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The Problem With Fitness

IDEA World Fitness Convention is rampant with positivity. Everywhere you go you see smiling instructors, coaches, personal trainers shaking hands and connecting with colleagues. It’s a microcosm of what this industry aims to produce.


But despite the smiles and handshakes there’s a bigger problem lurking. While those of us filling the convention center halls “get it,” it seems the rest of the world doesn’t. The stark reality is that the vast majority of the population isn’t getting it. It’s strange because as this industry continues its monumental growth, so, too continues the monumental growth of the world’s waistline. How is that possible?


In a session on breaking down the boundaries of exercise, Rodney Corn asked his attendees if they thought that overweight and obese people were just lazy. The room was still.


He then asked for attendees to share with him the thing they most hate doing.


“Shopping,” responded one woman.






Corn approached each of the respondents and said, “What if I told you that the secret to improved health involves shopping/dusting/moving for 30 minutes, 5 days per week. For significant improvements, all you have to do is shop for one hour, 5 days per week. Would you do it?”


Point taken.


Conference attendees love fitness. That’s why they are personal trainers, coaches and instructors. They’ll boot camp for hours without a single complaint. But the truth is that the majority of the population hates exercise. They know it’s good for them. They know it will make them feel and look better. But they hate it.


“No, they’re not lazy,” Corn said. “They’ve been misinformed. We’ve misinformed them about what exercise and movement really is. We’ve told them that they have to engage in an activity they hate in order to get better. But exercise doesn’t have to be that way for them. How about we try to figure out what kinds of physical activity they like to do and encourage them to do that?”


How do we change our approach, because as Corn also adds, “The fitness industry caters to the already fit.”


Perhaps it’s time to forget about dumbbells, barbells and push-ups and get creative and find a way to really engage the vast majority of the population that is missing out on the joys of movement. Maybe instead of focusing on what we think they need, we ask them what they want.


Making Connections: What's Your Story?

Whether you like it or not, in the fitness world you are always selling. On the broad scope you sell your services. Within the realm of a training session, indoor cycling class or coaching call, you’re selling an exercise, cadence or behavior modification. But how are you selling it?

This morning, keynote speaker and former pro football player Bo Eason emphasized that to be successful you must have a story. He engaged the crowd with the story of his entry into football and how he went from a 140-pound weakling with a dream to a star athlete. The attendees were mesmerized. At the end of the presentation it became clear why he was telling his story.

“Your story is your bread and butter,” he said. “People don’t buy products and services anymore; they buy stories.”

It makes sense. After all, in the fitness world, the number of weight-loss experts is growing like wildfire. But what sets you apart from all of that competition? It’s your story. People want to find a way to relate to you and the human-to-human experience trumps any fancy gadget or gizmo.

The theme of story held true throughout many of the other sessions I attended today. In a departure from traditional forms of storytelling, Michol Dalcourt discussed the story your fascia tells and how those messages impact the way the body moves. Damaged fascia doesn’t speak--or at the very least, it's voice is stifled--significantly hampering the body’s natural rhythms and creating movement dysfunction.

In order to sell his exercisers on the joys of movement, Lawrence Biscontini's story is all about games and interpersonal connection. “It’s never exercises or movements. We always play games.” He finds that these words allow them to find greater engagement in the “games” he facilitates. He also encourages participants to share stories with one another--a tactic he belives keeps them sharp, physically and mentally.

In some cases, your approach might involve helping a client find his story. In a session on understanding whether a client needs a workout or an energy improvement session, presenter Dan Hellman recounted a story of a physical therapy client who was perpetually injured. But rather than lecturing his client, he expressed empathy and offered gentle reminders of how to avoid future injury.

“You can coach your client on the optimal approach and hope they take it,” he said. “If not, you have to let them take the suboptimal approach if that’s their choice. Sometimes it takes making the suboptimal choice for the client to fully embrace the optimal.”

He allowed his own client's story to help him make the better choice.

