In true Los Angeles style, IDEA rolled out the red carpet for delegates, guests, educators, exhibitors and VIPs—including U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, entertainer Mario Lopez and tennis star Andre Agassi—at its 2010 IDEA World Fitness Convention August 4–8.

This fitness event set an incredibly high benchmark for all it stands for: excellent fitness education, innovation, product knowledge, networking and nonstop fun. If you weren’t learning, sweating or laughing, you weren’t trying hard enough.

The action began with a full day of Premier Seminars and a symbolic ribbon cutting at the Fitness & Wellness Expo Hall and didn’t let up until the last classes were over on day 5. In between were a press conference with the Surgeon General and the mayor; a trade show extravaganza; an exciting Awards Show in the Nokia Theatre, emceed by Lopez (see Awards story, page 42); a gala welcome party at LA LIVE, one of downtown’s hottest event venues; a major product rollout from IDEA that many view as a fitness industry “game changer” (see IDEA FitnessConnect sidebar); and days packed with learning for all involved.

The tradeshow was a blockbuster, with 150 exhibitors selling the latest in fitness equipment and technology, but the true star of the show was the education, which bore IDEA’s hallmark of research made immediately usable. With more than 350 sessions taught by the most elite corps of fitness educators ever assembled, this year’s program was extremely rich and diverse. Sessions focused on metabolic, body leverage and multiplanar training; fresh, equipment-based techniques; business and career topics; and innovations in research, group exercise, nutrition, Pilates, yoga, other mind-body modalities and water fitness.

The World View

Here are some trends that ran throughout the programming:

  • We need to put fun into fitness for end users (and for our professional longevity). Our clients work all day, so when they come to us, exercise shouldn’t seem like work; it should surprise, delight and challenge them.
  • Getting to the heart of the matter is key. Let’s spend less time telling clients what they already know, and stop allowing them excuses for why they aren’t improving. We need to challenge them—be their guide, but not mollycoddle them. Let’s make clients accountable for their health and fitness—dare them to own it.
  • Workouts are getting more adventurous, exciting and attainable. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. “What makes one person’s heart tick may not do it for the next,” said newly minted IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year Carol Murphy. “Find what makes their heart tick. Get them excited.”
  • We’ve reached only a small fraction of the potential fitness market. As Jonathan Ross, 2010 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, observed, “We are the special population. We are the weirdoes, because we love exercise.” Millions of untapped customers need assistance.
  • Better movement first. Teaching clients to move correctly comes before anything else. Biomechanics need to be the top training priority.
  • Better results; less effort. “It’s all about making fitness more accessible to people,” Ross said. “Anything that removes barriers such as time and money or [makes fitness] more portable can help make this happen.”
  • Life is getting harder for the professional “posers.” Certification organizations are raising the bar (and so are tools like IDEA FitnessConnect), which means that recently certified professionals will walk onto the scene with far more education than the “fakers” will ever have.
  • Sport conditioning for kids is hot. Parents understand there is a difference between sport conditioning and regular conditioning, said Peter Twist, MSc, 2010 IDEA Program Director of the Year. “There is a lot of opportunity out there.”
  • Exercise is medicine. The fitness industry needs to get more support and buy-in from the medical community.
  • Personal training has staying power. “Technology is making people more sedentary,” according to Twist. “Personal training may be the only way people get movement in the future, which will likely make personal trainers more in demand.”
  • Recovery and regeneration are essential. What are we doing with athletes and older adults to rejuvenate them after training?
  • How are we loading function? What portable tools can we use to provide high energy expenditure in a shorter amount of time?
  • Family programming is a gateway to tackling childhood obesity and family education about health, nutrition and exercise.

Next, dive into details about the various specialty areas represented at IDEA World Fitness.

Management and Industry: Synergy in a New Decade

From a gathering of veteran fitness managers and directors, meeting to share successes and pinpoint areas of growth, the dominant theme that emerged was synergy. “What I’m hearing you all talk about is different parts of a whole coming together,” said Amy Thompson, COO of Stroller Strides® LLC in La Jolla, California, and chair of the IDEA program director committee. “There seems to be more synergy between departments, synergy between companies, with corporations and allied health professionals.”

