More than 7,000 close friends gathered in Chicago in early November to celebrate Club Industry 2005. Buyers, exhibitors and experts were on hand for the show's 20th year of serving the fitness community.

The three-day trade show attracted professionals from every state of the union and numerous foreign nations: owners and operators of multipurpose clubs, gyms, corporate fitness facilities, hospital/rehab/wellness centers, hotels/resorts and spas, parks/recreation areas, tennis/racquetball clubs, military/government facilities, YM/YWCAs and Jewish Community Centers. More than 1,000 attendees also signed up for the four-day information program with 110 seminars conducted by industry experts.

The show got into gear during the acceptance speech by Lifetime Achievement Award-winner Judi Sheppard Missett, the founder and CEO of Jazzercise Inc. Missett said she was humbled by the term “lifetime achievement,” and she cited Rosa Parks, a late civil rights activist, for the lifetime achievement she made with one single act of courage.

“I believe you have to have passion and love for what you do in order to make things different and better like Rosa Parks,” said Missett. “You have to be able to take risks and learn from your successes and mistakes to keep yourself moving forward.”

As the founder of Jazzercise, Missett has helped thousands of women own their own franchises and motivate other women to exercise. More than 6,300 instructors teach 20,000 weekly classes worldwide for the dance-fitness program. Missett said the most important lesson she's learned in her 35 years with Jazzercise is the importance of giving back to the community. The organization's Art & Soul Tour did just that by bringing together 2,000 fitness enthusiasts for high-energy workouts in nine cities to raise $560,000 for the Boys and Girls Club of America, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and hurricane relief efforts.

Following Missett's acceptance of the Lifetime Achievement Award, John Gray, best-selling author of the Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus series, took the stage as the show's keynote speaker. Addressing a packed room of fitness professionals, Gray explained the hormonal differences between men and women.

“Men: Whenever your girlfriend says she's hungry, this is a code blue,” he warned. “Get her something to eat now.”

Gray also spoke of the need for both men and women to reduce their intake of refined sugars, artificial sugars and hydrogenated fats. He advocated proper hydration, the right balance of dietary fats, relaxation and getting regular activity.

“We live in an elevated cortisol state and crave sugar,” Gray told the crowd. “The key is to exercise to burn fat, and you get plenty of oxygen.”

Other speakers at the show included Dr. Wayne Westcott and business-building specialist Sandy Coffman, both of whom had presented at the show every year for the past 20 years. Also honored was Conference Manager Howard Ravis for his two decades of shaping the show's seminar program.

Fitness facility owners, personal training coordinators and personal trainers listened to five experts discuss the accreditation and certification issue on the second day of the show (see sidebar on page 48). The experts answered questions about the recommendation by the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association that by Jan. 1, 2006, its member clubs only hire personal trainers with certifications from organizations that have been accredited by the National Commission of Certifying Agencies. The group also discussed the validity of the National Board of Fitness Examiners.

Attendees didn't spend all their time in seminars and panel sessions. Many tested new equipment on the show floor. At the crack of dawn on the last two days of the show, fitness professionals could visit the exhibit hall to run on treadmills, participate in spinning classes or pump some iron. The show featured nearly 900 exhibit booths hosted by 237 suppliers of fitness equipment, services and programs.

By all indications, next year's show could be even larger. Exhibitors have already renewed their commitments for the majority of the exhibit space at Club Industry 2006, which is scheduled for Oct. 4-7, 2006, at McCormick Place in Chicago.

Demystifying the Accreditation And Certification Controversy

Five experts from various areas of the fitness industry participated in a panel session at the Club Industry 2005 show to discuss the recommendation by the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) that by Jan. 1, 2006, its member clubs only hire personal trainers with certifications from organizations that have been accredited by the National Commission of Certifying Agencies. The group also discussed the validity of the National Board of Fitness Examiners.

The panelists were Dr. Sal Arria, founder of the National Board of Fitness Examiners; Dr. Tom Baechle, executive director of the National Strength and Conditioning Association; Bob Esquerre, president of Esquerre Fitness Group; Ken Reinig, owner and president of Association Insurance Group; and Dr. Walt Thompson, chairman of the Committee on Accreditation for the Exercise Sciences (CoAES). The session was moderated by Pamela Kufahl, editor of Club Industry's Fitness Business Pro magazine.

Here are some of the comments from the panel session (to order a complete transcript, please visit Club Industry's Fitness Business Pro's Web site at www.fitnessbusiness-pro.com).

Kufahl: Where do insurance companies stand on this issue? Do they feel accreditation is better or the national boards?

