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IDEA world fitness convention™

Who could have foreseen in 1984 that a modest gathering of 600 fitness instructors at a fitness conference in downtown San Diego would turn into an event bringing the entire fitness industry together?

Certainly not co-founders Kathie and Peter Davis, who shared a glimpse of IDEA’s humble beginnings (in a spare bedroom in their home) during a warm and personal presentation that kicked off the convention’s Opening Ceremonies as well as IDEA’s 30th Anniversary gala (July 5–8)—again in downtown San Diego. However, this time almost 10,000 attendees, exhibitors, faculty, staff, assistants, expo hall guests and VIPs from more than 50 countries and from all fitness specialty areas gathered to make it the fitness event of the year.

The anniversary cachet of the convention was already special, but there was more to this than the simple marking of time and cutting of a birthday cake. It was a milestone for the entire industry. The fitness profession is indeed young, but it has made quantum leaps from the days of spandex and high impact. Pros are exploring, discovering and inventing new ways to move people (both physically and psychologically). Instructors and trainers are catalyzing transformation and beginning to understand the power they create in others through fitness and wellness.

The sheer size, depth and breadth of the education were astonishing. Over 300 sessions blending the most recent science-based material with fully practical implementation guidelines had people madly scribbling notes to capture every ounce of information. The expert faculty of 180 presenters delivered everything from a massive (and massively fun) boot camp on the aircraft carrier USS Midway to a dance-off (“IDEA Supreme Dance Battle”) between the leading choreography brands. There was some major glitz and glamour, too. Jane Fonda, no stranger to the convention with two previous appearances, electrified the Opening Ceremonies with her nod to the past, but more so with her excitement and insights about fitness in the future, mostly as it ties to engaging the brain and to customizing programming for older adults, who are proving to be a force majeure as fitness consumers.

IDEA “Whirled” seems a more fitting name for the vitality and electric vibe of this year’s fitness event. Only the most fresh and pure ingredients were added to the hopper. They were then blended at turbo speed over 4 days of unparalleled fun and education. The end result? A nutritious and delicious smoothie served up to thousands of hungry professional minds who took home what they had learned—and felt—during this special time so they could in turn guide their own clients to BE: The Transformation.

Food & Nutrition Lead IDEA’s New Era of Programming

Especially notable in IDEA’s programming and in the IDEA World Fitness & Wellness Expo was an increased emphasis on food and nutrition. There were 32 food and nutrition exhibitors in the expo this year, as well as 30% more nutrition sessions than IDEA has ever put on the program. This commitment to educate fitness professionals about such topics directly addresses perhaps the biggest challenge clients have: food and diet issues.

IDEA has long covered nutrition in convention programming and in its various publications, but it has significantly stepped up its coverage in the past few years and will continue to broaden its reach and leadership in these areas. As Kathie and Peter Davis said during their opening remarks at the convention, “We believe food—like exercise—is medicine with tremendous healing power.”

Notable in this realm for 2012:

  • A very spirited and open-minded panel discussion (Nicki Anderson, Teri Gentes, Steve Hertzler, PhD, RD, and John Berardi, PhD) shook up traditional thinking about nutrition scope of practice for fitness professionals and created a strong platform for action steps. “It’s clear we have much work to do in this arena as an industry,” said Sandy Todd Webster, IDEA Fitness Journal’s editor in chief and moderator of the panel. “Many of the trainers in the audience were frustrated and confused because, while they desperately want to help clients with food and diet challenges, they’re not sure where to draw the line or what they are legally able to do without risking their liability. They are looking for leadership and education so they can navigate these seas with more confidence. Fitness professionals simply want to give clients every tool available to be successful.”

Some of the main action items to emerge from the discussion included creating “crosstalk” among fitness and nutrition professionals to encourage better communication and to foster shared client care; setting realistic standards for fitness pros to operate by; creating sound and standardized nutrition education for fitness professionals; and developing safety standards so professionals will “do no harm.”

