Les Mills Launches: All working together to ensure a successful blast-off

Launching new material is a special time for any group exercise instructor or trainer.

Launches are memorable events that only happen four times a year. Instructors prepare like hell for them. Participants eagerly anticipate changes to their favorite workouts. Club owners and group fitness managers promote, promote and promote some more. Some launches even involved charitable events, like my club’s annual Fit Fight, which has proven successful the last two Octobers.

There are three components to a successful launch weekend at any club: The instructors, the members, and management. I’ve taken part in many launches in the five years since I’ve been teaching BodyPump. And I’ve certainly seen it all, from a Cowboy Casanova-themed party in the fall of 2010 when I was still at Bangor-Brewer Athletic Club, to a full room of BodyPumpers just last winter despite an ice storm that had some of my teammates holed up at Union Street Athletics throughout the day because of icy roads.

Launch week at my gym is finally here. We’ve practiced our releases, we have our “gameplans,” and now we’re all eagerly waiting for this weekend to arrive. How can you and your members and teammates make a launch successful? Well, here are five ways to ensure things go smoothly

1. Prepare as if you’re going to teach a full release. This is something I can’t stress enough. More often than not, we’re team-teaching with another instructor during a launch. We practice together, we figure out who is going to teach what track, we go over fitness magic, and we have a plan. But what you can never plan on is your partner getting sick on launch day, having car trouble, anything that prevents him or her from getting to the gym, and suddenly, you’ve got to teach a whole release and you only know half of it. It’s happened to me. When I was running track, we had a kid miss the bus for the regional championships one year and we had to shuffle our relay teams on the fly. It wasn’t fun. Our chances of winning a championship were gone before we stepped on the track. Certainly prioritize the tracks you have as far as scripting, but know the full release. Chances are you’re going to be teaching the whole thing within two days of your launch, anyways.

2. Know the focal points of the new release. No two Les Mills releases are alike. They all have different focuses. So knowing the focal points of your release is absolutely critical. The members absolutely deserve to know what type of workout lies ahead of them. For example: The last two chest tracks in BodyPump. In BodyPump 91, we focused on smaller movements like the A-press and the bench push-up to tone our upper body. In BodyPump 92, the muscles will be under more metabolic stress by holding one count in bottom-range and then working from the bottom up. The same goes for the squat, tricep and shoulder tracks. Knowing your choreography is important, but coaching layers and the focal points of each release and each individual track ensure that your members will get the most out of their workouts. Not to mention they’ll love the new challenges the new material presents and they’ll keep coming back for more!

3. Promote. Promote. Promote. This falls for both group fitness managers and instructors. Even if you’re not doing a huge event like our Fit Fight for your launch, promote the hell out of it as soon as you get your launch weekend finalized. Promotion on social media is great, but talk about how excited you are for the upcoming material during your classes. Not all of your members have Facebook or Twitter. Get them excited. The more you promote, the quicker those sign-up sheets will fill up!

4. Nobody likes a plate hog. What I’m trying to get at here is the room full more often than not on launch weekend. And this is mainly for classes like BodyPump and RPM where equipment is limited. The class is going to be full, and sometimes, you’re not going to get the amount of heavy plates you want or the bike you always use. There’s no point of getting into an argument with a fellow member over the aforementioned equipment, no less with somebody who is new to classes or the gym. The last thing we instructors want is new participants getting scared off right off the bat! My best advice is if you’re going to be running a tad late for a class, call your gym and the instructors will be more than happy to set up a bench for you or throw a towel or water bottle on a bike.

5. HAVE FUN! This is the most important thing of all. Instructors, it’s not the end of the world if you make a small choreography mistake. Members, it’s not the end of the world if plates go quickly and you can’t go super-duper heavy or if you don’t get that front-row bike. Launches bring new challenges, and we don’t see changes to our bodies without challenging ourselves.

Best of luck to everybody around the world in your first launches of the new year! Put on that war paint and let it UNLEASH!

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.