and coaching the class out loud, you have to put all of the above together. You have to anticipate, move and talk, all at once. Soon, you realise that your oxygen intake must be distributed to your thoughts, muscles, and speech mechanisms simultaneously. You hadn't thought about that one, perhaps. You used to go to class as a regular gym member and go 120% on intensity, but now you have to do two additional things alongside moving, and they also require non-trivial amounts of energy. This leads you to the realisation that as an instructor, you can no longer go 120% on intensity, not even 100%, at least not all the time. Perhaps 70-80% on average, with the rest reserved for coaching, and with peaks of intensity in the key moments -- tracks 3, 4, 5, 8, 9. Your members want to be challenged, so you got to show them how it's done in those key moments. They want to see the next level, and you are that next level.

Finally, if you are of the introverted type, the thought of performing in front of a crowd will appear daunting. And not just performing, but telling the crowd what to do. The bare thought triggers anxiety.

After many hours of work, you can prove to yourself that it is all possible after all. You learn 11 tracks one track at a time, one block at a time, one move at a time. You learn the technique by watching the master class, attending the BODYATTACK classes in your area, and by asking for feedback from your instructors. When you know the choreography like it's second nature, you are able to easily anticipate every single move. At some point, the anticipation also becomes second nature, and then the coaching. Performing in front of a crowd is hard, but it's just another skill you can learn. The hardest part for me was controlling my breathing to balance intensity and coaching. That is something I got a grasp on only after teaching many classes.

Another thing to think about was how to record my certification video. Some people record themselves teaching a real class, usually subbing for another instructor, but that seemed to challenging. The other option is to record a private class, but that can also be challenging if you have a relatively small network of friends in the physical world. Fortunately, it turned out that other BODYATTACK instructors and also regular gym members are eager to attend a class any day of the week. So just before the day of my recording, I exchanged a messages with a handful of them and arranged the 5+ party required to record the video. One of the instructors in particular also helped set up the logistics, so that was another thing I didn't have to worry about. I am thankful to all of them.

Together, all the people involved in my BODYATTACK journey, from members to instructors, have contributed to the crafting of a new instructor. I hope that I, too, can lead others through this journey and get them to experience BODYATTACK with the same energy and enthusiasm.