While life may not always be a highlight reel, thousands of the best personal trainers, group exercise instructors, fitness entrepreneurs and nutrition/wellness professionals added significant footage to their lives at this year’s IDEA World Convention, where everyday actions became epic adventures in education. At the 2018 event, held in San Diego, June 27–July 1, more than 14,000 like-minded pros converged to learn from more than 350 workshops and workouts taught by the industry’s keenest minds. Read on to experience the ongoing and inspirational story of health, brought to you from a fitness celebration like no other.

Personal Training: The Sets And Reps Of Loaded Education

Catering to kinesthetic learners, Casey Stutzman, owner of the Performance Locker in Alpena, Michigan, asked personal trainers in his workshop “Solving the Mobility/Stability/Strength Puzzle” to purposely put their bodies out of alignment. “Go ahead,” he told attendees, “roll your ankle, buckle your knees, laterally shift your pelvis, jut out your ribs and push your head way forward.” The attendees giggled, but Stutzman said, “Yes, we all laugh because it feels so ridiculous to our physiology, and yet, if you look around this conference, almost everyone does at least one of the compensations I’ve asked you to do. That’s just life! Think about how your clients are coping!”

Stutzman’s valuable reality check was one of many for the thousands of certified personal trainers who elected to go to the edge with their education at IDEA World. Moments like this, where connections were made from theory to practice, added new colors to the fitness palette. Here are additional highlights from the personal training track:

What’s old is new again. Innovation is wonderful, but there’s also something about notable oldies like powerlifting and intentional circuits that double as boot camps. Speed, power, agility and other elements of athleticism made a resurgence at this year’s event, with a message: Always check your “big rocks.” Case in point: Before leading the class through a tough TRX® workout in “Speed and Power for the Masses,” Fraser Quelch, 2011 IDEA Program Director of the Year, took everyone through an extended plank. Yes, a simple plank. After reviewing this foundational exercise in excruciating detail, Quelch said: “If you or your client can’t master this one move, maybe you should hang back and work on the finer things before going big.”

Fascial lines lead to bigger lanes. Fascial fitness is a huge area of study across the board and, thanks to recent research, the industry is learning more about how to train clients for true integrated health. The myofascial web was name-dropped in many sessions, and presenters connected it to numerous areas of training focus, including endurance training, functional strength training and recovery. In her session “Fascial Line Mobility,” Helen Vanderburg, 2005 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year, took the class through a series of “mobility dances” to illustrate how different fascial lines affect function. “Recent research into fascia science should reinvigorate your program design and reiterate the importance of multidirectional movement in all planes of motion,” Vanderburg said.

Coaching for results and the right mindset is key. The industry has evolved to a point where personal trainers can no longer pretend not to be coaches at heart. Trainers motivate, inspire and lead. However, they can’t keep doing everything the same way they always have and expect results. 2013 IDEA Inspiration Award recipient Peter Twist, MSc, president and CEO of Twist Performance + Wellness, used his influence as a leader to remind fit pros that “the world shrinks when you’re obese and out of shape.” In “The Science and Art of Program Design,” Twist told trainers, “The most powerful tool you have is your intuition. Have a solid education, of course, but design programs from your heart and gut.”

The time to perfect your passion is now. Never before has there been more room for specializing. Savvy trainers pinpoint their strengths and then get granular with their education and their outreach to different populations and areas of need, including pre- and postnatal, corrective exercise, active aging, athletes, kids of all ages, and many more. Of course, small-group training is still hot as trainers discover they can make more money and reach more people with thoughtful programs and savvy marketing.

Group Fitness Gains Glory

At the IDEA World Opening Ceremonies, keynote speaker Robert Holden, PhD, said, “How are you going to find your epic? You don’t find it. It’s already within you.”

