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2019 IDEA® World Convention: Igniting Passion With Purpose!

When thousands of fitness pros from over 50 countries gather to connect, inspire, celebrate and learn, they light a spark that is felt around the globe.

Purpose, passion and people! The fitness industry is all about forging relationships that lift others up. Fitness professionals have energy to spare, and they are dedicated to mentoring new generations of pros, networking with peers, and motivating clients and participants every day. Strong trends emerging at this year’s IDEA World included an increasing focus on function and fascia; exciting research on movement’s benefits to the brain; and the urgent need for the sickcare and healthcare industries to talk to each other and get better aligned.

Opening Ceremonies: Live Your Purpose From Now On: 2019 Keynote Address by Mastin Kipp


Mastin Kipp at the 2019 IDEA World Convention
“Living your purpose is the greatest gift you can give to those you love. [It] will inspire others
to do the same.” – Mastin Kipp

“There is one thing that separates those who move and those who stagnate,” said keynote speaker Mastin Kipp. “Purpose is the one thing that changes everything. Trainers who motivate me the most are the ones who tap into my why.”

The best-selling author, featured on Oprah’s Emmy award–winning series SuperSoul Sunday, defined purpose as a set of emotional states we generate within ourselves—and then express in service of others. “All industries are moving toward emotional regulation as the name of the game,” said Kipp, adding, “We have to be diligent in our emotions, environments and personal relationships to guard against blocking our nervous system from change.”

Kipp encouraged attendees to recognize past traumas and move through them. He cautioned that trauma is more like a virus that lies dormant in the body between flare-ups than like an infection that responds to an antibiotic. But freeing oneself from trauma makes it possible to invest in a purpose-driven life.

Purpose brings abundance, not scarcity, Kipp declared. “When you align with your purpose, you create financial freedom for your family.” In fact, living your purpose is the greatest gift you can give to those you love. “[It] will inspire others to do the same.”

Personal Training: Perfecting the Profession


Personal Training at the 2019 IDEA World Convention
Personal training sessions brought out the passion and athleticism in attendees.

Presenters covered a range of topics, from strength training and recovery to neuroscience and corrective exercise—all with the goal of enhancing movement and providing a high-quality training experience.


One couldn’t attend a session without encountering the topic of fascia. Whether the goal was sports performance, strength training, flexibility or recovery, the vital role of myofascial release was clear. In “SOMA: The Evolution of Foam Rolling,” with Rodney Corn, MA, attendees received a hands-on lesson in how to apply myofascial and osteofascial pressure to the knees and ankles to improve squat movement. In “Exercise Science Update: New Research and Ideas,” Fabio Comana, MA, MS, explained that multidirectional movement and active muscle contraction during massage improve the effectiveness of myofascial release.


“If my client is a retiree who’s never played sports but now wants to improve his form for golfing, is he an athlete?” Marty Miller, MS, DHSc, asked in “SKILL COMBINE: Speed, Power, Stamina, Agility—The Four Pillars of Athleticism.” Attendees seemed unsure. “Yes, absolutely,” Miller confirmed.

It was a message that surfaced in multiple sessions: Personal trainers provide a safe space to cultivate athleticism and improve performance by training all clients as athletes. Kim Lavender echoed this sentiment in “Slow Down to Speed Up: Focus on Balance and Movement—The Original SAQ.” The athlete approach not only helps clients believe in their physical abilities—what Lavender calls “skill-developed confidence”—but also promotes a deep respect for every client’s athletic capacity and improves the “conscious intentional movements” needed for growth. When trainers frame every session as athletic conditioning, clients are free to embrace their inner athlete—a mental shift that fuels progress.


It is beyond debate that exercise improves our physical and mental health, but how much does neurology play into movement and athleticism? That question is part of a complicated landscape the industry is still learning to navigate. In “Fitness Neurology: Visual, Vestibular and Motor Control Foundations for Fitness Professionals,” Eric Cobb, DC, explored the brain’s perception of pain and physical cues as a critical component of rehabilitation. Cobb’s fascinating session demonstrated how manipulating the brain’s input (information received through the five senses) can improve output (motor control) and inform training techniques.


The practice of corrective exercise is booming. Today, more clients understand that progressing to the next level of training may require relearning proper posture and basic movements. In a world where many are increasingly hunched over desks or cellphones or risking injury in popular fitness competitions, the need for corrective exercise and injury prevention has never been more pressing. “Daily behavior and habits become your anatomy,” Scott Hopson told attendees in the session “Ankle, Hip, Thoracic Spine and Shoulder: Four Major Rocks of the Human Body and Strategies for Success.” “What you do is what your body becomes.”

