Inspire: Be The Change!

The 2009 IDEA World Fitness Convention™ highlighted and celebrated the diversity of our industry today.

Are you working like a dog in your fitness career? If you aren’t, you should be.

2009 IDEA World Fitness Convention keynote speaker Matt Weinstein (inset photo, below) wryly made fun of this old axiom about toiling the day away by asking a packed convention ballroom at the event’s opening ceremonies in Anaheim, California, to ponder how hard dogs really work. Hmmm. They spend a lot of time sleeping; they mooch food; they get pets and love from the people around them; they bark at the mailman, fetch Frisbees and wag their tails. Not such a bad “to-do” list for our canine companions. In fact, it sounds like a game plan that would be easy to get behind. Weinstein, author, motivational speaker and founder of Playfair Inc., an international consulting firm based in Berkeley, California, suggested that maybe we should take a page from the dog’s life and apply it to the way we work and live.

This was an apt lesson for an industry of professionals who often forget to practice the balanced lifestyle they preach to clients. It was also a great way to set the stage for the 25th IDEA World Fitness Convention, August 12–16, in Anaheim.

In contrast to the first IDEA World Fitness event 25 years ago, this convention was big in all respects. With 4,000 people (including attendees, faculty, exhibitors and Fitness & Wellness Expo visitors) from over 40 countries, there were a lot of moving parts to this extravaganza. From in-depth preconvention sessions to activities like surfing and beach triathlon training, the education was as broad as it was balanced. More than 300 sessions offered the latest programming ideas, research and trends, continuing education credits (CECs) and business and career tools. Such diversity is reflective of the challenges being brought to the doors of personal trainers, program directors, business owners, mind-body pros and instructors who work with a multitude of special-focus populations.

Here’s a look at how IDEA responded to these challenges, and some capsules of what we see going on in the industry.

Personal Training: Method Eliminates Madness

Much can be said about the array of content soaked up by personal trainers and others interested in the personal training track. Each session offered a unique “method” for accomplishing specific goals with clients. But at the core of each presenter’s guidance glimmered one basic theme: think before you move. Whether the aim is to effectively engage an energetic 10-year-old or to help a deconditioned client build a structurally sound body, the underlying message is the same: be completely mindful when implementing the exercise program.

A relatively new presenter to IDEA conventions, Brett Klika of Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego was all about making sure his fellow personal trainers fully realized the implications of scope of practice. “Personal training has a wide spectrum,” he said. “On one end, there are those who try to ‘fix’ a client’s problem. On the other end, you have the workouts where it’s encouraged that the client work so hard he pukes at the end. We want to be somewhere in the middle.” Klika also believes that fitness professionals need to give clients a break. “We are masters of movement. We work hard to move as optimally as possible. Our clients who spend all day sitting may not have that potential. I’m happy if my client is within 90% of good technique.” He finds that clients can often become overwhelmed by the numerous cues and technicalities present in each exercise. “They just want to think they got a good workout.”

Posture and biomechanics are still very hot topics in personal training; each year’s event seems to offer more sessions on these subjects. Educators offered unique perspectives on the importance of alignment and on how to help clients balance their bodies. Evan Osar, DC, highlighted the value of optimal breathing patterns for stabilization. Chuck Wolf, MS, discussed teaching clients how to become stable in all planes of motion. “We live in a three-dimensional world,” he said. “You first need to understand how your client moves and then build programs based on limitations and compensations.” And despite the highly complex nature of the human body, Juan Carlos Santana, MEd, urged fitness professionals to keep it simple. He emphasized that exercisers need to become adept at what he called the four pillars of human movement: locomotion, level change, push and pull, and rotation. “It’s been our observation that the better people perform some of the most basic movements we use, the better they perform in their daily environment, in both athletic and nonathletic endeavors,” he said.

Back pain is also a popular subject—and a great specialty opportunity for trainers—owing to its prevalence among the general population. According to Anthony Carey, MA, 85% of people will experience low-back pain during their lifetime. “Providing scientifically sound information to your clients and members can better serve them and generate additional business opportunities,” he observed. In his session “25 Things Your Client Must Know About Lower-Back Pain,” Carey debunked some commonly believed myths by making these assertions:

  • A bad back is not always a weak back.
  • Acute episodes of back pain respond better to ice than heat.
  • Stretching alone is an incomplete answer to solving your back problems.
  • Pulling your knees to your chest may be bad for your back.

Other topics of interest included optimal training methods for fat loss and improved body composition. Carla Sottovia, PhD, 2005 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, addressed different levels of exercise intensity and discussed the level needed for optimal results. According to her research, resting metabolic rate (RMR) increases when exercise intensity is greater than 70% VO2max. Sottovia advised trainers to maximize sessions by being as efficient as possible; for example, by using supersets that alternate between pushing, pulling and core work. “Do not neglect both cardiovascular and strength training,” she adds. “You have to have both to achieve the greatest exercise benefits.”

