IDEA is thrilled by all of the meaningful work our members do to motivate people to live healthfully. The IDEA Health & Fitness Inspiration Awards honor professionals who go all out to help clients, communities and the fitness industry. Join us as we recognize the achievements of the 2009 finalists at the IDEA World Fitness Convention award ceremony on Thursday, August 13, at 8:05 am, in The OC (Anaheim), California. The presentation will recognize the 2009 IDEA Program Director of the Year, IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and IDEA Fitness Inspiration Award recipient. Congratulations to all of the fitness pros who applied for the awards. Below we
describe some of the finalists’ accomplishments, taken from the award applications.


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. This year there was a tie between two nominees, which is why there are four finalists in this category.

Finalist: Trina E. Gray Alpena, Michigan

Trina E. Gray owns the Bay Athletic Club, a medically based facility in a very economically depressed region of Michigan. “We are 3 years into the club and changing lots of lives!” she says. “We are located in a rural community of just 15,000 people, and we have reached more than 5,000 with our services.”

Gray believes active people are happier than inactive ones. “My purpose is to use fitness to help people love themselves enough to love others more,” she says. “Through my actions, I encourage people to improve their health, and thus I inspire their lives through fitness.”

She strives to develop exercise programs that make fitness enthusiasts out of those who are most skeptical about it. One such program is her Corporate Challenge initiative. “This cost-effective wellness program overhauls a workplace in 6 weeks,” she says. “It is a unique combination of personal training, group exercise, food journaling, a registered dietitian–approved food plan, coaching, teamwork and marketing. We have worked with 22 businesses in 18 months, helping hundreds of people make positives changes in their personal health, family habits and worklife.”

Gray believes that her employee retention is due, in part, to finding meaningful ways for staff to contribute. In keeping with this belief, she has intentionally spent more on employees and less on advertising in the past year. She also says that reading books has been critical to her business success.

Gray and her employees are involved in helping the community year-round. For example, once per week, they lead a chair-based fitness class at their local assisted-living center. They also teach kids’ yoga in their local Head Start classes and lead fitness in-service workshops in elementary schools.

Finalist: Darren Jacobson

Cape Town, South Africa

Darren Jacobson designed an innovative franchise personal training concept for Virgin Active South Africa, where he manages over 780 personal trainers in 89 health clubs with a membership base of 560,000. Between the program’s inception in January 2006 and December 2008, he helped increase the number of personal trainers from 271 to 780, improved profits by 600% and kept the attrition rate of trainers below 22%, which is world-class for multipurpose facilities of this size.

Why is he so successful as a manager? “I focus on empowering staff to make informed decisions, and I try to stay connected with all levels of the business. On a daily basis I link with club managers, personal training managers, regional fitness managers and regional general managers, as well as the trainers directly,” he explains. “Formally, on a weekly basis, I get written feedback from all 21 cluster personal training managers across the country. I pride myself on [providing] a 24-hour response to all e-mails, questions, concerns and issues raised.”

Given his success with the franchise personal training model and the newly conceptualized Virgin Active swim concept, Jacobson has recently been appointed head of product for the Virgin Active group. In this role he and his team of national managers drive the product strategy with regard to fitness, group exercise, research and development, and kids’ fitness across the business.

Jacobson’s mission is to move people beyond their comfort zones and into new experiences by using sound, systematic, sensible systems. “I want to always leave a legacy of integrity, honesty and trust in all my dealings,” he explains.

Finalist: Debi Pillarella, MEd Munster, Indiana

Debi Pillarella is the education/fitness program manager for The Community Hospital Fitness Pointe, a medical fitness facility. She oversees a staff of more than 50 fitness professionals and develops
fitness, wellness and health education programs in aquatic fitness, personal training, group exercise, Pilates and yoga, while supervising the day-to-day operations of this facility and outreach venues.

Her personal mission is to create best-practice health and fitness programs that are data driven and geared for different populations in Northwest Indiana. She wants to make a difference in people’s health for today and tomorrow, one community at a time.

Two of her programs are “Toning for Heart/Chair Yoga,” for
independent and assisted-living residents (98% of participants increased strength and reported improved mood/energy), and “Hear Ye, Hear Ye,” which targets music and voice volume in group fitness classes (100% of classes now adhere to government guidelines).

Working for a large hospital corporation has made her a conscientious, conservative financial manager. “One cost-cutting program I’ve created is the Group Exercise Watch List,” she says. “Classes that have ‘less than the minimum’ number of participants are placed on a watch list and undergo a process improvement program. If attendance doesn’t increase, the class is cancelled.”

