Who trains the trainers and who motivates the motivators who keep millions of Americans inspired to get to the gym, pound the pavement, or hit the bike trail each day? The answer could be found at the Alexandria Hilton over the last four days as the IDEA Health and Fitness Association held its fifth-in-a-row sold out Personal Training Institute Feb. 28 to March 3, attracting more than 800 personal trainers, gym owners and fitness gurus, many of whom train in the Washington, D.C. area.
With its bike trails, extensive parklands, and abundance of road races and other fitness competitions, the Washington, D.C. area has long been one of the fittest metro areas in the country. For the last two years, the area was identified in the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual American Fitness Index as the second healthiest, fittest area in the U.S. (Minneapolis is number one).
Given that status, Aprile Peishel, director of programming for the 25,000-member San Diego-based association, isn’t surprised by the popularity of this year’s conference despite the nation’s economic conditions. “There is a density of personal trainers in this area, and the fitness industry is doing what it should be doing by enlightening people about the importance of fitness and nutrition in their lives,” Peishel said. “People here are savvy and well read about fitness, and they’re realizing that spending on their fitness, health and wellbeing is important and not discretionary.”
The conference included 116 sessions on topics ranging from stress and chronic pain, hormones and weight management, and the role of carbohydrates in performance and body composition, to nutrition supplements, weight training for adolescents, and exercises for seniors. A number of sessions focused on specific exercise methodologies or equipment and included trainer workouts using kettle bells, TRX suspension and resistance cords, BOSU balance trainers, Dynamax medicine balls, and resistance tubing. Others focused on the business-side of personal training, including the growing role of social media in educating, communicating with, and inspiring clients.
In one popular session with Todd Durkin, a well known personal trainer to dozens of NFL and MLB athletes, including Super Bowl XLIV MVP Drew Brees, Super Bowl XLV MVP Aaron Rodgers, and former NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson, the presenter entertained scores of trainers with his offbeat methods of keeping his celebrity athletes motivated to work out and resist the temptations of junk food and alcohol that can impair performance.
“If someone is training with me but they eat like garbage, they can be good, but they won’t be great,” Durkin told the trainers. “Nutrition and hydration are 60 percent of the game, training is 30 and supplementation is 10 percent. If you have two to three [alcoholic] drinks in a night, it will take 48 to 72 hours for your soft tissue to recover from the dehydration.”
Appealing to his celebrity clients’ uber competitive natures, Durkin often texts them early in the morning with humorous videos of himself working out or driving to a workout, lecturing, taunting and challenging them to beat his early morning hours and intensity of effort. Predictably, a number of them began responding back to him with their own early morning video texts of themselves working out, upping the ante on the boasts of their famous trainer.
Sponsored by Gatorade and Reebok, the conference included exhibits and demonstrations of the latest fitness equipment and methodologies. Citing exhibitors such as Triggerpoint Performance Therapy and Sue Hitzmann’s MELT Method, Alexandria-based independent personal trainer Sarah Manning said exhibits focusing on myofascial compression techniques that use foam rollers to massage and prepare muscle groups, manage pain in compromised areas of the body, and prevent injury were especially popular with the trainers. Manning, a specialist in women’s fitness and peri- and post-menopausal issues, trains clients at the newly opened SNAP gym in Alexandria and the Mt. Vernon RECenter.
“This is a really hot field because people today are more focused on their health and treating themselves before they get sick or unhealthy,” Manning said. “They understand that in addition to aerobic exercise it’s important to keep the spine aligned, the joints healthy and to maintain a healthy weight. I love doing this because I get to help people lead happier, healthier lives, and it doesn’t get any better than that.”