PHOENIX — While trade shows — like many industries — have taken a hit following the tragedies of September 11, IHRSA's annual Convention & Trade Show held here last month may have shown signs of life — both for fitness tradeshows and the fitness industry as a whole.

IHRSA reported 6,000 total attendees, including 2,300 people who registered for the convention/education sessions. While this number is lower than past years (which some attribute to possible new accounting policies in the wake of the Enron fiasco, rather than an actual drop) it is a good sign for the stabilizing of the fitness industry.

Another good sign was what was described by many as an “energy” to the show, which some attributed to the slow but steady economic recovery — including exhibitors such as Life Fitness entertaining the crowd with the likes of celebrity impersonators.

“Next to the circus it was the greatest show on earth,” said Steven Roma of WOW! Workout World. “The early morning workouts were incredible. It had to be the largest health club in the world — I've never seen so many people working out at one time.”

And those working out had plenty of new toys — from both established and new companies — to play with as there were 355 exhibiting companies on the show floor, up from 349 last year, according to IHRSA.

A quick tour around the floor saw new offerings in almost every category, from plate-loaded equipment from Free Motion to a virtual rainbow of treadmills from Cybex. Among the other exhibitors and products getting mentions around the show floor were: the EFI Total Gym Gravity Reformer, which uses gravity to provide resistance instead of the more common springs found in traditional reformers. Another Pilates product garnering attention from attendees was the new split pedal stability chair from Stott Pilates.

Among the most talked about happenings was the pending battle for the indoor cycling market due to the alliance between Mad Dogg's Spinning and Star Trac. Schwinn Fitness made sure attendees knew it was still committed to the indoor cycling market with the launch of three new models at the show. But Star Trac isn't forgetting its treadmill roots as it unveiled its new Star Trac Pro, a treadmill featuring a new design with sweeping curves and two personal fans — allowing end-users to cool down while working out without floor fans.

Not to be outdone, True Fitness launched its new ZTX 835 Series treads.

On the strength side of the floor, Technogym added five new selectorized pieces and a new free-weight line to its Selection-branded offerings. Also shaking things up on the show floor was Power Plate. The newly imported fitness device employs vibration applications to deliver results.

Between these and other new entries, as well as a positive vibe, the fitness and tradeshow industries are looking in good shape for 2002 and beyond.

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