Bottom line: Stories are everywhere, and stories will become the difference between sinking and swimming. “Your story connects you to who is in front of you better than anything,” Eason remarked. He recalls a quote from Rofl Jensen, chief imagination officer of the Dream Company: 

"The highest-paid person in the first half of the next century will be the 'storyteller.' The value of products will depend on the story they tell. Nike and many other gloabal companies are already mainly storytellers. That is where the money is--even today."

What story are you telling?

Challenging Convention

This conference is designed to create light bulbs. It's designed to shift mindsets and pose questions. However, this year there was a definite rebellious bent. Each session I attended challenged conventional wisdom. From the importance of core training and corrective exercise to current common business practices to calorie obsession, this year seemed focused on rethinking what is thought of as truth. 

Michol Dalcourt, ViPR inventor and owner of the Institute of Motion suggested that the practice of developing stability before mobility may be inhibiting physical function. "We should never sacrifice mobility for stability," he argued. Alluding to the research and practices of Stuart McGill, PhD, Dalcourt questioned one specific exercise--the plank. "How long should we hold it?" He asked to mixed responses. "According to McGill, we should hold it for only 10 seconds and rest." He goes on to say that anything beyond that creates an overactive muscular system. And that such practices could potentially create dysfunction because muscles are unable to shut off. "It's time to work on chain reaction kinetics, rhythmic movement patterns. Rhythm and timing is the next corrective exercise."

Steve Jack spoke about how most fitness professionals are stuck in conventional business modalities. Going to work, training for 8 hours and then returning home burnt out and energy deficient is an inefficient way to live, he said. Focusing on active income--that which requires actual in-person man-hours is limited. He urged attendees to work toward developing passive income, or income that can be made, essentially, while you sleep. Passive income can be made selling online products and services, for example. "Once your passive income matches your expenses, then you will truly be living."

Finally, Jade Teta, ND, co-owner of Metabolic Effect left attendees reeling with his charge that the "calories in, calories out" model should be tossed out. "If any other industry utilized a model such as this, that has had such a low success rate, it would have been abolished long ago." Instead, he suggests that fitness professionals focus on hormones, not calories. "Have you had clients who have done everything right according to conventional wisdom--they're on a caloric deficit eating plan, exercising multiple hours per week, but can't drop a pound? Yet others, who have poor nutrition choices and exercise a few times a week achieve success? Still think it's about calories?" 

Your food and exercise choices impact what messages your hormones send such as whether to store or burn fat, he explained. This session was so full of information that I could easily write pages and pages, but I don't have the bandwidth--nor energy after this incredible conference--to do so. 

Why is it that we do what we do? And if what we're doing isn't working, isn't it time to rethink the system and challenge conventional wisdom? I suppose that's up to you.

It's All About the Hormones

For as long as I can remember, fitness and wellness professionals have eagerly informed weight loss clients that the path to their goal is simple: eat less, move more. I know I've spouted this phrase with confidence. Over the past several years I've learned that this model may be flawed. These days the experts are looking deeper and have sights set on something a bit more complex: the hormone.

Hormones were a popular topic of conversation at Inner IDEA this year. While discussion didn't solely surround the concept of hormonal balance for weight loss--the presenters talked about stress relief, energy levels, emotions--the standing room-only classes are evidence of a hot topic.

In "Hormones: A Critical Link to Health," presenter Mark stone caught everyone's attention when he suggested that the oft demonized cholesterol plays a significant role in the development of progesterone--a hormone that helps us handle stress and decrease inflammation. He also suggested that low cholesterol may be linked to the extensive fertility problems among modern women. "We need the right kinds of cholesterol for optimal hormone function. Those cholesterols are found in organic, grass-fed animal meats," he says. He also calls for a variety of vegetables, but urges moderation--especially with leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables. They carry a compound known as phytates which can inhibit the absorption of vitamins and minerals and can disrupt thyroid function.

