2009 IDEA Personal Trainer Institute™: Get Ready to Elevate Your Game

Today’s competitive market and challenging economic climate mean you have to be at the top of your game—but do you know how to get there? Knowing the science will guide you in designing the best training regimen.

It’s the classic glass half-empty/half-full dilemma: Do the challenges of today’s business climate spell trouble for personal trainers—or an opportunity to be creative and break out of the crowd?

At the 2009 IDEA Personal Trainer Institute™ conference in Alexandria, Virginia, February 19–22, industry leaders will offer their insights and strategies for succeeding despite (and sometimes because of) current challenges in the marketplace.

“When someone starts to say, ‘Oh, the economy is a big problem, and we’re a luxury service,’ I say, ‘If that’s what you believe, that’s the way it is,’” says Nicki Anderson, conference presenter and president and owner of Reality Fitness Inc., Naperville, Illinois. “But the truth is that personal trainers are no longer a luxury service. We’re a necessity. We need to educate clients that this isn’t some fluffy thing—this is your health. This is disease prevention. And if you don’t take yourself seriously, neither will your clients.”

Anderson, 2008 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, will be a featured member of the Industry Spotlight panel discussion: “How to Maximize Your Business in a Tough Economy,” along with Diane Vives, MS, and Peter Twist, MSc. This timely discussion will open the conference on Friday night, just before the Welcome Reception.

“The economy is affecting everyone,” says Alwyn Cosgrove, conference presenter and owner of Results Fitness, Santa Clarita, California. “But the truth is that you will spend time and money on your health either to stay well or when you get sick. Right now the economy just demands that we offer more to our clients.”

Vives, conference presenter and owner of Vives Training Systems, Austin, Texas, agrees that trainers can succeed in today’s market, if they’re prepared. “The health consciousness of the public is growing so much, and there’s a huge chunk of the market we haven’t even touched. But we need to learn how to handle expansion in our businesses—and not try to stay part-time trainers.”

The IDEA Personal Trainer Institute is the world’s top educational forum for personal trainers, and this year the conference will offer more than 60 educational sessions and a multitude of networking opportunities to help you make sure that your career or business is strong enough to thrive in today’s market. Up to 17 CECs will be available from leading certification organizations.

New Skills for New Times

“The 2009 conference is quite different from past events, because we know that greater challenge in the marketplace requires trainers to take their skills up a notch,” says Aprile Peishel, MA, IDEA director of event programming. “We have a smaller session size with a more advanced, in-depth curriculum so that attendees can get the most out of their learning and networking time. They get more individualized attention and hands-on training, with more intensive education than trainers can get anywhere else.”

Thirty-one premier sessions will debut at the 2009 IDEA Personal Trainer Institute, and three preconference workshops will focus on hot topics in personal training: Corrective Exercise Design: Eliminating the Guesswork; IDEA’s Business Boot Camp; and STOTT PILATES® Toning Ball Workouts.

The program, based on extensive research of IDEA members and personal trainers worldwide, includes functional training, balance training, nutrition and metabolism, lifestyle coaching, biomechanics, cardiovascular training, Pilates, boot camp programs, training for older adults and for medical conditions, and a comprehensive range of business and management skills.

Program Highlights: Strategies for Peak Performance

Now, more than ever before, personal trainers need to think creatively about how to meet both their clients’ goals and their business goals, says conference presenter and exercise physiologist Douglas Brooks, MS, co-owner of Moves International Fitness, Mammoth Lakes, California.

“Trainers have to keep things fresh and interesting so they can keep clients—and also not be afraid to ask people questions and offer new solutions, rather than let them walk out the door. Maybe you can offer shorter ‘express’ sessions, or group sessions that will be more affordable; or you can supplement sessions with an at-home program several days a week.”

This year’s Personal Trainer Institute will present a wide range of specific business and career strategies to help you meet today’s market challenges. Here are six key areas of focus on this year’s program:

Strategy #1: Assessment & Corrective Exercise

By increasing your assessment and corrective-exercise skills, you can help clients get more individualized attention and see faster results, while you get more referrals and see faster business growth.

“Assessment and corrective-exercise skills are a great way to develop rapport and trust with clients,” says Justin Price, MA, conference presenter and corrective-exercise specialist, personal trainer and co-owner of The BioMechanics, in San Diego. “These fundamental principles will help your clients avoid injury and achieve greater success with practically any goal, whether it’s related to weight loss, performance or functional improvements.”

Price points out that assessment and corrective-exercise capabilities are ideal for serving many of today’s overscheduled, stressed-out clients, and for those hunched over a computer all day. “This gives you a level of specialization that makes you more marketable, because you can offer specific solutions that address clients’ discomforts and dysfunctional areas,” says Price.

