Forget Comic-Con. For those in the know, the convention to go to in San Diego occurred the week before. And while the city’s now infamous Fourth of July fireworks show may have been a fizzle, the successful launch of the 2012 IDEA World Fitness Convention—a four-day spectacular celebrating healthy living and the active lifestyle—was a true blast.

Set in San Diego’s 2.6 million-square-foot convention center, this year’s event—July 5-8—was also celebrating IDEA Health and Fitness Association’s thirtieth anniversary, attracting approximately 10,000 people from over fifty countries.


Formed in 1982 by fitness professionals Kat hie and Peter Davis, the International Dance-Exercise Association (as it was originally known) was a response to the aerobics phenomenon of the time and the need for consistency in training, quality, and safety. The first convention—also in San Diego at the Holiday Inn Embarcadero—was held in 1984 with 600 attendees. As the fitness industry continued to expand, so did IDEA.

“The biggest change was personal training,” says IDEA co-founder Kathie Davis. “We realized that it was becoming very important back in 1988, and the following year had our first personal training convention and came out with a magazine at the same time.” The IDEA Fitness Journal continues to be one of the mainstay magazines of the trade.

With a legacy of leadership that spans three decades, IDEA opened this year’s festivities with a fitting tribute to another industry icon, Jane Fonda. Receiving IDEA’s Jack LaLanne Award for inspiring others toward health and fitness through the media, Fonda’s acceptance speech focused on the older adult and was punctuated with 86-year-old Elaine LaLanne (Jack’s wife) dropping to the floor for ten push-ups to the audience’s delight.

“Seeing those two together was a personal highlight of the convention for me,” says Davis.


And that was just for starters. Three days of hands-on workshops, lead by over 160 world-class trainers at the top of their game, included everything from a boot camp onboard the USS Midway to cardio ballet. Each day, attendees could choose from over 150 different educational programs. Friday morning began at 6:45am with session selections that ranged from surf-inspired Indo Board balance workouts to indoor cycling classes from RealRyder, Keiser, and Schwinn to pole dance choreography. The day’s menu also included running clinics and workshops such as Accelerated Recovery Programming, Excellence in Three-Part Cuing, and The Future of Nutrition and Body Transformation.

Saturday’s lineup of learning featured a few more aggressive approaches to fitness with offerings such as The Fighter’s Workout–30 Moves to Whip You Into Fighting Shape and BodyCombat–The Mixed Martial Arts-Inspired Workout. On the softer side, there were also options on training the pregnant athlete, rehabilitative Pilates, and stretching for Baby Boomers.

Training titans Peter Twist and Todd Durkin packed the place during their presentation, Combine Training–When Training Is Your Sport. The dynamic duo entertained and enlightened while putting a hundred or so participants through their paces, challenging the mind-muscle connection. Immediately following, Rodney Corn (co-founder of PTA Global) discussed the process of connecting with and keeping engaged, those you train in his seminar Client-Centric Program Design: Creating Emotionally Charged Exercise Experiences.

And there was no rest on Sunday as P90X-sensation Tony Horton lead the masses in a 7 am post-activation potentiation (PAP) lower-body workout. Those ready for more could opt for Master of Ceremonies Jay Blahnik’s Battleground Boot Camp! or his 10-Minute Stretch Transformation as a late-morning finale to the convention.

When not working up a sweat at the educational sessions, attendees could work themselves into a frenzy over the latest and greatest fitness equipment and concepts in the nearly 616,000-square-foot exhibition hall—the focal point of the event on Friday and Saturday. With over 200 vendors on the floor, just trying to cover it all in a weekend required a fair amount of conditioning. On Saturday, many migrated to the BeachBody booth ( where Tony Horton held court and explained the new P90X Certification program for trainers while politely posing for photos.

But Beachbody wasn’t alone, as there were numerous exclusive conference launches. Among the new and notable, Mike Kadar—strength and fitness coach for the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team—and former NASA engineer Kregg Koch unveiled Core Stix (, a total-body trainer comprised of resistance rods that are already a favorite with certain A-list athletes and celebrities. Both Lebert Fitness ( and Astone Fitness ( companies introduced multipurpose training tools and suspension trainers respectively, while equipment manufacturer Technogym ( and fitness educator PTA Global ( announced a new partnership. Spicing up the show, San Francisco-based Bombay Jam ( unveiled its Bollywood-inspired beats and boogie for a cross-cultural cardio blockbuster, while Cassidy Phillips of Trigger Point Performance ( cooled things down with his Cold Roller, a recovery product combining cold compression and myofascial release.

Others on hand to debut their latest innovations included Nancy Donahue and Susan Anton Pasanen of BelleCore with their Body Buffer (, an oscillating massager and exfoliator; organic health drink manufacturer Ahhmigo (, with its cap-integrated nutrient delivery system; Lindsay and Moira Merrithew ( highlighting the most recent hits from Stott Pilates, Core, Zen-Ga, and Halo Trainer; and Hunter Joslin of Indo Board ( discussing his new paddleboard-based balance trainer. IDEA itself had a booth to showcase a new verification partners program as part of IDEA FitnessConnect, an online directory of fitness professionals accessible to the general public. The program will authenticate trainer qualifications and credentials.

It’s this combination of continuing education and exposure to cutting-edge fitness technology and techniques that make IDEA’s yearly gathering a must for most. “I set aside this time each year to fill my professional toolbox,” says Angie Mercado, a group fitness instructor and personal trainer in attendance. “The conference offers the perfect mix of high-quality instruction and informative lectures. I always return home motivated and inspired.”


Along with keeping pulse on the state of the industry, the 2012 IDEA World Fitness Convention focused on the future of it as well. “Small group training is a huge and continuing trend due to the camaraderie and economics of it,” says Davis, who sees a vast market still untapped. “We as an industry need to continually innovate in order to reach those who aren’t part of our movement. IDEA’s purpose is to inspire the world to fitness, but we’ve still only reached such a small portion of people with our message.”

Fortunately, the number of those who get the message and are passionate about it keeps increasing, as evidenced by the energy and enthusiasm palpable throughout the weekend. “We’ve been doing this for thirty years, so now it’s like a great big family reunion,” admits Davis.

Missed it this time? Then land yourself in Los Angeles from August 7-10, 2013. That’s when IDEA’s health-conscious kin convene again.

For more information on IDEA Health and Fitness Association Click Here.

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Viju Mathew

Viju Mathew

Viju Mathew has been the photo editor for three national publications (Islands, Spa, and Destination Weddings & Honeymoons), an Associate Editor for Spa magazine, Destination Wine Country, and Elite Meetings (A publication on the meetings industry and business travel). Freelance writing has appeared in numerous publications both regional and national including, Santa Barbara Fitness Magazine, Resorts & Great Hotels, Spa, Islands, Snow, Discovery Life, and
Viju Mathew

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