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Quick, Choose One: Les Mills or BTS! (What??)
Well, if you haven't yet heard, you most certainly will very soon. Les Mills International (developer and owner of the various "Body" programs, including BodyPump, BodyFlow, BodyStep, etc) and Body Training Systems (aka "BTS" - the distributor of those programs here in North America) have parted ways on what appears to be very unfriendly terms. Until Sunday May 1st neither the clubs nor the instructors here in North America had any idea that this was going on. But apparently the row started late last summer, and the official split became public to all of us this past Sunday. (See www.lesmillsusa.com and www.bodytrainingsystems.com for their respective versions of the story)

Those here in North America who enjoy those programs either as participants, instructors, or club owners are now presented with a choice - you may stay with Les Mills, or with BTS. Les Mills will now deliver its programming directly to North American clubs and instructors (as it does throughout the rest of the world) while BTS has developed a whole new lineup that they say is "new and improved". You cannot have both, however, and if you're an instructor you cannot teach both types of classes - even for different clubs. The choice must be made by May 31st and, if your choice is BTS, you're finished as a BodyPump, BodyFlow, BodyStep, etc. instructor/club - now it's something called GroupPower, GroupCentergy, GroupStep... you get the picture.

At first glance the choice is clear - just stay with Les Mills and go on with life. BTS, for its part, would like to make that choice a little less easy. It's our understanding that they're offering instructors and club owners incentives to go with their new programming - last we heard it was $200 worth of clothing to every instructor who signs with them. Further, the business and personal relationships that have been built up over the years between clubs, instructors, and the folks at BTS (yes if you are an instructor you already know that your trainer was a BTS person) aren't something you just walk away from. In fact, it appears that many of the people we know and care about at BTS have been working hard to put together this new programming for several months now.

And here's something else. The genesis of the original disagreement appears to stem from BTS' concern that Les Mills' programming had a "one size fits all" approach (due to worldwide distribution) that obviously cannot cater to the cultural needs and sensitivities of any one country. In the case of North American culture - which is pretty diverse, we might add - it appears that BTS felt the programming would benefit by reducing some of the speed and complexity, adding more diverse marketing images (assumption on our part: racial diversity), eliminating offensive music, and working to target deconditioned and older adult attendees.

BTS isn't entirely not wrong here - the BodyPump workout has gotten increasingly more intense over the last couple of years, which isn't a bad thing, but it can certainly be overwhelming to someone who's trying to break free of a sedentary lifestyle and get into shape. Are these not the folks we most want to reach? And if so, then maybe there should be some lower-impact programming. We also agree that the music choices can definitely be offensive - case in point "Push Up", "Save A Horse Ride A Cowboy" and "Yeah" from BodyPump 53 have some pretty crude lyrics (it should be noted that two of those come from US artists). And, thinking back over the imagery from the various programs, you really don't see much in the way of racial diversity there. These issues aren't unique to the North American market of course, but they can't be ignored either.

Apparently BTS' new offerings will address these issues, and if they do then that will certainly be helpful. The problem is that they're new - so new, in fact, that we can't yet get our hands on anything to even evaluate what it looks like. It's our understanding that we'll (soon) get quarterly music releases, plus an extra "bonus" release to get us all started. Great - you have one, maybe two, songs for each exercise to play over and over again all summer. That pales in comparison with the "software" currently available to us from Les Mills - at last count, Tami had well over 150 tracks in her arsenal, and I have nearly 100. We change our music every week and hardly ever repeat a song in three months. Nobody can just walk away from that - At 10 songs a quarter it'll take us four years (summer, 2009!) to get back to this point with the new BTS music. That's not so good.

So clubs and instructors have 31 days to sign on with one or the other. If you're an instructor that lives in a small town (as we do) then you probably don't have much of a choice - whatever your club does, so too will you. If they sign on with BTS then you will no longer teach Les Mills programming as of May 31st - you trash your music library, all your videos, all your notes, your clothing, and all the stuff you've memorized since you got your certification. If they sign on with Les Mills then you keep those things - but if you share BTS' concerns then you need to accept that content, focus audience, and marketing of Les Mills programming will probably be as it has been all along. And maybe you feel disconnected from the instructors and BTS trainers who choose to take on this new challenge.

