In true Las Vegas style, the stars came out early for this year’s IDEA Health & Fitness Awards presentations. The magic tricks performed by The Majestix before the keynote addresses on July 7 and 8 raised plenty of goose bumps in the audience. But the magicians’ illusions paled in comparison to the magical and inspirational accomplishments of the 2005 award recipients. Here are bits of wisdom from the newest batch of industry standouts.

Cody Sipe, MS
IDEA Program Director of the Year

Executive director of the A.H. Ismail Center for Health, Exercise and Nutrition at Purdue University, Cody Sipe, MS, has spent a great deal of time organizing and developing programs to increase wellness awareness in his community. He is cofounder of the Coalition for Living Well After 50 and has developed a program to increase walking among the 17,000 members of the Indiana Extension Homemakers Association.

What is the biggest challenge you face as a program director today?

Balance—between professional and family responsibilities, between work and rest time, between opportunities for the company and opportunities for me personally, [and] between fiscal success and community service. Staying in balance requires consistent effort.

Where do you look for credible education?

I always prefer to “go to the source,” so to speak, by seeking out information from organizations and individuals I believe are at the top of their fields. For management issues, I typically seek resources from other industries.

What was the greatest bit of advice you have been given, and how do you apply it to your professional life?

Although I have received plenty of advice from friends, family and colleagues throughout my career, the one [piece] that has really stuck with me came from Roger Seehafer, PhD, a mentor of mine at Purdue University. During the first interview for my current position 5 years ago, Roger told me that he has always believed in hiring great people and then getting out of their way. The challenge, though, [is] identifying the great leaders and then allowing them a significant degree of freedom to fully use their creative energies.

Where do you go or what do you do to keep yourself inspired?

My relationship with God allows me to know that there is an ultimate purpose for my life beyond my profession, and that inspires me to use my professional role to serve others in my community. Of course there is nothing better in the world than to hold, hug and kiss my wife and children. When members tell me that they feel so much better and are able to do things they haven’t done in years because of exercising, it adds meaning to my work and inspires me to do bigger and better things in order to reach more and more people.

Our industry is experiencing tremendous growth. With such an overwhelming number of people entering the health and fitness field, how do you distinguish the best from the rest?

It is very difficult to find someone who has a solid foundation in the exercise sciences, extensive practical experience and a great personality to boot. So at the very least, hiring managers need to initially rely on the first three of the four Ps—personality, professionalism, passion—because people can be trained in the fourth P, [which is] practical skill. However, we still need to hold employees accountable for their skill development and require [them to] complete ongoing training through approved education providers.

Carla Botelho Sottovia, PhD
IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year

Carla Botelho Sottovia, PhD, is a strong proponent of greater education for fitness professionals as a means to inspire and educate the world to become fitter and healthier. She is currently assistant fitness director, a senior personal trainer and an adjunct faculty member at the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas, where she has helped to more than double the previous gross revenue for personal training.

Where do you look for credible education?

I believe all personal trainers should have a college degree in an exercise science–related field and then pursue more specific continuing education.

What was the greatest bit of advice you have been given, and how do you apply it to your professional life?

To be a role model! Unless you literally “practice” what you preach as a personal trainer, you will never be able to inspire others. Do what you preach so that others will follow you!

Where do you see the industry heading in the next 10 years? What do you think will be the greatest focus?

Our profession is becoming more and more specialized. A greater level of education and specialty training will become more prominent. Also, we will see an increased crossover with the medical community and allied health professionals. As we become more specialized, other health professionals will be relying on our expertise to help their clients and patients. One thing that sets [our services] apart from traditional rehab is that we can train the person as a whole and [tailor an individual’s] training to everyday life activities.

What are your thoughts on the possibility of a national board examination for personal trainers? Will this benefit or hinder trainers’ success?

I believe in stronger education prerequisites for all personal trainers. If the standards are set high and a license or board exam really does measure one’s in-depth knowledge, I believe it will benefit the success of personal trainers. Then only the most qualified will be able to reach that level of success. We should be [held to] the same standards as medical doctors. Instead of being doctors who cure disease, we are doctors of fitness and wellness!

Helen Vanderburg
IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year

When she was a child, Helen recalls, her parents worried about her small frame and insisted she get into the pool as a means of gaining strength. She then went on to become a three-time Canada Outstanding Female Athlete of the Year, a world-champion synchronized swimmer, a member of the International Sports Hall of Fame, the founder and president of Heavens Fitness Limited, an international presenter and a group fitness instructor!

