Celebrating the careers of veteran fitness pros.
Congratulations to everyone who submitted award applications and to our finalists. Here is a brief glimpse into the finalists’ careers, pulled from the applications that IDEA received by January 1, 2012.
This award recognizes an individual IDEA member who is a healthy role model; who demonstrates keen professional commitment through community and industry involvement; and whose outstanding leadership or creativity inspires staff and influences both active and underactive people to commit to a healthy lifestyle through successful, creative and diverse programming.
Carrie Ekins, MA, is the founder, chief executive officer (CEO) and program director of Drums Alive®. This method combines the benefits of a traditional fitness program with those of drumming, music and rhythm. To help children, she also co-founded Academic Beats® and serves on its team of program directors. Academic Beats combines physical education activities with educational core standards to elevate cognitive function, increase fitness and improve well-being in children.
“After several surgeries, doctors had advised me to walk away from dance and fitness,” she says. “The initial setback and challenge of immobility inspired me to find an [alternative] approach to fitness and dance. Drums Alive inspires acceptance and provides an element of fun and creative expression.”
Since she created Drums Alive in 2001, Ekins has traveled the world teaching the program. It has been presented in over 30 countries and is taught in fitness and community centers, schools and therapy institutes. She provides her team with best-practice, cutting-edge programming through master training camps, update workshops and media aids. These updates assure the program’s acceptance and accreditation throughout the diverse markets in which instructors seek employment.
Because of her leadership, Drums Alive is now in public and private school systems in Germany, Slovenia, Canada and various states within the U.S. “Teachers tell me that with Drums Alive, concepts that were once difficult for students to comprehend are now easily within their grasp, thanks to the kinesthetic learning approach that it utilizes.”
Ekins is actively involved in research into the effects of percussion and how its fitness variant, Drums Alive, can be applied in a therapy context to benefit elderly, depressed patients; cancer patients in a clinical setting; and children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and learning difficulties.
Kristen Horler is the CEO and founder of Baby Boot Camp®. She is also the author of Baby Boot Camp: The New Mom’s 9-Minute Fitness Solution (Sterling 2010). She launched Baby Boot Camp in 2001 and continues to develop and refine her prenatal and postpartum fitness and nutrition programs.
“In 2010, we released a second franchise program, Kärna Fitness™, small-group training for women [with activities] such as mat-based Pilates, high-intensity interval training and a half-marathon training program,” says Horler, who is an ACE-certified personal trainer and continuing education provider as well as an AFAA-certified group fitness instructor.
Her company mantra is “women achieving success,” whether they are deconditioned new moms or female athletes or franchisees. “Kärna Fitness franchise owners, many of whom are also Baby Boot Camp franchise owners, have significantly increased their revenue, client base and retention through following our operations manual and through delivery of the new programs we release annually,” she says. “We have increased our reach nationwide, and our organization’s revenue has doubled in the last 2 years.”
Horler works daily on her leadership coaching skills with her employees and franchise owners. “When an employee presents me with a question, it is easy to respond to her with the answer,” she says. “However, it is more valuable long term to ask her how she would respond and what she feels the best course of action is. I view this style of leadership coaching as essential for my short-term and long-term goals for the organization.”
She also organizes a national 3-month fitness challenge, with a percentage of proceeds donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society®. The challenge focuses on improving women’s health, fitness and nutrition in a supportive environment as part of a nationwide competition.
Ingrid Knight-Cohee, MS, is the regional director for group fitness for Steve Nash Fitness World & Sports Clubs, the largest chain of clubs in the Canadian province of British Columbia. An ACE-certified personal trainer, she manages the almost 300 group fitness instructors employed by these clubs.
“My leadership style is supportive, transparent and accountable,” she says. “Building trust through collegiality, respect and empathy has truly enabled me to build a team I am proud of. I am committed to being in the trenches. By continuing to teach classes, attending staff training events and filling in for managerial staff when a position is slow to be filled, I earn credibility and respect as a leader.”
Today’s economy requires her to be creative under budgetary constraints without compromising the quality of programming. She has brought down costs by developing standards of class attendance; by cutting classes that do not meet minimums; and by introducing new revenue classes for free or at a discounted cost and then applying fees once a core group of attendees develops.
She works hard to navigate fitness trends while staying true to the vision, mission and brand of the clubs. “Some of my successful programs have included AntiGravity® Yoga, a unique suspension fitness class performed in silk hammocks; Naked Warrior, a 30-minute equipment-free workout on a progressive plan that changes fitness focus every month; and Nash-branded classes to emphasize our pro-athlete flavor, given Steve Nash’s status as one of the most successful athletes in NBA history.”
