On October 2, Kerri, Erica, and I took a trip to Amsterdam for LesMills LIVE (we met up with Erica’s sister Erin in Iceland). Similar to Stockholm in 2015, this was (to my knowledge) the third time that class filmings were taking place outside of New Zealand. What made the trip extra special was that it was the filming for BODYATTACK™ 100. This has been something that I’ve been planning since Stockholm 2015. Predicting/calculating that BODYATTACK™ 100 was being filmed around this time, I was prepared to fly to anywhere in the world, including New Zealand, for this. Fortunately (and speaking financially), it was only across the Atlantic Ocean.
Unlike Stockholm 2015, I arrived with friends. Upon landing in Amsterdam and trying to find our way to the Golden Tulip (our hotel), we did get lost, and ended up taking an Uber (which is an amazing service from my experience). After checking in, we got another Uber to a wine and cheese to celebrate our arrival.
After a dinner, we split up. Kerri and I went to visit the Anne Frank House. I read The Diary of Anne Frank in high school, so I was looking forward to this. During the opening when the guide/interpreter was explaining how Canada limited the number of Jewish refugees into the country during World War II, I teared up a bit. As a Mi’kmaw/Indigenous person, I think of how my ancestors helped and welcomed people to the land, then decades/centuries later, this happened during World War II. While Canada has come a long way since (and did participate in World War II with the Allied Powers), limiting refugees who needed it is not a great moment in our history. Before leaving the Anne Frank House, I shared these thoughts in their electronic guestbook.
When travelling, I learned from Maureen Hagen (Mo) that one of the best things to do for jet lag was exercise. So Wednesday morning, Erica and I went for a 5K run to help us adjust to the five hour time difference. Once done, us four went for a walk, amazed and inspired at how the city had so many bicycles. I think a U.S. LesMills Trainer/Presenter even commented that the city had more bikes than people. We went to a food market and picked up some things so that we could have a nice picnic at Vondelpark. Although fun, it was a bit windy, and some birds tried to get a bit too friendly with us/the food.
Later that day, we met us with two friends who were on their honeymoon, Rebecca (who started instructing around the same time as me) and her husband. We booked a boat tour for some cannels with Those Dam Boat Guys. After a rough start (we had to dock as our boat took on water), we were on our way. Our host a South African woman named Dominik, who was a history major and knew so much about Amsterdam. As we cruised on the waters, we learned a lot about the city and got great recommendations. Sharing the boat with six others, we all did a round of introductions (with five of us explaining that we were attending a “fitness event” in the city), including a doctor who was a BODYPUMP™ participant in Washington State. After the tour, I thanked our incredible host for sharing her knowledge of the city and said that we would strongly recommend them to our friends. Later that night, we took went to a Thai restaurant and two other friends joined us; Faith and Alyssa (who was going to be a shadow for BODYATTACK™ 100). It was a good dinner and I even picked up the tab for us.
Thursday morning, I went for a planned 10K run by myself. I thought that I had figured out a decent route plan; run 5K to wherever, then run 5K back. But due to my own misdirection, I ended up doing 20K (in some rainfall). I think that, when travelling with a group of friends, I tend to take less time to memorize the place and get a “sense of direction” (I hardly gotten lost in Stockholm). Pressed for time, I wasn’t able to make breakfast and had to get to the Van Gogh Museum to meet up with Kerri. I’m not really much of a paint artist fan, but I did enjoy the exhibits at the museum. However, what really caught my attention and emotions was Van Gogh’s life, his struggle with mental illness, and his subsequent suicide. It made me think of Clint, and lack of resources/knowledge re mental illness and suicide.
The rest of the afternoon and evening, Kerri and I just walked around Amsterdam, dropping into shops, exchanging ideas, and pointing out fascinating buildings and sites. Eventually we met up with some of our Canadian friends. We planned for dinner at any Indonesian restaurant. I don’t consider myself a “foodie” at all. Food is food to me and if it’s healthy, I’m generally satisfied. But what I had at ANEKA RASA was unbelievably delicious, and makes me want to try more Indonesian restaurants.
