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Last weekend (Nov 19-20, 2016) I attended my second Advanced Instructor Module (AIM) for a Les Mills program; this module focused on RPM (release 72). This post is about my experience.

TL;DR — 1. I now have advanced instructor status; 2. the best element was deliberate practice; 3. we received training in presenting and also in leadership, supported with knowledge from our specific programs.

What will you get from this post? A summary of what the AIM-2 training covered and what I personally took away from it. There’s a lot packed into two days, so this post is lengthy. If you’re a Les Mills instructor wanting to know more about AIM-2 training, or are just curious about what this software developer does to grow personally and give back to others, read on!

See also: RPM AIM-1

The basics

AIM-2 is a two-day training workshop (for any format) to help instructors step up their game, so they can deliver on the mission of Les Mills: Life-changing fitness experiences, every time, everywhere.

An interesting fact is that fewer than 5% of US instructors participate in AIM-2.

What are the benefits?

  • Deepen our connection with what we teach and why we teach it
  • Consistently produce great experiences for our classes and for ourselves
  • Maintain the leading edge in group fitness instruction
  • Master all 5 keys (choreography, technique, coaching, connection, performance) and use them in a more holistic way
  • Maintain our teaching careers without burning out

The trainers:

The other instructors represented BODYCOMBAT, BODYFLOW, BODYJAM, RPM, BODYPUMP, and SH’BAM. Some were there for a single program, and others wanted feedback in two programs.


“I want it! I know this is it! It’s right here, right now. I don’t quit. I will shift.”

