This annual "Super Bowl" of health, fitness and nutrition drew nearly 12,000 pros from 50 countries to celebrate what they do best: Connect, transform, and Inspire the World to Fitness®.
It wasn’t the initial thunderclap outside the Los Angeles Convention Center that grabbed everyone’s attention. In a noisy city like L.A., the boom could easily have been a bus wheel thumping into a pothole. But when lightning followed in staccato step with torrential rain and more rumbling—and then even more dramatic bolts—people looked up. Real “weather” of such force doesn’t often grace Southern California in any season, much less in mid-July. This was something special.
Like lightning to a rod, close to 12,000 attendees were drawn to the 2015 IDEA World Fitness Convention’s 380 educational sessions and to its largest and most diverse Fitness and Nutrition Expo to date. People gave energy; they took energy; and they saved up the best of it to inspire clients at home and to transform businesses with new ideas.
In life, work and love, we’ve all experienced the sensation of “seeing” the pieces of the big picture coalesce into something larger and more meaningful than ourselves. The fuzzy edges get sharp, and we glimpse what the whole looks like and what our role is within it. In an industry that is flirting with maturity, this jelling of the parts is occurring and IDEA is the glue pulling it together. The convention itself is emblematic of the vast opportunity awaiting enterprising fitness and wellness pros. Read on to see how the global view of fitness is coming together, and let it spark your imagination.
Management Redefined: A Golden Era for Leaders
It used to be that fitness and wellness professionals who stepped into leadership roles found themselves in over their heads, scrambling for basic information to keep the ship afloat. However, the industry has evolved and career tracks have become more sophisticated; a new breed of leader has emerged, bringing a deeper understanding of empathy, communication, business psychology and human resource strategies. Here are just a few keys to sustained growth, offered in the business track:
- If fitness professionals expect to excel, they need to “get real” about who they are, what they do and how they do it. This was one of many messages John Berardi, PhD, outlined during “The Complete Fitness Professional.” Another key take-home: The widening gap between fit pros and consumers must be addressed. “The industry excludes too many people who need our help,” Berardi said. “We need to understand what it’s like to be in their shoes.”
- In “Resilience Training for Fitness Professionals,” Tatiana Kolovou, MBA, encouraged managers to improve their coping skills, offering a new take on the concept of “sharpening the axe.” A tactic she shared was to “manage your internal language and energy” in order to be a more positive influence on staff.
- Relationships are crucial for long-term success, emphasized Helen Vanderburg in her session “Tackle the Top Five Challenges Facing Managers Today.” Specifically, she encouraged attendees to “engage employees and inspire them to grow.”
Personal Training: Science, Small Groups and Smiles
Personal training continues to take professionalism to new heights. As a result, allied health professions are opening their arms wider to include educated personal trainers as valued members of the wellness team. This year’s session selection reflected a deep pool of knowledge that has the potential to reset industry standards for inspiration and results. Here are some program highlights:
- Small-group training is still going strong as personal trainers widen their reach and clients enjoy the benefits of camaraderie and budget-friendly options. Kristina Duran, a San Diego–based strength and conditioning coach, was most inspired by John Garey, MS, in his session “Small-Group Circuit Party 2015.” “I was lucky enough to be on a team with some incredibly friendly, motivating and energetic people,” she said. “The workout was designed for any level, focusing on full-body muscular endurance. The exercises were very creatively designed. It was so much fun!”
- Personal trainers are improving their assessment skills and successfully integrating corrective exercise protocols into program design. “One size fits all” no longer flies. “Engagement comes from personalization,” said Hayley Hollander in her session “Transformational Exercises That Engage Clients.”
- While body weight training has enjoyed a renaissance, equipment is still popular because it enables personal trainers to motivate clients in novel and unique ways. Everything from suspension devices to battle ropes and sand bells were represented at this year’s show. However, a medicine ball is just a medicine ball without proper information about how to use it—and there was no shortage of good information. In his session “SGT Ken’s Hyperwear® Games: There Can Be Only One™,” for example, Sergeant Ken Weichert meticulously reviewed progressions and regressions for each piece of circuit equipment before letting attendees loose to have fun.
- As research reveals more about fascia and how it affects movement and the mind, leaders in the field are discovering better ways to weave key concepts into program design. Presenter PJ O’Clair shared recent research in her session “TRX®: Dynamic Fascial Flow.” “Actively loaded stretching more comprehensively stimulates fascial tissues than classical weight training or classical stretching,” she said. > >
Food and Nutrition: Common Sense Prevails
Experts from all walks of health and fitness—from Canadian obesity expert Yoni Freedhoff, MD, to Exos™ coach Mark Verstegen, MS, and many specialists spanning the continuum—shared the perspective that getting real about nutrition and related behavior change will open new doors for fitness pros, coaches and clients alike. Much can be achieved through common sense grounded in bona fide research, while fads, diets, hyperbole and bandwagoning are to be avoided.
A panel session moderated by IDEA editor in chief Sandy Todd Webster showcased the “keep calm and be sensible” approaches of Freedhoff, natural chef Teri Mosey, PhD, and Chris Mohr, PhD, RD. It covered the 10 most common trends unfolding in food and nutrition today and gave attendees a chance to ask about issues that trouble them and their clients in this often confusing and contradictory field.