Strategy #2: Advanced Program Design

Are your training programs sophisticated and interesting enough to get rave reviews (and referrals) from today’s well-informed clients? Many trainers’ programs aren’t, says Cosgrove. “The days when training programs just mimicked bodybuilding regimens—the Arnold Schwarzenegger days—are over. The average client has changed, and our programs have to, too. Clients today are better informed. They want more variety. They’re also likely to be more overweight and less conditioned than before.”

Cosgrove notes that strength and cardio programs aren’t enough; trainers need to address areas such as mobility and injury prevention. One-size-fits-all program design can contribute to injury, which creates exercise dropouts. “I have gotten so many new clients because their previous trainers just took them through the standard routines they do with everyone,” says Cosgrove.

Strategy #3: Small-Group & Partner Training

Small-group and partner training programs are hot options for trainers, making it possible to train more people in less time and giving clients added social and motivational benefits. “It can make a huge difference to your income, but it isn’t just about numbers,” say Vives. “You need to be able to use the assessment process and functional training so you can design effective partner and group programs that show results. It still needs to be an individualized program so clients feel like they’re in a personal training session.”

Small-group and partner training require careful planning and program design. “I know some trainers who now only do small-group training,” says Vives. “But if you begin without a system, or train off the cuff, you won’t make a lot of progress with your clients.”

Strategy #4: Metabolic Training

Metabolic training is another hot area for trainers, providing program options designed to improve client results, particularly in the area of weight management.

“This is high-intensity cardio or strength-based exercise that involves the whole body, in which the client performs to maximal output,” explains Fraser Quelch, conference presenter and head coach and director of training and development for Fitness Anywhere™ Inc., San Francisco. “It can raise postexercise metabolism for more than 3 hours after exercise and can be an incredible tool for fat loss and helping with age-related metabolic decline.”

While metabolic training can be effective for clients and time-efficient for trainers, it is also highly challenging. “It’s really, really hard,” says Quelch. “You can’t blindly apply this training to everyone, or you’ll have adherence and injury problems. It can be a great tool for helping clients reach their goals, but it has to be individualized.”

Metabolic training can be a great program strategy for retaining clients or creating a competitive edge. “This is an opportunity for trainers to brand themselves and attract clients with something different. It’s great for boot camp and small-group programs, too. I think this is one of the cutting-edge areas in fitness today.”

Strategy #5: Business and Management Skills

Business growth and development is a critical area for trainers who want to break through market barriers. Sessions at the Personal Trainer Institute will offer practical tips and skills, whether you work in a club setting, own your business or are a fitness manager.

“You can be the best trainer in the world, but if you’re a lousy businessperson, you’re in trouble,” says Anderson. “Today people are starting to recognize that personal training is a serious business—they don’t roll their eyes and ask you about your ‘real job’ anymore. But it’s more complex than many trainers realize when they start. You need a good accounting system, an effective database; you have to understand liability, hiring and firing, marketing strategies. You need to have great customer service and an environment that is nonintimidating. You need to know how to keep clients once you get them in, and how to expand and grow your business.”

Strategy #6: Sports Performance Training

Sports performance training isn’t just for elite athletes anymore. It can be an innovative way to motivate clients, help them reach their goals faster, add variety and keep your programs fresh.

“Trainers are always looking for new skill sets, and clients want to go beyond traditional workouts,” says Brooks. “This is a fun approach that you can use individually or with groups, and it can work for all clients if you know how to design and progress your programs.”

Athletic training has a broad appeal, notes Brooks. “I think everybody has an inner athlete. Whether you’re 90 years old or you’re a 22-year-old Olympian, sports performance training is versatile enough to help you move better, feel better and reach your goals. For trainers, this is a way to energize your programs and offer something new and competitive in your market.”

Staying Ahead of the Curve

Education in general may be the most important strategy for gaining a competitive edge. “Education may be the only real way to create distinction in most career areas today,” says Cosgrove. “Knowledge in every field is multiplying so rapidly that if you’re not staying current and getting better at what you do, you can only be getting worse.”

Says Anderson, “You have to go to industry events to increase your knowledge base, share ideas and make contacts. Besides, as trainers, we get bored and get into ruts. Conferences are a great way to recharge your passion for helping people.”

Trainers today cannot afford to ignore educational opportunities, says Peishel. “The industry has to perform at peak level to meet the demands of the market. We have to be cutting edge and raise the bar. Doing the same things the same way we’ve always done them just isn’t good enough anymore.” For more information on this event or to register using real time session selection, go to (www.ideafit.com).

For the latest research, statistics, sample classes, and more, "Like" IDEA on Facebook here.

Mary Monroe

IDEA Author/Presenter
Mary Monroe is a freelance writer in the Los Angeles area.
November 2008

© 2008 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

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