THE WEEKLY HOWL IS MOVING TO COOKEVILLE

Kicking it old school: Every action has a reaction. There is no sour without the sweet. And now that there have been a thousand articles about the rise of boutique fitness, we are starting to see the reaction. From the NY Times:

To go by the rise of ClassPass and the army of lissome “fitfluencers” on Instagram, one might assume this is an era of peak boutique fitness. “Athleisure” now enjoys Merriam-Webster status, and celebrity gawkers know where their favorite Jenner sister trains. Smaller gyms are the fastest-growing segment of the exercise business, with membership growth of 6.3 percent (double the industry average) from 2015 to 2016, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association.

But some body cognoscenti — the resistance band, if you will — are calling it quits on the sculpting and spinning circuit and taking up old-school physical pursuits that many of us think of as the preserve of childhood. They’re shooting hoops, picking up squash, playing tennis in city parks, swimming laps at the Y. And they may be getting a better workout.

              People never stopped playing basketball and tennis and going to the Y. It just wasn’t trendy so media outlets weren’t talking about it. Now they’re starting to look for the story behind SoulCycle and CrossFit and they see people doing what they’ve always done. That said, I do like press coverage that illustrates the fact you don’t NEED to pay $40/class to get fit. And there is an added bonus:

In these hyper-wired times with Twitter feeds and cable news bubbling over with outrage and anger, the impulse to engage in an activity that feels plucked from an analog era makes sense. Many of the gyms that cater to fashion models and investment bankers can feel like bastions of blowouts and entitlement, while public parks and recreation centers still welcome urban dwellers across every imaginable spectrum. The sense of democracy — and sweating with strangers from different backgrounds rather than folks we know from college or the school run — is a considerable draw at a time of heightened income disparity.

              The other thing is that if affluent people only worked out in expensive gyms, they might cease to value public parks and community recreation centers and those things might disappear.

Priceless if you ask me: Our grandparents would probably think that we are all crazy paying to exert ourselves. That used to be called work. Now it’s leisure. But the world has changed a lot in the last few decades. We are an information economy now. We sit for work and sweat for fun and we pay a pretty penny for that privilege. From Moneyish:

The price of fitness for a lifetime weighs heavier on wallets than college tuition, according to a new study from sports and nutrition company My Protein.

The study surveyed 1,350 US adults aged 18 to 65 and found that the average American spends $155 per month on their health and fitness, that’s $112,000 in their entire lifetime, and $13,000 more than a public four year college education which averages about $98,440.

Included in that number, Americans on average spend $33 on gym memberships, $56 on health supplements, $35 on clothing and accessories for working out, $17 for healthy meal plans and $14 on trainers, My Protein reports.

               Wow. That really adds up quickly.

Attitude is Behavior: Human behavior is complicated. We are not the perfectly rational actors that classical economics would have you believe. We respond to incentives but is not always clear what incentives motivate us and exactly how we will respond to those incentives. Fitness trackers are still in the nascent stage and manufacturers still have a long way to go. From The Verge:

But there aren’t a lot of fitness trackers infused with legitimate behavioral science, says Patel. While plenty of apps use gamification strategies, those strategies tend to be ill-conceived, based on standard economics and the idea that people are rational. “They think about all the different possibilities, and ‘How much will this cake or this gym workout add to my overall life,’ and then make a decision,” Patel says. “But we know people don’t do that.”

The Apple Watch is a behavioral intervention device that was created without consulting any behaviorists. I asked Apple directly about this — both at the original presentation around the Watch and again just before publication. I was told that Apple doesn’t use outside consultants, though it does invite researchers to come discuss their work, including those who have interests in habit formation and behavior change. Apple didn’t formally hire any behaviorists to design the Watch, either.

This lack of depth in behavioral research shows in the Watch’s reward design. It’s not just that the Watch doesn’t take into account the recent stuff — the old stuff Skinner produced isn’t reflected, either — but Apple hasn’t participated in the kinds of verification studies that might give someone confidence in their approach to fitness. As long as Apple isn’t making a specific health claim, it doesn’t have to verify its device is accurate with the FDA. Only a few studies exist on fitness trackers’ accuracy, Patel says, which makes it challenging for both patients and doctors to trust a smartwatch’s data. And the rewards aren’t set up in the ways we know are most effective. The Watch is ultimately a weak tool. It might be effective for some people, but there’s a lot of behavioral research out there that suggests it could be much more effective for many more people.

