THE WEEKLY HOWL IS DRINKING COFFEE DURING SOULCYCLE

The Barbell Effect: FourSquare put out an analysis of its traffic showing that 25% of all gym-goers went to a Planet Fitness last quarter. Forbes theorizes that Planet Fitness’ success will be good for other gyms:

"That's a great situation for everybody if they look at it right," he adds. Once they start visiting a low-priced gym like Planet Fitness and getting results, some members move up to higher-priced gyms to take advantage of amenities like yoga classes, fitness consultations, and weight-loss challenges. (And they may keep their Planet Fitness membership as well if Caro's "second gym" statement is correct.)

I like the idea that Planet Fitness will serve as some people’s starter gym but I am very skeptical. Planet Fitness has designed itself to attract people who will not continue to come to the gym but will continue to pay their dues. I would like to see how many of the people who visited a Planet Fitness last quarter will do so this quarter. I believe that it is much more likely that these people stop working out altogether.

Also from Forbes:

If mid-market gyms are feeling the crunch, Planet Fitness isn't to blame. Thomas suggests that it's because these gyms are not able to differentiate themselves from high-end gyms and HVLP clubs. "The folks in the middle, I affectionately refer to them as the DIY model," he says. "They charge $39-$49 per month and say, 'Come on in and have at it.' They haven't figured out what makes them unique. At the end of the day, it's about solving problems for people. If they're getting squeezed, they have to think they're not solving problems."

                I agree that the mid-market gyms are failing to convey their value to the consumer. Your typical big-box gym tries to be a little bit of everything which makes it hard to develop a strong brand. The way that they should be differentiating themselves is value. A mid-market gym is the best value in the fitness market. A low cost operator like Planet Fitness is cheaper but you get what you pay for. A high-end gym like Equinox is really nice but you don’t need all that to get fit. It is a DIY model but you know what, DIY is in right now. There is a marketing strategy that could be built out of that value proposition; mid-market gyms just need to do that but they’re not.

Time to Panic?: Street Fight dug into the same Foursquare data and found that the number of cycling studios has doubled in the last 2 years while visits per location has tumbled by 30%.

“As a cycling enthusiast, I was particularly surprised … because I have been hearing about so many new openings in my city, New York, and elsewhere,” says Foursquare’s Editor-at-Large, Sarah Spagnolo. “It makes one wonder about how long this bubble will last, and whether to combat this issue, studios will slow the pace of expansion, look to expand in different regional markets instead of in their backyard, or continue to diversify their offerings; SoulCycle started selling bathing suits this summer, for example.”

            The barriers to entry to opening a fitness boutique are low and it appears that a lot of players have flooded the market. I expect to see a lot of studios closing up shop in the next couple of years but they’ll probably put a lot of pressure on pricing on their way out.

Papa’s got a brand new bike: Bloomberg reports that SoulCycle is rolling out a new bike. Here’s the quick and dirty:

-Requires less maintenance

-Increased resistance due to heavier wheel

-Smoother ride

-Designed for upper-body choreography

-Still no data-measurement tools

There’s always a fatal flaw though:

But there was one flagrant flaw that Wiener and some of his early morning riders found on the new bike: The beverage baskets have been replaced by horizontal trays, giving them no place to keep their fresh cups of coffee within hand’s reach during the ride. “You can’t put your coffee in it anymore,” he said. “That’s what I miss, and a lot of people say they miss.” 

                People are drinking coffee during SoulCycle???

Why Not OrangeZone?: Inc. ranked Orangetheory at #60 on the Inc 500 List of Fastest Growing Companies in America last year and they love the workout model:

Under orange lights, upbeat music, and the direction of an energetic coach, members move through a program that rotates between treadmills, rowers, and free weights with the intent to accumulate 12-20 minutes in the "orange zone," which is reached when the chest or wrist monitor registers a heart rate at 84% or higher of your maximum heart rate. According to OTF, this is the zone that creates the EPOC calorie burn, and minutes in the orange zone earn members "splat points" (which are tracked and emailed to each member after class purely for fitness tracking purposes).

