Last week I attended the national CanFitPro Conference in Toronto.  My partner, He-Who-Must-Obey-Me,  and I drove the over 3500 kilometres, give or take, there and back so that I could avail myself of this fantastic opportunity. We enjoyed our time together and stayed at a great Bed & Breakfast on Gerard Street East.

One of the nicest parts of this trip was to finally meet Kelly Acorn.  Kelly is the most fantastic owner of Ultimate Sculpting Fitness & Nutrition Counseling and the daughter of one of my first Kettlebell victims clients in Montague, PE.  Kelly is the premiere butt kicker and motivator of Fort McMurray, AB.  Watch out for her!

udo as mtm getting his urban on

While I pushed my sweaty body a bit further and stuffed my shopping bags with trade show finds at the Metro Convention Centre, he got his urban on, wandering Vietnamese markets, shopping Hard Rock and preparing in-room suppers for us to share.  He read a very late submitted honours thesis (on holiday!) and put some further prepping efforts into his book writing future.  It was a lovely time as individuals and as a couple.

CanFitPro, short for the Canadian Association of Fitness Professionals, provides educational opportunities for fitness professionals, particularly by way of certification programs and conference curriculum. While hosting a number of small regional conferences, such as Atlantic conferences in Halifax NS and Moncton NB, the CanFitPro International Fitness and Club Business Conference and Trade Show held each year in August in Toronto is a huge event.  I have been fortunate to attend this conference for quite a number of years.

This year there were 209 high calibre presenters offering over 400 conference sessions and thousands of delegates.  I find it dizzyingly and dazzlingly overwhelming to choose sessions when I first receive and open the conference schedule each spring.  Deliberating the final selections literally consumes many delicious hours.

Along with the amazing educational opportunities, there is a trade show with scads of exhibitors.  A gigantic expanse of high-end fitness equipment, nutritional supplements, club management software booths, fitness music and av equipment, fitness wear fitness wear fitness wear, health products, chiropractic and physiotherapeutic services, free massages and energy healing services for body-weary delegates, tanning equipment and products, and an assortment  of odd other products and services.  It is a wonderland: a brightly lit cheaply carpeted landscape of dividers, stands, counters, shelves, curtains and racks festooned with familiar and innovative fitness gear and training tools; a maze of machines, protein bars, health IT, books, footwear, snake oil and gadgets, all hocked by upbeat, helpful sales folk with highbeam grins and pit bull jaw handshakes.

For a fitness professional like me, living on an underserviced edge of Canada, the conference is a chance to learn, grow, share,  network, immerse, revel and rejuvenate.  I can return home, to my work and clients, with the latest in research, cutting edge knowledge and techniques, and new toys. I arrive back on the eastern edge with even more energy and vigour and passion.

Sessions at the conference are rated as either WS (Workshop, a blend of theory and practice), WO (this is a workout or master class and you’re gonna’ get sweaty), or L (lecture session, you’re gonna’ stiffen as you sit).  The wise tend to mix their session choices so as not to overwork their bodies.  This year I attended one L and 12 WS sessions over three days.  Grueling and exhilarating all at once.

joelle menard

mindy mylrea

Two of the sessions I attended this year were billed as boot camps. The first, GI Joe’s Gymstick Boot Camp, was with Joelle Menard at 7:30am where she totally pushed my sweat glands into overdrive with gymstick, for which I already hold a certification, and body weight maneuvers.  The second, immediately following the first (what was I thinking?) and shared with 299 other participants, was lit with over-the-top-energized Mindy Mylrea in a workout called Ultimate Boot Camp Challenge.  I got some great stuff out of both these sessions and though Mindy is a well-known and sought-after international presenter, I was disappointed with some of the ways in which she ‘engaged’ the participants.

Peter Twist, founder and force of Twist Conditioning took us through a fantastic session called Body Training Explosion – just check out this (pretty accurate) description:

peter twist

Harness the popularity of body weight training. Experience a fresh and innovative workout that will crash through training plateaus, simultaneously activate mind and muscle, and crank up the volume on both fun and intensity to deliver results. Implement simple mechanical principles to systematically capture maximum load, drive up metabolic cost, sustain HR, and expend maximum calories while challenging the total body to perform. These kinaesthetically satisfying exercises will inspire all types of participants to elevate their enthusiasm, invest full effort into every inch of every rep, and leave ready for all the demands of real life and sport.

Twist is creative and dynamic and at the leading edge of functional, effective athletic training.  Unfortunately, the second session I took with him, Advanced Small Group Training Techniques, was about a 95% overlap/repeat of the first session, leaving me disappointed and wanting.

fraser quelch in shanghai

dan mcdonogh

I attended two TRX sessions put on by Fitness Anywhere.  Fraser Quelch offered a TRX – Kettlebell Functional Fusion Workshop.  Heavy on  TRX and Kettlebell basics and a bit slim on content, this session did provide some interesting augmentative and complementary exercises for the two training modalities.   Dan McDonogh took his session through a TRX Power Stretch.  Don’t let the word ‘stretch’ fool you; there was nothing easy about this session. It was a lot of hard work and, held in a carpet over concrete room, unfortunately required too much on-knees positions for me to fully participate.

marc lebert

A number of other sessions – Empowered Basic Training (an awesome workout with the Lebert Equalizer), Core Fusion, Powerful Low Impact, and several others – rounded out my CanFitPro experience.

I so enjoyed the energy and skill of the presenters, the incredible effort and helpfulness of the hundreds of volunteers who made it possible, and the thousands of like-minded fitfolk who strode long and fast through hallways and were always happy to chat in line ups or partner up in session with a stranger.

I slept well each night and awoke eager and ready each morning.

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