THE WEEKLY HOWL IS NOT ON A DIET

Her Mother was a Mudder: We’re starting to get more details about Tough Mudder Bootcamp, a gym concept brought to us by Tough Mudder. Some of the key points:

-The gyms will be laid out in the functional fitness model, not the obstacle course one

-Focus will be on preparing people for the rigor of a Tough Mudder event and fitness will be measured in “Tough Mudder dimensions”

-Classes will be based around High Intensity Interval Training, very similar to CrossFit

-TMB’s will differentiate from CrossFit by emphasizing teamwork instead of competition

Classes are programmed and designed by Tough Mudder fitness guru Eric Botsford, whom you may recognize as TM mascot and MC E-Rock.  After a quick warm up, participants are sent to one of six stations where they partner up and take turns alternating specific complementary movements. For example, one partner would do reps of throwing a medicine ball at a high target (wall ball, to the CrossFitters), while the other holds a superman stretch. After two minutes, pairs move to the next station for a different set of movements, and so on until two rounds of six stations are completed. The entire workout lasts 45 minutes, which is plenty to work up a sweat and get everyone out of breath. Between the exercises, many encouraging high fives are exchanged.

On the business side, these will be franchises so if you’re able to finance the “$200,000 to $300,000” needed to get started, then you can become a member of the Tough Mudder brand. Interestingly, Tough Mudder wants to target second tier markets at first or their CEO put it, “cities where ClassPass doesn’t work”. Read into that whatever you want. Pricing will be around $15/class.

You Can’t Buy Fitness: There are still a lot of takes coming in on the “You Can’t Pay People to Go to the Gym” study. There are 2 basic takes. The first is that you can’t pay people to work-out so it’s hopeless. The second is something similar to this from Quartz:

The researchers tried to capture the endowment effect by asking a fourth group of new gym members to pick out a $30 object on Amazon. The economists promised to give them the thing if they went to the gym nine times in six weeks, the same hurdle set for the others. The researchers even sent pictures of the $30 object to keep the gym members motivated during the experiment. But this didn’t work either—the group only went to the gym slightly more than the others, and not enough to derive a meaningful impact.

Perhaps more people would go if the researchers were able to make them pay $30, or give up something worth that amount that they already own, as punishment for skipping the gym. I pay an absurd amount to a luxury gym because seeing the money come out of my bank account makes me feel guilty. The guilt means I never miss a workout. That, and the eucalyptus-scented towels.

                This drives me crazy. Both takes are assuming that money is the end-all be-all when it comes to human motivation. It’s not and that assumption is steering the conversation in the wrong direction. No variation of gaining or losing money only cheapens the appeal of fitness. Fitness is priceless. We should never forget that. If you want to sell fitness, then sell fitness. If you wanted to make people act nicer to each other, you wouldn’t pay them to do so. You would extol the virtues of being a nice person and how great that will make you feel. Paying someone to do something nice for someone else turns it into a job. And once it’s about the money, people will make their decisions based on the money. Fitness is not about money. It’s about looking good and feeling good, it’s about seeing how hard you can push yourself and how your body will respond to that challenge. It’s about a thousand different things and they’re all great. But it is not about money.

Fitness as an Amenity: Forbes had a good article on the rise of the building and office gym. In a nutshell, apartment and office buildings are starting to take their on-site gyms more seriously and giving traditional commercial gyms a run for their money. What was once an afterthought has become a focus. Gone are the days of a sad, little room in the basement with a treadmill and a handful of dumbbells.

Midtown Center, the 812K SF office Carr Properties is building for Fannie Mae in Downtown D.C., will feature an 8K SF fitness center with a cardio workout area, weight machines, free weights, a bike room and two fitness classrooms for group sessions.

It is not just limited to new projects either. Market Square, an office building on D.C.’s Pennsylvania Avenue, recently underwent a $15M first phase of renovations in which it tripled the size of its fitness center to 9,500 SF. The gym includes a yoga studio and the landlord, Columbia Property Trust, has hired a full-time on-site trainer who will offer four complimentary fitness classes to tenants each week.

                This is the trend of offering fitness as an amenity, in this case to attract tenants in competitive real estate markets. We’re seeing this trend in hotels and retail as well. Fitness offerings are a way to differentiate from competitors and build loyalty among affluent, educated consumers. And it seems to be working:

“It appears there is a certain amount of a performance gap between buildings that are allocating more space to the gyms,” Carroll said. “They’re essentially outperforming and achieving higher occupancy rates faster than the buildings that skimped a little bit.”

                So far, these building gyms are emulating the layout of big box gyms. The same big box gyms that are already feeling the squeeze in the middle of the market. This trend will only further commoditize that segment. They will have to figure out to differentiate themselves if they want to survive. 

Diet is a 4 letter word: The NY Times published an article on Weight Watchers this week and I highly recommend that everyone read it. It’s a long read, touching on Weight Watchers’ struggles to remain relevant in a post-diet world, bringing Oprah Winfrey on as a spokesperson and major shareholder, and the author’s own relationship with the organization. I took particular interest in the author’s impression of the shifting fitness & nutrition landscape:

These questions began to filter into the mainstream. Women’s magazines started shifting the verbal displays on their covers, from the aggressive hard-body stance of old to one with gentler language, acknowledging that perhaps a women’s magazine doesn’t know for sure what size your body should be, or what size it can be: Get fit! Be your healthiest! GET STRONG! replaced diet language like Get lean! Control your eating! Lose 10 pounds this month! In late 2015, Women’s Health, a holdout, announced in its own pages that it was doing away with the cover phrases ‘‘drop two sizes’’ and ‘‘bikini body.’’ The word ‘‘wellness’’ came to prominence. People were now fasting and eating clean and cleansing and making lifestyle changes, which, by all available evidence, is exactly like dieting.

Diet companies suffered for being associated with dieting. Lean Cuisine repositioned itself as a ‘‘modern eating’’ company, not a diet company. In fact, Lean Cuisine went so far in their pivot that in 2016 they introduced a Google Chrome extension that would filter mentions of the word ‘‘diet’’ and ‘‘dieting’’; it apparently did this to show that just because it was called Lean Cuisine, that didn’t mean it was a diet company. You can’t be held responsible for what your parents named you!

                The author seemed exasperated by the change in terminology, believing that everyone was doing the exact same thing but calling it something else but I think that she is missing the point. There has been a shift to function over form when thinking about one’s body. It’s not just about being thin anymore. How many times have you heard “Strong is the new skinny”? This change in attitude is important because we can’t all have single digit body fat percentages but there’s a good chance that there is something that your body was made to do. Maybe it’s running marathons or maybe it’s lifting heavy things off the floor. It is much healthier to embrace our bodies for what they are instead of agonizing over what they aren’t. This doesn’t mean that anyone should give up on losing weight; it means that they need to figure out what their body was meant to do and do it. And no one’s body was meant to lay on the couch.

There is also a world of difference between a diet and a lifestyle change. A diet implies something temporary and it implies deprivation. A diet is not sustainable. A lifestyle change is changing the way that you eat. This implies something permanent. It may seem like a pointless change to the author but I think that it is a complete change in attitude towards eating. 

Let’s Talk Running:

-Bill Sycalik quit his job so that he can run a marathon in all 59 U.S. National Parks and I am very jealous.

-Why do we run?

-Is it more impressive to run fast or run long?

-Molly McHugh had a great piece in The Ringer on her relationship with running and running apps

TidBits:

-An ode to chin-ups

-If you use Strava, please read this

-A defense of Lebron James’ offseason workouts

-Apple probably sold $1B worth of Apple Watches last quarter

-The CrossFit Games have begun!