It was 2014 and Jill McKay was at a critical juncture. For the past decade, she had thought of herself as "just a mom," yet recently the idea of founding a fitness organization had begun to consume her. The problem? McKay lacked both confidence and the know-how to get started. Soon, however, she'd find her first step—and the catalyst to fulfilling her aspirations—underneath the Christmas tree.

"My husband had purchased my first IDEA Personal Trainer Institute experience as a Christmas gift," McKay recalls.

Despite feeling skeptical that the fitness event was going to be "one big commercial," she packed her things and headed to Alexandria, Virginia, in February, 2015, eager to explore the educational adventure that awaited her.

"I felt nervous and a bit overwhelmed because I could see all the conference rooms set up and I had my agenda in front of me—so much was yet to come! Walking through the lobby and on the elevator to my room, I met a ton of friendly faces; all there just like me, mostly traveling solo, not knowing anyone, yet obviously sharing a love of health and fitness."

Since attending the IDEA Personal Trainer Institute in 2015—she returned in 2016 to soak up more knowledge and inspiration—McKay has worked dutifully to develop, a Christian wellness ministry that provides fitness and wellness programs to churches.

"The IDEA Personal Trainer Institute certainly has had a huge impact on my career," she says. "I am currently implementing what I have learned (both at the events, and through connections I've maintained after the events) to get this program to stand on its own and grow."

Whether you're like McKay—new to the industry and unsure of where to begin—or a seasoned vet looking for a fresh take on your career, the IDEA Personal Trainer Institute offers you unrivaled opportunities to get ahead of the game.

Information Mother Lode

Each year, IDEA's programming department scours the earth looking for the most respected, most innovative education and experts so that personal trainers can learn top tips, skills and strategies to build and grow fulfilling careers. Here's a small sample of the topics you can expect to learn about this year:

  • Fascia maintains its hot-topic status as new research and techniques continue to emerge. In the session "Current Evidence and Concepts on Myofascia," Anthony Carey, MA, owner of Function First in San Diego, will explore some of the latest research areas, including the existence—or nonexistence—of myofascial lines, and the role that fascia plays in pain perception.
    "I'll also share why people feel the need to roll every day and feel better post-rolling, but feel exactly the same 24 hours later, and why people feel the need to go with harder, more focused pressure over time," says the presenter.
  • Technology has become a major player in helping personal trainers maintain contact with clients outside their three weekly sessions. In "How to Use Technology to Change Your Clients' Behavior," presenter Clifton Harski, director of training and global head coach for Fitwall, plans to share his insights on the top tools available and which are most appropriate for each client. For example, he offers this simple tip to keep clients adherent outside of scheduled sessions:
    "They set an alarm to go off a few times per day that alerts them to move in a way that they determine (walking, stretching, brief exercise, foam roller, etc.), and [then they] mark it off a to-do list on their smartphones," he explains. He discusses the experience with clients during a subsequent meeting to enhance accountability.
  • Investing in equipment can be expensive. But Shari Kalkstein, CSCS, owner of Fortify Your Frame, says you don't need the latest and greatest to provide clients with fun, challenging workouts. "I'm a business of one and don't have a budget for lots of 'toys,'" she says. "However, I like a variety when I work with my older clients."
    If she's looking for new tools to add to her toolbox, Kalkstein can be found roaming the aisles of her local dollar store. She'll share some of her finds in the session "Budget-Friendly Tips for Creative Trainers." "One of my new favorite core activities is done with a beach ball. I'll be using videos of my clients using these dollar store items."
  • Developing a cover-model body is a dream many clients share. But what is truly required to get lean? Adam Feit, MS, assistant director of performance nutrition at Precision Nutrition, plans to answer that question in "The Cost of Getting Lean—Is It Really Worth the Trade-Off?"
    "Trainers and clients alike sometimes forget the sacrifices and struggles one must go through to reach the level of leanness seen on Instagram and magazine covers," Feit says. He will describe various levels of leanness and what it takes to achieve them. That way, he says, trainers can better help clients determine if their goals are realistic.
  • A strong social media presence may be a necessary component of a profitable business, but not everyone makes the right choices when sharing content. One of the biggest mistakes an entrepreneur can make is to focus on himself and not the customer, says Vito La Fata, founder of Fitness Profit Systems. "[Business owners or trainers] send promos and post class updates, etc., but they don't actually deliver . . . helpful and useful content with the intention of serving their ideal avatar," he says.
    Baffled about what to post? In "Social Media Content Made Easy," La Fata will clear up the confusion and provide a step-by-step process for producing attractive, engaging content.

These sessions only scrape the surface—the education well is deep, and there is much you can pull from to expand your knowledge base and grow your business. From exercise science to marketing, there's something for everyone:

Movement Science

  • Mobility and Injury Prevention for Lifelong Health
  • Restorative Poses for Recovery
  • Anatomy in Motion—What Muscles Really Do!
  • Supramaximal Eccentric Training
  • If We Are Going to Call It "Functional" . . .

Coaching Strategies

  • Use Advanced Interviewing Strategies for Targeted Results
  • Communicating With Your Female Clients for Breakthrough Results
  • Discover Your Inner Coach
  • The Other 165—Habit-Based Coaching for Long-Term Success

Specific Populations

  • Training Active Boomers—From Prehab to Rehab
  • New Ideas for Training Generation X Clients
  • Smarter Exercise for Smarter, Fitter Kids!
  • Training the Female Client—How Hormonal Changes Influence Program Design
  • Complete Program Design for the Obese/Overweight Client, Updated for 2017

Financial Freedom

  • How to Attract More Clients and Make More Money
  • The Productivity Plan—Align Purpose With Passion to Create Profit
  • Get Financially Fit in Three Easy Steps!
  • How to Double Your Sales in 6 Months (or Less)!
  • Top Sales and Marketing Tips to Grow Your Training Business Now!

Food and Nutrition

  • Smart and Sustainable Meal Planning for All Clients
  • The Diet Fix—Why Diets Fail
  • Going Keto: Understanding the Science and Applications of the Ketogenic Diet
  • The Power of Eating Right!
  • Better Digestion: The Key to Better Results

Conference Highlights

Top-level education is only part of the overall IDEA Personal Trainer Institute package. Aside from choosing among more than 100 instructional sessions, you'll have the potential to earn up to 21 CECs (and up to 8 additional CECs with preconference sessions); share stories and make new friends during social and networking opportunities; and score deals on education and equipment offerings from your favorite companies.

Check out these two can't-miss fitness events:

  • At Thursday night's Opening Session, "How to Transform Your Passion Into Financial Freedom," Rick Mayo, founder and CEO of Alloy Personal Training Center and Alloy Personal Training Solutions, will share everything he's done to create and license a wildly successful business model and live the life that's always been his dream.
    "I've owned and operated my brick-and-mortar gym since 1992," Mayo says. "I will provide the audience with some of my most effective actionable items that they can take back to their businesses and implement on Monday!"
  • Mix, mingle and build solid connections with fellow attendees and fitness conference sponsors during Friday night's Networking Happy Hour.

Check out some of the other exciting educational opportunities that await you this year:

  • Get tips on how to start your own fitness studio, how to increase sales without feeling like a salesperson and how to promote your business to new markets.
  • Discover new ways to help your female and overweight clients be more compliant and achieve real results, and pick up programming ideas to get kids hooked on exercise.
  • Learn how to design outcome-focused strength programs utilizing multiple modalities.
  • Obtain vital information on a host of common conditions that afflict your aging clients, and learn how to help them regain function and strength.
  • Uncover new science, research and methods for integrating nutrition education into your clients' training sessions.