What I Learned at the IDEA Personal Trainer Institute South to Help You Succeed

Last weekend I attended the IDEA Personal Trainer Institute South in Dallas, TX. It’s a weekend of seminars and workshops for fitness professionals to keep up with changes in the industry, to learn about various fitness topics, and earn continuing education credits.

I loved it was local in Dallas, TX, I usually attend the big IDEA World fitness convention each year in California, and it was nice to get the education credits with a shorter commute.

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It was a jammed-packed weekend with seminars on training, programming, nutrition, marketing, and more! They have multiple class options each hour, and you get to choose the ones that interest you the most.

After several years of these types of conventions, I figured out the if the class description says “workshop” to be prepared to do a workout, so I tried to balance my workshops with my lectures so I wouldn’t spend eight hours a day working out.

I also made a point to try to network with other trainers, which I did great at in the beginning of the weekend and by the end, I reverted to my introvert ways. Socialising is like willpower for me, I can be strong and power through at first, but eventually it wears out. I made a few new connections with trainers so I’ll call networking a success.

best job ever

I’m excited to recap my weekend, the good, the bad, and the sweaty.


The weekend kicked off with Martin Rooney’s Coaching Greatness: The Five Indispensable Skills for Getting Results.

  1. Enthusiasm - Are you IN it or are you INTO it. Clients are only as excited as you are - Demonstrate enthusiasm.

  2. Expectation - The key to unlock greatness in others to expect them to succeed.

  3. Belief - Believe in yourself and your abilities. Believe in your client to help them narrow the distance between where they are and where they want to be.

  4. Accountability - Hold yourself accountable first. You can’t expect from your client what you can’t do yourself. Take people from knowing to doing in part by leading by example.

  5. Vision - See people as they cannot yet see themselves.

I love mindset work! So much of what Martin talks about was having the right attitude and beliefs. If as trainers we wallow in self-doubt, how can we expect more from our clients? We can do it, and in turn, help our clients get there as well. I share this with you because while it is excellent advice for trainers and coaching, it applies to everyone. If you can demonstrate these five skills in whatever you pursue, you’ll go far! Mindset matters.


On Saturday I had a lesson in humility. I know it may sound weird, but I like the feeling of being a bit intimidated in a new experience or a group setting because it helps me remember what it may feel like for new clients, so I can better help them feel comfortable. When we train all the time, it’s easy to forget what feels comfortable to us may be challenging for our clients.

I attended a session on Saturday morning on speed science, an excellent opportunity to learn more about the science of speed to better serve my running coach clients. The first part of the session was a lecture on the science, but as expected in this workshop, there were agility and speed drills. As a trainer, I sometimes find it intimidating to be in a class setting with other trainers as I tend to compare myself to my peers.

This class especially challenged my comfort zone because the instructor was a coach to professional athletes and it was half-full of young guys. We paired up for drills, and I almost felt the need to apologize to my partner that he was matched with me (but I didn’t because I remembered what Coach Rooney said the day before about belief in one’s self).

We performed running, speed, and agility drills which reminded me, while I have my unique talents and skills, that sports coordination is not among them. There’s a reason I enjoy running and weight lifting, they are individual sports. Feeling frustrated that I wasn’t the best at conditioning drills when I never do them, is just a reminder that we become skilled at what we work on. I can’t expect to walk in a room and excel at something I don’t practice.

While I learned some fun and effective drills that may benefit my clients, my biggest takeaways from this session may be more important than the science of speed:

  1. You can’t compare yourself to others; we are all on different paths, have different goals and experiences. One is not better than another, just different.

  2. You can’t expect to be great at the things you don’t practice. Look at weaknesses as an opportunity to improve rather than a reason to feel bad.

  3. New experiences can stretch your comfort zone, a reminder that what is natural and effortless for the coach can be a physical and mental challenge for the client. It reminds me to better empathize with that feeling.


Torture Devices 101. Kidding!

Torture Devices 101. Kidding!

