Wherever they are, the best personal trainers, group exercise instructors, fitness entrepreneurs and nutrition/wellness professionals excel at what they do, but in the macrocosm of motion that is the IDEA World Convention, they redefine the limits of their potential. At the 2017 event, held in Las Vegas, July 19–23, more than 10,000 like-minded pros placed a bet on continued happiness and success, upping the ante as they attended more than 330 workshops and workouts taught by the industry’s greatest minds. Back this year due to resounding success: the IDEA World Nutrition & Behavior Change Summit and the IDEA World Club & Studio Summit, two phenomenal keys to professionalism in a crowded playing field.

The shared passion and commitment to making the world a better place ignited a movement 35 years ago, when co-founders Kathie and Peter Davis birthed IDEA. That movement is stronger than ever and gaining steam, thanks to thousands of dedicated fitness professionals like you. Read on to relive the highlights of the fitness industry’s biggest celebration.

Shining a Light on Leadership

During the Opening Ceremonies, the 2017 IDEA Jack LaLanne Award recipient Todd Durkin, MA, encouraged everyone in the crowd to “be a lighthouse” (see sidebar for more). And the incandescent beams were easy to track, as presenters shared glowing management insights like the ones below.

Put yourself in clients’ shoes. Fitness marketing pro Alicia Streger shared a number of ways to retain clients in the rapid-fire session “The Key to Client Retention: The First 90 Days.” She urged attendees to keep things simple and reach out to members often. Her tips included text-messaging a short orientation video, creating a Facebook group for clients, automating emails and sending a welcome package.

Be creative and engaging on social media. Successful businessman Sol Orwell shared a number of winning strategies in his session “Game-Changing Ideas From a Serial Entrepreneur.” He detailed how a seemingly benign cookie-recipe comment on social media turned into a viral sensation that led not only to free marketing but also to lots of free chocolate-chip cookies. His point: Expose yourself a little, be personable, connect with people and let them sell your services for you.

Define success and then make mistakes. 2015 IDEA Program Director of the Year Kimberly Spreen-Glick espoused tried-and-true wisdom in “Breaking Your Barriers to Success.” Her first key point seemed to resonate with the room: “If you’re facing a barrier to getting what you want, it may be because you haven’t clearly defined what success means to you.” She also shared a personal anecdote about her first meeting with a supervisor, who plainly told her, “I want you to make mistakes.” Dumbfounded, she asked why. The reply: “Because if you’re making mistakes, you’re making decisions, and I want you to make a lot of them.”

Personal Training: Innovation, Mastery and Function

Whether it’s one-on-one, small-group or team training that consumers are seeking, two things are certain: They want the best information on how to achieve optimum health and wellness, and IDEA members offer the pinnacle of positive results. This year’s roundup of training methodologies included everything from fascia to foundations to function and beyond, and no population was overlooked. Here are some highlights from the personal training track:

Coaching is hot. While the need for a solid foundation in exercise science is still essential, the message many experts shared was this: Be a coach, and that doesn’t mean simply wear a whistle around your neck. What good coaching entails, according to industry expert Robert “Bobby” Cappuccio, is “giving people the resources they need to be their most resourceful so that they can create what they want in life.”

The fascial web is integral to fitness. Fascia, the jelly-like net that holds our bodies together, remains in the spotlight. Sessions on self-myofascial release prepared attendees to help clients stave off injuries and recover efficiently. Podiatrist Emily Splichal, MS, noted, “To be an efficient runner you need to be able to tap into your myofascial web, which means we need to train the body as a deep interconnected web.”

Interconnection popped up in many sessions, in different ways. “When your kids starting learning music, what were they playing? They were playing notes,” said Michol Dalcourt, founder of the Institute of Motion. “And how did that sound to your ear? Not so great. It was when they began organizing notes into melodies that it began to sound good!” He explained: “Discrete inputs vs. melodies are particularly important for nervous system coordination in movement. The orchestra that executes the motion is an integrated body.”

Variability is the answer to many clients’ questions. Longtime IDEA presenter Robert Sherman stressed the need for awareness and variability. “Awareness gives us the accessibility to change.” And variability? “Does life always move in straight lines?” he asked. No! “In life there is nothing but variability. . . We need to practice the way we want to play.”

It pays to find a niche and lean into it. The most successful trainers discover areas where they excel, and that’s where they land.
Special populations include active aging, pre- and postnatal, prehabilitation, athletes, children, and many more.

Small-group and team training are in favor. 2011 IDEA Program Director of the Year Fraser Quelch extolled the advantages of small-group training. Quelch and fellow small-group panel members Sherri McMillan, MSc, Matt Wright, MS, and Jason Stella—along with facilitator Amy Boone Thompson—shared powerful reasons to offer this option, including affordability, turnkey potential and the ways the model lends itself to small niche sessions. The challenge? Developing fitness pros who have both the technical expertise of a personal trainer and the motivational vivaciousness of a successful group instructor.