Day 1

  • Module objectives and personal presentations
    • See “The basics” from above
    • We got to know each other better by sprinting to one end of the room, then back to grab someone we hadn’t met yet. The topics for the three times we did this were:
      • Explain a happy moment
      • Share something you wouldn’t tell anyone else
      • What’s a goal you have for this weekend?
  • Presentation and feedback #1
    • There were two studios (group exercise and cycle). Kurt and Anna shared the responsibility of assessing; I was in Anna’s group. Each of us got 3-4 minutes to present a track; the tracks were assigned on the spot, so we had to be ready to present anything from our release. Once we presented a track, we then supported whoever was next.
    • My first track was the Pace track Place on Earth. I coached the first two blocks and started the third.
    • Feedback
      • Bring hands up further on the handlebars for Standing Climb
      • Tell people what they’ll get out of the track. What’s important to them? (The education that followed helped fix this.)
      • Don’t say “load;” say “gear” or “resistance.” Apparently there’s a vocabulary shift going on in RPM I wasn’t aware of.
      • Focus on the outcomes and goals for each block. (Again, there was more training on this later.)
  • Teaching with purpose
    • Internal (self-focused) objectives are personal goals; they start with “I want…”
    • External (participant-focused) objectives start with “I want the people in my class to experience/feel…”
    • You need both; always teach with precise external objectives to be achieved.
    • Balloon exercise
      • We were given balloons to loosely tie around our ankles.
      • Group A observed individuals in Group B trying to pop their own balloons.
      • Group B observed Group A trying to pop each other’s balloons.
      • The first round had an objective, but it’s not likely something you’d want to keep doing. The second group had an objective and a challenge — more engaging.
    • There’s a difference between cuing and coaching.
    • Whatever you do in a given track, your actions should always get your participants closer to the promise and purpose of the track (track objective). For example, the Pace track has the first cardio peaks of the class, which we get through speed. You find this in your program manual.
    • The track focus is a way of keeping the program’s formula fresh and efficient. You find this in the release notes. For example, the Pace track focuses for RPM 72 are to allow the music to pop by creating vocal contrast, hit work phases hard and keep the recovery low, and create excitement as you build into each Standing Attack.
    • The class objective gives direction to your class. It’s a clear purpose that enables you to tailor your class to the time of day, the group you have in front of you, and the state of mind you’re in. The class objective helps with burnout by keeping things fresh; it needs to be external and allow the program essence to shine (RPM: It’s about riding to the rhythm of powerful music where you can discover your athlete within to achieve a calorie-burning endorphin high), and won’t obstruct the track objective and focus. For example: I want my participants to experience/feel…
      • Connected to the music to motivate their riding.
      • That they are using effective resistance.
      • Other class objectives shared by Kurt: having a regular class and a VIP class, using a word of the day.
  • Creating the change faster
    • Preparing/scripting in a more advanced way
      • There’s a table template with four columns: counts, choreography, outcome, key cues.
      • This helps you find a reason for every part of the choreography — what outcome should people be achieving now?
      • Once you have the outcome, you can write out what you’d say to help people achieve it.
    • Explain, making your coaching land
      • Four tips
        • Knowledge is power; have something interesting to say.
        • Be relevant: What could you say to make your generic cues relevant to your participants? (Who’s in your room today?)
        • What’s your point? Make the most important message stand out. (Less is more)
        • Keep it fresh. Find ways to address the same points, but make them interesting and exciting. (Using a class objective helps)
      • Exercise: Prepare three class intros for your track. Here are mine for the Pace track…
        • Big shift in energy, big shift in heart rate! Four rounds, with 2 challenges at the back.
        • A chance for our legs to move with speed and efficiency — four times cardio-peak training
        • There’s a place we can go, but we have to ride fast and work hard to get there. Four sprints with 2 massive cardio peaks in the back half.
    • Catch and keep people’s attention
      • Our class is full of people with different needs and preferences.
      • We took a simple assessment for the DISC profile. There are four types: dominant director, interactive socializer, steady relater, and cautious thinker.
      • I was almost tied for steady relater and cautious thinker:
        • Steady Relater
          • Teach from , “I wonder what they need…I will do whatever it takes to please them.”
          • Calm and reliable
          • Better at listening and observing than talking
          • Very empathetic, very loyal, prefer to be a member of a team rather than the leader
          • Love taking care of and helping people
          • When they teach, they are busy worrying about the class and ensuring everyone is safe and happy, especially the beginners
          • Hate rushing things and changes, especially last-minute ones…choices are their nightmares
          • Sensible and timid
        • Cautious Thinker
          • Teach from, “You must know all the details and this is what it says in the manual, therefore this is how I will teach.”
          • Focused on details, precise and consistent
          • Studious and appreciate when things are structured and organized
          • Know choreography inside and out
          • Respect the rules, tick all the boxes, comfortable with a systematic way to teaching
          • Don’t like going fast, want to factor in all the options and details before deciding
          • Focus on facts, not emotions
          • Rather introverted and don’t like it when things get too personal
      • I’m probably a closet interactive socializer because I want attention, acknowledgement, and praise. I also enjoy being part of the tribe.
      • Teach from your dominant style, but integrate others to give something to everyone during class.
      • Some tips for seducing each type
        • Dominant director: Competitive, so challenge them
        • Interactive socializer: they want others to notice them, use their names
        • Steady relater: speak clearly, eliminate risk by telling them what’s coming next
        • Cautious thinker: prefer tasks over people
      • It’s not just what you say. You can verbally address one group while using body language to express yourself to another group.
    • Pause, look, see, respond
      • Did your cue “land” and are people applying it?
      • If not, respond by trying something else. Don’t move on.
      • Choose follow-up cues by what you see the class doing.
  • Presentation and feedback #2
    • Stick with the outcome a little longer. If it’s speed, then don’t address other issues like having enough resistance.
    • Don’t leave out other communication styles. Give time cues (e.g., 30-second sprint), and tell them how the second round is different. (I noticed most of the AIM participants were Interactive Relaters, so I focused mostly on that, which is why I ended up leaving other groups out!)

