Over the past five years since the inception of IDEA’s Personal Trainer of the Year Award, we have reviewed the dossiers of so many impressive candidates that it makes us proud and excited to be part of the personal training industry.

This year’s award presentation will take place at the 2002 IDEA® Personal Trainer International Summit in Baltimore during the Keynote Morning Session on March 1.

From its inception, the purpose of this award has been to recognize the personal training profession for impacting and promoting health and fitness; to honor the three finalists for their leadership and dedication to the field; and to recognize one of the finalists as the ultimate personal trainer in the profession.

The three finalists for the 2002 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year Award are Taylor-Kevin Isaacs, Gregory T. Mack and Scott McLain. These men reflect the dynamism, entrepreneurial spirit, foundation of leadership and innovative vitality that are palpable in our growing industry. Through creativity, initiative, skillfulness and sheer drive, each has personally improved clients’ lives and established new benchmarks for all trainers
to strive for.

The talent pool for this honor broadens each year, which makes the selection process even more difficult for our awards committee, comprised of five IDEA personal trainer members. The committee members independently review all submitted materials, scoring each candidate according to established criteria. These scoring standards have been set by experienced and active personal fitness trainers. The award recognizes an IDEA member who is a practicing industry professional who has:

Applications for the award were included in the September 2001 issue of IDEA Personal Trainer and on the IDEA Web site, www.IDEAfit.com. The application process requires trainers to submit descriptions of their work and accomplishments in response to 10 subjects covering four professional areas: philosophy and professional standards; programming and populations; business skills; and community and industry contributions. Candidates also were required to submit a 100-word summary of their three greatest measurable contributions to the fitness industry, a résumé and letters of reference.

Please take a moment to acquaint yourselves with the 2002 finalists.

Taylor-Kevin Isaacs

A clinical instructor of kinesiology at California State University, Northridge, where he also teaches “Therapeutic Exercise for Special Populations” at the Center of Achievement for the Physically Disabled (CAPD), Taylor-Kevin Isaacs, MS, says that each client presents him with a unique set of needs and the most significant challenge
of a lifetime.

He finds it intensely gratifying to counter these uncertainties with measurable results and a supportive, enthusiastic response as his clients regain not only physical function, but their sense of self. Equally gratifying, he says, is the emotional and intellectual solace gained from knowing that he has, to the best of his ability, duplicated his “full-time caring, part-time knowledge” philosophy with each of the 1,000 students he has taught since spring 1997. His philosophy, “I teach it, preach it, learn it, live it and love it,” seems
to spill over into all of his professional activities.

As a trainer, his clients range from a healthy 12-year-old nationally ranked tennis player to a 92-year-old with left side hemiplegia following a stroke; coexisting Parkinson’s disease; osteoarthritis of the right hip, knee and ankle; coronary artery disease; and hypertension. He also works with individuals who have spinal cord injuries, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, postpolio syndrome and a host of other conditions.

“My work isn’t just about transforming bodies, it’s about transforming lives,” said Isaacs, an IDEA Master PFT. He has worked with two young men, in particular, who have driven this point home for him. Aaron was a motocross champion at 20 and Jesse, a surfing champion at 17. Each experienced a cervical spinal cord injury and was categorized quadriplegic.

“My mission was to infuse them with power and strength,” he said. “They both demonstrated tremendous dedication. Today Jesse is a motivational speaker visiting schools to tell students about overcoming the accident, adhering to his fitness program and achieving his goals, including obtaining a college degree and surfing again. Aaron recently rode his mountain bike, stood and hit a golf ball, and walked unassisted on the beach with his friends. Both Jesse and Aaron landed only to take flight again—I plan to be there every step of the way.”

To attain the best return to function possible, Isaacs’ clients engage in a comprehensive exercise training and nutrition program, including cardiovascular conditioning, muscular strength and endurance training, range of motion, balance training, gait training, active flexibility, posture/strength corrective exercise and functional activity training.

