Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mixing Playlists

Recently I've decided to change the way I teach a little bit. Since becoming certified in May 2010, I have heavily mixed my playlists, a practice which every other instructor at my club practices as well. (Just to clarify, what this means is that you might see 12 different releases in my class. I still follow the format requirements, as does everyone else). In speaking with other trainers and instructors who's opinions I respect a great deal, I've decided to switch it up a bit and teach releases in their entirety, or only mix 2 releases. I feel like this is a good step for me for a few reasons:

  1. I'm able to learn more material.
    Granted, I am a bit of a self-admitted track snob. I take pride in learning new tracks and sharing them with my class, and it's nice to be able to switch the playlist last minute if I have an unexpected request or if I'm just feeling a certain song in the moment. Teaching this new way, I will learn never-before-seen (for me) or revisit tracks that I haven't learned/taught in a very long time. This means that my members will see more, and maybe find a new track they love or can connect with.

  2. It forces me to teach tracks I wouldn't otherwise.
    There are several tracks within the Attack world that I don't care for and rarely teach unless requested. As I've said before, I feel like it's a mark of a good instructor to be able to teach music you wouldn't normally, since the class is more about your members then it is you.

  3. Sometimes your opinion (or in this case, mine) about a release can change over time.
    The past two weeks, I have been teaching almost exclusively from BodyAttack 64 (watch for that review to come soon). This was the very first release I launched as a participant, and the beginning of my Attack career if you will. I remember at the time, both immediately post-launch, and then the first year after, that I didn't care for the release very much. Tracks 2, 5, and 12 have always been my absolute favorites, track 7 is an instructor favorite at my club, and track 9 is a huge crowd pleaser. The other 7 songs? I couldn't stand them at the time. When I made the decision to pull this release off the shelf and teach from it, I wasn't anticipating having a huge amount of fun with it. To my total surprise and delight, I've discovered a new love for tracks 3, 4, 6, 8, and 11. Tracks 3 and 8 in particular are really fun to teach, and I would say more fun to teach than just take as a participant. There are some great moments in there to play off of and create fitness magic, and I would now say 64 is one of my better-liked releases.

  4. It creates a better class flow.
    It is totally fair to say that Lisa (or any PD) creates an entire release with flow and variety in mind. I remember speaking with Chris Maddox, one of the US trainers, who told me that he once unintentionally taught a class with 4 or 5 tracks that had drop squats. I myself have experienced the same thing with square patterns. And I will say if your focus in a particular class is that move or pattern, then this isn't a bad thing. But if it's unintentional, it can look very sloppy/lazy to have 4 songs with the same-ish choreography. Also, you can wind up with an entire class of female singers, a class dominated by a particular music style or artist, etc, or if you're REALLY not careful, you can go over the time limit. The releases do flow much better and provide more variety when taught as intended. At the Orlando quarterly I attended last year, Susan Renata told us that whenever she teaches releases more than 3 years old, she teaches the entire release for that week, and then puts it away for a while.

One thing I am still trying to figure out is how long I should keep the same playlist/release from. When we launch new stuff, we usually only keep it for the required 2 weeks. I understand this from the instructor's standpoint. Here in the states, we get our materials 2-3 months before we launch (I do not know why we do it this way), so by the time launch comes around, we are already pretty sick of the new music. Then, during launch, we teach the same material for 2 solid weeks, and because we are teaming more then usual, it's not uncommon to do the same release 10 times in a 2 week period. It gets mind numbing. I myself will keep the new release for 1 additional week if I and my participants like it. But now, as I teach older releases, should I keep them for a couple of weeks for consistency? My gut instinct is to do whatever I teach for 2 weeks and then switch. This seems easier to manage and a good balance for regulars vs newer members.

This is a topic which I would really like some feedback on. If you are an instructor, I'd love to hear your thoughts/practices on heavy mixing vs teaching releases in their entirety, and how long you keep your playlists for?


  1. Naturally, this would vary heavily from program to program too.

    For RPM, given that the choreography is basically pedalling and never anything else, I mix *incredibly* heavy. Every single playlist I teach is different. New releases are kept in for one week only, and then for the following 2 weeks, a couple of tracks appear. I archive all of my playlists and use them as a reference whenever I put my mixes together based on what has/hasn't been played recently.

    For BODYJAM however, if I had a regular class, it would depend on how many other classes are on the timetable - though I would aim to teach a new release for two weeks if there were 3-4 classes on the timetable, mix out half the week afterwards. Some gyms however only have 1 or 2 classes for Jam on their timetables so I'd keep a new release for even 3 or 4 weeks as the learning curve for Jam is so much steeper.

