The second day of 2021 IDEA World Virtual ushered in a new suite of deep knowledge for attendees to choose from, on topics ranging from exercise science research to diversity and inclusion to the mundane (but oh-so-important) aspects of owning a fitness business. The chat boxes buzzed with interaction and inspiration as fitness professionals reconnected with their pride and purpose.
Communication Meets Fit Tech
Communication was one topic of great interest, as last year the industry had to learn new ways of teaching and training through screens. But challenge led to opportunities to improve and expand.
“Communication is the largest single factor that determines our relationships with others,” said Angie Miller, MS, in her session Can You Hear Me Now? How to Communicate so Clients Will Listen. “Whether we are soft-spoken, say it like it is, purge every thought or pretend not to have thoughts, the ability to communicate effectively in our personal and professional lives is essential!” Miller encouraged attendees to up their listening games as well and reminded people not to “rush” communication.
Matt Wright, MS, clearly and distinctly unveiled his best practices for taking hybrid group exercise experiences to the next level in his session Enhancing the Virtual Group Fitness Experience. Among them: His top five tips for curating a class, which include an enticing introduction that provides an overview; a warmup that “ropes” people in and establishes focus and connection; a workout that provides purpose; a story that catches everyone’s attention; and a sendoff that ends the class on a positive note. “I want my workouts to feel like a story,” Wright said. “I need to catch everyone’s attention; something has to happen early on that makes people feel ready and excited to work with me and learn from me.”
Now, more than ever, personal trainers need to get comfortable with using various technologies and strategies to increase efficiency. Ryan Carroll, MS, shared the many lessons he’s learned in How to Use Technology to Enhance and Simplify Program Design. Among them? Automation. “Automate your program design and delivery so that you free your time to train instead of sitting in front of a screen,” Carroll said. “You don’t have to spend a lot of money. Start with a simple Excel sheet; the point is to create some formulas that free up your time and streamline your business. You may also need to prove that what you’re doing is working, so the ability to collect data is key. Capture the data and get more resources.”
Along the lines of automation, Fred Hoffman, MEd, explored the subject of using chatbots for customer service purposes. Though these conversational artificial-intelligence tools are not yet ubiquitous in our industry, customer service technology is advancing and driving demand. Personalization, user-friendliness, utility and well-planned engagement (without annoying the end user) are facets to explore if you’re considering adding software like this to your tech stack. It will be interesting to see where this lands.
People are craving connection, and Jill Drummond was bursting with ideas on how to achieve this in The Art of Coaching a Group and Keeping It Personal, a session packed with information based in scientific research. Drummond shared easy ways to alchemize rapport. “You can increase connection—or ‘mere belonging’—in a group setting in numerous ways,” she said. “One idea, especially if you know ahead of time who’s going to attend, is to get a whiteboard and write everyone’s name on it, welcoming them. You can also buy bandanas in bulk (in the same color) and hand them out as people come in. Small gestures build big community.”
As the industry recovers from the pandemic, effective marketing will be more important than ever. Sherri McMillan, MSc, had lots of guerrilla marketing tips up her sleeve. Two examples: First, find ways to get back to basics; for example, “There’s so much digital out there. If you go back to a little bit of old school, that’s a guerilla marketing tactic, because people aren’t used to it.” Second, when you see an organic boost [on your social media], that’s a good time to pay to give it a further boost.”
Do you ever feel like an island in your fitness world? Not everyone has support, so you have to create it, said Stephanie Singleton, co-presenter for the session on Women in Leadership. “If the table isn’t here, build your own. Get involved with other communities. If you’re introverted, join Toastmasters. Find a cause that you’re passionate about and get involved. Find a meetup group for an interest you have. Actively create your new support system.”
Show Us the Evidence
IDEA has long been celebrated for its high scientific standards, and today’s menu of choices overdelivered.
- Fabio Comana, MA, MS, made a compelling case for unloaded, restorative movement that allows the body to reestablish balance and homeostasis. Too many of us are living with chronic stress—often driven by the lure of technology—and we need regular
opportunities for recovery. “Humans must move to survive,” said Comana, “but with optimal movement, we can thrive!”
- Brian Richie, MES, took a deep dive into the anatomy of the spine, reviewing postural causes of disc strain. As he provided exercise suggestions for all levels of clients with back pain, Richie cautioned fit pros: “When in doubt, refer out. And know when correcting is incorrect.”
- With boomers getting older, fit pros have many opportunities with the functional aging market. Of course, a huge concern among this population and those who train them is bone health. Jan Schroeder, PhD, the newly minted 2021 IDEA Fitness Leader of the Year, waded deep into the science. “We need to determine a client’s minimal essential strain (MES), but this is challenging since we can’t exactly know what that force is without breaking a bone,” she explained. “Instead, we have to ask critical questions that determine what our client does on a consistent basis. What is their daily life like? Are they sedentary? Are they moderately active? What exercises do they do? What is their job? We need to get a deep understanding of the current level of activity, because we need to go above that level to stimulate bone growth. Remember, osteoblasts only get signal to migrate to the particular region and form new bone when you are consistently exceeding the MES in that particular region.”
- Sue Hitzmann, creator of the MELT Method®, provided fascinating details about fascia and estrogen and working with scar tissue. She warned attendees against overdoing: “You don’t need to annihilate your tissue [when working on fascia]. That’s body dysmorphia.”