Her community programs are developed with specific, measurable goals and are grown in a way that helps sustain them. “For example, “Take Five for Life” is a 12-week fitness, nutrition and wellness program that targets fifth graders and their families through local schools. Since 2004, the program has reached 2,000 families in more than five communities.”

Finalist: Fraser Quelch Canmore, Alberta

Fraser Quelch is head coach and director of training and development for Fitness Anywhere Inc., which produces and sells Suspension Training® equipment and programs to trainers, athletes, the military and active individuals. (The programs use the TRX® Suspension Trainer.)

“My role is to teach and inspire others on how their fitness regimen can impact them,” he says. “I have driven numerous programs and continue to motivate colleagues. The educational team and I delivered 150 full-day courses in 2008, which is five times the volume from the previous year. Our educational outreach has created over 3,000 course graduates. Because of this, a mainstream training method using the TRX has emerged, when only 3 years earlier it was nonexistent.”

More courses require more teachers. In response to the neeed, Quelch implemented an instructor development process, which has so far produced six master trainers, 16 certified instructors and over 50 developing instructor candidates, positioning the company for even more growth through the year.

Quelch believes the future of fitness will be based on “tying the inherent joy of movement and play that every child possesses into functional adult programming. In identifying with the passions and values of our clients and participants, we can align our programming with them and increase adherence.”

To assist the community, Fitness Anywhere is actively involved with the Wounded Warrior Foundation. Five dollars from every Force Training Kit purchase goes toward providing wounded veterans with training equipment to help them rehabilitate from
injuries and reintegrate into civilian life.


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.

Finalist: J.J. Flizanes Beverly Hills, California

J.J. Flizanes is director of Invisible Fitness and president of Wealthy Fitness Trainer. Offering exercise design and implementation, Invisible Fitness provides one-on-one personal training for executives and other high-performance/high-visibility individuals. Flizanes’ personalized programs employ telephone coaching and group teleseminars to address the areas of fitness, nutrition and life balance. For personal training colleagues, Wealthy Fitness Trainer offers strategic business coaching to help them create the business of their dreams.

When training, Flizanes honors each individual’s anatomical structure, since everyone is built differently. “That’s why I branded my company Invisible Fitness,” she says. “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 also tell my clients that they don’t have to give up their life to get results—and that living a healthy life can be just as fun as an unhealthy one!”

She created the “90 Day Health and Body Makeover Program” to help clients, by phone, anywhere in the world. The program comes with a heart rate monitor, Gym in a Bag, workbook, DVD, two books and a four-disk audio set of What’s Missing in Your Weight Loss Plan?

Flizanes has presented free talks for Whole Foods®; has put together the National Breast Cancer Coalition fundraiser in Manhattan Beach, California, to promote breast cancer awareness and research; and holds quarterly events with Jeanne Peters, RD, to educate women on composting, gardening, healthy cooking, exercise, body awareness and living a balanced life.

Finalist: Cynthia Carrion Norton, MBA Makarti City, Philippines

Cynthia Carrion Norton is personal trainer to President Gloria Arroyo of the Philippines, to 15 of Arroyo’s cabinet members and heads of national agencies, and to private individuals. Norton is also the Philippine undersecretary for sports and wellness, in the department of tourism (DOT).

“As personal trainer [to] the president, I inspire and motivate her to be in top shape,” says Norton. “Thus she becomes an inspiration for the whole nation to keep the fitness lamp burning bright.”

To make sure she gives her clients—including President Arroyo—her best, Norton places a premium on maintaining her professional competence through continuous studies and applications relevant to her field as a health and fitness specialist. “One should only stop learning when one dies,” she says. “Life is a continuous process of learning, and so it is in this industry.”

One of her passions is to contribute to the total physical betterment of the community through her role as undersecretary for the DOT. “I do this through participating and rendering support to programs that are vital to the enhancement of the people’s health, fitness and welfare development,” she explains.

Norton received Asia’s 2003 “Best in Women and Sport” award, conferred by the International Olympic Committee; she was chosen among almost 100 contenders, both individuals and organizations. Norton established Bata Panahon Na!—a national sports program for street children—and organized the first Women and Sports Congress in the Philippines, gathering more than 600 women sports leaders to discuss issues, priorities and programs for women and girls.

