Les Mills classes have set a high standard and a successful example for fitness professionals around the world. To say the very least, Les Mills’ business model is a noteworthy one. With features and references in just about every health and fitness club publication under the sun and widely referenced industry reports, Mills has quite a few notes to share on staying afloat in such a competitive industry.
“When my dad, Les Mills, opened our first gym in New Zealand 50 years ago, he said the job of the fitness industry is to help people fall in love with fitness. That’s a mission we are still driven by today,” says Phillip Mills to Health Club Management.
In fact, Mills has been a leader in fitness innovation since the 1980s. Les Mills opened the first gym with his wife Colleen in 1968 in Auckland, New Zealand. This gym had a bit of a rocky start, but after putting in some serious elbow grease, it eventually turned into the 12 chains that exist today in New Zealand.
While operating solely through brick and mortar locations, the original site of the first Les Mills club became the home to the development of their widely influential classes. When Phillip Mills returned to Auckland from UCLA, with the influence of newly developed aerobics and experience in the music industry, the start of the famous legacy of classes began.
One overarching factor in Les Mills’ success is the development of just about every type of fitness class. Mills has created a model curating every format and concept of fitness and made their classes available to anyone, everywhere.
Classes build off the bases of strength training, toning, yoga, cycling, dance, barre, and much more. The variability in classes offered opens the doors to anyone interested in getting fit without the limitations of traditional exercises.
Best of all, Mills has dominated and pioneered group fitness since its origin.
Science and Music
Les Mills takes a very unique approach to their classes by integrating exercise science with music. It is quite typical to have a playlist blasting in your ears while you blast whatever part of your body you are exercising.
Music boosts your mood, focus, and overall energy when you exercise. Thus, Phillip Mills used his unique insights into the world of fitness and his insights into the world of music to create classes around dance and heavy-hitting workout routines.
The music and choreography are updated every three months. This ensures that the science behind the choreography is up to date and that the music is up to date. This also ensures that people will have fresh new workouts to participate in as it’s easy to become bored with the same few routines.
The key takeaway is the constantly evolving atmosphere in any one of the classes. Creativity and innovation are what Les Mills has excelled in since the beginning.
Phillip and Jackie Mills pioneered this entertaining form of group fitness in the 1980s.
Sense of Community Through Group Fitness
As a leader in group fitness, Mills has done well to cultivate a strong sense of community around their classes. They do this by creating Facebook groups for their members worldwide, using science and data to innovate group fitness classes, and branded gear for members to purchase.
Les Mills classes give members a feeling of being a part of a supportive fitness community. This means they can draw immense support from their peers and their instructors.
Data-driven development of group fitness classes means that customer satisfaction is always the priority. Therefore, make sure you are keeping tabs on all the key performance indicators of the classes you host. Feedback is invaluable when it comes to development.
‘Netflix for Fitness’ Les Mills On Demand
In the age of SaaS growth and streaming services, we all reap the benefits of on-demand service and automated billing cycles. We live ridiculously fast-paced lives and keeping up with fitness can feel impossible.
In 2016, Les Mills came onto the market and dominated on-demand personal training and fitness classes services. One major reason for the on-demand success is the thoroughly branded content and class structure. The classes also cater to a wide range of ages and skill levels, so there is no disparity in who can get involved.
Classes are available to people almost anywhere in the world. Mills actually makes it a point to have customers submit countries that are not included so that it can be added in the future.
Because Mills reaches people globally, it has made a unique contribution to developing a diverse community of people through on-demand classes. Users can join a Facebook group Les Mills On Demand Squad.
The library of classes has over a whopping 1000 training videos in cardio, dance, yoga, HIIT, and more. People can participate in most of these classes anywhere and anytime as many of them do not require any equipment.
The key takeaway: On-demand fitness with subscriptions is growing more popular. Automate the billing cycles for access to your classes and provide on-demand workout videos to cater to clients right in their homes.
Let’s break down what some of the most popular classes entail and what aspects of them make them so successful.