This idea aligned with a theme that emerged from the group exercise sessions: Fitness doesn’t need to be extreme, overwhelming or faddish. It is accessible to every person of every skill level and physical ability. A skilled group fitness instructor provides a comprehensive experience that is simultaneously challenging and customizable, while helping participants to find the power within them.

Attendees played with the latest equipment (the keyword being played), and absent was a militant focus on rigidity and perfection. Following are some touchpoints from this year’s event:

Inclusivity is essential. Programming for clients of all ages, sizes, genders and physical abilities is a must. The fitness industry is shifting away from cliques and hierarchy and toward movement modalities that are approachable, accessible and modifiable for each individual. “The language of ‘level one, level two, level three’—anything that refers to people in ‘levels’—has to go away,” said Kimberly Spreen-Glick, 2015 IDEA Program Director of the Year, who presented several sessions over the weekend.

Functional fitness is in. One way to make fitness inclusive is to focus on what is functional. Brett Klika, 2013 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, emphasized the importance of proper form, stating that “5 seconds of doing it right is better than 2 minutes of doing it wrong.”

The ultimate goal of a fitness professional is not to teach people how to contort their bodies into feats of physical achievement but, rather, to help them feel better in their bodies so they can live more satisfying lives. “What’s happening is that there is much more three-dimensional movement,” said Marla Yonamine of Sunnyvale, California, a fitness professional since 2010 and first-time IDEA World attendee, adding “we’re getting movement in the sagittal, frontal and transverse planes, taking all of that into consideration.”

The basics are bedrock. In the spirit of functional fitness, the current “fad” is no fads. 2018 IDEA Jack LaLanne Award recipients Heidi and Chris Powell—celebrity trainers who host the TV show Extreme Weight Loss—emphasized the importance of mastering the basics. “We bring it back to old school,” Chris noted after explaining that the couple doesn’t teach complex or “trendy” fitness moves. “We keep it very simple and basic but still have a lot of fun.”

Joy is the spice. Speaking of fun: It is still important, and it’s a major way to infuse joy into the fitness experience. Fusions remain popular: think bike-to-barre and barre-meets-yoga. Putting a fresh twist on something that feels overdone can rejuvenate energy and motivation. Music is also a prime way of finding joy in movement. The right music lends a sense of vibrancy and vigor to even the most challenging workouts.

A sense of community keeps people coming back. “Our students are more than just physical bodies,” Spreen-Glick said. “The moment we realize that and start providing an experience where we can meet them on a mental and emotional and even an energetic level, that’s when we’re really going to create deeper connections and longer-lasting impact.”

Mind-Body Shape-Shifters

2018 IDEA World offered a rich array of mind-body programs to open and strengthen the body, facilitate movement flow, and guide participants’ attention inward. A few observations:

High intensity has arrived! Yes, mind-body can be gentle, but the lure of intensity coupled with a drive for innovation is producing a flurry of fusion formats that are pushing the envelope. One walk around World and you’d see TRX for Yoga, Bootybarre® BURN (with cardio intervals), Yoga Shred™ (Tabata-style) and a session combining barre with HIIT.

Dance never dies. A natural expression of the body’s desire to move, dance maintains a presence in the mind-body world. Cassie Ho called her POP Pilates® Party “dancing on the mat”; ballet-based barre sessions delivered a powerful workout while striving to embody the beauty of dance; and the seamless flow of sun, moon and earth salutations, as taught by the inimitable Lawrence Biscontini, MA, blurred the lines not only between yoga and dance but also between dance and prayer.

Fascia goes with the flow. Resisting the tug of speed and intensity, ZEN•GA® is subtle training for the sensory system and is based on four principles of mindful movement: breath, support, yield and flow. “Flow in movement is a sign of healthy fascia,” said Carol Earle in one of her ZEN•GA sessions. “Fascia is playful. It likes to bounce; it has spring.”

