Sports Gym: One of the joys of watching sports is getting to see what the human body is capable of. It doesn’t seem like a huge stretch to think that sports fans would be inspired by their favorite athletes to push their own limits and test their own fitness. The San Francisco 49ers must think that it is the case because they are building a 49ers-branded gym in San Jose. From the San Jose Mercury News:

Heavy construction started about three weeks ago on the 36,500-square-foot, two-level facility at the Westgate Center Outlet Mall on Saratoga Avenue, about 10 miles from the team’s Santa Clara headquarters. With a budget of more than $6 million, the cost of building the gym is about double an ordinary facility, said the 49ers joint-venture partner, Mark Mastrov, founder of 24 Hour Fitness.

“49ers Fit is going to be cutting edge in every sense of the word and we’re going to leverage our unique organizational assets in ways that will make 49ers Fit one of the most dynamic gym experiences in the country,” said 49ers president Al Guido.

The problem is that there is no established link between sports and fitness. Football fans don’t watch a 49ers game and then get inspired to hit the gym. If that was the case, then how was the obesity rate in this country been skyrocketing at the same time that sports (and the NFL in particular) achieved record levels of popularity? You don’t see gym traffic spike after big sporting events like the Super Bowl or the Olympics. The truth is that most American adults have put sports and fitness in two different silos in their mind. There will be a marginal benefit to a 49ers-branded gym but it probably won’t come close to pay for the licensing expense.

People select gyms based on convenience. And convenience is closely linked to location, either to home or work. There will be some people who will join 49ers Fit over another gym because they are 49ers fans. That is the marginal benefit that I mentioned. But you’re not going to get fans who live 1 hour away. Because the even the most die-hard isn’t going to waste 2 hours of their day just so they can say that they work out at 49ers Fit. Plus, you may even get people who decide not to join because they are fans of a different team. If you were a Raiders fan, would you want to be a member of 49ers Fit? And then there’s this:

Members may also find themselves sweating alongside 49ers past and present and team cheerleaders, Mastrov said, adding that the gym’s walls will be decorated with photos of prominent 49ers, including the late Dwight Clark.

“It’ll give you a chance to be and feel like you’re a little bit closer to the 49ers than you’ve ever been before,” Mastrov said. “You’ll get to rub elbows a bit with the 49ers family.”

Oh please. Does anyone actually believe that players are going to be working out here on a regular basis? Even the language that Mastrov uses is vague. You “may” see some 49ers and you’ll get to “feel” like you’re closer to the 49ers family. This is all sizzle, no steak.

Just a number: It’s become a pretty standard practice for gyms to offer new members some sort of fitness assessment. The stated idea is to help that member set their fitness goals. You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to imagine that the real goal is to sell that member personal/group training sessions in order to achieve those fitness goals. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that but are gyms being responsible in their assessments. From the Daily Beast:

So Shatzkes took it. During her assessment, a personal trainer took her height and weight, then told her that, according to the gym’s chart, her body mass index, or BMI, put her in a category right under obese.

“I looked at this and I was shocked because I’m in really good shape,” she told The Daily Beast. “I’m a runner and I eat really well so I looked at him and I was like, ‘How can this be?’”

The trainer deflected the question. And when Shatzkes, who’s 55 and works as a radiologist, reached out to the gym management for an explanation, she received the same kind of deflection.

“The chart was manipulative and there was a lot of pressure for training and it was clearly directed towards making me—and people—that they were less fit than they were and therefore needed training.”

              The BMI is trash. Don’t trust anyone who uses it to categorize people by weight. At best, it’s lazy and at worst, it’s deceptive. I understand the pressure to sell people personal training but this is counter-productive. Scaring members into becoming a PT client isn’t a long-term path to success. You really think that person is going to continue to purchase sessions? Shame and fear are not the way to promote fitness.

The bottom line is that not everyone is looking to reshape their body or change their diet, and certainly not by way of a controversial, potentially misleading statistic. Alyssa Chaplin, a 27-year-old special education teacher, told The Daily Beast that the numbers from any kind of body analysis she’s had has made her feel bad about herself. She’s been avoiding a free personal training session at her gym.

“Some people want a trainer to be able to stay the way that they are. I’m not necessarily going to do a drastic weight loss, and with what’s been offered to me, I feel unmotivated rather than motivated and you feel forced to go to the gym rather than go to the gym because it feels good,” she said. “I think rather than measure stuff, they should ask: What are those areas you’re not happy about, we’re not going to measure it right now but let’s talk about it.”