Finalist: Jonathan Ross Bowie, Maryland

Jonathan Ross does personal training, consulting, speaking and freelance writing through his company, Aion Fitness LLC. He is also a personal trainer and the 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. My goal is to fully educate clients so they can exercise with minimal dependence on me.”

Ross has developed relationships with respected health-related professionals, such as physical therapists, chiropractors and dietitians. He refers clients to them when necessary to ensure that his clients get the professional assistance they need to overcome any barriers to fitness.

Ross’s personal experiences with obesity give him a deep understanding and a strong desire to help the majority of the population. “My father’s death at 424 pounds provided me one of my primary motivations for a career in fitness,” he explains.

To help people everywhere, Ross serves as the featured Discovery Health® fitness health expert. “For the 2009 National Body Challenge, I make public appearances, provide articles and newsletter content and host the video series Everyday Fitness With Jonathan Ross. I also act as an online community leader, posting to blogs and offering leadership to the 400,000 participants of the 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.

Finalist: Shannon Fable Boulder, Colorado

Shannon Fable is founder and chief executive officer of Sunshine Fitness Resources LLC and owner of Balletone®. She has contributed to the Schwinn® Indoor Cycling Instructor Training program, BOSU® Balance Trainer and Ballast Ball programming, Gliding DVD programming, Urban Rebounding, Exel Nordic Walking, CorePole® and Power Systems® programs.

Fable lists her biggest accomplishment to date as her work on the Balletone program. “I began working on Balletone over 5 years ago with the original creator,” she says. “At that time, interest in the program was waning, so we developed the ‘Sole Synthesis’ introductory program, which hooked participants on something familiar and moved them toward the unknown. Approximately a year and a half ago, I purchased Balletone. Since then, we have increased the number of instructors trained by 15%, presented the idea at 22 conferences, produced four new DVDs and launched ‘Sole Synthesis’ and ‘Balletone Standing Flow’ in Japan, Canada, Hong Kong, Finland and the United Kingdom.”

Fable thinks the wellness revolution will grow if more people are inspired to dive into the industry and find success as instructors or trainers. “While I take my job as instructor seriously, my ultimate goal is to find willing, able and passionate people to turn into instructors,” she says.

Her message, which grew out of her study of communication, is that “it’s what you don’t say that counts.” “My workshops and mentoring sessions focus on this concept,” she says. “Spend equal or more time thinking about how you deliver the information versus just what you will deliver.”

An accomplished cheerleader and gymnast, Fable has created fitness programming and consulting services for the cheerleading community to encourage proper training in youth.

Finalist: June E. Kahn Broomfield, Colorado

June E. Kahn is president of June Kahn’s Bodyworks LLC Professional Fitness Pilates Training, life studio coordinator for Life Time Fitness®, director of education for Beamfit LLC, and a Peak Pilates® MVe Trainer.

Kahn’s success in inspiring others comes from being able to bridge the gap between classical Pilates and the fitness industry, bringing together components of each in a nonintimidating environment so that all benefit. “Key to doing this is an ability to communicate across all ages and levels that inspires self-confidence and participation,” she says. “By focusing on form—explaining and demonstrating correct execution in an unintimidating fashion—I help the participants benefit.”

Before Pilates was popularized, she introduced “The New Fluid Workout,” one of the first integrations of Pilates and yoga in a standing movement class. “This innovative program set the groundwork for [other] programs I developed over the years, such as ‘Elegant Strength,’ a fusion of traditional strength training, yoga and Pilates that attracts a large number of male attendees.”

Kahn believes that the future of fitness will blend wellness with people’s preferred activities, enhancing their states of mind as well as their bodies. Bringing these elements into harmony will enable people to enrich their lifestyles and their total well-being.

Kahn created the St. Louis Workout for Hope to generate funds for the City of Hope™ hospital, raising more than $125,000 over 8 years, with an annual participation of more than 400 people. She was named to the national advisory board for the “National Workout for Hope” for over 7 years and oversaw the nationwide “Walk of Hope” in more than 50 cities.

Finalist: Carol Murphy Rochester, 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 and the education director for Drums Alive USA and Canada. “These affiliations have deepened my understanding in a vast amount of science-based, results-oriented programming and empowered me to share programming, skills and teaching techniques in an effort to develop fitness professionals,” she says.

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 beyond the fitness center, Murphy has initiated 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 various causes, including Ronald McDonald House, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the American Heart Association, the Muscular Dystrophy Association and The Food Shelf.