THE WEEKLY HOWL IS VOTING FOR THE ROCK

Garage Gyms: It’s obvious from looking at him that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson does a lot of strength training. What’s less obvious is how he manages to fit that into his schedule. Does he train at his local CrossFit or big-box gym? Of course not, he’s one of the biggest celebrities in the world. He must train at one of those high-end personal training studios that cater to movie-stars. Or maybe he trains with stuntmen like Jason Statham does. Nope. He builds his own gyms. That’s right, gyms. And we’re not sure how many he has. Garage Gym Reviews lovingly dissected his primary gym which he refers to as Iron Paradise. It’s located on the same property as his mansion in Miami. But he also refers to an Iron Paradise 2. Garage Gym Reviews believes that he has 3 or 4 Iron Paradises. Where are these located? Caity Weaver from GQ Magazine had the privilege of tagging along to one of his “private gyms” in Los Angeles. He built a gym in a warehouse in what Johnson refers to as a “shitty neighborhood”. And these aren’t modest garage gyms either. They’re huge and loaded with Hammer Strength machines and other top of the line pieces of equipment. Weaver described the LA gym as “cavernous” and Johnson still expressed interest in moving to a bigger space.

                  So the Rock maintains a network of secret gyms across the country, loaded with thousands of dollars worth of gym equipment. But what does he do when he’s on location? He has a traveling gym with 40,000 pounds of equipment that has to be assembled on set. We know this because Johnson makes a point of thanking the hard-working crew members who assemble this gym for him. It’s interesting to see a celebrity with such a passion for fitness because this is stuff that normal people can’t do. This is a cross between the movie star version of having multiple gym memberships (so you always have a place to workout) and building a garage gym. But what happens if Johnson does run for President? Will he create a gym in an RV that can follow him around on the campaign trail? And what will he do if he is elected President? Now that I think about it, I have no idea what the White House gym situation is and I doubt that it is up to Johnson’s standards regardless. He’ll have to erect a tent gym on the South Lawn.

Specialization: There is a concept that in order to determine their strategy, companies have to identify their core competencies. A core competency is a skill or an area that a company has mastered. Once a company has identified theirs (and there shouldn’t be more than 2 or 3), they can figure out what spaces they can leverage those competencies most effectively. For example, Nike’s core competencies would be design and marketing. So they outsource their manufacturing and focus on expanding into new sports in which they can apply their competencies. Right now in fitness, we’re seeing a move towards specialization. From Bisnow:

"There's a lot of jockeying in the fitness business right now," NAI Partners Retail Senior Vice President Jason Gaines said. Between spinning classes, yoga, climbing gyms, boxing gyms, Pilates and CrossFit studios, consumers have never had more options to stay healthy. The days of mindless treadmill workouts in one large gym may be fading.  "The fitness model is getting away from the big-box model. Square footage is shrinking, everyone is becoming a specialist," Gaines said. 

                  A yoga studio operator would probably say that yoga is their core competency. A big-box gym operator would probably say that their core competencies are operations and selling memberships. There is definitely an advantage to focusing on a particular fitness discipline but you can’t ignore the ability of a big-box to offer basically everything at a fairly low price. Especially if there is another economic downturn. The model that I could see displace the big-boxes is a bunch of studios linked together either by an umbrella company or through corporate partnerships. That would allow each studio to specialize and the consumer to save money.

 

Cycling: Flywheel Sports is launching their Peloton-competitor, Flywheel Anywhere. It’s a for-home version of their bike coupled with several methods for streaming their classes. There are 2 versions of the bike: one with a built-in monitor for $2000 and one without for $1700. Flywheel Anywhere is Apple TV compatible so you could use your flat screen as your monitor if you go for the $1700 version. Subscription is $39/month. Fans of the TorqBoard will also be able to compare their performance against other riders. Flywheel has also built an AI, The Fly Intelligence Engine, that can recommend classes and music. Early reviews are strong. Is this too bold a move from Flywheel? From Digital Trends:

“The blurring of lines between company competencies has sped up in the last five to ten years, and the barriers to creating new experiences have definitely come down,” she said. Just look at Kickstarter and Indiegogo, which have enabled hundreds of people with ideas to realize their dreams. Besides, Flywheel already had expertise in the hardware side of things.

“It really is taking a lot of what we were already doing and building on it. But the software development, the streaming, and all that bit is obviously completely new.” It’s an enormous undertaking for the company, but one O’Hagan feels is a natural for Flywheel.

“What we’re offering, in this price range, with what it comes with, is extraordinarily competitive,” she points out. “We were the first cycling company to bring technology into the experience in the first place. So, you would expect us to keep going to the next level.”

                  Flywheel already built their own bikes so creating a home version isn’t a big stretch. Expanding into streaming classes is new but Flywheel only has to worry about one new skill to master. And now they’ll be the only cycling company to have studios and a home version. We’ll see if that allows them to outflank SoulCycle and Peloton.