    I don't have a regular class for Jam though so I don't need to worry about that too much, any mix that I can get through without having a meltdown is good for me ;)

  2. Hi Chad, a comment from Northern country Finland :) I teach Bodyattack and Bodypump. I have to say our members get pissed if I or anyone else starts mixing after just two weeks time. Some even wish mixing should not exist at all so they can put more weight to barbell in Bodypump as they get used to the tracks.

    However, I like to mix different releases. I have noticed that after about seven weeks period I'm so sick of the release I have to do something else. Probably most of the members enjoy the change too.

    Thanks for your interesting post again!

  3. Hey Chad, this is my first visit to your blog (found it through your LM profile from the forums) - good stuff! I personally prefer to teach entire releases or half/halfs but will add in requests if people ask. It is standard (but not a rule) for instructors at my gym to change their tracklist/release every two weeks or so - our members seem to prefer a high turnover :-)

    I'm from New Zealand btw - anyone out there coming to GFX?! Can't wait!

  4. Hi Chad,

    I'm an Attack and Pump instructor from Canada. I've been teaching BA since release 51, and I've always only mixed 1-3 releases maximum in a class for all of the reasons you mentioned above. It really does flow better and exposes your members to a lot more choreography that I find can get 'dumped' all the time for instructor faves. I also find that it makes reviewing choreography much easier for me, as my brain tends to clump the releases together (that could just be me thougyh :P).

    As for the new releases, we usually teach them here for 4 weeks. You have to remember that some people only do 1 attack a week, so they only have 2 chances to perfect the choreo if you mix it up after week 2. I know how mind numbing it can be by week 4, but I know most of my members appreciate this. How sad would it be if you only heard your fave release twice and then you didn't hear it again until the instructor picked and chose a couple tracks from it.

    Good post, and much love from one BodyAttack addict to another!


  5. Thank you everyone for your comments! I am on week 3 of teaching this way and have made some interesting discoveries. I've still managed to teach the songs I don't like from the releases I've chosen, but now my attention is turning to the way I split my class when team teaching! There has been an interesting discussion on this topic between some friends of mine and myself. I will continue to experiment and see what the members respond to! On a totally separate note, I've been teaching from 59 this past week, and Beautiful Liar will always be one of my favorite ab tracks!

  6. Beautiful Liar is one tough ab track!

    I recently did first nine tracks of release 65. Except the plyo track (Tubthumping) it felt quite horrible. Annoying music and repetitive choreo: knee repeaters were in tracks 1, 4, 9 and 10, side flicks were in tracks 2, 3 and 8, gallop square doesn't fit well, three same rounds of boring agility... Power track (Jump) was particularly bad and repetitive!

  7. I'm teaching 76 at the moment - INTENSE. My legs have been in a state of shock for 2 weeks now haha.

  8. Hi Chad -- I teach Pump, Step, and CXWorx. I've found that teaching a release or playlist 4-6 times works well for me. I find that if I mix more often, my teaching reverts back to me-centric because I'm back in my brain too much. If I teach too long, I get bored and have trouble staying present and keeping my teaching fresh & in the moment.

    I have 2 weekly Pump classes at different gyms, in addition to subbing, so that usually pans out to changing Pump music every 2 weeks. In both classes, my regulars like variety, and they're taking at least 1 other weekly Pump class from a different instructor. With BodyStep, I used to have 1 weekly class where I was the only class on the timetable, so I would do the same release 3-4 times depending on how well they liked it, and how often I was subbing at other clubs. CXWORX is new at most of our clubs. I teach any given track 2-3 weeks in a row in the same class. We have less music to choose from, and it's harder to mix because song length varies so much, you can get yourself in trouble and put together a 38-minute playlist w/o ever stopping the music. Each week we're progressing, from basic setup to challenging higher options.

  9. I dunno. As a participant, this has to be one of my lesser preferred practices. It's like, right when the instructor announces, hey, we're doing release XX, and the first beat drops, you already know exactly how amazing or not so amazing the class will be. This gives me a defeatist attitude, unfortunately, as I feel like despite all this hard work, I won't be rewarded with a fun 8, or 9 or 4. I would already know the music won't push me, that I'll have to mentally fight through the class. I rather you make it a point to include tracks that you wouldn't necessarily do from time to time, rather than a whole release that potentially contains multiple not well liked tracks.