Friday, February 8, 2013

BODYATTACK 80: Celebrating 20 Years with Program Director Lisa Osborne

As a precursor, you should know that this interview was conducted on August 23, 2012, right after filming on BODYATTACK 79.  Between the interview and the time this article was submitted to Les Mills, more information was made available to me.  As such, some of this will be a surprise, and some of it will be old news.  Enjoy!  -Chad

“Come to the main promenade.  I have Lisa here!!”  Although my heart skipped several beats, these were the words I’d been waiting to hear for over a year.  It hasn’t been an easy road to get here, but as you will soon understand, it’s been totally worth all the blood, sweat and tears.

My name is Chad Deets, and I am a BODYATTACK addict.  My journey with weight loss began in June 2007.  At 418 pounds, I was unhappy, unhealthy, and uninspired.  Life was a series of motions that didn’t include anything that resembled hard work.  To make a long story short, over the span of 2.5 years, I was able to turn my life around.  Although I lost the weight primarily on my own, I lost the last 40 pounds, and have kept it off for an additional 4 years, almost exclusively through BODYATTACK.  In February 2010, I made the decision to go to training (BODYATTACK 67), and as such, I very quickly became a fan of the ever-inspiring Lisa Osborne.  After seeing my friend Glen’s interview with Glen Ostergaard for BODYPUMP 80, and a campaign that would’ve made any presidential candidate proud, I somehow (with a little luck and a lot of love from kind people at Les Mills International) was able to convince the powers that be that I would be ok to sit down and try to do BODYATTACK 80 some justice.

As I walk towards the promenade, I can already spot her, even 50 yards away.  Her energy, laugh, and full head of blonde hair cannot be mistaken.  The one thing I always want people to know is that Lisa is just as kind and energetic as she appears to be on film, with no façade or pretense.  True to her reputation, Lisa has just come back from a run through the streets of Baltimore (can you imagine driving down the street and seeing these guys jogging?) and still looks completely perfect, with a perfect tan and leg muscles that could crush concrete.  After a hello and a hug, we make our way to a bench in a back hallway.  You should know that I spoke with Lisa for well over an hour, and she was (as she always is) incredibly gracious, welcoming, and warm.  We discussed everything, including her childhood, her years as a competitive aerobics world champion, BODYATTACK 80, and her proudest title:  wife and mother of 2.


I begin by asking Lisa about her childhood.  Born and raised in Melbourne, Australia, Lisa (to no surprise) cannot remember a time when she wasn’t physically active:  “Since I could move, I was in a pair of ballet shoes… my dad ran every day, so, I was just immersed in it.”  The daughter of a ballerina and a tennis player, Lisa remembers a childhood full of sports including dancing, gymnastics, netball and tennis.  Being just as gifted academically as she is athletically, Lisa had graduated and began her first career as an elementary school teacher by age 20.  Lisa explains that for five years, she taught children (ages 10-12) “homeroom” (traditional elementary school subjects) and also taught physical education.


It was during her university and early years as a schoolteacher that Lisa discovered the group fitness environment.  After freestyle instructing for a short time, Lisa decided to pursue fitness fulltime and compete.  Not surprisingly, it didn’t take her long to win.  Beginning in 1992, it took Lisa only 1 year to win the world title in mixed pairs (with first partner Chris Kemp in 1993, and then twice more with second partner Dean Wright in 1996 and 1997).  Lisa describes with fondness her love of freestyle classes and competition days.  She estimates she was teaching a total of 25 classes a week, explaining that they were much easier than Les Mills programs.  “You can’t do that with Les Mills, they’re too intense… You can teach 1 or 2 maximum.”  Besides the intense teaching schedule, Lisa also trained on her own as well as with her partners.  Recalling a fun story, she explains that only one thing trumped her training schedule:  The Bold & The Beautiful.  “I got into the fashion.  It was from 1-1:30.  If we were training, we’d stop and I’d watch it, and then I’d train again afterwards.  It [became my] lunchtime!”


After winning her world titles, Lisa became a crowd favorite at Australia’s NETWORK, presenting at freestyle conventions and workshops all over the country.  It was during this time that she began to get regular phone calls from Bill Robinson, the CEO of Les Mills Australia, asking her to become a BODYPUMP trainer.  Lisa admits she was skeptical of the pre-choreographed model at first and turned him down repeatedly.  After 6 months of persistence (thank you Bill!), he convinced her to go to a module being offered by Pete Manuel (BODYPUMP 19).  How did he convince her?  By promising to never call her again if she didn’t like it.

She liked it.  The very next weekend after being the trainee, Lisa began a 2.5 year stint as a trainer, first training in BODYPUMP, then BODYSTEP, and finally BODYATTACK (BODYATTACK 19).  (Little known fact:  She also presented BODYCOMBAT in its early days!)  Lisa explains that she did trainings pretty much every single weekend during this time, as the training team was small.  To this day, modules and quarterlies are her favorite part of her job, although she doesn’t get to do as many as she wishes.