  • Naturopathic physician Jade Teta’s standing-room-only session, “How to Get Rid of Belly Fat Through Nutrition and Exercise,” drew attendees in like a tabloid headline at the supermarket checkout. His message boiled down to a simple quote: “To handle the belly fat problem, we need to understand hormones, which ultimately determine fat used, hunger, satiety, cravings, mood, health and motivation. There is not a single diet that decreases belly fat,” he said. Insulin (in fat, muscle, brain, liver) is not necessarily the bad guy, he explained. It’s more about where we are insulin resistant. People have different insulin needs and sensitivities. “Starch and sugar, plus stress, equals fat storage in the belly.”
  • The BE: Fueled cooking demonstration stage in the expo was a bold new step for IDEA. Health and food educator Teri Gentes taught a lecture-demo-taste-test session called “Power Fueling—Brown Bag Lunches and Snacking Essentials,” in which she made and served menu items such as raw nut hummus (as dip and in Nori rolls); Mediterranean tapenade; black-bean salsa; sprouted-grain wraps with avocado butter, veggies, pesto and hummus; apple sun butter and chia sandwiches with cinnamon coats; apple chia bites; and stuffed dates with almond butter, walnuts, dark chocolate, cayenne and cinnamon. She also served huge helpings of practical tips meant to simplify food prep and ingredient selection.
  • The next day, Brett Klika from Fitness Quest 10 and Evelyne Lambrecht of FitZee Foods were back on the same stage to share the magic behind straightforward 5-Ingredient Meals. They introduced attendees to easy-prep/time-saving techniques and healthy, not-so-common ingredients. “Our biggest problem seems to be deciding what to eat,” said Klika. “Use common sense. Be reasonable. Eat as much ‘real’ food as you can.”

Fitness Leadership: Management Makeover

After a hiatus, the management preconference track returned to IDEA World—generating much interest. As the needs of members and staff evolve, fitness managers and directors are growing, learning, and developing better methods of communication, interaction and motivation. This upgraded leadership includes a crucial ingredient: self-awareness. It’s no coincidence that good teams have good leaders. Good leaders take the time to invest in themselves and share the rich rewards with others.

Here are some highlights from the leadership preconference, which set the professional pace for the rest of the fitness event:

  • In her session “Be Extraordinary,” Helen Vanderburg, 2005 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and 1996 IDEA Program Director of the Year lavished attention on the concept of what makes a person extraordinary. “Extraordinary leadership is contagious and will infect your health club and staff with extraordinary results,” she said.
  • Shannon Fable, 2006 ACE Group Fitness Instructor of the Year and founder and chief executive officer of Sunshine Fitness Resources in Boulder, Colorado, led several information-packed sessions on the intricate details of elevated management. In “Building Your Team of MVPs,” Fable reviewed the top 10 traits of group exercise instructors and gave tips on how to recruit, reward and support staff by creating standard operating procedures that everyone can use as guidelines.
  • Vito La Fata, owner of Fitness Evolution in Laguna Hills, California, shook up the personal training management system with a new take on working with people. “We need to empower our clients to take control of their own issues and progress,” he said. “The more people we can touch, the better.” He shared the hard numbers behind shifting from a one-on-one business model to a 30-minute express and semiprivate/group training model. “Make fitness a gathering,” he said. “Start thinking of yourself as the valuable, respected health professional you are.”

Personal Training: Challenging Convention

IDEA World Fitness has always involved innovation and progression. But this year’s fitness event seemed to take these concepts to another level.

Self-massage techniques: the new stretching. In the preconference session “Twist Conditioning: Training the Fascial Lines,” co-presenter Cassidy Phillips showed attendees how self-massage techniques could create immediate improvements in strength and functional capacity. He focused quite a bit on the lower leg, stating that this area of the body is far more important for athleticism than even the all-popular core. “Most of the population talks about the core,” he mused. “But if you don’t have an Achilles tendon, you do not move forward.”

