It’s all about the merch: There are 2 trends that have been revolutionizing the fitness industry the last few years: studios and athleisure. What could be better than combining the two? From Moneyish:

More and more studios are following the SoulCycle model of slapping their logo onto a crop top, sports bra or pair of yoga pants, and selling them for upwards of $40 each — which sometimes costs more than the actual class. Owners tell Moneyish that it’s a crucial way to earn a second stream of revenue while effortlessly building brand awareness. 

“The merchandise and the apparel is icing on the cake for us,” said Johnny Adamic, co-founder of Brrrn, a cool new Manhattan strength training class that’s done between 45 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to selling classes starting at $34 each, guests can also buy sweatshirts to wear inside the chilly studios with the brand’s snowflake logo, as well hats, fingerless gloves, beanies and sweatpants that fit into the icy aesthetic. Adamic teamed up with clothing maker Alternative Apparel to design pieces for Brrrrn that range from $40 to $60. Clothing is on sale currently at the studio, with plans to expand to online in the coming months.

“Our goal is to hit anywhere from 10 to 20% of our gross sales on merch,” said Adamic. 

Capitalizing on athletic clothing is a no-brainer for gyms and fitness studios. The athleisure trend is making $44 billion a year, according to market research firm NPD Group. And the category is expected to grow to $83 billion by 2020, Morgan Stanley estimates.

              Studio fitness is a luxury product and people want to show off luxury products. You can post a post-class selfie to Instagram but you’re probably going to want a little more than that. A $50 Soulcycle t-shirt will do the trick. There is also a weird relationship going on where studios are using their merch to draw in consumers who will then sign up for their classes and retailers are using fitness classes to draw in fitness enthusiasts who will then purchase retail items.

And it’s working in reverse, as well, with retail stores using the growing wellness obsession to hawk their athletic brands by luring in customers with fitness classes. Last year, Saks Fifth Avenue opened The Wellery, a pop-up floor in its flagship Fifth Avenue store offering classes from ConBody, the prison-style boot camp workout; Bendable Body, a stretching method that works on connective tissue; and MNDFL meditation classes, all the while promoting up-and-coming activewear brands such as Heroine Sport, Phat Buddha and Beyond Yoga

              Companies are using fitness to sell athleisure and athleisure to sell fitness. That’s amazing.


A good night’s sleep: Fitness is a young industry and as such, it is still evolving. One way it is still evolving is the addition of recovery services and products. It is not a new idea that nutrition is the companion to fitness in the search for greater health and wellness. But as fitness programs have become more intense, people are starting to realize that their ability to recover from that last hard training session is crucial. The biggest area in the recovery business right now is sleep. A good night’s sleep is worth its weight in gold but it can prove elusive to the sort of high-achievers that flock to high-intensity fitness programs. Enter sleep-coaches and because we live in the 21st century, sleep-coaching apps. From Fast Company:

Equinox, in conjunction with researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, revealed findings linking behavioral “sleep coaching” to exercise performance. That’s right, they may have finally answered the question of whether or not that late-night cheesecake will slow you down in the morning.

The clinical research study–the first of its kind–found that sleep coaching, which involves improving people’s sleep quality by getting them to change their lifestyle habits, does indeed impact one’s athletic performance. The goal was to prove how a behavioral-level step-by-step program could push incremental improvement in the quality and duration of sleep and, as a result of that, affect fitness outcomes.

Over 30 participants took part in the 12-week study, submitting detailed sleep logs each week. They recorded everything from alcohol consumption to middle-of-the-night bathrooms breaks, which were evaluated by sleep researchers.

The research team also conducted lengthy interviews, asking questions like: What time do you typically go to bed? What time do you get up in the morning? How many hours do you spend in bed? How many hours are you actually asleep out of that time? What’s your sleep quality? And do you get sleepy at a particular time in the evening?

              Equinox is incorporating that research into its app, website, personal training, and a sleep-coaching program. They appear committed to providing their members with a comprehensive approach to bettering their bodies. And the results of sleep-coaching are hard to argue with.


It’s no surprise that a good night’s rest impacts a day at the gym, but the study clarifies just how much of an impact it has. For example, metabolic threshold improved 29.8% in the sleep-coaching group, compared to 16.2% in the control group. (In other words, they got significantly more calorie-burning bang for their workout buck.) Meanwhile, those who were sleep-coached saw body fat percentage decrease by 17.2%, versus 7.1% in the control group.


              I’m curious as to how poorly the participants were sleeping before the study because those are striking results. It also speaks to how crucial sleep is to good health. This kind of holistic approach is going to be the future of the industry. Working out might be the fun part but you can’t ignore what you eat and how you recover.


Fat-shaming: A gym just outside of Birmingham, Alabama has ignited a controversy over its advertising style. It stems from the sign outside Pell City Fitness. The gym is attempting to use humor to draw in new members but not everyone is amused. From the Washington Post:

It was a call to action, gym owner Scott Campbell said, tinged with lighthearted ribbing.

“Tired of being fat and ugly?” his sign outside Pell City Fitness read in stark white letters. “Just be ugly!”

Campbell expected some reaction, he told The Washington Post on Wednesday, maybe an uptick in customers who laughed at the sign he installed May 15 in the small town east of Birmingham, Ala.

