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Leading the Way, L.A. Style

Celebrating The 2010 IDEA award recipients.

At the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles August 5, the glitz, glamour and glee were ubiquitous as IDEA honored five outstanding contributors to the world of fitness and health during the 2010 IDEA World Fitness Convention™. Innovators in their communities, inspirational around the world and determined to make positive, lasting change, this year’s award recipients shone in the spotlight they so rightly deserved.

With host Mario Lopez introducing them, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, tennis star Andre Agassi, Peter Twist, MSc, Carol Murphy and Jonathan Ross were honored for their achievements, passion, dedication, leadership, and commitment to improving the health and education of children and adults everywhere. Prepare your standing ovation as you read about each of these leaders.

Peter Twist, MSc


Peter Twist, MSc, is the president and chief executive officer of Twist Sport Conditioning. He is an exercise physiologist with a specialization in coaching science. He was a conditioning coach in the National Hockey League for 11 years and has worked with more than 700 professional athletes in different sports. He has published 10 books, 19 DVDs and over 400 papers on athlete development.

As a successful business owner, Twist has found that hiring great people is a key priority. “I believe that skills are highly teachable and that character and personality are not easily modified,” he explains. “I look for staff who have coaching and training abilities, along with some business acumen, but who—more importantly—are solid people [with great passion]. We work in a fast-paced environment of high expectations, but also one that is relaxed and fun.”

Beyond his clientele, Twist strives to improve the lives of those in his community. “We regularly support local sport organizations with sponsorship for tournaments and fundraisers and often provide financial assistance to athletes who can’t fund a conditioning camp experience. Plus, our coaches donate their time to work with youth in different sports.” Or, as Twist put it during one of his fitness convention sessions, “Why worry about celebrities we’ve never met? Let’s focus on the real celebrities who deserve our attention—our next-door neighbors.”

With his award in mind, Twist is looking to the future: “If this award presents me with opportunities to further people’s interests, that excites me. Any bridges or alliances that my team and I can make will have a bigger impact, just as the Surgeon General said in her acceptance speech. I want to change and progress, not try and protect what I did in the past. That’s too limiting. I want to encourage others to develop their own philosophy. One of my favorite philosophies is this: Everything that I know is wrong. And given enough time, that will prove to be true!”

In offering advice to future award applicants, Twist is encouraging: “Follow your heart and passion. Focus your efforts not on yourself, but on the field. And don’t be fearful of being a contrarian. If the industry is zigging and you feel in your heart that you should be zagging, that’s your passion, and you should do it.”

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

Jonathan Ross


Jonathan Ross offers personal training, consulting, public speaking and writing through his company, Aion Fitness LLC. He is also a personal trainer and personal training director for Sport Fit—Total Fitness Club.

Ross has developed relationships with respected health-related professionals, including physical therapists, chiropractors and dietitians. He believes in “better movement first” and refers clients to these colleagues when necessary to ensure his clients get the professional assistance they need to overcome any barriers to fitness.

Ross is also a featured Discovery Health Channel fitness expert. For the 2010 “New Year, New You” initiative, he helped the season-three winner of The Biggest Loser—who had since regained most of his lost weight—in Confessions of a Reality Show Loser. On DiscoveryHealth.com he hosts Everyday Fitness with Jonathan Ross and acts as an online community leader to the 400,000 participants in the National Body Challenge.

Ross intends to use his award as an opportunity to advocate for three groups:

1. Personal trainers: “We need higher-quality trainers, and they need to make enough money to make a career out of it. I also want to change how people view trainers.”

2. The fitness industry: “I want to help the industry grow. As well as it’s done, we’ve only had success reaching a minority of potential clients. I want to create solutions to help reach the untapped millions who aren’t working out.”

3. Clients: “When you are extremely obese or unfit, your whole world becomes an engineering problem. I want people to feel better first and progress from there. Even if it’s just two people interacting for just a moment, that moment can be powerful. We have to enhance people’s ideas and experience of physical activity. I want to transform people so their challenges can be met.”

Ross is encouraging to trainers who dream of one day accepting an award for their work. “Go to conferences to learn. The investment you make won’t be a financial sacrifice in the long run, because first you learn, then you start to get your own ideas. Then use your ideas to create solutions.”

And his final words to trainers everywhere? “As an award recipient I stand before you. And as a trainer I stand behind you.”

Award Criteria

  • is a practicing industry professional spending at least 15 hours per week actually training clients one-on-one
  • demonstrates exceptional leadership, business management, motivational and instructional skills
  • inspires clients to greater personal growth and a higher level of fitness

Dr. Regina Benjamin


In her first communication to the nation after she was sworn in as U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Benjamin released The Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation, in which she outlined her plan to combat the worsening epidemic of overweight and obesity in America.

In it she states, “Our nation stands at a crossroads. Today’s epidemic of overweight and obesity threatens the historic progress we have made in increasing Americans’ quality and years of healthy life.

“I am calling on all Americans to join me in a national grassroots effort to reverse this trend. I envision men, women, and children who are mentally and physically fit to live their lives to the fullest. The real goal is not just a number on a scale, but optimal health for all Americans at every stage of life. To achieve this goal, we must all work together to share resources, educate our citizens, and partner with business and government leaders to find creative solutions in our neighborhoods, towns, and cities from coast to coast. Together, we can become a nation committed to become healthy and fit.”