Both companies' promo material make it sound like this is the best thing since sliced bread. Neither company, however, has engendered much goodwill by forcing instructors and club owners to make such an important decision (let alone act on it) in such a short period of time. Without a doubt there's much more to the story than will ever be told publicly - both companies claim that they're the good guys - and no amount of promo material will ever hide the emotional and financial strain that this brings to the instructor community and club owners across North America. Group fitness is a lot less enjoyable at the moment for a whole lot of people, so Les Mills and BTS - if you're reading this - you would do well to seek out ways to make this pill easier to swallow. Because even though this may ultimately be good for your respective organizations - the rest of us (instructors and club owners) have gotten caught up in the middle of something we neither expected nor wanted in the first place.

We value your thoughts - please comment using the link below.
23 Comment(s):
On 04 May, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A fascinating battle indeed

 
On 04 May, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a Pump/Step instructor in the Boston area and I am going nuts over this! I guess what I don't find fair is that as instructors, why weren't we sent a demo tape from BTS? How are we to know if we want to "sign on" with them if we don't even know what the class is like. In fact, they should be working their butts off and coming around to different clubs in different areas and doing masterclasses to get buy in. How in the world are we supposed to just randomly trust these people? Our club has worked so hard to market Les Mills to the members and it's finally paying off. But who knows what they will do--does anyone happen to know the difference in pricing with the licensing fees??? My guess is BTS would be cheaper to gain market share...but who knows. Besides, does anyone SERIOUSLY see anything wrong with the speed and complexity of Les Mills programming?!?!? Just venting:)

 
On 05 May, 2005, Blogger pipera said...

There has been a number of instructors and members who have found the new releases difficult to do. I found BC 48 hard to do, I also found parts of BC 20 difficult to do. I have been with BC since BC 1. The programs were stripped back and unpacked a number of times and still the average 40 + > who is not conditioned simply can not do the classes.

There was the issue with track 4 of BA 2 releases back it was simply too hard to do and the comments came back as that.

I feel for you guys in the USA and hope that all you guys still can teach Les Mills programmes, and that if any of you go to BTS then share the same passion with your members as with the Les Mills classes.

Look forward to being kept up to date, keep the faith.

Pump Hard Train Hard or Go Home :)

 
On 11 May, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Guys. Great site, first time I've been here.I'm a long time Pump, RPM and now Flow instructor and live just up the road from you in Lexington. It's a shame that we all have to go through this type of split, but we've made the choice to go with LMI. Why fix something when it ISN'T broken.
Our LMI classes are the driving force of our club. Participants and instructors love what we have, and don't want to change. I think there are plenty of options for people to make it their own work out. That's what modifications are about, any instructor should be able to help those who need them.

 
On 12 May, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am writing from Canada where it appears that one Club (GoodLife Fitness) has acquired exclusive rights to BodyPump etc in Canda--anyone know anything about this?

 
On 12 May, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes The Good Life has acquired the exclusive rights to Les Mills and it really sucks! We had a very thriving gym with tons of happy members. Les Mills will be losing some of the most fantastic intstructors because of this--all making their exit over to BTS (no choice of their own). But when it comes down to it--we will deliver BTS as we did Les Mills and our clients won't even know the difference.

 
On 14 May, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to the question of license fees, they are exactly the same. I find this incredible that BTS would be blatantly taking LMI's years of work and trying to copy it, then charging the same amount. The "releases" will be less, ($25), but who knows what the quality will be? Plus, it is entirely possible that LMI will honor previous intentions and give clubs a break after licensing 3 programs. We're sticking with LMI for sure.

 
On 16 May, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi guys! Great site! I had the opportunity to participate in all of the New and Improved programs last week at BTS Headquarters. They were fantastic! True, there is less speed and complexity, but the workouts exceeded my expectations. I am certified in all five programs, so I felt confident about my comparisons, and am excited to bring these programs to my facility. If you are looking for a strong product, great versatility in marketing pieces and a company that will partner with you to tailor these to your particular market, BTS is for you!!

 
On 17 May, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too was able to see first hand what the "new and improved" BTS programs looked like. Though I went to Marietta with the mentality of Les Mills or nobody, I was quickly impressed. So much so, that we signed our club up with BTS the next day. Awesome music and great workout. We're also using this opportunity to remodel our club and lauch all programs.