Indeed, teamwork and focus on a common goal—health and wellness—permeated the fitness event as fitness pros from across the career spectrum showcased their hard-earned merit points for inspiring the world to fitness. Fitness management has a wide base of support that includes many fulcrums—group fitness, personal training, wellness programming, small-studio ownership, multi-facility responsibilities and staff enrichment, to name a few. Sessions at 2010 IDEA World Fitness touched on some of the daily challenges management faces in an industry that is still growing as it helps people improve their lives. The following highlights reveal some of the buzz at this year’s fitness event.

  • Fitness professionals from all generations and parts of the world are leveraging technology like never before. Whether it is through social media, customized applications for smart phones, digital assessments, or internal systems and software for tracking and communication, the industry is streamlining its interactions. Technology bridges the gap, bringing people together in new ways. The automation aspect also enables fitness facilities to free up minutes for one-on-one face time with clients and members.
  • There is a continued push to mentor new fitness professionals, who are trickling in as “hybrids” equipped to train one-on-one and teach groups. There is a dire need for this “new blood” in the group exercise area, as many longtime instructors are reaching middle age and there appears to be a dearth of talent from the front rows to take over the creative, energetic formats that generally demand younger joints. To address this void, managers and directors are creating in-house mentor programs that foster development among new hires. Fitness facilities are also synergizing with universities and colleges that have instructor programs to funnel fresh faces directly into rewarding fitness careers.
  • Overall, fitness professionals are doing an outstanding job at showcasing their education and their desire to continue their education. They are becoming more sophisticated at research integration—the ability to take key concepts related to exercise science and apply them to program design.
  • The recession has made the strong stronger, and out of the financial challenges of the past year many fitness professionals have emerged as community leaders. Many facilities and independent contractors used the lull as an opportunity to reach out and offer services at discounted rates. Others volunteered as experts at local 5Ks and wellness events. The result: potential members and clients now know a trusted source for health and wellness advice.

Transparency is the linchpin as we enter a new decade. Social media and the desire to systemize as well as personalize fitness facility experiences have led to a need for authenticity and openness in management. “Gone are the days where managers hide behind closed doors,” said Shannon Fable, CEO of Sunshine Fitness Resources in Boulder, Colorado. “Managers need to be upfront, honest and clear about their expectations and intentions.”

From an attendee perspective, the future looks bright, as education and standards only get better. “I am thrilled and encouraged that the industry continues to focus on the importance of teaching us what a healthy lifestyle looks like, and what it does not look like,” said Erin Hayward, a personal trainer from Mandeville, Louisiana, who was attending her 12th IDEA World Fitness Convention. “At IDEA World Fitness, we have the opportunity to learn from the best of the best about training for fitness and function, not perfection. We learn about balanced nutrition, not the latest fad diet. We are given sound advice backed up by science, and we can confidently pass that information on to our clients.”

Personal Training: Movement Artists Influencing Change

The IDEA World Fitness Convention is always well stocked with the latest exercise tips and techniques. There was the usual robust fare of boot camp and sports conditioning sessions that tested participants’ physical and mental limits. Presenters such as Brett Klika, director of athletics for Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, and Twist, owner of Twist Conditioning in Vancouver, British Columbia, instructed steel-hearted participants on best practices for maximizing the burgeoning group training trend. Yet, despite the plethora of movement-based sessions, some of the most thought-provoking content involved little to no movement.

Communicate to Elevate. Communication—among fitness pros, or fitness pros and clients—proved a popular topic. In the session “Are We Speaking the Same Language? Functional Nomenclature Defined!” Doug Gray and Gary Gray, PT, of the Gray Institute called for a universal language among fitness professionals.

“We need a consistent language among all modalities,” challenged Doug Gray. “We need a more sensitive nomenclature, which will help to create a more sensitive measurement system.” At the end of the session, the two Grays took turns shouting out exercises—for example, “single-leg right anterior lunge with bilateral posterior reach”—and all the attendees moved in sync with Zumba-esque precision.

