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2010 IDEA World Fitness Awards Finalists

Celebrating the outstanding work of top-notch fitness pros.

IDEA members help people everywhere live their best lives by encouraging them to pursue health in body, mind and spirit. The IDEA World Fitness Awards recognize professionals who go above and beyond to guide and inspire clients, communities and the fitness industry. Join us as we honor the accomplishments of the 2010 finalists at the IDEA World Fitness Convention™ Awards Show on Thursday, August 5, at the world-famous Nokia Theater in Los Angeles from 5:30 to 7:00 pm. The presentation will recognize the 2010 IDEA Program Director of the Year, IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and IDEA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

Congratulations to all of the fitness pros who applied for the awards and to the following award finalists. Below we give a glimpse into the finalists’ careers, taken from the award applications that IDEA received by December 1, 2009.


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.


Lance Breger, MS, and Tanya Colucci, MS

Washington, DC

Both Lance Breger and Tanya Colucci work at MINT Fitness & Spa in Washington, DC. Breger serves as head private trainer, and Colucci is the wellness director, director of education and master trainer.

In addition to their passion for helping adults, they enjoy lighting the fitness fire under kids. They co-founded a nonprofit called the Infinity Wellness Foundation, which focuses on helping prevent childhood obesity in Washington, DC, schools. “We managed all aspects of the startup, including operations, legal issues, strategic development, fundraising and business planning.”

Together they have co-created and delivered their Well Kids Model to six schools, working with more than 600 youth. “We attribute our results to our devotion, dedication and leadership skills,” they explain. “These allow us to recruit and motivate staff to deliver our program, while we work to redefine our business model and strategic plan.”

Their creativity and innovation have helped Well Kids succeed. For example, at the Adams Bilingual Intermediate School their task was to deliver a safe and sound fitness program during the renovation of the school’s playground. “There was no outdoor space for the students to be active and release energy, so we designed an ‘Innovative Recess Program’ that took place in the school’s hallways and veranda.”

Besides working to empower youth, Breger and Colucci give back to the community in other ways. Colucci teaches free meditation classes and writes in her blog, Synergy Training Solutions. Breger spreads the wellness message in written word to others as a writer for Livestrong.com, through his column in City Living Magazine and through “Lance: The Blog!”


Ingrid Knight-Cohee, MS

Vancouver, British Columbia

As associate director of health and fitness at YWCA Vancouver, Ingrid Knight-Cohee oversees the operations of a 25,000-square-foot fitness facility servicing 3,000 members. She is responsible for more than 100 staff, volunteers and contractors tasked with delivering a wide array of programs and services. She monitors budgetary targets and processes in order to provide financial support to various community programs.

Her financial management skills have been illustrated through exceptional budgetary performance across successive years. “We are now being used as an example for other YMs/YWs across Canada to follow in order to turn around struggling operations,” she says. “Even in this challenging year [2009], we have achieved over $2 million [Canadian] in revenues, surpassing our year-to-date budget targets by $130K.”

Successful programs have included the personalized services department’s small-group training and complimentary member clinics featuring different trainers. Member challenges inject fun and build team morale among members. “For example, members vie for being crowned Plank Champion for holding a plank position for the longest time in our annual ‘Plank-Off,’” she explains.

Helping the First Nations Snowboarding Team, a grass-roots aboriginal group, achieve their dream of performing at their best in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games was rewarding for Knight-Cohee and YWCA staff. “We hosted the team in sports conditioning camps three times per year over the past 3 years.”

Knight-Cohee has also served the community through her involvement in charity runs, including the Scotiabank Half-Marathon. “I was chiefly responsible for recruiting over 50 runners and encouraging team members to seek pledges,” she says. “We managed to raise $17,350.”


Peter Twist, MSc

North Vancouver, British Columbia

Peter Twist is the president and chief executive officer of Twist Sport Conditioning. He is an exercise physiologist with a specialization in coaching science. Twist was a conditioning coach in the National Hockey League for 11 years and has worked with more than 700 professional athletes in different sports. He has published 10 books, 19 DVDs and over 400 papers on athlete development.

The company applies concepts from hockey when training athletes of all sports, ages and abilities. “We provide level-appropriate functional exercise for young kids, aging Boomers, rehab applications, school curriculums and active adults who get inspired by the opportunity to perform better in their worlds, gaining self-efficacy, enjoyment and a positive connection to exercise.”

Twist’s work focuses on three major divisions. “We train athletes in our six franchised sport conditioning centers; educate advocates in the fitness, sports, teaching, rehabilitation and emergency services industries; and distribute innovative training tools,” he says.

Hiring great people is a key priority. “I believe that skills are highly teachable and that character and personality are not easily modified,” explains Twist. “I look for staff who have coaching and training abilities, along with some business acumen, but who, more importantly, are solid people [with great passion]. We work in a fast-paced environment of high expectations, but also one that is relaxed and fun.”

Beyond his clientele, Twist strives to improve the lives of those in his community. “We regularly support local sport organizations with sponsorship for tournaments and fundraisers and often provide financial assistance to athletes who can’t fund a conditioning camp experience. Plus, our coaches donate their time to work with youth in different sports.”