To make fitness fun and accessible for kids aged 7–17, she and her husband have developed NuFit Kids. “As parents of two active boys, we became increasingly concerned about the global issue of childhood inactivity and obesity,” she explains. “We self-published the NuFit Kids log book (www.blurb.com), created www.nufitkids.ca and are currently working on an iPod application.”
This award recognizes an individual IDEA member who is a practicing industry professional spending at least 15 hours per week actually training clients one-on-one; has demonstrated exceptional leadership, business management, motivational and instructional skills; and has inspired his or her clients to greater personal growth and a higher level of fitness.
Rachel Cosgrove is a personal trainer, a fitness competitor, the owner of Results Fitness and the best-selling author of The Female Body Breakthrough (Rodale 2009). “We have built our business over the last 12 years from no clients to over 300 clients, who each work directly with a personal trainer,” says Cosgrove. “Every year we create a book of stories from our clients about how we have changed their lives. I love connecting with clients, seeing them have what I call a ‘breakthrough moment’ and being a part of their journeys as they transform their lives.”
Cosgrove has set up her facility to be unique: every membership includes the services of a personal trainer and a program designed to help the client achieve the best results possible. “I am constantly working with our team to refine our systems and programming to be the best it can be,” she explains. “I’ve found that goal-oriented programming is one of the best ways to help clients achieve their goals, keep them motivated and help make [training] enjoyable!”
Cosgrove works closely with her team to develop programs that give clients focus, create community and provide an opportunity to use measurement as motivation. “Sometimes these programs are fat loss–oriented, such as our Rock Your Jeans Challenge,” she says. “Sometimes they are goal-oriented, such as our Nike® Women’s Half Marathon program, where I train clients to help them accomplish something they may not have thought was possible. And sometimes programs are oriented toward helping clients find the athlete inside themselves in a powerlifting contest or fitness competition.”
Cosgrove volunteers her time lecturing on fitness and wellness to local and regional organizations, including the Parent Teacher Association®, churches and the Chamber of Commerce. “I also write a column for WomensHealth.com and the HuffingtonPost.com, which helps me reach consumers outside my local area.”
Brett Klika is the director of athletic performance for Fitness Quest 10. He manages a staff of eight athlete performance specialists and maintains a personal training schedule of 35–50 client sessions per week. He also consults and writes for organizations such as Gatorade®, Virgin Active (UK) and various school districts throughout the U.S. His first book, The Underground Workout Manual, was released in October.
“My programs are based on the physical and emotional needs of the different ages and levels of clients involved,” he says. “By applying scientifically sound exercise programming in a fun environment, clients can achieve ongoing success. My program Be Great!—involving over 700 kids a year—combines physical development pedagogy with life skills training for boys and girls aged 6–college. Not only do these youth go on to be leaders on the field and in the classroom; many of them are inspired to become fitness pros. My work with Johnson & Johnson’s Corporate Athlete program provides exercise information, application and motivation to executives around the world.”
Klika is committed to creating a fulfilling experience for clients. “I gain their trust and commitment through professionalism, sincerity and being a great listener,” he says. “I don’t contaminate clients with toxic comments or gossip, and I try to get clients to laugh and play. I don’t want them to view exercise as ‘penance’ for the ‘sins’ they have committed. I want them to look forward to being active.”
Klika’s goal for the personal training industry? “When training, presenting and writing, I aim to motivate, educate and inspire trainers to expect greatness from themselves. This enables them to deliver a successful and empowering experience to their clients.”
He provides two to three free lectures per month for physical education departments, sports clubs, youth organizations and parent groups on a variety of youth fitness and performance topics.
Mike Z. Robinson is the owner of MZR Fitness, training clients 38–40 hours a week and managing six staff members. An ACE-certified personal trainer, he is also the founder of Mike Z. Robinson Enterprises, which features mentorship and personal trainer development programs, gym design, speaking and consulting.
Robinson’s guarantee to his clients is that their workouts will be completely customized to them and that they will never do the same workout twice. “I’m constantly changing the workouts so that their bodies never adapt to any particular routine,” he says. “I also change up the scenery so that they never get bored with their surroundings. We exercise at the facility, the high school/college, the park, the beach, in their backyard, on hiking trails—pretty much anywhere! The diversity sparks their interest and helps them see quick results. The results get them to quickly catch the ‘fitness bug’ and want to live healthfully [when] I’m not with them.
“To build camaraderie between myself and my clients, I invite them to quarterly socials at the facility, and we take unique field trips such as skydiving, hiking Half Dome in Yosemite and driving to attend a fitness class with Richard Simmons in Beverly Hills,” he explains. “Then we capture these moments with pictures that are put on the wall and on our social media sites. They remind clients of our wonderful times together as well as the fact that we are like a family.”
Robinson gives back to the community through an annual fitness fundraiser, the proceeds from which go to the Family Care Network Inc., an agency that serves foster and high-risk children. He has also donated 25 hours of fitness training to Joining Forces, a national initiative that gives back to service members and their families.