Reinig: Insurance companies are typically a very reactionary group. They always take the stand of we'll sit back and wait and see what happens. I've been insuring clubs for some 25 years. The types of claims that we see out of a health club — the ones that can be attributed specifically to personal training errors, negligent training — are very, very small…The reality is that up to this point, there really hasn't been any distinction between whether a claim comes out of a trainer who received their accreditation from a cereal box or from NSCA…What this whole process does, and what IHRSA does when they come out and make this kind of a statement where they want the accreditation process to go through, is they're raising the level of professionalism in the industry, therefore raising the liability issues as well. So now, if you have a trainer who's involved in a claim who does not have the [accredited certification], it puts the club owner more at risk because then they say, ‘well, where's the industry standard?’ And so once the standard has been created, it actually poses a problem for the insurance industry. Yes, we want to see a safer environment. Yes, we want to see the member protected. And this certainly accomplishes that, but it also causes some problems for the club owners.

Kufahl: A lot of personal trainers and club owners are wondering if any of this or all of this could possibly lead to licensing of personal trainers. Would either accreditation of certifications or national boards lead to licensing?

Esquerre: Licensing, as a professional, I have the utmost respect for. And I see that as a high-end objective. If I can't get trainers certified at the low-end objective, I definitely can't see them being licensed at the high end…I would love to be licensed at some point in time, but first I have to deal with the basic thing, are you certified? So, let's work on the credential process in the front.

Baechle: I heartily also support the concept of licensure, but I have some serious concerns about the scope of practice — how the personal trainer is going to interface with occupational therapists, physical therapists and athletic trainers. My sense is that it's going to significantly restrict what personal trainers currently provide in services and how they earn income. There may be unintended consequences that could evolve, which certainly I suspect will evolve, as a scope of practice was provided to individuals in consideration for creating a license for professions such as personal training. Interestingly enough, IHRSA's decision in 2002 that focused attention on identifying quality certification exams, [is moving us] farther away from the need to license personal trainers…[The sunrise criteria] is a set of criteria that helps states identify if there's truly a need to license a certain profession. [It asks] are other adequate alternatives such as statutory certification and registration [available]? The efforts by IHRSA would convey that the industry appears to be making headway in governing itself, thus, decreasing the need for governmental intervention or licensure. I believe this is one of the main reasons IHRSA's recommendation was made in 2002 so the health clubs would not be taken over by governmental agencies and dictated certain practices and so forth.

Arria: The NBFE is not promoting or pushing licensing, but if licensing does occur, we'd like to have national standards in place and show them that we as an industry have been pro-active in establishing these standards so that we don't end up with 50 different states with 50 different licenses and 50 different scopes of practice…Standardization of national board examinations will assist us as a profession if licensure comes to play.

Reinig: The main problem it creates from a licensure standpoint is that it now puts a burden on the insurance provider, the broker, and especially the club owner in making sure that everybody…who is doing personal training has a license, does their continuing education, and continues to keep it up for as long as they're in employment. So it's going to create a lot of paperwork for one thing. And the insurance industry, because of its past actuarial claims that have come from the personal training side of running a business, it's not significant enough for the insurance industry to wake up and say, ‘okay, now we have a much higher degree of licensed professionals here; now we can start offering all these discounts. We can reduce premiums for the clubs that have licensed personnel.’ It's going to create more of a problem for everyone up and down the pike. And it's going to be a dream come true for the trial attorneys because they're going to sit back and wait for the first claim that comes out of a health club, and it happened from a trainer who let his license lapse or [who] wasn't licensed…It will create a real litigation problem for that club owner. Personally, I think it's a nightmare to think of this heading toward…licensure. The industry has done a pretty darned good job so far increasing the level of professionalism over the years. Certainly 15 years ago we didn't have near the quality of personal trainers that we do today. I say, live and let live and let us go on creating our own environment within our own industry and try to get as far away from regulation and fitting people in a box because as soon as you start labeling and making people [get] a license, then you're opening yourself up for litigation that becomes an unintended consequence that would backfire.

Kufahl: Would CoAES eventually evaluate the curricula of the other certifying agencies and would that be a conflict of interest?

Thompson: CAAHEP is an accreditor of degree-granting educational institutions. That's not to say that the CoAES at some point in the future may consider being an evaluator of workshops or one-day symposia or seminars…The scope of the CoAES right now is to recommend accreditation of academic programs, that is degree granting institutions, to CAAHEP… The personal trainer programs we're looking at are one-year programs and two-year degree programs. Now I can't say once we get everybody around the table that that's how it's going to come out, but that's been the current thinking.