He got those laughs — along with a deluge of comments on social media calling the sign offensive, as city officials scrambled to get the sign down.

              Some people think it is hilarious and others find it offensive. I realize that no one likes to feel like they’re censored or that they can’t express themselves but if you’ve offended that many people, then you should probably examine what you did or said. That doesn’t mean that you didn’t have good intentions (like trying to get people to join your gym and make fitness part of their lives) but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. What is a good natured joke to you can be deeply offensive to other people. And when those people are trying to communicate why it is offensive, listen and have some empathy.

              Fitness needs to be more inclusive not less. I realize that Pell City Fitness may be thinking about how it can grow its business and not the entire industry but it would behoove everyone in the fitness industry to be on the same page here. In order for the industry to grow, we need to draw in more people. If gyms are seen as intimidating places, especially for overweight people, then growth is going to be tough. The other thing is that even if this ad pulls in a new member, they are not likely to stay a member. Shame is not going to keep someone going to the gym. Fitness is the best product in the world, there’s no need for stuff like this.


Think of the children: The obesity epidemic is well-known at this point. However, it appears that fitness levels have been falling in children that are not obese as well. From US News & World Report:


Researchers in 2016 analyzed 213 "healthy-weight" boys, determined by BMI, and 72 obese boys. They compared their findings to a similar study in 1996 performed on 132 healthy-weight boys and 72 obese boys to determine the change in fitness over time. Participants wore heart rate monitors during a test that required them to run "20 meters between two points until they could no longer do it," according to the study. Their heart rates were recorded at the end of the test and every minute during recovery.

According to the study, healthy-weight boys in 2016 ran the course an average of 4.8 times, as opposed to the average of 5.1 times completed by their 1996 counterparts. Obese boys showed a less pronounced difference, completing the distance an average of 4.1 times in 2016 compared with 4.2 times in 1996. Both normal-weight and obese boys showed much lower cardiac efficacy and slower heart rate recovery at the end of the test and throughout recovery in 2016 compared to 1996. 

Researchers acknowledged that the study included just a regional sample of boys. They also noted limitations in the period over which the data were collected as well as the fact that they did not account for factors like lifestyle differences. Nevertheless, they said the boys studied were from a demographic cross section representative of Western countries, and they recommended more programs to increase fitness levels in children.

              This is less than ideal. It’s disturbing that even healthy weight boys are less fit than their counterparts in 1996. Evolution is not a fixed process and it looks like humankind is adapting to a more sedentary existence. This is not a good development. It’s hard to imagine all the negative repercussions of a population that is less and less physically capable. But it’s not hard to see that this will affect society in numerous ways. The best thing that we can do is adjust our lifestyles. People used to expect their work to be physical and their leisure time to be sedentary. We need to invert that expectation. Otherwise, I don’t know what the future will hold for us.

Gurus: For better or for worse, fitness is a business based on gurus. The term “fitness guru” is ubiquitous and applied liberally to anyone who has experienced some level of success at training/coaching people. The problem is that there are scores of people who have labeled as gurus who do not deserve the title. Even the use of the word guru implies that there is a mystical, unknowable quality to fitness. And that leaves an opening for con-men and hucksters. So what are people to do? The Globe and Mail has some ideas:

Beware the dogmatic preacher

I love kettlebells, but anyone who tells you they’re the best and only method for getting in shape is wrong. Same goes for sandbags, Olympic lifting, suspension systems, body-weight training or any other esoteric training methodology. If the coach you’re learning from is a little too enthusiastic about a particular training system or implement, chances are they either have a financial stake in the company that makes or sells the product in question or they’re connected to an organization that sells instructional certifications.

              Always ask yourself how this person is making money. We all have to make money somehow and there’s nothing wrong with that but there is a conflict of interest. If a company is selling kettlebells and kettlebell certifications, of course they are going to tell you that kettlebells are the only fitness tool you need. That doesn’t mean that kettlebells aren’t a great fitness tool. Just take everything with a grain of salt.

Beware the nihilist

The preacher and the shill may be loathsome to varying degrees, but at least they believe in something. Trainers whose philosophies are ill-defined or, worse, non-existent do their clients and followers the greatest of disservices – they waste their time.

I specialize in helping thirty- and forty somethings who have little to no experience lifting weights become comfortable with resistance training. There, that’s me. That’s my training philosophy. Hire me and you know what you’re getting. If you’re 19 years old and want to compete in powerlifting, I’m probably not the guy to help you out.

Instagram and Facebook are saturated with profiles of so-called trainers who think posting gym selfies and sharing motivational memes is akin to creating a philosophy. Nowhere on their Web pages or profiles do these “trainers” state what they believe in, what they do, or how they do it. Somehow this still leads to attracting followers, though as Mr. Trump and his new trusty sidekick Dr. Oz have proved, the appearance of success is often all that counts.


              Having great genetics and working out really hard does not an expert make. This one seems like a new phenomenon. Social media is so visually oriented that it creates an opening for people who are long on style and short on substance. If someone’s “expertise” is limited to putting pictures of themselves on Instagram, then don’t listen to anything they say.



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