My First Time: Les Mills GRIT

By Will Macdonald for Fit Planet

In the second installment of his epic journey to sample every LES MILLS program, our special correspondent ups the intensity with LES MILLS GRIT.

I like mornings. Just not every morning. And this morning was one of those mornings. When my alarm clock chirped at 5:55am I awoke in fight or flight mode; fight being get up, flight being an extra hour of pillow time. But, since hitting the snooze button only burns so many calories, I figure I should probably get my A into G, and my body into some gym gear.

Working out in the morning has its challenges. But if you’re like me, you’ll agree that getting a sweat on before the crack of dawn feels like the best way to get the mind and body prepped for whatever perils the rest of the day has in store, no matter how badly you want to stay cozied up in bed. 

6:00am and the Les Mills Auckland City gym is already humming. I’m back on the road to becoming a poster boy for fitness excellence. Or competence, at least. Today’s adventure: LES MILLS GRIT™. Even the name makes your muscles tense. But I’d heard a lot of good things about the workout, so was keen to find out for myself.


Since Les Mills launched their series of pulse-racing LES MILLS GRIT workouts in 2012, they’ve become the go-to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) program for many. The idea is to do short but blistering bursts of work interspersed with brief periods of recovery. In theory, the intensity pushes your body to its maximum heart-rate until you reach your red zone and go into overdrive. Yes, it’s exhausting, but that’s the whole point – and also when the results start to kick in. HIIT promotes efficient muscle development which is why it’s such a hit … and why I will have the physique of a Marvel character in no time, right? 

Right. There are three variations of LES MILLS GRIT – Strength, Athletic and Cardio – which all focus on a different area of fitness. HIIT is wonderfully versatile and can be adapted to almost any kind of exercise, whether that’s sprinting, cycling, or functional training. Since I clearly like to live on the edge, I opted for LES MILLS GRIT Strength. 

Walking into the studio for another class feels good. I’ve graduated from being a nervous beginner to feeling like part of the tribe. My workout colleagues are mostly younger, which comes as no surprise; the 30-minute workout seems like it’s designed to fit in and around the fast-paced, work-hard-play-hard lives of people my age (I refuse to use the ‘M’ word). I grab my bar and plates, making what I hoped was an educated guess about how much weight to add.

Before I know it I’m deep into my first LES MILLS GRIT workout. Judging by the sweat already streaming down my forehead, the next 30 minutes are going to get hot. 

As with most LES MILLS classes, music is at the core of the workout. From high-velocity techno to bass-bumping hip hop, the beats in this HIIT workout definitely banged a bit harder than the tracks in BODYPUMP. While the music is uniquely shaped to fit each set of exercises, it worked more as a motivator to keep the tempo of the class high, rather than to maintain on-the-beat coordination.

Right from the start I can see how creative and varied the workout is. Squats and rows with the barbell are broken up with a full array of other dynamic exercises, from burpees to bear crawls, all to keep the heart racing. And when your chest is pounding for a full 30 minutes like mine was, it’s hard to get bored. 

One of my favorite things about LES MILLS GRIT is the structure. As a new set of moves is introduced, we have to repeat the set(s) before it, almost like a reverse pyramid. This makes the challenge part of the excitement and lifts the energy in the room. You can tell everyone is there to improve themselves and the atmosphere definitely helps you push yourself harder.

The final countdown sounds and the class is done. As is my body. LES MILLS GRIT had promised a lot but delivered even more. Yes, it’s a physical test – but it works your mind too. From the moves to the music to the people, everything is designed to help you drive yourself to the next level. I have to admit, it is scarily addictive. When you realize how much work you can put in for only 30 minutes, there really are no excuses. I know I’ll be back for more.

But for now I should probably stretch.