IHRSA 2013: The Sessions, Part 1

Now that I’ve been home from Vegas for a few days, caught up at work, seen a movie (Argo, for the second time), run a 5k, I am ready to look back through my notes and review the sessions that I attended at IHRSA 2013 last week.

IHRSA 2013

Create a Successful Personal Training Team

The first session I attended was led by Mark Nutting, CSCS, NSCA-CPT-AR, Fitness Director/Master Trainer at Saco Sports and Fitness. I tend to go to the sessions focused on personal training (though I skipped the other two I’d planned for this convention). The advice pretty much comes down to the same thing: Hire the Right People (and keep hiring). I always take something new with me though. This time it was a suggestion to bring in the potential new hires and have them interact out on the floor with your members and your personal trainers. I love this idea, and have already incorporated it into the second interviews I’m conducting this week.

Other topics in this sessions included making the most of your people, giving them the right tools, be clear about their role and make sure they understand your core values. Since this was about team building, Mark suggested taking a look at your current trainers, re-interviewing them to be sure of their commitment. He also discussed how to keep your people once you have built your team. Yes, money is important, but there are other key things such as autonomy, mastery, working for the greater good, and personal and professional fulfillment.

Mark then discussed team building activities that will help your staff get to know and trust each other better. Some of his suggestions included have them writing each other bios, create and/or participate in a charity event, even have them debate the pros and cons of a fitness or health topic that they feel strongly about. A friendly competition among trainers can help build a team, and your sales at the same time.

Position Your Club For Success

The main reason I attended this session (instead of another personal training/team one) was because it was led by Roberta Kruse-Fordham. She works for my company, WTS International, as a Corporate Fitness Specialist and as General Manager of Ashburn Village Sports Pavillion in Virginia. We met on Wednesday evening at our team dinner, and I really enjoyed speaking with her. She is also a vegetarian, which makes her a winner in my book. She told me that her topic was really a guide to operating a club and was designed for new owners, managers, or anyone who wants to improve the success of their club.

IHRSA Sessions

 A little off topic, but Roberta started her session by talking to the audience. After telling us that this year’s IHRSA Convention had 10,471 attendees from 80 countries, she did a quick quiz. In a relatively small crowd, there were health club owners and managers from Qatar, India, Canada, Germany, Australia, China, Turkey, Dubai, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Finland (and she asked only about that many people!).

She then went on to say that in order to be successful, you must first know who you are. Is your club a small boutique facility or  a large facility with an assortment of products and services? What is your target age group? Will your audience be mostly women? What are the demographics of your area? Knowing these things will help create a vision of where you want to go. She quoted Steve Jobs, “don’t tell your customers what you do, tell them what you do for them. ” For example, don’t tell them that your club has 20,000 square feet of state of the art equipment, sauna, massage, free towels, etc. Instead, say, “we can improve the quality of your life, make you feel better, and live longer.” She also referred to the quote below, also from Jobs (click it for a larger view).


Roberta then discussed building an organizational structure for your business. Create organizational charts and job descriptions, so that everyone has a clear idea of their responsibilities. Create a culture for your business with good leaders, your vision, and a team that knows exactly what is expected. Define your core values.

Leadership is key. Good leaders bring out the best in their team. When they know your expectations, you can empower them, and then hold them accountable. A good leader should have a positive attitude, build teamwork, and not ask their team to do anything that they wouldn’t do themselves.

I enjoyed Roberta’s session and really feel like I learned something that will help me manage my fitness facility.

Tomorrow I am going to discuss the two most meaningful sessions that I attended at IHRSA. The first, conducted by longtime fitness educator and researcher Wayne Westcott, PHD, discussed the importance of resistance training for baby boomers and beyond. It was loaded with research about the amazing benefits that even a basic strength training program can provide. Don’t let the title fool you, in this era of obesity in the majority of Americans, when even children are being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, there is information that applies to all ages.


I will also discuss a session presented by a panel of experts from ACE, the American Council on Exercise. The topic was the Future of Fitness. They discussed Ace’s Vision 2035, their plan to eliminate obesity by 2035. It is a fascinating topic, one to which I hope that you will add your opinions. Stay tuned!

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