Energized! That’s how I feel every time I leave a fitness conference. I’m eager to implement fresh ideas and coaching tips into my fitness classes—a feeling I rarely have after completing an online course. Although I’ll be the first to admit that I need digital learning opportunities for their sheer convenience, I still crave live fitness education experiences.

Here are 5 reasons why you, as a fitness instructor, will reap the greatest benefits from live courses and ­conferences.

1. A Face-to-Face Community

Humans thrive when sharing emotions, endorphins and excitement. Being in the same room with like-minded individuals who have a common goal is inspiring. You arrive alive with anticipation and enthusiasm and depart motivated and highly inspired. You look into the eyes of others in the room, laugh with them, learn from them and understand their passion because you feel it, too! You might even feel a sense of awe as you share space with your industry idol. There’s nothing quite like the experience of belonging that says, “We are in this together.”

In her article “Comparing the Effectiveness of Classroom and Online Learning: Teaching Research Methods,” Anna Ya Ni, PhD, associate professor of public administration at California State University, San Bernardino, notes that lack of human interaction may counteract some advantages of online training (Ya Ni 2013).

Many presenters and teachers share this opinion. In a 2012 letter to the editor in the New York Times, Michael Pravica, PhD, associate professor of physics at the University of Nevada, said, “I have found that there is no better way to inspire and motivate my students than in the classroom. The multidimensional world of questions, extemporaneous answers, spur-of-the-moment thinking, blackboard problem-solving and shared excitement in learning about how the world works can’t be replaced by the one-dimensional world of online ­learning.”

2. Ease of Learning

Is it easier to learn among a live group of other learners? Perhaps! According to a national research study, 78% of more than 1,000 students surveyed said it was easier to learn in a classroom (Karambelas 2013). Imagine you’re reading about a revolutionary new idea during an online fitness course. It sounds amazing, yet it feels abstract. Now, imagine attending a conference session on the same topic: You see the concept in action, hear details in person and experience the subject by doing. In which circumstance do you learn better?

John Dewey, a forefather of experimental education, advocated for “participation and cooperation” in learning environments and felt that cooperative, hands-on learning created “a stronger sense of community” (Stremba & Bisson 2009). It’s often easier to extract deeper meaning from abstract concepts in a live learning environment than it is when you are reading about the concepts or listening to a webinar. Visual learners like to see the material, and verbal learners like to hear it, but we all like to experience it. From this meaningful learning platform we can better serve our classes and clients. What good is fitness education if it remains an abstract idea?

3. Personalized Time With Top Professionals

When industry experts teach live sessions, they make themselves immediately available to you—not through a screen, but in the flesh! They’re dedicating their time to share their knowledge and experience, and they feel passionately about their topic and encourage you to ask questions. If you need clarification on a cutting-edge concept or want advice regarding your own unique situation, you ask! Plus, in person, you can have an interactive, fluid discussion with the expert, allowing you to feel more closely connected to the topic, the industry and your role as a group fitness instructor. Through a screen, much of this is lost.

4. Networking Opportunities Abound

You may think you’re going to a live workshop for the continuing education, but you also leave with a brand-new list of associates, referrals and friends (Stout 2011). Connecting names with faces is a critical part of successful networking, which you can do at live courses and conferences. Successful networking may lead to several positive outcomes. You may discover

  • instructors in your region who could sub for you or vice versa;
  • special events in which you can promote yourself as an instructor or advertise your business/club;
  • a potential mentor or mentee;
  • leads to employment opportunities;
  • unique opportunities you never knew existed;
  • new “friends” and “followers” on social media platforms; and
  • private emails for instructors and directors who aren’t on social media, to use when you have a lengthy comment or question to pose.

5. The Almighty Fun Factor!

Attending fitness courses and conferences is more fun than sitting behind a computer. New conversations take place, collective energy electrifies the air, upbeat music drives efforts, and refreshing new ideas fill your brain. Even an all-day conference can fly by when you are seeing, hearing and doing while you learn.

Sometimes the best learning moments find you through humor, which can motivate you to take in new information. “Essentially, humor activates our sense of wonder, which is where learning begins, so it seems logical that humor could enhance retention,” says Edutopia blogger Sarah Henderson, a high-school English teacher (2015). Of course, not all presenters will make you laugh, but in many cases, live learning—much like a concert—will engage you through some means of entertainment or personal­connection.

No Substitute

Although digital course work has convenient benefits, fitness education in a live setting still remains the cornerstone of higher learning. It’s the environment where you are likely to realize the most professional growth. So don’t wait—earn your next continuing education credits within a learning community that you’ll go home from feeling energized and having made new friends.