Driving Isaacs’ business accomplishments is an ever-present awareness of what good programs can do for willing clients. He boils it down to a simple equation: “Quality programs multiplied by quality people equals success.” He developed the Center for Rehabilitative Exercise (CORE) at California State University, Los Angeles, which serves the university’s students and the outlying community, from the apparently healthy to those with severely disabling conditions. The student assistants serve as trainers. The numbers of both trainers and clients have grown to the point that a waiting list became necessary.

One accomplishment of which he is especially proud is conceiving a way to make it affordable for 91 clients to join CAPD by teaching their significant others how to conduct a machine-based and a home exercise program. These clients had either been discharged from physical therapy because medical reimbursement
had run its course, or would eventually be set on their own once physical therapy was finished. Individually, Isaacs taught each of the 91 clients and their significant others therapeutic exercise techniques and training regimes, which has fostered lifelong knowledge and increased independence in their own health care. Without this method, these individuals would not have received the medical benefits of exercise.

“My career goal is to permanently alter the physiology of the bodies of individuals with diseases, disabilities and/or musculoskeletal
injuries in an attempt to improve their function, independence and self-efficacy and to prevent the secondary complications and degenerative changes that typically follow an inactive lifestyle,” Isaacs said. “If everyone identified a sedentary lifestyle as the only ‘true’ disability and decided to incorporate an exercise and nutrition program into their lives, they would increase not only quantity, but
quality of life.” ‘

Greg Mack

If you want to learn more about what relationships and referrals with allied health providers can do for your clients and for your PFT business, just ask Greg Mack, founder and CEO
of Physicians Fitness in Columbus, Ohio.

Since launching his company in 1991, he has established more than 50 relationships with medical professionals in the Columbus community; these connections provide an average of 400 prospects per month for his training staff. His referral circle includes chiropractors, pain specialists, physical therapists, osteopaths, dietitians and psychologists. Mack believes that earning the trust of medical providers has significantly elevated the professional standing of personal trainers. It also happens to fulfill one of his company’s main objectives.

“The mission of Physicians Fitness is to create a viable interface between the fitness and medical communities to promulgate personal health-fitness plans for stable yet symptomatic individuals in a caring and encouraging environment,” he said. “This interface is established at the primary and secondary care levels with certified fitness professionals. It is based on physician/clinician involvement to ensure safety and quality of care. This involvement begins at the referral level and continues through to the approval of program design and support of
third-party payers when appropriate.”

Mack, an IDEA Master PFT, is also a strong proponent of education. He stimulated the concept for, and has contributed to the development of the course curriculum for an associate’s degree and one-year personal training certificate program in personal fitness training at Central Ohio Technical College, where he also instructs classes.

Additionally, in his position as a corporation owner and managing partner, he has provided opportunities for skilled trainers to challenge their knowledge and abilities. “The personal training environment with its ‘medical-like’ parameters creates a professional career path for trainers who are burned out or unchallenged by working with self-motivated fitness enthusiasts in gym or club settings,” Mack said. “I have created an internal training and qualification program that forces the trainers back into the library to learn new skills. They interact with physicians and therapists as well as with the client population we serve.”

Mack openly gives credit for client success stories back to the clients themselves. The skills he utilizes to help clients reach their goals encourage them to take responsibility for their fitness programs. Such skills include clinical rehabilitation experiences and traditional fitness training expertise. He believes that consistent, positive reinforcement of foundational fitness principles, peppered with scientific research, brings to light the long-term health hazards of a sedentary lifestyle and creates life-long fitness enthusiasts.

“I like to emphasize to my clients that they can be in the best shape of their lives at any age,” he said. “Coordination with their medical providers creates a long-term sense of trust, and an interested third party that reinforces their participation. We use contracts and criteria referencing to help clients take responsibility for attaining their fitness goals. I establish mutual respect by practicing what
I preach.”

Mack also has gained mutual respect from his colleagues and from members of his own community. For the last four years he has been a member of the IDEA personal trainer committee, of which he is currently the chairperson. Through his involvement on this committee, he has contributed to several important programs, positively impacting his industry colleagues.