Robert Cappuccio urged attendees to interpret clients’ moods through body language and facial expressions. In his session “Shift Happens: Key Principles to Mastering the Art of Influence,” he stated that understanding what is not being said is a key to client success. Personal trainers who pick up on subtleties in facial expressions or body language can gauge mood and tailor sessions accordingly. Cappuccio also suggested delving more into the “why” of clients’ goals during initial interviews. This “emotional interviewing” will help clients recognize potential rewards, regrets and discrepancies, which can be used to influence success. He suggested the following questions:

  • What is the single most important reason change is a must?
  • What will be different? How will you feel?
  • How would life be if there was no change?

Movement Redefined. Movement is a cornerstone of fitness; however, some presenters challenged traditional practices. “Seeing a person lifting a box from a moving truck, walking to another location and setting it down is perfectly normal outside the gym. But to see a person inside a gym perform a similar movement would seem crazy,” laughed Michol Dalcourt in his session “Functional Core Training for Life.” “Since when did movement disappear from the gym?”

Dalcourt also wondered about the repetitious nature of many fitness regimens. “How many times in a row does a person typically perform a squat [in daily life]? Once.” In place of repetition, Dalcourt called for using different ranges of motion to avoid premature hard- and soft-tissue degeneration.

Jay Dawes, MS, director of education for the National Strength and Conditioning Association, also took umbrage with current practices. “The gym is the only place we break up stability, power, strength and flexibility,” he said during a session on movement preparation. “Yet our clients experience each of these during their daily lives. I take clients through each type of training during every session. While my older clients may not be performing jump squats, I do challenge them to move quickly.”

The Movement Artist. Presenters offered their own specific techniques and exercises but also challenged participants to be creative. “If you understand muscle mechanics, you don’t need a book of exercises to tell you how to train your client,” said Bill Sonnemaker, MS. “People always ask me where I learned the exercises I offer in my sessions. I didn’t learn them anywhere. I created them based on my clients’ needs.”

There is no tried-and-true answer for everyone: once again, that was the overriding message in many sessions. While that might prove unnerving for some, it offers an opportunity for personal trainers to think creatively and become movement artists.

Group Exercise Convention Highlights

For anyone with a passion for group exercise, waking up before 7:00 am several days in a row at IDEA World Fitness made perfect sense, as the “morning madness” classes were high-intensity fun. Even those with merely a passing interest in group exercise would have enjoyed them.

But the morning classes were just the first of many excellent offerings. Not only were there stupendous sessions such as “EMPOWER® Stepping” with Gin Miller, “Drums Alive® Silver Beats” with Carey Fraley, “Step Success” with Petra Kolber, “Baby Boomer Bounce” with Milo Levell, “Schwinn® Cycling: Ride a Century!” with the irrepressible Bethany Diamond and “Plyometric Cardio Intervals” with Tony Horton, but there were also enticing choices like “Bollywood Step,” “JUKARI Fit to Flex®,” “Resist-A-Ball® Hard Core,” “Indo Boarding: Surfing-Inspired Group Fitness,” “G.R.A.N.T. Grooves,” “Kettlebell Basics for General Fitness” and more, more, more!

And group fitness isn’t just about innovative workouts; it’s about research, too. And nutrition. And teaching methods. And trends. And marketing. The list goes on, as did the session choices. Interesting trends that emerged were an emphasis on strength training for weight loss, particularly for women; a push to make exercise more accessible and fun for true beginners; new ways to use the step; choreography for high-intensity intervals; specialized classes for older adults; the continuing intersection between group fitness and social media/technology; bucket loads of dance-based formats; and the strong crossover between small-group training and group exercise (think TRX®, kettlebells, BOSU® Balance Trainer). Another trend of note was the fluidity between theoretically unrelated disciplines (mixed martial arts, Kranking®, bodywork, freerunning) and group fitness.