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.


J.J. Flizanes

Beverly Hills, California

J.J. Flizanes is director of Invisible Fitness, wellness director for FKC International and author of Knack Absolute Abs: Routines for a Fit and Firm Core (to be released December 2010). From exercise design to implementation, Invisible Fitness provides one-on-one personal training for executives, high-performance clients and high-visibility individuals. The personalized programs employ telephone coaching and group teleseminars in the area of fitness, nutrition and life balance.

What sets Flizanes apart from her celebrity fitness counterparts is her anatomically centered routines, which protect overworked and aging joints. “When training, I honor each individual’s anatomical structure, since we are all built differently,” she says. “That’s why I branded my company Invisible Fitness. What you can’t see is more important than what you can. I base my exercises on biomechanics, physics and the individual, while I base my programming on the person’s goals, mindset and needs. I help men and women feel gorgeous and confident in a bathing suit, without killing themselves in the gym or starving themselves.”

She is the co-creator of the 6 Week Beach Body Program, designed to help clients lose weight quickly, easily and healthfully and keep it off using both mind and body tools.

Flizanes is the fitness expert for Nourishing Wellness Medical Center in Redondo Beach, serves on the board of Excellence Through Exercise and is the fitness and health expert for NAOEM (National Association of Entrepreneur Moms).

She also shares her knowledge with the community. She has presented free talks for Whole Foods and put together the National Breast Cancer Coalition fundraiser in Manhattan Beach, California, to promote breast cancer awareness and research.


Troy Fontana

Sparks, Nevada

As the owner of Fontana Fitness Personal Training Studio, Troy Fontana helps clients become champions for life. “Champions often rise after they fall,” he explains. “My purpose in life is to help people get back on their feet, believe in themselves and facilitate a life that resembles balance, health, harmony and happiness. Teaching life lessons that reach further than the body alone are an integral aspect of my life mission.”

This philosophy informs the time he spends with clients. “It’s imperative that I make an emotional connection to why a client wants to get in better shape or make changes,” he says. “I’ve found that the deeper and more developed response you can elicit, the more powerful the coaching can be and the more you can deliver results. To further help clients achieve results, I have created a client ‘Success Packet,’ which challenges them to answer action-oriented questions and set goals for all aspects of their health, fitness and life. I also have them journal their progress.”

Fontana goes out of his way to show clients he cares. “Once a month, I will call each client and invite him or her to join me on a jog, walk or chat where we can connect on a deeper level,” he notes.

He also believes that kickoff parties, completion parties and celebrations help create a lasting experience. “I want my clients to feel special, and recognition is invaluable in this respect,” he says. “People need to have fun, and I love to offer that opportunity as often as possible.”

Fontana serves the community by hosting donation barrels at his facility (for items such as food, clothing and toys) to help people in need and by volunteering his time to do public speaking for troubled teens and youth, local community clubs, support groups, businesses and other groups.


Jonathan Ross

Bowie, Maryland

Jonathan Ross offers personal training, consulting, public speaking and writing through his company, Aion Fitness LLC. He is also a personal trainer and personal training director for Sport Fit—Total Fitness Club.

“I bring clients honest fitness training and instruction designed to give them what they want—to achieve their stated goals,” he says. “At the same time, I present unique and creative ways for their workouts to enhance, not just their fitness, but their life and all the activities in it. I inspire clients by highlighting areas of their life where they are confident, capable and in control. Then I have them bring some of these same skills to bear on their fitness program.”

As personal training director at Sport Fit—Total Fitness Club, Ross created and implemented a novel approach to integrating new members that eliminates the confusion about what personal training is and presents trainers with an opportunity to gain new clients. “The club pays the trainer a nominal fee to provide a single personal training session, in which the trainer [offers a sampling of] exercises (not a complete program) that are appropriate for the client’s goals and exercise history,” he says.

Ross has developed relationships with respected health-related professionals, including physical therapists, chiropractors and dietitians. He believes in “better movement first” and refers clients to these colleagues when necessary to ensure his clients get the professional assistance they need to overcome any barriers to fitness.

Ross is also a featured Discovery Health Channel fitness expert. For the 2010 “New Year, New You” initiative, he helped the season-three winner of The Biggest Loser—who had since regained most of his lost weight—in Confessions of a Reality Show Loser. On DiscoveryHealth.com, he hosts Everyday Fitness with Jonathan Ross and acts as an online community leader to the 400,000 participants of the National Body Challenge.


This award recognizes an individual IDEA member who 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.


Leslee Bender

Reno, Nevada

Leslee Bender is the founder of The Pilates Coach Functional Training Studio and Bender Training Systems. She is the original creator of the Pilates mini ball, now called the Bender Ball. Her work focuses on helping instructors teach Pilates safely and introducing safe, effective Pilates programs to instructors and people in general. She has written several articles, and her work has been published in The Journal of Applied Research.

Bender has taught internationally at over 40 conventions; in 2009, she traveled extensively. “I have been so blessed to meet thousands of students with wonderful questions and a yearning to learn!” she says. “I love helping to inspire instructors to think critically about the movements they are teaching and why they are teaching them.”

