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How To Work Out Like a New Zealander

Young woman working out outdoors

Photo: Getty Images/ TravelCouples

The United States may not be best known for being a health-conscious country, but there’s no denying that, over the years, fitness and wellness have crept up the list of priorities. It’s a topic commonly discussed in real life and on social media, not to mention one that encourages considerable consumption—of content, clothing, supplements, you name it.

But have you ever stopped to wonder if it’s just us? Or are there people across the world who are equally as consumed with working out and tapping into mental and physical health? To find out, we set our sites across the globe, honing in on none other than New Zealand. The reason? It’s renowned for its approach to wellness.

“We have a wellness budget in which our government sets aside funds to support mental health, child well-being, tackling family violence, and uplifting Māori and Pasifika communities,” says Danielle Lally, a group fitness instructor for Les Mills International, which is based in New Zealand. “It’s a pretty awesome way to prioritize wellness on a national level. Plus we’ve got publicly funded healthcare.”

The most popular workouts in New Zealand

Curious how Kiwis stay fit, specifically? According to Lally, HIIT training, dance-inspired workouts, and bespoke training (such as boxing, Pilates, and yoga) reign supreme. “But it’s not just about the active training sessions—recovery training is becoming important in our fitness culture,” she adds. “That’s why contrast therapy, saunas, and breathwork are gaining attention.”

Sports reign supreme

“In Aotearoa [aka New Zealand], we’re crazy about sports,” says Lally. “Sports are practically part of our DNA.”

Where the U.S. has the NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB (among other professional sports leagues), New Zealand is world-renowned for a number of its teams, including rugby (the All Blacks), netball (the Silver Ferns), and cricket (the Black Caps). The country is also on the fitness map thanks to athletes like Valerie Adams (shot put), Lydia Ko (golf), and Parris Goebel (dance).

Boutique fitness is booming

Kiwis’ love of fitness extends beyond the field, however. “When it comes to getting fit, we’ve caught onto the trend of boutique gyms popping up all over the place,” Lally says. “We may not have as many options as the U.S., but we’re slowly expanding our range of specialty workouts. That’s why [Les Mills’] Conquer, Ceremony, and The Trip [classes] are such a hit—spaces are always packed.”

Kiwis embrace their great outdoors

Even with top-of-the-line gyms, Les Mills Program Director Rachael Newsham says that Kiwis love to take their movement outside. “We operate outdoors when possible, so there is so much outdoor activity from sport to exercise,” she says, noting that outdoor fitness was especially true during COVID and has only become more common since. In that way, she thinks of the New Zealand fitness landscape as a blend of California and New York City, which sounds pretty spot on.

9 tips for anyone looking to embrace fitness the New Zealand way

Now that you’re brushed up on how fitness and wellness differ on the other side of the world, perhaps you’re feeling inspired to reconfigure your own approach. Ahead, find nine tips from Lally and Newsham to help you do so.

1. Find an easy win

Don’t feel like you have to book an intense bootcamp class right out of the gate. “Try something that piques your interest rather than forcing yourself to do something your mates enjoy,” Newsham says.

2. Only make time for movement you love

If you’re not enjoying it, what’s the point, right,” Lally asks.

3. Pace yourself

“Don’t go hard and go home—go for a bit and slowly get fit,” Newsham says. “This way you won’t feel sore for a billion days afterward and be put off and make excuses.”

4. Mix things up

“Too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing,” Newsham warns. “Switch up your favorites every now and again to prevent boredom or burnout.”

5. Make time for rest and recovery

“Make sure you put TLC into your routine because you can’t push your limits without a solid foundation,” Lally says. “Treat yourself to a massage or sauna session, try BODYBALANCE, go for a walk, or even try an ice bath!”

6. Monetize your movement

Not the greatest at sticking to a routine? Newsham says to schedule your workouts the way you would a personal training session, and put a price on it to entice you not to skip out and get self-charged a late cancellation fee. “It’s a good motivator when it gets to the hour before your workout and your brain starts playing you the excuses soundtrack,” she says.

7. Dress to feel your best

“If you go into a workout feeling your absolute best, you’ll be willing to give it your all,” Lally says.

8. Make it a group thing

“Yes, solo walks can be refreshing, but nothing beats sweating, laughing, crying, swearing, and doing the hard mahi [work] with people around you,” Lally says.

9. Buy proper shoes

“Once you find something you like, get the right footwear,” Newsham says. “Look after your feet first, as they determine where the damage is done on the body as a first line of defense.”

Here’s one way to literally work out like a Kiwi

Inspired by Lally and Newsham and want to learn more firsthand? The U.S. tour stop for Les Mills Live 2023 is Los Angeles. The 3-day fitness event in partnership with Adidas is set to take place July 28 to 30 and will be jam-packed with workouts led by some of the most renowned Les Mills trainers in the world. Bonus? A brand-new Les Mills workout will be revealed to attendees—and the whole experience will be filmed to inspire fitness lovers around the globe.

“It’s absolutely mind-blowing that you can be in a massive space with thousands of people who may not even speak the same language as you but all get that feeling,” says Lally. “Nothing ever—no other event, or business, or workout, or fitness thing—can describe it. You just need to be there to feel it.”

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