- Nutrition topics have long been a keen area of interest for fit pros, and attendees’ ears perk up when experts share their secrets. When asked for an example of a good post-training meal, sports dietitian Dana Ryan, PhD, said one of her go-to post-workout dinners is salmon with pineapple, some dark berries, and asparagus or Brussels sprouts. Salmon has protein and helpful fats; pineapple has bromelain (a helpful enzyme with positive nutritional benefits); and the berries and vegetables have antioxidants, fiber and quality carbohydrates. Sounds like a good plan for dinner that covers the nutritional bases.
What would IDEA World be without some good, old-fashioned sweat and movement? Here is a recap of a few of the day’s workouts and workshops.
- Indoor cycling and HIIT continue their reign as industry darlings. HIIT specialists Erics Clark and Kara Lazauskas, MS, highlighted two great advantages to these workouts: They take less time, and they’re hugely modifiable. In a Keiser session with a full ride, Sergio Velasco and Krista Popowych addressed mechanics and physiology but also emphasized connection and communication. “You want to give riders an experience they love, so their mindset changes from “having to work out” to “getting to work out.”
- Addressing upper-body dysfunction, Lauren Shroyer, MS, underlined the need to see the whole person: “People are not just biological. . . . There is a bio-psycho-sociological component to the relationship that you build with them while they are exercising with
you, especially if they have pain.”
- Yoga adjustments were in good hands with 2021 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year Stacy McCarthy, MS, who noted that tactile engagement is not always needed—verbal cuing can be effective. If you do use tactile adjustments, she urged, practice on someone at home (and ask how the pressure is) before you work on students.
- Instead of “Chest Day” in the gym, consider “Skin Day,” suggested kinesiology guru and ViPR Pro inventor Michol Dalcourt. Huh? One of five general limiting factors for movement is skin. Skin is elastic—it’s like a wetsuit, explained Dalcourt. If we have “good”-quality skin, we have better shape stability. As bizarre as that sounds, he says, skin health affects shape stability and can be remodeled with loaded movement. Think about it: If you take your skin and go long under load with it, you stretch muscle, fascia and skin. Skin is a dynamic structure, and it will remodel.
- Mindy Mylrea, Len Kravitz, PhD, and Tricia Murphy Madden led Build a Better Core and reminded us to establish goal progressions so clients can experience measurable progress. “As fitness instructors or personal trainers, we’re thinking about the sizzle, and not the substance,” Mylrea said. “But the substance is what matters most. Substance means I can take a student who came in, knowing nothing, having no experience. And then a year later, their wings are fully developed, and they have progressed leaps and bounds. That’s my job as a fitness pro, to have my students see progression, over time.”
Spotlight Session: Are You Doing the Reps for Your Reputation?
Like so many fit pros with humble beginnings, Doris Thews, 2019 Fitness Instructor of the Year, began her career working at the front desk of a fitness club. Over 35+ years, as she rose through the ranks, she showed up, leveled up, lifted up those around her and kept looking up to the next challenge. At the heart of her success, she said, was the clear knowledge that her reputation was on the line for all of it.
She punctuated those ideas in Day 2’s afternoon Spotlight Session on how to survive and thrive in a rapidly evolving industry, asking fit pros whether they were doing the reps that support and build their reps. “The thing about reputation is that it’s kind of twofold,” she said. “And what I mean by that is you have to put in the work, but you have to have integrity. They can’t live separately. You can’t just do the work and have no integrity. You can’t just have integrity and sit back and not do anything. Your reputation is the combination of the two.” Are you putting in the work and doing it with integrity? Only you know.
Day 2 ended on a high note with happy tears and celebration as the annual IDEA World Fitness Award recipients were announced. See sidebar for details.
IDEA World Fitness Awards Ceremony
The day’s events were capped by the 2021 IDEA Awards Presentation. The finalists and recipients were:
IDEA Fitness Leader of the Year
Jan Schroeder, PhD
Ingrid Knight-Cohee, MSc
Recipient: Jan Schroeder, PhD
IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year
Wendy Batts, MS
Recipient: Tracy Markley
IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year
Kia Williams, MS
Recipient: Stacy McCarthy
The IDEA Fitness Inspiration Award went to Wesley Hamilton, founder and CEO of the Disabled but Not Really foundation, which seeks to instill a limitless mindset in those who are physically disabled. Hamilton lives by the credo that “a positive mindset will set you free,” and that “negativity is a trap that stunts growth and success. Looking for the positive isn’t always easy, but being thankful for things, even the little stuff, is a great place to start.”
Chalene Johnson, an IDEA veteran and industry icon, received the IDEA Jack LaLanne Award. “It’s surreal to me to be given this award,” Johnson said. “Jack himself accomplished so much in this industry, so it’s hard not to feel a little bit of imposter syndrome.”
Johnson talked about her journey as an entrepreneur (her first business was a used-car lot) but said that fitness has always been her passion. She touted the power of engaging in positive self-talk, believing in your ability to succeed in this industry and never giving up. “An imposter isn’t bad!” she said. “With the right mindset, an imposter observes in order to figure out how to do something right.”
Look for full coverage of the IDEA Award recipients and finalists in the September-October issue of Fitness Journal.
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