Whether you’ve just joined IDEA, have been with us for a few years or are proud to say you were an inaugural member (that’s 30 years together!), you’re bound to have memories attached to your IDEA experiences. Perhaps your favorite is a special friendship formed at a conference; an article that inspired you to take action after reading one of IDEA’s many publications; or a training concept or networking encounter that changed the course of your career.

Here, IDEA members, presenters, volunteers and former employees share their most memorable IDEA moments in anecdotes that illustrate the essence of IDEA and its lasting impact on our individual—and collective—lives and careers.

Evolution of Education

Chris Zagelow, Walla Walla, Washington

Personal trainer, Walt Fitness; former IDEA representative for Washington state; 1986 Gold ACE-certified (was in the first group tested by IDEA Foundation before ACE was born)

IDEA member since 1984

The first conference I attended was IDEA’s third fitness conference, in 1986. I was so excited to meet the first fitness celebrities! Back then, classes were taught in church meeting rooms, school gyms, garages or in an instructor’s basement or family room! We weren’t picky for a little fun.

But IDEA promoted safety, defining guidelines beyond fun and new routines. There were also better results and proper form to consider. “Contraindicated exercises” was the talk back then. Fitness started to change with IDEA’s help. Nutrition and healthy eating became part of the equation, and hand weights made calisthenics a little more challenging. IDEA educated us on technique and scientific studies that applied to what we were doing and sharing with our clients.

I still have the huge bag IDEA handed out to delegates at that fitness conference. And I still wear my 1986 IDEA Foundation Certified Instructor shirt! Thank you, IDEA, for providing me with continual opportunities to grow in fitness and health, and [for offering me] a more meaningful life. I couldn’t have done it without you!

First Taste of Fitness

Melanie Fensick, Southington, Connecticut

Owner, The Higher Edge Fitness+ LLC; personal trainer, certified by the National Council on Strength and Fitness

IDEA member since 2009

Shortly after I became a certified personal trainer in January 2010, I attended the IDEA Personal Trainer Institute™ in Alexandria, Virginia. This was my first fitness conference ever, and I was in awe.

I felt welcomed by everyone—IDEA staff and attendees. For example, I was staying at the hotel down the street from the fitness conference and walking to the convention center every morning. One morning, as I was in the hotel elevator, a lady started a conversation. Having recognized me from the fitness conference the day before, she offered me a ride to the convention. On the way, we shared stories about fitness. Even though I had been certified for only a month and she had been an instructor for years, we had the same goal for the fitness conference: to bring back new ideas to liven up our routines. We compared our course schedule for the day and laughed at how tired we would be afterward.

During my time at the fitness conference, I had a blast with all the hands-on classes. You could tell how passionate the presenters were about their subjects. And I had the privilege of meeting some of the greatest minds in fitness—Peter Twist, Douglas Brooks and Bobby Cappuccio—all in one weekend! After the fitness conference, I knew the fitness field was where I wanted to be. It felt like “home.” I have since transitioned from my job as a chemistry lab worker to having lots of fun owning my own fitness business. Thanks for the inspiration, IDEA!

18 Years in Mere Moments

Patricia Ryan, MS, San Diego

1985–1987, Editor, IDEA Dance-Exercise Today; 1987–1999, Editor and Senior Director, IDEA Publications; 1999–2004, IDEA Vice President of Education

It’s challenging for me to identify only one great memory from 18 years of working at IDEA.

  • Perhaps it was that magic moment in 1986 when I saw a funny metal box on the floor and, delighted at finding a Kaypro desktop computer, started producing our then-flagship magazine, IDEA Dance-Exercise Today, on it—before most art departments even used computers.
  • Maybe it was the time a co-worker had a life-threatening illness. As others walked into a staff meeting, I heard conjecture that maybe our health insurance rates would go up because of it. When Peter opened the meeting, his first concern was that the person would be fine. He immediately followed up by saying, “Thank heavens we have health insurance,” firmly positioning everyone in that room on the high ground.
  • Probably the best memories wrap around the people. I learned about copyediting from Colleen Sharp; gloried in watching April Durrett develop as a writer; enjoyed being tutored on language by Kate Watson; had fun finding the right angle with executive editor Diane Lofshult; came to understand the “softer” side of life with Mary Monroe; and appreciated Nicholas Drake’s precision and Sandy Todd Webster’s forward-thinking implementation.
  • I watched Mary Sanders and Len Kravitz keep one aerobics-trained leg in the industry while the other stepped up into doctorate degrees. When, with some trepidation, I called William Kraemer, PhD, so high up in exercise physiology, I was surprised to hear him say, “Hi, Pat, this is Bill. What can I do for you?” I had breakfast with eminent epidemiologist Steven Blair, PhD, and [IDEA senior director of education] Patti McCord and later watched with wonder as Dr. Blair jumped up on a chair during his session to show that you can be both “fit and fat.” And I met so many IDEA members who do good work, are so involved and smart and willing to reach out to others.

This is not even a snapshot of the special memories. There are too many.

When the Student Is Ready

Rick Merriam, LMT, NASM-CPT, Dallas

Licensed massage therapist; personal trainer, certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine

IDEA member since 1995

I attended my first conference in 1995. I remember Tom Purvis’s presentation the most. Even though my initial impression of him was not good, it ended up being one of the biggest takeaways of my entire career—but not in the way you might expect (i.e., biomechanics).

After my first encounter with Tom, I distinctly remember that every time I filled out my choices for future classes/conferences, I deliberately chose Tom as my last option. And it never failed: from that point on, Tom was one of the presenters in every city/conference I attended.

After passing up his seminars numerous times, I finally decided to give him another listen, and it was by far the best choice I ever made in my career. Throughout the years, Tom has taught me so much more than biomechanics. I still incorporate many (most!) of his lessons on a daily basis.

I’ve attended numerous seminars by him—it got to the point where he would joke about me “stalking” him in different cities. The truth is, I was not ready to hear what he was saying at my first IDEA fitness conference back in 1995. Luckily for me (and my career!), I decided to give him another chance.

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

Peter, Kathie and Me

Margaret Cypher, Carlsbad, California

1983–2002, IDEA’s first employee: IDEA membership director, national account manager

As IDEA’s first employee and one who worked for the organization for almost 20 years, I have wonderful memories of the staff and members. I knew Peter and Kathie from collegiate tennis at San Diego State University. They told me they needed someone part-time, and I went in for an “interview.” I think all they really wanted to know was whether I had a pulse! They hired me!

IDEA was growing so quickly that I soon became full-time on staff. I was the membership director for 10 years and worked for our corporate members for another 10 years. I thoroughly enjoyed working in such a dynamic industry and helping our members to stay informed, to network and to be motivated. As IDEA’s chief financial officer Julio Romero always said, “Our members keep us in business.”

IDEA Entertainment: Juggling and Thongs?

Lisa Elsinger, MEd, doctoral candidate, Madison, Wisconsin

PINNACLE Continuing Legal Education Seminars Division; group fitness instructor trainer and faculty member, YMCA of the USA

IDEA member since 1983

I have so many memories of IDEA that it would take an inordinate amount of time to compose them all. Many of [my] memories of IDEA’s fitness events are small incidents that have stuck in [my mind] because they were little bursts of joy.

Here are a few:

  • Len Kravitz gave a motivating and engaging presentation at the 1984 IDEA fitness conference—and juggled the entire time!
  • After returning from the first IDEA fitness conference in 1984, I made quite a few changes to my teaching, based on what I’d learned about safety, injury prevention and effective exercises. Our fitness center members were impressed and enjoyed the greater variety in the classes. We were pretty progressive during those early days, and one of our selling points was educated fitness instructors. We looked to IDEA to keep us on the cutting edge—just as we do now!
  • Ellen DeGeneres was the master of ceremonies at the formal Saturday night awards ceremony at a few IDEA international fitness conferences in the 1980s [and early 1990s], before she became the major celebrity she is now. She was entertaining and funny, and at her last appearance at IDEA, Ellen good-naturedly teased us about thongs, which were just coming into fashion.
  • I still have my sweatshirt from the Chicago IDEA fitness conference in 1984! It has a few chocolate stains . . . and I keep it as a cherished memento of a wonderful time when the industry was kicking into high gear and IDEA was leading the way. I have my silver metallic high-tops, too—and my favorite Gilda Marx Flexatard completed the outfit, which was very important in those days.

Extended IDEA Family

Lindsay Stiegler, MS, San Francisco

Owner, LifestyleF.I.T.; personal trainer, certified by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM); indoor cycling instructor, certified by RealRyder®

IDEA member since 2004

I attended my first IDEA World Fitness Convention™ in Las Vegas in 2005 as an assistant on the setup shift. I was 21 years old, by myself and completely in awe of the event. Halfway through day one of my shift, I realized that my bag containing all of my personal belongings (wallet, ID, cell phone and all my money) had been taken from the room in which we were inflating 200-plus BOSU® Balance Trainers. I immediately went into shock and a major meltdown, but I was quickly swooped up into the arms of my fellow assistants and the IDEA staff, including Peter and Kathie Davis. They bought me lunch, personally called my mom, gave me money and proceeded to take care of me throughout the entire week of the convention.

From that moment on, IDEA and its staff became my surrogate family. Seven years later, my best girlfriends (whom I met at IDEA) and I still participate as part of the setup team for every IDEA World convention. Our “Spice Girls” team antics have made setting up for the event something we look forward to every year. As much work as inflating 600+ stability balls, BOSU Balance Trainers and BOSU Ballast® Balls might be, it is the least we can do to give back to an organization that has given us so much over the years. We love every minute of it.

My relationships with IDEA, its staff, its assistants and its members inspire my career and make me realize why I love what I do—because it is more than a job; it is a way of life.

As I approach my 30th birthday, I am now an owner of a private fitness studio with a successful personal training, teaching and consulting career. I look back at my 21-year-old self and know that I would not be where I am today without the education and support I’ve received from IDEA and its programs, conventions and resources. Above all, my passion and love for fitness are deeply rooted in the love and support I gain from my extended IDEA family.

Thank you, IDEA! Cheers to 30 years. May we continue to Inspire the World to Fitness® together!

30 Years Strong

Diana Luber, Syracuse, New York

Owner, Body Management; group exercise fitness instructor specialist, certified by ACE and the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA)

IDEA member since 1982

How does a charter veteran member like me submit a memorable story? In 30 years as an IDEA member, I have taught approximately 29,000 classes all over the world.

Meeting Peter and Kathie Davis at the first convention in 1984 was magical. They attended the small regional seminars where all attendees ate lunch together. I met Ken Alan and started buying his music tapes so I could stop spending endless hours compiling records for classes. Ronda Gates, Joy Prouty, Gwen Hyatt and Bob Anderson—the presenters all inspired me to be an instructor with great integrity and compassion for every unique individual.

This is a celebratory year for IDEA and for me. IDEA turns 30, and I turn 70. It will also be my 35th year in the fitness arena. My business signature is “It’s great to have a pulse,” and my fidelity to fitness has allowed me to enjoy optimal health. Thank you, IDEA, for the memories of a lifestyle that allows my soul to dance with passion.

IDEA for Better Breathing

Elaine Tarantin O’Brien, MAPP, Philadelphia, and the Central New Jersey Shore

IDEA Foundation Gold: Group Exercise; ACE Gold Lifestyle & Weight Management; kinesiology instructor and PhD student; graduate teaching assistant: psychology of human movement

IDEA member since 1982 (IDEA’s 65th member!)

One of my favorite memories is when I had the idea for the American Lung Association collaboration with IDEA. Kathie and Peter were incredibly supportive, and through IDEA and Shape magazine, we were able to recruit 200 dancers, who learned the choreography of the National Football League Halftime Show. We performed at Giants Stadium for the Giants/Jets game and raised $50,000 for Lung Association patient-service programs. It was an amazing experience. This concept was adopted nationally and went on to raise more than $6 million.

Kathie and Peter have such harmonious passion and vision. They are so inspiring and inclusive. I love them so much!

Award-Winning Memory

Fred Hoffman, MEd, Paris

2007 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year; certified by ACE and ACSM

IDEA member since 1985

My most vivid and life-changing IDEA memory is from 2007, when I received the IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year Award.

It was IDEA’s 25th anniversary, which made it a very significant and remarkable event. During the days leading up to the convention, I remember thinking what it would be like to receive the award—the “Oscar” of the fitness industry—something I never thought was attainable when I first joined IDEA and for many years following. When my name was announced, a million thoughts went through my head—I was thrilled to be accepting the award and to be recognized by my peers and colleagues. It made it even more special that a large number of previous award recipients were in the audience, since it was the 25th anniversary. All of these previous winners had influenced me and made an impact on the career path I’d taken. I also realized how thousands of other colleagues and industry professionals had helped to shape my career and allowed me to reach new heights. That special moment will stay etched in my mind forever.

Article Inspiration

Nicki Anderson, Naperville, Illinois

2008 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year; customer service and marketing expert

IDEA member since 1998

I was just getting into writing and had been to a couple of IDEA conferences back in the early 1990s. At one conference, I had met Pat Ryan, who at the time oversaw IDEA’s publications. I told her I was a writer and would love to do some business articles for the magazine. The next time I attended a conference, Pat and I ended up going to lunch, and she talked to me about writing and what [IDEA was] looking for with freelance writers. She suggested I send in a couple of my articles, and she would see if my work was a good fit for the publication. Not only did Pat give me my first writing job, but she also ended up being an incredible mentor for me. Since then, I have written many articles for IDEA and other publications. I have both IDEA and Pat Ryan to thank for getting my first article published in an international magazine!

Snow Conference of ’03

Rick Schwartz, San Diego

2003–2006, IDEA chief operating officer

For what is perhaps my most memorable IDEA moment, I have to go back to the beginning, when I was hired as chief operating officer in February 2003. On my second day on the job, I was on a plane to Washington, DC, for the IDEA Personal Trainer International Summit™. I arrived at the hotel, and someone told me a big snowstorm was heading for Washington. It turned out to be more than just a snowstorm. For the next 2 days, the mid-Atlantic region was hit by one of the worst blizzards in years, and the entire city was shut down. Airports and freeways were closed, and we could not leave the hotel.

For the next 48 hours, the conference went on as scheduled, but at night the entire IDEA community hung out in the hotel lobby since we could not leave the building. On the second night of the “snow-in,” Kathie Davis arranged a movie night, and a couple of hundred people—event attendees, instructors, exhibitors and IDEA staff—sat on the floor of a hotel ballroom and watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding. No one complained about being stuck in the hotel, and just about everyone stayed up all night. There was a lot of laughing, telling stories, swapping training tips and having a good time.

That was my first exposure to the wonderful IDEA community. In my first week on the job, I learned firsthand what a great group of staff and volunteers we had working at the event and what a fantastic community of IDEA members we had attending the event. What a great way to start my career at IDEA!

The Passenger in Seat 26E

Ken Alan, Los Angeles, California

Lecturer, department of kinesiology, California State University, Fullerton; certified by ACE, ACSM and AFAA

IDEA member since 1983

The flight was packed on the way to the 1991 IDEA convention in Nashville. The seatbelt sign was on for the entire bumpy flight. You couldn’t even stand up to use the restroom. On the descent into Nashville airport, the pilot made his last announcement of the flight:

“Ladies and gentlemen, there was no flight path or altitude reporting calm air today. For your safety, we were unable to turn the seatbelt sign off or let you out of your seats. Thank you for your cooperation. One last thing . . . The passenger in Seat 5A would like to know if the passenger in Seat 26E will marry him. If Passenger 26E will marry Passenger 5A, please press the flight attendant call button.”

A guy had planned to propose to his girlfriend on the flight, but they couldn’t get seats together. As it became evident that he couldn’t even walk back to propose to her, he told the flight attendant about his desperation. The flight attendant informed the pilot. The pilot decided to step in.

A hush fell through the cabin. After an eternally long half-minute . . . finally, the chime of the flight attendant call button! The cabin erupted in cheers and applause. The IDEA convention has always been special—sometimes, even on the way there.

P.S. I told an ex-girlfriend about this. She replied, “See, that’s why I broke up with you! You never did anything romantic like that!”

Shaken-Up Hotel Employees

Darlene Long-Shorts, Newport Beach, California

AFAA-certified group exercise instructor

IDEA member since 1987

My story goes back to around 1986 or so. The IDEA convention was in Anaheim, California, at the Hilton Hotel, and I was working the event as an IDEA assistant. That was back in the days when high-impact aerobics was the best thing in the fitness industry. Classes were underway in the ballrooms on the third and fourth floors.

During the classes, the floors started to shake and move from all the jumping that was going on in the high-impact classes. The hotel employees became very concerned. I’m not sure what happened, but it was pretty funny at the time.

Editor’s note: In fact, the hotel manager tried to shut down the event because of this. IDEA CEO Peter Davis managed to persuade him to let the event continue as long as the high-impact classes were changed to low-impact. That and a pair of AVIA® shoes for the manager’s wife sealed the deal!

Amanda Vogel, MA

Amanda Vogel, MA, is a fitness professional and the owner of Active Voice, a writing, editing and consulting service for fitness professionals. She writes for IDEA, Health, Prevention, and Self, and has co-authored books on postnatal fitness and yoga. With a master's degree in human kinetics, Amanda has worked in the fitness industry for more than 15 years, including time spent as a program director and vice president for a chain of all-women clubs in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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