Music as motivation

This post is part of my partnership with Les Mills, the creator of some of my very favorite workout formats. Read on for my interview with Diana Mils, Creative Director and the designer of the iTunes Les Mills album: RUN and LOADED.

I think many of us can agree that music is a huge source of workout motivation. A playlist has the ability to make or break a workout, and song lyrics can help to push us through that last challenging mile or rep. When I take Les Mills classes, I’m always blown away by the music. It syncs up perfectly with the movements we’re performing -it’s evident that they do this on purpose- and the music selection has always intrigued me, particularly as a fitness instructor and when creating my own playlists. Whenever I work on a playlist, I try to time certain songs to workout moves or speed drills, which can significantly impact how I feel during the workout. 


(music loaded and ready to go!)

I was excited for the opportunity to interview Diana Mills, who helped create the Les Mills iTunes album: RUN and LOADED.

Run cover3

When and how did you get started in fitness? I’d love to hear about your history with Les Mills!

I work for my family’s company, so I was literally born into the industry. I worked at the gym from the age of 12 – in almost every department for a time. The clothes store, cleaning sunbeds (early on when it was still cool to sunbed), processing membership forms in finance, assisting the Group Fitness Manager, and behind reception. At the same time, Phillip, my father, was letting me shadow him at Les Mills International when he was Creative Director – sitting in on music and choreography sessions, trialling classes etc. I kept working at the gym and shadowing him throughout university and started full time at LMI a week after I graduated, as an Education Assistant, then took over from Dad a couple of years later when he stopped in the creative department. I started choosing the music for BODYBALANCE™/BODYFLOW™ then too, and working more and more on the choreography of that program with my mother Jackie.  Now I am a Program Director for BODYBALANCE™ and Creative Director for BODYPUMP™, BODYCOMBAT™, BODYJAM™ and RPM™.

Tell us a bit about the Les Mills music offering.

Over the past few years, there have been many driving, motivating tracks we have created specifically for people to use when they workout. It got to a point where we had so many of these awesome tracks that the music department couldn’t hold this idea back anymore – to create Les Mills albums, packed with our great tracks, designed to keep people moving outside of class. Loaded is designed to motivate in a weight-lifting setting, Run for an interval type run.

What was your creative process when selecting the music for the albums?

The selection is less creative than you would think, we follow a very strict, complex formula when putting tracks together in all the programs, and this project followed suit. The progression through the tracks has to continue to motivate, while establishing enough difference between tracks as soon as you hear the first bars.

What’s your favorite selection on RUN and LOADED? Any motivational mantras in the lyrics? Do you use motivational mantras in your own personal workouts?

Run actually makes me stand at my desk and move it is so driving, I think most people could find themselves using the whole mix to work out to. Loaded is more chill, easy to listen to and hook into some great lines, while not being so upbeat that a rest feels uncomfortable.

Apart from these mixes, “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore is what I play before every big class.

What’s a song that always pumps you up, no matter what? “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore, and “Lost In The World” by Kanye West.

A little more about Les Mills:

Les Mills International is the creator of 13 global group fitness and team training programs, including BODYPUMP™ (weights), BODYCOMBAT™ (martial arts),  RPM™ (indoor cycling), and its recent LES MILLS GRIT™ Series (30-minute high intensity interval training). Millions of participants every week build their fitness in a LES MILLS™ class, held across 80 countries in more than 15,000 licensed clubs around the world.

From its base in Auckland, New Zealand, Les Mills renews its programs every three months with new choreography, licensed music and instructor education – creating an invigorating exercise experience known around the world.

Focus On posts:



What’s your favorite song for motivation to get through a tough workout? Right now, I really love anything by Bastille — perfect for running or strength training.

Thank you to Les Mills for the opportunity to interview Diana. I hope you enjoyed reading! Here’s a link to download a free track from their new album, if you’d like to check it out 🙂



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  1. I’m a faithful listener of the Club/Dance station on Pandora–it’s the only thing that gets me through my runs (and PUSHES me). I like the surprise of the next song that comes rather than a predictable playlist with songs that I pre-selected. Sometimes when I’ve reached my finish, a good song will come on and I’ll decide to keep running (with the exception of Monday night when an awesome Drake song came on, and I started to make another loop around the block when a CAT jumped out at me and started CHASING me!!! After a couple houses, it stopped…but it totally took away my running mojo–since when do cats jump out at running person and chase them?!?!?!)

    But I am SUPER intrigued by this Les Mills album!! I’m definitely going to check it out!!!

  2. I love Les Mills! Whenever I’m home I try to go to BodyPump because I love how I feel afterwards and there are always some good tunes. It’s always nice to rediscover music – Muse is now a regular feature on my workout playlist! xo

  3. Wow, you sure are staying busy! The different sponsorships, workout videos, in addition to the classes you teach (even though those aren’t full time, I’m guessing still many hours a week?) Plus throw in an upcoming move. I’d be so interested to see a breakdown of your normal week, how you fit in blogging with everything else, time management can always be so difficult!

    • Fitnessista says:

      it’s definitely never boring around here 😉 i teach 3 days, anywhere from 4-6 hours (not all teaching, but at work)
      the things that really help: a to-do list for each week and what i want to do each day (i write the daily list in the morning)
      waking up early (which sucks, but gives me more time)
      as far as blogging goes, i just do as much as i can in advance (lots during naptime). sometimes the “meat” of the post is already done, i just have to add pics and more text in the morning

  4. I love listening to 90’s dance music while I workout — such a good throwback! 🙂

  5. I’ve actually never heard of Less Mills and live in auckland… I’m thankful for introducing me to it! I change my playlist every second week or so because after awhile i get tired of listening to the same music. I love eminem songs with a good beat to get me trough the tough sessions (:

  6. Bastille!!! Yes!! They are sooooo good! Music is a *must* for any workout, it really helps keep my mind occupied and makes the time fly by.

  7. Love all of Les Mills classes! I haven’t taken one in a while and I REALLY need to get back into it! Love music and I always try to get a new playlist if I need an extra push during a workout!

  8. I actually stopped listening to music on runs for a while. I put too much emphasis on the play list and took too much time picking out songs. Running ‘naked’ (without music) for a while allowed me to once again enjoy (and be motivated) music on my run.

  9. These 2 albums sounds fantastic! Will have to check them out!

  10. I still am not sick of Macklemore’s song, “Can’t Hold Us!” It still pumps me up for working out or for anything really haha

  11. Girls — Beyonce. Hwo can you go wrong with some Beyonce?!

  12. I keep wanting to try a Les Mills workout! Bodypump has been calling my name…

    (sidenote: every single time I see Les Mills, I read it as “Les Mis” #theatregeekproblems)

  13. The one thing I miss about my old gym is Body Pump. Good thing I went so much that I memorized so many routines that I can do them on my own 🙂

    I’m on a serious Zedd kick these days for my runs! That being said though I ran the NYCM without music and did a 14 miler today without. Finding at times it is good to be more in touch with your body during your workout.

  14. I love the songs!

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