Les Mills BODYPUMP
This is a class designed by researchers of Les Mills to build strength and muscle definition. BODYPUMP workouts combine the use of choreographed movements and a barbell. The participant of this class can do up to 1000 reps and Mills claims that this is because of the group fitness effect.
In reality, you’ll find it difficult to pump out that many reps on your own in a plain workout routine.
The key takeaway: The energy and motivation drawn from instructors, peers, and an overall energetic environment helps the participant achieve more than they would on their own.
Les Mills SPRINT
SPRINT combines HIIT interval training with cycling for a wildly powerful 30-minute workout. Most other Mills classes have different options for lengths, but this one only takes 30 minutes to shred the calories right off of your body.
Cycling classes are meant to be sheer hell at the moment, and then you can feel relief and success later. However, many people just show up, put in the work, and go about their day without a second thought.
What the Mills team has done with sprint classes makes it like a series to be excited for (or dread in the most positive way). With their SPRINT series, they realize new workouts every couple of months to keep participants on their toes.
Yet, it also opened the doors for feedback on the development of new exercises. Some SPRINTs are more popular than others, and the new developments keep people loyal to the SPRINTS classes.
The key takeaway: Effective innovation in routine has a direct correlation to better member retention. Not to mention innovation’s importance on the approach to high-intensity workouts without the issue of impact and join fatigue. This allows more people to participate in this type of class if they are recovering from an injury or have other limitations.
Les Mills BODYCOMBAT
BODYCOMBAT is an ultra energetic bodyweight workout that uses from different martial arts. This is a cardio class that is aimed at reducing stress and burning a ton of calories.
A benefit of this class is that anyone can participate no matter what level. Its a fun take on cardio that actually makes you feel more empowered through the movements. Its definitely not self-defense class, but you might be a bit more prepared if a situation ever arises.
The key takeaway from this class that you should consider is the multi-faceted benefits of participating. Mills has created value in this class in a few ways that I mentioned.
A workout is more enjoyable if it has more than just the benefit of improving your health little by little. In this case, people leave class feeling safer and more powerful through the punches and kicks they learn and practice.
My point is this – build more value into your classes and have your clients leaving feeling like they got more than just a workout in!
Fitness Innovation Through Technology
Les Mills continues to push the boundaries of when, where, and how fitness and wellness can happen. What has set this company far ahead of the rest is its implementation of creative ideas far outside of the box.
For example, in 2019, Mills integrated with Air New Zealand to provide meditation and wellness courses for streaming on international flights. This is a genius way to grow their revenue stream and more importantly educate and mentor a much wider audience. Not to mention this audience will be more engaged because they quite literally have nothing else to do.
Les Mills reinvented the idea of a cycling class to create an entertaining and immersive experience. The TRIP takes the participant through a fully immersed cycling cardio experience through a projected visual experience.
In other words, you’re practically playing augmented reality Mario Kart with a class full of people and an instructor. So it’s just plain cool.
The TRIP is undoubtedly a costly innovation, but Mills sets the standard high for creativity and has the science to back it.
The important takeway from this, however, is the value in technological innovation. In the last year we have seen how vital technology is to sustaining the fitness industry. To go further, we now better understand how vital technology is to better access to fitness programs and more engagement in those programs.
Access and engagement are what will help turn the tide of our global epidemic of chronic health conditions. Now, many more affordable fitness technologies could aid in developing the accessibility and engagement level of the classes you host.
Sum up the key takeaways from what I have highlighted from Les Mills’ success, and you will most likely find more success in your own classes.
Keep classes and workout routines fresh to ensure that you retain your members and clients.
Build more value around your classes by adding an extra element of reward for completing.
Stay on top of technological trends and do your absolute best to implement those into your classes and sessions.
Make your classes more accessible to people. Also, segment your classes by specific groups so that you can better target your audiences and the results they want from your classes.
The last one, have fun and be creative! The more fun and enjoyment you get from developing and teaching classes will reflect positively in the reactions from your clients.