More than 2,000 expected to attend New Orleans group fitness workshop

Outside the group exercise room of Bangor, Maine’s Union Street Athletics on Monday afternoon, the first 90-degree day of the summer was baking northern New England as a BodyCombat class wrapped up.

As this writer made his way in to prepare for the subsequent BodyPump class, combat instructor April McKinney looked over and said, “I can’t believe NOLA is next week.”

All I could do at that point was grin and say, “you’ll forever be able to say your first Les Mills quarterly was the largest group fitness event in the United States at the time,” knowing that both of us and thousands of our brothers and sisters from around the world have been thinking about this event since last October.

Empty bikes and benchtops will certainly be few and far between in the Big Easy next weekend, with between 2,000 and 3,000 Les Mills group fitness instructors, Les Mills fanatics, and international trainers and presenters expected to be in attendance.

The two-day workshop at the Ernest Morial Convention Center kicks off June 20 and wraps up on June 21.

Registration opens at 10 a.m. on June 20, and masterclasses start at noon with a double-dose of RPM 63 in the Great Hall, followed by BodyAttack 85, BodyVive 31 and Sh’Bam 16, with three GRIT sessions – one strength, one plyo and one cardio – on tap as well.

Saturday’s action kicks off with BodyPump 90 at 8 a.m., which will be followed by BodyStep 96, BodyFlow 65, Born to Move, The History of Les Mills, CXWorx 15, BodyCombat 69 and BodyJam 69 in the Great Hall. Six GRIT sessions will also be offered, two apiece of strength, plyo and cardio, while the workshop closes at 8 p.m. with a masquerade afterparty.

The lineup of presenters, program directors and trainers is an All-Star cast, with names such as Glen Ostergaard, Dan Cohen, Rachel Cohen, Susan Renata, Les Mills, Jr. and Angel Santiago among the big names, while numerous other United States trainers will be on the stage as well.

Phillip Mills, the CEO of Les Mills International, is expected to attend as well, along with Les Mills himself, the grandfather of Les Junior who founded these outstanding group fitness programs.

This workshop is being billed as the largest group fitness event in U.S. history, and will thousands of people expected to attend the Masterclasses, history will certainly be made in the Big Easy.

But it’s not all about masterclasses. Education sessions will be offered on both days, giving instructors to pick the brains of some of the best trainers in the world. For us, it’s like throwing a pass with Tom Brady, playing basketball with Michael Jordan, skating with Wayne Gretzky or taking batting practice with David Ortiz. And I know Ostergaard, BodyPump’s program director, will field multiple questions about some songs in BodyPump 90 that some instructors have deemed offensive.

Needless to say, instructors from all around the country and the world are excited and eagerly anticipating the workshop and getting a chance to meet their Les Mills heroes.

“I want a hug, from Rach since it’s my birthday,” admitted Billy Huddleston of North Carolina, expressing his admiration for Rachel Cohen, one of the program directors for BodyCombat.

Most instructors – like myself – have never been to New Orleans. Others, like Nancy Laskowitz of Tampa, who attended New Orleans’ own Tulane University, are certainly no strangers to this Deep South metropolis.

Can’t wait to share my city with all of those visiting from near and far!!!,” Laskowitz commented. “ONE TRIBE at #NOLA! Can’t wait!!!! Food + Fitness = FUN!!!!”

Laskowitz is certainly correct in the context that when instructors aren’t in masterclasses, we’ll be undoubtedly sampling some of New Orleans’ finest cajun dining.

With so many instructors and trainers expected to attend – there will be a whopping 42 trainers on the stage for BodyPump, nearly twice the size of how many participants we can fit in our room at USA – I’d have to say Les Mills did an outstanding job of dividing the workshop into two days.

That way, recovery time isn’t so clustered and we can get out and enjoy the city a little bit, shop, and reconnect with friends, new and old, and people can experience classes that may not be offered at their clubs.

Additionally, it takes a lot of work to set up 2,000 benchtops and barbells and more than 600 stationary bikes, but that just speaks to the volumes of the instructors who volunteer their time the night before the workshops to make sure everything is set up and ready to go.

No matter what happens in New Orleans next weekend, memories will be made, new friendships will undoubtedly be fostered, and with summer launches coming up for a lot of us here in the States, there will be a lot of things for us to take back to our home clubs. And that’s something our members always appreciate.

Looking forward to seeing all of you in just 9 short days! Kia Kaha!

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.