IDEA instructors' conference showcases fitness-outdoor mix

Acknowledging the growing crossover between traditional gym exercise and outdoor fitness and recreation activities, the IDEA association for fitness instructors for the first time has developed a package of outdoor activity sessions.
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Acknowledging the growing crossover between traditional gym exercise and outdoor fitness and recreation activities, the IDEA association for fitness instructors for the first time has developed a package of outdoor activity sessions.

The "Club Without Walls" track at its annual conference is intended to encourage personal trainers, group exercise instructors and fitness directors to look at fitness training by thinking "outside the health club box." The track will be presented at the 2004 IDEA World Fitness Convention, July 7-11 in San Diego, Calif.

"With our 'Inspire the World to Fitness' mission, IDEA is constantly looking for new ways to encourage people to incorporate exercise into their daily lives," Kathie Davis, IDEA executive director, told SNEWS®. "And our annual surveys have shown that more than two-thirds of fitness facilities offer some sort of outdoor fitness activity."

Club Without Walls was developed after last year's World convention by an IDEA staff member and Reebok Master Trainer Lenita Anthony. Although previous IDEA conventions incorporated a handful of outdoor sessions like inline skating, this is the first time the organization has formally packaged them and is offering more unusual choices -- such as surfing, running and cycling.

"Our goal for this year's convention was to do a lot of new, exciting and very different things," Davis said, "and with Club Without Walls, we want to give people the idea that fitness is not necessarily something you have to do in a traditional way in a health club, but that it can be flexible and incorporated into other things.

"Club Without Walls was designed to give fun, different programming ideas to fitness professionals that they can then adapt to their local communities. Plus, it lets people try things for themselves that they might have wanted to before but hadn't ever had the opportunity," she added.

These are things like learning to surf at La Jolla Shores, Olympic cycling training at the velodrome in Balboa Park, and "ChiRunning" through downtown San Diego, which is billed by its creator as "a workout that fuses the inner focus and flow of Ta'i Chi with the power and energy of running."

Then there's "Fitness Caching," which is like orienteering where participants don heart rate monitors and use handheld GPS devices to track down "treasures" throughout San Diego.

The seven-session Club Without Walls package includes other, somewhat more traditional workshops (if you compare them to things like ChiRunning or Caching). They are: Dry Land Conditioning for Surfing, which focuses on developing strength, balance and endurance on land; Triathlete Training for Women, which outlines how to create an eight-week program to prepare for sprint and super-sprint triathlons; and Strength Training for Triathletes, highlighting a functional strength-training program that helps maintain a full range of motion, reduce compensations and avoid injuries. The convention's full program also includes the full range of what is thought of as more traditional classes such as indoor cycling, step aerobics and weight-training.

"People are looking for something different, they want to be outdoors and they want to have fun," said Davis. Despite extra costs for transportation and gear rental associated with some of the sessions -- and the fact that some will not grant continuing education credits -- Davis is confident that they will sell out quickly among the convention's 3,000 to 4,000 attendees from around the world. Based on outcomes this year, Davis said that Club Without Walls most likely will become a permanent agenda item for the annual conference.

Reebok International is the sole sponsor of the entire Club Without Walls track, and presenters of individual workshops are independently arranging for necessary gear. However, companies still can exhibit at the 2004 trade show or can raise their hand now to be part of next year's Club Without Walls by contacting IDEA's corporate member service department at 800-999-IDEA. Some exhibitors include Schwinn/Nautilus, Exel, Spri, Stott Pilates, Accusplit, Ball Dynamics, efi, Body Bar, Fitter, FreeMotion, Hampton Fitness, Life Fitness, Polar, Trixter and Thorlo.

SNEWS® View: We are pleased that one of the biggest fitness professional organizations is venturing outside the four walls of health clubs to promote what we have long seen as the intuitive crossover between outdoor activity and indoor exercise -- with the bottom line to both being fitness and health. There's no reason why clubs can't embrace indoor AND outdoor activities, many of which of course complement each other. Perhaps the Club Without Walls track will nudge fitness professionals who typically spend the bulk of their time surrounded by steel and artificial lighting to broaden their thinking. And this kind of acceptance of outdoor ideas by normally indoor workout nuts could encourage the outdoor industry to get more involved. We look forward to seeing this concept evolve even further.

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