IDEA Fitness Fusion couldn’t be a more apt name for our annual spring education fitness conference. Concepts from all corners of fitness have fused, morphed and layered beautifully over the past few years to give professionals from all disciplines interesting and meaningful exercise choices for their clients.


This year’s fitness conference, held at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare and Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois (April 23–26), featured everything from athletic sport performance circuits, nutrition topics and functional moves for group exercise to high-low step, life coaching, Pilates and yoga. Such a breadth of quality classes makes it challenging to sort out what’s new and exciting, but here are few highlights from the weekend.

New Content/New Educators

  • ACE’s Fabio Comana, MA, MS, is hardly new to IDEA’s program, but he is noteworthy because of his impressive command over a broad range of very complex topics. He presided over three fascinating and useful lectures/workshops on metabolic training, balance training and functional regressions emphasizing triplanar movement.
  • Wendy Williamson, PhD, is new to IDEA’s line-up. She is an experienced educator who consults by helping facilities train their trainers and who also works on the frontlines of medical fitness full-time. Williamson kicked off her IDEA teaching debut with a session about training trainers and went on to show her versatility by speaking about the lumbopelvic puzzle and spinal stabilization for women.
  • Jill Winegar steered the STOTT PILATES® curriculum with an opening-day precon on working with Pilates props and additional sessions on total-body toning, Pilates using the stability ball, and “STOTT PILATES Fitness Circle® Flow.” Her teaching style and use of a model to demonstrate as she cued and explained things were excellent.
  • Shari Kalkstein, PTA, CSCS, knows her stuff and delivered her material in totally no-nonsense style, but with a flair of humor that had attendees doubled over with laughter at times. She has an impressive knowledge of anatomy and biomechanics and uses her therapy background to bolster her training services. With more aging seniors joining the ranks daily, her knowledge of and experience with postural issues for older adults is sorely needed today and was welcomed by those who attended the session.
  • Donna Hutchinson is by no means new to presenting, but she is new to IDEA audiences. Her experience and confidence combined with an approachability that lent a conversational air to her presentations. Here are five quick steps she provided for creating innovative and edgy new programs: 1. Identify the need. 2. Create the experience. 3. Have the right people. 4. Get pumped! 5. Evaluate.
  • Melissa Baumgartner is a personal trainer, life coach and corporate worksite specialist who brought her enthusiasm for the psychological dimension of fitness to the Fusion program.
  • Brett Klika left attendees wanting more after his “Sports Star in 60 Minutes” presentation. A protégé of the Todd Durkin Fitness Quest 10 school of inspiration and “edutainment,” Klika has a rare magic and the type of magnetism that draws people to him effortlessly. He huddled up all of his sweaty, exhausted students at session’s end and told them that if they wanted more from being a fitness professional or from anything in life, they had to BE more. He had every one of us believing we could do anything!

The best thing about all of these presenters—veterans and newbies alike—is that they are humble, approachable and classy professionals who are genuinely interested in sharing their knowledge and ensuring that attendees have a top-notch experience. They know that by inspiring their students at these fitness events, they are putting one more strong link in the most kinetic chain of them all—the movement to Inspire the World to Fitness®.

New Fitness Equipment

New on the equipment front was Indo-Row®, an updated rowing machine concept that is reportedly all the rage in group ex in Los Angeles. Fusion attendees were among the first fitness pros around the world to see it presented; Jay Blahnik and Josh Crosby were on hand to introduce the concept and lead sessions. The organic-looking, wooden-bodied rower has a low-profile, clear plastic tank (a circle about 2 feet in diameter) on the foot end, with paddles inside that create resistance and a nice whooshing sound on the back stroke. Attendees worked in teams, as partners and as a crew, for this fun, high-intensity workout. With Blahnik coaching, it’s hard not to get a good workout and leave with a smile. Watch the Indo-Row® video.

Another piece of equipment that got good demo mileage was the MVe™ Fitness Chair by Peak Pilates. Cherry Herzog explained that the concept of the chair takes Joseph Pilates’ vision of the Wunda Chair a step further. Small enough for the home and versatile enough for total-body conditioning, it has interesting potential as a tool for training multijoint, multiplanar movement, strength and endurance, dynamic flexibility and propulsive strength and endurance.

Finally, Douglas Brooks, MS, used an interesting tether system in his BOSU® Athletic Balance workshop. Basically, it’s an elastic band encased in soft accordion-like material that clamps on either end to belts worn by training partners or to the wall if you’re training alone (like rock climbing gear). The tethers can be used for many drills—your imagination’s the limit. Brooks used them for balance perturbation. One partner would leap onto the BOSU (dome up) and find his balance point; meanwhile, the training partner would pull on the cord and move it from side to side to try to unbalance the first partner. Watch the tether system video.

Buzz on Fitness Programming

Conversations in both the hallways and in the Fitness Expo—which was full of great deals on equipment, education and apparel—were passionate and interesting.

Based on conversations with delegates and presenters, here are some of the topics and questions on people’s minds.

  • Small-Group and Partner Training. IDEA has already published a lot on this subject, so be sure to check the IDEA Library for resources. However, there are a lot of nuances in this business model yet to be explored. We’ll be looking into programming for partners and for groups up to 10 strong. Also, while it’s clear this is a lucrative model, how do we systematize what we’re doing to maximize dollars earned and keep the administrative overhead low? How do you arrive at the right price point, etc.?
  • Program Design for Seniors. We all know the stats on the volume of senior exercisers flooding the market. Have you researched this special population’s powerful potential for your club or training business? Do you understand how to communicate with this segment? What kind of senior fitness programming is appropriate in the group and personal training settings? Look for a new column dedicated to this topic beginning in September IDEA Fitness Journal.
  • Step Programming. There was some interesting discussion here about how instructors are overcomplicating high-low for their participants. Is it because instructors are not challenged unless they throw in advanced choreography? Are group leaders designing classes for themselves or with the participant in mind? Are we killing participant enthusiasm with too many bells and whistles?
  • Stretching. What are safe, effective best practices when it comes to stretching? There seems to be a lot of confusion out there. What does the research say? How should we proceed with clients?
  • Childhood Obesity. How can we give kids back the power of play or a sense of entitlement about making decisions about their playtime activities? As Brian Grasso, who presented two kids’ fitness topics at the fitness conference, said: “When we stop making passive passengers out of kids and start expecting them to be the active drivers of their activity, that’s when we change the physical culture.”

Even if you weren’t at IDEA Fitness Fusion, let us know what areas you’re challenged by and how we can present those better for you. Please take a moment to jot a note in the comment area below, so the community can weigh in, or e-mail editor in chief Sandy Todd Webster directly at [email protected], so we can dialogue about it.

And in case you didn’t attend—or did attend and would like to see other sessions—be aware that many of the sessions were videotaped and will soon be available through the IDEA Video Subscription service. Keep watching for them, as new streaming content is added each month.

We also invite you to read the Fitness Fusion blogs, and view the photos and videos.

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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