Managing your Les Mills releases, without using the Releases app

Background: I am a Les Mills group fitness instructor, teaching BodyPump, RPM, Sprint and Core. (If these words are gibberish to you, feel free to move on, as this post is probably not for you!)

In light of the massive outage of the Les Mills Releases app, I thought this might be an opportune time to put together a post to explain how I manage my Les Mills music and videos, outside of the Releases app, including some tips and tricks that really help me.

See, I trained for my first program in 2005. Some of you young-uns aren’t experienced with the world of Les Mills before everything went digital…! But this is how we used to do it in the “olden days” (and I’ll confess, I still prefer it, because *I* manage it and am not reliant on the Releases app.)

A couple notes on why I prefer to manage my releases manually myself, rather than rely on the Releases app:

  • I was around when the app first came out. It was hella flaky. (It also didn’t used to allow you to download for offline.) So early on, it just made me too nervous to trust it for when I was teaching. (From what I’ve heard, it’s gotten much better, and much more reliable.)
  • Because I have been teaching for so long (almost twenty years, with up to six programs!) I have a ton of releases from the days before Les Mills moved to digital (back when we got packs of DVDs, and had to import the songs into iTunes and rip the video into a digital file, and even scan our own notes, in order to have digital copies!) By managing all my playlists in Apple Music, I can leverage newer releases and mix in an occasional oldie for fun.
  • I’m not affected when Les Mills changes a track. (For example, occasionally Les Mills launches a release with an original song, but then suddenly switch it for a cover version.) I’ve already downloaded the music, so I can choose whether I want to download the updated version (the cover), or stick to the one I already have safely on my hard drive (the original.) Spoiler alert: I don’t want the cover.

This method does require a computer. I run Mac OS and iOS, but you can do this with Windows and iOS as well. Android, you’re gonna be out of luck for this method, but I know there are plenty of other options using Android, that I’m sure someone else can detail. (For example, Google Drive and YouTube Music.)

1. When your releases drop, go to the portal on desktop

Go to the Releases (under the menu Releases > Your Releases.)

2. Download the music, video and PDF of the choreography notes

Once you’ve downloaded them, find them on your computer (in Mac, they’ll show in Finder under Downloads.)

Note, in my case, I add them to Dropbox, where I pay for a ton of storage to ensure I have these things backed up. It’s an optional step to put them in some kind of Cloud storage, but I do recommend it.

3. Add the video file to the Apple TV app

For the video file, open the Apple TV app. Drag the video from Downloads, to the TV app.

4. (Optional) Add the video to your iPhone or iPad

To put it on your phone or iPad, connect the device to your computer using a cable. I choose to:

  1. Not add the videos to my phone. If I ever need to check something on a video on my phone, I just use the Releases app. This is because the videos are massive, and they’ll use a lot of storage.
  2. However, I do add all of my videos to my iPad (as a result, I purchase an iPad with a lot of storage.) However, you don’t have to. You could keep only the most current videos on there, and each quarter you could remove the old ones and put the new ones on (to minimize storage.) You’ll still have them on your computer if you ever need them!

When I connect my iPad to my computer, I go to Finder, and find my iPad on the left-hand side in the nav. Under my iPad, I go to Movies.

Once in Movies, you will see that I have it set to Sync movies from my computer to my iPad, but I do not have it sync all movies. That’s because I have more Les Mills videos than I have space on my iPad. Besides, there are several programs I no longer teach (BodyCombat and BodyJam), so I have no need for those videos on my iPad.

In the list, I find the new video I just added, and check the box to sync it to my iPad.

I then press Apply to sync the new material to my iPad.

(To remove a video off your iPad, you’d do the same — just uncheck it, then Apply.)

5. Add the music to your Apple Music library (formerly your iTunes library)

For the Music file, double click in your Downloads folder, to Unzip it. This should give you a folder, and within that folder will be all the music track MP3s.

Open the Apple Music app, go to Songs and drag all of the tracks from your folder into Music.

Voila, your tracks are now in Apple Music.

However, there’s something else awesome that I do. I subscribe to iTunes Match, for a mere $25 a year. What this does is uploads all my music (even music that I’ve brought in, like my Les Mills albums), to the cloud. This means I do not have to have all of these tracks physically on my phone. But they are always available to me, as long as I have an internet connection. An hour before class, I’m not home but I decide to switch out the Chest track? No problem! I can grab anything from my library, even from my phone.

And any songs I want to have physically on my phone (to allow me to listen to them offline, or just prevent hiccups while teaching), I can just download them and they’ll be on my device. On the Music app on my phone, I click to download them:

I can also remove them (if I need to free up space on my phone.)

So, once you had added the songs to your Apple Music library on your desktop, if you give them a few minutes it will update to the Cloud. You’ll see that they’re updated to the Cloud by this column (Cloud Status):

6. Add the PDF of the Choregraphy Notes to Books

For the PDF of the Choreography notes, just right click and choose to send to Books. (Alternatively, you can use Airdrop to send it to your iPhone or iPad, and add it to Books on your phone.)