Group Fitness: Grins and Strong Shins


Group Training at the 2019 IDEA WOrld Convention
There was no shortage of energy in this year’s group exercise sessions.

During Opening Ceremonies, keynote speaker Mastin Kipp encouraged the crowd to “co-regulate to self-regulate.” What better environment to practice this in than the ubiquitous, positive, high-vibration group fitness class? Group exercise is the industry’s wise grandmother who paved the way for all fitness pros with a long line of steps, bars, bands, balls and grapevines. A promising trend: the recognition that being welcoming and inclusive to people of every shape, size, age and ability is the new normal. Take the following cues from this year’s event:


No matter the format, group exercise is all about the energy created when people move in unison. An educated instructor with the right choreography plus a killer playlist is a de facto change-maker. The result is alchemy in motion. Indoor cycling, which remains popular, now hinges on the experience itself, and class participants expect dim rooms, strategic lighting and technology that both tracks their progress and takes them on a journey.


While step classes may be declining, other formats—like dance, circuit training, kickboxing and numerous fusion offerings—are enjoying a comeback, with many fun twists. “Cardio Funk Rewind,” for example, led by Tahneetra Crosby and Alex McLean, took participants back in time with nostalgic rhythms paired with updated choreography.


While a good instructor can lead an excellent class with little to no equipment, it’s a blast to have tools that heighten the experience and help people reach their goals. Now, more than ever, instructors need to know the right way to teach a class using resistance bands, weighted bars, medicine balls, balance boards, kettlebells, suspension equipment, stability balls and more. In “BOSU® + Bar: Grip, Tip, Flip & Strip,” 2003 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year Keli Roberts and Alison Galvan led attendees through a sophisticated system called the “graduation grid” that unlocked the code for more than 100 moves and variations.


High-intensity interval training is still riding a popularity wave, thanks in part to the fact that, done correctly, it’s effective and efficient. Many well-designed HIIT offshoots let people explore this format safely. “Mashup:® HIIT With Active Recovery Mashup,” taught by Jamie Zacharias, MS, promoted a holistic approach to HIIT classes. Zacharias encouraged instructors to incorporate “multiple modalities, including a dedicated active recovery segment.”


To engage and empower participants, it’s critical for fitness instructors to build community. It’s good for physical, mental and emotional health. The concept of play is back in the spotlight, and the timing is perfect as people struggle with work–life balance. “Play and work are mutually supportive; neither can thrive without the other,” said 2010 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year Jonathan Ross in his session “Funtensity—The Workout.” “We need the newness of play, its sense of flow and being in the moment. We need the sense of discovery, liveliness and purpose of work—the sense that we are in service for others.”

Mind-Body: Solid Traditions, Fun Innovations

Imagine you have a free pass to weave in and out of mind-body sessions, listening, observing, absorbing, staying curious: You discover Pilates sessions focused on athletes and new moms; catch the feverish fun of a barre class led by a trio of stars; and slip into a hushed space where participants, lying on their backs, are guided through a full body scan.

Rooms are awash with color—green balls, red bands, orange rollers. Or the lights are down, and a soothing voice is leading a mindful movement session. Attendees are practicing advanced techniques in one room, scribbling notes in another, working their “cupcakes” in a third.

A few valuable lessons from the presenters:


“Be a good student,” advised longtime yoga teacher Stacy McCarthy. “There is no place for arrogance in yoga teaching. Teaching and teacher are not the same thing. Be humble.”


Addressing each of them will help your clients enjoy freedom of movement. “We want our barre classes to be functional, even if it’s not the first thing you think about in relation to barre,” said Lauren George, MS. “After 20 reps, you’re just taking that pounding in your joints, not your muscles.”


In “Biohack Your Body: Anti-Aging Secrets to Movement Longevity,” Emily Splichal, DPM, MS, shared numerous tips—including foods, supplements, movements and grounding techniques—that can increase our odds of moving well throughout our lives. “Collagen health is the foundation to human movement,” she told attendees.

Preconference Sessions: Deep Dives and High Fives


Nico Gonzalez at the Preconference Sessions for the 2019 IDEA World Convention
Nico Gonzalez shared valuable lessons on movement science and corrective exercise.