 
On 17 May, 2005, Blogger Craig Warman said...

Thank you for the comments everyone! We just added a new post of our own - check out Reviews of New BTS Programs where we summarize what we've learned from others about the new releases...

 
On 23 May, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any idea what the situation might be here in Finland? I haven't heard about this whole mess. Maybe the club owners etc. are keeping their mouths shut or something...

-Hanna from Finland

 
On 27 May, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding the comment about the $200 that BTS is "giving" instructors: My understanding from a BTS trainer is that for every $75 you spend you get $25. So you have to spend $600 yourself to get the $200. Saying instructors will get $200 in apparel is a little misleading on BTS' part, don't you think?

 
On 30 May, 2005, Blogger erin said...

As a GoodLifer, I'm ecstatic about the Les Mills/BTS split!

*happy dance*

For a minute there, I thought I was going to have to give up on 5 years and thousands of dollars worth of music and branded clothing (I teach all 5 North American Les Mills programs). Thankfully, I get to stick with the programs I know and love.

I do not envy anyone who had to make the decision between LMI and BTS, sight unseen.

 
On 24 June, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kia Ora Everyone !!!!!

My name is raymond mulder and i'm a pump rpm and former combat and bodyattack instructor. I live in the netherlands and i can only say that it's rediculous to choose between 2 different types of group training programms , where was it mentioned when u signed in to be a instructor that u could not teach other types of classes or fitness programms ? nowhere to be precise..!!!!!! Come on and grow up please. Its good for the quality of the programms to have some competition in the field....

I'm a les mills freak myself since the beginning of 2000 but that doesn't mean the new bts sucks !!!

i hope in the future it's possible ( legally i think it already is ) that both type of programmes can be taught at the same fitness centre......

 
On 04 July, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, if you are from Canada you certainly don't have a choice. Thanks to Goodlife any other club regardless if they held LMI programs before is being forced into BTS programs. I think this is bulls##@$*!!!! There should absolutely be a grandfathering program where what once was, shall remain the same!

 
On 26 July, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

LMI USA take note. Your exclusive with Goodlife is killing your following in areas where Goodlife does not exist. Make the changes, you are destroying morale for club owners, staff, and clients. I am a client where Les Mills used to be. I am sorry but the new BTS programming...boring!

Please LMI, help us. Loyalty is hard to get back, once you lose it.

 
On 18 August, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All I can say is it is getting boring doing the same rountine 2-3 times a week for weeks on end. Need more variety.

 
On 20 January, 2007, Blogger Somos Muchas! said...

This is terrible news. I am in Japan and I am addicted to BTSJ (among other things). I am moving to the US and was sure that even if I knew no one and hated my (work) life -- I could always count on Les Milss and BTS programs! But now... looking for a gymnasium, even, will be a terrible thing. (>_<) Why can't we all be friends??? I guess the beauty of Japan is that it is rather homogeneous and no one can understand the so-called "offensive" lyrics. I actually love the music... I am just a participant-- so I suppose I could join two gyms... but I send out my words of cheer to the instructors and gyms who have a difficult choice!!!!!!!!! Whatever program you chose, though, don't forget that you are changing peoples lives. Whichever one you chose... love it, believe it, and always do your best!!!!!
-Kalin, Kumamoto, Japan
genkisalsaholic.blogspot.com

 
On 03 August, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Tami & Craig,
I've been teaching all kinds of aerobics & was a personal trainer since 1985. It's always been fun & a challenge for me to come up with new ideas & mixes of music! I LOVE IT! I am now 43 years old and still going strong with my 3 & 5 yr. old. I've been pressured to join the BTS training as though it's the best 'thing' since sliced bread. I'm not quite sure if I would like giving up my 'freedom' and following someone else's guidelines. I have also found that some persons cannot handle the barbell who have certain disabilities and that may lead to lawsuits. There aren't many BTS trainers who have had their certifications long enough and don't concentrate on form. Most in my gym don't even have muscles and are 'green' but act as though they know everything.
As I've said, I've been in this profession through AAAI/ISMA and don't EVER see myself changing certifications! My loyalties will continue through them. They are strong and motivating. They have included instructors from Crunch, Gilad, Pepper Von, Donna Richardson, as well as many others from television. I think BTS is all a gimmick!

