Fitness Magic in the Magic Kingdom: Plenty of memories to go around at Les Mills Orlando Mega-Quarterly

The setting may have been in central Florida in the shadow of Cinderella’s castle, but the atmosphere resembled one typically found in Auckland.

The only magic brewing in the Magic Kingdom last weekend was fitness magic. The big stars in Orlando were Matt Thraxton, Mid Thomas and Kim Ames, compared to Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Tigger.

Over 500 enthusiastic Les Mills group fitness instructors came from all corners of the globe – from Maine to New Zealand – to create memories, experience new workouts, foster new friendships and rekindle old ones as Les Mills East Coast hosted their annual Summer Quarterly Workshop at the Caribe Royale resort over the weekend.

For some people, getting to this picturesque resort located just a couple RPM tracks from Disney World was no problem. But others spent more time in airports than we desired.

My alarm was set Friday morning for a time that I’ll almost never be out of bed, and 30 minutes later, it was off to the Portland Jetport for the first leg of the journey to the Magic Kingdom.

Five minutes after getting dropped off, up came the first hurdle. My flight was delayed three hours. I had been rebooked, and would be laid over at LaGuardia in New York as opposed to Atlanta. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about LaGuardia, but having to anxiously sit in Portland’s departure concourse for five hours trumped any fears of sitting on LaGuardia’s tarmac for an hour.

To put a long story short, I was supposed to arrive in Orlando at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, with plenty of time to sit by the marvelous hotel pool, have a drink or two while catching up with other tribe members and relax and prepare for the RPM Rooster Ride, which kicked the weekend off. The aforementioned delay, however, curtailed those plans, and I didn’t touch down in Florida until 6:30 p.m.

That gave me just enough time to grab my luggage, scamper into an airport bathroom, throw on my cycling clothes, run into a shuttle van and eagerly wait along the 20-minute-or-so ride from the airport to the hotel. I managed to run in just as “Push the Tempo,” the popular Track 6 vote for this cancer-awareness ride, and the weekend was officially underway.

That was a mere tease compared to what was going to happen Saturday.

Once again, the alarm on my phone went off when it was still dark out. But it didn’t matter. 30 minutes after waking up, my BodyPump clothes were on, snacks and water were in my bag, and I was the third person in line. With hundreds of smartbars waiting to be used, and an all-star lineup of presenters set to take the stage, spots in the front part of the room were craved.

When the doors opened, it was a madrush, similar to that at Best Buy or Walmart when shoppers trample each other for that new TV or Xbox on Black Friday. I managed to get into one of the first few rows, with one of my friends from New York winding up directly behind me, and the other two instructors who had been in line ahead of me a few benches to my right.

A short time later, the All-Star lineup we had been waiting for took the stage during the opening ceremonies. It included Matt Thraxton, Mid Thomas, Megan Peterson, Sheldon McBee, Kim Ames, Dr. Dave MacKenzie and Susan Frank Lainey, just to name a few. A lineup like that makes sitting in an airport for five hours well worth the wait.

The six classes I took – BodyPump, RPM, CXWorx, BodyCombat, BodyVive and BodyAttack, were off the hook. Even though I managed to go through all five tanktops I brought, the music and choreography were outstanding! The fact that none of us had even seen the fall line of releases prior to this workshop made things all the better. Perhaps the most challenging tracks of the day were biceps, triceps and lunges in Pump, Track 5 in CX, Track 4 in Vive and Tracks 5 and 7 in RPM. Again, way too many to list.

As fun as the workout aspect of this workshop was, it’s only part of the reason people will journey from near and far to represent their clubs. Catching up with old friends and making new ones is always a big part of any Les Mills workshop. Just like any team, no matter what clubs we teach at or what backgrounds we come from, we all stood together as one, with one goal in mind, keeping the planet fit.

I had the honor of catching up with not only a lot of East Coast friends I’ve come to know after workshops in New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey over the years, but making new memories with some I went through the journey of AIM II with last year. In addition, I went home with several new friends as well. It’s never a surprise when you go to a quarterly and you have a new friend request on Facebook every hour.

Overall, this was the best quarterly workshop I’ve been to since I’ve been teaching. Les Mills East Coast did a fantastic job, and the fact that our host hotel and convention center where the workshop was held were on the same grounds spokes volumes. It made accommodations and travel that much easier, even if some of us spent more time in airports than desired. The post-workshop cocktail reception was also very well-organized and very laid back. Only at Les Mills can you have a drink with some of the world’s top presenters.

Monica Blue-Pineda of North Carolina and Ryan McLaughlin are all smiles after Friday’s RPM Rooster Ride for Cancer Awareness at the Caribe Royale resort in Orlando. The ride was part of Les Mills East Coast’s Mega Quarterly workshop.

Presenters take the stage during opening ceremonies at Les Mills East Coast’s Mega Quarterly workshop in Orlando on Saturday.

A room full of Les Mills diehards prepare for BodyPump during a Les Mills East Coast Mega Quarterly in Orlando.

A throng of presenters bring down the house during the Sh’Bam master class at the Les Mills East Coast Mega Quarterly in Orlando.

Kim Ames, Ryan McLaughlin and Monica Blue-Pineda share a moment after the RPM 60 masterclass at Saturday’s Les Mills East Coast quarterly workshop in Orlando.

I also learned a lot about what it would take to bring such an event to Bangor’s own Cross Insurance Center. It would take a lot of work, but it would be worth it to provide Maine with such a fitness atmosphere nobody would forget.

Ryan McLaughlin

About Ryan McLaughlin

BDN sports reporter Ryan McLaughlin grew up in Brewer and is a lifelong fan of the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins. In "The Boston Blitz" he'll be sharing his perspective with BDN readers about what's happening on the Boston professional sports scene.