High Tech Fitness: Pure Fitness in Singapore has opened and they want you to believe that they are the most high-tech gym in the world. So what are they bringing to the table? Some of it looks good. They have apps (not sure if they’re proprietary) that can analyze your form and output on a cycling trainer. I like the fact that they have a “Strongman Zone”. Just because you’re going high tech doesn’t mean that you should lose sight of the fundamentals. The only thing that I’m not a fan of is the VR bike. It’s not like we’re living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. If you really wanted to bike outside, then you could just bike outside. Why do you need a VR trainer? Feels like a solution in search of a problem to me.

DNA Testing: Angela Chen from The Verge wrote a piece on DNAFit. Basically, for $300 you get your DNA tested and receive personalized training advice based on your genetic profile. After submitting a vial of her saliva and getting her results, Ms. Chen does not seem like a fan:

For me, specifically, some results might not be applicable because I’m Asian and research studies are often overwhelmingly white. And many of the “insights” were things I already knew. Fitness Diet Pro results suggested that I’m more sensitive to coffee than others, but it’s been clear for years that a few sips will keep me up all night. Steele’s training advice to run intervals was solid, but a quick glance through the r/running subreddit shows plenty of people advising everyone to run intervals, regardless of their preferred distance, and do wall sits. We should all be eating more broccoli and fewer Reese’s cups, liver detox gene be damned. 

Plus, many tests are quick to point out that these genes only explain a tiny percentage of the variation in performance. That’s nothing, unless you, like Steele, are at the Olympic level. “For the vast majority of us who are not elite, that distinction is probably irrelevant,” says Brian Zikmund-Fisher, a professor of health behavior at the University of Michigan, and factors like your practice schedule matter much more.

                  The author was interested in running a half-marathon and wanted tailored training advice. I don’t how much differently someone would train for a long-distance event anyway. You still have to put the miles in. A few years ago at work, I took the StrengthsFinder test from Gallup. It was very interesting but not really useful for work. What would I have done if my strengths weren’t compatible with my position? It seems like something better suited to someone still in school and trying to decide on a career path. This genetic testing is in the same boat. If you’re trying to figure out what sports or activities you are suited for, then this might be useful. But if you already have a goal in mind, this probably won’t help you much.

Bio-Hacking: Dave Asprey is the guy behind Bulletproof Coffee. For those who haven’t heard of it, Bulletproof Coffee is coffee with butter in it. Asprey credits Bulletproof Coffee with a range of unbelievable benefits that don’t make any sense. He claims that it transformed his body even though he also admits that he was taking performance enhancing drugs at the same time that this transformation took place. In other words, he is a scam artist operating in the fitness and nutrition space. And now, he has a whole suite of new scams to separate you from your hard-earned dollars. Fast Company profiled his company, Bulletproof Labs in Santa Monica. Some of the treatments include:

There’s the “atmospheric cell trainer,” which reportedly “massages cells from the inside out,” an employee tells me. The machine resembles Superman’s pod, but in place of hope for humanity lies rapid changes in temperature and altitude to balance out stressors, whatever that means.

 

Further in, a virtual float tank requires one to fully lie down in a tanning bed of sorts while wearing goggles and a headset. Once settled in (it’s a rather cozy mattress), you close your eyes while psychedelic lights beam through the headset. It’s meant to “overload the senses” in an effort to reach a theta brain state, but it honestly feels like a relaxing LSD trip, minus the debilitating terror.

 

There are far more of these curiously entertaining attractions, including a “bone trainer,” which somehow puts force on one’s bones, and an “oxygen trainer” that vacillates between positive and negative O2 to supposedly increase circulation. The “red charger,” meanwhile, exposes your entire body to red and infrared LED light to decrease inflammation and “boost mitochondrial function.” There’s also an independent medical clinic on site, which provides those IV drips.

 

                  Sounds pretty stupid, doesn’t it? For $510/month. Bulletproof Labs must provide some sort of scientific backing to these nonsense claims though, right? Of course not!

However, the majority of Labs’ technology, like the “cold hit” high intensity machine, which combines compression and cooling technology, are so new that they haven’t been studied very extensively.

While Asprey personally vouches for the machines he’s assembled, it’s hard to quantify their medical or scientific merits. In the past, some of his company’s studies weren’t found to be peer-reviewed or published in reputable journals. It’s such gray areas that have propelled many to question the founder’s qualifications, with some online fitness communities asking, “Is Dave Asprey legit or full of bro-science?”

                  Oh, we’re just supposed to trust him. The guy who takes steroids and then tells everyone that butter coffee is responsible for his six-pack abs. Please don’t support this guy. He is taking advantage of people. For many people, fitness and nutrition is a black box. People like him exploit that by trying to sell the “magic pill”. Let’s not pretend that this is anything other than a scam.

TidBits:

-Aerobic fitness is linked to the volume of grey matter in children’s brains

-A gym for pregnant women

-The origin story of Orangetheory

-Alison Brie discovers Jammer Arms

-Robots can do box-jumps now