Her newest training program is the Bender Method, which offers more than 10 modules of functional training—including foundations, selected stabilization, transformational posture, core and healthy back—for all levels of students. “The Bender Method was the first to utilize a small ball in all forms of core training to activate the local and global core muscles for a safer approach,” she says. “Our method/programs have been brought into many health clubs.”

Bender is on a mission to help people exercise without injury. “Thousands of people join a gym and then never go back because of back pain or even injury,” she says. “One reason I educate fitness pros about healthy backs is so they are instrumental in helping their facilities retain members and keep them pain-free.”

To support her community, she has conducted fundraisers for several organizations, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the American Heart Association and the Humane Society.


Leigh Crews

Rome, Georgia

Founder and president of Dynalife Inc., Leigh Crews has worn just about every hat possible in the fitness industry, from instructor to general manager to aerobic competition judge to program developer/educator. “Currently I teach classes, coach and train clients about 15 hours a week in addition to my travel schedule of teaching at workshops and conventions,” she says.

In the last 30 years Crews has taught a vast array of classes, such as 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.

She believes fitness professionals can inspire healthy lifestyle choices in more people by offering them nontraditional methods that will spark their desire to care well for their bodies and deeply appreciate the gift of health. “My ‘games for fitness,’ wellness coaching, Internet learning and individualized programming are just a few of the ways I have found to do my part to Inspire the World to Fitness®,” she says.

In addition to writing several exercise programs for large companies, Crews has a passion for bringing fitness to people in demographics that fall outside the mainstream. “My true purpose is to inspire more than those who are already seeking inspiration,” she explains. “I have created programs for older adults and children, involving them in intergenerational and interactive fitness games. [These programs include] ‘Buff Bodz ’n Little Bodz,’ ‘Interactive Games for Active Older Adults’ and ‘Creating Boot Camps for Zoomers.’”

In addition to the numerous projects she’s involved with in her local community, she uses GPS Adventure Training, which she created with her husband, as an outlet for philanthropic work. “We have provided many GPS Adventures free of charge for deserving causes,” she says.


Carol Murphy

Fairport, New York

Carol Murphy is owner and fitness director of FitLife, which offers group fitness, personal training and educational workshops around the world. A group fitness instructor for more than 25 years, she led classes for years at her FitLife studio. She now teaches at the state-of-the-art Eastside YMCA to expand her reach. She is a Body Bar®, Gliding and Resist-A-Ball® master trainer, the education director for Drums Alive® USA and Canada, and team leader for Flexi-Sports USA.

“My personal mission is to touch lives with the joy of fitness through fun, engaging programs,” she says. “We need to help Americans change their view of exercise by helping them find what makes their heart tick! Through adventurous, exciting programs that feel like play, people will view exercise as something they can’t wait to do, instead of that old mindset of it being something they have to do.”

To Murphy, nothing is more rewarding than making a positive difference in people’s lives. “The hope that I might be able to help people realize how uniquely special they are and [help them] reach toward their highest aspirations brings purpose to my life,” she explains. “I’m constantly reminded of the necessity of our work in fitness and look forward to the future with incredible hope.”

To reach people outside of the fitness center, Murphy has initiated programming like outdoor fitness training, run-walk and learn-to-Rollerblade® programs. Other successful programs include “All Systems Go!” (a preschool fitness program) and “Kids Alive!” (for teens).

Murphy’s commitment to give back to her community has provided opportunities for her students to do the same. She has actively involved her instructors and students in fundraisers for many causes, including Ronald McDonald House, St. Jude Children’s Hospital, the American Heart Association, the Muscular Dystrophy Association and The Food Shelf.

The Selection Process

How are the awards finalists and recipients selected? Here is a brief overview of the selection process:

  • Applications for the IDEA World Fitness Awards are posted on the IDEA website (www.ideafit.com). You may apply for an award yourself or nominate another candidate. Applications must adhere closely to the specific guidelines and be received by the deadline. The deadline for the 2011 awards is December 1, 2010.
  • The applications are reviewed by a committee of fitness peers, and the committee members independently review and rate each application. (There is no discussion between judges about each applicant.) Each year, a new committee is selected to judge the applications. Applicants are judged by their written responses to questions on how they “walk their walk,” inspire others and make a difference in their communities, as well as by their education and industry experience. Selection of awards finalists and recipients is based entirely on the mean averages of the committee members’ ratings.
  • Finalists are notified, and the recipients are announced at the IDEA World Fitness Convention each summer.
Kudos to Award Judges

Thank you to the following veteran industry professionals who volunteered their time to judge the IDEA World Fitness Awards applications:

  • Angie Bunch
  • Donna Cyrus
  • Jay Dawes
  • Carolyn Erickson
  • Carey Fraley
  • Ryan Halvorson
  • Keith Irace
  • June Kahn
  • Brett Klika
  • Stacey Lei Krauss
  • Cynthia Norton
  • Debi Pillarella
  • Mary Pilney
  • Gretchen Ritter
  • Christi Taylor

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