“Conventions,” said keynote speaker Robert Holden, PhD, “are like a spiritual chiropractic—a chance to realign ourselves with our values. A cosmic colonic! A chance to let go of [what’s] been holding you back and to start again.” His reflection perfectly illustrates the heartbeat of IDEA World, as does this rhetorical question: “What is the story you most want to tell now? On a path of growth, we are not on repeat. What is your yes now?

Opening Ceremonies

Sponsored By Technogym®

Anyone who’s attended Opening Ceremonies at IDEA World knows there are few dry eyes in the room as, one by one, speakers and their stories excite, inspire, stir, impress, touch, humble and wow the crowd. This year was no exception.

SHIFT HAPPENS! Saying YES to the Next Step 2018

Keynote Address by Robert Holden, PhD

Exploding onto the stage with the mirthful energy of a child let loose in summer, Robert Holden leapt and danced to “Start Me Up!” by the Rolling Stones until his heart rate—and his audience—were pumped.

“We are each of us living in epic times,” he said. “Things are changing very fast—it’s an unprecedented rate of change.” So how do we engage with these times? How do we shape where change will lead us? And in this “manic society,” what are the keys to happiness and success? For answers, Holden looked to change itself:

The new physics tells us “we are inescapably involved in bringing about that which appears to be happening. We are not only observers,” he said. “So, if you want to change the world, show up differently. If you show up differently, you will change the world.”

The new psychology tells us we are using only about 1% of our potential. We have an elastic brain, not a static brain—and it’s up to us, said Holden, to imagine the future.

The new opportunities emerging in the world of work tell us it’s not a job we need; it’s a purpose. This is a relationship economy, and authenticity is the new MBA.

To embrace these possibilities, we must free ourselves of “destination addiction,” Holden said. If we’re searching for happiness, then happiness is a destination somewhere in the future. Joy, on the other hand, is already inside us. “There is a world of difference between searching for happiness and following your joy. . . . Like the north star, joy will set you right.” So listen to your heart, he exhorted, and dare to be the real you: In today’s world, “love is your competitive advantage.”

2018 Idea World Fitness Awards

In each category, a single honoree emerged from three worthy finalists:

IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year. Thanking the many people who lifted her up and believed in her, veteran professional and two-time author Irene Lewis-McCormick, MS, CSCS, of Huxley, Iowa, accepted this coveted prize. Lewis-McCormick teaches exercise physiology at Drake University in Des Moines and is a master instructor and trainer for numerous companies. “The job we do,” she said, “is so competitive, and it’s not steady or consistent. It can be difficult to feel secure in our capacities. . . . You need five mentors in your life at any one time.” Co-finalists: Eve Fleck, MS, and Jeffrey Scott.

IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year. “It’s an incredible honor, the best moment of my career, but also a special moment for my country,” said Alexis Batrakoulis, MS, CSCS, of Larisa, Greece, on receiving this award. A tireless advocate for raising professional standards, Batrakoulis walks the talk with more than 15 certifications to his name. “There are no secrets to success,” he suggested, “but passion, hard work and learning from failure can make a difference.” He urged, “Follow your heart, and fight for your dreams and beliefs, because no one knows better than you what your purpose is.” Co-finalists: Hayley Hollander and Brian Nunez.

IDEA Fitness Leader of the Year. In accepting IDEA’s first award of this kind, Trina Gray, creator of Bay Athletic Club (BAC) and Bay Urban Fitness in Alpena, Michigan, encapsulated the role that leaders perform: “We believe in people until they can believe in themselves.” In her 20s, after moving with her husband to a rural “underdog” town where diabetes and unemployment were rampant, Gray took out “the biggest loan” of her life and opened a fitness facility. “It was dangerous!” she laughed, but her risk paid off: A thriving, full-service health club, BAC has a unique alliance with the Alpena Regional Medical Center, and Gray and her team have helped thousands of people live healthier lives. “Humbled, honored and, yes, crying,” she issued an earnest challenge to everyone present: “Be willing to run the race you were put on this earth to run.” Co-finalists: Amy Boone Thompson and Lisa Wheeler.

