The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association is the fitness industry's only global trade association representing over 10,000 for profit health and fitness facilities and over 600 supplier companies in 75 countries.



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Convention rookies: don't get overwhelmed

With so much to choose from, first-timers who attend the IHRSA Annual International Convention & Trade Show will get plenty out of the experience.

The problem is the words “so much.” What seems like endless educational sessions, keynote speakers, trade show booths, roundtables, networking events, special events and more can cause the most fit person into someone who feels like a couple squats or running 10 minutes on the treadmill is like doing the Ironman Triathlon. 

For convention-goers, especially rookies, the awe of it all can cause you to deter from your intended plan of attack. But you will still come out with a lot more take-home information they than imagined. But much more exhausted, too.

“I think (the Convention & Trade Show) is invaluable. We wouldn’t plan on going back if we didn’t think the first experience was great,” said Jill Lane, who with her husband, Patrick, is owner of Signature Health & Fitness in Dubuque, Iowa. The event in Las Vegas last year was their first and in March will be attending their second. “If you are an owner, manager, you have a single or multiple clubs, this is one-stop shop deal with everything you need. The opportunities over a couple of days are great for research and connections. I don’t see a downside for anyone.”

The 33rd Annual International Convention & Trade Show is March 12-15 at the San Diego Convention Center.

The key to maximizing your experience is knowing what you are getting into. There is a lot to take in, and despite four days, sometimes not enough time to take in everything you had planned.

Most rookies and veterans agree that mapping out your schedule is the best plan of attack. Using IHRSA resources like the brochure, App and website allows you to see what is happening, when it is happening and where it is happening.


“I would tell people who have never been before to make the most of it,” said Darryl Buhler, of Apollo Athletic Club in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada. “Trying to get the most in seems overwhelming at first, but the App allows you to map and see how to get place to place. It is all very organized and vey easy get done.”

Buhler certainly made the most of his trip last year. He wanted to find ways to improve the club’s personal training. He was looking for ideas on how to generate more revenue and to separate the department from others at Apollo. The results one year later? How about a 30% increase in revenue?

“What I benefited the most (from IHRSA 2013) was personal training and customer service,” said Buhler. “I attended workshops and speakers geared toward that. I got a lot ideas from IHRSA. I knew I need to improve and looked at  ways to do it. I achieved by and far.”

Lane said she and her husband thought they had their four days in Las Vegas under control but the trade show, with more than 300 booths, took both days it was open for them to cover. Signature Health & Fitness was barely a year old at the time, so the couple wanted to make sure they took advantage of having everything they wanted to check out all in one place.

“What we are going to do this year is do our own research and then track down (companies at the trade show),” Lane said. “We will seek out equipment we saw online and physically try them out.”

Radka Dopitova Wilson was a newbie of sorts last year. She had gone for about five years, starting in 2001, but then took five years off before heading to Las Vegas. In order to get back into the swing of things she opted to attend the Making Connections Orientation. It is offered on the first day, usually for first-time attendees, and goes through highlights, suggestions and has a couple ice-breakers in order to introduce participants to a couple recognizable faces they will see throughout the first day.

“I thought (the orientation) would give me a picture of what has changed and what is new this year, as well as a good chance to network,” said Wilson, Fitness specialist at World Bank Fitness Center in Washington, D.C. “It is a great orientation to what is being offered next four days and the chance to meet new people and see what is out there.”

And there is plenty to see.

For information on the convention, go to For stories on the Convention, go to



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