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2008 IDEA World Fitness Convention™ Recap

When 4,500 fitness and wellness professionals, product exhibitors and expert faculty from more than 60 countries converge in one place to learn, network and share, the result is nothing short of combustible. Another IDEA World Fitness Convention may be over, but the chain of energy unleashed by this year’s event (July 8-12) in Las Vegas will spark and inspire people of all ages and walks of life to changes that could be permanent and life changing.

“IDEA’s message to Inspire the World to Fitness® is positive and uplifting,” observed educator Zoey Trap, MSc, after the convention. “The reality is that so often as fitness professionals we want to do just that, but we hit a burnout point that does not let us work with our passion on fire. Thank you for hosting such a great event–one that inspired us and recharged our passion so we could come back renewed and ready to inspire–because WE were inspired. Thanks for another great week!”

And what a week it was! For daily details of the event, photos and videos, don’t miss the lively blogs from IDEA’s award-winning editors. Plus, be sure to access complete video coverage of the Opening Ceremonies and two full sessions from this year’s program. A brief recap of industry and education trends seen at this year’s show appear in this article; but be sure to read the October issue of IDEA Fitness Journal for the full and detailed report.

Well, Well, Well . . .
When Billy Crystal used to parody Fernando Lamas on Saturday Night Live, he had the lines all wrong, darling. “You look maaaahhvelousss” and “It’s so much better to look good than to feel good” are the antithesis of today’s fitness and wellness consciousness—at least where many of the educators at this year’s convention were concerned. 2008 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year Nicki Anderson, owner of Reality Fitness in Naperville, Illinois, readily pointed this out in an on-the-fly interview between sessions. “This is not just about numbers anymore. It’s about inspiring people to wellness. It’s about getting them closer to living in a capable body. It’s not just about weight training anymore–it’s about life training,” she said.

David Mesirow, founder of Beamfit™, agreed: “It’s not just about the physical aspects of the person; it’s more about how that person is feeling about where they are right now. Maybe I need to lose 10 pounds—maybe I don’t. It doesn’t matter. I’m still a good person. I should still feel good about myself. I can still have good strength and flexibility, good cardiorespiratory endurance, balance, coordination and speed and not live in a body that resides on the cover of Vogue, which quite frankly, who cares? It’s really about feeling great from the inside out.”

There’s a lot of work to do to get to that place, and that is what the industry needs to focus on now, added Fred Hoffman, MEd, 2007 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year. “How are we going to talk to that person—who maybe isn’t even going to the health club yet—to get into that mind space and feel comfortable about themselves so they can finally start? We’ve got to start somewhere. I think the approach is going to change now toward fitness to get to those people.” (Watch this video interview with Nicki, David and Fred.)

Personal Training Buzz
The personal training curriculum and many satellite discussions at the convention reflected this “whole person” vantage. Trainers and the techniques they use are regressing back to basics that are rooted in thorough assessment of each individual’s needs. Professionals are re-examining dosing clients with functional exercises for the sake of functional training. There are no “good” or “bad” exercises; rather, it’s whether exercises are appropriate based on certain compensations and limitations of each individual. It’s called personal training for a reason.

Other hot topics:

  • The economy. Trainers everywhere are concerned, but most see it as an opportunity to operate a leaner and smarter business.
  • A direct correlate of the economy is the growth of small- and medium-group training. Consumers see a price break by training in numbers (there is the social-compliance aspect to consider as well), while trainers see a boost in hourly income.
  • Diversity of clientele presents tremendous opportunity for trainers to broaden their reach while simultaneously becoming expert in chosen populations.
  • Overall elevation of professional standards. Knowledge is power, and personal trainers are understanding and responding to that by continually raising the bar.

Group Fitness: Will Momentum Build?
The energy generated by a handful of high-impact aerobics classes in the ’80s has created a huge group exercise vortex that continues to draw people into its addictive center. Is there room for growth? These highlights from 2008 IDEA World Fitness may offer clues.

  • Education is paying off for savvy instructors who continue to integrate research into class design.
  • Step, indoor cycling and dance-themed classes continue to woo people.
  • Circuit and interval training are enjoying a creative rebirth.
  • More instructors are being drawn to teach in the water.
  • Cross-training is essentially an unspoken rule.

While the future of group fitness looks bright, many are still concerned about the graying of the industry and the apparent lack of fresh faces to take over cuing and cool-downs. Coupled with an upsurge in pre-choreographed programming, some feel assertive steps (e.g., mentorship programs) are needed to stave off a downturn.

Mind-Body Medley
The mind-body program offered a rich mix of sessions ranging from innovative fusion blends to specific skill training. Pilates classes were bursting at the seams with equipment, both large and small, and music (running the gamut from New Age to hip-hop) accompanied most sessions. A superb workshop (Zoey Trap) honed in on the needs of obese Pilates clients. Attendees responded enthusiastically to “Yoga for Runners” (Simone Hodgkinson). And there were two excellent—though quite different—Pilates and yoga hybrid classes: “The New Pilates-Yoga Blend” (Linda Freeman) and “Downward Dog Meets the Pilates Hundred” (Buddy Macuha and Valentin). Gyrotonic® sessions attracted fewer numbers, but participants were dedicated.

Exposing the Secrets of the Expo Hall
The IDEA Health & Wellness Expo is the obvious place to get apparel, music, educational information, equipment, and food and drink samples, but it’s the total Expo-erience that makes it so exciting to visit.

For example, at New Balance you could talk in person with their clothing designer; at Simplexity Health you could have your photo taken with Olympic Gold Medalist Dan O’Brien; at Enviga you were asked if you’d like to take home a six-pack of sparkling green tea; and at Power Music you could learn all about the new ClickMix program that lets you mix and burn your own music.

These are just four of about 150 booths that were at this year’s convention. Add coupons and daily prizes, a mini driving range for golf enthusiasts, a dynamic climbing wall, hourly classes on the newest equipment plus the rockin’ performance stage, and it’s hard to imagine it getting any better in 2009. But it will!

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