[Editor’s note: Full profiles of the award recipients and their co-finalists will appear in the October issue.]

2018 IDEA Jack Lalanne Award

This award recognizes those who inspire others to health and fitness through the media. This year, the honor went to Heidi and Chris Powell, celebrity trainers, transformation specialists and hosts of the hit ABC show Extreme Weight Loss.

A star team, Chris and Heidi devote themselves tirelessly to helping people with obesity shed weight, build strength and dig deeper than they ever felt possible to gain self-confidence. “Transformation is the new paradigm,” said Heidi. Chris poignantly urged the 2500+ gathered to decide whether they’re going to be a “paycheck trainer or a passion trainer.”

The duo’s mission continues: “While we humbly accept this award,” Chris said, “it comes with a pledge to dedicate the rest of our lives to this work.”

IDEA World Nutrition & Behavior Change Summit

Laying Down Science With Heart To Help Clients Toward Life Transformation.

It bears remembering that research does not exist in a vacuum.

The rapid unfurling of nutrition and behavior change evidence makes this area of study especially exciting, yet overwhelming, for fitness and nutrition pros. And if it’s confusing for those with skin in the game, imagine how the fire-hose force of optimized headlines hits clients, very few of whom have the filters and knowledge to absorb and stratify data meaningfully. Signals get crossed and misinformation proliferates, to say
the least.

Nutrition specialists, health coaches and personal trainers demonstrated their commitment to opening their minds and filling the information gaps by attending this 2-day “event within the event” on June 29–30. In its third year, the IDEA World Nutrition and Behavior Change Summit sold out all but two sessions, filling the classroom of 400 to capacity and packing 2 days with science paired with countless touchpoints on how to use the ideas now.

If absorbing new concepts is the elixir that keeps us thoughtful and relevant as professionals, then this Summit delivered a triple-espresso jolt with a clean buzz that will reverberate beyond IDEA World and awaken clients around the globe. As first-time attendee Gemma Frankland put it, “I am now back in London feeling inspired and excited about my experiences. I feel I came away with a whole new set of tools to make me better able to help my clients . . . and myself! The trip from London to San Diego was more than worthwhile to have these new ways of approaching old problems.”

Here are just a handful of the highlights delivered by the thoughtful, engaging faculty:

From health care to self-care. Michelle Segar, PhD, MPH, introduced new science for creating sustainable behavior change, as popularized in her best-selling book No Sweat (AMACOM 2015). She presented data, stories and methodologies that pros can use to cultivate sustainable health-related behaviors among clients. “We need to help clients give themselves permission to schedule self-care and not succumb to the louder demands in the priority roll. This is the toughest nut to crack,” she said. “If we are not embedding autonomy that gives clients the power to choose the immediate right ‘whys’ for making change, it’s not going to happen.”

Is it time to eat yet? Nobel Prize–winning body clock science has the answer. Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP, FACSM, has a flair for the dramatic and brought attendees to their feet after conducting what amounted to a scientific symphony. In a world of 24/7 nonstop chaotic eating, relentless stress, continuous screen-gazing, sedentary lifestyles and sleep deprivation, time has become irrelevant. Such constant disruptions of the powerful circadian rhythm are wreaking life-threatening havoc on mental and physical health. Peeke urged all to “honor the clock”—the body clock—and outlined what is sure to become a transformational model to guide when and how to optimally nourish and regenerate the body.

One-and-done cooking: Prep once, eat 10 times. Without the benefit of a proper cooking stage, Chef Abbie Gellman, MS, RD, CDN, sharpened her knives and developed a creative workaround that seared her main point with perfect grillmarks: Starting meal planning and cooking at ground zero every day is a bad idea for most people! To decrease workweek stress, we and our clients can check a lot of boxes off the to-do list by spending a couple of weekend hours on pre-planning and organizing through batch cooking. The recipe packet Gellman provided alone was worth the price of entry. With a handful of well-produced instructional videos customized for the presentation, Gellman invited the audience into her studio kitchen and showed how easy it really is when we have a plan.

