BodyPump 59 Filming Date Set
>>> Updated 9/20/06:
>>> We now have BodyPump 59 in our hot little hands!
>>> Click Here to read our full review...

Instructors: If you can make it to Auckland, New Zealand this coming May 6th, you might want to book your place in the BodyPump 59 filming! Click here for details...

PS. You might want to bring along your winter coat - we have it on good authority it's starting to get cold over there!
How We Learn New Releases
Since Craig’s topic has struck a familiar chord with so many, we have decided to post again how we learn our routines (click here to view our prior post on this topic from last year). And I feel pretty ‘safe’ writing this because I believe it to be a non-controversial subject so I won’t be whacking a beehive.

Craig and I have totally different methods of learning. He is a technical person and writes computer codes for his real job. Therefore, when he rewrites his notes – that’s what it looks like to me, computer code. And only he can decipher it. (Or another computer person). He will watch the DVD and write down the moves from that. I only watch the DVD if I don’t understand a certain move. I need the notes so I can see the timing before a move actually starts, between breaks, pause, etc.

When the new release first arrives, I play it over and over again. In the kitchen while I’m cooking the King his dinner, in the car, on the treadmill, etc. This helps me to learn all the tempo changes, the places where we can ‘jazz’ it up, etc. When I know we are getting ready to launch, and I know what songs I need to learn, usually about 1 week before, I then take the notes and go to the basement where our workout room is. There I have a huge dry erase board hanging on the wall and I will rewrite mine using pretty much what the notes say. I use many abbreviations so I don’t have to write so much too. For example, 2/2 overhead press becomes 2/2 OH. I know that it is a press. For the Clean and Press combo – I will write ‘C & P’ –I know there are usually DRs’ (deadrows) right after. If not, I’ll write ‘NO DRs’’. So in essence, it looks somthing like this:

PUSH IT – Chest
16ct set up – from btm
4/4 press 1x
2/2 press 8x
3/1 press 2x
sngl 8x
4/4 press 1x

Doing it this way makes it easy to practice without having to keep looking at the printed notes with really small writing. And since usually I can’t find my glasses anyway – this works best for me.

As I’m writing it out I will also look for patterns in the notes. It may be how a sequence is repeated 2 or 3 times. Or how it’s always a 2/2 on a certain phrase. Or maybe I notice there is only one set of bottom half squats. Or no 3/1s’ in the entire song. I try to keep this in the back of my mind. And then I practice. And practice. And practice. I will do the song till I get it right. When I play it in my car, or listening at home, I’m doing the moves in my head. I don’t worry so much about when to start calling out the next move because if I know my music and choreography well, I will know when the changes come. I think it takes being really comfortable with the music. And even after hours of practice – you can still goof up. The trick is moving on through it. It’s easier when you have a partner to teach with because between the two of you, you should know the choreography. It’s tougher when there is no one to back you up!

I remember when I first started learning BP and I was overwhelmed at the amount of information that needed to be memorized – especially at my age… But for the newbies out there – don’t give up! It gets easier with each release. Now I can learn a new song 2 hours before class if I need to. I prefer not to because I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to BP and worry about getting it wrong without enough practice, but it can be done!

So there you have it. I’m sure Craig will add a few things when he is not working so hard. He is up in DC and he has been going to the Body Pump class up there. Anyone seen him? : )
Anatomy Of A Crash & Burn
After a rousing warm-up that carried with it the promise of an excellent workout, Tami passed the mic my direction. Even as I strapped it on, a faint pang of concern welled up inside, then passed as quickly as it came. There's no going back once the music starts - yet as we wrapped up the first three rounds of singles in Paris to Berlin I kinda wished we could hit the pause button.

I've practiced this song a hundred times, but for some reason I was having trouble synchronizing my thoughts with the music. Instead of the combo, I called singles. Instead of 3/1, I called 2/2. Then, as the music tempo changed, I realized a few people had stopped briefly - wasn't this supposed to be the break? I had already called super-slow, so half the class was with me while the other half rushed to catch back up. Two sets later I realized I had no idea where we were in the music. I had blown it.

