What Happens in Vegas . . . should definitely not stay in Vegas!
The catchy ad campaign that suggests it’s acceptable for visitors to go overboard in Las Vegas and then keep it a secret backfired when the 2005 IDEA World Fitness Convention landed in town.
Without a doubt, the estimated 5,000 attendees had a healthy dose of fun. But these fitness professionals—including delegates, presenters, assistants, staff, exhibitors, and others who passed through the Fitness Expo—were not about to go home and quietly keep the experience to themselves. Au contraire! What happened in the microcosm of IDEA’s Vegas July 5–9 was far too powerful to be contained. Inspiring the world to fitness is not the stuff of secrets, but nourishment for the grass roots in every community of the 62 countries represented at this year’s event. Rest assured that somewhere in the world, at this moment, what happened in Vegas is being blabbed all over town.
As veteran fitness pro and 10-time convention attendee Jill Giddings said, continuing to Inspire the World to Fitness® can happen only through education. The whole point of an event like IDEA World Fitness is to empower and equip fitness professionals to “encourage people to educate themselves and not be victims of the instant-gratification, drive-through lifestyle that is making many of us sick,” she observed. “We need to educate clients on the importance of following the body’s natural design—which is to not be sedentary; we need to be there to point out the profound results that exercise can bring, especially in seniors; we need education to teach people what true health is!”
The depth and variety of the 2005 IDEA World Fitness education program were unsurpassed in the industry. There were 10 diverse tracks covering the range of specialty areas in a fitness practitioner’s skill inventory, and they were taught by the most elite corps of international fitness presenters ever gathered. The wide array of program offerings featured personal training, group exercise, mind-body disciplines, sport conditioning, lifestyle coaching, psychology and behavior, and they strongly emphasized niche populations such as kids, older adults, and those with chronic disease related to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.
Because of the developed world’s rapidly expanding waistline and the scary complications that go with it, it’s alarmingly apparent that fitness professionals need to step up their understanding of training these special populations. This is new territory for many, and there’s not much time to get up to speed. People desperately need fitness professional intervention and leadership right now.
This reminder came into sharp relief when Pamela Peeke, MD, nationally recognized expert in nutrition, fitness and metabolism, delivered her keynote—“How Mars and Venus Get Fit”—on the second morning of the convention. An exceptionally articulate blend of academic, practitioner, comedienne and health and fitness evangelist, Peeke effectively used humor to deliver some sobering factual punches.
As she wryly suggested that Americans have been “asleep at the meal,” and that middle-aged women were regularly engaging in late-night ménages à trois (“you, Ben and Jerry”), she proceeded to click through a 10-year progression of slides showing the spread of obesity in the United States. As the color of the states changed from one that suggested normalcy to another that indicated the insidious, stealthy unfurling of fat across the map, the collective gasp that rose from the audience just about sucked the air out of the ballroom. Somehow, seeing a visual of the statistics that we’ve been reading about for the past few years made it frighteningly clear that every individual in the industry had better get busy.
Peeke’s message emphasized that the world is moving into an era in which health care, including fitness, will be customized for men and women. And, she predicted, it will be not so much the physical and nutritional aspects of care—but those relating to the head—that will be tailored for the sexes. “It’s not about the quantity of a body,” she said. “It’s about the quality of mind and body. It always starts with the mind and goes back to the mind.”
Another area in fitness she projects as “huge and expanding” is training kids. Working with kids and families is very important, she said, pointing out that if the childhood obesity growth rates continue unchecked, 1 in 3 kids born in 2000 will end up with type 2 diabetes.
She wrapped up her lively presentation with a challenge: “Today I give you a call to arms, legs and [glutes]!” she boomed. “Long gone are the days of trainers and instructors that just deal with biceps. You have to change. Carve out a brand-new role for yourself. You have to inspire people through mind, mouth and muscle. Encourage your clients to live with vitamin I—intensity, not just in their focus for fitness, but in [their] focus for the meaning of their lives!”
One way to encourage and influence others is to use your emotional intelligence, according to Tim Sanders, who delivered the opening keynote (“Enhance Your Likeability Factor,” sponsored by Les Mills) on July 6. Although the marquis speakers contrasted with each other in style and substance, their messages dovetailed and complemented one another. Sanders, best-selling author and leadership coach for Yahoo!, passionately focused his comments on how a person can produce positive emotional experiences in others on a consistent basis.
“Likeable people have high emotional intelligence,” he said. “They are smarter than the rest of us because they recognize and understand how to make other people feel good. When you make someone feel bad, it takes five acts of kindness to get back to the starting point. Long after people forget what you did, they will remember the way you made them feel.”
Personal fitness trainers (PFTs) need a very specialized skill set to excel: a strong science base—including anatomy, physiology, biomechanics and nutrition, for starters—combined with program design sense, equipment knowledge, business savvy, salesmanship, entrepreneurial spirit, integrity and emotional intelligence. Add to this challenge the fact that consumers have more one-to-one exercise choices these days. Dollars they once earmarked for personal training may now be devoted to Pilates, yoga or other specialty areas that personal trainers may not be equipped to teach. More than ever, PFTs need to study trends, sharpen what they know, consider choosing an area of specialization and get focused on the business end of what they do. Programming at this year’s event set out to help them do those very things.