What is the true core? In a similar vein, Michol Dalcourt, inventor of the ViPR™ and director of the Institute of Motion, encouraged attendees to forget common thoughts on core training. He began by discussing the commonly practiced elbow plank exercise. “How long should we hold that position?” he asked. “30 seconds? 60? 90? According to Stuart McGill [director of the Spine Mechanics Laboratory at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario], the answer is 10 seconds. Hold for 10 and then rest.”

The problem with current core-training practice, Dalcourt said, is that it relies on overactivation of muscles to maintain static positions. This overactivation could be doing more damage than good. Back pain, for example, could be the result of an inability of muscle tissues to “turn off” or relax. “We’re sacrificing mobility to improve stability,” said Dalcourt. Instead of focusing on static positions, he suggested, trainers should incorporate movement and timing techniques into clients’ sessions. “We need to create a system that is both mobile and stable. It’s about the physiological state of maintaining body-wide tension while producing gross movement patterns.” He also went so far as to suggest that movement and timing are the new corrective exercise.

Dalcourt then declared that it’s time to think of the core differently. “It’s about chain reaction kinetics starting from the ground up.” Rather than focus so heavily on how the trunk moves—or doesn’t—trainers should consider that what happens below the belt could have greater impact on movement and function than the core does. “Without properly functioning feet, core strength is irrelevant. If the feet function properly, the core will work properly.” Could the foot be the new core? Dalcourt thinks so.

Breaking free of the “time for money” trap. In the fitness world, most people make money by teaching classes or leading training sessions. Steve Jack, owner of Mind-Body-Energy, believes there is another way to be successful. In his session “The Science of Success,” he presented ideas on how to build a business that is not based on time for money. Jack said that most professionals work on active income, which is achieved by being somewhere physically. The next level is bundled income, which combines active income and revenue from selling a product (like a foam roller). However, he believes that the greatest success comes from passive income, or making money while you sleep. “Once your passive income becomes greater than your expenses, you will really be living,” he said.

This involves selling online programs and products that are very specific. “You want to go narrow and deep. If I’ve got an issue I want to solve, I’m going to the expert.”

To develop passive income, you must take a leap of faith, which he admits can be quite frightening. “You can’t make it to second base with your foot on first!”

Group Exercise: A Connecting Force

Group fitness seems to be finally getting the props it deserves in fitness facilities. While group exercise programming may not be featured on the “plus” side revenue-wise when owners and managers look at budgets, the truth is that penetration is generally high and members crave the group experience. From freestyle to prechoreographed options, group fitness is a powerhouse and cornerstone of connection in the industry.

Here are some trends spotted at the fitness event:

  • Dance continues to enjoy a resurgence, with popular television shows like So You Think You Can Dance sparking interest in all styles of choreography, music and movement.
  • High-intensity training—including Tabata, Metabolic Effect and other “extreme” offerings—is catching on with consumers. This concept focuses on working harder and smarter in less time.
  • Creative boot camps and circuits are alive and well. Instructors are stretching their imagination and using props, small equipment and other toys to keep participants healthy, active and happy.
  • Touted for bringing more men into the group exercise studio, indoor cycling is holding its own and even expanding, owing to new coaching techniques and upgraded equipment, including power meters.
  • Sports conditioning, functional training techniques and corrective exercise keep on showing up in the group exercise room—sometimes straight from the personal training floor. This is thanks in part to the hybrid fitness professional who is both a group instructor and a personal trainer.