Among many traditions at IDEA World, a knockout preconference lineup is one of the nonnegotiable standards. Attendees use this opportunity to immerse themselves in half- or full-day sessions designed to deepen their understanding of niche topics. In some cases, a new certification is the reward. Here’s a small taste of this year’s action:


The skills imparted in this interactive workshop represent a burgeoning opportunity for fitness pros with the enormous vertical market of aging boomers. There are far more aging adults than there are fit pros—and those adults need help. Benchmarking and keen observation are nuances that set this specialty apart. “Make good notes, not just, ÔÇÿHe did 8.’” said Ritchie. “On a chair-to-stand exercise you can record everything from deceleration, eccentric control, center-of-gravity control and postural issues to foot positioning, ankle control . . . the list is endless.”


Trainers and group exercise instructors alike got a solid basis in movement science, movement analysis and foundational exercises that can be adapted for almost any application. The combination of lecture, demo and drills helped to connect the dots from theory to movement to corrective exercise. “As Joseph Pilates said, we never want to have our habits overrule our ability to do the movement. In other words, our nervous system should not control that movement. We should ask our bodies to do something and then direct the body do it,” shared Helen Vanderburg.


You can see only so many clients a day, and even that many can be exhausting. Despite the hard work, many fit pros are still not seeing the financial reward they anticipated. This course illuminated strategies and tactics for creating content that can be repurposed time and again, plus systems that work continuously to earn rave reviews from clients while also providing passive income streams. “Selling is serving,” said La Fata. “Once you understand that mindset, that’s when you’ll see the abundance start to come. Mindset is the difference between millionaires and everyone else. They think differently.”

IDEA World Club & Studio Summit: Educating Entrepreneurs


Trina Gray at the 2019 IDEA World Club & Studio Summit
Trina Gray presenting at the 2019 IDEA World Club & Studio Summit.


Since its inception in 2016, the IDEA World Club & Studio Summit has provided the best in hands-on, creative entrepreneurial magic, launching or reinvigorating numerous fitness businesses. A few nuggets from this year’s program:

  • In “Produce More Revenue,” Kendra Bylsma, Brian Nunez and Billy Polson showered attendees with tried-and-true revenue ideas for boosting growth and retention, including starting a membership ambassador program, adding a corporate wellness model, offering “twist-and-sip” classes on Friday nights (yoga and wine), and creating a “success calendar” for members. “We celebrate and chart goals, giving us all a chance to stay connected,” said 2019 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year Nunez. “If members want to participate, they commit for 1 year. We get a 12-month commitment, and they get a chance to track their success over a reasonable period of time.”


  • In “Create More Ways to Get Clients in Your Doors,” Rachel Cosgrove discussed how to set up a stronger system to attract leads, create meaningful trial offers and stimulate referrals. Cosgrove urged budding entrepreneurs to market to people’s emotions; she had everyone think about a potential client and then take 5 minutes to write a letter from that person. Results were inspiring, driving home the notion that this business is first and foremost about personal transformation. She urged attendees to step outside of themselves, stop focusing on how many “likes” they get on social media, and focus on the person in front of them. “We’re not normal,” Cosgrove said. “What’s the first thing you do when you check into a hotel? You find the gym, right? That’s not the status quo, and your clients aren’t you. Learn who they are and help them.”


  • Kim Lavender lit a fire beneath attendees with her approach to finding personal strengths as a leader in “Build Your Business Toolbox.” One of her practical tips involved leveraging language to empower yourself and your staff. “Your words can shape winning relationships and results,” Lavender said. “Language is one of your most powerful tools as an instructor, coach or manager. When [you use it] wisely, you bring out the best in everyone, including yourself.”

IDEA World Nutrition & Behavior Change Summit

This groundbreaking event-within-the event returned to IDEA World for a fourth consecutive year in 2019. For a special report on the Summit, see “2019 IDEA World Nutrition & Behavior Change Summit.”

ACE Mover Academy


Anthony Wall at ACE Mover Academy
Anthony Wall presented on customizing functional fitness and health coaching.

In its second year at IDEA World, the Academy hit its stride, opening with a kettlebell workout and delivering in-depth education on 14 topics, including “cognified” movement, lifestyle medicine, functional anatomy and fascial line mobility.

Two takeaways from this year’s program:


“Exercise is the foundation—no question,” said Greg Degnan, MD, during a panel session on “Practical Applications of Health Coaching.” “But exercise is not enough. Our job is to convince clients they can succeed at lifestyle change.” Fellow panelist Dennis Sanchez noted that some clients—especially older ones—believe they shouldn’t talk back to their doctor. Teaching them how to have that conversation is one thing coaches can do: “I hear what you’re saying. You think I need cholesterol medication. But first, I’d like to try lifestyle change.”


