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!
18 Comment(s):
On 21 April, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Craig, as an instructor you are probably a lot harder on yourself than your class are on you! I've been a participant a few times in a class where the instructor has crashed on a track, while it does disorientated me briefly if I know how the track should go, it has never been to the detriment of my workout. I think the presentation is more important overall than calling every move perfectly, if your class comes with you they are still getting the benefit (though maybe not the choreo they expected!) In fact there's only one crash-and-burn I can remember that mattered (the presenting instructor had prepared one set of track, her colleague played a different CD that she'd never presented before ... down more to a lack of communication than anything else, I would guess)

Anyway, I'm sure your class have long since forgiven you even if you haven't forgiven yourself!

On 21 April, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

further to my last comment - I love your blog, you guys have some fantastic ideas and novel approaches, kinda half makes me wish I lived in the States so I could join in your classes from time to time!

On 21 April, 2006, Blogger Tami W. said...

Our class loves Craig and the fun he brings to a great workout. When I teach with someone else - or by myself - it's not the same. He adds the 'magic' to each routine and that makes a great class. No one cares that we mess up every now and then - it happens to us all! I still think your a wonderful instructor!

On 22 April, 2006, Blogger Tim said...

Hey guys

off topic a bit, but today I watched "walk the line", the movie about johnny cash.

when they were playing "Jackson" I couldn't help but think it would be cool for you two to do a pump track to Jackson together! Even the accents would work! Lots of opportunity to ham it up.

So maybe you can't coz of fixed chorey, but it would be funny I bet.


On 22 April, 2006, Blogger pipera said...

That track is a tricky one, you just want to do singles at that part of the class. It is hard to rethink the routine and that it is different from other releases.

Don't cut yourself up over it.

You did not crash and burn you were just being human.

On 22 April, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

craig..your post might be just what i needed to a beginner is very challenging to me at times...completely skipped the single pushups on the shoulder track...tried getting back on track...wanted to cry after the meeting w/our fitness director..
do you call it out to each other as you practice...any tips! sure it won't be the last time i forget..but do you have tips for practicing.... would appreciate any tips from guys like you!

On 23 April, 2006, Blogger Chantal said...

I'm sorry to tell you... you're only human. I know our goal as an instructor is to know our choreo a 100%, we also should strive to know it for 100%, but if we mess up... we still are the instructor and most important of all is that we show the good example and give the right instructions for a safe class. Just keep on going! Ans as I understand from above .. your class just loves you!

On 23 April, 2006, Blogger bodypumpinstructor said...

As funny as it sounds, I think participants LIKE it when we as instructors mess up a bit - like everyone has pointed out, we ARE human. You are up there kind of like this model of fitness and yeah, we blow it just like everyone else!

On 23 April, 2006, Anonymous Dylan said...

I've never seen a class presented by more than one instuctor. That would be interesting!

What do you do when your instructor crashes? I find it hard to resist the urge to do the track 'as written.'

On 24 April, 2006, Anonymous San Diego Body Pump Instructor said...

I think that a "learning tips" post would be great. We could get some ideas from everyone.

Here is how I learn a new track:

1. I listen to the CD a couple of times first without watching the choreography. It is important to me to be familiar with the music first.

2. Watch the DVD video with voice on to see what goes where. I create a Word document for each track with very large type (to glance at in the car later). I try to recognize and mark any obvious patterns by drawing a line, or leaving a space between the patterns.

3. Stand up and move along with the DVD with the voice muted (trying not to watch). It is important for me to say the verbal cues out loud. Saying them out loud and thinking them are two different things.

4. If you drive a lot, listen to the CD in the car and imagine teaching a class. Saying the cues out loud again! I have my large type sheet on the seat next to me, in case I need to glance at it (when it is safe!)

5. Concentrate on a couple of tracks at a time until they are ingrained.

6. I am a musician and we always learned difficult music using β€œa measure plus one”. That means that you learn a measure or a phrase and then the single next note. It prevents brain lock from measure to measure. The same thing applies to choreography. For example, as soon as I cue a β€œ2 and 2”, I immediately think of the next cue (superslow, for example). This prevents the next cue from sneaking up on me and I can babble on, as I tend to do. It makes the class more fun and personal.