Once you add it to Books on your computer, it should be available on all of your devices (as long as you use the same Apple ID, of course…)

7. But wait… there’s more… Smart Playlists!

One of my favourite things I do (and one of the reasons I will not move to the Releases app) is create Smart Playlists in Apple Music.

These are rules-based playlists, that allow me to keep all “like” tracks together.

So I have a playlist that contains all the Warmups I have. Another that contains all Squat tracks. Another that contains all Chest tracks. (etc.) These automatically update each time I add a release to my library (with a few exceptions, that I’ll mention later.)

To create these Smart Playlists, you just need to tell Music what rules to use:

Music > New > Smart Playlist

Here’s an example rule:

This tells Music that if the Album contains “Body” and “Pump”, and the Track Number is 1, to add this song to my BodyPump Warmups smart playlist. (Note: You’ll want to have Live Updating on, if you want it to update whenever you add new releases.)

These playlists are available on your phone, so you can create quick and easy playlists by selecting from all your Warmups, all your Squat tracks, etc — even on the go.

If you access a Smart Playlist on desktop, you can also sort by a ton of things – including the track length. Let’s say that you know that your BodyPump playlist is pretty long, and you need to find a Bicep track. Easy done… sort your Bicep tracks by duration, and you can choose a really short one, to avoid your class running too long!

Now, the one tricky one: The rules-based playlists will not work in two scenarios:

  1. Bonus or alternate tracks (for example, if there’s a bonus track 3, the track number on the album won’t be 3, so it won’t file it correctly as a Chest track.)
  2. “Special” tracks like the 45min Bi/Tri and Lunge/Shoulder combos (or the briefly available Functional Strength tracks.)

There is a workaround, but it requires a little more manual work each quarter.

In Music, you can add Comments to a song. (Right-click on the file and select Get Info. You’ll then add it.) It’s essentially just another field that you can sort and filter by.

For the Combo tracks, I include a comment on the song that says it’s “05 Tri/Bi Combo” or “07 Lunge/Shoulder Combo”

I then configure my smart playlist to look for that:

For bonus or alternates, you could add a comment of “Chest track” and add that as a criteria for your rule.

Note: This is a manual step (unfortunately.) Any time I bring a new release into Apple Music, I need to remember to go to the Combos tracks and add the Comments, for my Smart Playlist to work.

That’s all folks! 

I hope this helps those of you struggling with what to do without the Releases app. It’s great to have, whether you use it as your primary method, or just a backup for the (admittedly fairly rare!) times that the Releases app is down.

If anyone has written up an alternate method (for example, a more Windows/Android friendly one), I’d be very happy to link to it in this post to help others!

What analysts can learn from group fitness instructors

Les Mills RPM

I am an analyst and a certified Les Mills group fitness instructor for BodyPump (weight training), RPM (indoor cycling), BodyCombat (mixed martial arts based group fitness) and BodyJam (dance based group fitness.)

While analyst and group fitness instructor seem very different, there’s actually a lot that analysts can learn from instructors.

When we are trained as instructors, we spend a lot of time thinking about how different people learn, and how to teach to all of them.

Visual learners need to see it to understand. In group fitness, these participants need you to demonstrate a move, not explain it. In analytics, this may mean visually displaying data, using diagrams, graphs and flow charts instead of data tables – and perhaps even hitting up the whiteboard from time to time.

Auditory learners need to hear it. In group fitness, they rely on verbal cues from the instructor. In analytics, you may have a thousand beautiful visual displays or PowerPoint slides, but it’s your commentary and explanation that will help these people understand.

Kinesthetic learners need to feel it to understand, to experience what you’re talking about. In group fitness, you can show them and tell them, but what they need is to feel the difference between “the right way” and “the wrong way” (for example, “Oh, now I can feel how muscle x engages when I turn my heel!”) This is the same group that tend to need repetition to perfect what they’re doing. In analytics, these are often the people that need to be led through your logic. It’s not enough to show them your findings, and to display the final results. They need to see the steps along the way that you used to answer your questions.

Now here’s where it gets trickier. When you are presenting to a group, they won’t all be the same type of learner. Which means that a good group fitness instructor and a good analyst needs to explain the same thing in different ways to ensure that everyone understands. For an analyst, this may mean using visual displays of information on your slides, talking through the explanation, and giving a step-by-step example to put everyone on the same page.

Keep in mind that you too have your own learning style. Your analysis and presentation style will likely match your learning style. (If you are a visual learner, a visual presentation will come easy to you.) It may take a more conscious effort to make sure you incorporate the learning styles you do not share. However, by tailoring your message to ensure you hit all learning styles, you stand the best chance of getting everyone to the same understanding.