 
On 11 August, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am from Canada, also. I can empathize with some of the comments, albeit a couple of years old now, about the GoodLife exclusivity of LMI program. Like one other instructor, I left GoodLife because I was squeezed out as a freelance instructor. I felt that the LMI programs were exactly as BTS has said: too fast and too exclusionary of the less athletic folk. I know instructors can adapt, but the instructors teaching it at the time, did not. I believe it was because they loved the high energy themselves....HANG the participants???

I am having to switch into the LMI system now, because GoodLife took over our independent clubs. Much as they said things wouldn't change(i.e., our programming would remain as it was), I figured it was simply a matter of time before they brought in the exclusive programming of LMI. I wasn't wrong.

I know the music is great (from other instructors), but I really don't have a choice, other than resigning.

Thought I would put in my 2 cents worth

 
On 07 May, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know I'm posting a response a bit late and this whole issue has probably blown over. I don't like Les Mills and I never have. I've been trying it for many years! I hated it and found it boring and unsafe after the very first class I tried. My immediate thought after my first LM class was ''what is this rubbish?''. I'm through with being polite about my feelings on LM classes because they never do anything to improve their programs. It's the same, the same, the same - even years later. As a gym-goer in my city there is no longer any other option but LM. They've just bulldozed all the freestyle out of existence with their greedy, aggressive marketing.

Forget about LM. Forget about BTS. There is a third option that has long been forgotten. Freestyle. Remember the good old days when classes were fun and we had great, inspiring instructors? Seems like a life-time ago.

LM is dull, boring, unmotivating and I find the routines to be disjointed. I HATE the constant pauses between songs - non-stop music keeps you moving! I find the music rather tastless and the classes as a whole lack flavour and atmosphere. LM has taken areobics and dumbed it down. It doesn't work your body, it pounds your body. If you want neck, back, shoulder and knee problems then do LM classes! They don't feel good during or after the session. I'm also sick of LM instructors that have to dribble on about their personal lives to compensate for the fact that LM classes are so boring. I want an instructor to be an instructor! I don't want to hear about their personal life!

You know what would be even better than choosing between LM and this BTS? Telling them both to go jump and bringing back freestyle - the days when we got quality classes and choice! Classes that catered for diversity. Classes that gave people options, unlike the LM scenario of forcing us to do something of poor quality just because the rest of the masses don't know any better. Now there is nothing else to choose but LM. I don't attend aerobics any more because of this, and I miss it greatly!

Freestyle was therapeutic, however LM is like hitting your head against a wall. As for my favourite class format - step ... well BodyStep is a lousy imitation. LM has ruined step completely!!! There is not enough STEP in BodyStep. The choreo is all the same recipe repeated over and over (it hasn't changed for over 8 years that I've had to endure LM classes). The choreo has too much squatting and lunging and tricep dips. I can do those exercises in the gym! I go to a step class for STEP ... you know what I mean? LM ... wake up and lift your game. I'd gladly attend your classes if they were good, but I have to be honest and say that Freestyle was and still is way better! It's just a great loss to us all that it's long since been crushed and forgotten thanks to you.

This is just a sign of the times. Everything these days is a worldwide franchise, from the coffee you drink, to the food you eat, to the aerobics classes you attend. No more imagination. No more creativity. Just more of the same, one size fits all and there can be no complaining about it - the masses are quite happy to go along with it because they don't know any better.

LM has never taken this type of constructive criticism on board, even when it's given politely. They just get defensive and won't listen. They tell you that you don't know what you're talking about and that their product is so amazing, superior and 'world class' (hahaha!!!! are you kidding me???). They are VERY dismissive of anyone who doesn't like their programs, ESPECIALLY those who prefer Freestyle. Does it ever occur to this arrogant organisation that customers are allowed to have a preference? Does it ever occur to LM that it is wrong to wipe out all choice in the market and then tell the dissatisfied customers to go away when they express their views? They could please us and win us over very easily if they just improved their classes. After all, we just want a good work out that is safe, challenging, fun and FRESH with good music. LM certainly charges gyms enough and has the resources to produce something truly amazing. So, why hasn't it been done?????????!!!!!!!!!!

