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My love affair with BodyPump started around the same time as I was training for my first half-marathon and really falling in love with running. I believe I happened on BodyPump between Christmas and New Year’s, in late 2009. I was going through a rough time and spending more time at the gym to try and shake things off. I had seen this very popular class before, with weights and bars, and been intrigued, but never felt like braving the crowds to try the class-up until this time I’d have said I wasn’t a ‘class person.’ But in the holiday lull there was space, and in I went.

My first class felt like I suppose everyone’s first class feels: awkward and hard. I didn’t know these moves these people were doing, or exactly how to lift weights with a bar. While I had always loved strength training over cardio, I had never touched a non-machine weight in my life. But the instructor was so helpful and energetic! And the music was incredibly fun and really loud! I wanted more!

A woman I’d known briefly, years before, turned out to be the teacher in the next class I attended. She was very helpful, and told me that BodyPump two times a week is far more helpful than once a week, and three times does not do much more for you than two. My gym offers a playcenter for the children, so it has never been difficult for me to convince myself to go to the gym. Childcare for the kids and a workout and break for me? Yes, please. I started going twice a week and my love affair grew.

BodyPump is a franchise of the Les Mills corporation. So everywhere you go, it’s essentially the same: 1 hour, 10 music tracks, with each track focusing on a specific body part. And always in the same order: Warmup, Squats, Chest, Back/Hamstrings/Glutes, Triceps, Biceps, Lunges, Shoulders, Abs, Cooldown. The moves are essentially the same but different choreography and different things keeps it from being boring. I started seeing more definition in my shoulders within two weeks. I felt stronger and loved the break from running but the knowledge that I was doing things that would help me get stronger generally and better at running.

You can see what a setup looks like–weights and bars, benches for chest presses and triceps, weight bars, minimal handweights. Mats for ab work and for some shoulder work.

Two and a half years later and I’m still there, two times a week. When I travel, I use the Les Mills site to find a BodyPump class, or I do a variation on it in a weight room at a gym. I’m so much stronger than I have *ever* been, and not bulky at all. It’s a lower weight, high-rep class–designed to produce lean, strong muscles, not bulk. My weights are at the higher end for women, but I’m not bulky anywhere. You can tell in some of the newer releases that they are trying to compete with CrossFit/Insanity/P90x by introducing jump squats and other plyometrics. I say, bring it on. I love the variation and the challenge.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure: I can’t put the bar on my back for squats or lunges because of the scoliosis. I free squat and occasionally hit the squat machine instead. For lunges, I can hold the bar underneath one leg and still lunge with weight without it sitting directly on my spine. I’m pretty sure I could never teach BodyPump because Les Mills loves to have their instructors using tons of weight for every track, so the squat and lunge issue is a problem. But I’m happy just having my workaround so I can do basically everything in the class. I will say some of the music can be pretty trashy. I just concentrate on digging deeper when a particularly ridiculous song is on. Luckily my instructor has been teaching for 12 years so she knows so many releases that we never hear one that often.

So, there ya go. My strength training regime. BodyPump For The Win!