Though food is important in balancing hormones, our daily actions can create problems as well. For example, Stone suggests removing that big 40" from the bedroom and to log out of Facebook by 7 or 8 at night. The body needs time to shut down naturally. Visual stimulation can disrupt the release of melatonin which diminishes the regenerative benefits of sleep.

Ray Gin, DC, also tackled the topic of hormones and how our outlook can affect them. He posits that hormones and emotions are directly linked. "Hormonal symptoms create emotional changes," he says. "And emotional symptoms create hormonal changes." Negative attitudes, thoughts and beliefs can engender a negative hormonal response that leads to inflammation. "Change your beliefs, change your life," Gin adds. He says that erasing or re-recording beliefs or thought patterns via mind-body techniques such as the Emotional Freedom Technique or Neuroemotional Technique can help reduce the potential for inflammation and disease.

Attention to hormones and how fitness, wellness and nutrition practices impact them is likely to gain steam over the coming years. Professionals will begin to look past the "calories in, calories out" model with a more discerning eye, especially as clients' goals remain out of reach. There will be greater focus placed on the types of foods eaten, methods of exercise and daily care practices for overall improved health.

Express Yourself!

As I write this post, the sun is gently setting on an uncharacteristically blue Pacific. Just inland, the vibrant greens of the world-famous Torrey Pines golf course have developed an amber glow. It's been a while since I've felt this peaceful.

I'd like to say that the calm I feel is due to the lush surroundings wherein the 2011 Inner IDEA Conference is being held. That's partly it. However, as a first-time attendee, I readily admit that the dominant factor leading to my current state is the message I picked up from all the learning I experienced today.

When I was in college I remember that, despite the vast array of courses on my schedule, there always seemed to be a central theme among them. While the Inner IDEA Conference contains a bit more obvious unity than, say, calculus and anthropology, there are two unifying factors that led to my calm: Be aware of the subtleties and express yourself.

This morning I stepped into the "Somatic Experiencing and Integrative Wellness Study" session. At one point, presenter Steve Hoskinson, MA, MAT, asked the group to "simply let your eyes go where they want to go." He said that we've been so conditioned to sit up straight, watch the teacher, take notes. We are so obedient that we lose sight of ourselves and our surroundings. So as my eyes scanned the unpleasant carpet design, slightly disheveled bun of the woman in front of me or the swirled designs on the backs of the chairs, I felt an ease drift over me. Hoskinson said that the development of awareness is a significant component of stress relief. The simple act of taking a moment to take in what surrounds us will undoubtedly increase our level of comfort.

Later, I dropped into Sue Hitzmann's "40 Is Not the New 30" session which showcased her MELT techniques. I tried to be an observer, but one of her assistants insisted I take a foam roller and soft small ball and be a participant. I'm glad I did. We were gently escorted through a series of tension releases and breathing techniques. While lying supine, Sue would say things like, "notice where your toes are pointing" or "feel what part of your back is pressed against the floor." But she insisted we do this without looking. "Don't look!" She would say. "Notice." Essentially, be aware of the nuances and understand who you are and what you need without seeing.

Finally I stopped into Kimberly Spreen's Find Y.O.G.A.--Your Own Gorgeous Asana. I'm not a yogi. I even hesitated dropping in because I didn't feel confident accurately describing what I was to see. But, I didn't need to be an expert. Again, two take homes: understand and be aware of your body, and be yourself! "Let go of expectations and the desire for [your pose] to look right or be right. Move as it feels right for your body." As she said this she guided them through a series of poses. Once learned, Kimberly instructed them to move through it, at their own pace, the way they feel is right. And just as the sequence started--I was thoroughly astounded by the flawless timing--she increased the volume of the music and out poured, "Express Yourself" by The Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band. "It's not what you look like, when you're doing what you're doing, it's what you're doing when you're doing what you look like you're doing. Express yourself," the band and Kimberly sang in unison. Thus ensued a choreographed, yet somewhat freestyle--I chuckled as some of the participants threw in some booty shakes along the way--yoga flow session.

