Passion, commitment and a dedication to excellence define these top fitness pros.
Sometimes referred to as the Academy Awards® of the fitness industry, the IDEA World Fitness Awards are given to fitness professionals who represent the very best of the best in the industry. This year, awards were given in three categories: IDEA Program Director of the Year (a tie produced co-recipients), IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year. The recipients will be recognized at the IDEA World Fitness Convention™, August 11–14, in Los Angeles. Don’t miss the chance to greet them and attend sessions by some of them! (Also at the convention, Elaine LaLanne will accept the inaugural Jack LaLanne Award, given posthumously to her husband, fitness pioneer Jack LaLanne.)
Here the award recipients share their views on the future of fitness, what drives them and how other fitness pros can succeed. >>
For Lance Breger, MS, the sixth grade was tough. “I was a skinny 12-year-old, at a new school and unpopular,” he explains. “I was unsure of myself and challenged by academics. There was also a seventh-grade bully who was after me. This fact created a constant fear of going to school.”
At 16 he had an “aha” experience. “It was exercise. A mentor guided my path. My body started to change, and so did my mind. My confidence grew, my anxiety lessened, and my focus improved. My studying—and grades—improved. As I grew older, I wanted to mentor kids—to give them what I never had.”
That’s why Breger combines working as head private trainer and senior master instructor at MINT in Washington, DC, with spending several hours a week running the nonprofit Infinity Wellness Foundation. The foundation uses its WELLKIDS program to help prevent childhood obesity in local students by offering them cardio and strength training, flexibility training, yoga, meditation and nutrition education. “I am inspired that IDEA has recognized our program that gives back to the community and to the generation that is coming after us,” he says.
Breger believes that being an outstanding program manager is about more than goal-setting, delegating and coordinating. “To be a successful manager, you need to be a successful ‘people’ person,” he says. “To be a successful leader, you need to anticipate and be forward-thinking. I’ve learned that to create successful programs and effective policies I must continuously innovate and engage people. As with strengthening the core in fitness, knowing thyself is at the core of being a strong manager and leader. Becoming president of the foundation has given me the opportunity to strengthen my core.”
To teach or train kids, you need to be a positive role model, Breger says. “Kids need heroes! We’ve learned that inspiring and motivating kids is as important as the lesson plan. Small steps will move a generation. I’ve learned that small wins can translate to a child buying [resistance] bands for his grandmother or a child drinking water rather than sodas.”
What has Breger discovered that can help fitness pros succeed? “Think outside the box!” he exclaims. “Fitness pros have a world of opportunities. I believe as professionals we are just beginning to see our potential. Perhaps take a look at Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, centered on food and schools. We must engage clients the other 23 hours per day, when we are not working with them. Success is about helping clients improve their total wellness—sleep, digestion, stress and so much more.”
Breger issues a challenge for his fellow fitness pros: “Many of us work in a facility, and we fail to see what is outside its front door,” he says. “We focus on changing the lives of our clients, but what about helping our community? What about looking at our clients as workers and parents or brothers and sisters? What about the older adults who aren’t club members? What about the children who live or go to school in your area? Let’s get out into the community!”
Living a healthy lifestyle is one of Fraser Quelch’s strongest core values. “In many ways it is at the essence of who I am and what fuels my desire to make a meaningful impact in the world,” he says. “Over the years, my personal commitment to health has given [me] back far more than it has taken. It has provided the satisfaction of achieving some exciting goals, such as completing four Ironman® distance triathlons.”
However, it has been transferring his passion for activity to his 2-year-old son through play that has helped Quelch truly appreciate how vital movement is to people’s development and what impact it can have on happiness.
Thus, he believes that the future of fitness is dependent on tying the inherent joy of movement and play that every child possesses into functional adult programming—and he wants to help other fitness pros do just that. “I want to challenge, educate and provide tools and techniques to fitness professionals so they are better able to produce peak results with their clients,” he says. Quelch, head of fitness and training for TRX® and creator and lead educator for the company’s programming, adds, “I also want to provide preventative solutions through new concepts in fitness that will help to lead us away from the global obesity epidemic.”
How can personal trainers keep workouts interesting, yet effective? “Too often I see trainers sequencing movements together that are not in line with what people truly need,” he explains. “We must ensure that people are moving well first before we stack progression and complexity on them. If we teach them why we are doing what we’re doing and make them part of the process, so they understand where they are, they will see their improvement and buy into the program.”
Quelch finds it humbling that his peers have recognized him with this prestigious award, and hopes it will give TRX’s mission more exposure. “Our aim is to create the most effective training, comprehensive education and the best products and make them accessible for everyone. We want to help people meet their physical potential [whether they are athletes or want to get back into shape].”
How can other fitness pros become IDEA award recipients? Here is Quelch’s advice:
Persevere. “Follow your vision, believe in what you have to offer, relentlessly pursue it and push beyond what a ‘normal’ personal trainer does. Your goal is to be extraordinary.”
Grow. “Be humble. The most knowledgeable people are the ones who realize that they actually know very little. This drives them to understand more of what’s out there. Do not follow gurus blindly. There are many schools, and just about all of them have something valuable to offer. Be less resistant to ideas that are not necessarily in line with your own. Seek to understand them, and your own development will accelerate.”