One thing many people (including me) did not know was that Lisa’s involvement as a program director began long before she became the choreographer.  Lisa explains that from the very early days, she was in charge of the education side of her formats, putting together the first training manuals and modules for both BODYSTEP and BODYATTACK.  Although she was already choreographing BODYSTEP, it was purely by coincidence as well as recognition of her talent and hard work, that Lisa began choreographing BODYATTACK.  One week before filming was to commence on BODYATTACK 39, Brett Fairweather (part of the previous choreography team) pulled out and left Les Mills altogether.  “To this day I don’t know why”, Lisa explains, “I was in New Zealand to film BODYSTEP, and a week before filming [he] pulled out, and they were stuck with no release… they just said Lisa, would you create a BODYATTACK [release]?  So I did.”

As Program Director, Lisa is in charge of virtually every aspect of BODYATTACK and its development.  Her duties include the selection of all the music and the writing and trialing of all choreography.  Upon completion, she prepares for filming week, selecting presenters and coaching the team with the help of Program Coach Amy Styles.  Lisa also does all the education for BODYATTACK, which includes writing the choreography notes, as well as education sessions and new moves filming for DVDs.  She also travels a good portion, presenting at trainer summits and quarterlies all over the world.  One thing I was surprised to learn is how much time program directors spend researching for program development.  This can be anything from watching the latest fitness videos, to observing boot camps and personal trainers at work.  “I spend a lot of time online,” she explains, considering questions like “What’s working?  What are they doing?  What can we do?”

The program has definitely evolved quite a bit since Lisa took over.  It saw a total restructure from 3 cardio blocks to 2 (introduced in BODYATTACK 46), and then saw the introduction of the 3D model in BODYATTACK 69:  “That started because there’s a whole lot of boot camp sports training becoming the main thing and the thing to do all around the world.  And so if that’s the trend, then why would I want to just stay with jumping jacks in every track?  It would be crazy to try and stay in the past.  I believe in change and the future.”

Many of you wanted to know about the process of putting together a release.  Lisa explains that she personally never goes into a release with a theme or a preconceived concept.  Instead, it is a much more organic process that begins with the music.  Lisa reveals that she usually chooses her songs while running:  “I get a lot of work done when I run.  I listen to… lots of different songs, and I find what motivates me and what I get lost in… Music inspires my movement… it makes me want to feel different things and I start to create.”  She also explains that due to the hectic filming and traveling schedules, this is usually a very quick process.   “We only had two weeks to get the initial track lists together [for BODYATTACK 80]… My releases are put together pretty quick.  I’ve finished 80 already.”

Another task Lisa is in charge of is selecting the presenting teams and track assignments for filming.  I had always wanted to know how these teams were chosen.  Although she admits that everyone brings something different to the table (“There’s no one right style,” she says), it is a common thread that Lisa looks for in presenters: the idea of creating an inclusive experience.  “I like people that are real, and not self-focused [but] really focused on the class… I’d prefer someone that was not as good physically, but better with communication and creating the essence and experience.”    When it comes time to assign tracks for filming, Lisa follows a simple philosophy:  Challenge the veterans, give the rookies something they feel strong at.  “Sometimes, if it’s an experienced presenter, I’ll give them something that’s challenging… Other times… especially for people that are new, because it’s a really hard week, they get their strengths.”


Although the track list is being kept under wraps, Lisa does explain that the number 80 holds no significance:  “Don’t expect it, there’s not one 80’s song in there.  I’m going futuristic… [real] now sounds.”  I was privileged to hear a little of the release, and that’s an accurate statement, with a good mix of top 40 and solid beats to drive up the energy and heart rate.  Choreographically, Lisa explains that it’s along the same path with current releases:  “There’s some new moves, new high end challenges, but not forgetting the options.  Options are still really important.”

The presentation team this time will be all ladies, with Amy Styles and Mid Thomas joining Lisa on stage.  In addition, there are 2 shadow presenters for the entire release (as in BODYATTACK 76), who Lisa explains are local instructors that really personify the essence of the program to her:  “They come to my classes, they team teach for nothing, they just love it [and] want to get better.”  And if that weren’t enough, a special email went out to all the BODYATTACK instructors in New Zealand inviting them to apply to be featured in BODYATTACK 80.  They were required to submit a video of themselves teaching the class and tell Lisa how BODYATTACK has impacted their lives.  From this, a group of 10-12 people were selected and invited to shadow at various points throughout the class.  Lisa explains that this is her hope for the 80th release:  “I want 80 to be a real team celebration at every level… instructor teams, members...” She really wants people to share in the celebration of the essence: “Fun and fitness, challenging but ‘we’ll do it together’.”


