Ninja Warrior: I will never cease to be amazed by the success of American Ninja Warrior. Like all great things, it started off as a Japanese game show. It found its way to the U.S. via the G4 channel. It was a hit which led to G4 sending Americans to participate in Japan and ultimately an American spinoff airing on NBC in primetime. Now the sport of gymnastics hopes to ride on ANW’s popularity in order to boost sagging male participation. From Deadspin:

Regardless of how poorly constructed the course title was, the insertion of “managing boys” is a tip off to who the ninja trend in gymnastics is geared towards. Girls are welcome in classes and many do participate, but gym owners aren’t exactly struggling to bring girls into gymnastics. Boys, on the other hand, are not as drawn to the legacy Olympic sport. One gym owner told me that of the 798 students enrolled in her gym, only 14 are boys. Those are some grim numbers, and though I heard that there has been a slight bump in men’s gymnastics enrollment since the last Olympics, it’s clear that the sport is in trouble at the grassroots.

The appeal of the ninja and parkour programming is, at least from the perspective of gym owners, that they can make their businesses more appealing to boys, especially the brothers of their female gymnasts who might be hanging around the facility while they wait for their sisters to finish their workouts. Several courses that were geared towards boys had titles that hinted at financial precarity faced by many gym owners.

                Gymnastics is one of the Big 3 Olympic sports. American Ninja Warrior is a made-for-TV sport that’s not even 10 years old. It’s crazy that gymnastics is hoping that obstacle course racing will serve as a gateway to it. I also have to wonder how dependent this nascent sport is upon the television exposure. Ninja gyms are popping up all over the place and someone has to supply them with obstacles:

According to the sales literature I picked up, becoming a ninja doesn’t come cheap. Dreschel helped develop this piece of equipment (and some others) for DGS, and the prices ranged from $12,900 to $17,840. This is a much bigger investment than your average pommel horse or balance beam, which, by the way, are also not cheap. A competition height balance beam—as opposed to lower practice beams—can run a gym owner nearly $4,000. (And these are not one time purchases either. Equipment gets worn out through use and has to be replaced in order to maintain safety standards.)

                What happens if viewership dips and NBC cancels ANW? Do all these businesses go under or does the sport continue to thrive? Who would fill the void that NBC would be leaving behind? Will there ever be a merger between ANW-type races and Tough Mudder/Spartan Race events?


Motivation: Working in the fitness industry, you quickly learn that your organization’s greatest competitor isn’t another company. It’s the couch. Gyms lose more members to inactivity than they do to other gyms. If you could crack the code on motivation, the sky would be the limit. I’m always on the lookout for good ideas on the motivation front. Derek Beres has a few:

 Schedule your workouts. Putting your sessions into your calendar makes fitness part of your day. Treating your workout like everything else in life, from your job to taking care of your children, instills a mindset that this is not a hobby. We recognize that we live in a sedentary culture, yet there has never been so many opportunities to explore such a wide range of exercise options. Devoting that hour a day a few days a week will make a big impact in the rest of your hours. Scheduling it in makes it real in your mind. 

                Put into Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook of whatever you use to manage your schedule. You don’t have to say what you’re doing, just block it off so someone else can’t schedule something for you. You need to make it a priority in your life not just something that you hope to squeeze in. Schedule it and then plan around it.

Commit to daily exercise. This past weekend two different men stopped me after class to tell me they needed to commit to practicing more yoga. Both get in a class a week. But a little every day is better than one weekly session. Even ten minutes on busy days can be enough. Diversifying your workouts, between cardio, weight and bodyweight training, yoga, and meditation is a solid approach, but to begin, just get moving, daily. That said, don’t overload during your first month. Too many people hit it hard only to get injured and lose focus. This is a long game strategy we’re discussing, not a quick hit of dopamine. 

            Don’t be a weekend warrior. It’s tempting to think that you will make up for a week of inactivity with a marathon session on the weekend but you’re setting yourself up for failure. If you’re planning a 4 hour session on a Saturday, it is very easy for that plan to get derailed. Clearing out a huge chunk of time like that is not easy. You need to plan your meals around it. Doing a little bit every day is much better. Just be consistent. Consistency is king.

Find movements you enjoy. One of the biggest reasons people stop working out is because they don’t enjoy it. Such a routine will never stick. Just as the reward needs to provide pleasure, so does the routine. If you’re not deriving pleasure during exercise—if you think it’s because you should be doing it instead of want to be doing it—there’s no chance it will last. Fortunately there are thousands of ways to move your body. Taking a running class when you have weak knees or lifting heavy weights when you have a shoulder injury makes no sense. What about ping-pong? Swimming? Hiking? Most every form movement is beneficial, provided you’re being safe and focusing on form. 

            Everyone’s body was meant to do something. Find that something. But what about goals you ask? Karen Oliver believes that we all need to stop obsessing on our goals:

Goals based on our actions, rather than our results, can be controlled. By action-goals, I mean setting goals on how many times you’ll workout in a week, how many meals you’ll cook from scratch in a week, how many weeks you’ll try a new workout plan for, how many days of the week you’ll stick to a set bedtime (yes, adults need bedtimes too!).

Then once we’ve set goals based on our actions, we need to be open to the results we’ll get from them. As it says in the small print on the back of fitness DVDs: The results may vary.

            Karen is advocating that we all shift from a results-focused system to a process-focused system. The idea is that you can’t always control the results so it’s easy to get discouraged but you can control the process. Basically, you gave it your all so don’t worry about the result. I see her point but I don’t know if this is realistic for most people. The problem is that you need to have faith in your process and where does that come from if you aren’t getting results. The process does need to deliver at some point or else you’re just wasting your time. So where does that faith come from?