As the sun descends into the big blue sea, I relish the peace I've found. Today I was given permission to slow it down for a bit, learn more about me and my body and to express myself how I see fit.

This has been a good day.


Meet Them Where They Live

It's hard to walk through the halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center without noticing the various footwear worn by attendees. I'm pleasantly surprised at the number of professionals donning what are now referred to as minimalist shoes.. 

I've seen some pretty incredible designs. Some seemed like they come from the future. Others look as though they were molded specifically for the foot, serving simply as thin rubber protection from the elements. Of course more traditional options still abound.

At a convention like this, minimalist footwear is the norm. In the "oustide" world, however, these types of shoes are rarely seen. Wear a pair of 5 Fingers and you're likely to receive some interesting stares. Because we're conscientious professionals, we love to share helpful information with clients and exercisers.

I dropped into Michol Dalcourt's session on footwear. One of the takeaways was that shoes that offer the most cushion and support often create the most impact. The irony. Minimalist shoes help evenly distribute forces through the body for reduced impact and pain.

We know this, but what about our clients?

This got me thinking about the global picture. We want the best for our clients. We want them to eat loads of vegetables. We want them to exercise regularly. We want them to choose footwear we know will benefit them. We have high expectations and often want them to meet us where we stand. But I think we're missing the boat as evidenced by the grand scope of obesity or pain. So instead of trying to convince them to come to us, perhaps it's time to find that happy medium for improved health. We need to meet clients where they "live," not the other way around. What is it that we can do to gently motivate this planet toward improved health?



Face It: We're in a Social Media World


Today is pre-conference day at IDEA World Fitness Convention. That means the halls are still quiet and the registration booths are only two people deep. Despite what I refer to as “the calm before the storm,” there was still plenty of education to be enjoyed.


Of particular interest to me was Chalene Johnson’s all-day session on leveraging social media. “If you’re not using social media, you will not be successful,” she warned the surprisingly sparse crowd. “Social media is where it’s at.”


Chalene is probably best known for her fitness DVDs and programs like TurboFire, however she has become quite the queen of social media. She is building an empire by simply leveraging these tools to her benefit. She now offers courses on how to use Twitter, Facebook and YouTube for financial gains.


“We no longer have to go door-to-door to sell services or products,” she says. “The grapevine is pointless.” When executed properly, social media pursuits can put you in front of as many “eyeballs” as possible. Those eyeballs belong to individuals who may become clients or consumers once they trust you.


But you have to be careful about how you approach it, she adds. Simply asking for business is ineffective. You have to give tidbits of information first. Don’t tweet something like, “buy my organic cotton t-shirts.” Tweet about why organic cotton is earth friendly. Then tweet about how it feels better on the skin, and again on how it benefits farmers. Once you’ve gained trust, ask for the sale.


I can go on about the power of social media. If there’s one take home I can share it’s to not be afraid of it. As Chalene says, schedule half a day and play with it. Watch tutorials on YouTube. Like it or not, social media is the next wave of marketing. Catch it and thrive. Miss it and sink.



It's Sunday and I was up at 5AM; a time of morning I haven't seen in quite some time. But it was to be a special day as I was invited to join 20 of the top presenters in the world for the blowout "Showdown/Throwdown" session. I didn't need coffee (though I did get one just in case) as the bundle of nerves in my body worked overtime.

As I meandered toward the convention center I noticed well-worn attendees digging deep to close out IDEA World Convention 2010 with a bang. Some were wobbly; most deep in thought attempting to make sense of the ideas and theories bouncing through their brains; all were tired. You can't blame them; this was the final day of an exhausting convention. But these people are the lifeblood of IDEA's message to Inspire the World to Fitness. These are the professionals that definitely walk the talk.

What impressed me most was the vigor and enthusiasm with which hundreds of fatigued attendees poured through the ballroom doors. Those stalwart folks had burned it at both ends, but somehow managed to give it one last go. And they were glad they did.

