As I write this, I am currently in Cambridge, England, where they have an amazing Les Mills culture. I have been fortunate enough over the past two weeks to have a couple of team teaches of BODYVIVE with an awesome local instructor here, and it has reminded me so much of just what a revolutionary program BODYVIVE was.
In my 9 years of teaching Les Mills, nothing has jarred me as much in recent times as the complete destruction of the BODYVIVE program. As I write this, BODYVIVE is “undergoing a transition” to a new Les Mills program called Tone, except it’s not so much a transition but textbook examples of how NOT to conduct change management and how to completely disregard and disrespect the history of the program it is meant to be succeeding.
And as I see many (but not all) of my former BODYVIVE instructors and trainers alike jump aboard the Tone train and move on from their BODYVIVE careers without so much as a backward glance, I personally believe the influence of BODYVIVE in the wider Les Mills space is something that has not been talked about and acknowledged. So this is where we discuss what BODYVIVE brought to the table in terms of workout trends and instructing skills…
One would be extremely hard pressed to find mention of the words “functional training” prior to BODYVIVE coming into being, particularly as the program evolved. BODYVIVE’s combination of cardio, strength and core was, in its later days, a mixed-impact cross-training workout that exploited the use of functional movement, ie. the movement that we use in our everyday activities outside of the gym environment.
But even in its earlier days, BODYVIVE was all about coaching benefits and relating movement to the things we did on a regular basis, eg. Lifting bags, sitting upright at a desk, even just walking and running properly. Previously these were ideas that never really got a mention in other programs. BODYVIVE helped to give it prominence and purpose.
Most people would know that out of Les Mills’ functional training thought process came this: CXWORX. A 30-minute intense core workout that works every single muscle of our core unit: hips, abdominals, obliques, posterior chain (including the butt).
But what Les Mills International (LMI) refuse to publicly acknowledge even today is this: CXWORX was born out of BODYVIVE. It wouldn’t even exist today had it not been for BODYVIVE.
Attendees and instructors of CXWORX alike would know all the core and hip work that we do on the floor and standing with the tube. That was all BODYVIVE. So before any of you say that BODYVIVE was an easy program for the oldies, think about those tracks you see and do in a CXWORX class and then revisit that opinion.
Traditionally as instructors, when we have coached alternative movements for our members during a class, we’ve always simply said “if you can’t do this option, here’s another option for you”. However it was recognised in both CXWORX and BODYVIVE that phrasing it this way unwittingly creates subclasses of participants, and might cause people to feel inadequate about taking a lower-impact alternative as it makes them look weaker than other people in the room.
In CXWORX initial module training, we were explicitly taught early on that any options we gave had to be specifically qualified – ie. WHY would one be inclined to take that particular choice over another, rather than just the usual “if you can’t do A, then do B”. It was seen as giving people an easy way out rather than making them determined to stick out the tougher choice.
In later releases of BODYVIVE, we delved more explicitly into inclusive coaching – the principle that every choice one makes in terms of movement is equally valid choice to another choice of movement made by someone else in the room. It veered away from the “us vs them” mentality and brought everyone in the room together as one team getting fitter and stronger in their own way.
I’ve noticed more programs in recent times start to adopt this approach to coaching. I can certainly attest to this helping to broaden and improve my own skills as an instructor and coach more to the people to whom I teach. And I thank BODYVIVE and CXWORX for helping this concept come to life.
But to finish up, it was the leadership of one person that cemented BODYVIVE’s (and in turn CXWORX’s) reputation as a trailblazing program. The contribution of Susan Trainor to the Les Mills universe cannot be understated. And anyone who has watched her on BODYVIVE and/or CXWORX masterclasses readily acknowledges the grace and class with which she moves, as well as the logical and intelligent choreography in every single track that she creates. And we can’t forget her expert precise coaching either.
She has earned the title of LadyVive, MamaVitch, and a host of others. But what she has truly earned from all of us is our gratitude for the knowledge and expertise that she has imparted on us, and we have all become better instructors as a result. Thank you Susan, and thank you BODYVIVE!
There is undoubtedly more that BODYVIVE has contributed to the Les Mills universe that doesn’t get spoken about. So feel free to comment, and even share this post if you think there might be people who don’t know enough about BODYVIVE’s contribution. And LMI, it might do you a favour or two to hold on to some of those ideas 😉