What was your last fitness conference experience like? Did you fire up brain cells, burn calories or both? In the month of April, I presented in the UK, Chicago and Ocean City, Maryland. There was lots of time in airplanes to contemplate my experiences at the shows.
This is a rant and rave that I’ve been thinking about for a few months. And after an incredibly busy first quarter of conferences, I’m putting it to paper.
I love fitness conferences for the energy, enthusiasm and comradery I get from so many good friends I see at the shows. But recently, I’ve started to struggle a lit bit with some of what seems to be a theme throughout all the conferences-sweating takes priority over thinking.
Do you go to a fitness conference just to take a workout class that is led by one of your favorite instructors? At a recent show I witnessed two women talking as they were toweling the sweat from their foreheads in sweat soaked clothes. You could hear them discussing the workout they just went through. This would have been inspiring had it not been there third one THAT day!
Is this a case of addictive behavior toward exercise? If it was additive behavior, they were in great company because lots of folks were doing the same. I believe it is more a case of the huge number of people who spend their conference hours working their bodies and not their minds.
I realize that we are an industry that teaches and practices movement as part of what we do. But our conferences often look like labs that never had the lecture. The movement part of what we do is to experience what we have intellectually learned.
If we used the college or university model as an example, a student would never graduate if the only classes he ever took were activity classes. Why is that? Because you can’t possibly learn the scientific foundations and fundamental principles that are prerequisite to teaching others skills properly.
I know some amazingly smart presenters with great science behind what they do finding themselves only doing presentations in the huge rooms where bodies are flailing about. Why do they (and admittedly me at times) do this? Because we feel obligated to get people up and running around or else they won’t stick around for the nuggets of science we sneak in there. That’s sad.
This is certainly not a knock on group exercise presenters or participants. Because the top group exercise instructors I know would love to have their conference attendees sit through an hour of instruction before they started a workout. But would those attendees do it?
The next educational event that I have anxiously anticipated for a couple of years now is finally coming back to Southern California. The Interdisciplinary Congress on Low Back and Pelvic Pain will be in Los Angeles. I attended the very first event they ever had at the University of California San Diego back in 1995. Guess what? There will be no presentations to music or sweat towels required. But there will be massive lecture halls filled with chairs and tables so that detailed note taking can occur. And I’ll be soaking up every minute of it.
What can be done about this trend in fitness conferences? I understand that for those organizations that put on the shows that it is a business venture. And they are in many ways just giving the people what they want. However, they are marketed as educational events. So I’d like to see the scheduling of the sessions to be such that people did not have a workout option available in every single time slot. Then they mind find themselves wandering in to some lectures to kill time and might just enjoy the listening and learning. Don’t just give the attendees what they want, give them some direction toward what they need.
And wouldn’t it be great if they did not schedule presenters with similar subject matter in the same time slots? It seems any of the presenters that I want to see at a conference are inevitably presenting during the same time slots as me. Not only is that a bummer for me, but it also means that the attendees are forced to choose between great presenters on topics that interest them instead of giving them the chance to see two or more at non-conflicting time. I think this hurts everyone.
Fitness conferences are a blast and are so great for our industry in many ways. As we mature as an industry and seek to become part of the health care continuum, our educational events should reflect as much. Yes, we need to move and yes it is OK to sweat. I’d just really like to see us exercising our brains as much as we are exercising our bodies.
What do you think?