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Fitness Family Reunion

IDEA World Convention sets a new pace for the industry, as attendees celebrate 40 years of inspiration.

Fitness family

Millions of magical moments lit up Las Vegas during this year’s first in-person IDEA World Convention in 3 years. Maybe it was watching Pete Holman, 2022 IDEA Fitness Leader of the Year, doing a Tyrannosaurus rex impression on stage, or maybe it was learning 100 new ways to teach bodyweight exercises in between laughter and note-taking—whatever the spark, the fire is now officially reignited.

Fitness professionals from every corner of the country got the best booster shot available this year as IDEA celebrated its 40th year of inspiring the world to fitness. This much-anticipated fitness family reunion included a “potluck” of hugs, laughs, tears, fun workouts and the best in health and wellness education. The joy of moving together again, along with the focused intention, energy and excitement, underlined a week of recalibration and renewal. People are ready to re-enter the fitness space in a big way, and the following 10 takeaways share a snippet of that passion.

Fitness Stakes its Claim as Essential

The pandemic lockdowns made it very clear that fitness professionals are not considered “essential,” even though it is well-documented that physical activity provides a wealth of health-positive benefits. Early in the conference, the panel “Becoming Essential, Next Steps to Align and Advance the Exercise Profession,” discussed the finer points of why this is the case and how to address it. “We have to figure out a way to quantify how exercise connects to health,” said Francis Neric, ACSM’s national director of certification. “There’s a clear disconnection here. We see ourselves as part of the healthcare system, but others do not. We have to educate them about who we are and what we do. We need a massive paradigm shift.” Other panelists suggested that it’s time for everyone to become more politically involved—or involved in general.

Progress Over Perfection

Speaking of what’s essential and what isn’t, fitness professionals are concluding that it’s okay if their clients can’t conform to an ideal. While it would be nice if all program design resulted in textbook fitness certification results, the reality is that life is complicated and clients need connection and understanding in addition to sound guidance. “The truth is that fit pros are reactive, not proactive,” said Sue Hitzmann, MS, CST, NMT, in her session “Foot Therapy and Ground Force Reaction.” “We spend so much time trying to repair an issue when we could be addressing it before it even becomes one.” She encouraged attendees to stay positive, open-minded, and be willing to learn from their clients.

People working out at World

Attendees learned new variations of old favorites.

Creativity is the New Superpower

Innovation was one byproduct of the pandemic and reminded fitness professionals that they are movement artists. Creativity is the forgotten program design element, and presenters held up a mirror during their sessions. Body weight training is one niche where creativity thrives. In her session “Boot Camp Building Blocks,” veteran IDEA presenter Mindy Mylrea meticulously outlined an advanced formula for creating an “exercise event” with little to no equipment. Attendees perked up as they followed Mylrea’s lead and their faces brightened with “Oh yeah” confirmations. Mylrea drove home that you have to now modify for pre- and post-COVID mindsets. “Not everyone is going to be comfortable partnering up,” she said. “It’s important to provide options.”

Person asking questions in session.

Attendees asked thought-provoking questions.

Quality Questions

One notable aspect of IDEA World is the quality of questions attendees ask, which tends to reveal educational investments. The standards were high this year and attendees raised the bar even higher with their queries. Attendees in Keli Roberts’ session “Training the Female Core” kept Roberts, a well-educated and experienced presenter and fit pro, on her toes—and she loved it. Whether she was discussing the inner unit, outer unit, or length-tension relationships, the questions all reflected a deeper level of understanding and education, which bodes well for the future of the industry.

A More Inclusive Playing Field

No longer is fitness reserved for thin, white, young people. Many in the industry have worked hard to be inclusive, but marketing and gym culture have been barriers to entry for people of color, older adults, people with disabilities and people with obesity. This also extends to fitness professionals themselves. However, this year the attendees represented a wide demographic swath, which indicates that the industry is waking up to the importance of representing and serving everyone, not just those who are already invested.

The IDEA World Fitness & Nutrition Expo featured 140 booths.

