This Just In

Getting GRITty

The following post is sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of Les Mills. The crazy amount of burpees, suicide sprints and sweat left on the ground? That was all me. But as always, you can read my complete disclosure policy here.

You saw how much fun I had at the IDEA World Fitness conference, right? Well, I mentioned that when I left, I brought back a very special souvenir: DOMS.

{DOMS=Delayed onset muscle soreness. Although since I sort of felt it an hour after competing in the Les Mills Summer Games, it was more like NIOMS, or nearly immediate onset muscle soreness.}

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The plan — as I bravely announced on Instagram in the moments leading up to the start of the Summer Games — was to compete in all four events, spread across the day on Saturday. The reality is that I participated in one and chose to spectate the others. I’m impressed that some people were able to take on the full challenge, but I wasn’t (and I’m not thrilled that the workouts were so intense, but more on that later).

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First, a few quick notes:

  • Les Mills GRIT™ is actually a series of three workouts: STRENGTH (interval training designed to build strength and build lean muscle), PLYO (interval training designed to make you perform like an athlete), CARDIO (interval training designed to improve cardiovascular fitness, increase speed and maximize calorie burn).
  • In studios, each GRIT workout is 30 minutes of HIIT: high intensity interval training.
  • Les Mills is the world’s largest provider of group exercise programming, including BODYPUMP® (weights), BODYCOMBAT® (martial arts) and RPM® (indoor cycling).


I have been a big fan of BODYPUMP for years, and in general, I like HIIT training and I believe it works (so does Les Mills: see http://www.lesmills.com/knowledge/fitness-research/why-les-mills- grit-works). So when the chance came to take part in the Summer Games at IDEA World, I said yes! I honestly wasn’t sure what the schedule would be until I showed up.

As it turns out, each individual competition (for medals and at the end, a Reebok gift card) lasted about 90 minutes and was done in teams of three: one athlete, one coach and one timer, who rotated after each round to make sure that everyone did every event.

First up (and as it turns out, the only one I competed in): Runner’s Revenge/CARDIO.

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Yeah. Tough. I’m in pretty good shape, but this workout kicked my butt. Even at 8 a.m., it was HOT and I was chugging water and holding my head between my knees in between rounds just to stay upright. Each round was timed, so you had to do as many reps as possible in five minutes. By the time I got to my second round of knee tucks, I was feeling the pain and the third round of burpees nearly killed me.

And I’ll admit that I came very close to just stopping after the forward leaps in the suicide series — I was just completely muscle wasted by the time we reached that section, and I had to dig very, very deep to keep moving forward.

At the end of this workout, I was in the second tier of finishers, which means I didn’t make the finals — JUST FINE WITH ME, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Here’s where I made the decision to end my participation in the Games. And here’s why:

  1. Too many reps. For far too long.
  2. Too hot.
  3. I realized that I’m just not cut out for circuits.
  4. I was really dreading the upcoming events.
  5. It wasn’t fun. FOR ME.

Now, full disclaimer: lots of the other participants seemed to be having a blast, as did some of the people at the Expo who listened to me talk about the morning workout. So while this was not my favorite experience, I think it truly IS something that others would enjoy.

And I think it’s really, really important to note that the Games are nothing like the normal class experience: each class is 30 minutes, not 90, and you don’t do back to back to back events all day. And there were plenty of things I did like about my event:

  • HIGH INTENSITY exercises, which are super effective for building strength and conditioning.
  • Teamwork (being coached and coaching my teammates was the best part of the day).
  • Incentive to beat yourself, not just others around you (I loved trying to eek out just one more burpee in round two than in round one, for example).
  • Bodyweight only — no equipment.

Instead of taking part in the next three events, I decided to come back and watch others compete in the remaining workouts. Here’s where things got a little uncomfortable for me.

High intensity interval training MUST be supervised, in my mind. It’s so easy to injure yourself or push yourself past what is healthy (I saw at least two people come very close to passing out, and another injured her eye pretty badly and kept competing). While there were referees and staffers walking around looking at the athletes, what I saw was more about disqualifying reps for bad form than helping make sure people were not hyperextending their joints, for example. Each athlete has the responsibility to know his/her limits and to practice safe workouts, but I felt nervous at the focus on MORE MORE MORE rather than as many as possible WITH GOOD FORM.

I absolutely think that in a class situation, this is not as dramatic of an issue as it appeared to me to be at the Summer Games. A good instructor, one trained in the GRIT method, will be giving verbal cues, watching participants carefully, correcting form issues, etc. That wasn’t really the setup of this competition and I find it hard to really evaluate what I think of the class because of that.

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I’m at a fairly high fitness level, and as an instructor, I think I know how to work out safely. I’m sure that the same could be said for the people at the Games, most of whom are in the industry as well. So I want to be as fair as possible to the program, while staying honest with you about elements of the Games that didn’t sit well with me. I’m not a “push past your limits” kind of instructor. I’m a “push to your limit and if it’s safe, a little more, but if it’s not, that’s cool and you’re awesome” kind of instructor.

Which is why, I guess, images like this on the GRIT Facebook page make me cringe:

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OK, back to the more fun stuff. Would I recommend one of the GRIT class workouts to a friend? Absolutely. In just 30 minutes, I think you can do a safe, fun and effective workout that increases your cardiovascular fitness, your strength, your flexibility and more. My past experience with Les Mills programs has been great – the instructors are good, experienced and motivational, and I think the same is probably true for the new GRIT series.

Takeaway: I like the idea of the classes. I would take one or all of the workouts. I liked the idea of the Summer Games. I did not enjoy the Summer Games but I’m very glad I took part in one event for the experience.

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And on the whole? It was a fun event to take part in. I got to sweat my butt off, see some great friends and learn about a workout I otherwise might not have tried. I’d really like to take a live class to see how it compares with the somewhat surreal experience at IDEA World, so I can better review what it’s like for students.

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(Oh, hi, Powercakes!)

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I don’t think circuit training in general is my favorite, so if you like that type of workout, try this and let me know what you think.

Learn more:

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