THE WEEKLY HOWL IS INTRODUCING VARIABLE PRICING

You can’t put a price on fitness: ClassPass is not done evolving. The workout subscription service has announced a plan to introduce variable pricing. From Tech Crunch:

The problem is that whether you take a yoga class at a gym or a Flywheel indoor cycling class (the latter being more expensive), both would cost you one class credit. The solution ClassPass is testing to solve this issue is variable credit currency within the ClassPass system.

In other words, ClassPass users would be able to better control how they want to spend their credits. If they wanted more workouts, they could decide to go to lower cost inventory, less popular classes, or go at times when the class wasn’t typically as full.

“In these experiments, we’re seeing what would happen if we only charge you half of a class to go to a gym visit, or maybe to an off-peak class,” said Lanman. “It’s cheaper for us to buy it, so we should give the consumer an incentive to try it,” he explained.

                In other words, instead of getting 10 classes per month a subscriber will get 10 credits. A Flywheel class at 6PM on Friday night might cost 1.5 credits while a yoga class at 10AM on Tuesday morning might only cost 0.5 credits. The more in-demand classes will cost more, the less in-demand classes will cost less. This sounds like a great idea but I am sure that it will meet resistance. People tend to hate variable pricing even though it makes so much sense. If there is more demand, then charge more. This is an elegant solution to some of ClassPass’ most pressing problems but there will be pushback at first. We’ll see how this pilot program goes.

                ClassPass will also be partnering with Blink Fitness in order to offer $15/month memberships to ClassPass subscribers. I just took a peak at the Blink website and it said that memberships start at $15 a month. So all they are really doing is streamlining the payment process? It would be interesting if they offered 10 workouts at Blink locations for $5/month or something like that.

                The company also took on another $70 million in funding and is expanding to 10 new cities.

Motivation: The Guardian ran a piece on “competitive fitness” this week. They focused on team-based events that test both strength and conditioning. The growth of these events was attributed to the growing popularity of CrossFit and the author marveled at the intensity that was on display. The thing is that competitive fitness is not a new phenomenon. Millions of people have been competing in running events for decades. The change is that people want to train and test themselves through a broader range of fitness attributes than just aerobic fitness. Otherwise, it is no different than someone running a weekend marathon or triathlon. People want to be challenged, they want to compete against themselves, and they want to master skills and improve.

So what is the appeal? Magdalena Rotsztejn, a 30-year-old Tribal Clash finisher who works as a delivery manager for a technology firm, says: “For me, competing means finding my limits and going beyond them. There are so many moments in an event when the adrenaline kicks in and I surprise myself with what I’m capable of. I feel independent, powerful, as if I can achieve anything, and then that carries over into the rest of my life.”

Renata O’Donnell, 41, works for a small investment bank in London and has competed in Tribal Clash for the past two years. “I love that it takes the vanity out of fitness and gives it more purpose,” she says. “It has helped me give my training more focus and stick to a healthy lifestyle, but, more than that, I love the team aspect. It’s about communicating and working together as a unit, because you’re only as strong as your weakest link.”

                Take away the team aspect and you could hear the exact same thing at a running event.

Virtual Reality: Virtual Reality is the next big thing in tech and it is already infiltrating the fitness world. From the Daily Mall:

Gone are the days where gaming equated physical inactivity – exhilarating new virtual reality platforms will now let you exercise while you play. 

Gyms are beginning to invest in virtual reality (VR) systems to keep their customers fit, while companies are creating fitness VR games people can do at home. 

For instance, a game called Fruit Ninja involves using virtual Samurai swords to cut up flying fruits while another called Drunkn Bar Fight encourages users to throw punches and chuck things around the pub - all in the name of exercise.

'The more you drink, the stronger you feel', said the developers of Drunkn Bar Fight, which is still in Beta mode and due to be released globally soon.

'And you are going to need it because you will need to fight everyone at the bar.'

The game will work on both HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.    

'You will be constantly moving once you enter a game mode and the game pushes you even harder and to be even faster than you were previously', VR Fitness Insider said on its website, talking about Fruit Ninja.

'This all makes it one of the best fitness-based games out on the market, if not the best.' 

            These games sound like fun but will they have staying power? The video game has been “barbell-ing” just like the fitness industry. Growth has been happening in simple games you can play on your iPad (Angry Birds) and complex, narrative-driven games that you play on a console (Call of Duty). These games sound like they belong to the former category and I believe that VR-based fitness will have to migrate to the latter category. Call of Duty has much greater engagement than mobile games, which have much greater convenience. Using a VR device at the gym or at home isn’t going to be as convenient as using a mobile device so the games will need to evolve in order to hold people’s interest. It’s still early days for VR, these games will come.  