IDEA World Fitness & Nutrition Expo Still Rocks

One of the highlights of IDEA World is waiting in line for the expo hall to open so that you can rush, cash in your coupons and learn more about the latest and greatest innovations in fitness and wellness. Attendees discovered numerous new training tools, including the SPINEFITTER by SISSEL®, a popular purchase, and they also got the chance to get professional, promotional photos taken by WRKOUT Media. The floor was also a popular place to catch up with old friends, meet new ones, and talk shop with the many exhibitors. This year, about 140 booths lined the floor and included the most popular health, fitness, wellness, technology, apparel and nutrition brands on the market.

Cognitive Fitness is Having a Moment

“Brain training” was more than just a buzzword at this year’s event, it was a rooted concept with many branches. Cognitive fitness isn’t relegated to one-on-one training, either, there are plenty of ways to introduce tools and techniques in fitness classes, as Erika Quest demonstrated in her session “The Active Aging Toolbox: Tactics for Brain, Body & Balance.” Quest presented a series of strategies, sequences and principles that, when applied with intention, set up participants for success. “As the active aging market continues to grow in numbers, clients are looking for trained professionals to help them manage their aches and pains, injuries and post-surgery exercise plans,” Quest said.

Man testing an indoor bike

An attendee learns more about technology upgrades.

Technology + Connection = Success

Fitness technology in all its iterations is driving the future of fitness but many worry that it will further separate us. However, this isn’t the case when you consider gamification and other ways fit tech can be leveraged to create community, motivate and drive accountability. Indoor cycling is at the forefront of this movement and it’s a good idea to take cues from instructors who have been using technology to inspire. “The experiences we’ve gone through have deepened our connections, expanded our reach and leveled up our skills in cycling and technology,” said Krista Popowych during her session “Coaching and Connecting,” co-taught with Sergio Velasco. “As we look ahead to a brighter future, there are opportunities for relaunch and change. Technology advancements and cycling apps can be used to your advantage. Let’s all coach, connect and harness innovation in a positive and inspiring way.”

Expansive Education

Getting certified and staying current with continuing education is foundational to a successful fitness career. However, many personal trainers and group fitness instructors get caught in fundamentalist fitness traps that limit their ability to reach a wide audience. For example, pushing for perfect alignment in a bodyweight squat or yoga pose can actually do more harm than good. While safety is paramount, bodies vary dramatically and it’s more important to cue movement in relatable ways that empower clients to feel success from the inside-out.

In “Yoga for the Masses: Exploring Accessible Sequencing and Verbiage Concepts,” Calvin Corzine artfully demonstrated how to step back and assess whether you’re addressing needs in an accessible way, and he taught the class how to transfer the alignment of chair pose to bridge pose. “We tend to overcomplicate moves for our classes, and our cues sometimes don’t make sense,” he said. “For example, you can’t lengthen a bone with breath. If that were possible, I wouldn’t be 5’8”.”


IDEA World Attendees

IDEA World attendees loved the fitness through the decades mural.

Fitness is Fun!

With all the seriousness of the past 2-1/2 years, it has been difficult for many fitness professionals to recall why they call this industry “home.” Some chose to leave the profession, but those who decided to stay, or in some cases took a new leap of faith, were rewarded with compelling reminders of why this work is so important and fun. Fitness professionals already think burpees are fun, but Helen Vanderburg introduced variations that blew participants’ minds in “Body Weight Blast Training.” Alessandro Pisanu put the most uplifting spin on step training in his “Functional Step” class, which combined classic concepts with updated entertainment ideas. And if you think you know how to use resistance tubing, think again, because Aileen Sheron, 2020, 2021, and 2022 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year Finalist, shared combinations that not only reflected 30 years of expertise, but a bottomless depth of amusement.

If you have FOMO, you should, because this year’s celebratory reunion exceeded everyone’s expectations. Mark your calendar now for next year, when IDEA World returns to Los Angeles, July 12-16, 2023.

Joy Keller

Joy Keller is executive editor of IDEA Fitness Journal and IDEA Fit Business Success, and is also a certified personal trainer, indoor cycling instructor and yoga teacher (RYT 200). She has been working as a business to business journalist for more than 25 years and specializes in custom communication and content strategy/ production.

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November-December 2020 IDEA Fitness Journal

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