What is the biggest challenge you face as a group fitness instructor today?

The biggest challenge I see is staying on top of all the latest class formats being offered. With so much diversity in class design and program offerings, it is sometimes difficult to master skills in a number of new areas. I continually have to re-evaluate which classes I am passionate about teaching.

What was the greatest bit of advice you have been given, and how do you apply it to your professional life?

The [piece of advice] that I think is the most relevant to my professional life in the fitness industry [comes] from author Stephen Covey: “Seek to understand before being understood.” Too often we can jump to conclusions that may or may not be correct; [Covey’s] words continually pop into my mind when I question anything. The other important advice is something my parents instilled in me as a child, and that is to always act from a place of integrity. If [something] doesn’t feel right in your heart and soul, then it’s probably not right.

Where do you go or what do you do to keep yourself inspired?

I once attended a dental-office management conference where I learned a lot about dealing with people and communication. I think it is important to look outside the box and learn from people unrelated to fitness. I also love reading educational books. Since I travel frequently, you will find me in the airport bookstores looking under business, psychology, personal development and, of course, health and fitness. IDEA Fitness Journal is one of my favorite journals for staying on top of what is happening in our industry.

In recent years there has been concern that one of the major roadblocks to the evolution of the group fitness instructor (and field) is compensation. How do you see this affecting the industry, and how can this issue be resolved?

If clubs continue to offer inexpensive memberships and cost cutting, instructors will never be paid fairly. So I believe the issue is much deeper than just increasing the class wages of instructors; it goes to the entire industry. We need to put more value on what we offer so that people will not question paying more for our expertise.

Award Criteria
  • is a healthy role model
  • demonstrates keen professional commitment through community and industry involvement
  • inspires staff through outstanding leadership
  • develops successful, creative and diverse programming that influences both active and underactive people to commit to a healthy lifestyle
    2005 Patty Howard-Jones Scholarship Award Winner: Omar Burgos Garzón of Bogotá, Colombia

    Award Criteria: Applicants must be non-U.S. citizens living outside the United States who are financially unable to attend the IDEA World Fitness Convention® without the award. They also need to be successfully involved in motivating underactive or at-risk individuals to embrace a healthy lifestyle.

    The recipient of this award receives a complimentary regis-tration to the next IDEA World Fitness Convention, four nights’ accommodations and roundtrip airfare to the convention.

    Award History: This scholarship was established in 1998 and is given in memory of IDEA staffer Patty Howard-Jones, who worked tirelessly to make international attendees an integral part of IDEA fitness events.

    Would you like to support this award? If so, please send checks made out to IDEA Health & Fitness Association and mail them to

    Patty Howard-Jones International Scholarship

    c/o IDEA Health & Fitness Association

    10455 Pacific Center Court

    San Diego, CA 92121-4339

    Award Criteria
    • is a practicing industry professional spending at least 15 hours per week actually training clients one-to-one
    • demonstrates exceptional leadership, business management, motivational and instructional skills
    • has inspired clients to greater personal growth and a higher level of fitness
      Sarah Reinertsen
      IDEA Fitness Inspiration Award

      Born with a tissue defect that left one of her legs shorter than the other, 7-year-old Sarah Reinertsen made the decision to amputate, despite worries (which were later realized) of being chosen last for playground games.

      At 13 years old, with sheer perseverance and a little help from prosthetic technology, Sarah broke the 100-meter dash world record for women above-the-knee amputees. The fastest amputee in her class, she was the youngest member of the Disabled Track Team to participate in the 1992 Paralympic Games in Barcelona, Spain; she has set world records in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter races as well as the half marathon. She was the first female with a prosthesis to compete at Ironman Kona and is currently training for Ironman 2005.

      A native of Orange County, California, Sarah received this year’s IDEA Fitness Inspiration Award, which recognizes individuals who have overcome great physical adversity and gone on to include fitness in their lives while inspiring others.

      “I have spent most of my life redefining expectations and setting forth an example of triumph for women and physically challenged athletes everywhere,” says Sarah. “Whatever your challenge is, you can surmount it; the greater the challenge, the greater the glory.”

      Award Criteria
      • demonstrates strong leadership skills through community and industry involvement
      • uses his or her superior abilities and influence as an instructor to motivate active and underactive people to commit to healthy lifestyles
        Apply for 2006 Awards

      Want to apply for next year’s IDEA Health & Fitness Awards? See or the July–August 2005 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal for an application. Application deadline is December 1, 2005.