 
On 04 March, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

IMHO all the programs are horrible. They are SO repetitive in nature, eventually joints will play a toll. I've seen it over and over. There is absolutely no diversity and to not only do the same thing, but just at a different beat or a little different way isn't enough. Plus, all the music is the same what seem like forever! I really don't want to listen to the same music every single class. Uugg! How boring. Even using old releases does not freshen it up. Most of the moves are just way too fast, expecially for tall people. Those stupid cling and press things in Body Pump are just asking for back and knee problems as well as all those squates. I don't see anyone looking or feeling any better who take any of the programs. Wake up folks. Step outside your little town and go to where instructors teach classes that are not pre-designed or pre-choreographed, or so laid out that any moron could teach it. Isn't that the whole point. Just memorize the tracks, beats per minute, movements, so any instructor, even the least talented can teach? I'd take a functional training class over any of those pre-progammed classes anyday.

 
On 11 April, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BTS Group Ride Training Experience
• Unlike other indoor rides – this ride is primarily in the saddle
o I understand that people from a cycling background have a hard time with the Johnny G - JUMPS, etc. but the truth is (and I am a former almost-serious cyclist who has put in my 40-50,000 miles) that it is an INDOOR-STATIONARY-BIKE … in my opinion we don’t need to mimic the outdoor ride.
o The mindset of a cyclist is different from that of a fitness buff … a cyclist is focused and head-down determined. Even in groups, cyclists are lone wolfs … Gym people (especially women in group classes) are there for the fitness, camaraderie and fun
• Pace is too fast – unnatural to even me as a lifetime cyclist
o Most people in the class were bouncing all over their seats trying to keep up and in my opinion pedaling with far too little tension on the bike which is a strain on the knees
o I think this BTS ride is designed by high level athletes/cyclists projecting an unreasonable speed standard on the general public – hell, we were a class of Spin instructors and BTS trainers and we were all struggling with the pace
o According to cadence measurement of 7 professional cyclists during 3 week races they cycle about 90 rpm
o Recreational and utility cyclists typically cycle around 60–80 rpm

• BTS Musak (digitized Top 40) is an awful bastardization of the original artists work
o In my training I sat in the back and observed even the fittest of the over 50 yr. olds (Dawn) struggling to keep that pace (100+ bpm) for an entire Group Ride (60 minutes)
• I do not see any good reason to remove the social aspect because the instructor needs to yammer on – actually repeating the EXACT same ride every time (for 3 months)
• Once certified there is NO recertification. Great for the instructor – not so great for the class. Maybe the club will police its trainers – but here at our gym I have been told on more than one occasion that so and so is a poor Group Power trainer or similar comments. Without having to prove yourself (at least once a year) who’s to say you are following the BTS system?
Bottom Line
Except for the pace (which I would challenge as the most wrong thing and critically MOST important) the ride is a well-designed and complete ride. I hope the BTS designers go to classes of 50+ year olds (anyone over 35 for that matter) and watch them struggle with the pace – lightening the load and ultimately bouncing to keep up. These rides promote knee surgery. I received a letter from an Army Sgt regarding knees and pace (after taking my SPIN classes for over a year) and just how critical proper tension is for not only protecting the knees but also improving the knees. I am sure there are ways to modify such issues in Group Power, et al but cycling is a different animal (YES they can put on more tension and slow down but that is not human nature to intentionally look slower and weaker than everyone else in the room-just to save a couple of knees)(and truthfully, unless you are a SERIOUS cyclist the PACE IS TOO FAST). Sadly I am sure that my observations will fall on deaf ears at BTS (especially since you are so deeply invested in your current pace postulate).
This T8 approach to mass producing Instructors – not based on their athleticism, ability to lead and inspire but instead based simply on their ability to pay $220 for the training and $34 every 3 months for the new releases is a scam, a sham and a thoughtless direction for fitness to be headed. I am glad that I didn’t pay (the owner paid my fee) and that I won’t be getting certified or teaching this poorly conceived (for anyone but the super fit) course. We are doing this with our schools – teachers being TOLD to teach on beat as opposed to flowing with the individual students. We have it with Western Medicine – chasing symptoms and ultimately treating according to protocols designed by Big Pharma. Aldus Huxley is crying in his grave.

 

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