Dr. Benjamin immersed herself in 21/2 days of action at the 2010 IDEA World Fitness Convention. She started by participating in three numbers on the Zumba® Performance Stage (this physician can dance!). She also led a symbolic walk for fitness around the Los Angeles Convention Center and LA LIVE with IDEA co-founders Kathie and Peter Davis, Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and hundreds of IDEA World Fitness delegates cheering in tow.

At the awards ceremony, fresh from a workout at the fitness convention, Dr. Benjamin reiterated her goals for the nation and asked the fitness community to become her “shepherds,” helping people reach for a healthy lifestyle. “There needs to be a connection between clinicians and fitness professionals. I have a vision to change from a negative conversation about obesity to a positive one of fitness and health. Individuals will change behavior if they have a reward they can enjoy and celebrate.”

Speaking of her pleasure in taking part in First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, Dr. Benjamin exhorted all of us in attendance to make a difference to the “starfish” (nonexercisers) stranded along our stretch of beach! Best of all? Her comment that “exercise is the new medicine.”

Andre Agassi


Arriving directly from a charity event, Andre Agassi was awarded the IDEA Lifetime Achievement Award. Considered by many to be the most charitable athlete of his generation, Agassi has used his status, experience and determination to help children excel. Among his many charitable projects are the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, a tuition-free charter school for at-risk children; a Boys & Girls club that mixes athletics and academics; residential facilities that house abused and medically fragile children; and Athletes for Hope, which Agassi founded in 2006 with a number of other well-known athletes.

Although Agassi never finished high school, his belief in the value of a good education is evident in his Foundation for Education, and he is working hard to transform the way the U.S. public school system provides education for underserved youth. At the ceremony, Agassi said he started his foundation [in 1994] because he believes “the way to make systemic change is through education. We spend more to incarcerate than we do to educate, and that’s a crime.”

He added, “I’m tired of fishing with a pole; I want to throw out a net.” And as evidence of the net he has already cast, Agassi was proud to share that the 2010 graduating class at his eponymous academy (2009 was the first graduating class) had 100% of its graduates going on to college.

Celebrating his 40th birthday this year, Agassi answered questions posed by Ingrid Owen, vice president of group fitness at 24 Hour Fitness. When asked whether his (and wife Steffi Graf’s) own two children were interested in tennis, Agassi said he felt his role as a parent was to support his kids in pursuing whatever sports they liked, but he had no plans to “push” either of them toward any sport. As he accepted his award, Agassi shared some tips that apply equally to fitness pros and parents: “My trainer taught me that a weak body commands and a strong body obeys. If you want your body to do what you ask of it, you have to treat it well. . . . Even if you’re having an 80% day, give 100% of that 80. A mountain can be climbed one step at a time.”

In a touching moment that had the crowd on its feet clapping and cheering, Agassi ended with, “Share life with your children, and be someone they can count on!”

Carol Murphy


Carol Murphy is owner and fitness director of FitLife, which offers group fitness, personal training and educational workshops around the world. A group fitness instructor for more than 25 years, she led classes for years at her FitLife studio. She now teaches at the state-of-the-art Eastside YMCA to expand her reach. She is a Body Bar®, Gliding™ and Resist-A-Ball® master trainer, the education director for Drums Alive® USA and Canada, and team leader for Flexi-Sports USA.

“For me, this award isn’t about greatness or celebrity—it’s about doing ordinary things with great love,” Murphy shared. “There have been no great accomplishments, but many small and consistent works that have amounted to lasting change. Within the quiet corners of our lives small opportunities are around us every day—small steps add up.

“Years ago, I wished I could stand in the shoes of past award winners, so I focused my energy and made a conscious decision to do what it took to help people believe, begin, belong and eventually become healthier. I made it my goal to help people embrace exercise. To do this, I tapped into every available resource, explored fun and varied programs and worked to master the necessary instructor skills so I could help people succeed. Each little success fueled my confidence and propelled me into further action. I began sharing what I had learned to inspire others.”

Now, 21/2 decades later, Murphy says she was so busy doing her life’s work that she didn’t even realize she had “arrived.” “I am living my impossible dream! This award acknowledges 29 years of classes, relationships and inspired participants; more than 50 instructor-training courses, lectures and articles written; seven national certifications earned; 17 DVDs; hundreds of presentations; and the chance to share my inspiration and expertise with participants and fitness professionals all over the world.”

Murphy offers these words of encouragement to her peers. “Nothing separates me from the potential that lies within all other fitness professionals. Be committed to a cause, face your fears and keep going no matter what. The small things really do matter.”

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

Concerned about your place in the new fitness industry? We have 40 years of experience supporting pros just like you! Let’s create a new wellness paradigm together—IDEAfit+ is the extra edge you need. Once you team up with IDEA, be sure to take full advantage of all the benefits of membership.

Alexandra Williams, MA

Alexandra Williams has taught fitness for 17 years and has a master’s degree in agency counseling, with an emphasis on marriage and family. Her professional training has forced her to scrutinize her own value system, especially as she attempts to raise ethical children. The author wishes to thank Jack Raglin and Jim Gavin for their helpful insights and suggestions.

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