Army Strong: The United States Army is revamping the way that it evaluates the physical fitness of its soldiers. Like the other service branches, the Army has traditionally used a combination of calisthenics and running to comprise the Army Physical Test. The ARPT has been push-ups, sit-ups, and a 2 mile run. The advantage of doing it this way is that it is easy to conduct. You don’t need any equipment, you just line everybody up and go. The disadvantage is that you’re not testing the full range of physical capabilities that a soldier will call upon in combat. In order to remedy that, the Army is rolling out the Army Combat Readiness Test. The ACRT will have 6 events:

-2 mile run (speaks for itself)

-250 meter sprint/drag/carry (a combination of sprinting and moving weights)

-deadlift (1 rep maximum)

-leg tuck (hanging from a bar, touch elbows to knees)

-standing power throw (10 pound medicine ball, thrown backwards)

-t-pushups (at the top of the motion, lift one arm from the floor and raise towards the sky)

Some thoughts:

-The logistics of conducting the ACRT are going to be very challenging. I do not envy the unit ACRT coordinators. You’ll need a decent amount of equipment, which may be difficult for deployed personnel. For the power throw, you will need to accurately measure everyone’s throw but I am sure everyone will be extremely chill about it with their careers on the line.  Then for the deadlift, you have to coordinate max weight attempts for dozens of people. And the sprint/drag/carry will be interesting to say the least. Think of it this way, you will have to coordinate a road race, a powerlifting competition, and a throwing competition. And that’s just half of the events!

-Why the t-pushup? Pull-ups are the best test of climbing ability which is crucial in a combat situation. You never know when you will have to pull yourself over an obstacle.  My guess is that the Army felt that the back was getting enough work in the deadlift and leg tuck and wanted a push exercise in order to balance out the body. How about dips? Dips are a phenomenal exercise for the pushing motion and they would be easy to implement.

-Doing the sprint/drag/carry after the run sounds like a ball-buster:

  “The sprint/drag/carry is actually pretty rough,” said Sgt. Thomas Masi, of B Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. “I didn’t think it was going to be that bad.”

A 2017 Best Ranger Competition winner agreed that it was the most challenging event.

“I think the sprint, drag and carry — just because it’s an all-out event and incorporates a bunch of different muscle groups so it stresses you more than just an individual muscle group, said 1st Sgt. Joshua Horsager, of 2nd Battalion’s A Company.

                Guys will have to learn to pace themselves on the run. If you go all-out on the run, then you’re going to struggle on the rest of the events.

-The ACRT sounds like a mini-CrossFit Games. This will keep people honest. If you’re not working out year-round, the ACRT could destroy you.

Fitness Marketing: BarBend had a piece this week on companies that are using fitness (especially functional fitness) to promote their products. I’m coining this term: Fitness Marketing. Fitness Marketing is a marketing tactic in which the goal is to use fitness to promote a product or service that is not fitness-related. Companies have started to do this because the people that participate in fitness activities are the most desirable consumers. They are young, educated, and relatively affluent. And they are also passionate about fitness. That’s why we are seeing beer ads with CrossFit Games athletes.

                BarBend highlights 3 companies: Chipotle, Michelob, and Samsung. I would also include brick and mortar stores that are using fitness classes to draw people to their locations. Where is all of this headed? Will this ever become halfway as developed as sports marketing? If so, that could be a huge infusion of money into the fitness ecosystem. Imagine if Mat Fraser and Tia Toomey were sponsored by Apple (maybe every CrossFit Games athlete has their own watch deal) and gyms had advertising deals with companies like Procter & Gamble. I know a lot of people would hate that but I would love to see more money in fitness. Because if there was big money, there would be a lot of very smart people trying to figure out how to grow the pie, i.e. get more people to start working out.    

