Diary of an IDEA Convention Attendee

by Alexandra Williams, MA on Apr 01, 2007

This year IDEA is thrilled to be celebrating its silver anniversary—its 25th year in existence. As part of the gala 25th celebration, the annual IDEA World Fitness Convention has many special surprises in store! Attendance at the event has grown from the original 600 to over 5,000, making it the world’s largest educational convention for health and fitness professionals—anywhere.

This year’s event takes place July 5–9 in San Diego, IDEA’s hometown. If you’ve attended IDEA World Fitness before, you’ve experienced its world-class education firsthand, with leading presenters, the latest advances in fitness knowledge, innovative workouts and networking opportunities that catapult your career to the next level. This year will be even more exciting because of the festivities surrounding the 25th anniversary celebration.

We asked longtime IDEA member Alexandra Williams, who’s been to many IDEA conventions in the past, to write a diary of her adventures at IDEA World Fitness last year. If you’ve never attended the event, read her account to get a sneak peek at what you can expect. If you’re a past attendee, read it to get revved up about coming back for the 25th anniversary event.

IDEA World Fitness Whirlwind: Day One

What is it like to attend the annual IDEA World Fitness Convention? Whether the event is in Las Vegas, San Diego, San Francisco or Nashville (I remember that location from way back), it’s always easy to get from the airport to the convention hotel. In 2006 the event was in Las Vegas, so my sister Kymberly and I walked outside to the taxi line and got right into an air-conditioned cab for the short drive over to the Hilton. We thought about taking the shuttle, but we wanted to get registered right away and didn’t want to stop at any of the other hotels on the way. If we had been in Las Vegas for the first time, we might have asked the driver to take us along the Strip, but we opted instead for the shorter route.

Having been to almost every IDEA convention, we knew it was best to head directly for the hotel registration line. I like to pass the time by looking at the other attendees in line. There are so many people I recognize, yet have never really met, as we join together every year for the fitness fun.

Kymberly and I timed our flights so that we’d have plenty of time to check into the hotel, get settled, eat a quick snack, relax and change our clothes before the evening convention registration booths opened up. I also called my mentoree, Kim, as we had planned to meet and walk over to the convention center to get registered. A couple of years ago IDEA started matching up interested veteran attendees with first-timers. I love this program! I get to make new friends and feel good about helping someone figure out the ropes at the convention. And I know the mentoring works because Kim told me later, “I would recommend a new person sign up with a mentor. It helped me get assistance with the expo and gain helpful tips throughout the event.”

Around 5:00 pm, we walked next door to the convention center and got our attendee wristbands, badges and information packets. The very first step (after checking our sessions) was to fill out all the Fitness & Wellness Expo vendor coupons in the packet. Even though it takes a while to fill them all out, it’s worth the time because you can get so many discounts and prizes with the coupons. I love sales and free stuff! Plus, filling out the coupons puts me on the manufacturers’ mailing lists, so I find out about instructor programs, clothes, music and products.

The expo hall was open that night, so I went right over to see all the latest stuff. I figured dinner could wait, since some vendors give away snack and drink samples, which could hold me for a few hours’ worth of shopping!

Nautilus had a cute gimmick: everyone got a key and could use it to try to open a box full of fitness wear at the Nautilus booth. I didn’t win, but I was happy anyway because Nautilus was launching an instructor-discount program, and the deals were awesome. Of course, I bought lots of orange and blue clothing. How could I resist?

Over the years I’ve gotten smarter about shopping at the expo, so I knew to bring a big backpack with me. And I guess I knew how to fill it up, too, as that thing was heavy by the time the expo closed for the day! After traveling, registering, chatting with friends and wandering around the expo, it was time to eat. My sister and I knew we wanted to eat in the hotel, so we chose a noodle place and had a quiet dinner. After that, we dragged ourselves up to our room and sat in bed, planning for the morning and the start of classes.

Day Two

It’s easy to wake up early the first day. After that, it’s by sheer will. As far as I can tell, the early-morning classes are always workouts. Maybe that’s so we won’t miss out on any CECs if we sleep in. Hmmm, or maybe it’s just to get us moving and awake. I passed several long lines at the coffee stands, but I skipped those and picked up a banana and yogurt from the buffet tables. For the first time at IDEA World Fitness, a shuttle bus offered rides over to Whole Foods Market. We love to go out for dinner each night, but during the day it’s so much easier to pack food into our backpacks and stop by the food bars. We don’t like to take the time to sit down and eat at a restaurant when there’s so much to do!

Besides the workouts, workshops and lectures today, there were other must-see events. The opening awards ceremony is always motivating, and IDEA finds some great keynote speakers every year. This year the IDEA Fitness Inspiration Award went to Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. In accepting the award, he said a line that I just love: “If it comes through a car window, it’s not food.”

During the midday break, I managed to find time to shop, watch a dance performance, pick up some free samples, try on shoes and attend a promotional talk about life coaching. When they asked for volunteers, I should have gone up front—every volunteer won a set of coaching DVDs! Oh well. . . .

I finished my day with an “Innertube Water Polo” class. This workout was just for fun, and we had a blast. Our team lost on points, but we won for style, and we got to wear the “lovely” purple caps.

Then I took a quick shower, donned my party clothes and headed to the Welcome Reception. Every year there’s a theme, and it was Winter Wonderland this time. Perfect—winter in Vegas in July. IDEA founders Peter and Kathie Davis somehow managed to greet everyone coming through the door, so I introduced my mentoree, Kim, to them.