On Friday, the first day of LesMills LIVE Amsterdam, we agreed to meet up at 6:30 a.m. and Uber over to the venue. Like other LesMills events that I’ve attend (Toronto, Las Vegas, Baltimore, and Stockholm), I saw many friends, and at the same time, was recognized quite a bit (which is always flattering). I picked up a few shirts at the Reebok store that we don’t have in Canada, and even a pair of legging tights (my first LesMills Reebok ones). I mainly participated in GRIT™, BODYFLOW® (called BODYBALANCE™ outside of North America), BODYATTACK™, and one BODYPUMP™. For the most part, we were all in different programs, so I hardly saw my group in classes that I was doing.
One short but good experience that I enjoyed was meeting up with Gandalf (the BODYJAM™ Program Director). I quickly introduced myself, then said that I was the guy from Canada who proposed to his girlfriend after a BODYJAM™ class. He immediately knew who I was and congratulated me. It was one of those nice moments that I wish I could have had Kerri there with. Perhaps another time.
As we don’t have GRIT™ in our city, I wanted to do as many as I could (including a filming). Our tickets gave us three master classes on a Friday and Saturday, so I did three for the first day. While I may have been doing a lot of GRIT™, I was a tad bit worried that maybe I might have been tiring myself out (especially as I did a 20K run the day before), but I kept telling myself (as I do in other situations), “you teach BODYATTACK™; you do marathons; you can do this; you can do anything.” I also threw in some BODYFLOW® as I knew that I needed some physical and mental relaxation over the two days (and fighting a five-hour time zone difference). I maxed out when I could with GRIT™ and slowed down when I needed it, but when it came to BODYATTACK™ 99 (which I did on Friday), like other LesMills events (and to get the most out of it for myself), I didn’t do options and did all push-ups on my toes. I enjoyed 99 quite a bit (especially Athletic Strength and Power), but obviously my mind was on 100 for the next day.
During GRIT™ Plyo filming (the last one of the day), things got pretty intense for me. Romain Prevedello (a LesMills Trainer/Presenter from France who was also at LesMills LIVE Toronto) got down on the floor. I heard a camera operator say, “face us when coaching him.” Then I realized, “Oh boy! Romain is next to me and they’re filming us. Got to look strong for the video.” While others were slowing down a bit, I vowed to keep my energy and intensity going. With Romain coaching and motivating me, I kept leaping over my step and doing burpees, maintaining the pace until the song switched. He gave me a high five. After filming, I went to get a photo with him. With a large smile and enthusiasm to match, he pointed to me and said aloud to those nearby, “This guy is crazy.” I took this as a great compliment. I thanked him for everything and said that I hoped that he would be in Toronto again next year.
Later that night, Kerri and I met up with some New Brunswick friends (one of whom was battling an injury) for a pre-BODYATTACK™ 100 celebratory late-dinner. We stayed a bit later than I wanted to, but as I didn’t have BODYPUMP™ filming until 8:30 a.m., I knew that I could sleep in a little for the next morning.
On Saturday, I woke up thinking, “this is the big day; BODYATTACK™ 100.” I was so excited. I was ready to go wherever in the world for this, and here I was with friends in Amsterdam, ready for it. Kerri and I didn’t have time for breakfast, so we went over and got a spot in the back of the room for BODYPUMP™ filming (which had a tough Lunge track). After that, we went to grab some breakfast then walked around for a bit.
That afternoon, I decided to get into the lineup a bit early for BODYATTACK™ 100. A bit of a wait, I struck up conversations with folks around me. We all shared what releases we trained on (turns out I was more of a veteran having trained on 72, while many others trained in the 80s). We spoke about the program in our home countries/gyms, how loving BODYATTACK™ and LesMills programs truly brings people together, and how excited we were for BODYATTACK™ 100. I also took a group photo of several Greek instructors (who were there to support their local Trainers). Knowing that many countries/nations were in attendance, I decided weeks ago that I would be representing the Mi’kmaw Nation (and presumed that I was the only Mi’kmaw there). I pinned a small Mi’kmaw flag to the back of my shirt. While I am not sure if it’ll be visible on the filming, knowing that I still wore and represented it meant something special to me.