Diversity and Fun Are Keywords in Group Exercise

Group fitness should be renamed “group funness” if this year’s convention was any indication. Whether it was early morning, midday or late afternoon, whether the sessions were promotional seminars, workouts or workshops, group instructors flocked to get the latest choreography, try the newest equipment and share their ideas.

Some of the trends in evidence at last year’s convention had gone mainstream, while others seemed to have faded or developed in different directions. Dance-based and -inspired classes have increased in popularity, and many of this year’s classes and products were geared to dance enthusiasts. “It’s All in the Mix” with Petra Kolber was a perfect example of this resurgent interest in dance. Calling her session a cardio—not high-low—class, Kolber had the group learn specific moves in a specific order, with performance and style sharing equal billing with the moves, which came from dance.

Yet Kolber also kept the class moving the whole time, no stop-and-start, with choreography that everyone could follow, which was more similar to the high-low cardio style. Other classes that shared this combination of dance and cardio included “dance del.icio.us: cardio choreo,” “Just 2 Dance Instructor Training,” “Fuego!” “Mind-Body Dance,” “Rock da Club!” “SharQui—A Belly Dance Boot Camp” and “Dance Diversity for Older Adults.” And that sort of sums up what it was all about—diversity.

This year step turned 20, complete with a step celebration emceed by Gin Miller and attended by longtime and “newbie” presenters and followers alike. From basic to highly complex, step sessions were packed with exercisers ranging in age from early 20s to 70s, a testament to this format’s staying power. Step’s most ubiquitous aspect this year was an emphasis on syncopation and “presentation,” especially in arm movements and performance style.

A number of veteran presenters were spotted participating in and observing quite a few classes. Somehow, seeing all those big-name presenters learning from their peers was heartening and seemed to illustrate the camaraderie and “group” aspect that permeates group fitness.

In both the classes and the Expo demos, there was evidence of the emerging hybrid professional—the result of a melding between personal training and group fitness. From the TRX®, “Climb-Max by Equinox®” and KRANKcycle® workouts and demos to the “STOTT PILATES® Jumpboard Interval Training,” “Innovative Drills for Small-Group Training” and “Two Worlds Collide,” the “uniting” of the two worlds was proof of seemingly different disciplines coming together to get people moving.

Although technology and the Internet might not be the first topics that come to mind when speaking of group exercise, the 2009 convention proved their compatibility. There were R-KAIDE workshops that fused video games with exercise, a “Digital Music and Technology” lecture and even a course on how to produce your own fitness video led by Tamilee Webb!

A plethora of strength training, aqua fitness, Pilates, indoor cycling boot camp, youth, older-adult, sports-oriented and fusion classes were also on the schedule. With so many exciting choices (e.g., “Hot Hula,” “Pilates Chair Latin Dance,” “Aqua Buddha-Camp,” “Zumba® Toning,” a dance class from the movie Fame and mat work for teens), the world of group fitness in 2009 looks radically different, and way more enticing, than it did in 1987. With all the variety, and lots of unique and unusual choices, this year’s convention proved that Group Funness is here to stay!

Manage or Be Managed

Brent Harris, Nordstrom’s national merchandise manager for shoes, says, “You can’t teach culture. You have to live it. You have to experience it. You have to share it. You have to show it.” This idea of showing, not telling—or being the change—was a thread that ran throughout the business and management sessions offered at IDEA World Fitness. The following highlights provide an overview.

  • While the recession was not the hub of the conversation, it was a point of discussion. Managers, directors and studio owners had a variety of “war stories” to share regarding how the economy had affected their businesses. Some saw a sharp dropoff at the end of 2008, which carried over to 2009. Others implemented proactive strategies that paid off, such as allowing members to suspend (not cancel) memberships. In a lot of cases, those members returned in a few weeks. Small-group personal training and group exercise programs floated to the top as financial heroes, and many facilities relearned the art and craft of customer service. As the economy slowly improves, people are now charged with leveraging the lessons learned from the recession.
  • Already alluded to in the group fitness section, the “hybrid” fitness professional—who teaches group exercise and is also a personal trainer—garnered a lot of attention. As the industry grows and changes in pace with consumer needs and desires, this hybrid pro is rapidly taking shape. Many presenters offered practical tips, not only on how to grow yourself as a hybrid, but also on how to manage this new breed. In his session “Managing the Member/Client Experience,” Bob Esquerre, MA, offered a list of “must-have” characteristics for the hybrid fitness professional. Among the 25 defining skills were displaying professional ethics, being proficient in emotional intelligence and displaying technical skills.
  • Many attendees have reached a point in their careers where they have a lock on the administrative and organizational aspects of management but are hungry for detailed information on how to get the best out of staff. IDEA member Rhonda Statham, 24 Hour Fitness regional group exercise manager in Kansas City, Missouri, says one of the biggest challenges she faces is determining each employee’s personality type: “what drives them, what motivates them and what demotivates them.” The sessions she took at IDEA World Fitness Convention helped her come up with ideas to get the most out of each employee.

