An indescribable experience: ONE LIVE CHICAGO

Usually, Les Mills group fitness workshops are fairly easy to review. Travel. See your friends. Explore a new city. Work out (a lot). Have a few drinks at the after party.

Then recover as much as you can, and head on home.

However, the experience that myself and 2,000 other Les Mills fanatics had at One Live: Chicago, last weekend, was extremely difficult to put into words. But I’ll do it anyways, because that’s what a writer does.

For me, my One Live experience actually began a fortnight before I was scheduled to get on a train in Boston and head west, when I found out my wife and I were expecting our first child.

My jaw dropped with excitement, and after telling family and close friends – which included a couple members of my Les Mills family – we announced it the next morning, which was greeted with warm congratulations, and even led to a member of the Tribe I’ve happened to develop an amazing friendship with connecting with Alissa via Facebook, which just goes to show how special this family truly is.

After hearing the news of “Baby PumpMaster” as we’re dubbing it until we learn whether it’s a boy or a girl, my excitement for One Live grew more. It was quite a long train ride – I left Boston at 1:00 on Thursday afternoon and arrived in Chicago around 9:50 the next morning – but it was cheaper that way and when my aunt lived in North Carolina, we had taken the Amtrak there when I was in fourth grade, so I had experience with long train trips. Except this time, I was able to take advantage of the full bar in the cafe car!

My teammates from Union Street Athletics weren’t due to arrive in the Windy City until later Friday afternoon, but I was able to connect with a couple instructors from Wisconsin who had also taken the train in, and we all shared a cab to McCormick Place, officially starting the One Live experience.

You can usually tell how the weekend is going to go within the first few minutes, and upon going up to the registration area, we ran into the “Bicep Guy,” Matthew Thraxton, a world-renowned BODYPUMP presenter!


After registration, the above selfie with Matty T and lunch, I headed back to my room to unwind for a bit and wait for my teammates to land. My roommates – Bill Huddelston and Tej Dhawan, were both doing AIM I, so it was a good chance to relax for a couple of moments before my USA crew touched down and we would be off to see what Chicago had to offer!

Finally, around 1:00, my crew arrived at McCormick Place, and after they got settled into their room and grabbed some lunch, we were off to Michigan Avenue to do some sightseeing and exploring!

Team USA selfie! April was on the phone....

Team USA selfie! April was on the phone….

After seeing sites such as The Bean, Soldier Field and some picturesque gardens and fountains, we headed back to get ready to check out The One competition, which I had auditioned for but did not make the top eight. We were excited to watch all eight finalists, because they all had something special and unique to bring to the table, and BODYPUMP, BODYFLOW, BODYSTEP, BODYATTACK, BODYCOMBAT and BODYJAM were all represented.

I was excited to watch one of my closest Les Mills friends, Cambria Camillo of Minnesota, showcase BODYFLOW during the competition. Like the other finalists, her presentation was moving and inspirational and she did an outstanding job. The next night, we learned that LaSonya Holland, who presented BODYJAM, was the winner and will be representing the United States at One Live in Stockholm in October.

Cambria Camillo of Minnesota presents a BODYFLOW track during The One competition.

Cambria Camillo of Minnesota presents a BODYFLOW track during The One competition.

After the competition, we were starving, so we headed off to Giordano’s for some amazing deep dish pizza! If you go to Chicago and want some deep-dish pizza, I recommend this place. It’s right on Michigan Avenue and it’s relatively inexpensive, especially if you are with a group and can all share a pizza.

Finally, the next morning, it was time for some Les Mills classes. Lots of them. My day started out with BODYPUMP, which was followed by RPM, GRIT Cardio, CXWORX, GRIT Strength and GRIT Plyo. That’s a LOT of GRIT and my legs were begging for mercy by the time I finished Plyo and grabbed some dinner at the hotel bar.

The classes were the fall line of releases that we’re going to show to our members this fall. BODYPUMP was absolutely outstanding, and I found the most challenging tracks were the squat, chest, bicep and shoulder tracks. It’s always unforgettable to do BODYPUMP with nearly 2,000 other crazy Les Mills fanatics.

Shortly after RPM ended and before GRIT Cardio, I met up with Cambria and her boyfriend, Andy, as we were all scheduled to do GRIT Cardio together. I used to be a long-distance runner, so I’ve had plenty of cardio experience. However, GRIT Cardio is extremely challenging, and suffice to say I needed a new shirt after the class was done!

Cambria and myself after crushing GRIT Cardio

Cambria and myself after crushing GRIT Cardio

As usual, taking masterclasses from some of the best trainers in the world was an incredible learning experience, in particular for someone like me who is trying to attain Elite status for BODYPUMP. I also got to catch up with some of my friends who are U.S. trainers, all of which I have an incredible amount of respect and admiration for, and I can only hope to share a stage or an initial training with some of them down the road.

After a long day of masterclasses, it was time to unwind at the after party, at which LaSonya was crowned The One, and once again proved that group fitness instructors clean up pretty well. Everything seemed like it went by so fast, because at 4:00 Sunday morning, I was off to Midway Airport to fly back to Maine. Another workshop was in the books. Like all the Les Mills events I’ve been to, they were special. But nothing will ever top this one.

Team Union Street Athletics at the after party. We clean up nice!

Team Union Street Athletics at the after party. We clean up nice!

For one, I got to share this experience with my outstanding teammates. They soaked up every minute of it and learned so much, which will be extremely valuable to our members. Second, with a baby on the way, all everybody wanted to talk about was Baby PumpMaster. There were so many hugs and well-wishes from people I was meeting in person for the first time and had connected with through Les Mills Facebook groups. Cambria even said she was extremely excited to meet Alissa and our baby after the baby arrives, and that I will be Elite come October. That warmed my heart all the more. Conversations like that go to show that we’re more than group exercise instructors who aim to keep the world healthy. We’re a family who would do anything for each other, from all ends of the world.

To my Les Mills family, thanks again for another memorable experience. Until next time!

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.