Soon we got into the room. I knew it would be highly unlikely that I’d get a front row spot. But the stage was unique in that it was in the centre of the facility and participants would surround it. So I ended up getting a spot to the right of the filming front. I was happy that I ended up with some fellow Canadians nearby, including Erica (who I used to take BODYATTACK™ with) and Erin (who I trained on 72 with). When Bevan and Lisa hopped on stage, the crowd erupted. They introduced the countries being represented (including Fred and Alyssa for Canada, and other international presenters I knew/recognized too), thanked everyone who made the trip from around the world, then got started.
The energy in the room that day; no words can do it justice in describing it. It seemed as if the crowd was red hot, on fire, and always yelling. I loved it so much. I actually barely heard a lot of the instructing, but given I’ve been doing BODYATTACK™ for over six years, I have an excellent sense of musicality (for BODYATTACK™ anyway, not for music in general), counts/patterns, and change, so I easily caught on to the choreography. Unlike Stockholm (where I had a good spot in filming), one advantage of not being front row centre was that I had room to do more; burpees, push-ups, side jumps, anything. I was able to get down when needed and had space for increased intensity. Of the many filming memories, several stand out. In Athletic Strength, I did the whole track on my toes. About halfway through, my Canadian friends surrounded me, shouting and encouraging me to keep up the hard work and to not fall to my knees. Even two other men nearby stopped doing their push-ups and just watched me go at it, looking on in either amazement or disbelief. The floor below me was an absolute puddle of my own sweat. I loved it. In the Running Track, Alyssa and Fred were on stage, and us Canadians ran nearby enough to ensure that they saw us, knowing that we were there to show our support and how proud we were of them. While I wasn’t sure if Fred saw us (as he was coaching), Alyssa did, responding with a beautiful smile and a fun wave. Then of course, the Power track was just pure vigour, drive, and all-out energy. The crowd of 1,5000 was absolutely cranked up to the max and I was so happy and proud to be a part of it. Then in the last block, it was the classic High Knee finish (which also seemed a bit longer than most ones). I vowed to absolutely let it all out at that moment. More presenters got on stage, and as it turned out, Bevan (who is my BODYATTACK™ idol and role model) was on the side of the stage where we were. As we all got closer, I wondered if he would see me. To what was one of my favourite/best moments of the filming and trip, Bevan recognized and spotted me from the stage, pointing at me. It motivated me even more to finish with a bang. The other moment was doing the Interval track. It was a classic with the same music and choreography from an older release. But what made the whole thing lovely was that we knew the words and sang along. Fueled by BODYATTACK™ love and passion, it was thunderously beautiful, energetically exquisite, and it only made me fall in love all over again with the program even more. It was a moment like no other. From all around the world and different walks of life; together, we were all one tribe, all simply in that moment. No tonight. No tomorrow. No next time. It was just that moment where I felt so alive. Pure love; pure energy; pure passion; pure BODYATTACK™. I can write forever and words can never do justice what I experienced at that moment.
During the Cool Down, the presenters/shadows crossed the circular stage, some carrying their countries’ respective flags. We applauded them all, and when our two Canadians came out, we upped our volume and cheers for them. While I understood that there was no Canadian representation for BODYPUMP™ 100, I was so glad that there was for BODYATTACK™ 100 through Fred and Alyssa. Lisa gave a lovely thank you to everyone involved with BODYATTACK™, including Philip and Jackie Mills. At the end, one of the participants proposed to his girlfriend on stage (which didn’t entirely surprise me, as I was thinking for a while why no one has ever done such a thing yet, but it was beautiful). Afterwards, I walked around the stage, getting as many photos as I could with our Canadians (and even took a fun one for team Greece). I got a good quick photo with Bevan, congratulating and thanking him for everything that day. Knowing how busy presenters are especially after a presentation/filming, I didn’t want to take up too much of his or anyone else’s time.
