Despite being a fairly dedicated exerciser (I take Orangetheory classes four to five times per week), I’m about as ungainly as they come. Forever loving a challenge, though, I figured giving one of New Zealand’s most popular step aerobics workouts, Les Mills Bodystep, a try would lead me one, ahem, step closer to becoming more coordinated. And, at the very least, it’d teach me about what makes this trendy workout so incredibly popular.
“Bodystep is an exhilarating and fun full-body step workout that will leave you feeling strong, agile, and inspired,” promises Judson MacDonald, CPT, a learning and development specialist for Les Mills International, as well as a Bodystep teacher. “Using a combination of bodyweight, functional bench, and optional weight-plate exercises, you’ll challenge your muscles, develop coordination, and improve your cardio fitness.”
To be honest, I’m not sure what I expected when I signed up for a Bodystep class at Les Mills Live in New Orleans, a gathering of instructors and digital subscribers of Les Mills+, a new omnichannel fitness platform the 50-year-old group fitness brand launched last year. You can also take the class remotely online or by finding a live class near you (because, FYI, Bodystep is taught at gyms all over the country). At Les Mills Live, however, the class was filled to the brim with ecstatic steppers. The lights were low, the music was loud, and lasers stretched out in every direction.
Getting in step
Knowing I’d want to observe the scenario in front of me, I situated myself toward the back of the space. As the music grew louder and the beat thumped harder, I was amazed by how quickly and fluidly all the people in front of me moved. However, I was not amazed (nor surprised) by just how thoroughly I was struggling with it.
The nearly hour-long class includes researched-based, functional movement patterns that change monthly. Think: walking step-ups, reverse lunges, side squats, burpees, forward and lateral raises, and more. Even the most basic exercises, though, were paired with bounce in your step and coordinated arm movements to make it more of a dance, rather than just a functional exercise. In short, it was a lot.
While the weights weren’t heavy and the number of reps wasn’t high, the sheer pace at which the workout is performed is enough to make you sweat. According to my Whoop fitness tracker, the workout clocked in at a 12.5 strain, which is toward the top of the moderate-intensity range—and I wasn’t even using the heaviest weights, nor the highest steps for the entire duration of the workout.
“The height-adjustable steps and options coached by your instructor make this workout perfect for all fitness levels, and the uplifting music will inspire you to push your personal limits,” MacDonald says, and I can attest. Thanks to the encouraging instructors, and the variety of modifications available, the class was doable—even for someone like me who is a square-one beginner in step aerobics. (Though I wish I’d watched some of the step tutorials on Les Mills+ before taking class, so I would’ve know what to expect.)
MacDonald tells me that it typically takes five or six classes to start to really get the hang of the movements. Luckily, Bodystep instructors pump out multiple workouts each week, so there’s plenty of material to move with. And since Bodystep can be done with or without the Les Mills equipment, that means that no matter where I am, I now have an option for fun, uplifting fitness. Do I feel less awkward after one workout? No. But I have high hopes that I can can improve my coordination, one step at a time.