Combining physical activity with brain-specific exercise can help to minimize both physical and cognitive decline, said Dan Ritchie, PhD, in his packed session, “Cognified Fitness for Optimal Aging.” So how does physical activity—along with specific tasks meant to build our cognitive reserve—affect the brain? “Cardiovascular fitness improvements lead to metabolic and neurochemical changes that influence the neural hardware integrity of the brain,” Ritchie explained. “Cognitive benefits of exercise may also come from the neural stimulus of coordinative and cognitive movement task complexity, which influences brain software.”

The Success Formula: 12 Essentials Powered by TRX®

TRX Training at the 2019 IDEA World Convention

In an exciting first for IDEA World, TRX delivered a special track for pros determined to succeed in the ultra-competitive world of fitness. Sessions covered corrective exercise, functional training, Suspension Training®, business skills and more.

“The art to good coaching is to understand where [the client] is and then coach for variability,” said Michol Dalcourt in “Using Research to Enhance Your Coaching and Programming Skills.” And just as clients must adapt to progress, fit pros must adapt to elevate the training—an end goal they are better equipped to reach with illuminating research and demonstrations provided by expert presenters.

IDEA World Fitness & Nutrition Expo


IDEA World Fitness & Nutrition Expo
Attendees had the chance to pick up nutrition samples and fitness swag, and try out new equipment.


The 2019 Expo offered an impressive array of innovative products, programs and services. Here are a few highlights:

  • Club and Studio Row. New for 2019, the Club and Studio Row connected gym and business owners with leaders in equipment, fit tech, education and business solutions—all in one convenient location.
  • Swag and Sweat. In addition to great samples, many booths offered full workouts, turning a trip down the aisles into a world-class workout.
  • IDEA World MEGA Circuit. Speaking of workouts, the MEGA Circuit, emceed by fitness star Alex Isaly, featured 17 stations with top-level trainers on hand to ensure a safe and effective experience. The Circuit took place in the Showcase Arena, sponsored by TRX®.
  • The Nutrition Pavilion fueled event attendees with a comprehensive (and tasty) collection of healthy foods (plus valuable education).
  • The MEGA Group Fitness Bash. Emceed by the GX24® Presenter Team, this hourlong workout gave fit pros the chance to sample a variety of training techniques, offering fresh ideas to take back home.
  • At the IDEA booth, attendees scored exclusive T-shirts, learned about IDEA’s new FitPost service, purchased video courses and more. The giant Fitness Journal cover was back by popular demand! Posting cover shots online gave models a chance to win a free 2020 World registration.
  • And, of course, there was shopping galore, including great deals on technology, clothing, food and education!

LES MILLS LIVE: A Group Exercise Explosion!

Les Mills Live

Imagine hundreds of fit pros sweating to the beat of bass-heavy music as they push through an exhilarating, high-intensity workout. This was a typical scene during the LES MILLS LIVE event that ran concurrently with IDEA World. Infectious energy filled the immense halls, drawing in throngs of participants.

The event covered the gamut of group fitness formats, from dance to martial arts-inspired workouts to strength training and cycling. Highlights included the highly attended BODYCOMBAT workout and THE TRIP, an immersive cycling experience that guides attendees through awe-inspiring landscapes and cities.

Showcase Sessions

Caleb Marshall, Kaisa Keranen, Todd Durkin and Tony Horton at the Showcase Sessions for 2019 IDEA World Convention

Working out directly with our fitness heroes is a highlight of IDEA World. Mega-stars leading this year’s Showcase sessions were Caleb Marshall (The Fitness Marshall), Tony Horton, Kaisa Keranen, MS, Gabby Reece, Todd Durkin, MA, Mindy Mylrea and SGT Ken®.

“I may not make it 5 minutes,” said one attendee as she began Just Move by KaisaFit, but she was still going strong at the end.
Tired. Happy. Accomplished. And ready to help her own clients find the same success.

Inspiration Medals

Receiving an Inspiration Medal is the pinnacle of success for IDEA attendees. Presenters awarded more than 420 medals to those who showed an extra spark of joy, knowledge or enthusiasm during sessions. “Coming to World and receiving [two] medals was life-changing,” said first-time attendee Robert Carroll from Tucson, Arizona.