Group Therapy: Where Magic Happens

IDEA World is one enormous fitness class, where thousands strive to reach personal goals together. Harnessing the power and synergy of group exercise, yet staying focused on what each person needs, was an important theme in the more than 150 group fitness sessions. Here are some highlights from this year’s energetic program:

Be the head cheerleader. “Group fitness is where the magic happens,” said Lynne Skilton-Hayes, an ACE-certified group instructor and master trainer. Because Skilton-Hayes was drawn into the fitness world through the camaraderie and support of a group class, she likes to create the same experience for her participants. “I live for the ‘lightbulb’ moment in people, when they realize what they can accomplish.”

Dive into blue-sky thinking. “Give people an experience they can’t get anywhere else—and they won’t go anywhere else,” said IDEA expert Sherri McMillian, MSc. That means using partner exercises, traditional equipment and the tools Mother Nature provides to help clients reach their potential.

Create a community. “People want to be a part of a group,” noted athlete and trainer Bennie Wylie. “Do that for your [participants]. Encourage them to say hello to each other. Ensure that everyone feels safe to participate.” You could see this safety—and joy—in the faces of his class participants, who high-fived one another after a hard movement.

Stay fresh with fusion. 2004 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year Lawrence Biscontini, MA, helped clients plunge into water fitness with innovative ideas on blending cardio and strength techniques and transforming common moves. Biscontini projected his deep knowledge of fitness with rapport and humor, never losing sight of the ultimate goal for clients: “We can improve the quality of their lives.”

Be inclusive. Of course, you can’t help people if they stop showing up to class. It’s easy to help those in the front row who, let’s face it, could probably sub for you. But engaging the newbies who aren’t as confident was a recurrent message. “It’s about them,” said Grace DeSimone, 2016 IDEA Program Director of the Year. “It’s their workout. It’s not about you.”

Lead safe classes. Marty Miller, DHSc, NASM elite trainer, emphasized that pushing clients too far can be more than demoralizing; it can lead to injury. “No one should ever get hurt on my watch,” he said, adding that he always helps clients modify moves, while side-stepping unnecessary embarrassment.

Focus on function and form. “[Exercise is] ‘fun with a purpose,’” said 2014 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year Krista Popowych. She advised helping clients to understand how what they’re doing assists in the activities of daily living. (Note: Watch Popowych’s session, available as one of 35 streaming videos and online courses captured live at 2017 IDEA World. Visit www.ideafit.com/world-2017-streaming-package for more.)

Coach, don’t teach. Focusing on leadership and coaching—rather than “training”—is key, regardless of group size. “It doesn’t matter what you know if you can’t lead,” said DeSimone.

Be open to apps! As technology continues to play a role in all of fitness, through apps or amazing new cycling monitors and rowing machines, the group experience remains, at its core, linked to you and your desire to make fitness magic happen.

Mind-Body Fitness: A Multiplane Approach

With yoga and meditation dating back thousands of years and Pilates now a century old, mind-body fitness shouldn’t need to prove its longevity to anyone. Honed and refined over time, the “softer arts” of fitness—barre, included—have plenty to offer. Here are some take-aways:

Don’t overemphasize the sagittal plane. “Trunk flexion, extension, lateral flexion, rotation—if you are not doing these with your clients, you need to start,” urged Lauren Eirk, MS, creator of Yoga Integrated Science™. “Do shoulder motion and trunk mobility have a relationship? Absolutely!” TriggerPoint™’s Kyle Stull, DHSc, agreed: Addressing corrective exercise for the shoulders, he stressed, “The thoracic spine has to rotate!”

Work with the body’s asymmetries. “Asymmetry can lead to inefficiency, which can become dysfunction and eventually disability,” said TRX® master trainer Hayley Hollander. While mind-body disciplines do a good job of identifying asymmetries and bringing the body back into balance, the key is to remember that symmetry is individual. As Pilates expert Erika Quest put it, “All of us and all our clients are snowflakes.”

Take cuing to the next level. In group classes, it can be hard to go beyond directing the movement: “Right leg up; left left up.” But Nora St. John, MS, a teacher trainer for Balanced Body®, said, “See if you can add just one little layer that takes it deeper: How does it feel to do that? Is one arm moving more than the other? Do you notice the feeling of your feet on the floor?” Tying the internal experience to the exercise will make a difference.

Be mindful of the person in front of you. Today’s mind-body classes are catering to a variety of populations, including “mind-body athletes” and mature clients, and forward-thinking professionals are fusing disciplines in new and creative ways. Stability balls, smaller balls and foam rollers are still the most popular equipment items.