Thankfully Tami was there - ashamed of myself, I handed her the mic. She picked the routine up and took it to the end. The next two songs were hers. As I laid there working through the chest track, I realized I couldn't give up like this. These folks came here to get a workout. Yeah, I botched up their squats track, but I owed it to them to pull myself together. When the mic came my direction for triceps I knew I'd better make the best of this second chance. Somehow I managed to work the kinks out in my mind and do a respectable job with my next four songs.

This wasn't the first time I'd crashed a routine, and I bet it won't be the last. I sure am thankful that I had Tami there to cover for me though, and that our class was willing to give me a second chance!
Should Instructor Staffing Be Senority Based?
I recently took a six-month consulting assignment in a large city that takes me away from home several days a week. There's a gym right across from where I work that offers BodyPump, so I make it a point to attend their classes on the days that I'm in town. I left a note for the GFM (Group Fitness Manager) saying that I'm a certified instructor, and that I'd be happy to co-teach or sub any classes they might need covered. A few days later I got a call back - after the customary introductions, I was politely told that the gym wasn't hiring right now, but that they'd keep my name on file. "No," I replied, "I'm not looking for a job. I'm just offering to audition in case you need to have some classes co-taught or sub'd." Again I was told that they weren't hiring, and that they "had enough BodyPump instructors right now."

For the record, I wasn't at all offended by my conversation with this GFM. In fact, I happily paid that gym for a one-month membership, because now I'm in the process of learning everything I possibly can from their BodyPump instructor staff. And next month I'll repeat the same process right down the street with the another club. So back to my point - my experience with this GFM is not at all unique. We've had several folks tell to us that they talked with their gym's GFM about getting certified, only to be turned down because they were told their club didn't need any more instructors. It happens on a daily basis in gyms all around the world. And, after turning this experience over in my mind for a week or so, I felt inspired to write this post.

It's been my admittedly unscientific observation that many GFMs place their instructors based on seniority - The instructors who've been teaching the longest pretty much get the timeslot of their choice - and, once the timeslots are filled, gym owners aren't too keen on letting their GFMs bring on new instructors. You can't blame the GFMs for being loyal to their long-term staff, nor the gym owners for keeping costs down. This hiring model - which is has been refined to perfection by the service industry over many years - closes the loop to any new recruits until someone quits, gets fired, or the need for more capacity is recognized (such as a new fitness studio, longer opening hours, etc.)

Which begs a simple question: Should gyms model their group fitness hiring practices on that of the service industry, where a premium is placed on senority? I think we can work the answer to that one out pretty quick. Take a good look around your club - are the "big" classes packed because they happen to run during convenient timeslots, or is it because the instructor rocks? Lemme put it another way - are there packed classes running on seemingly inconvenient schedules because people make time to work out with their favorite instructors, while some so-called "prime time" classes are only half full because the instructor isn't all that inspiring?

If you can honestly answer "yes" to any of that, then it should be clear that the performance aspect of group fitness can't - and shouldn't - be ignored. BodyPump is about fitness, yes, but I really have trouble seeing it as a service. So why do so many gyms staff their instructor teams like a service business, choosing an easy measurement like senority rather than establishing quality-oriented metrics? Instead of wasting any more space postulating about the problem, I'd like to submit that gyms with seniority-based hiring models consider a results-focused model instead. I believe that such gyms would continually seek new talent, and implement feedback loops that would allow their instructors to be evaluated regularly by their GFMs, their fellow instructors, and (especially) their classes. Instructors that consistently achieved high ratings would be compensated accordingly, whether it be financially, their choice of timeslots, or both. Instructors with lower marks would have the opportunity to better themselves before facing the prospect of losing their timeslot to new talent.