Research has shown that the feeling of positive progress is an incredibly powerful performance motivator. Accumulating minutes in the orange zone ("splat points") provides a reward after each workout. Whether we're talking about business or fitness, things that are hard to build due to prolonged effort become more manageable with immediate and consistent pats on the back. It's not exactly gamifying since there's no strategy or competition - it's really just a rewards system that feels like recognition. It's like training seals (actual seals, not Navy SEALS): touch the ball; get a fish. Push your heart rate up into the orange zone; get a point.

Creating a feedback loop is a great way to keep people engaged and motivated. It’s even better when it doesn’t have to rely on competition.

The Games are Coming: We’re less than one week away from the opening of the CrossFit Games and starting to get an idea of what it will look like. Courtesy of BarBend:

Individual

Thursday

Friday

Event 1: Run 1.5 mile, Swim 500m, Run 1.5

Event 1: Sprint-O-Course

Event 2: Bike Event

Event 2: 1-RM Snatch

Event 3: Triple G Chipper

Team

Thursday

Friday

Event 1: Run 1.5 mile, Swim 500m, Run 1.5

Event 1: Sprint-O-Course

Event 2: 1-RM Clean & Jerk Males

Event 3: 1-RM Clean & Jerk Females

 

Day One for individuals is a double-serving of aerobic fitness followed by an obstacle course, a test of pure strength, and a classic metcon on Day 2.  I like what I see so far. Also from BarBend:

The brand new obstacle course is yet another sign that the Reebok CrossFit Games is focusing on further expanding athletes’ understanding of “fitness,” Of course, the Games have always featured running and swimming, but the biking, obstacle course, and significant shift toward dumbbell and other non-barbell movements seems to signify that fitness is getting an even broader definition. We’re all for it.

The CrossFit Games will be held in Madison, WI from August 3-6 and will be broadcast on CBS Sports, Facebook, and the CrossFit Games website.

 

Bodybuilding: VQR had a great piece on Mr. Olympia and the sport of bodybuilding. It focuses on the prominent role that steroids plays in the sport and is well worth your time to read. Towards the end of the article, it was revealed that Dwayne Johnson was partnering up with CBS Sports to bring Mr. Olympia to network television. Bodybuilding seems like a long-shot for mainstream acceptance:

At any rate, the potential embrace of the sport by a larger audience would seem to forecast—implicitly, at least—an embrace of steroids. If knowledge of performance-enhancing drugs became more widespread, the way cannabis use in movies and television increased awareness and preceded decriminalization in some states and legalization in others, maybe this mass-market version of the Mr. Olympia could succeed. In that way, the private steroid culture of the competition would be disseminated more widely, perhaps to the point at which color commentary during these events would combine discussions of posing acumen with analysis of steroid cycles, of drug use, of an athlete’s choice of site-injection oil to mask his weakest areas.

“It’ll never happen,” Aaron Cook, an amateur powerlifter and close friend, said to me when I shared this idea with him. “Though, man, I’d love for it to happen, because honestly, I think when everyone is on steroids, it gets us back to genetics, only this time it’s whose genetics tolerate steroids the best, whose body reacts the best to steroids. I’ve been using for years, and while I’ve gotten results, I look like garbage. Yet Phil Heath looks amazing. I want to know what he takes, what he uses. That’s my dream, to watch experts talk about that on TV. But I don’t know that many other folks share that dream.”

A few thoughts here:

-Anytime I hear someone suggest that the solution to PED usage in sports is to just let everyone take whatever they want, I will now want to quote this article. If you legalize PED’s, then you have to embrace their use. The use of steroids will have to be addressed and woven into the narrative of the sport. Steroids will become a part of the culture of that sport and once that happens, how many parents will want to let their children participate in that sport?

-A bigger spotlight may not be what bodybuilding needs. I could see this whole thing backfiring as people come to realize that bodybuilding doesn’t even pretend that steroid usage isn’t ubiquitous at all levels of the sport. It’s not hard to imagine some politician making this their pet issue.

-CBS Sports is very late to the content acquisition party.

TidBits:

-Boutique fitness apparel is all the rage these days

 -Breaking down the vein photo

-Welcome to the fitness lab

-Want to geek out on sport science?