If there were an Austin Powers of the ’80s who went into a deep freeze at the time when only high-impact aerobics existed, and he unfroze at the 2010 World Fitness Convention, he’d be speechless at the hundreds of choices that now exist. But he’d quickly regain his voice and start whooping and hollering along with the 2010 convention attendees who made their group fitness voices heard loud and strong! Look out, 2011 IDEA World Fitness Convention!

Mind-Body-Spirit Goes a Step Beyond

As mind-body-spirit programming has evolved over the past 10–15 years, fitness professionals have discovered that its nuances go beyond targeted breath work, visualization and “connected movement.” All the “traditional” players in this field—yoga, Pilates, tai chi, martial arts—still have a place at the mind-body table. What the industry is realizing is that there are extra chairs for personal training concepts, fusion, coaching, mindful movement and countless other “guests.”

Integration was the theme when it came to this year’s mind-body-spirit programming. More than ever, fitness professionals are seeing that once they are inside the prism of wellness, there are countless refractions of light that offer solutions for clients and participants. There is much more to explore than sets and reps. Here is a glimpse into the many ways that mind-body formats are shaping the industry:

  • Joseph Pilates used equipment that he himself engineered to shape human movement. Similarly, today’s fitness professionals are utilizing equipment—both large and small—to complement and expand their repertoires. Examples include mini trampolines, specialized bolsters, custom chairs, small balls and slanted foam wedges.
  • Rehabilitation, including prehab and postrehab, is another area of growth. While not every fitness professional is qualified to lead a client through certain stages of rehabilitation, partnering with allied health professionals is standard. Pilates practitioners are becoming more active in the medical community as bridges for their clients. Yoga and gentle movement techniques that incorporate the Feldenkrais Method® and the Alexander Technique are also offering havens for injured clients needing to reconnect with themselves.
  • Formats that fully explore the power of the mind are becoming more relevant. The body is no longer seen as the sole pathway to health and happiness. Fitness professionals are understanding that the more they learn about the brain and how it functions, the better they can understand and help clients on their journeys. Careful cuing is the most prevalent example of how to harness the mind for positive outcomes with the body. Another key component is visualization.
  • Presenters gave example after example of how the deeper layers of knowledge and research affect movement choices across the board. The fitness industry is in the process of incorporating the inner aspects of exercise science and considering how best to explore the “whys” and “hows” for optimal integration.
  • As a result of improved education, mind-body-spirit professionals are in a better place to cater to the needs of special populations. Merrithew Health and Fitness, through its premier brand STOTT PILATES®, presented options for a wide range of needs and abilities, including education for men, older adults, athletes and prenatal women. Other Pilates sessions covered knee injuries, osteoporosis and sport-specific conditioning.
  • Yoga practitioners and teachers were treated to detailed breakdowns of the sun salutation, as well as in-depth explorations of hands-on teaching and guidance on how to lead a roomful of people of different abilities, ages and backgrounds. In her session “Yoga I.S.®: Better Adjustments,” Lauren Eirk, creator of Yoga Integrated Science™, who is based in Louisville, Kentucky, didn’t parse words as she explained how to adjust a yoga student correctly and professionally. “Even if the same person comes in every day, you must approach that individual as if for the first time, every time,” Eirk said. “You don’t know what’s going on in that person’s life or how her body may have changed from one day to the next.”
  • Mind-body-spirit fusion options reflected creativity and careful program design, proving that crossover and cross-training are synonymous with success. Attendees were treated to yoga and cycling; mindful stepping and stability ball training; and movement in the water designed to make you feel “Buddhaful.”
  • June Kahn, 2009 IDEA Instructor of the Year and founder of June Kahn’s Bodyworks LLC in Boulder, Colorado, outlined a good definition of mind-body-spirit programming in her Beam-Lates™ session. She used the acronym B.E.A.M. to explore these three interrelated concepts: “The physical act of using the Beam involves Balancing the body, Engaging your core, Aligning your spine and Moving your body. The emotional outcome is Balance, Elevated self-esteem, Accomplishment and Motivation. The overall experience, spirit, is Balancing Experiences with Activity to Motivate life change.”