Kerri had a BODYJAM™ class, which was being presented by Gandalf. I sat at the back of the room, scrolling through my pictures of the day. Soon she was done and we walked back to our hotel. Given I cooled down quite a bit and it was raining, I was very cold on the walk back. Kerri loan me her sweater to warmup (which helped). Once back, we got ready for the after-party. We stuck around our room for a bit, sharing drinks and stories, listening and singing to 1990s music, and ordered out. Soon other friends joined us. We took an Uber over to the venue again. Despite being physically beat, I vowed to bust a move on the dance floor. Just like the two guys who stopped to watch me do push-ups on my toes in BODYATTACK™ 100, a few heads turned when I was doing my thing. We met up with other Canadians, congratulated our presenter and shadow again, and enjoyed the good times. I also got to bump into some other friends. At about 2:00 a.m., I was finally starting to get tired. Kerri said she’d travel back with others later on, and I decided to walk back. Leaving the party then venue, I smiled at the LesMills banners that I came across.
The next day, Erica and I did our Valley Harvest Race as a Virtual 5K (as we didn’t want to miss out on Super Nova). Then Kerri and I left Amsterdam for Iceland (us and Erin and Erica split a cab to the airport). Once in Iceland, we got our rental, checked into our AirBNB, then headed to the Blue Lagoon. This was Kerri’s idea, and unlike Stockholm, I didn’t research into doing anything. I just went with what others were doing. The Blue Lagoon was beyond marvellous. After days of running and going all out at LesMills LIVE Amsterdam, there was no better way rest, relax, and recover, than being in the Blue Lagoon. What that place did for me, physically, mentally, and spiritually, was so good for me and my soul. Even at one point I simply dozed off, absorbing in the experience. There was a special moment where I reflected upon, not only on LesMills LIVE Amsterdam, but life in general. When Kerri wandered off, I laid down, staring into the sky, past the Blue Lagoon’s mist and towards the clouds. I took time to reflect upon and give thanks to where I came from, as it brought me to where I am in life; a good place. I thought about being raised on-reserve by my grandmother and how she encouraged me to stay in school. I thought about Clint and how he motivated me to work hard and succeed in life. I thought about Donald Marshall Junior, my cousin and my hero, whose life and legacy inspire me to give back and to help others. I thought about my family, how proud I was of my mother for turning her life around, my sisters for raising their kids, and of my brother for going back to school. I thought about how my godfather was practically my father to me, and who helped me out so much in life. I thought about going to a Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey school on-reserve. I thought about going to university and law school in Halifax/Jipuktuk. I thought about how, no matter where I go or what I do, We’koqma’q is always on my mind and in my heart. I thought about all the running and racing that I do. I thought about how fortunate and blessed that I am that I get to teach BODYATTACK™ to our members, and that while I may attend events, filmings, advanced trainings, classes in other provinces and countries, and all other things around the world, simply teaching BODYATTACK™ to our members is always the best thing about BODYATTACK™. I thought about Kerri, and how it was practically a miracle that I met such an incredible and wonderful woman who means so much to me. I thought about life, and how it may not always be fair, it’s always beautiful.
The next day, we ventured out for a bit. With me driving and Kerri handling the camera, we saw sheep (lots of sheep), cool rocks with moss, and horses. We went to a majestic waterfall and took out Travelling Sheltie. Afterwards, we went to some sort of hot water mud place, and while the sulphur smell was strong, I actually didn’t mind it. Then we dropped off the rental, got a shuttle back to the airport, met up with Erica, then boarded our flight back. That’s when I started writing this story.
LesMills LIVE Amsterdam, like any LesMills adventure, was awesome, amazing, and just simply great. As always, I look forward to the next one.