Women & Weights: It is hard to believe that there are still a lot of people out there who think that women shouldn’t lift weights. The perception is that touching a weight will turn women into muscle-bound bodybuilders. And random people on the internet are not shy about sharing their ignorance with Kelsey Wells, an Instagram fitness personality:

Lifting weight does not make you "manly." This is part of the message fitness blogger Kelsey Wells wants to send her followers. In a recent Instagram post, the mother of one shared that she is still seeing negativity surrounding women who lift weights.

As first reported by Refinery29, Wells specifically wrote about what femininity and beauty mean to her, and yes, part of that includes crushing weights at the gym.

"Comments along the lines of 'you're looking manly' or 'careful you don't want to be bulky' or 'weightlifting isn't feminine' never cease to amaze me," she wrote in the caption. "THE ONLY THING A WOMAN NEEDS TO DO TO BE BEAUTIFUL AND FEMININE IS TO BE HERSELF. We empower ourselves when we are living our truth and doing what we are PASSIONATE about with our WHOLE HEARTS."

                This woman has almost 900,000 followers on Instagram. She is a fitness professional and looks great. Who are these people that feel the need to tell that she doesn’t know what she’s doing and isn’t being feminine? When will this idea that women shouldn’t do any strength-training finally die?

China: Fitness is a fast-growing industry in China and it sounds remarkably similar to the U.S. market.

1)      People want to show off their fitness achievements

 

The primary driving force behind this is of course the willingness to improving health and physical fitness, followed by the mindset of sharing or “showing off” athletic achievements, which 60% of sports enthusiasts say they have. “For a lot of [gym goers], it is like I go to gym and wear the latest Adidas outfit and take some selfies to share with my friends,” Andrew Atkinson, managing director of Chinaskinny, told CKGSB Knowledge. “What actually are Chinese motivations in working out? It’s like a kind of fashion and beauty in their lives”.

 

2)      Nike and Adidas dominate athletic apparel but Under Armour is closing the gap

 

Indeed, sportswear brands that can adopt China’s fashion taste and position themselves right are doing well. “Nike and Adidas hold the top spots in China … and they are not just sportswear brands; by all accounts they are fashion brands in China and they are saying as much,” added Atkinson.

 

3)      Fitness inequality

 

At the 2017 Chinese Sports Industry Carnival, Will’s founder and CEO Will Wang insisted that in the fitness industry, aiming for the high end and maintaining a strong cash flow is the only way to be profitable. “Making money from the poor is very hard; you need to target the rich—in the future, over 80% of the market will fall into the high end”, he said.

 

4)      Location is king when it comes to picking a gym

 

Atkinson, who goes to the gym regularly, agrees that location is important: “[The one I go to is] more convenient for me—it’s very close to home, very close to work. People realize that if a gym is far away, they are not going to use it.”

5)      Boutique fitness thrives on a sense of community

 

Outside the big gyms, specialized sports studios without treadmills and cycling equipment are prevailing. Usually experience-based, they give specific training in boxing or yoga. Instead of simply getting fit, participants also learn professional techniques, and may even find a community they enjoy being with, and thus less likely to give up training.

 

                There is one big difference. The subscription model has not found its place in Chinese fitness:

Atkinson adds the western subscription method, where fees are charged to a credit card weekly, is not here yet—for all the lessons and training, people are always paying money up-front. For those who already have membership, the gym’s management will promote personal training courses to further make a profit.

 

Community: Forbes published a piece on how fitness companies use community to build their brands. Three things struck me while reading this article:

1) Fitness is often a shared experience and the idea of community to central to most fitness brands

2) The first was that the fitness industry doesn’t have the deep pockets that you see in some other industries so fitness brands have had to become experts at leveraging social media

3) Is there any industry more driven by passion than the fitness industry? It’s tough to fake a passion for fitness and it’s not the place to get rich quick.

Organic growth is also a key element to success. Spartan’s De Sena says, “Our community continues to grow organically because we’re genuine - we truly want to make the world a healthier place and support our community, and that shows through everything we do. My advice is to stay true to your brand and keep your voice and content real and in-line with your company’s mission.”

“A lot of our instructors—including me—are former clients that fell in love with the brand and wanted to work for Barry’s. As a result, our community has grown organically over the past 2 decades, and our instructors are proud to be leaders of the Barry's Fit Fam,” says Gonzalez.

Strava also emphasizes the importance of evolving with your community. Quarles explains, “You have to know your superpowers--identify the things that the community sees you as doing better than all others and continually invest in them. For Strava that means ubiquity, authenticity, and metrics that motivate over time.” He sums it up, “Your goal should be to align the experience you create with your community’s needs.”

                There is an expression in the tech industry: Eat your own dog food. The idea is that tech companies have to use their own products in order to understand them and find glitches. The fitness industry doesn’t need an expression like this because everyone is already doing that.

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