Milennials: The LA Times published an article on how the millennials are driving the growth of boutique fitness studios. It is no secret that millennials have different priorities than their parents when it comes to their spending dollars. For one, fitness is becoming un-commodified and people are willing to pay a premium to be challenged:

 “I think people in my generation are more willing to invest in what challenges them and makes them healthy,” said Zuniga, who grew bored with cheaper, traditional gyms. “It’s expensive to be healthy, but it’s more expensive to be sick.”

Costly coffee and artisanal avocado toast may be getting the blame for millennials’ inability to afford a house. But those expenses pale compared with what a growing segment is willing to spend on fitness, abandoning $30-a-month gyms for trendy studios where classes for cycling, boot camp or yoga can run $30 a session.

                Milennials don’t want to be tied into long-term contracts; they want to buy their fitness on demand:

“They don’t want an annual gym membership commitment and a contract,” said Skloot, who co-wrote a recent report on fitness industry changes titled “The Club of 2020.” “They want to be able to make physical fitness choices on demand, and they are willing to pay for it.”

                And most importantly, millennials are more interested in acquiring experiences not things. And many of them want their work-out to be an experience:

Instead of the professional athlete and bodybuilder photos that line the walls of some traditional gyms, there are selfie walls perfect for the Instagram-obsessed.

Skloot and other experts say the social aspect partially explains the willingness to pay so much more than at a traditional gym. Millennials may be ready to forgo an alternative social activity — going out for dinner and drinking and dancing, for example — where the cost can easily run $100 or more.

“You see your friends at the gym,” Zuniga said, “and the next morning you don’t wake up feeling awful. You wake up feeling great.”

                Older generations love to dump on millennials but they want to be challenged, they value experiences over having more stuff, and they don’t view fitness as a commodity good. What the hell is wrong with that?

Night Owls: Have you ever wondered who goes to the gym in the middle of the night? Well, you’re in luck because the CEO of Jetts Fitness, a 24 hour gym in Australia, is more than happy to share that information with you.

“Shift workers are our bread and butter. They always train at that time of the night. But only 20 per cent of our members will train between 10pm and 4am. The majority will come in normal hours.

                This was my first guess, not a surprise.

“At night, interestingly, we get lots of families training together. It’s often the only time of day they can all get together,” Ms Jobson said.

                How many families want to train together? Is this a thing in Australia?

“Women with babies ... they tend to come out between 8pm and midnight. Their partners come home and they have dinner and that’s their ‘me time’. Women and babies are on a different time zone to the rest of the world. They train at 2am because that’s the only time they can train.

                Uhhh…what? I get new mothers training right after they put their babies to bed but then she contradicts herself by saying that new mothers are training at 2AM. I’m guessing that Jetts doesn’t have a kids club.

“And then there’s people who are relatively new to exercise. They like the lack of intimidation and that there’s not lots of people looking at them.”

                This makes sense. And then there’s the kicker:

“Sometimes I think it’s a perception thing. When people join they think they are going to come in at strange hours, but that doesn’t necessarily happen.”

Fitness & Fashion: In case you needed proof that everything in fitness is cyclical: electric muscle stimulation is back. EMS is attaching a bunch of electrodes to your body and sending electric impulses to your muscles. I guess the idea is that the electricity does the hard work of making your muscles contract so you don’t have to. That way, you can just sit there and relax instead of getting all sweaty and tired. Bruce Lee was a proponent of EMS back in the 1970’s before the technique fell out of favor. Now it is back and in vogue with Hollywood actors like Elizabeth Hurley. But does it actually do anything? Celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak doesn’t think so:

"EMS will not help you burn calories or lose weight in any way, shape, size or form," he said. "It will not help you become strong or more fit. Nor will it sculpt your muscles, nor will it do anything to alter your aesthetics."

"If someone is going to use it, it's not to change their body," he explained. "It's used during physical therapy to bring blood flow to a certain area and or to bring some mobility to muscles that might be immobile, but not to change how the body looks and feels."

                There are no shortcuts in fitness. These units were designed for physical therapy and pain management. If they contracted your muscles as hard as a workout would, then it would feel like you’re working out. 


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