If there was ever a way to put a barbell through a roof…

It’s just like riding a bike. Except you need to change out and customise pieces of the bike while you’re riding, otherwise it’ll constantly fall in and out of balance. Plus you’re riding that bike uphill the whole time. Have the wheels fallen off this metaphor yet?

It’s been quite some time since I last did a Bodypump class.

I first started years back at Les Mills in Auckland. Having never ventured to the group fitness area, I saw a stream of fit butts in tight workout gear heading upstairs. Being 16 years old, I was drawn as by the pied piper. I found myself at the back of the class, but somehow actually engaged in the workout itself. Shattered after a seemingly endless all body assault, I came back again and again. For the next few years as I drifted from gym to gym around Auckland and the rest of the country, like some fitness recidivist I found myself in Bodypump classes time after time.

Years later, I’m in the middle of a free gym trial. Today I thought I’d return to something familiar. It was familiar, as if nothing had changed. You know how travellers sometimes delight in finding a McDonalds on their adventures? It’s not that they don’t like taking in new cultural stimuli, but the comforting fact that a Big Mac is a Big Mac worldwide helps them feel a sense of home. I felt the same way taking the class. Bodypump and all the Les Mills stable of fitness classes are the McDonalds of the fitness world. When you want two 100 per cent beef patties, “special sauce”, iceberg lettuce, American cheese, pickles, and onions, served in a three-part sesame seed bun, it hits exactly that spot.

That pre-packaged serving of workout extends beyond the class itself. Between different Bodypump releases (and I don’t know what number we’re up to now, but this looks cultish as hell), the tracks may vary, but only by sound. It’s the same moves time and time again (with micro-variations), but each sequence has a slightly different order. There’s always the intro track, then squats, chest, back, triceps, biceps, lunges, shoulders, abs, cooldown stretch. Each track is between two to four minutes of high octane rock/pop. The instructors are loud, vivacious and excited, as if snorting a line was an essential ingredient of instructing. More than that, there are archetypes you’ll always see:

  • The 60 year old hardcore woman whose body is composed purely of muscle and skin. She takes extra reps where no reps exist.
  • The Mountain That Rides, who might as well be using other class members as his barbell.
  • The front row of super fit regulars.
  • Darryl, who isn’t in shape, but has a positive attitude and a great rapport with the instructor. The instructor calls on him by name several times per class to show that they’re human just like everyone else.
  • The person clumsily behind. They haven’t quite figured out which weights to use in each track and change mid-track (me).
  • One person who throws a ton of weight on their bar, but has awful form and constantly wonders why they have back pain.

All of this is to say, the class is fun. It does seem cultish as hell, but if you put in effort and follow along you’ll come out with tired muscles and a sheen of sweat. If a formula works time and time again, why would you change it? Didn’t we learn anything from “New Coke”?

Speaking of which, where can I score? I may need to test this coke/pump theory for myself.


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