The Machine That Exercises You!
Yesterday Tami showed me an advertisement for the the latest innovation in weight training: It's the Whole Body Vibrator! According to the ad (PDF), you simply stand or lay on this thing just 10 minutes a day for improved circulation, strength, flexibilty, and balance - not to mention elevated mood, vitality, and increased mobility. And here all this time I've been under the (apparently) mistaken impression you gotta get your butt in gear if you want those kinds of results. Well alrighty then, sign me up! And tell Gramma she can forget that afternoon walk - now she can vibrate herself right into fitness nirvana!
Are The New Shirts Magic?
If you've been reading our blog for awhile now, you may recall my past dissertation on the magic in my BodyPump teaching uniform. Yes, like an old dog that won't turn loose his worn-out chew toy I'm still wearing the same set of threads. What's it been, three years now? That's pretty sick. (no, they're clean - Tami washes them after every class, but still...) It took a wardrobe malfunction in front of the entire class to make me trade my beloved black lightweight pants for shorts. And then for nearly two weeks afterwards I was a half-count off on all my cueing. The magic was still there - it just had to transfer from the old pants to the new shorts. I kept them together in the same dresser drawer for awhile, in case you wondered.

Anyway, for the last several months I've been pondering a change in my uniform. I really like those snazzy new shirts the guys wear on the latest set of videos. Yeah, the nearly US$93 price tag is pretty steep, not to mention shipping costs from halfway around the world. I met another instructor who was wearing one at a BP class up in DC this summer, and she said it was worth its weight in gold (considering the price, gold might actually be cheaper).

So I'm getting closer to placing my order. I'm just wondering - are these new shirts worth the money? Will they make me look as good as these guys? (or do they look "totally gay", as one of my co-workers put it) And, most important, are they as magical as the old shirts? I'd love to know!
BodyPump 59, By The Numbers
123Squats in Simply Irresistible
48Total minutes of music
5Masterclass presenters on the DVD
8Releases on which E-Type has performed the Back & Hamstrings track (including 59)
50Seconds instructors gotta wait through mandatory "Are You Ready!" Les Mills promo every time they play the DVD (how many times have we seen this now?)

Lost your mojo?
What happens after teaching your 700+ Body Pump class? Instructor burnout. Thats usually as sign, for me anyway, that I need some time off. But it seems different this time. I was off the end of September for a week due to some minor surgery. Our launch is next week, but we will be in Biloxi for the week rebuilding homes. I have never missed a launch and I'm a bit bummed that it was scheduled on the week we would be gone. But then again, I haven't even gone over my new music. Generally, I will practice the new stuff continuously until I know it, which means listening to the CD about 100 times! Not happening this time. I feel like I have to strive harder to learn the stuff because I want/need to know the choreo perfectly and I get really un-nerved when I foul up.

So what do you do? I still love Body Pump. I still love the people in our class. I just can't seem to put my finger on it. Maybe it is all the changes we have seen at our club. Maybe it's using second rate audio equipment (see Craig's post) to deliver a top rated class!

I'm hoping when we get back from Biloxi that my mind set will have changed and I will be chomping at the bit to teach. After all - it has kept me in shape for the past 4 1/2 years. I have also met some very wonderful people in our class - including the lady who married Craig and I! (who happens to be DR. Pierson's lovely wife!)

Has anyone ever gone through what I am? I would love some feedback - some tips that will pull me out of my slump.

Audio Equipment: Plan for the Expected!
Yesterday, Tami handed me the microphone before our class. "It's not working again" she said, then looked up at the clock. Neither battery replacements, knob adjustments, nor fiddling with the cables did any good. This mic - the second in as many months - was well and truly dead.

We've taken to carrying our own personal backup mic - an older unit that I managed to fix by soldering the contacts of the minature power switch in the "on" position (sweat has a tendency to corrode switch contacts - and we BodyPump instructors can be a sweaty bunch sometimes!) Fortunately, I was able to get us broadcasting over the sound system after a short while.

