idea world fitness convention includes mind/body crowd

More than six thousand people rolled through the San Diego Convention Center in early July for the IDEA World Fitness Convention. Some came for the full conference, while others just to check out the products on display in the expo hall. But everywhere they looked, the message was a positive one about health, fitness, and IDEA’s trademark “inspire the world to fitness” mission.

This year was the thirtieth annual IDEA convention. The theme was Be the Transformation. Speakers talked not only about how fitness professionals could get their clients to change, but about how they need to be good role models and examples themselves. There was a big emphasis on empathy for the problems that clients face, which was reflected in the keynote speech during the opening ceremonies.

Dr. Pamela Peeke, author of The Hunger Fix, talked about neuroscience and food addiction. She explained that the rewards center in people’s brains has been hijacked by hyper-palatable foods, such as those that are high in sugar, salt and fat. But Peeke insists there is a way to escape from food addiction. And more good news–we can do two things to grow the prefrontal cortex, that is, help us to regenerate our brains: movement and meditation.

Tara Costa, renowned for losing 155 pounds during her stint on the TV show The Biggest Loser, gave a candid and inspiring speech about her own struggles. She talked about the isolation of weighing 316 pounds, and her nights spent with her consoling best friends, Ben and Jerry. She started her speech with a story about being excluded from a nightclub because she didn’t look like the kind of guest they’d want. But now that she’s within the parameters of what a New York club finds acceptable, she doesn’t want to go. “Now I don’t care about nightclubs,” she said. “I care about getting up at 5:30 and riding my bike. Because now I can.”

The convention ran for three days, and offered hundreds of workouts, lectures and demonstrations. Participants learned new workout techniques and improved their knowledge of nutrition, business and exercise physiology.

And everybody did lots of shopping.

Expo Hall

Scores of exhibitors filled the expo hall, showing off fitness apparatus, clothing lines, sports drinks and new and established fitness programs. Here are updates from a few who might be of interest to the mind/body set.

Merrithew Health & Fitness

Industry giant Merrithew Health & Fitness had a huge booth. Since Lindsay and Moira Merrithew opened their first fitness studio in 1988 in Toronto, they’ve steadily brought hundreds of Pilates-related products and several brands into the mind/body market, and trained more than 30,000 instructors through Stott Pilates. Recently they introduced Zenga, a fusion class format which blends yoga, Pilates and dance. “Zenga has brought yoga people into Pilates,” said Zenga master instructor PJ O’Clair.


Yoga Fit, on the other hand, bridges yoga and fitness, according to Carol Shankland, one of YogaFit’s master trainers. The brand has really branched out in the last couple of years, adding many more instructional opportunities for YF teachers, including pranayama, Ayurveda, restorative, three levels of yoga therapy and “yoga for the change.” Shankland said she wanted to call this last one Zenopause, but was vetoed. They’ve also introduced a hot yoga format, called YogaFit Sweat. They keep their rooms heated to 85-99 degrees. “Our body temperature is 98 degrees, so we should probably stop there,” Shankland said.

Via Privé Activewear

A newcomer on the fitness apparel scene, Via Privé was a hit at the convention. Their fitness clothes are simple and graceful, and their yoga pants are named after flowers. Designer Vesna Markgrafa said the Dahlia pant, with its printed, fold-over waistband, is one of her favorites. Via Privé has an admirable “buy one, give one” program. Whenever a customer buys a piece of their apparel, the company gives a new garment to a poor child in India.

Evidence Based Apparel

This line of shirts is for people who worry about the activities of daily living pulling them into a hunched posture. Evidence Based Apparel makes shirts with what they call neurobands, which are designed to tilt the shoulder blades into proper position and provide scapular support. EBA strives to improve your posture while you sit at a computer, play sports, or whatever else you spend the day doing. You can wear their tops under your regular clothing or on their own. However, unless you’re very confident or have a figure like Catwoman, you might want to wear an outer layer.

Indo Boards

Apparently the sport of yoga on stand-up paddleboards is sweeping the country. But what if you don’t live near water? Or if it’s winter? Don’t worry. Indo Boards introduced a wobbly board that simulates the off-kilter feeling while safely on land. The six foot long board, called the Indo Yoga Board, folds to three feet. According to one of the company’s representatives, “unstable yoga could be the next big wave in yoga.” He went on to say that yoga experts have reached a plateau, and this is a way to push yoga to another level.

Bombay Jam

Yogis who want a livelier workout might enjoy Bombay Jam. This one-hour class format blends Bollywood dance with dance-based toning. Owned by the Mona Khan Company, they just started offering a teacher certification and are beginning to expand beyond their Bay Area home. The soundtrack is a blend of Bollywood and Western top 40, custom mixed by a DJ in India.

Rate Your Burn

When Gillian Casten worked on Wall Street, she only had one hour each morning to work out. “I was annoyed that I couldn’t figure out how that hour would be most useful,” she said. She quit her job and put her money into developing her concept of re-engineering the relationship between instructors and gyms. The result is her website,, where gym enthusiasts can rate teachers. So far she has 17,000 individual instructors and more than 6,000 gyms on board. The site went live a few weeks ago and is only rating New York instructors, though she plans to expand to California, Illinois, Texas, Florida, and then the rest of the US. The site will likely aid consumers while striking terror into the hearts of instructors. But the real point is to gather user data and demographics. “It’s a data business with a thin fitness veneer,” Casten said.

Zebra Yoga Floor

Zebra is a big name in gym flooring, especially for mixed martial arts. Their yoga flooring is easy to clean, durable, and can even eliminate the need for yoga mats, if desired. “People are concerned about the smell of the floor,” said Heidi Collins, Zebra Yoga product manager. Lots of flooring has major outgassing, and don’t even get her started on carpeted studios, for which she has two words: staph infections. “IDEA has us in their corporate office,” Collins said proudly. Gym flooring is a growing market, she said. “People are spending so much on adding a juice bar or spa rooms. You can get a juice anywhere. It’s the flooring that matters.”

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