Later that day, I attended Using Movement Screens to Roll Better and Roll Less by Brian Bettendorf. Brian talked about using movement screens to determine where our client needs to foam roll, then walked us through various foam rolling methods: namely rolling, resting, releasing, rocking and raking, for improving mobility, decreasing pain and promoting recovery.

I enjoyed this deeper dive into foam rolling. If you’re only rolling back and forth and applying pressure to tender spots, there are advanced techniques to use to get the most out of your foam roller. I appreciated the idea that we should determine with the movement screen where we need to foam roll, then only work where we need to foam roll. It’s more in-depth than I can cover here, so I will be writing more about this foam rolling class if you’re interested in learning more.


By Sunday exhaustion started to set in. I was up early on the first day of Daylight Savings Time for two sessions on nutrition before the convention wrapped. I was tempted to sleep in and miss my first session due to the lost hour of sleep, but I’m glad I powered through.

The first session on Sunday was on women’s nutrition, hormones, and training by RD Scott Josephson. It was a great seminar that went deep, but I’ll sum it up in three easy-to-understand points.

  1. The best way to boost metabolism as women age is to strength train with progressive overload. That means to lift heavy enough to stimulate muscle growth. Remember, lifting heavy is a relative term. It doesn’t mean to lift heavier than your abilities. If you try to lift weights that are too heavy for your fitness level, you’ll get injured or overtrained. Lift heavy with proper form and appropriate time under tension (move through the movements slow and controlled, so you are relying on muscles to do the work, not momentum). Ten reps at 70% of one rep max increase strength, bone mineral density, metabolism and stability to large muscles more effectively than lighter weights at higher reps.

  2. Fuel your workouts and body with a balanced approach of whole food nutrition. Carbs are not the enemy, but rather fuel for workouts. Scott says “Eating carbohydrates before and within two hours after training allows insulin to regulate catabolic hormones.” Women who cut calories too drastically lower metabolism and risk muscle loss.

  3. Allow appropriate rest and recovery which includes seven to nine hours of sleep per night and rest from workouts. Muscle growth happens in the rest period after the exercise, not during the workout itself, so if you don’t rest appropriately you won’t see the full benefit of your training, and you’ll put yourself at risk for overtraining or injury. Rest and sleep are part of the program for balanced hormones.


I ended the conference on a sour note, which is unfortunate given the entire weekend was fantastic. The session was called Diet Diagnosis which promised to evaluate the pros and cons of popular diets, but instead they fat-shamed and mocked the creators of other diets, laughed about the smell of lady parts when on a certain popular diet, and pushed an “our way is the only way” approach to nutrition - namely a Vegan diet.

I agree that most of us can benefit from eating more plants. I think most people can be “plant-based” and still eat healthy meats and animal products, like yogurt and eggs if they choose, and if they don’t have intolerances or allergies.

I have no issues with someone deciding for themselves to eat a Vegan diet. I’ve had Vegan clients, and I will always support my clients in their personal decisions to follow a diet to improve their health (or for ethical reasons), but it is downright irresponsible to stand in front of a group of trainers and tell them they should recommend that all their clients go on a Vegan diet.

It was less of a “diet diagnosis” and more of a one-sided conversation where they pointed out what was wrong with every other diet and glossed over the potential pitfalls of the one they were selling. I wouldn’t have been as offended if they would have offered a balanced diagnosis highlighting the pros and cons of each diet.

Nutrition is individual, there is not one diet or eating strategy that works for everyone, and it’s misguided, at best, to suggest otherwise. It’s not the diet I have an issue with; it’s the assumption that there is one way of eating that will be effective for all people. Period. (Steps off the soapbox.)



In the end my head was full, my body was sore and my inspiration was soaring. When you take in so much information in one weekend, it’s next to impossible to retain it all. I took notes, I reviewed the handouts and I recapped it all here for you because writing helps solidify new information in the brain. The weekend is a success if I can walk away with at least one or two actionable nuggets from each presentation.

I look forward to next year! Thanks IDEA for a great weekend.