It seems appropriate that BODYATTACK 80 looks to the future.  Lisa explains that although the program will never lose its essence of fun, it will continue to evolve as it has with the introduction of 3D.  This is in an effort to stay current and bring more people into the program.  “I think we’re just on the same path, really…  It depends on the industry [and] on the market… what the latest research is, and feedback.  I think people really like the sports stuff.”  One thing Lisa asks, along with all the program directors, is to keep your feedback constructive and focused on the program, rather than it being personal or about your opinion of the presenters:  “I don’t want to hear one person’s personal opinion of a presenter.  I think that’s really hurtful… But we want [constructive feedback].  Track 6 has evolved because I’ve had some great feedback about track 6’s needing more variety and problems in small rooms.  I really want to help people have better experiences so I need to know what’s happening, but there’s a way of doing things.”


Next, she discusses her recent marriage to long time partner Pita, being a mom to sons Jackson (7) and Hunter (2), and life at home:  “I love being married,” she says.  She also explains that the actual ceremony took a long time to coordinate simply because “I could never find a weekend that I was free.”  Surprisingly or maybe not, Lisa tries to keep Les Mills at the office:  “We don’t do Les Mills at home.  We have lots of parties.  We drink and eat crap! (laughs)  Pita teaches Combat.  He’s really serious about it… He’ll be in the kitchen with his headset on, and he starts cueing.  I’m allowed [to tell him to] stop cueing!” 

She, like every other proud mother, describes her children (see attached photo) with huge amounts of love and pride:

Jackson:  “Natural athlete… He’s quite grown up… Great with people… quite sensitive actually.”

Hunter:  “Hunter is going to be different….  He’s gorgeous, but he’s so naughty.  Hunter bites… he’s rough.”

Will she have more?  “NO!!!  Definitely not… 2 is hard… I used to tell people if they had 1, it was hard!”

The most popular question I received was from people wanting to know how Lisa keeps herself in such great physical shape.  Although she does train with rock star trainer Corey Baird, most of Lisa’s regime takes place in the group room.  So how much does she teach?  “Well obviously, I teach a lot of Attack… 2 BODYSTEP a week, 2 BODYPUMP a week, 1 GRIT cardio (she is now also in charge of creating the GRIT cardio workouts), and I participate in CXWORKS once a week.”  Tired yet?  In addition, Lisa also runs at least twice a week, and plays tennis with familiar faces Gandalf Archer, Jackie Mills and Bryce Hastings).  She insists that she does have tired days, although I told her you’d never know by watching the DVDs.  “It’s the music and the movement.  How can you be tired once that starts?!”


From a Program Director’s stance, Lisa wants to extend thanks to her Attack instructor family all over the world, saying post interview via email “I thank all the instructors for being in the Attack family, spreading positive energy and for all that they do to spread Attack love.”  Her hope is that BODYATTACK will continue to grow, and that more people’s lives will be impacted from doing it.  She is a firm believer in fitness at any age (“It doesn’t matter when you discover it at all so long as you do discover it.”) and hopes that instructors will continue being positive and open to change and growth:  “Some things will challenge them, maybe new fitness levels are required.  You can’t do the same thing every day.  Every day is a new day.”  Finally, Lisa really wants to challenge instructors to change their mindset so that their classes and experiences are focused on the people they are helping, not so much on them:  “Open your eyes, see what’s in front of you, not what’s within you.  That’s what changes people lives because you see what people need, not what you need.”

On a personal level, Lisa wanted to extend thanks to everyone for their kind words about her work, her marriage, and her family.  She was also very concerned that people understand that she’s not quite as active online as the other program directors simply because she is too busy being a Mom: “It’s not because I don’t want to.  I’m really really busy, and I would love to spend more time with my family.  I’m really sorry that I don’t have more time.”  (Post-interview edit:  You can now find her Facebook page at


We finished our chat with some fun questions that were non-LM related.  First up, a few of Lisa’s favorites:

FOODS:  Milk chocolate, Thai food (sizzling beef), Ice cream (cookies & cream or Haagen-Dazs pralines & cream)

DRINKS:  Starbucks Black & White, Bourbon & Coke, Beer

VACATION DESTINATIONS:  Las Vegas (United States), Noosa (Australia), and Los Angeles (United States)

OTHER THINGS:  Loves boots and Asics shoes for working out.  Would love a new car (she drives an old 4 wheel drive).  Her favorite thing is spending time with family and friends at her home.

I would like to thank Lisa, all the folks at Les Mills, and Glen Stollery for helping to make this experience possible.  I would also like to thank rock star BODYATTACK instructors Natalie Knollmiller and Shelly Bowers for bringing Attack into my life (you ladies are amazing!), and all my fellow instructors and participants.

To read more about my time with Lisa or my addiction to BODYATTACK, you can visit my blog at

Kia Kaha!


  1. Wow Chad that's awesome! GREAT JOB!

    I learned heaps! I didn't know Lisa choreo'ed GRIT Cardio either!

    Brilliant work!

  2. thanks for sharing this interview. Now I know more about Lisa besides her beautiful abs.. hehehehe.. am starting to love BodyAttack too.

    Love from Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia <3

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