During the drive home from L.A., I focused on picking a word to describe this year's convention for me. I chose "diversity." From vegan, raw snacks to grass-fed beef jerky; from bold and colorful new fitness apparel to traditional karate outfits; from a circuit class with no equipment at all to a fusion HIIT/ boot camp with enough equipment to stock a store, the choices were exciting and numerous.
I remember years ago when we lamented the lack of men and people of color in the industry. If the presenters, group fitness participants and Expo attendees are any indication of the state of the industry, we have come a long way. As I popped in to the classes and wandered the Expo hall, I heard myriad languages, music styles and eras. I saw toddlers and their grandparents trying out programs and equipment at the booths. I tasted foods from Icelandic "skyr" to Asian black bean spaghetti. I smelled infused workout towels and chocolate-peanut butter smoothies. And I felt the warmth from a heated massage chair and the coolness of an ice knee sleeve.
This was the 34th IDEA World Convention, and I think I've been to 32 of them, so I get very happy when I think of all the ways the industry has expanded over the years. In a few of the group fitness classes I had to ask what the equipment was that the presenters were using because I hadn't even seen it before. And I write about trends! I saw world renowned television celebrities taking selfies with newly-minted fitness pros. One of my favorite memories is of a woman who looked to be in her late 60s dancing, as the only participant, to a workout led by very young exercisers at the Asian Fitness Academy booth. Another is that of a team working together in a circuit class to support one of their teammates, who appeared to have cerebral palsy.
They didn't compete; they collaborated.
Several years ago I went to a convention that was all about food. In their lectures they never mentioned the link between food and fitness. They didn't come to us, so we went to them. And this year over 75 exhibitors were food- and nutrition-based. Collaboration at work again. I truly believe all the collaboration that we in the industry, with IDEA at the helm, have striven for over the past 34 years has led us to the diversity I saw this weekend. As Louis van Amstel, star of Dancing with the Stars, and owner/ creator of La Blast Fitness said in a tweet during the convention, "Love how #IDEAFit brings together the fitness community." I have to agree.