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2007 IDEA Award Winners: Affecting Change

Entrepreneurship, education and compassion help four leaders inspire the world.

This year’s batch of nominees was full of serious competition, however Lisa Druxman, Bill Sonnemaker and Fred Hoffman were honored with the industry’s most prestigious awards.

Lisa Druxman, MA, IDEA Program Director of the Year

Before the creation of Stroller Strides® LLC, the nation’s largest postnatal fitness program, Lisa Druxman struggled with the notion of returning to work after giving birth to her son in 2001. “I loved working in the fitness industry, but I wanted to be a mom first and foremost,” she recalls. Fortunately for today’s 20,000 Stroller Strides participants across 38 states, Druxman held fast in her determination to meld motherhood with her career. “When there was nothing out there that supported my desire for both, I created it,” she says. “I started teaching to just a few moms in my neighborhood. In one short year, we grew to over 1,000 moms in 12 locations.”

What resulted is a program that is much more than squats and lunges, says Druxman. It’s also a way for mothers—as both instructors and clients—to support one another during a very special time in their lives. “Stroller Strides is set-up kind of like an active playgroup. We offer support for moms who are challenged with everything from sleep deprivation to incontinence,” she says. As her program gained momentum, Druxman decided to offer fitness-minded moms throughout the country an opportunity to purchase franchises. So with the help of business consultants, Druxman led her organization to become one of the fastest-growing franchises in the United States. “It’s amazing to see my baby of an idea catch on as a craze,” she says. “Apparently, I was not the only woman looking for a career that was supportive of motherhood.” In her acceptance speech at the opening ceremonies of the 2007 IDEA World Fitness Convention™ she said, “People always ask me how I am able to do this. If you know my team, then you know how.”

Award Criteria

  • is a healthy role model
  • demonstrates keen professional commitment through community and industry involvement
  • inspires staff through outstanding leadership
  • develops successful, creative and diverse programming that influences both active and underactive people to commit to a healthy lifestyle.
Bill Sonnemaker, PES, CES, CSCS, IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year

It’s no surprise that Bill Sonnemaker, founder of Catalyst Fitness, was named Atlanta’s best personal trainer 2 years in a row. His dedication to excellence is exemplified by the success of his facility and the company he keeps. When hiring trainers, he refuses to settle for mediocrity; he requires that each candidate possess at least two certifications from specific agencies, IDEA membership and a 4-year college degree just to be considered for a position. Then, if hired, Sonnemaker requests that each new trainer obtain two more certifications within the first 6 months of employment. “No other training facility, gym or hospital-based wellness program comes close to the criteria that we have in place for our training team,” he says. He does this because he wants to provide the best possible services for his clientele and to set a gold standard for fitness professionals everywhere. “My goal is to help change the face of the fitness industry in America, commencing with the emerging fitness arena of Atlanta, and I also aspire to develop an international standard.” He knows that his actions go far beyond the walls of Catalyst Fitness, and that he must do all he can to advance the credibility of the fitness industry. “In this career, I have encountered many individuals and organizations that undermine the professionalism of our industry, and I have asserted myself in communicating and accurately representing this industry.” To do his part, Sonnemaker helps educate others with two 12-week courses he developed to help prepare potential trainers for hands-on application. “The first is a practical skills course, and the second is an exam prep course for the National Academy of Sports Medicine,” he says. “All of my students pass the exam the first time with excellent scores!” Sonnemaker sees a bright future for both his business and the industry, and he hopes that others will join him in his quest for excellence.

Award Criteria

  • is a practicing industry professional spending at least 15 hours per week actually training clients one-to-one
  • demonstrates exceptional leadership, business management, motivation and instruction skills
Fred Hoffman, MEd, IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year

International fitness presenter extraordinaire Fred Hoffman is a legend among fitness professionals. His easy manner and willingness to stop and chat with anyone who beckons is one of the reasons he’s achieved such popularity with both students and colleagues alike. The irony is that he never anticipated joining the fitness industry, even though he was an avid participant. However, one fateful day in 1982, all that changed. “While I was waiting for a fitness class from my favorite teacher, she called and asked to speak to me,” he recalls. “She wanted to know if I could substitute teach the class at the last minute, as she was not feeling well.” Hoffman’s effort was such a success that he felt compelled to continue teaching and secured a spot on the weekly schedule. “The next year, I decided to leave my respiratory therapy job and teach fitness classes full-time until I figured out what I really wanted to do.” Two-and-a-half decades later, Hoffman continues to teach and is also the director of international services for The Club Spa & Synergy Group; a consultant for women’s marketing at Reebok France; a Reebok Global Master Trainer; and more. Hoffman truly embodies the Inspire the World to Fitness® mission, sharing his passion and expertise over the years with more than 200,000 participants and 65,000 fitness professionals in 48 countries. “Fitness is universal,” he says. “What I have discovered during my travels is that people worldwide have the same issues, needs and desires. They may speak a different language, and there are definitely cultural differences, but when it comes down to the bottom line, people want to feel good and be proud about how they look.” Hoffman asserts that compassion transcends language and culture, and that his success is a result of his ability to be “honest, accessible and caring.”

Award Criteria

  • demonstrates strong leadership skills through community and industry involvement
  • uses his or her superior abilities and influence as an instructor to motivate active and underactive people to commit to healthy lifestyles

Ryan Halvorson is the editorial associate for IDEA Health & Fitness Association and a certified personal trainer at Excel Sport & Therapy in La Jolla, California.

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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