Day 2

  • Group interaction
    • We formed three tribes (hapū). We picked a name, noise, and a motion; then we went through physical and mental trials.
      • Leap frog across the room
      • Make a continuous tunnel across the room (3 people doing downward dog, the remaining person crawling under them to form the “end” of the tunnel)
      • Team wall-sit (back-to-back)
      • Stacked hover (only one team did this successfully)
      • Quiz of knowledge from initial training, AIM-1, and AIM-2
    • We did two active listening exercises with a partner to practice being “110% present.”
  • Living the values
    • Les Mills goals:
      • To be the #1 fitness experience in every market we are in and to be one of the top 100 global brands.
      • To have 20 million live Les Mills experiences each week by 2020.
    • Values: One tribe, be brave, change the world. (We watched a presentation from Les Mills further explaining these.)
  • Presentation and feedback #3
    • For day 2, I was assigned the Intervals track Work It Out. Fortunately, we got our track assignments the night before, so I had a chance to apply the outcome-based scripting.
    • I still need to watch my hand position. (Anna did point out that the handlebars don’t adjust forward/back, and I’m tall; so maybe I’m fighting the equipment here.)
    • Take on more resistance.
    • I have a strong, soothing voice.
    • I applied the outcomes but gave additional information that pulled focus away from it. I mentioned that cadence is a lever to get the heart rate up. (Not entirely true; I said that cadence combined with resistance is how it works, but maybe that got lost in the shuffle.)
    • Less is more.
  • Teaching with authenticity and contrast – Part 1
    • We watched P!nk’s Glitter In the Air performance at the 2010 Grammy awards. She has a commanding voice in a style she’s not known for, all while singing to her peers.
    • Exercise: Who are you when you teach?
      • Imagine yourself overhearing people in the locker room talking about your class. They don’t know you’re listening.
      • What would make you feel like $1 million? How would you describe an instructor that you admire? This is your persona.
        • Mine: When I teach I want to be seen as… confident, motivational, engaging.
      • What would make you want to hang up your shoes and stop teaching? This is your not.
        • Mine: When I teach I would not want to be seen as… someone who just doesn’t care, sloppy, exclusive/cliquish.
    • Often it’s who were not being when we teach that holds us back from being more authentic. It’s likely that the mask/persona we put on when we teach only represents a very limited collection of our personality and behavior traits. It can be like a suit of armor that we put on when we teach to minimize our personal exposure.
    • If you teach from just a single persona it limits you. Imagine how powerful it would be to access those sides of ourselves that people rarely see. But not all the time because then they would lose their power.
    • We went through an exercise where we use word play to reframe our nots, to find different shades of meaning through different lenses. Inside each of our nots exists a real tool we can bring to our teaching to help us be more authentic and reach more people. We call these nuggets. In between is a maybe not, which is not the polar opposite of not; it represents a less extreme version of your not, but still not as positive as your persona.
    • Example from Kurt
      • My persona is athletically inspiring. Behaviors include…
        • Take high/impact options
        • Strong, low voice
        • Driving music
        • Clothing as a mask
        • Serious, on-task
        • Music/language that’s very current
      • I am not too old. I show this by…
        • Not using old releases
        • Being on-point with the choreography
        • Don’t stop moving; this would show lack of stamina
        • No baggy clothing
        • Watching language during coaching to not seem dated
      • I am maybe not past my prime.
      • My nugget is I’m still in the game.
    • This took several years for him to develop; very introspective.
    • (This section of the training was adapted from the Leadership Development Intensive (LDI).)
  • Les Mills Idol / Teaching with authenticity and contrast – Part 2
    • We did a fun activity around who’s going to be the next Les Mills Idol (a play on American Idol)? We got back into our groups and were given a few minutes to choreograph something to 30 seconds of Celebrate (Kool and the Gang). Once we had our routine down, Kurt came over and said to show anger. (Other groups got fearful and sad.) We then presented our routines with our assigned emotion. The point is that the emotions being broadcast didn’t match the physical movements.
    • Team with the music.
      • Don’t talk over it.
      • Music is not the background: it’s integral to the choreography and coaching.
      • Music is the pilot; we’re the copilot.
    • We listened to Chopin’s prelude in e-minor once while lying on the floor. We then learned the melancholy context of the piece, and were asked to listen to it again. This allowed us to apply an emotion to the piece.
    • The whole group did a simple dance step while various songs played. Then Anna told us to keep dancing, but express ourselves when given words to think about (e.g., angry, proud, confident, happy, sexy). My favorite part was when we cranked up E-Type’s True Believer and just danced our hearts out!
    • We were given some time to listen to our tracks to think about how we can tap into the highs and lows when coaching.
    • When we are authentic and use contrast, we capture attention and keep it. Exercise is hard — people have to remember to pack their bags, get to the gym, change clothes, work out, arrange something for the kids, take time out of their day, etc. We’re in the exer-tainment business. We are no longer instructors; we are presenters.
  • Presentation and feedback #4
    • We didn’t get immediate feedback because it was late in the day. The feedback was delivered via an assessment sheet with more follow-up comments on the Instructor Portal.
  • Action plan
    • What’s holding you back? Most of us get a lot out of the activities and drills that explore teaching with authenticity and contrast, but only a few create the shift when they get up to teach; they revert back to their old ways.
    • About 90% of the thoughts you have today, you’ll have tomorrow and so today’s thoughts are predominantly yesterday’s thoughts. If we’re nervous about trying something new for fear of getting it wrong, we deny ourselves the chance to get it right.
    • What could stop you from implementing what you learned?
      • That no one would care — no impact.
    • What could you do to overcome this?
      • Work with the group fitness manager for my gym or get input from Les Mills.
  • Send off