The demise of our club's unit, however, will once again set off a series of events that our GFM (Group Fitness Manager) has had to repeat far too many times in the last twelve months. These microphones ought to last longer, especially for what they cost - yet a studio running 3-5 classes per day seven days a week is lucky to get 8-10 months out of one (lately it's been more like 3-4 weeks, in our case). CD players do a little better, with some lasting two years or more. Amplifiers and speakers are a mixed bunch - usually they just degrade over time rather than quit altogether like microphones and CD players. There's always exceptions of course, but it's hard to argue that sweat and a fair amount of jostling don't exact a heavy toll on electronic equipment.

So it's a virtual certainty that over the course of any given year a busy studio will require replacement of at least one of these components. And although there's little that clubs can do to control equipment failure rates, the one thing they can control - yet seldom ever do - is their level of preparedness for that eventuality. It's a fact of life: Microphones, CD players, and yes, even amplifiers and speakers are going to die.

Here's a few things I've learned in my career as a BodyPump instructor:
  • It's hard to teach a BodyPump class without a mic
  • It's even harder for participants to hear
  • It's practically impossible to teach BodyPump without music
  • Very few clubs keep spare microphones or CD players on-hand
My evidence (if you can call it that) is anecdotal at best, but it's a never-ending source of amazement to me that clubs consistently wait until these vital pieces of equipment break before procuring replacements, while paying members have to settle for classes compromised by a lack of proper equipment. Stealing the mic from the cycling studio isn't a viable backup plan, nor is borrowing the GFM's personal CD player or relying on expensive overnight shipping for replacements.

Seriously, how many clubs - knowing full well this equipment breaks with almost predictable regularity - actually keep even a spare microphone on hand, let alone a CD player? What happened in your class the last time one of these things broke? Click the Comments link below and tell us about it!
BodyPump 61 Filming Date Set
I just happened by Reymond's Blog this morning and noticed that he's posted the Q1 07 filming schedule - which, of course, includes BodyPump 61. Monday November 6th is the date, and and 7:30pm is the time. So if you're planning a trip to Auckland in the next month or so, perhaps you'll want to contact the folks at Les Mills and reserve a spot!
Reese's, Alabama, and the BodyPump 59 Ab Track
During the 1970's the Hershey Corporation ran a series of television ads depicting several variations of collisions between two people - one savoring a jar of peanut butter, the other happily munching a chocolate bar (parody). You got chocolate in my peanut butter! You got peanut butter in my chocolate! and the slogan "Two great tastes that taste great together" achieved iconic status at a time when America was struggling to come to terms with racial integration.

At about that same time, Southern Rock band Lynyrd Synyrd released Sweet Home Alabama - a song that would eventually become one of biggest hits of their genre. It didn't take long for controversy to swirl around the racial and political overtones the song's lyrics suggest. To some, Sweet Home Alabama sounds more like an outright endorsement for racial segregation than a celebration of the songwriter's home state. Whether or not there's any truth in that (probably not, though I'll leave that analysis to other more capable writers), it's pretty safe to say Skynyrd likely didn't sell too many albums in America's Black community - including those that called Alabama home.

So as that era drew to a close, a whole new musical genre began to emerge - and this time, with roots deep within African American culture. Hardly a decade later Hip Hop had far eclipsed Southern Rock as the music of choice for a whole new generation. Fast-forward another twenty years, and Sweet Home Alabama had long ago taken its place in music history when rap duo B.A.M.A. released Sweet Home Al, which would later become the Ab track on BodyPump 59.

I wouldn't have had the musical intellect to imagine rewriting this song in that musical style. Truth be told, ten seconds into the track I found myself re-living those Reese's commercials when the opening cords of my cherished classic gave way to an onslaught of twisted prose. It didn't take me long to come full-circle though - by the end of the song, track #9 had earned a spot on the short playlist of BodyPump music I actually play even when I'm not rehearsing for class.