Locally, he spearheaded an effort to raise the credibility of the certified personal trainer within the medical community. He also has written extensively for many industry publications, including IDEA Personal Trainer, for which he authored the introduction to the IDEA Opinion Statement “Benefits of a Working Relationship Between Medical and Allied Health Practitioners and Personal Fitness Trainers,” and a companion piece, “A Model for Communicating With Physicians” (both in the September 2001 issue). In the future he hopes to travel internationally, presenting to peers and the medical community about the importance of teaming up to increase the public’s participation in personal fitness programs.

Scott McLain

In 1996, when Scott McLain, MS, took over the reins of the personal training program at Westerville Athletic Club (Westerville, Ohio), he sensed enormous potential. Since then, his leadership and structured management style have helped to grow the personal training revenue by 750 percent and have increased the number of annual fitness evaluations performed to more than 700 from just under 100. The club also has added a dozen more PFTs, bringing to 14 the PFT staff total.

McLain’s goals for his
own performance provide a glimpse of why the club has fared so well during his tenure. “As the director of personal training at a large multipurpose facility, I must satisfy those groups that have a stake in my leadership abilities. First, I must ensure that my clients reach their goals in a creative and stimulating environment. I have retained more that 90 percent of my clientele over the past three years. Second, I must meet my managerial obligations by exceeding growth projections for our program.”

McLain gauges that the most effective program he has implemented at the club is “Quickstart,” which debuted in 1998 and has accounted for more than a third of the PFT revenue. The program was developed in response to what club members described as their main barriers to sticking with exercise: lack of time, motivation and accountability. Quickstart clients meet with their trainers three times per week for six weeks. Each session lasts 30 minutes and focuses on resistance training and flexibility (a cardiovascular program is tailored for each client, but clients complete it on their own). The 18, 30-minute sessions must be completed within seven weeks.

The program benefits clients in two main ways. First, the short sessions help clients fit exercise into their daily schedule. Next,
because the clients must complete the program in seven weeks, they achieve a level of accountability and form good habits.

McLain names listening and program variety as keys to his 90 percent client retention rate. “My clients deserve three things from me: creative programming, daily motivation and an empathetic ear,” he shared. “Becoming a confidant is critical in my efforts to retain my client base.

“The old saying goes, ‘variety is the spice of life.’ How true! I never set up any client on a routine. I progress my clients based on sound principles, using modalities such as traditional equipment, free weights, tubing, Swiss balls, medicine balls, outdoor circuits, balance apparatus, etc. Every workout incorporates something new or different.”

He also uses variety to keep his staff motivated. Over the past three years, he has crafted a working-learning culture and has influenced the club to adopt the philosophy that “knowledge equals profits.” All of the PFT staff have Personal Development Accounts (PDA). The PDAs are equal to 3 percent of the revenue they generated the previous year. For example, a trainer bringing in $50,000 will have $1,500 to use for continuing education the next year. He also has implemented two in-house continuing education opportunities each month. These include lectures, hands-on workshops and personal trainer roundtables. To motivate staff further, McLain established a senior trainer position. Senior trainers must meet strict qualifications and are rewarded by receiving the top pay scale. Because of such opportunities, trainers value their employment at the Westerville Athletic Club and see a clear path
for advancement, he said.

“Trainers may complain about money or their ‘piece of the pie,’ but if you delve deeper, the issue is really more dynamic,” McLain observed. “Usually, the root of the problem is that there is no continuing education account, no in-house learning opportunities and no clear path for advancement.”

An 11-year fitness industry veteran, McLain believes he has an obligation to give back to the industry. His main contributions have been made through volunteering, lecturing, publishing and committee memberships. Having developed the concept just over a year ago in conjunction with the IDEA personal trainer committee, McLain is one of the original IDEA Master PFTs. The four-tiered system of recognition for personal trainers already has attracted widespread interest in the training community. l IDEA PERSONAL Trainer march 2002

Isaacs

“My work isn’t just about transforming bodies, it’s about transforming lives.”IDEA PERSONAL Trainer march 2002