Medal mania culminated in a heavy-medal party where honorees had the chance to win some great prizes. Top swag went to these lucky people:

  • Lena Ray, Solon, Ohio: Schwinn® Bike
  • Michelle Leachman, Santa Barbara, California: Rancho La Puerta Spa Trip
  • Pamela Ovah, Hoteville, Arizona: 2020 IDEA World Registration

2019 IDEA World Fitness Awards

“We chose our theme, ‘Ignite Your Passion,’ because there is nothing more important than finding and honoring your unique calling in this world,” said Kellie Kaseburg, IDEA’s senior director of events, as she officially opened 2019 IDEA World. “Your passion has the ability to change lives.” The awards presentation sparked that passion during Opening Ceremonies as voices from the stage told stories of courage, hope, fortitude and, of course, inspiration.


Doris Thews Award for IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year at the 2019 IDEA World Convention

In 1984, this year’s honoree Doris Thews was on front-desk duty at a club. The 6 a.m. instructor was a no-show, and Thews led the class. “I crushed it,” she said with a grin—and there was no looking back. Once she knew she was serious about fitness (“This was my vehicle”), she attended her first IDEA World as a volunteer, living proof that a humble beginning can yield a great future. Today, Thews travels internationally as a brand ambassador, group fitness instructor, personal trainer and mentor. “I’m grateful to God that I have the ability to show [a] love of fitness throughout the world.”

Co-finalists: Stacy McCarthy and Jeffrey Scott.


Brian Nunez Award for IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year at the 2019 IDEA World Convention

2019 award recipient Brian Nunez may have coined the perfect phrase for a fit pro’s inner purpose: “It’s coaching for a cause rather than applause.” Nunez tailors his gym in Santa Clara, California, to the “mother, father, business professional, student and person who would never consider himself or herself an ‘athlete.’” He said his young daughter still thinks his job is “running around and yelling at people all day,” but his own explanation was more nuanced: “Nothing is more real than sharing your energy every day. Tap into your voice and share it with the world.”

Co-finalists: Hayley Hollander and Pete Holman.


Amy Boone Thompson Award for IDEA Fitness Leader of the Year at the 2019 IDEA World Convention

Reflecting on her 23 years in the fitness industry, honoree Amy Boone Thompson spoke of the people who have enriched her life. In her roles with Fit4Mom®, Wellbridge and Les Mills US (to name a few), she fostered strong relationships to further the mission of creating a healthier future. Accepting her award, she stressed the importance of advocacy (“I’m passionate about our careers”) and networking (“It’s powerful and empowering”), while acknowledging that “we have a lot of work to do in the industry.” Collaboration is key, she added: “We have to do this together to really Inspire the World to Fitness®.”

Co-finalists: Travis Barnes and Tricia Murphy Madden.

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


Jay Blahnik 2019 IDEA Jack Lalanne Award at the 2019 IDEA World Convention

When 93-year-old Elaine LaLanne took to the stage to present the award named for her late husband, she began with a laugh: “It’s great to be on this side of the grass,” she quipped. But things got serious&mdsah;and emotional—when recipient Jay Blahnik came to the podium. Visibly moved, Blahnik told the crowd it was 33 years to the day since he’d taught his first fitness class. “It was bad,” he joked. But it got better. Much better. Blahnik went on to become a highly sought-after instructor, writer and program developer, influencing millions of people worldwide. He is now senior director of fitness for health technologies at Apple.

His honesty and sincerity shone through: “You love [fitness], but you hear the whispers—how your parents want you to be a lawyer! Ignore the whispers and make your move,” he said. “You can be the best hour in someone’s day.”


Victoria Arlen 2019 IDEA Fitness Inspiration Award at the 2019 IDEA World Convention

There is something very powerful about connecting with our “why.” The 2019 Inspiration Award recipient’s account of how she harnessed that power brought her audience to tears and cheers. In 2006, as an athletic young girl, Victoria Arlen was struck by two rare conditions that left her unable to move. She was aware of everything, especially her family’s unwavering encouragement, and yet she couldn’t communicate. After 4 years “locked in her body,” she began her fight for recovery. “If you give me a second chance,” she prayed, “I promise I won’t waste a minute.” Arlen has kept that promise, becoming a gold-medal Paralympic swimmer and, after 10 years in a wheelchair, walking again. She was a semi-finalist on Dancing With the Stars and is currently an on-air host for ESPN.

“We are all here to inspire. We’re all here for a purpose,” she said, pointing out that the word impossible can become I’m possible. “Movement,” she said, “creates miracles.”

Sandy Todd Webster

Sandy Todd Webster is the editor in chief of IDEA’s award-winning publications. She is Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified and is a Rouxbe Certified Plant-Based Professional cook.

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November-December 2020 IDEA Fitness Journal

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