Am I so presumptuous to think that Glen had America's racial struggles in mind when he chose this song as the Ab track for BodyPump 59? Heck no. My money says he liked it for an ab workout, and that's about as deep as it went. But for those of us here in the States with a few more grey hairs that we'd like to admit, the irony of that musical combination gives us a little something to think about while we're pounding out that final round of crunches.

Turn it up. And pass the Reese's - I like a little peanut butter with my chocolate.

So did I hit the mark, or go way off the deep end? Click the Comments link below and speak your piece!
Form Friday (w/pics)
As we've mentioned in past posts, every now and again we run a special session of our class called Form Friday. While one of us teaches, the other walks around offering personal instruction to class participants. We love Form Friday because it's our opportunity to help our attendees maximize the return on their time investment.

Our goal is to interact at least once with every person in class at some point or another during each of the exercise routines. Here's what we do:
  • Squats - Primarily we're checking to ensure that knees stay behind the toes, and that backs are straight. Though the squat motion seems simplistic, this exercise involves the largest muscle groups - so the potential for injury here is significantly greater than that of the smaller muscles (not to mention the pain).
  • Unless you have very short arms, make sure your handgrip extends all the way out to the plates to optimize form during the chest trackChest - For beginners, we check to make sure elbows don't drop below the shoulders on the downstroke, that handgrips extend out to the plates, and that bars stay centered over the chest (bars to drift over necks as fatigue sets in). We check wrist alignment on the more advanced folks, correcting the all-too-common backwards torque action by having them straighten their wrists.
  • Back & Hamstrings - If we had it our way, we'd have a personal instructor for every participant during this track - plus a couple for ourselves. Beginners struggle to put the moves together, while more advanced folks often select weights that are either too heavy or too light. Perhaps its the complexity of the technique, or maybe just the sheer number of joints and muscles involved in the motion - whatever the case, what we most want to ensure is that class participants execute these motions safely and effectively. It's rare for someone to achieve perfection in this track without some one-on-one help from an instructor.
  • Pay special attention to the elbows during the triceps trackTriceps - The integrity of any exercise involving the arms is heavily dependent on elbow positioning - and that's more true than ever with the tricep track. It's not enough to simply move the bar in the general direction of the forehead or chest - the elbows have to be kept inwards in order to ensure the triceps stay engaged. So our goal is to make sure class participants' elbows stay in that zone, and to help them do that we check for a narrow grip on the bar
  • As with triceps, the elbows need to stay locked in during bicepsBiceps - Once again we're scoping elbows as we walk around the room during this track. The good news is that it's relatively easy to achieve the perfect bicep curl - just lock upper arms and elbows in and give it a go. The bad news, however, kicks in about halfway through the track, so we try to encourage weight selections that will allow class participants to make it all the way through.

  • Check your foot placement during the lunge track to ensure right angles in the legs on the downstrock of each repLunges - Feet are to lunges as elbows are to triceps and biceps, so we're looking to make sure they're placed such that we're seeing right angles in the legs on the downstroke of each rep. That's easier said than done - especially for beginners - so we recommend keeping the bar on the floor until their legs are strong enough to maintain that right-angle form through the entire track.

  • Shoulders - It's the track people love to hate, where often the definition of success is survival with some semblance of dignity. Yet this is one of the few routines that actually feels better when it's done correctly. What we watch for here is inertia; specifically, any elbow motion that continues past the shoulders - and when we see it, the correction is both simple and a welcome relief to shoulders sore from over-extension.

  • Abs - Abdominals are, quite frankly, some of the laziest muscles in the body. They'd recruit your nose if they thought they could use it to get out of doing any real work. So aside from lifting peoples' chins up off their chests, our coaching during this track is all about what goes on upstairs - mentally focusing on the abs so that they get their full share of exercise.
So there it is: Form Friday. We don't do it every week, but we do try and hit it often enough to optimize its effectiveness. Got some tips you'd like to pass on? Click the Comments link below and have your say!
Photographer: Merle Pierson (yes, you read that right)!