A number of lively discussion topics and themes emerged from this year’s PFT sessions:
- Lifestyle coaching is a smart way for trainers to avoid burnout, leverage their time and expand their services. By coaching the same clients they train, PFTs may be able to unlock barriers that are impeding progress in exercise programs.
- PFTs need to concentrate more on training movements—not just individual muscle groups. People move in multiple planes and should be trained accordingly. As Chris Pritchett, a trainer for the House of Hardball, a baseball training school in Lomita, California, noted, “Learning about this has already had a major impact on how I train my athletes. It has made me a thousand times more valuable to my clients, and they’re going to see the results they deserve.”
- The continuum between healthcare providers and PFTs is under construction, but far from a working model. The sooner PFTs reach out and bridge the gap of understanding about their knowledge base and establish rapport with local physicians and allied health professionals, the sooner the referrals will begin. Establishing trust and credibility for themselves and the PFT industry is the first step.
- Scope-of-practice issues are hot. Staying within your scope protects you and your clients and can help forge strong partnerships with physicians, physical therapists and other allied health professionals. Staying within your boundaries demonstrates that you understand your limitations and prioritize your clients’ (their patients’) health; this will create the type of trust that fosters strong long-term working relationships.
- Special populations, especially kids and older adults, are low-hanging fruit. Next year, the first wave of Baby Boomers, the most influential generation in modern history, turns 60. They are determined to continue living active, healthy lives and are ready to pay for this. Kids are floundering physically and nutritionally and need to lay down good habits for the future. Their parents are willing to spend money for your expertise (and rely on your professional referral network for nutrition plans) to get them started.
- Careful, thoughtful assessment and reassessment, or lack thereof, can make or break your efforts to help a client. Whether you’re assessing gait and posture, balance, strength or agility (to name a few target areas), get back to fundamentals. Assess and document everything you observe on a client’s initial visit, and keep thorough records going forward. It’s one of the best ways to show a client her progress.
- Challenge clients with training variety that matches their goals. To keep program design lively, change things up, but do it meaningfully to impact training objectives.
- Continue to hit the books. Specifically, get comfortable in the territories of anatomy, physics (torque on joints) and biomechanics. You won’t be able to compete if you don’t have sound knowledge and understanding of how to apply these concepts for injury prevention, postrehab and program design. Also, the call for PFT accreditation makes strong knowledge in these areas essential.
- Find a mentor to help strengthen areas in which you’d like to be more competent. Whether it’s business or balance training, get the tips you need to excel.
In the beginning, group exercise class schedules were scant and rife with repeated classes. Participants usually had one to three choices, and they were all variations on a theme. Over the years, the industry has expanded, become educated and reinvented itself. Today, group exercise is a health club pillar, and without it many members would simply be lost.
This year, IDEA World Fitness showcased a manifold program that reinforced the group exercise lineage. Instructors have taken their profession seriously and, through education, trial and hard work, are setting the pace for a fit future. “As always, IDEA World Fitness proved to be the educational event of the year for fitness professionals, no matter the discipline,” said Shannon Griffiths, international fitness presenter and chief executive officer of Sunshine Fitness Resources LLC in Boulder, Colorado. “What I was most impressed by was the quantity, diversity and creativity of the ‘fusion’-type classes that aimed to bring the mind-body concepts to traditional formats. It’s obvious the level of fitness professional is elevating, and we are fast realizing our potential to change people’s lives by providing a holistic approach, versus just showing them how to make their arms look better!”
Here are some of the highlights and trends from this year’s convention:
- Dance-themed classes of every stripe are experiencing resurgence. While traditional, fun choices like Latin, hip-hop and African classes are still viable, people are becoming more open to the idea of “authentic movement”—a chance to free the dancer within.
- Pilates is still popular and growing. Instructors are, overall, more qualified than in the past 5 years and better able to focus their intentions. Along these lines, the emphasis is on careful cuing, technical enrichment and special-population challenges.
- Classes like “Drums Alive,” “Origins” and “FORZA” are reigniting the creative spark and serving a blow to burnout.
- Step continues to prove itself the cornerstone of the group fitness architecture. Presenters unveiled a fresh passel of variations, including tap-free, layered combinations (just when you thought that well was dry).
- Indoor cycling continues to evolve. Classes unleashed the competitive edge while also highlighting mindful approaches. Bringing the outside experience indoors is still popular, and instructors are making an effort to connect with participants through specific coaching techniques.
- Aquatic exercise is testing its boundaries with novel, population-specific ideas that lure club members away from dry land.
Fueling for Fitness
Here are some key points from the nutrition track:
- In “Teenage Obesity—What Can We Do About It?” Chris Vega, MPH, RD, showed attendees how to customize a program for a teenager’s specific growth and development needs. She stressed the importance of being an understanding role model who advocates fun.
- Citing data from recent research, Len Kravitz, PhD, reviewed the special nutrition needs of women during different life phases. In a separate session titled “Training for Strength: Nutrition for Muscle,” co-presented with Phil Block, MS, Kravitz talked about training for muscle gain by using “optimal macronutrient intake.”
