Only a throng of approximately 400 fitness professionals could make a 7:30 am opening address look like a party. Then again, this was 2005 IDEA Fitness Fusion—Chicago, and attendees were ready to be inspired. Jay Blahnik, 1996 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and senior education consultant for the Nautilus Institute™, stands at the front of the room wearing a brilliant robin’s-eggshell-blue shirt. “I picked the brightest color I could find this morning to help wake you up,” he said. But this crowd was already raring to go. After all, these were the people who teach 5:45 am indoor cycling classes and schedule clients at 6:00 in the morning. They made it look easy.
“I always get excited before an IDEA event,” Blahnik says. “This is where I got my start. I decided I wanted to become a fitness professional after attending an IDEA event. Big things can happen while you are here, and you can take your career to the next level.”
Blahnik admitted he was preaching to the choir as he reviewed recent obesity statistics. But he also used this opportunity to challenge the crowd. “Not helping people who are obese and inactive is like the Red Cross doing a blood drive but ignoring the tsunami victims,” he said. “We are the ones who have to take charge; we are the front line. We are Plan A. And there isn’t a good plan B.”
The Diversification of an Industry
Being part of Plan A means being the best you can be and testing your own edge to see what you’re capable of. Today’s fitness professional was drawn to the programming at Fitness Fusion, held April 28–May 1 in Rosemont, Illinois, because it included the crossover that reflects what’s going on in health clubs and studios around the world. Suzanne Nottingham, 2000 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and fitness director at Double Eagle Resort & Spa in June Lake, California, noticed a shift among participants. “In each session I always ask how many people do both personal training and group fitness,” she said. “I was astonished at all three sessions when at least 75% of the attendees indicated they did both! Diversification is key, and it’s finally happening.”
Numerous sessions touched on both career aspects. Many training techniques penetrate the gym walls that divide group fitness and personal training, so it wasn’t surprising to see medicine balls, BOSU® Balance Trainers and tubing as equal-opportunity equipment choices for everyone. The buzz among program directors was that many personal fitness trainers (PFTs) were stepping up to the plate in their respective clubs, leading nonchoreographed group classes. The trainers’ teaching skills, however, needed improvement. This was where IDEA Fitness Fusion sessions helped. For example, PFTs learned how to design an effective muscle-conditioning class in “Fast Track: Group Strength Basics,” taught by Sherri McMillan, MSc, 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and co-owner of Northwest Personal Training in Vancouver, Washington.
Group fitness instructors sought out sessions like “Upper-Body Express Toolbox,” presented by IDEA veteran instructor Cheryl Soleway, PT, Can-Fit-Pro’s 1999 Canadian Presenter of the Year. The draw: Many instructors wanted to fine-tune their expertise so they could deepen their professional commitment to participants. IDEA member Kathy Nyquist lives in Duluth, Minnesota, and is both a personal fitness trainer and a group fitness instructor. She appreciated the opportunity to mix and match her education choices. “All the courses I took were terrific, and I’ve definitely come back a better-equipped instructor and certainly a better personal trainer,” she said.
Practical and New
The 106 sessions at the fitness conference allowed for one-stop continuing-education shopping. The fitness event was rife with value and comprehensive learning. Attendees enjoyed more options this year, including a special water fitness “Fast Track” and outdoor Club Without Walls sessions that offered a fun change of pace.
“Attendees were excited about finding new ways to reach out to people who might be intimidated in the gym,” said Leigh Crews of Rome, Georgia, founder of Dynalife Inc. and PowerBar Team Elite member, of her “GPS Adventure Quest” class. “They learned that outdoor activities can be cross-generational, offering something for every member of the family. Everyone experienced an out-of-the-box way to combine mental and physical exercise in the great outdoors.”
Here are some other session highlights:
- In “STOTT Pilates™ Prenatal,” taught by Stefania Della Pia, attendees learned exercise modifications, cues and corrections for women in their second trimester of pregnancy.
- In “Women and Weight Loss,” Nicki Anderson, owner of Reality Fitness Inc. in Naperville, Illinois, led a heartfelt discussion about the specific challenges of training and coaching female clients. Specifically, Anderson offered sensible tips on how to help women break the dieting cycle and start focusing on healthy lifestyles instead.
- Participants in the session “Working With Minimal Strength Equipment” were craning their necks to watch Douglas Brooks, MS, the head exercise physiologist and strength and conditioning coach for the Mammoth Mountain ski and snowboard team, demonstrate how to train clients effectively with little or no gear.
- In “Applying Sport Psychology to Group Fitness,” Rebecca Lloyd, PhD, a sport psychology consultant and motivational speaker for SKATE CANADA, explained how to translate professional-athlete skills such as mental readiness, concentration and somatic awareness to teaching a class.
IDEA member Diane Knirk, a group fitness instructor from Folsom, California, was glad she chose the Fusion venue to get her CECs and meet other fitness professionals, because the scale of the fitness event suited her. “The most important thing I learned is to continue to learn every day,” she said. “It makes me think about all the ways I can make what I do better the next time.”
Plan A Commits to Wellness
A community of fitness professionals came alive during IDEA Fitness Fusion. The spark began in the inspirational welcome when Blahnik challenged people to reach out “beyond the gym walls to help people” with two simple exercises—one involving three rubber bands and the other using a simple postcard.
Blahnik asked the audience members to place the rubber bands on their left wrists. The object was to approach strangers throughout the fitness event and ask them what inspired them to fitness. Each time an attendee did this, he or she would collect a rubber band and put it on the right wrist. “At the end of the [event] I expect to see someone with an arm full of blue rubber bands,” Blahnik said.
The postcards were to remind attendees of their new commitment. Blahnik asked everyone to detail what they were going to do in the next 3 months to Inspire the World to Fitness®. Attendees then self-addressed the postcards for future delivery by IDEA.
These activities did more than inspire camaraderie; they infused people like Amanda Bliss, co-owner of West Coast Crosstrainers in San Mateo, California, with a renewed professional purpose. “It was an honor to be around such an amazing group of people,” she said. “Everyone had a different experience, but we all left inspired.”
Before, during and after sessions, the Fitness Expo was the place to be. This year the hours were extended and the hall relocated to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. With 70 booths to explore, attendees got a chance to meet one-on-one with equipment manufacturers. They also got deep discounts on apparel and the latest music releases. The Fitness Expo featured everything a fitness professional needs to create and maintain a positive image: training equipment, business software, reference books, CDs and more.
In his inspirational welcome address, Jay Blahnik mentioned 10 main gifts fitness professionals share that enable them to create winning relationships with clients and students. The following words, according to Blahnik, describe the typical fitness professional:
6. community leader
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