Do I have an ax to grind here? Heck no - I'm happy with our timeslot, and I truly respect all of the instructors on our team. Truth be told, our class isn't necessarily the biggest at our gym, either. I guess it was my conversation with the GFM at this other club that got me thinking about how new talent gets recruited in the group fitness industry, and whether or not its senority-based staffing practices are really as widespread as I've observed. Agree or disagree? Click the comments link and have your say!
Our BodyPump 57 Launch (w/pics)
It's been five and a half months since our club had its last launch, so it wouldn't be an overstatement to say we were hungry for new music. Well, we had a feast today - and BodyPump 57 was a meal worth waiting for. Smiles all around the room for Tina Cousins' Come To Me warm-up quickly gave way to looks of determination when the reality of five and a half minute squat song began to sink in. There was no rest for the weary as Tami took over the mic for Garbage's Push It chest track, and then proceeded to toss out the final break in a back and hamstrings routine that - by popular vote - needed a just a bit more juice.

If hoots and hollars are any indication, we've got a new class favorite with Scissor Sisters' Take Your Mama, the deeper meaning of which was explored in our last post. Not to be outdone, Pump It earned high marks as one of the most intense bicep workouts in recent history. It's certainly the fastest by far: At a harrowing 3:45, this song packs as many reps as any other release's 4+ minute bicep track. Thankfully we kept the cry towels handy.

As our BodyPump 57 review mentioned, one of the great things about the 50-series release is the continual evolution of the workout routine - and that's plainly evident to even the most casual observer with the shoulder track's Triple Pulse Side Raises and the Double Pulse Dynamic Lunges. "Miss Abs" Tami topped the workout off with Pussycat Dolls' Don't Cha, and I (reluctantly) wound the party down with Regressa A Mi - the Italian version of Toni Braxton's Unbreak My Heart hit from the 90's.

By the way, we need to point out that ours was an "unofficial" launch - our GFM was kind enough to let us pull 57 out a day early since I had to be out of town during the club's main launch days. That was quite a favor, and one we truly appreciate!
Photographers: Kerri Hill and Laurie Travis
The Deeper Meaning of "Take Your Mama"
This morning, Tami and I were bumping along through our usual morning routine when she popped an intriguing question. It was about my song of the morning - the one I'm either humming, singing, or whistling incessantly - which happened to be 57's tricep song Take Your Mama. "So what does that song mean, anyway?" she asked.
We're gonna take your mama out all night
Yeah we'll show her what it's all about
We'll get her jacked up on some cheap champagne
We'll let the good times all roll out
Recognizing a rare opportunity to prove my worth as her closet intellectual husband, I surprised even myself with the speed of my BS generation capabilities. "The meaning of this song" I intoned, "is that there's this guy, and all the girls like him, right? So he gets this girlfriend but then she leaves, and now he's all alone but he wants to go out and have some fun, so he takes his mama out." Tami gave me a sideways look while she turned that over in her mind.
But now your girl's gone a missin'
And your house has got an empty bed
The folks'll wonder 'bout the wedding
They won't listen to a word you said
"So he takes his mother out instead?" she asked. "That's a little strange." By now I'd had time enough to think it through again. "No, actually, his mom is lonely, see? Because her son's popular with the ladies and all. So he gets his boys together and they take her out dancing and stuff. By her some cheap champagne, you know, and show her a good time."
And if the music ain't good, well it's just too bad
We're gonna sing along no matter what
Because the dancers don't mind at the New Orleans
If you tip 'em and they make a cut
Amongst Tami's skills as a wife and lifetime partner is her ability to make me believe - for the moment, at least - that I'm some sort of walking encyclopedia with huge reserves of untapped intellectual prowess that she (and only she) can truly appreciate. It wasn't until later when I listened to the song again that I realized how clueless I really am.
We're gonna do it
Take your mama out all night
You can stay up late
'Cause baby you're a full grown man
Yeah, it's just a song. Nothing more, nothing less. Which is precisely why she asked me that question in the first place - to get 30 seconds worth of entertainment out of me before heading off to work. I feel so used.
Our Nifty Instructor Challenge (w/pics)
It's been awhile - a long while, really - but we finally got our instructor challenge off the ground! Here's a look what went down when eleven of us warriors chose our weapons this past Saturday...