Quotes to consider from these experts and others:
- Freedhoff on what seems to be our collective snacking obsession: “I think the most important question when considering snacking is what a person is snacking on. What matters is not, ‘Is it good or bad?’ but, ‘What are you having?’ and, ultimately, ‘Does snacking allow you as an individual to do better with dietary choices?’ If it does, then it’s good; and if it doesn’t, it’s not.”
- Mosey on “food tribes” (Paleo, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free): “When you’re in a food tribe it grounds you, it makes you feel connected and centered, and makes you feel like you’re a part of something larger than yourself. It’s not good nor bad; it just allows people to have a community and we seek that through food because food is one of the most important things in our life.”
- Mohr on protein and whether Americans overconsume it: “Data show that for satiety and fullness it’s not a question of whether we’re eating too much protein, but when we’re eating that protein. We’re eating too much of it at night. But when you look at overall intake throughout the day, we’re eating very little of it in the morning. We’re eating too much protein at the wrong times of the day for the benefits that we could really get.”
- In “How to Fix a Broken Diet,” Berardi, from Precision Nutrition™, dwelled purposefully on how the best portion control tool we all have is our hands. “Teach clients to relate portion control to their hands [palm is protein measure; fist is veggie portion size; cupped hand equals carbs; thumb equals fats]. Clients are not going to get t his right the first time. But you’re going to see them again, right? Just keep fine-tuning with them until it works.”
- Verstegen on the importance of nutrition in athletic training: “Fueling is a conscious decision. We need people to eat and eat often, but it has to be real food. Quality fats are the most important thing in the diet; when we speak of protein with our athletes, we say the fewer legs, the better. Whomever optimizes nutrition recovery in the window between the last workout or competition and the next is going to be the overall winner.”
Group Fitness: Blending Great Ingredients
As exercise enthusiasts get more diverse in their interests, habits and skills, fitness professionals are rising to meet—and exceed—the demand for personalized programs.
As a nation, we love having variety and choice in many areas of life—and our workouts are no exception. This year’s group fitness theme, if one exists, was fusion, including the mixing of elements from group fitness and personal training. Think along the lines of a smoothie in a blender: Gather a bunch of great ingredients, mix them, and voilà, something tasty and fantastic comes out. > >
- The line between personal training and group fitness is getting narrower. Many classes at IDEA World were perfect for large or small groups, with presenters functioning more as a coach than a “follow me” teacher who needed to cue.
- For years, naysayers have said that step is moribund, yet at World it was in full bloom, from Kari Anderson’s “Smooth Groove Step” (which had choreography lovers drooling) to “R.I.S.E. On Up—Reinvented Interval Step Experience” and “Step Revival” (where attendees were cheering and clapping) to “Small Group Step Training” (which included tubes and timed intervals). Not only is step being taught as a straightforward cardio class; it’s also being incorporated into partner, strength, core and boot camp programs.
- Dance is en pointe, with something for anyone wanting to shake their groove thang.
- Cycling keeps rollin’ along, with HIIT, power, speed, stages and technology (both wearable and equipment-based) as staples for those who love indoor cycle workouts.
- Equipment is more varied and ubiquitous than ever, from leather weighted balls that look like mini beanbag chairs, to flexible bars and slacklines, to sand ropes and vibrating foam rollers. Everywhere you looked, participants were lifting, pulling, dragging, throwing, kicking, punching, bouncing, pushing and sharing portable equipment suitable for large and small groups.
As to trends, John Sinclair, fitness director of Midtown Athletic Club in Weston, Florida, sees a future in interactive environments for personal training, group personal training and group exercise. “Interaction between coach and client creates a more lasting connection that will transform the experience and make the client want more. Fitness pros need to be humble enough to ask clients what they find fun, as we can then tap into an endless number of activities that match their aspirations.”
Mind-Body’s Mainstream Agenda
It wasn’t too long ago that any mind-body oriented offering was considered outside the realm of “standard” fitness. Today the tide has turned, and yoga, Pilates and countless other formats have found happy homes in the hearts and minds of consumers. Mind-body is less “woo-woo” and more “woo-hoo!” And for many good reasons, among them:
- Mind-body exercise perfectly complements active aging, as addressed in “Nia Wise—Movement for Aging + Vitality,” taught by Debbie Rosas and Janet Hollander. “The body thrives on dynamic ease,” said Rosas as she reviewed the main principles. “The ability to move with maximum efficiency and minimal effort creates a feeling of effortless power, elegance, grace and neuromuscular creativity.”
- There are growing opportunities to monetize age-old practices. Not only is “mindful movement meditation” good for stress reduction, but it’s also growing in popularity at destination spas, resorts, yoga studios and facilities that emphasize wellness, according to Shirley Archer, JD, MA, who taught “Touching Earth—Mindful Walking Meditation.” Archer discussed how underrated walking is, and how adding a simple meditative aspect can ameliorate a client’s experience a hundredfold. n