Contribute. “What are you doing to contribute to the industry? Share your ideas, be active on forum sites, shoot videos of your concepts and post them on social networks, write articles and present at local events and conferences.”
Award Criteria: Program Director
For Jason Karp, PhD, running is more than just a form of exercise. “Running allows me to be the person I want to be,” he explains. “It allows me to influence others. It allows me to be better in every area of my life. While others see exercise as something they have to do, I see running as who I am.”
Karp spends his life helping people improve their running skills. As founder and trainer at RunCoachJason.com, he works one-on-one with clients. He is also the founder and instructor of Dr. Karp’s Run-Fit Boot Camp and founder and trainer of REVO2LT Running Team™. He has taught USA Track & Field’s highest-level coaching certification. >>
Karp’s mission is to move the fitness industry forward by helping to make positive changes to educational standards and by creating relationships between fitness pros and physicians and between fitness organizations and medical/health organizations. “Part of this mission is to get exercise physiology to be a required course in medical school. Then future physicians will have a background in exercise physiology and can begin the process of prescribing exercise for their patients and referring patients to fitness professionals,” he explains.
When Karp completed his PhD, he realized he had a responsibility. “People expect something better from me because of those three letters,” he says. “I strive to live up to what it means to be called ‘Doctor.’ Everything I do includes a high degree of professionalism and passion, a devotion to science and a keen interest in wanting to help my clients succeed.”
For fitness professionals who want to train runners, Karp offers these suggestions: “Understand what your client wants to accomplish and then take the time to learn about the sport,” he says. “Read the books of notable coaches. Understand how to train most effectively. Don’t think that just because you’ve run a dozen marathons, you know how to help clients run. Get on the inside of the sport. There is a big disconnect between the competitive side of the sport—high school, college and elite running—and the fitness industry. If you’ve never been a part of the competitive running scene, find a good coach who can mentor you.”
Just as Karp is passionate about running, he is also passionate about spreading the word that everyone can benefit from a personal trainer. “I want people to see that trainers offer the same level of service as other educated professionals,” he says. “Everywhere I go, I overhear people talking about losing weight, getting fitter or running a marathon. When I tell them what I do, they are interested because I don’t think they know this kind of help is available. They tend to think trainers are only for the elite. Simply talking to people and describing how I can help them raises awareness of the personal training industry among the general public.”
Award Criteria: Personal Trainer of the Year
As a teen, Leigh Crews won a national championship for baton twirling. Don’t consider this related to exercise? Crews suggests trying it with three batons at a time, or with hoops, fire batons or big, heavy knives—with cartwheels and somersaults thrown in! “For spending money, I taught other girls to twirl,” she says. “Thus began my teaching and personal training careers. I have a teacher’s soul, and suppose I always will have!”
Flash forward to her adult years. Founder and president of Dynalife Inc., Crews has worn just about every hat possible in the fitness industry, from instructor to general manager to aerobic competition judge to program developer and educator. “Now I teach classes, coach and train clients, plus travel to teach at workshops and conventions,” she says. “I am also a member of the Batuka Development Team and a senior master trainer for TRX.”
What does winning this IDEA award mean to her? “It is the most positive affirmation I could receive from fellow professionals who know better than anyone just what it takes to make a career in fitness,” she explains. “I hope that the award strengthens my voice in the industry and helps me reach more people who are ready to commit to a healthy lifestyle. Plus, I hope my example will inspire up-and-coming fitness professionals.”
In the last 30 years Crews has taught a vast array of classes, including high and low impact, abs and core, step, slide, Gliding™, core board, barbell classes, circuits and interval training, boot camps, stretching, yoga, studio cycle, stability ball, TRX Suspension Training, kettlebells, sports programs, kids’ classes and classes for older adults.
Inspiring people through direct contact is rewarding, but Crews has found that it’s also wonderful to inspire many others through mass media. “The reward is reaching millions of people all over the globe,” she says. “I have written or served as the fitness expert in over 100 articles for print and e-media, plus countless radio and TV segments. My favorite TV segment was with my Old English sheepdog, Sally, as we demonstrated appropriate exercise to do with your pet!”
Crews urges all fitness pros to try to reach the inactive. “Sometimes fitness professionals have a hard time scaling back to the level of the inactive, but everyone can start somewhere. Remember that even the smallest achievements add up to big achievements as well as personal joy and enhanced health.”
To help fitness pros succeed in their careers, Crews offers these pointers:
- Stay the course—nothing worth doing is short term.
- Do what you love, and align what you love with the existing needs of consumers.
- Don’t take no for an answer. “Closed doors have caused me to reevaluate [my path] and turn in new directions I would not have explored if the first answer had been yes,” says Crews. “And new directions often lead to greater success.”
- Look to mentors! Role models can save you from unnecessary pain.
- Be true to yourself.
- Keep your eye on the horizon, always looking for what’s next.
- Do not devalue your talent, knowledge and experience. In the long run, that will hold you and your fellow pros back.
Award Criteria: Fitness Instructor of the Year