“The key is being able to build on their strengths while improving their areas of opportunity and being flexible enough to do it in a way that fits with their personality,” Statham said. “I know for myself, remembering that not every employee thinks like me is important. We all have something that motivates us—it is taking the time to find that key for each employee that will help develop and build strong teams. A manager should never stop learning, not only about their field of expertise but about their employees and themselves.”

Multidimensional Mind-Body

This year’s mind-body program encapsulated years of research and discovery. One way to describe the mind-body fitness and wellness journey over the past few years is “full circle and back again.” During “The Future of Pilates” panel, PJ O’Clair, 2008 IDEA Program Director of the Year, mentioned that she was one of the first presenters to teach a mind-body fusion session at an IDEA event, in the early 1990s. “It was called ‘Yoga in Motion,’ and it was pretty unheard of at the time to not only teach yoga but combine it with something else,” said O’Clair. This type of session and many others based on “integrative movement” now fit right into any comprehensive, quality-driven program.

  • Pilates is a lifestyle choice these days and continues to capture the hearts, minds and bodies of consumers. The demand for quality education and instruction is high. However, this explosive growth has created some issues, according to Kathy Corey, owner and director of West Coast Pilates in San Diego, who moderated the panel on “The Future of Pilates.” Education standards for instructors are not consistent, and many Pilates veterans fear this lack of consistency may be detrimental to the industry’s reputation. (Look for a more detailed report on the panel in the October issue of Inner IDEA Body-Mind-Spirit Review e-newsletter.) The standards were high at the 2009 IDEA World Fitness Convention, however, and this was clear in every session. The theme this year: refining one’s skills and developing that layer of expertise that lies beyond the edge. Topics ranged from sports conditioning, as in “STOTT PILATES® Athletic Conditioning on the V2 Max Plus,” to injury prevention, as in Balanced Body University’s “Reforming Lower-Back Pain.” Props were aplenty—as long as they complemented the repertoire and proved useful for modifications and progressions. In addition to more traditional props, such as the magic circle, presenters used weighted balls, Gliding Discs® and lightweight, inflatable balls to merge science and technique with instruction. Pilates cuing deserves its own special mention. The sometimes subtle, small movements of Pilates command an extra ounce of creativity to help clients with body awareness. Many moves are very specific, and differentiating between muscles—while also focusing on the breath—can be challenging to participants. In his session “Pilates for Men,” John Garey, MS, owner of John Garey Pilates in Long Beach, California, instructed attendees to “not allow your shoulders to visit your ears.” Erika Quest, owner of Studio Q Pilates Conditioning in Laguna Beach, California, used a lot of evocative food visuals to help people get the right idea in “Are You Cheating on Your Reformer?” While instructing a circular movement with the arms, Quest suggested her hands were “moving through whipped potatoes.” “Perhaps you are moving through a chocolate peanut butter milkshake,” she offered as an alternate cue.
  • Yoga made a stand in a unique way this year, as sessions focused on injury prevention, biomechanics, alignment and foundation training. In her session “Yoga for the Hips and Back,” 2005 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year Helen Vanderburg encouraged attendees to explore yoga postures in different ways, using as many traditional and nontraditional props as possible. “We all have different bodies, so why wouldn’t we try different things? The deeper you go into yoga, the less you know. Explore and be creative!” Vanderburg also encouraged people to work closely with allied health professionals, such as physical therapists, in order to provide clients with safe and effective instruction. Stacy McCarthy led instructional and purely fun classes with “Wake Up to Sun Salutations,” “The Hips Don’t Lie” and “Major League Yoga.” Beth Shaw taught attendees how to modify challenging postures for different skill levels in “YogaFit®: S.A.F.E. Yoga.” In “Yoga Therapy: The Shoulder Girdle,” Suzette O’Byrne explained how to release shoulder tension and how this relates to the heart and throat chakras.
  • A healthy sampling of fusion sessions—Pilates and yoga, yoga and cycling, a mind-body triathlon and water dancing—showed how professionals are expanding mind-body offerings. The philosophy is that as long as it’s based on sound research, there are no limits to how many ways you can help people connect body and mind. In his InTensive session, “Mind-Body Triathlon,” 2004 IDEA Group Fitness Instructor of the Year Lawrence Biscontini, MA, took attendees on a journey that included an energizing outdoor walk, a qigong/tai chi session, and partner yoga in the pool. Biscontini also taught “Implementing Mind-Body Into Your Personal Training Practice.” Luis Alvidrez, owner of Upward Motion Personal Training Studio in Albuquerque, New Mexico, sat in on this session, which elaborated on the conventional personal training job description. “We only look at the body as a client’s means to success, and we too often forget the other two components: mind and spirit (meaning breath),” said Alvidrez. “I learned how to create that ‘awe experience’ that I have been missing and wanting with my clients and [also how to] bridge the gap between mind, body and spirit.”

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October 2009

© 2009 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

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