What I Learned At: The Canfitpro Conference 2012

Sorry I’m late with this one, lots of information to process – Last weekend, I had a whirlwind of a time in Toronto at the Canfitpro International Fitness and Club Business Conference.  Canfitpro is a HUGE conference.  Let me say that again, it is a HUGE conference.  Lots of sessions to choose from, thousands of fitness professionals (of every stripe), and a big trade show.

I started the conference off with a panel session about the state of the fitness industry with Mark de Wit, Jan Middelkamp, Darren Jacobson, Sara Kooperman, Libby Norris and Jennifer Wilson:  Clients drive the trends.  Start with PLAY, do things people WANT to do.  We need to rely on trust, not trends.  As an industry, we lose the trust of our clients, members, employees. 

Fitness professionals love to exercise and use their bodies as science experiments – this, coupled with shiny new fitness toys, is how trends start.  The trend should be that we get back to the basics and focus on keeping out clients engaged.  We need to make exercise fun for a population that may not think that way coming in.  It’s not even necessarily about results right off the bat – it’s about helping people find what they love about moving their bodies.  We need to build relationships, not the bottom line.  If clients trust that we have their fitness goals in mind and their best interests at heart (rather than the newest, sexiest exercise trend), they’ll relax, buy in, and find the fun in fitness.  If we make the gym a space where people come to play, to explore, and to feel good in their bodies, we’re on the right track.

Derby Application: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, be brilliant at the basics before jumping into the sexy.  If you’re a coach, progress your skaters at an appropriate pace, which is not necessarily the pace that you (or they) think it should be.  If you lay the right foundation, your house will stand for ages.

The opening ceremonies featured Simon Whitfield, who was an awesome speaker.  He talked about focusing on the process rather than the product and gave some interesting insight into the mind of an Olympian.  It was especially cool to hear him talk about process rather than outcome after his performance at the London 2012 games.  To bounce back and keep training (now for long course) after crashing and breaking his collarbone is amazing and demonstrates the kind of sports tunnel vision that we all could use a slice of.

Fraser Quelch: Conditions change, standards remain.

I had a great early morning workout with Mr. Quelch.  TRX can be a super valuable tool in metabolic conditioning, so his major point was that form can’t suffer just because we’re pushing hard.  Miss once, try again.  Miss again, rest for two minutes, try again.  Miss again – you’re done.  I like that plan.  It forces you to be mentally and physically tough, but not so much so that you risk injury or become discouraged and quit trying.

Derby application: Exactly as he said – conditions change, standards remain.  Know your skills, execute them perfectly.  No matter what the game throws at you, know that your form will be rock solid.

Todd Durkin: Writing creates clarity, clarity precedes genius.  If you sprint a marathon, you will die. “Contagiasm”. 

Todd is an awesome presenter and a powerful motivator.  His masterminding class was one of my favourite sessions of the conference.  His enthusiasm for the fitness industry is contagious, hence “contagiasm”.  He said that life is not a marathon, it’s a series of sprints and rests.  Without the rest periods, you are trying to sprint a marathon – not a strong choice.  Manage your time – set aside admin time, money generating time, vision time and rest time.  Schedule the rest time first or you won’t take it.  His goal-setting exercises really helped to clarify what my real goals are and the process steps I need to take to get there.

The bigger your dream, the more important your team.   You are as strong as the people you surround yourself with.

Derby application:  There can be tons of derby drama, poor morale, clashing personalities, tense leadership – that’s often par for the course.  Keep in mind, though, if that’s your normal – that’s how strong your team will be.  If you want to accomplish great things together, you need to be great just being together.  You are only as strong as your weakest link – make all your links strong.

Why wait?

Yes.  Why wait?  Not why should I? Not what will go wrong? – Why wait?  There’s almost always no good reason to wait for your dreams to come true.  You need to take action and build momentum to get where you want to be – waiting won’t get you there.

Dr. John BerardiPhysical hunger is not the same as psychological hunger.  Eating is a privilege and a responsibility.  If you make good food choices and control your calories, meal frequency is not that important.

Dr. Berardi’s session on Intermittent Fasting was the highlight of my conference.  He’s a fantastic speaker and he’s super smart.  If nothing else, I’ll try a 24-hour fast to see how my body reacts.  His session was cool for me, because I’ve always been someone who likes to eat one big meal a day.  When I started training regularly, the common wisdom was to eat 5-6 small meals a day.  This was awful for me – I just don’t feel like I can eat that often.  And because I could never achieve compliance, I would get down on myself for not really caring about my nutrition and making it happen.  Dr. Berardi focused on the idea that the science suggests that WHAT you eat matters way more than WHEN you eat.  The common wisdom out there is more about caloric control (don’t eat after 8 at night, etc.), and less about actual biological processing of nutrients.

I love Precision Nutrition’s take on compliance and habit-forming.  Nutrition coaching is the future of health and wellness, rest assured I’ll be hearing more from Dr. Berardi.

 Greg Roskopf: We need to understand the muscle system’s role in pain.  If we avoid the problem, we magnify the imbalance.  What you can’t do is breaking you down.  The neural response to instability is tension.  The system is only as good as its parts.

Muscle Activation Techniques is an interesting system – it’s basically PNF stretching in reverse.  The idea is to repattern muscle function, rather than to stretch the opposers (or in addition to stretching the opposers).  MAT suggests that chronic tightness is an issue of muscle contraction timing and that’s what we should try to address.  It seems like a sensible, back-to-basics approach.  More and more we’re hearing that it’s not about training the muscles, it’s about training the brain – patterning, neural firing, muscle function, improving these elements will help to increase stability and promote tissue healing.

Chad Benson:   Load may help you get into a posture, but it will not solve any problems.  Be empathetic to poor movement patterns, but not to individual complaints. 

Chad ran an assessment-based workshop on the last day.  There were some great ideas, and a few assessments that I’ll add into my personal arsenal.  He spoke a lot about pain.  For genuine pain, always refer out.  We train pain-free.  We can work around injuries, we can repattern faulty movement, but persistent pain needs to be dealt with by a professional before we can help.  Progress at the speed of your client’s progress, not the speed of your client’s (or your) ego.  Don’t load up a bad-looking pattern, take the time to do it right.

Derby application:  When Chad said, “be empathetic to poor movement patterns, but not to individual complaints“, he was suggesting that if you always baby your athletes and give them a pass for each ache and pain, the number of aches and pains will grow.  That’s not to say that we should ignore pain, quite the opposite – real pain, poor patterns, these need to be addressed.  But, as a coach, you can’t be a pushover.  Those skaters who always have something wrong with them, always have an excuse for why they can’t – tell them to go to a professional to get it dealt with.  If they won’t, look at their movement patterns.  If the patterns are sound, push them.  People can achieve WAY more than they think they can.  Be supportive, be encouraging – push them just a little further than they think they can go and gradually you’ll train them to push themselves.

The Canfitpro International Fitness and Club Business Conference was quite something.  The trade show gave me more samples than I know what to do with and the conference gave me lots of tips to take back to my clients.  It was cool to be around so many fitness professionals, and I had a lot of great conversations throughout the weekend.  It’s nice to know that there’s such a vibrant community here in Canada, helping people to define, achieve, and maintain their health and wellness goals.

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