Getting Sassy in the Showcase Room

As the setting for big-scale, high-energy fitness events ranging from the Opening Ceremonies to “IDEA Supreme Dance Battle,” the Showcase Room (with a capacity of 400) became a whirlpool of whoops, choreography, laughs and high-fives. During Dance Battle, the nightclub ambiance added a velvet rope factor to the experience for attendees, who wore glow sticks as bracelets and lost themselves in the high-fidelity sounds. Here are highlights from this year’s showcase experience:

  • Chalene Johnson ignited attendees’ already positive attitudes with her signature upbeat grooves in “TurboFire®—Fire Starter!”
  • 2003 IDEA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient and fitness industry icon Kathy Smith led an enthusiastic throng through her “Total Body Turnaround” workout.
  • Louis Van Amstel of Dancing With the Stars brought his LaBlast™ brand to life for an eager and talented group of attendees.
  • Todd Durkin meted out his explosive excitement in manageable, burpee-sized pieces during “Perform Better!® Boot Camp 2012.”
  • Tony Horton showed attendees how to harness the power of “postactivation potentiation”—and improve athletic performance—in his “P.A.P. Lower Workout.”
  • Jay Blahnik packed the room with his total-body yoga-inspired stretch routine, “The 10-Minute Stretch Transformation.”

Mind-Body Vitals Excellent in 2012

Mind-body fitness is flourishing in 2012, with ancient practices like tai chi and yoga continuing to thrive, Pilates as rich as ever and contemporary movement expressions sprouting from creative pairings and blends.

Still distinct at times, boundaries between traditional and mind-body fitness are becoming more porous, with the dance revival of the past few years showing up often in fusion workouts, and interval training slipping quietly into mind-body studios here and there.

Following are highlights from this year’s program:

Mindful Dance Spreads Its Wings

  • Given that Joseph Pilates worked so much with dancers, it is fitting that dance has come “home” to Pilates in the new ZEN.GA™ brand from Merrithew Health & Fitness™. Fusing Pilates, yoga and dance, ZEN.GA satisfies your longing for elegance while taking your body on a mindful-movement journey to greater fitness.
  • Also a dance blend, reBarre, led on-site by Niece Pecenka and Bea Wood, finds common ground between ballet, Pilates and yoga, while tower workouts—offered by several Pilates companies—typically include a barre component.
  • Under her signature brand, willPower and grace, industry veteran Stacey Lei Krauss is still allowing her creativity to blossom. “Move With Integrity,” a complete fusion experience blending strength, balance, flexibility, cardio and dance, proved to participants that a mindful workout could be intense, expressive and aesthetically pleasing all at the same time.
Pilates: State of the Art

So, fusion—especially dance fusion—is a big part of this year’s Pilates story. What’s not new is the rock-solid training available to career professionals at IDEA World. Whether you’re looking for mat work expertise, arc barrel training or a guide to the latest bells and whistles on the reformer, it was offered here.

Connie Borho, who owns two Pilates studios in Florida, taught a Pilates plyometrics class. “Jump board Pilates is a great way to get power and explosiveness in a safe way,” said Borho, who uses jump work with football and tennis players.

Marshall Eklund, MA, made a passionate case for Pilates as functional training, noting that “wear and tear is caused by mechanical stress,” whereas Pilates trains the body to move correctly by merging flexibility, joint stability and muscular strength.

Attention Is Key

Thrilling though IDEA World is, the mind-body program often challenges attendees to step away from the whir and noise of the world and pay attention to the breath, the body, the present moment:

“In order to learn something that is not habitual, you have to slow things down so you can explore new things,” said Stacy Barrows, PT, in her Feldenkrais® session.

“Make sure you’re paying as much attention to softening and mobilizing the body as you are to strengthening it,” urged Cheryl Soleway, PT. “Listen [to the body]. How cranky are your feet? If they’re cranky, they need more attention than your biceps.”

Michael Kasten, in his meditation session, pointed out, “If you’re distracted and I’m distracted, we’re not connected.” Where does that leave us when we’re trying to communicate?

And yoga presenter Stacy McCarthy spoke of seeing the whole person, not just the parts and technique: “We are not ‘fixing’ the pose or the student; we are helping the student find his or her best expression of the pose.”

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