Setting a new industry standard for education, product knowledge and inspiration, the 2011 IDEA World Fitness Convention™, in Los Angeles, August 11-14, was a flat-out fantastic experience. Between Apolo Ohno’s keynote message of zero regrets and the convention theme of “Take the Challenge,” there was no way to leave even a whisper of yourself on the table. The atmosphere at this event had a way of sucking the energy right out of you and then infusing it right back in–plus 10%. Everyone gave it up and got it back, and the effect was palpable.

Leadership in a Quickly Changing World

The global landscape is shifting at an incredible pace, and the fitness industry is changing to keep up with it. Technology, economics and old-fashioned innovation are combining to create a new era for fitness professionals. For example:

  • Social media is quickly becoming the unifying force for marketing and internal communication. Fitness facility owners and managers, directors, personal trainers and group fitness instructors are all using this tool to expand their communities, strengthen their teams and create opportunities. “Group fitness programs were the original social media,” says Christi Taylor, district director of group fitness for Pure Fitness Health Clubs in Phoenix. “We’re simply stepping into a new version of it.”
  • The economy continues to be hard to read, and fitness professionals are learning how to be profitable in a tough environment by leveraging equipment, programs and services to create authentic experiences and by creating systems and sticking to them. “Systems breed success and consistency,” said Troy Fontana, 2010 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year finalist from Sparks, Nevada, in his session “Your Business Culture—The Key to Your Success.” “You must have a playbook and a presentation package to unify your efforts.”
  • Sometimes, for your business to thrive, you must not only think outside the box but play outside it, too. Steve Shenbaum, president and founder of Game On Nation, took a back-to-basics approach to success with improvisational games that taught people how to truly listen and “take care of the other person.” “Don’t tell your client to smile; figure out what makes him smile and do that for him,” said Shenbaum.

Personal Training: Put Your Best Foot Forward
This year’s event was all about taking steps: to improve your skill set, to increase your financial stability and to move you from one place to another. And according to an elite corps of educators, it’s how you take those steps that determines your success.

  • The Booming World of Social Media (Again!). “Social media is where it’s at,” advised an upbeat Chalene Johnson in her preconference session “Social Media—Fit Biz Boot Camp.” “You won’t have the same business success without it.” Throughout the daylong session, Johnson educated eager attendees on the dos and don’ts of navigating the online world. For instance, she suggested excluding links when posting tweets on the microblogging site Twitter™. “Because you’re limited to 140 characters, you have to shorten the links,” she said. Shorter links do not indicate where they lead. “People are often very suspicious of links,” she warned. Johnson added that while Facebook and Twitter are valuable resources, video-sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo are best bets for effective marketing. “People can decide immediately if they like you,” she says. “And if they do, they will trust you and keep coming back for more.”
  • Client-Specific Solutions. Not all questions have clean, decisive answers. Sometimes the desirable outcome or solution to an issue varies depending on the client. To wit: In the session “CrossFit: Defined and Determined,” led by Doug Katona, a thoughtful attendee inquired about optimal recovery time for the average client. “That is individual-specific,” replied Katona. “It depends on things like fuel intake and sleep.” A highly conditioned client consuming an optimal diet may require far less recovery than a client who does not eat well, added Katona. The best way to determine optimal recovery is to take a look at individual performance, he said; if performance falters, amp up recovery techniques.
  • These Shoes Were Made for Hurting? IDEA World attendees likely observed each other sporting a variety of footwear. Some shoes were more like traditional sneakers, while others looked positively alien. Whatever the choices, footwear was a prominent topic during the event. In his session “Footwear and Function: What All Fitness Professionals Should Know,” Michol Dalcourt asked delegates to prod, squeeze and twist their shoes to see if they were pliable or rigid, thin-soled or high-heeled. He explained that some common footwear may do more harm than good, and that shoes with plenty of cushion and limited mobility may cause the greatest amount of bone-jarring impact throughout the body. But don’t be hasty to toss out your kicks. Dalcourt echoed fellow presenters in saying it all comes down to the individual. People with specific limitations need extra cushion, while others thrive on a more minimalist approach.

Group Exercise: Power and Persuasion!

Good words to describe today’s trends in group fitness are persuasion and power: persuasion for sexy, dance-inspired moves, and power for conditioning, core and strength classes. As 2011 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year Leigh Crews put it, what most excites her is the variety of quality class options the industry is offering–and this year’s IDEA World group exercise line-up certainly reflected that.

  • To appreciate the full sense of “persuasion,” contemplate some of these offerings: “BIG DANCE™,” “Shake Your Asana!” “Zumba® Fitness® Party,” “Latin Beats–Powered by Drums Alive®,” “Crunch® Presents X-Pert Pole Fitness,” “Dance With GLEE!” “JumpSport®: Body Bounce!” Les Mills’ “SH’BAM™ Workout,” “Dance Evolution” and “Bringing Sexy Back (to Tai Chi)!”
  • High-intensity, core- and strength-based “power” classes were hugely popular this year, from Tony Horton’s “Warrior Workout” to “4 Top Guns, 4 Zones—Athletic Training That Brings It!” with Douglas Brooks, MS, Todd Durkin, MA, Fraser Quelch and Peter Twist, MSc. Just a sampling of the course titles shows the depth, breadth and variety of options: “TRX® Superhero Workout,” “Urban Challenge Boot Camp,” “Power Kranking®,” “Kettlebell Rehab—Hardstyle Methods in Corrective Exercise,” “BOSU® Pilates 3-D,” “Combine Training Challenge System,” “CrossFit: Defined and Determined,” “The Top 10 Corrective Exercises,” “Power Yoga for Fitness Professionals,” “Train Like an Ultimate MMA Fighter,” “Tabata Training” . . . the list is practically endless. If you couldn’t find something new to learn or to excite you, you just weren’t there.

Mind-Body-Spirit: The Edge of Everything
We’ve moved beyond the idea that “everything is mind-body” to the realization that mindfulness itself is the seed for all movement. From this kernel, numerous options have flooded the “marketspace.” Mind-body-spirit exercise permeates everything fitness professionals do, whether or not they acknowledge it. Traditional mind-body offerings also continue to evolve, as the following examples illustrate:

  • In his sessions “Creating Mindful Walking/Running Programs,” Lawrence Biscontini, MA, 2004 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year, shared several research-based methods fitness professionals could use to help clients connect with their “whole bodies” while walking and running.
  • Yoga presenters shared layered tips on how to refine cues and sequences and help participants get past the boundaries of the body to reach a still point. During “Beautiful Mind–Beautiful Body: Vinyasa Rasayana Yoga,” Jonny Kest, master trainer from the Detroit-based Center for Yoga, challenged attendees’ beliefs: “Your mind is the biggest barrier to finding your body,” said Kest.
  • Pilates teachers continue to educate themselves on how to expand their understanding of the powerhouse and apply it in the field. More experienced Pilates professionals are using their knowledge to work with the medical community and various special populations. Cathleen Murakami, director of SynergySystems® Fitness Studio in Encinitas, California, reminded attendees to constantly ask questions: “Where does this move initiate? Where is it stabilized?”

On Tap for 2012
As rich in content and experiences as this year’s IDEA World Fitness Convention proved, count on next year being even more special. IDEA will be celebrating its 30th anniversary all year, and the festivities will culminate at this event next year. Save the dates: July 5–8, 2012, San Diego Convention Center, Marriott Marquis Hotel.

Photo Credit: Les Spoden Photography