I climbed an inflatable Matterhorn, put on skates to spin around on a simulated ice rink, ate lots of fish from the buffet and danced up a storm. There was an inflatable Crazy Cottage, but I passed on that. Last year’s party had a western theme, and we raced on inflatable broncos. One year we rode a surf machine and raced on motorized barrels. My kids came to that party and have been begging to come again. Put several thousand fitness people together, and we know how to enjoy a good bash.

Day Three

Okay, I admit it. I slept through my first class of the morning. When I got up, I realized that all my registered classes were lectures, and I needed to move, so I decided to get in the standby line to take Fred Hoffman’s “‘Fat Free’ Step Workout.” I try to take Fred’s classes every year because I trust him to provide choreography I can actually use with my own students. He also stays within the recommended beats per minute. Maybe I’m on the other side of the generation gap, but I just don’t enjoy running to catch up with the step beats.

From that class, I headed over to a lecture about targeting eating behaviors to promote successful weight loss, and I discovered a wonderful presenter named Kara Gallagher. I’ve gone to lots of excellent nutrition talks over the years, but she put this one into everyday terms for everyday people. She gave us tips like switch from family-style to fixed portions; put leftovers away before sitting down to eat; use smaller plates; create a designated eating space (this especially helps with people who eat in front of the TV); and eat out less often. The suggestions were so simple, yet realistic and achievable. I even came home and made up a tip of my own: “Brush your teeth right after dinner so you won’t be so tempted to snack an hour later.” All of my students can understand these ideas—there’s no counting involved. [Editor’s note: Kara Gallagher is co-author of this month’s nutrition column on page 74.]

What a full afternoon: a promotional seminar about iPod fitness, then a Pilates session with the foam roller followed by a class about working with obese clients. So much great information but only one brain to store it all in! Just when I thought I’d drop, a very enthusiastic IDEA volunteer assistant came around to all of us waiting in class lines and handed out vitamin water. Thirteen flavors to choose from. Must . . . make . . . a . . . choice.

Later that evening Kymberly and I experienced the bright lights of Las Vegas. Every time the IDEA convention is in Las Vegas, my sister and I try to get Cirque du Soleil tickets, but we’d never been successful till now. This was our lucky year—we scored some great seats for KÀ. We took the monorail from the Hilton to the MGM and had a magnificent outdoor view of the Vegas nightlife.

Day Four

I popped out of bed this morning because I was really looking forward to the 7:15 am class—“Rock ’n’ Roll Stretch” with Aileen Sheron. After a quick check of my schedule, I realized I’d signed up for four movement classes, but figured I’d just go for it and do them all. After the stretch class, I headed over to a foam roller session with Lawrence Biscontini, who has to be one of the funniest stream-of-consciousness instructors I’ve ever met. We were all laughing so hard at Lawrence’s jokes that we kept falling off the rollers.

I picked up a lot of good ideas for my own classes from these two workshops, then headed to my “Totally ’80s! Cardio Dance” workout. That one was just for fun. The instructor, Juliane Arney, certainly remembered her ’80s experience (including the leg warmers). She even managed to teach us Michael Jackson’s Thriller dance, from one of the most famous music videos ever made. And where else but at an IDEA convention could we rock out to Pat Benatar and Spandau Ballet?

During the lunch break, I went back to the expo hall, found the listening stations and chose my annual pile of fitness music. I easily managed to find a whole stack of music. I love not having to pay shipping charges on top of all the convention discounts. Plenty of promotional workouts were being offered during the break, but I spent the entire time in the expo hall, since I knew that the vendors would all be gone by evening. You can find great deals on the last day when the vendors would rather sell their remaining merchandise than ship it all back home. I remember dragging home a Trikke scooter for my son last year, but it was worth it for all the money I saved.

My afternoon course was a two-class package deal: “Tri-Set Workout” and “NEW York JAZZ.” I pooped out about halfway through the jazz class, but it sure was a hoot watching everyone else do the routine. Kind of like getting a front-row seat to a Broadway show.

Rather than feeling exhausted, I felt energized from the day’s activities, so Kymberly and I got back on the monorail and headed to the Flamingo Hilton for their buffet dinner. (We also love the expansive buffet at the Mandalay Bay Hotel.) We had a seat by the windows where we could watch the swans while we stuffed ourselves!

Day Five

Only two classes today since it was the final day of the convention. Both sessions were related to training older adults, one of my areas of specialization. After going full bore yesterday, it was so relaxing to just sit and take notes.

It has struck me throughout the last 5 days how willing the presenters are to share their knowledge and e-mail addresses. They know that we all get home and have further questions, and they are so good about answering them. Last year I sent a choreography question to a presenter I’d enjoyed and got back a very detailed response.

Kymberly and I shared a taxi to the airport with a friend from Berlin who had come to the convention. One of the many great things about these international gatherings is the chance to meet people from overseas and learn what is happening in fitness in their hometowns.

On the flight home, Kymberly and I compared notes and experiences, and chatted about the friends we had seen. And of course, we started planning for 2007. San Diego, here we come!

IDEA Fitness Journal, Volume 4, Issue 4

© 2007 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Alexandra Williams, MA

Alexandra Williams, MA IDEA Author/Presenter

Alexandra Williams, MA, is a contributing editor for IDEA Fitness Journal and co-owner of the Fun & Fit blog, column and radio show with her twin sister. Certified since 1986, Alexandra currently tea...