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MY YEAR: 2021

by Sarah Shortt

2021-trainers
2021-trainers

1

CALEY JACK (SOUTH AFRICA)

2021 was a big year for me and [my husband] Rikki. I turned 30, experienced my first full year of motherhood (what an adventure!) and launched my own brand. Running a business while being a stay-at-home mum has been huge; in fact, finding my fitness groove after giving birth has been a journey of its own.

Juggling my career/business and ambitious, goal-setting nature while being a full-time stay-at-home mum with a very busy little one, has been my biggest, consistent challenge. Another big one is sleep deprivation: Ella is not a great sleeper. It’s impossible to predict how much sleep I’ll get each night, which ultimately determines my productivity the next day. The hardest part is having a huge “to do list” and a bad week of little sleep! It definitely tests every part of my mental and physical capacity.

I’m not back teaching full-time yet, but I have been coaching consistently through the year via my CaleyFit Platform, as well as presenting for Les Mills at our Quarterly Workshops this year. Being back on stage has been absolutely REFRESHING, RE-ENERGISING and EMPOWERING. It’s given me the opportunity to have my own space (as a new mum, this is a big thing) and be back in my happy place, helping others experience the benefits of group fitness at its best!

Looking ahead to 2022… we have a lot in the pipelines both personally and business-related, so I’m incredibly excited to see this unfold. However, I’m equally as excited to see experience the ‘unknown’!

2

REAGAN KANG (MALAYSIA)

2021 has been challenging with trying to run my business, not being able to see family and, of course, not being able to teach my favourite Les Mills workouts. Fortunately, I’ve been able to pick up some new hobbies like cycling and running, plus I’ve done a lot more reading. My biggest thing this year has been practising gratitude and being appreciative of what I do have.

A highlight has been life slowing down. It’s allowed me to see all aspects more clearly which, in turn, has enabled me to be truly present in these super challenging times. The biggest challenge has definitely been uncertainty, and it’s been a steep learning curve finding out how to remain relevant.

Teaching actually kept me centred this year, because it was something really simple and positive. We get to feel good after every workout thanks to the endorphin rush and the feeling of achievement – it’s something money can’t buy.

What am I looking forward to in 2022? I’m hoping to be able to see my family, as well as reconnect with the people I miss so much around the world.

3

LULA SLAUGHTER (US)

As I’m sure many can attest, 2021 brought lots of challenges – the obvious being the closure of the places we normally frequent most, which for me is the gym. My house was suddenly full of big, young people (as I like to call them), who should have been at school or working. To sum it up in the simplest way, it was tough!

The highlight was definitely adopting my fur-legged bestie Hugo, who has brought fun and laughter to everyone in our home. And, of course, getting back to teaching group fitness. To be really honest, teaching classes was a way for me to connect with the world again. I focused on the Key Elements of Connection and Performance because I wanted participants to have a good time (as well as myself). Seeing their faces, laughing and joking with them as we shared a tough training session, really brought life back to my bones.

I am looking forward to teaching more at school in 2022, as kids bring such joy and laughter to life. And, of course, I love seeing my kids continue to grow into amazing citizens of the world.

4

ADAM POPOSKI (UK)

This year has been full of different challenges – lots of ups and downs and quite a few moments of self-discovery. If I was to sum up 2021 in one sentence… it’s been life-changing. From big events in my personal life, to amazing opportunities in my career within fitness and Les Mills.

A big highlight of 2021 would be becoming a part of the Les Mills Trainer series. In a million years I wouldn’t have thought I’d be working with Lisa [Osborne] and the Les Mills International team. No words can describe how honoured I feel to be given an opportunity to share my love and passion for fitness in this way!

COVID-19 international travel restrictions mean it’s been extremely difficult to see my close family who are back in Poland (I moved to the UK in 2013). I’ve always been really close to them, so it’s been very hard not to meet in-person for over a year. It was extremely tough to have so many big things happening in my life and unable to share this joy in person.

Teaching has honestly been a lifesaver during lockdown. I was blessed to be part of a big live-streaming roll-out for the Village Gym chain, which kept me busy with teaching, coordinating and planning. If it wasn’t for online classes, it would be very hard for me to motivate myself to get up and get moving.

4

LUNAR LU (CHINA)

For me 2021, was about fast growth, learning new skills, and planning for the big picture.

My highlight is that I was in Cosmopolitan magazine, in a column on girl power!

The biggest challenge was that the fast growth of the gym chain I work with, requires a lot of travelling, which means I have to spend a lot of time away from my family. Another challenge was that I don’t teach as much as I used to. However, no matter how busy I get, I always try to teach a class here and there. I never forget where I started, and why I love what I do.

In 2022 I’m looking forward to travelling overseas again – to visit the places I miss or haven't been to before. And I want to reconnect with my friends.

5

DANIEL CHOUCRI (UK)

I’d sum up 2021 as: "new beginnings, pioneering, dedication and love."

The highlight was the birth of my son Zachary in January. He’s been such a blessing to me, my wife Kirsty, and our families.

I faced similar challenges to many others in the industry. My full-time income comes from my classes, PT clients, and training, presenting and assessing for Les Mills. This was heavily affected by the pandemic, but through new beginnings, pioneering thought and action, dedication, and love, we supported one another and found a way through together.

We also faced three bereavements in the family, which have been very hard; but with Zachary and the love we have for one another as a family, there has been a constant shining light throughout the challenges. He’s brought us even closer together.

Teaching has always been a wonderful channel to help focus my energy and escape from those things that might be mentally disruptive. In both online and in live classes, knowing I’ve got the love and support of my peers and class members has been amazing. We even had a little cry together in BODYBALANCE® 93. It truly shows that movement is the best medicine to release emotions and replenish the soul!

2022 is already shaping up to be a huge year for us and Les Mills, with a return to In-Person Initial Module Training (I trialled the first In-Person BODYBALANCE® Initial Module Training in the UK in November – after 20 months away it felt incredible). We'll be back to In-Person Quarterly Workshops and large-scale events, and I’m sure they’ll be off the chart!

6

NICHOLA SMILES (US)

I am tempted to say that 2021 was… meh! It was pretty much an extension of 2020; BUT there were definitely some moments that weren’t so meh! I had the ability to focus on and prioritise things that were really important to me, like home-projects, and fitness and professional goals. I was definitely productive in the world of adulting!

Meeting new Instructors during training is always a highlight. There’s definitely a lot of work behind the scenes prepping for training, but OMG it is so worth it to meet new trainees who are excited to teach and change the world!

My biggest life highlight is that my son is about to graduate from Texas Tech University (in December 2021). I had him at a very young age and I'm just so proud to see him be an official grown up. Makes me feel like I did not screw up!

Due to COVID, I lost my position as group fitness Instructor at the gym I had taught at for 10 years. Fortunately, I was hired by another gym and was teaching again by December of 2020. To be honest, I had mixed emotions about getting back into the studio. I was excited that I got to teach but realising how the pandemic impacted the industry was heart-breaking. Class attendance was very inconsistent. I would have 5 people one week, 16 people the next week, and then maybe 2 the following week. There were days when the motivation was not there for me. It can get to you, if you’re just holding on to what things used to be.

I was guilty of those exact feelings, but then a participant said to me: “I like you because you are consistent.” And as cliché as this may seem… it reminded me of my ‘why’. I show up because I know someone needs a mental escape from life. Someone rearranged their schedule to make sure they could attend class, or drove through bad weather to be there. So, I never teach a class disappointed about who isn’t there; I teach with gratitude for those who did show up. I also think about this new opportunity to meet new people, build new relationships and, hopefully, inspire happiness through fitness. Create more ripples!

7

LUCA CALLINI (US)

For me, 2021 was about not just ‘surviving’ anymore, but finding ways to thrive and evolve. It was about realising that we’re not ‘going back to normal,’ but rather taking the time to re-evaluate everything and define a ’new and better normal.’

The biggest challenge was re-establishing a good work/life balance; something I’ve always strived for and most definitely lost during 2020. Especially at the beginning of the pandemic, I found myself working insane hours. Being 100 per cent remote meant I was basically connected the entire time and expected to go from one meeting to another at a click of a button. I wasn’t mentally prepared to set healthy boundaries for when to be ‘at work’ and when to be off. Work and home life became one and the same.

We’re not going back to the world pre-2020, so my biggest challenge in 2021 was to find a new way of life. It turns out that working from home can be great, provided I set good work/life boundaries. I make a point to leave the house at some point during the day, even if that just means walking out into my backyard. A more flexible schedule means I can work out during the day, allowing me to devote more time to family after work.

I miss travelling for trainings, but online trainings offer a huge perk: at the end of each day, I’m home with the family! I think it’s important for all of us to realise that this hybrid work model – where we’re potentially reachable 24/7 – doesn’t mean we should be available all the time. It’s okay to step away.

I would love for 2022 to be about re-establishing live connections. I trained many Instructors virtually in 2021, and this October I had the opportunity to meet one of them in person at a launch event in Texas. It was amazing!

8

RENE VOGEL (GERMANY)

I had two big highlights of the year. The first was the in-person class experiences after lockdown – such moments of joy and happiness. People’s facial expressions reminded me how we Instructors really do create life-changing fitness experiences. Lifting the bar in BODYPUMP® or smashing out some burpees in LES MILLS GRIT® felt like a celebration. It’s hard to put into words because it’s all about the feel and the emotions.

The second was building a new business called Fitness & Finance, which is financial consulting with a totally different approach. It’s all about coaching with the idea to see each human individually in front of you.

I think the biggest challenge for us in the fitness industry was simply staying in the game. Gyms are closed: no teaching, no motivation from others. These might be simple things but they have a big impact on Instructors. And I’m lucky because I didn’t even have it that bad – I know people who lost their jobs or are facing real financial hardship.

For me, the hardest thing was training on my own! No class members I can work out with, no loud music, no socialising. To stay in the game, I did different kinds of workouts on-demand. I saw my friends teaching. I turned up the volume as loud as possible and just got into it. Even though I really missed live classes, I have to be honest: sometimes it is nice to have a break from my classes and people, to calm down, to find new ideas for coaching and bringing in some fresh and new energy.

Once I started live-streaming classes, this really helped me to stay in the game. And actually, the fact that I couldn't see the members but they could all see me made me work even harder! No cheating and taking extra breaks in my workout because everybody can see if you’re taking a rest!

Live-streaming was a great new skill to pick up. Coaching to camera needs to be super clear and easy to follow – a good check-in on my coaching layers. But it’s not just about the technique and coaching – it’s about enhancing the experience and delivering fun. I put everything into praising and connecting through the camera.

In 2022 I’m looking forward to LIVE classes, LIVE events, travelling for Les Mills, and sharing the greatness of our classes. Sharing the stage with friends, showing the passion and just having fun and creating unforgettable fitness moments.

Check out the new Trainer Series: International Edition – available on LES MILLS+.