              The next big move for fitness trackers will be to move from basing its incentives on classical economics to behavioral economics. Behavioral economics is a hybrid of psychology and economics and gets much closer to the way that the human mind works. Getting people to work-out is not simple. If it was, then we wouldn’t be in the mess that we are now. The sad truth is that it will always be easier to get people to do something that is bad for them than it is to get them to do something that is good for them. Silicon Valley seems to think that fitness tracking will be as easy as getting people addicted to their smartphones but it won’t. I’m sure that Apple will figure that out eventually. In the meantime, check out this article.

Motivation: There are 2 big mistakes that I see nearly everyone in the gym commit. They have nothing to do with training methodologies or techniques. They lie at the root of how people approach their workouts and their time in the gym. Sara Lindberg from Men’s Health has noticed this too. The first mistake:

 Common gym mistake: Not tracking your workout

We all have a lot to keep track of—your work meetings, your kids’ soccer practices, and your wife’s birthday, for starters. So for most guys, the last thing they want to be bothered with is tracking their workout. You want to get in, lift hard, and get out.

But if you’re not keeping track of the exercises you’re doing—and the weight, reps, and sets they’re performed at—then you end up with an inconsistent training plan.

Fortunately, this is one of the simplest fixes. Get an app that helps track your workouts or go old school and buy a spiral notebook and call it get started.

Then, aim to gradually increase your volume. For example, if you benched presses 185 pounds for three sets of eight reps the week before, Gentilcore says a good progression would be to increase your volume 5 to 10 percent, or by 1-3 repetitions the next week.

The idea is to challenge your body to do more work week by week, but not to the point where you surpass your body's ability to recover.

              Your memory sucks. You may think that you can keep track of it all in your head but you can’t. Your ego will lie to you. You won’t realize how often “stuff comes up”. The only way to keep yourself honest is to record your workouts so that you can track your progress. After a while, you will dread having to record a zero in your training log. What’s the second mistake?

Common gym mistake: Resting too long between sets

Do you spend more time texting and checking Instagram than you do pushing weight? Otey says these distractions can take a chokehold on your program.

Rest periods are one of the most crucial parts of a successful workout.

Too much rest in between sets leads to less stress on the muscle—ultimately altering the recovery needed for that respective area,” he explains.

So, if you’ve been taking long rests that you don’t need, then shorten it up. Aim for 50 seconds of rest in between a set of 10 repetitions, for example. Gentilcore says this generally equates to a work-rest ratio of 1:1.

              Bring a watch and record your rest periods. How long you rest between sets is just as important as the weight and number of reps yet I rarely see anyone tracking their rest periods. I assume people are going off of “feel” but then why bother to count your reps either. Most people are resting too long which also elongates their workout. You want to make every minute in the gym count.

You’re boring: Virtual reality is all the rage these days and many people believe that it could be the future of fitness. Black Box VR is one of the leaders of the nascent VR fitness revolution but after reading a quote from one of its co-founders, I have my doubts. From Forbes:

"Fitness is boring to the majority of people. On the other side of the coin, we all know games can be unhealthily addicting. With games, you level up your character while leveling down your real-life health," said Lewis. "Our mission is to change lives by creating addictive fitness experiences (applying gaming principles) that leverage the power of immersive technologies like VR."

"In the Black Box VR workout, your body is the controller, and you can level up your life," adds Lewis. "We hope this is fitness users will enjoy."

              This is a huge red flag. These people don’t understand fitness. They think that it sucks and they’re going to “fix” it. Believing that fitness is inherently boring is treating the symptoms, not the disease. People who are bored by fitness are doing it wrong. That’s what needs to be fixed. Trying to make fitness into a video game will lead to its own problems. If you want to revolutionize something, you should probably take the time to understand it first.

Touch your toes: If you’ve ever done P90X, then you know that Tony Horton is fond of proclaiming various workouts “the mother of all P90X workouts”. Whatever that title is supposed to signify, Tony has a new crown to issue: the “most important” P90X workout. And it may surprise you. From PopSugar:

You can't get a toned, fit figure if you're only cycling or doing traditional cardio. You have to mix it up and do strength training and resistance work as well, because that's going to give you the shape you're going for. However, don't get Tony wrong — doing only strength training and cardio isn't the ticket to health and wellness either. Mobility and flexibility are the most important pillars of fitness, and without them, you won't get your ideal body.