Two rooms, 20 presenters, one massive 2-hour workout that challenged balance, agility, strength, but most of all: utter determination. What's more? Those who pushed hardest were rewarded with BOSU Balance Trainers, DVDs, IDEA swag, training equipment, books and more. But it didn't stop there. Two tough-as-nails attendees were rewarded with not one, but TWO convention registrations for IDEA World Fitness Convention 2011.

This session is just one example of the power of what it is fitness professionals do. I am 100% confident that those participants--and all World attendees for that matter--will head home to their respective homes, and use their undying enthusiasm to get this world moving.

Until next year.

Communicate to Motivate

Fitness professionals brim with skills. We make people sweat. We build muscle. We create programs that inspire others to embrace change. But is it the program that initiates progression? Or is it the way information is presented that promotes progress?
Communication was a primary focus today. Whether this communication involves a oneness among movement professionals, or the interpersonal relationships developed between professional and consumer, communication can make or break best intentions.
My morning began with a 45-minute Zumba Dance Party in order to avoid the ever-long Starbuck's line. It worked. The interesting thing about Zumba is that a lot happens with nary a word spoken. Instead, it's all about body language and visual cues.
Next I stopped in to learn a movement nomenclature developed by the GrayInstitute's Gary and Doug Gray. The goal of the session was to introduce a universal language that would unify the fitness world. "We need a consistent language among all modalities," challenges Doug Gray. "We need a more sensitive nomenclature, which will help to create a more sensitive measurement system." At the end of the session, one Gray would shout "single-leg right anterior lunge with bilateral posterior reach," and everyone in the room moved their bodies in sequence similar to a well-choreographed Zumba routine.
Bobby Cappuccio challenged his attendees to examine facial expressions to better understand what emotions lay beneath a client's surface. Picking up on nuances can help trainers better direct the most successful session for that particular day. He also suggested that some professionals are so focused on strict rules for movement that a client can become overwhelmed with too many movement cues. "Play is becoming more relevant," he says. "Too many cues slow motor learning, and you can actually activate an inner judge within that client." He urges professionals to focus on movements that are safe and enjoyable.
Fitness professionals rely on communication to initiate change in others.

Have you evaluated how you communicate with your clients or exercisers? Are they really getting the message? Effective communication may be one of the most important skills a fitness professional can possess.

Your Best Foot Forward

Day three of the convention and my feet are breaking down. I’m not sure how many steps I’ve logged, but I’m sure it’s well above the American Heart Association’s recommendation of at least 10,000 per day. After five years’ of these conventions, I’m well aware of the toll they take on the body and so I try my best to arm myself against pain or injury. The pups are at a dull ache right now, so I take that as a victory.

I once read that the feet must absorb about a million pounds of pressure during a strenuous exercise session. Ideally, the body is well adapted to distribute such stresses in an efficient pattern. As most of us know, few have ideal body alignment. So it’s no surprise that many of the sessions I went to today spent time discussing the feet.

The first mention of the day was by Juan Carlos Santana as he discussed the four pillars of human movement. During a single leg anterior reach exercise he talked about wobbly feet and knees as a sign of weakness in the butt. “Think of the knees and feet like kids and the butt is the parent,” he advised, garnering a bit of laughter from attendees. “If the kids are doing something wrong, you wouldn’t yell at them, you yell at the parents! Strengthen the butt and the feet and knees will behave.”

Leslee Bender’s main cue throughout her discussion on improving posture involved lifting through the feet. “Did you feel your butt when you did that? Isn’t that amazing?” She exclaimed. It must have been amazing because attendees simultaneously let out moans of groans of satisfaction.

Finally, Chuck Wolf, aka “The Foot Guy,” echoed Santana’s sentiments stating that the butt is very important in overall structural stability and health. Get the butt more involved and the feet will function more properly.

Agreed. Now I just hope I’m not too late to run (or limp) down to the Trigger Point Therapy booth to pick up one of those painful little balls to help release my plantar fascia!