You work hard to create programs and opportunities that enable people to thrive. Why not share your accomplishments with the global fitness community? The IDEA World Fitness Awards are the Academy Awards® of the industry and can provide a once-in-a-lifetime, career-changing opportunity for you. In 2014, the recipients will be recognized in front of thousands of industry leaders and fitness professionals during the opening ceremonies at the IDEA World Fitness Convention™ in Anaheim, California.

Three prestigious awards will be given:
2014 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year
2014 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year
2014 IDEA Program Director of the Year

Please consider applying or nominating a fellow outstanding fitness professional by visiting Hurry! All applications are due by February 1, 2014.

Benefits to award recipients:

  • recognition at the largest global fitness event in the world
  • complimentary registration to the 2014 IDEA World Fitness Convention
  • complimentary 1-year IDEA membership
  • beautiful commemorative award and award certificate
  • photo and coverage in IDEA publications and on the IDEA website
  • press releases sent to over 600 media contacts
  • opportunity to be an IDEA media spokesperson

Review the list of all prior award recipients by visiting

Fitness managers and directors interested in applying might be inspired by Carol Espel, MS, the 2013 IDEA Program Director of the Year. The following profile originally ran in the July–August issue of IDEA Fitness Journal.

Carol Espel, MS: Motivating the Masses

What is Carol Espel most proud of in her career? “The incredible leadership team that I have mentored and developed over the last 10 years at Equinox®,” she says.

In her role as global director of group fitness and Pilates for Equinox Fitness Clubs, Espel oversees 60 clubs throughout the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. “My team is full of passionate, caring people,” she says. “Through them we have brought forward so many programs and initiatives that impact our members’ lives for the better,” she says, speaking of cutting-edge group fitness classes like Whipped, Power Nap, Barre Burn and Animal Flow.
How does Espel successfully juggle these instructors and programs—and stay focused at the same time? “I put a handwritten note on my computer that reads, ‘Have the patience to be present in every moment.’ It’s hard not getting caught up in ‘what’s next,’ but if I have learned anything through the years, it’s the conscious participation in the ‘moments’ that bring value to all we do, both personally and professionally.”

Espel encourages all program directors to seek training that will help them manage their time and develop organizational skills. “In our industry we are not often trained in skills like these,” she explains. “I took it upon myself several years back to hire a management coach whom I worked with monthly—and now work with quarterly—to enhance my communication and other skill sets. These skills have helped me better position myself as a leader and more effectively drive departmental initiatives forward.”

Leadership is also about “having a mindset that supports staying as even-keeled, centered and consistent as possible,” says Espel. “Ours is an emotional world, and as a leader, it’s critical to remain empathetic and personal, yet maintain clarity, focus and even courage to make the right decisions based on the vision and objectives of the department. Pranayama breathing techniques also help!”

What advice does she have for other program directors who want to enhance their careers? “Expanding your mindset is really the most sure-fire pathway to success,” she says. “Expose yourself to as many perspectives and educational experiences as possible, both inside and outside our industry. Examine nonfitness business and thought leaders, look at new approaches and discover great ways of thinking that might have a relevant application in our industry.”

Espel has continuously worked to nurture new programs for Equinox members, especially novice exercisers. “The hardest part is getting them off the computer and into the studio,” she explains. “We try to build [very] user-friendly, nonthreatening, accessible offerings that are varied and fun! It’s crucial to make classes relevant and personal to the population we are targeting. Then, once [people] are there, we have to give them compelling workouts that lead them to success and motivate them to come again, as hard as the first time might have been.”

She is particularly proud of the free community health effort, Shape Up NYC, which reaches new exercisers in New York City. “This collaborative effort among New York Service, NYC Parks & Recreation department and Equinox has supported over 15 community centers across all five boroughs with Equinox-led classes. The commitment by my team to deliver meaningful experiences to those who may never have experienced a class is deeply personal for all of us.
What’s also been great is the integration of teens. Most had no idea movement could be so fun and could make their hearts and bodies stronger.”

Motivating exercisers has been Espel’s mission for a long time. “Being of service to others fully drives all that I do,” she explains. “For almost 20 years, I have gotten up at the crack of dawn either to teach or take a class or to train with a trainer. It’s as powerful and deep a passion as it was back in 1985, when I began my career!”