Are certain songs too offensive? What is defined as “role model” weight?

Summer is finally approaching, and along with it, group fitness history.

Three weeks from the date of this post, I’ll be on a plane en route to New Orleans for what is expected to be the largest Les Mills group fitness quarterly in U.S. history, with between 2,000 and 3,000 instructors, members, trainers and program directors expected to descend on the Big Easy.

Anticipation is high, and tribe members from Maine to New Zealand are counting the days.

While all of us Tribe members have this common bond of looking forward to reuniting in New Orleans, the past couple of weeks have brought up some interesting yet sometimes controversial topics worth touching on.

“Offensive” lyrics in BodyPump songs. 

As soon as I downloaded and watched BodyPump 90 for the first time, I knew this conversation was inevitably going to happen, particularly when I watched the tricep and bicep tracks.

First and foremost, I’m a very open-minded person when it comes to music, and Les Mills is usually careful with songs that may include the F word, or any other suggestive lyrics. “Blow Me One Last Kiss,” a bicep track from a few quarters ago, is a pretty good example.

The bicep track from 90 – “Miss Jackson” by Panic! At The Disco, contains the word “goddamn” on several occasions. And of course, some people subsequently freaked out a bit.

There are alternate tracks for that reason. And this release has an alternative bicep track. If your main concern about a track is one simple word as opposed to learning the choreography, then it’s likely time to change your focus up a bit. Even if you don’t like a song in a release, you have to suck it up and learn it. To quote Bill Belichick: Do your job.

Personally, I’m a Christian yet I have no issues whatsoever with this song. Sometimes, we can use cheeky music to our advantage in generating a bit of fitness magic. It’s part of teaching in the essence of the program. Hell, our last release had the lyrics “He doesn’t look a thing like Jesus” and people weren’t complaining then.

Can you say double-standard? But that’s just America today. Every little ticky-tack thing offends somebody. A stirring example of that occurred just last year, when David Ortiz, perhaps one of the biggest names in the history of the Boston Red Sox, dropped the most famous F-bomb in sports history as the Sox returned to Fenway after the Boston Marathon tragedy. Old-school curmudgeons found it offensive, turning to the whole “there are kids in the stands” excuse. I still get chills every time I hear it myself.

Now, if a member has a problem with a song, that’s a different story. I’ve never had any requests to take a song out of a mix because of “suggestive” lyrics, but I’ll be open to switching things up if a member makes such a request. I’d rather please a member and keep them happy than lose them from a class.

Role model weight: How heavy should we go? 

We as instructors get asked this all the time: How heavy is motivational enough? There are so many answers to this I could easily write a book about it.

An instructor posted on Facebook recently: “So, if BodyPump is low weight/ high reps, why do I see instructors squatting with 4 large plates on each side? That’s like 88lbs. I don’t think that low weight.”

Again, that sparked a conversation that generated 75 comments in a matter of a few hours.

My take on this is, if you’re strong enough and can maintain full range and proper technique, go for it. We’re supposed to be role models for our participants, and going extremely light isn’t exactly motivational, unless you’re sick or coming off of an injury.

An example: Recently, I got up to using 40 kilograms on my bar for the squat track, which to me was a great accomplishment, as I’ve seen my peers on the DVDs do it with ease.

Now, if you’re form, timing or range of motion tend to get shaky, it’s a sign that you may need to pull back on the weight a little bit. But if you can challenge yourself by throwing some extra weight out there, go for it! Don’t hold back! Remember, participants like to see you struggle. It’s a sign of motivation and a sign that you’re working hard to deliver an outstanding class.

If you are going to be in New Orleans, I look forward to seeing all of you and creating memories with all of you! If you can’t make it, I’ll be live-tweeting during the Masterclasses – even the ones I’m not taking – so follow me at LesMillsRocksta for updates galore. See you all in three weeks!


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.