"Yoga is the most important part of P90X, P90X2, and P90X3," he said matter-of-factly. "A lot of people ignore it because it's boring and because you're not breaking a sweat and it's hard at first. But that which challenges you is the best thing for you."

If your body isn't flexible and supple, you won't be able to move around as easily and get farther in your strength training workouts. That means you won't be able to accomplish as much or get as strong and fit as you'd like. "Without yoga, I probably would have gotten injured a dozen times," Tony shared. "It's about reaction time, it's about all the aspects of fitness that help improve you in all kinds of ways — and mobility is the glue to all of it."

              The concept of balanced fitness has come a long way in the last 15 years but flexibility/mobility is one area that is still underrated. Working on flexibility requires a different mindset than strength or endurance training and that pivot can be tricky for people. Plus, the idea of preventative work is always dangerous because it is too easy to justify skipping it. But as you get older, these things will catch up with you and bite you in the ass. It may not be as fun but it needs to get done.

CrossFit Mecca: What are the axes mundi of the fitness world? Muscle Beach in Venice, California: the spiritual home of bodybuilding. Columbus, Ohio: home to Westside Barbell, the Arnold Classic, and Rogue Fitness. Boulder, Colorado: the #1 destination for endurance athletes. Cookeville, Tennessee: the home of 4X CrossFit Games champion, Rich Froning. That might not seem like reason enough to put Cookeville into the discussion but high-level CrossFit athletes keep flocking there to train with Froning even after his retirement from individual competition. From Mens’ Health:

One by one, members of the CrossFit Mayhem Freedom teams (there are two, consisting of four people each) walk into the barn. I immediately recognize newcomer Tasia Percevecz, who placed 15th in her first-ever games appearance in 2016. She moved to Cookeville three days prior to claim her spot on the team, and is currently sleeping on a friend’s couch—all the while, working remotely as a sales rep for her day job.

Percevecz isn’t the only one uprooting their life for rural Tennessee: Something interesting’s happening in Cookeville, as it slowly becomes a hub for elites of the sport. Most notably, current Fittest Man on Earth Matthew Fraser relocated to the area from Vermont within the last few months, training with Rich and the Mayhem Freedom team on the regular. Rich’s cousin (one of 25 male cousins, actually) Darren Hunsucker, another Mayhem Freedom teammate, moved to the area back in 2009 from Chicago. Rich tells us about a few more guys, including Josh Bridges, who are looking at property in the area. And then there’s Kristin Miller, filling the final Mayhem Freedom spot for the 2018 team, uprooting her life from Houston.

              Sara Sigmundsdottir, a 2x podium finisher, trained for the 2017 Games in Cookeville as well. And CrossFit Mayhem won the team competition in 2015 and 2016. The population of Cookeville is only 30,000 people and it is nowhere near the sports/fitness hubs of South Florida and Southern California. But is fast becoming the center of the CrossFit universe. I can see the appeal. Whenever they show footage of athletes training, the majority of them are working out in a warehouse gym or in the parking lot of an industrial area. This makes sense since it is where most CrossFit boxes are located. Then they show footage of people training in Cookeville and it looks completely different. The places in Cookeville look unique, from Rich Froning’s barn gym to being able to pull a cardio machine up to a nature vista.

              I wonder if this is the first CrossFit super-gym. The best way to get better at any sport is to train with other athletes who are at or above your level.  It makes sense for the best athletes to train with each other and form super-teams or super-gyms. CrossFit is a very young sport and Rich Froning has won 36% of the World’s Fittest Man titles. I think that as more superstars emerge from the sport, we will see more super-gyms form as the top athletes want to train together.

              The other takeaway from this article is that Rich Froning drinks a lot of milk. Like a lot of milk:

Instead of coffee, he reaches for milk. I’d come to learn over the next couple days that Rich drinks an astronomical amount of milk, at least seven servings throughout a 24-hour period. In the mornings with breakfast. Post-workout. Just because. At one point, he reveals to me that he went to a lab nearby, had some tests done, and learned that his bone density is about 15 percent higher than the normal elite athlete. Although doctors couldn’t exactly attribute it to how much milk he drinks, he tells us that’s his assumption.

              Could also be because he does more strength training than the average elite athlete but who knows.

TidBits:

-Banning cable news at Lifetime Fitness appears to be a hit

-In praise of the SkiErg

-The very sexual history of the barre workout

-What is a dumbbell snatch?

-This is dumb