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INSTRUCTOR PROFILE: HOUSSAME ‘HOUSE’ CHAALANE

by Les Mills Asia Pacific

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Recognised for his on-stage presence at the Releases filming in Sydney, House says, “It’s awesome to be trained in so many programs, all of which I’m actively teaching, except SH’BAM. It becomes less awesome, of course, around launch time when I have to learn all the new Releases!”

House’s Les Mills journey began with BODYBALANCE®, when he was signed up by his club manager for Initial Module Training, as part of a special ‘two-for-one’ deal. “I didn’t really know what the training was for, so my first words there were, ‘What is Les Mills?’ And in French, when you read ‘Les mills’ you don’t pronounce the ‘S’ on “Les” so, of course, everyone laughed!”

House says he fell in love with some Les Mills programs immediately (BODYATTACK®, BODYCOMBAT®, BODYJAM® and SH’BAM®). “The intensity, the energy, the music, everything led me to automatically feel attracted to the programs. Plus, I love dancing, jumping all over the place and martial arts so… chemistry! For me, BODYJAM and BODYCOMBAT are the programs that excite me the most, every single Quarter when I have the chance to present new Releases!”

“For BODYPUMP®, well, the story is a bit different. It was more of a necessity for me to be trained because it is the 101 if you want to work in this industry. But this workout is smart, efficient, and fun, so it’s a pleasure to teach it every time I step up on the stage.”

“RPM® has a different story again. I have always said I’d never teach a cycle program but, as we say in French: ‘Never say “fountain, I will never drink your water!”’. I did this training when I moved to Singapore and since then, it has grown on me. Then, after RPM came THE TRIP®, which for me, is more like a virtual reality video game – which is one of my childhood passions! So being able to work out and play at the same time is awesome!”

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According to House, a career in fitness is both “a gift and a curse”.

He says, “I love this job; it made me discover so many things and let me meet so many extraordinary people from all around the world. When I wake up in the morning, I’m not saying ‘I have to go to work’; it’s not a chore. Same thing on Monday mornings; I don’t feel any ‘Monday blues’ or struggle to get through a whole week.”

“This job makes me feel like I can do things that usually wouldn’t be possible! For example, I can tell a female doctor and a male hairdresser who are attending the same class, to do five more burpees with a smile, and they will keep asking for more! Because, when you’re in the gym, everyone is equal; the members are all there to have a great workout and to share the same passion for fitness. This is the beauty of this job for me: I love human beings and creating connections with them. Also, you get to work on your own fitness while helping people to improve theirs! It’s a win-win!”

“The curse of the job is more of a fun fact, really; and that is, I don’t really know where my actual right and left is is, when I have to drive, for example! Or every song I hear on the radio I’ll try and figure out which Les Mills program and Release it featured in (because if I don’t, it runs through my head for the whole day)!”

“When I was first invited to take part in Presenter Try-Outs for BODYCOMBAT and BODYATTACK, it wasn’t my time. Instead, I became an Assessor and joined the Trainer, Assessor and Presenter (TAP) Team, which is a squad helping Instructors and Trainees to improve their skills by providing feedback and support so they can reach their goals (e.g., Advanced Training, Initial Module Training, etc).”

His role with the TAP Team, led House to appear on stage at the Les Mills filming in Sydney, an opportunity that House says he owes “to one of my best supports, Marlon Woods, with whom I have shared a lot over burritos and protein shakes!”

In 2020, after spending two “wonderful years” in Australia, House moved to Singapore, where he has remained part of the Les Mills Asia Pacific TAP Team. House says settling in a new country is not too challenging, thanks to his wife, whom he refers to as “my rock, my pillar!” He adds, “Having someone to share these experiences abroad is a game changer.”

“I moved to Singapore to start work with a new fitness company. I was actually on the very last flight that was permitted to land from France, and I had to go straight into quarantine. Then, when I finally got free, lockdowns hit!”

“The past two years of pandemic has seen our industry struggle – more so in some countries than others. For us full-time Instructors, times have been really tough. Don’t get me wrong, this uncertainty hit every other industry too, but in most other fields you could work from home.”

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“The Q1.22 Workshops were the first in-person Quarterly Workshops held in two years, so it feels like life may be starting to return to normal now.”

“Thanks to technology, I can talk to my parents who are 10,000km away and actually see them at the same time; likewise, I can be at a friend’s wedding via Zoom, or part of a friend gathering even while I’m on my couch at home. Of course, nothing beats live experiences, so being with all of them in-person is WAY better, but solutions such as the internet, WhatsApp, social media… all these wonderful tools can makes us feel homesick but also help fight it. I don’t think you ever overcome homesickness; you just learn to live with it.”

House says the differences between teaching in France, Australia and Singapore are interesting.

“Teaching in France, for example, is very different largely due to the language. In BODYCOMBAT, saying “Jab Cross Hook” in English is quite fast and simple. But in French, saying “Direct Croise Crochet” takes a little longer! Another huge impact of the language barrier in France, is that we lose probably half of the connection with the lyrical part of the music. So, it’s more challenging to create a relationship between the music and your coaching (as cues would typically be emphasised by the song lyrics).”

“This being said, in France I had a great time starting my journey there! It gave me the best basis I could ever hope for, especially for learning technique because the quality of the Instructors in France was very high; you had to work hard to keep up! Remember, you have to be very good technically, before you can even think about being fun or anything else. Members were there to have fun, but they wanted an effective workout, first and foremost!”

“When I arrived in Australia, I felt very much like ‘a fish out of water!’ However, the eccentric side of my personality made me feel like I immediately belonged; delivering classes there was so natural. The experience of teaching a class was different though; people were there to work out, but the fun was also a huge part of the experience! You could be the best of all technically, but if you’re not creating an experience for the member – if you don’t bring that X-factor that they want – then your class will turn only be regarded as an ‘okay’ class. One example I will never forget, is the energy of a Monday morning, 6 AM BODYATTACK class! I would have 50 or more people in front of me, shouting like it was 7pm, and singing like we were in a karaoke! In Australia, the connection with members was the most important thing; so, you could have fun at any time of the day or night. This will stay in my mind forever!”

“In Singapore, teaching is entirely different again. Here, everything stays on track; it’s calibrated, and nothing goes outside the box, which is sometimes for the best! Here in Singapore, great coaching goes a long way and it’s really fulfilling to see members listening to everything you say and applying every single cue with dedication. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing their eyes light up with pride after nailing a cue you just gave them; and that accomplishment they feel, goes straight to my heart!”

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House says that being an Instructor has taught him a lot, including:

Patience: sometimes, you are dealing with people who are not going as fast as the others or as fast as you would expect them to go. So, you have to adapt, and find the good words, cues, tips, or tricks to make them go where you want. It takes time and patience, and it’s even more satisfying when the results are there.

Empathy: you have to understand the ‘why’ of what you’re doing and where you are; but also, the ‘why’ of your members – where they are and why they may sometimes struggle with a move or combination. It could come from a physical issue like an injury or something even deeper. Knowing the problem, trying to feel what they feel and adapting to help them succeed is a wonderful thing!

Structure: when you teach a class, you have to think about so many things. You have to remember the choreography, what to say at the right moment, etc. During Initial Module Training, we learn about the three different layers to apply to our coaching, and these skills have helped me in my daily life too.”

“When I look back and see how far I’ve come, and how many beautiful people I’ve met throughout my career, I feel proud. Of course, as Rachael Newsham said to me after filming, “Climbing a mountain is hard, but once you’re on top, don’t just stay there and say, ‘now what?’; try to climb the other one in front of you!”

You can follow House on Instagram at @house_coach.c