- In his session “Physiology of Food,” Jose Antonio, PhD, explained the thermal effect of feeding and how to incorporate it into a meal plan.
Attendees had three chances to study with yoga master Rodney Yee, a teacher who could make an effective difference to their practice in just an hour (see related sidebar on page 65). A variety of small-group workshops with STOTT PILATES™ and other veteran Pilates professionals gave delegates ample opportunity to improve their technical skills and refuel their commitment to inspire others. Level 1 and Level 2 Feldenkrais® workshops (led by Elizabeth Larkam) introduced Awareness Through Movement®, with its subtle approach to structural transformation. And in other sessions, attendees learned about mindful walking workouts (with Lorna Francis, PhD), tasted advanced Ashtanga yoga (with Cathie Murakami); explored Nia’s path to functional fitness (with founders Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas); and enjoyed BODYFLOW®, a holistic workout aimed at developing harmony and balance.
Equipment was integrated into many sessions. Presenters offered yoga with stability balls, yoga with weighted bars, Pilates with bands, Pilates with mini balls, partner Pilates with tubing, and balance work with foam rollers.
Amid so much great practical learning, research was not forgotten. Lawrence Biscontini, MA, joined Len Kravitz, PhD, in presenting the “Mind-Body Research Update: From A to Zen.” Together these seasoned experts presented up-to-the-minute information on how the mind-body connection affects depression and stress levels; the healing power of yoga; Eastern vs. Western ideas about health and exercise; and the positive effects of tai chi and Pilates on the elderly.
The days of viewing the gym pool as simply a place to swim are over. Members braved the Las Vegas heat to learn new water fitness modalities during the all-day “Hard & Soft Aquatic Training” preconference on Tuesday, July 5. Sessions offered the latest techniques for vigorous as well as relaxing workouts—a range that highlighted the diversity and reach that aquatic instructors can tap into. “Water is resistive; it challenges muscles,” said Shirley Archer, JD, MA, health educator and fitness specialist with the Health Improvement Program at Stanford University. “Water is healing, supportive; and it allows muscles and joints to relax and decompress. It supports circulation, massages the body and facilitates release. This is the hard and soft of water training.”
The five intensive classes covered a broad range of topics, including the following:
- speed, agility, power and balance
- practical, efficient walking/running programs
- using buoyancy to balance muscle development
- adapting tai chi and yoga to the water
- an introduction to Watsu
From the sunny colors of the centrally located Lipton Lounge—which attendees used to refresh themselves with hot and cold tea and take a load off between shopping sprees—to the four corners of the IDEA Fitness & Wellness Expo Hall, there was much to see and learn about in the world of fitness products and services. With all manner of apparel, equipment and services represented, the Expo was a treasure trove of discovery and bargain shopping. 153 exhibitors demonstrated and answered questions about their latest and greatest offerings. Shoppers left the hall with full bags, satisfied that they were amply equipped for the busy year ahead.
What a treat! With a keen sense of excitement, a busload of delegates left the Hilton Hotel soon after 6:00 AM for Red Rock Canyon and an hour of yoga in the park, led by world-renowned master teacher Rodney Yee. Spring Mountain Ranch offered the ideal spot—a level stretch of meadow with unhindered views of the majestic bluffs. Yee was quick to begin, and eager participants sharpened their focus to catch his every cue. The setting, with its breathtaking combination of green grass, blue sky, red rock and warm morning sunshine, spurred their efforts. They worked energetically and sincerely, striving to meet his high standards for accuracy and alignment. Warm and happy, they settled at last to savasana, or relaxation; and in the early stillness of a perfect summer day, Yee said to them softly, “Now listen—to everything.”
How was the experience, in a nutshell? “Pure bliss,” said one participant, without hesitation. Another, her voice quivering, broke into a smile. “It was awesome,” she said. “Totally awesome.”
If you happened to strike up a conversation between sessions or in the Fitness & Wellness Expo Hall, more likely than not the other person wanted to know if you were going to The Beach on Thursday night. And, of course, you were. IDEA World Fitness attendees got royal velvet-rope treatment as only Las Vegas can offer as they took over complete control of one of the city’s most popular night clubs. Hundreds of vacationing fitness professionals enjoyed drinks, snacks, video games, pool tables, and a DJ with a sixth sense for what the crowd wanted to hear. The dance floor almost buckled under the energy as people showed off new moves they had learned during sessions earlier in the day (modified for mass appeal). Revelers soaked up the beach theme and stayed well into the night making new friends and getting a taste of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle.
Around sundown on July 6, attendees from around the globe gathered to enjoy some down-home Western hospitality—with a challenge or two thrown in for good measure. When they weren’t kicking up dust line dancing, or feasting on the barbecue buffet, guests could try their hand at milking a cow, lassoing an errant steer or sitting tight on a bucking bronco! As the strains of country music kept toes tapping, who couldn’t smell the campfire or feel the open range beneath their feet?
We would like to thank the following companies for the contribution they have made to our members and the fitness industry: