The IDEA World Convention, which just occurred in Los Angeles, is one of the largest fitness industry events where personal trainers and group fitness instructors gather to receive continuing education, participate in workouts led by some of the industry’s most popular instructors and connect with other like-minded professionals. Whether you are a seasoned personal trainer with years of experience or a newbie motivated to learn more about fitness, IDEA World featured a little something for everyone.
One of my favorite things about IDEA World is that in this day and age it is always fun to meet people in real life after following through social media; although it is a little surreal to know a number of random things about someone without ever having actually met in person.
Over the past few years the IDEA trade show and expo has morphed from featuring vendors that sold primarily fitness gear, think medicine balls, bands, music and clothes, to a wide variety of companies with some offering goods or services with only tangental relevance to fitness. Kellogg’s, Intel, PepsiCo (parent company of Gatorade and Propel) and the portable cot you fill with air are all examples of non-fitness specific companies displaying products at the trade show.
Over the course of the convention and in the following days after I have heard some discussion that IDEA was watering down the experience by inviting a variety of companies into the fitness expo or that certain presenters were teaching exercises that were potentially dangerous. I don’t know about you, but I really appreciate the fact that IDEA allows a wide variety of companies to participate in the trade show. Here’s something to think about:
As fitness professionals (and consumers) do we want IDEA to dictate what is considered ‘good’ or ‘not good’ by allowing only select companies to display their products, programs or services at the trade show? My argument is that no, we do not.
This is a free market economy and IDEA is in business to make money. One way they do that is by selling space in the trade show. IDEA can and, in my opinion, should sell booth space to whomever is willing to pay. It is then up to us as educated professionals to determine the viable products and programs that can meet the needs of our clients. If IDEA limited the trade show to what they considered ‘worthy’ they would be making the decisions for us, this flies in the face of how the free market is supposed to work. By opening the trade show to any vendor willing to purchase space, IDEA allows us to see, feel and play with new products or programs, talk to the representatives and make informed decisions about which products or services can best meet the needs of our clients.
Were there some products or programs that piqued my interest? Absolutely, I thought there was some interesting options that I want to learn more about and will consider adding to my fitness toolbox. A few that stood out include:
The Axius Core Trainer. Developed by a rugby player; I’ll ALWAYS support fellow ruggers.
GymGO Online training platform. Really cool interface to train multiple clients at same time; company based in MD (see above, replace rugger with Marylander)
ActivMotion Bar. A cool resistance bar with shifting mass.
Terra Core by Vicore Fitness. An extremely versatile training platform.
(In the interest of full disclosure I’m doing some consulting work for ActivMotion Bar and Vicore – but that’s because I think the products are cool and meet specific needs of the industry).
Were there some products or programs that left me shaking my head? Absolutely, but it’s not up to me to decide whether something is dangerous, stupid or unnecessary. We are all educated and we can make decisions for ourselves about what is best for our respective businesses. If there is a product or program that you consider unsafe then don’t buy it. It’s as simple as that. If there are conference sessions that seem nonsensical, then don’t go or, if you do go and don’t agree with the message or like the messenger, then walk out, no one is forcing you to be there. If no one supports it, guess what? It will cease to exist.
The free market model of economics tells us that consumers will gravitate towards products and services that meet a specific need. One good thing about the trade show was that it DID include a wide variety of products and services; some will meet or fulfill a specific need, others, not so much. A company can spend the time, effort and, of course, money to bring a concept to market but that doesn’t mean there is a need for it or the market will adopt it. At the end of the day the good products, programs and services will rise to the top while the others will be relegated to the dustbin of fitness history.
A Few Other Observations from IDEA World 2016:
Fitness is global and IDEA World is a true international event with participants traveling from around the world for the experience. It’s fun to see friends from Singapore, Indonesia, Moscow and the UK; as well as meeting new ones from Guatemala, Mexico, Portugal and Sweden.
Zumba remains insanely popular, their booth and demo stage were busy the entire three day run of the trade show. It looks like we’ll be shaking our tail feathers in neon outfits well into the foreseeable future.
A number of companies are now making training rigs or jungle-gym type equipment expanding a category that barely existed five years ago.
The opening reception is awesome and I love the fact that IDEA pays for catering but the lines for food and drink were excessively long which took away from the positive energy of opening day. FYI, the proper strategy is to have one friend gather food while you wait for drinks.
Reebok has entered the product market by licensing their name to a wide variety of fitness equipment.
Hanging out at the bar in the lobby of the JW is the best way to network and socialize.
Intel is promoting new wearable tech along with education to help trainers learn how to manage the data collected; with programming by the elite performance center EXOS pay attention for upcoming opportunities to learn how to apply this technology.
TRX introduced a cool version of their Suspension Trainer developed by mobility expert Kelly Starret. Plus the team always throws the best party, the speak-easy was a killer venue for this year’s soiree.
Making Our Industry Stronger
Now on to the point about dangerous exercises. To quote Pete Twist’s observation, “At every fitness event in the world there is silly and there is science.” There can be some good, interesting and relevant innovations, but there are others that leave you shaking your head asking: “why???”
The simple fact is this: we need to get people moving. We know that regular physical activity provides a wide variety of health benefits and consistency is the key for receiving health benefits from exercise. Each of us needs to accept the fact that while we may not agree with how another trainer or instructor designs their workout we need to step back and let the market forces work.
Anything that gets people moving is a good thing. We have all seen videos of people dancing on treadmills or doing choreography on stationary bikes. Take a step back and look at those videos again; there is one common thread in each of them: the participants seem to be having a good time. If people enjoy a workout and it’s not hurting them then why would we want to discourage them by saying they’re doing something wrong?
But when we see a questionable application of the science we do owe it to our fellow fitness professionals to ask, “Why?” Specifically, “Why are you using that exercise or that piece of equipment in that way?”
Just because you can does not mean that you should.
I am not the fitness police, but I am always concerned when I see products or workouts that do not seem to follow the principles of exercise program design or account for how the body is designed to move. Often I am asked my opinion as a fitness educator on the fitness benefits of certain products or trends and I rely on known exercise science to help me determine whether or not something is worth doing.
For example, boxing while seated on a stationary bike will torque the lumbar spine making it a great way to cause low-back pain; in short, it’s just plain silly.
Likewise, it is not my responsibility to tell other instructors they are doing something “wrong;” but partner leg raises that require rotation through the lumbar spine while the hips are extending are not an exercise I would select for any workout that I was designing.
Here’s what we can all do together to help make our industry safer:
Let our customers (clients and group participants) know that they have the right to skip an exercise or drill if they feel it is beyond their capabilities or it causes them pain. We have to educate our consumers that exercise should not hurt and leave it up them whether or not they perform all exercises in a class or workout.
This means as instructors and trainers we need to be okay with someone doing what feels comfortable for them instead of the exercise we are coaching.
In my workouts I would rather see a participant do their own exercise than try something that was beyond their comfort level – this means they are listening to their body and thinking for themselves. If one or two people in a class of twenty or more are doing their own thing, that means they are making the necessary modifications for their needs. If more than a few people are doing their own thing then I need to take a look at the workout to see if I could be providing a different experience.
If we educate our customers and give them permission to stop when they feel a workout isn’t right for them guess what will happen? In time market forces will come into play and people will gravitate towards the workouts that provide pain-free results and stop going to the instructors or classes that have a greater risk of injury or don’t take an individuals needs or concerns into consideration. If an instructor is dangerous, bad or boring participants will stop showing up and the class will be removed from the schedule. That’s the free market in action.
Educated consumers will decide the best classes and instructors that meet their needs.
Why are there class formats with ‘war’ or ‘combat’ in the title? We have men and women serving overseas being killed in combat zones. In my opinion we cheapen their commitment and sacrifice by featuring workouts referring to war. War is ugly. War is divisive. War is deadly. Exercise brings people together. Exercise improves lives. We can do better, please leave the war references out of our business.
Why the continuous focus on looking for “the next big thing in fitness?” We are an industry that needs to focus on doing the basics better before delving into advanced strategies or introducing high intensity everything. The best experts in any field are those who execute the basics better than anyone else. A chef does not need to be overly complicated to prepare a magnificent meal. Even though there are only seven basic notes a master musician knows how to organize them to create beautiful songs. There are only a few basic patterns of movement; let’s teach people how to execute those before introducing any complicated exercises.
Once upon a time you would go to a conference and hear one presenter trash the work of another. Thankfully we have evolved and while I’m sure it still happens it’s not as prevalent as in years past. Let’s keep the positive energy going and rather than insulting another instructor let’s educate one another that exercise should feel challenging, not painful.
Let’s put as much information as possible out in the market and help educate the general fitness consumer who will ultimately determine the best fitness products and services. We need to first figure out how to get people to move pain free, move more often and make activity a regular habit before we can discuss the most effective equipment or programming solutions.
If we take these steps then the laws of supply and demand will reign – the market will determine what works and what doesn’t; ultimately leading to a survival of the fittest (pun intended) that would make Charles Darwin proud.
We are doing an amazing job of changing people’s lives but we can do better. We have to have the integrity to present evidence-based solutions. We need to focus on helping people make physical activity a regular habit before we start jacking them up with all kinds of high intensity everything.
If you want to experience what IDEA World is all about, it is being held in Las Vegas in 2017 where I probably WON’T be doing a post-conference blog b/c what happens in Vegas, well, you know…