With a word of encouragement and a brief round of opening instructions, Tami set the team in motion. First on the agenda: Get the heart rate elevated with a fifteen minute run. We took ours on treadmills, but a dash outdoors is just as effective.
Then we took the party back to the studio where we split into teams of 3-4 instructors to tackle each of the four workstations. With teammates cheering and Pump music hammering overhead, each instructor dives into the workout. Having trouble getting all the reps in? Well that's where the team comes in - you gotta finish what's on your plate before your buddies get their turn, so they're gonna help you get every last rep in! Oh yeah, it's three rounds per team before moving on to the next station...

Chest - Start with a bar loaded heavier that your usual and get busy: 15-20 rounds on the bench, then hit the floor with a round of push-ups. There's no getting around this one!

Clean & Press + Lunges - The action goes straight overhead with 15-20 reps and a bar heavier then you'd ever dare to move in front of the class. Then move it to your back for a round of lunges - and don't forget to hit both legs!

Biceps + Triceps - The muscles may be smaller, but the pain's just as real. A big round of 15-20 with the bar, followed up with bench dips and a long drag from your water bottle - if you can still lift it to your mouth...

Aerobic Shuttle - You'll either love it or hate it, but the job's gotta get done. A fast dash down the straightaway with a round of fancy footwork on the bench, then back to the middle for a round of shuttle jumps and pushups. That flash you saw after your last rep was your teammate flying past for round #2!

Well, there it is. What took you a minute or so to read took us an hour to complete - and it was a long hour at that! The sandwich plate waiting for us in the break room was almost as good as knowing we'd completed the toughest workout of our week. You know, we'll have to do this more often!
How's that for a can of worms!
If you follow our blog, you've probably seen Tami's recent post where she addresses the importance of instructors as role models in their weight selections for each track, as well as their own personal appearance. As you might expect with such a controversial topic, we've gotten a ton of feedback - the comments you see here are just one part of that, as we've also received a good bit of personal email and interaction with members and instructors at our club.

One thing I'd like to share about Tami is that she's one of the most decent and kind people you'd ever want to meet - and I'm not just saying that because she's my wife. She has no enemies. So when we first starting getting all the feedback, her first reaction was to replace the post with an apology for having offended anyone. She's spent the better part of her life as an overweight person - and if anyone understands the difficulty of losing weight and keeping it off, she certainly does.

There were two reasons I encouraged her to leave the post as it stands. First, her thesis is sound - the core of what she's saying is that we as instructors need to be role models. Whether we realize it or not, we have an influence on the people who attend our classes, and it's our responsibility to make that the best influence it can possibly be. Most (if not all) of us are on a never-ending journey to lose weight, gain strength, or just generally be in better shape. Nothing she's written there implies that you've got to have a "hard body" to be an excellent instructor. But if you're getting complacent - and you know if you are or not - then maybe it's time to up your weights a bit or drop a few pounds. Just like the comment from Mark R where he challenges me to start using weights during lunges - yeah, I've gotten complacent in that area, so now I've got the bar on my shoulder during that track!

Second, I believe the reason we have as many readers as we do is because we're not out here being "politically correct" all the time. We don't give an "A" to every new BodyPump release, we don't gush about every song selection, and we've never shied away from giving LMI their due when they goof up. Folks here in the States who watch American Idol: Truth be told, if Simon kissed up to every contestant that show would be a lot less interesting. Now, we're not out to be the "Simon" of BodyPump, but when you think about it there's a certain value in "stirring the pot" every now and again.

So anyway, I wanted to thank everyone for the feedback, both those who agree and those who disagree. Because that's what makes the time we put into this blog so worthwhile. (BTW, we've got another post right around the corner with pics from this weekend's instructor challenge!)