Some personal trainers have an insatiable appetite for knowledge and growth opportunities. 2015 IDEA Personal Trainer Institute™ East, held in Alexandria, Virginia, February 25–27, offered an “educational buffet” complete with all the requisite “nutrients” a growing fitness professional needs.

The following 5 insider tips from the fitness conference offer a head start on training tomorrow’s client:

  1. Understand fascia and function. Fascia research continues to shed light on human movement and tensegrity, and many presenters shared recent and insightful studies that are changing program design approaches. Functional training continues to be a popular topic, in part because of its ability to enhance and vary activities of daily living. In his session “Gray Institute: Assessment and Programming for the Foot and Ankle Complex—A Global to Local Approach,” Doug Gray, faculty at the Gray Institute for Functional Transformation, in Adrian, Michigan, taught exercises that were “in and out of sync with the main patterns of movement.” He taught attendees how to recreate the common jumping jack to make it more functional (and fun) by adding different combinations of foot and arm patterns in varying planes of motion.
  2. Build strong social media muscle. Scott Rawcliffe’s packed session “Building Social Media Muscle” focused on how to streamline social media platforms, hone in on the message and create a system. “It’s important not only to know what to share, but what not to share,” said the owner/operator of Revera Health & Fitness in Queensland, Australia. He also encouraged attendees to curate content based on what the refined message is, and to create a calendar that gets the most from outreach efforts.
  3. Up your game with senior clients. In his session “Help Your Senior Clients,” Brian Richey, owner of Fit 4 Life DC, in Washington, DC, urged personal trainers to carefully prepare themselves to work with this crucial market. His point: Don’t presume that you can train seniors just because you have many years of experience. Instead, learn about common injuries and compensatory patterns that have taken years—or even decades—to manifest themselves as pain. “We need to be able to properly manage the needs of this population,” Richey said. “If we load dysfunction or an injury, we will only develop increased dysfunction or injury.”
  4. Go the extra mile. Steve Shenbaum, founder of game on Nation, LLC, in Bradenton, Florida, used basic tenets of improvisation to teach personal trainers how to go deeper in their interactions with clients. He played several games with attendees to demonstrate various points about the science and power of game dynamics and how to apply them directly to personal training. For example, a common rule in improv is to say yes (to what is happening) and take care of your partner. If you follow this rule with clients, you validate them, show them that you care, and create a safe environment where improvement thrives.
  5. Recognize that core training has evolved. Have you evolved with it? Personal trainers who still rely on the standard crunch and similar mainstays have been “dinosaurs” for a few years. The industry has shifted as research and practical experience have brought to light the many core-training methods that work in deep, functional and safe ways. In his session “Advanced Core Training by Hedstrom Fitness,” Casey Stutzman, head trainer at the Bay Athletic Club in Alpena, Michigan, emphasized how important it is to be able to react to a constantly changing environment. “Life isn’t static, and environmental factors are constantly changing,” he said. “Train yourself and your clients to be prepared in innovative ways that mimic unpredictability.”

If you missed this fitness event, there is still time to attend the sister event in Seattle, April 16-19.

Photography by Len Spoden.