This award recognizes an individual IDEA member who is a practicing group fitness instructor and demonstrates strong leadership skills through community and industry involvement and whose superior instructional abilities and influence as an instructor motivate active and underactive people to commit to healthy lifestyles.
Shannon Fable is the founder and CEO of Sunshine Fitness Resources LLC, as well as the owner of Balletone® and GroupEx PRO. She is an international presenter, program developer and master trainer for several companies. Fable, an ACE-certified group fitness instructor, personal trainer and lifestyle and weight management coach, also consults for fitness pros on career development, communication, leadership and more via live and virtual trainings.
She teaches Balletone classes regularly, has trained thousands of instructors stateside on the Balletone concepts and has taken the program to Japan and Taiwan with amazing success.
To reach students, she uses simple, systematic instructional methods. “My message, which grew out of my study of communication, is, ‘It’s what you don’t say that counts.’ I focus on spending equal or more time thinking about how I will deliver the information versus just what I will deliver.”
As a member of several program development teams in the past 15 years, she has helped develop and deliver programs for BOSU®, Schwinn® Indoor Cycling, Urban Rebounding, Gliding™, Power Systems® and the American Council on Exercise, among others.
Fable now serves as senior director of area promotion directors and presenters for Powder Blue Productions and as global program developer for Anytime Fitness®. She is a member of the ACE Industry Advisory Panel, a freelance writer for industry publications and texts (including the ACE and ACSM group fitness instructor manuals) and a certified Book Yourself Solid® coach.
To help meet the demand for qualified instructors, Fable created a nonprofit organization to provide free education to instructors. “In exchange for the education, they provide free classes and lectures to schools, retirement communities, correctional facilities and members in their own facilities,” she says.
Linda Freeman Webster is a group exercise instructor and personal trainer for Aurora BayCare Hospital sports medicine department; an instructor for Greater Green Bay YMCA; and the owner of Guru Fitness® LLC.
Freeman Webster, an ACE-certified personal trainer, teaches all the formats offered at her facility, including indoor cycling, yoga, Pilates, Pilates 50/50, yoga-Pilates blend, strength, Zumba®, aquatics, kickboxing, circuit, Smart Start and Medical Fitness (she is the only instructor on staff able to do so).
She created medical fitness classes (which blend yoga, Pilates, traditional core work and stretching, personalized to accommodate medical conditions) for her employer and provided in-house training to peers. She also developed and facilitates the personal training boot camp program, the highest revenue-generating personal training program in the department. For the fitness industry in general, she has devised classes such as Release, Align, and Renew, which fuses Pilates mat work, physical therapy techniques and myofascial release using a foam roller and foam Myo-Release Ball™.
Webster Freeman focuses on providing the best experience possible for her students. “I welcome all participants and set a goal to make eye contact with each [of them] throughout the class and acknowledge their efforts in positive ways,” she says. “I thrive on creating new classes: blending science and fact with creativity and entertainment to find new ways to reach new people and spark current members.”
She enjoys giving back to the community. For example, she helped organize a 6-hour cycle-a-thon, a fundraiser for the YMCA’s Strong Kids program. She also brainstormed and organized a heart-a-thon to help employees and their families at her hospital raise money for the American Heart Association® (in 2010, 2011 and 2012).
Dan McDonogh is an instructor and a group training and development manager at TRX®. Among the classes he teaches are TRX®, RPM™, indoor cycling, athletic conditioning and mind-body programs.
He and his team collaborate to create and manage TRX Group Programming worlwide. “My goal is to bring Suspension Training® to the group fitness world in a way that is driven by the latest Suspension Training research,” he says. “We wanted the best in-class programming with simple exercises that instructors [around the world] could master quickly for maximum safety, effectiveness and fun.”
McDonogh’s role as group training and development manager has helped the company. “Last year we saw over 300% growth in courses delivered with our Group Suspension Training Course globally. Plus, our TRX Training Center has had almost 100% growth in revenue.”
McDonogh’s philosophy for his career? “My professionalism vision is based on excellence and mastery,” he says. “Focus breeds genius. I have chosen only to be involved in programs or classes that I can master and that are authentic to the person I am. In terms of programming and teaching, I would rather do less and do it more effectively. I believe I am effective and inspirational because I have developed mastery in the programs I deliver.”
His favorite passion is cycling. In 2007 he founded Rooster Racing (RR) International, a registered not-for-profit global fundraising organization. Through both indoor and outdoor cycling/endurance events, RR members from across the globe raise awareness and funds for the LIVESTRONG® Foundation. “In 2011, RR had over 4,000 individual donors, the most in the foundation’s history, and raised over $63,000 for Livestrong.”