Has it really been four years?

In March of 2009, I didn’t even know who Les Mills was or that BodyPump was a body-toning, barbell workout.

At that point in my fitness life, it was all about how far and fast I could run, not how much I could squat or bench. But a fellow runner – a fast one, nonetheless – who worked at a local gym said a little bit of strength training wouldn’t hurt my regime.

Little did I know that the strength workouts would eventually trump hill intervals and 10-mile runs.

Fast-forward about a year and a half later. Plantar fasciitis kept me off the roads. Aside from lifting and riding a stationary bike, there was not a whole lot I could do. Then, Wendy Watkins, co-owner of Bangor Brewer Athletic Club and Bangor Daily News co-worker Bridgit Cayer introduced me to BodyPump.

I figured, why the hell not give it a try. There’s not much else I could do. In that first class, with Barbara Cookson on the BBAC stage, suffice to say I wasn’t very good. But, it was enjoyable, so like every new participant I came back for more. And more.

In the late fall of 2009, I started running again, sometimes even hammering out workouts before doing BodyPump. I started making the class a part of my routine, doing it as many as three times a week. My weights and skill set increased so quickly, that in February of 2010, Bridgit approached me and asked, “You’re getting pretty damn good. Have you thought about becoming an instructor?”

Certainly, I thought she was from Mars, but sure enough, there was a notice at the gym depicting a need for more instructors. A month later, I was off to Lewiston for training. Five months after that, my certification was official, and distance running took a back seat to weightlifting and filling my classes.

About a year after becoming certified, a new challenge beckoned when shortly after completing Advance Instructor Module I, I headed across the Penobscot River to teach at Union Street Athletics when Sherry Haller needed another instructor. Switching clubs is similar to a professional athlete switching teams, but I was ready for the challenge.

As I write this, Sherry is still signing my paychecks and my classes have been outstanding. People I consider some of my closest friends have come through the USA doors and into the group fitness room, some even trying BodyPump for the first time, like this skinny longtime runner once did. As far as the cardio is concerned, cycling has replaced running. My first Trek Across Maine is this summer – feel free to head here to my page and make a donation to the American Lung Association – and RPM is next on the list of Les Mills programs I’d like to add.

The experiences – mostly good but a few and not so good – have been memorable, from outdoor classes to being stuck in airports and driving all night en route to quarterly workshops, to toasting drinks with some of the world’s best instructors, or just going through the blood, sweat and tears with my team and forging lifelong friendships with fellow fitness professionals from Seattle to Wales. Things also came full circle about a year ago in a way when Barb joined us to teach BodyPump and BodyFlow at USA

I had no idea what all this would bring when I first stepped into a group fitness studio as a participant in the fall of 2009, and when I trained to become an instructor a few short months later. That just goes to show you, if you step outside your comfort zone, you never know what can happen.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and cheers to many more years of Les Mills success and memories! And to those of you who have had an impact in this journey, thank you.


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.