For copyright reasons, I probably shouldn’t post the feedback form. Here are the key areas:

  • Choreography
  • Technique (position and execution)
  • Coaching, Connection, Performance
    • Teaching with purpose — external objectives, track objective, track focus
    • Creating the change faster
      • Teach to one outcome at a time
      • Catch and keep attention
      • Teach to different communication styles
      • Pause, look, see, respond
    • Living the values
    • Teaching with authenticity and contrast
      • Teaches from a natural place
      • Create a journey of contrasts

Based on the feedback I received overall, there are a few minor things to correct, I need to explore my physical limits with resistance (which will affect how I coach), and I need to practice the things I got feedback on throughout the training based on what we learned that day (or so far).

Wrapping Up

As is the case when I’m around other passionate instructors, I can’t help but get infected by the energy; I definitely felt like one of the tribe. Something I’d like to work on is finding ways to get that feeling more often than just these training events.

My brain is full! There are so many layers to hold in your mind simultaneously just for a single track, much less a release, much less multiple formats. The application of what I learned will come with time, and definitely not all at once.

My biggest “aha” moment was learning how to do objective scripting. It’s so simple to do, and brings focus to what you’re coaching.

My goals are to incorporate the skills I learned from AIM-2, find ways to get support from others, and find ways to connect with other instructors and my participants.

I think as I continue to get comfortable with the new approaches and film/assess myself more frequently, I’ll be able to take my classes to the next level. The good news is that all the things I learned here can also apply to BODYJAM.

Other things I picked up during the training:

  • RPM is less about power and is shifting to be more social. This doesn’t match what I learned a little more than a year ago in AIM-1: “RPM is geared toward those looking for high energy, challenge, and power. It’s about riding to the rhythm of powerful music where you can discover your athlete within to achieve a calorie-burning endorphin high.”
  • Soreness on the saddle is because of underdeveloped muscles.
  • Why don’t we (RPM instructors) have a glossary of dos/don’ts for current vocabulary? Apparently I’m not supposed to use “sprint” as a verb, because there’s another Les Mills cycle class named SPRINT.

Things I need to do next:

  • Connect more with my club and participants.
  • Re-read my program manual.
  • Take RPM from other instructors in my area on a regular basis.
  • Film myself more frequently; this allows me to assess myself on the same criteria used in AIM-2.
  • Put into practice the techniques learned in AIM-2.
  • Send in a video of me teaching an awesome class so I can get Elite status!

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