I look forward to any tips that all the wonderful instructors out there have about how to learn a new release!

Steve McMahon
San Diego, CA

On 24 April, 2006, Blogger reymond said...

Even sometimes the instructors at Les Mills make mistakes. When they realize that, they just laugh, fix the problem and move on. By the end of the track, they do 10 push ups. We all clapped our hands and then moving on.

On 24 April, 2006, Anonymous Karen said...

For anybody out there who might be able to offer some help - I wondered where I might be able to get choreography notes to an old track from what I think was BodyPump 24 - it is the bicep track "Stomp" by Kirk Franklin. I love this song and actually have the CD with "Stomp" on it but I wondered how the choreo goes with it. Nobody around here seems to have this release. Let me know! Thanks!!

On 25 April, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, as a participant I don't like it when the instructor messes it up. Especially after a few weeks teaching the same release when you become used to it, when you know every move... When an unexpected queue pops up, should I follow the right choreo, the wrong one or just stall and watch what will happen next?

I have to say it helps a lot if you're a regular participant and in good relationship with the instructor. If he/she respects you (and vice versa), he/she will quickly acknowledge the mistake, correct it asap and move on.

On 25 April, 2006, Blogger reymond said...

Some instructors (especially in Body Combat classes) make mistakes. Since I'm a regular, I just do what it should be done. When the instructors realize that, they change their mistakes and then do the right choreo.
Unless for one Body Pump instructor - during one track, we should be doing one clean and press and then one pull up from the knees. SHe insisted of doing clean and press. When she realized some of us were trying to do according to the choreo, she said "Don't you think you know the choreography than the instructors. Today is a challenge. Come on you guys. Clean and press... Go!!!... Keep going... Keep going... Don't give up, don't give up.. don't you DARE GIVE UP ON ME... One more time... and HOLD, DON't YOU MOVE.... Aaarggh... Okay now you can put the bar down. Doesn't it feel great??".... I have to admit, it FELT GREAT and she's one of the best Pump instructors :) :) :)

On 25 April, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for the learning for the word document...are you retyping what les mills sent you but larger..going to use your tips
about cueing..measure plus one...good explaination...and instead of thinking it...i'm calling it aloud in my car..the tips are helpful to newbies like me...thanks

On 25 April, 2006, Anonymous Jco said...

Everyone has a different learning style. Me, I need to know the music inside and out, and then I can look at the choreography.

Some people will learn better by watching the DVD, others will learn it by DOING it with the DVD and then with the music, and others will bypass the DVD nearly all together and learn from the music and the notes. And some people find it helpful to rewrite the choreography, although that seems like WAY too much work and would make my hand cramp badly. ;)

Newbie, you'll find what method works best for you, but until then the biggest tip I have for you is know that music.

We all have our favorite songs that we sing along to in the car, we know every word, we know when to play air guitar or headbang or shimmy...know ALL of your Les Mills music that well.

Once you know the music, you'll be able to hear the end of the musical phrase and will know it's time to cue the next move.

As for messing up? Go with it. As long as you own the class and can get back on track, it's all good. The worst thing you can do is stop and look flustered. The participants are there expecting you to lead them through a great workout, so even if you are wrong? Lead.

I normally get away dodging the pushups after committing a faux pas, but every now and again I have a participant who won't let me get away with "forgetting". Ah well, I can't complain, especially since I tell them often that "push ups are your friends!" Someday I'll get them to belive me.

On 25 April, 2006, Anonymous San Diego Body Pump Instructor said...


Yes, I create the Word document from the Les Mills sheet, but very large. Something like this:

8 - OVERHEAD 2/2
2 - OVERHEAD superslow


On 26 April, 2006, Blogger Tami W. said...

Thanks for all the great suggestions! I think we had done a post in the past regarding how Craig and I learn new routines. Each of us has a totally different style. Like it has been said - you have to find what works for you.

I will do a new, updated posting on our learning style later on today.


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