Wearables: Apple rolled out the Apple Watch 3 this week. There are a lot of new fitness features. Most of them were rumored or expected. There is an enhanced heart rate monitor and a partnership with Stanford Health to identify arrhythmia. There is Gym Connect, the ability to hook up with gym machines. There is a barometric altimeter and a new Workout app. There is also a model that will be LTE-enabled. So for another $10/month on your cell phone bill, you can live out your Dick Tracy fantasy and call people on your watch. Apple initially viewed the Watch as a fashion play. That made sense in that high-end watches are basically jewelry but the Apple Watch was never all that pretty. Now that the Apple Watch has pivoted to fitness, I have no doubt that they will take over the smartwatch category. I am not sure what the future of wearables will be but I would not want to compete with Apple.

                What obstacles could wearables run into? How about device fatigue. Our lives are dominated by screens now. We have to constantly keep track of battery life and data usage. At some point, we will hit our breaking point and stop buying whatever new device the tech world pushes on us. Most believe that fitness will provide the killer app that leads to widespread smartwatch adoption. The only problem is that the track record of people using fitness trackers isn’t great. Most people stop using their trackers after a few months. The dirty secret is that we don’t really need any of that stuff. Maybe we would be better off learning to listen to our bodies. From Men’s Journal:

You argue we’ve become reliant on trackers. Why is that a bad thing?

For starters, it’s not a good idea to outsource decision-making to technology that is often wildly inaccurate. Research shows that these devices can have up to a 40 percent margin of error. Plus, how do you interpret the numbers you do get? A device may tell you that you’ve logged 100,000 steps this week or that your sleep’s been crappy — but what does that mean? There’s no direction. It’s literally just tracking you. And all that data can be overwhelming and cause paralysis.

What if you like getting constant data?

The problem is that you can get hooked on constant data, and that can crush the joy of exercise. Take the runner’s high — the dopamine rush you get from running. Every time you check heart rate, pace, or split time, you get a little dopamine hit. But eventually the numbers become the source of pleasure rather than the actual activity. You need to look at the device more and more to get your fix, while the activity itself becomes secondary. That’s not sustainable.

                If you learn to listen to your body, then that is all you need to know. Your body will tell you when to do more and when to rest. Your body will tell you when to stop eating. The human brain is the greatest computer ever made but it didn’t come with a screen. The best smartwatch will never be better than knowing your own body. Learning your own body is a skill but so is analyzing all the data a smartwatch can throw off.

                Another possible obstacle: those pesky lawmakers. From Bloomberg:

Employers should be banned from issuing workers with wearable fitness monitors, such as Fitbit, or other health tracking devices, even with the employees’ permission, a European Union advisory panel said in June. Employers should also be barred from accessing data from their devices their employees wear, even if it is only aggregate data for the entire workforce or anonymous data, the EU body said.

Since the ruling, concern has grown among both small startups and more established players who sell wearable devices and software to businesses, often on the prospect of improved employee health and lower medical insurance premiums.

                Corporate wellness programs are a huge driver for fitness trackers. If the EU follows through on this recommendation, it would be a big blow to the future of wearables. Especially if American regulators decide to make it an issue as well.

Yoga: Yoga’s roots go back to ancient India and are tightly entwined with Hinduism. That fact really bothers a lot of Christians who consider it blasphemous. In response, we now have Christian Yoga. From Vice:

Yoga is a complicated subject in the Christian community. Some have called it demonic and see its Hindu roots as incompatible with their faith, even going so far as to take legal action against school districts with yoga programs. Other Christians see yoga, especially the western version, as spiritually benign, a harmless exercise to improve flexibility and strength. Then there are people like Williams, who blend their Christian faith into their yoga practice.

"Since 2005, there has been a huge increase in Christian yoga," said Renee Prymus, the managing editor of the website Christians Practicing Yoga, noting that around that time three Christian yoga training organization opened in the US. "Christian training schools keep popping up, which tells me it continues to grow," she added.

                This backlash against yoga seems like an extreme reaction to me but Christian Yoga appears to be a good solution. If people are concerned about Yoga’s Hindu origin, then put a Christian spin on it. Instead of meditation, have a moment of prayer. Problem solved, right? Nope.

This dance around yoga reflects the debate within the Christian community on if and how it can fit into a faith other than Hinduism (some Muslim clerics have their own beef with yoga). In a blog post titled "Christian Yoga? It's a Stretch," outspoken pastor Mark Driscoll described yoga as a "system of belief that is unchristian, against Scripture, and thus demonic in nature." He went on to write that whatever way you dress yoga, including Christian yoga, it cannot be divorced from its Hindu roots.

And Suhag Shukla, the executive director at the Hindu American Foundation, would agree. "If you believe there is only one way to relate to God, you are going to come to a point of contradiction" with yoga, she said. Christianity is a monotheistic religion, whereas Hinduism is panentheistic with millions of gods.

                What are these people concerned about? Do they really think spending a couple of minutes in Downward Dog or Warrior 1 is going to make someone convert to Hinduism? Especially when the instructor is reciting Bible verses. They should be more concerned with the physical fitness of the members of their community:

One reason Johnson wants to see more Christians doing yoga is poor health in the American church, which numerous studies show is disproportionately impacted by obesity. One 2011 study from Northwestern University found that young adults who attend church or bible study once a week are 50 percent more likely to be obese by middle age. "The healthier [Christians] are the more they can take care of others," said Johnson.

                I will never understand people like this. Do they even know what they are so afraid of anymore? Or has fear just become their natural state? Yoga isn’t “demonic”. It’s a great form of exercise that still has some Hindu trappings. If you’re really worried about those trappings, then remove them.


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