Attendee Frankland summed up elegantly why she’ll be back next year: “I cannot truly express how wonderful it was to meet so many other attendees—all people like myself who are keen to keep learning, keep self-developing, and keep things fresh and progressive for clients who put their trust in us.”

Save the date for next year’s event in Anaheim, June 28–29. If you missed this year’s IDEA World Nutrition and Behavior Change Summit, note that all but two of the presentations were recorded and can be purchased as a bundle or à la carte at
ideafit.com/nbcs2018. You can earn up to 7 CECs/CPEUs for the full bundle.

IDEA World Fitness & Nutrition Expo

Think of it as a microcosm for the World experience: the IDEA World Fitness & Nutrition Expo, a hub for exploration and excitement. There was innovation, inspiration and education—all contained in a cavernous convention hall resounding with music and laughter.

  • The brand-new IDEA World Studio Spotlight featured the hottest in barre, dance, high-intensity interval training and everything in between. These free workouts gave Expo attendees the chance to sample numerous styles of group ex fitness and fun.
  • Many of the booth sponsors also offered full workouts, previewing new equipment and workouts. Jaimee Johnson from North Carolina had a great time at the RealRyder® class: “I really like riding to the beat.” The chance to speak to master trainers and try equipment from TRX, TechnoGym, Merrithew™ and many other
    leading companies turned a trip down the aisles into a world-class workout.
  • The Nutrition Pavilion, an IDEA World exclusive, helped fuel the Expo experience with a comprehensive collection of nutrition products and education. More than 100 nutrition brands offered live cooking demos; samples of healthy, whole organic foods and convenient snacks; and insight from top experts on their products.
  • The IDEA booth was a popular place to be. Not only could you score exclusive T-shirts, get details on our new fitness insurance products, purchase our video package and more, but attendees had a great time posing in front of a giant Fitness Journal cover! Posting their covers online with the #IDEAFITNESSJOURNAL hashtag gave everyone an entry to win a free registration to 2019 IDEA World (a $489 value).
  • And, of course, there was shopping! More than 350 vendors were on hand with great deals on technology, clothes, food and education opportunities. The Expo was the spot to connect, explore and synthesize the World experience.

IDEA World Club & Studio Summit: An Epic Playbook

Many fitness entrepreneurs have been going it alone, opening new businesses and products in a bubble, while hoping for the best. Some of these passionate professionals borrowed ideas from other industries and customized them for the fitness industry. In 2016, fitness business leaders decided it was time to create a launching pad for others, and the IDEA World Club & Studio Summit was born. This prime opportunity to learn from fitness business and brand experts is on a winning streak. Here are a few pearls from this year’s event:

  • In his session “Own Your Market: Build a Legacy Business,” Greg Justice, MA, owner of AYC Heath & Fitness in Prairie Village, Kansas, reminded attendees that the heart of a successful fitness business is authenticity and compassion. “The power to change someone’s life is much more real than the training you do,” he said. “That power is in a smile, a nod, a gentle push or a simple ‘Let me show you.’” Justice also shared his “treadside manner” philosophy for client retention: Be fully present and engaged in listening while clients are warming up and cooling down. “Listen and you’ll be able to assess if your client is a decision-maker, an influencer or another type.”
  • Cher Harris, MS, general manager of The Houstonian Club in Houston, talked about qualities that turn a boss into a true leader. In “LEAD: Be the Leader Your Business Deserves,” Harris told fitness entrepreneurs to study other industries for ideas on how to best serve customers, suggesting the hospitality industry as a good start. “Differentiate yourself,” she said, “Do something that makes you feel uncomfortable.” Harris also shared invaluable information on how her facility dealt with severe flooding during and after Hurricane Harvey.
  • More than one fitness-business expert explored the concept of creating a client avatar, a customized, detailed treatment or description of your ideal client. An offshoot of data mining in the digital age, client avatars help fitness entrepreneurs hone in on their purpose and marketing objectives. Jack Wheeler, owner of 360 Fitness in Alberta, Canada, shared his thorough client avatar worksheet with participants and explained that it helps him serve his client base better. “Creating a client avatar enables you to make the experience more life-changing and gets you better results.”

Inspiration Medals Reflect Passion and Purpose

About 450 World attendees walked away with more than knowledge and motivation—they left with a tangible symbol of everything IDEA represents: an Inspiration Medal. Awarded by presenters in 170 sessions, the medals were sought-after and cherished by attendees, and not just because earning one gave you the chance to win terrific prizes.

For Amber Kivett from Monrovia, Indiana, earning a medal was an important goal. After meeting 2017 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year Michael Piercy at the Opening Ceremonies last year, she vowed to come back to World, take his class and earn his respect. She succeeded in that aim—and received her medal. Piercy was inspired by her story: Kivett was just 3 years out of college when a debilitating car accident left her with brain and spinal injuries. She overcame great odds, learning to walk properly again and going on to pursue her passion for personal training. “Movement is medicine,” she says, “and it saved my life.”

And what about those prizes? Rumi Haseyama from Japan won a custom Schwinn® A.C. Performance Bike; Yanon Gray from North Carolina received a 4-day stay for two at the world-famous Rancho La Puerta fitness resort and spa; and Michelle Parolini from Pennsylvania won a 2019 World Convention registration. Congratulations to all!

ACE Mover Academy Makes The Grade

A new feature at IDEA World, this excellent educational track led by ACE faculty equipped attendees to coach their clients to lasting behavior change. Topics included diabetes prevention, pain-free movement, exercise for cancer patients, the life of a fat cell and much, much more. Here are just two important reminders from the ACE experts:

  • “We are not diagnosing anything—we’re not medical professionals,” stressed Anthony Carey, MA, owner of Function First, in San Diego. “We have to be very careful how we respond to clients’ questions. When a client says they injured themselves playing tennis and you say, ‘Oh, it’s your rotator cuff,” you have literally put a label on it and made a diagnosis.”
  • Patience. Persistence. Grace. Those are the qualities needed in the postpartum stage of exercise. “Think of a child learning to walk,” said presenter Farel Hruska. “The child falls down, gets up, falls down, gets up. You wouldn’t say, ‘Sorry, you’re never going to get it!’”

Les Mills Live Party Infusion

This year, Les Mills partnered with IDEA World to share its high-energy offerings. The wildly popular sessions attracted thousands and featured a range of styles, from dance to strength training, HIIT and more. These fitness experiences embodied fun, with a pumping party atmosphere, carefully curated music and creative lighting that enhanced the vibe. Les Mills has a passion for building community and strives to “empower all people to enjoy the unique benefits of movement.”

Showcasing Movement

Where could you find some of the biggest name in fitness? The IDEA World Showcase Sessions, where electrifying performances by Tony Horton, Todd Durkin, MA, Cassey Ho, Stacy McCarthy and many others amped up the energy. Of special note: the IDEA World MEGA Circuit, during which attendees put 18 of the newest, most innovative pieces of fitness equipment to the test. Led by high-level coaches and educators, this event gave attendees the chance to experience firsthand how these new tools would work in a circuit-style format.

Adventures In America’s Finest City

You’re a fit pro visiting San Diego, attending challenging workouts and testing the limits of physical fitness. What do you do in your free time? Get active, of course! IDEA World attendees walked, paddled, cycled and toured by trolley through four unique adventures, all wonderful ways to see San Diego. “Since you are in smaller groups, you make new friends,” said Laurette Marcella Jenning from Huntington Beach, California. “I’ll be looking forward to them next year, too!”