It’s not that hard to find a way in which someone can improve physically and enjoy a higher quality of life. But it will take more effort than just measuring someone’s height and weight and telling them that they’re overweight.

Ross Hurley, a certified strength and conditioning specialist who works with MotivNY and has worked for various gyms, told The Daily Beast that the fitness world is moving toward rethinking fitness assessments as “How well do you move” versus “How much weight do you want to lose?”

“We’re starting to look at people from a movement perspective and say, ‘Hey if you’re the kind of person who wants to do obstacle courses or play with your kids, here’s the kind of workout for you,’” he said.

This is where every gym should be moving toward. It’s a move from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation. Instead of trying to shame someone, sell them on moving better, getting stronger and fitter. That is how you’re going to attract the type of PT clients who will keep coming back. 

Putting the work in workout: Being a gym operator is to be in the real estate business. Now some operators are looking to expand the uses of their real estate. From CNBC:

Americans are increasingly working outside the traditional office, and it's fueling a need for affordable workspace. At the same time, boutique workout classes and fashionable athleisure wear have made fitness very fashionable. So some companies are marrying the two ideas and hunkering down at the gym.

A Gallup survey of more than 15,000 adults found 43 percent of U.S. employees spent some time working remotely in 2016. As internet access becomes better and more widespread, that the figure will probably increase.

There's also a booming start-up industry that thrives in a collaborative, open environment. There were 415,216 startups in 2017 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a 28 percent increase from a 30-year low in 2010. (The government defines a "start-up" as a company with at least one employee that's less than a year old.) The National Venture Capital Association reported U.S. venture capitalists invested $84 billion in 8,035 companies last year, the largest annual amount in a decade.

Start-ups often aren't able to provide perks that larger companies use to lure and retain employees, such as free cafeteria food, manicures and kombucha on tap. So being able to offer a luxury gym membership is a competitive bonus. Plus it can lead employees to have a healthier lifestyle.

"[The trend] kind of coincides with a high-performance individual that considers fitness an integral part of their life," said Equinox Fitness Clubs CEO Niki Leondakis. "There's an exponential amount of people thinking about work-life balance differently." After seeing sidewalks outside its locations crowded with members answering email, Equinox began to open co-working spaces in some of its upscale locations.

              There is a convergence occurring here as gyms are adding co-working spaces and co-working spaces are adding gyms. Even I have to admit that this is kind of weird. I’m surprised that people would want to work at the gym. I would like to do that but I wouldn’t expect that other people would want to do that. I have to wonder if a full-fledged move into co-working is a good move for a gym operator. It’s one thing to offer members some space that they could use and it’s another thing to have members running their startups out of the gym. It could be an interesting move but they might have to adjust their pricing accordingly.

 Working out of a fitness center can also cut costs for a new company or a freelancer. In pricey cities like San Francisco and New York, many small companies may not have funds to rent a full office space.

WeWork hot desks — where people don't have a dedicated workspace but are allowed to use the facility — start at $220 a month. For comparison, the office space in a gym often comes with the monthly health club fee. For instance, the New York Life Time charges $190 a month, while Equinox prices can start at $160 monthly depending on your city.

              The expectation for a gym is that a member will spend 1-2 hours a day max at the gym. The expectation for a co-working space is that a member will spend 8+ hours a day. Of course, a co-working space would have to charge more than a gym. If this trend continues, we’ll see how Lifetime Fitness and Equinox adjust their pricing.

Derriere Extraordinaire: I may be dating myself but I remember when the epitome of feminine beauty in our society was emaciation. Fortunately, that is no longer the case. From the Washington Post:

Gone are the willowy, ­flat-bottomed, Spandex-wearing workout queens of the early ’90s. Instead, today’s gluteus craziness celebrates the curves of Kim Kardashian, Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj — and seems geared toward confidence and strength, as well as sex appeal. “The focus is on curves, and that appeals to everyone,” says Bec Donlan, a personal trainer and the founder of Sweat With Bec. “But I also want you to be strong.”

Donlan attributes the renewed focus on glutes in part to the body positivity movement’s acceptance — and celebration — of curvaceous figures. She also thinks we’ve reached a more pragmatic moment in fitness culture. Her example: The average woman can’t transcend genetics to look like Heidi Klum — but she can create a firm behind. “Rather than everyone being desperate to have that stick-thin model bod, which genetically is not possible for 99.9 percent of the population,” Donlan says, “we are more accepting of what our bodies are realistically capable of.” 

Stephen Pasterino, a physical therapist turned “pre-hab” trainer, whose streamable workout concept P.volve focuses extensively on shaping the butt, hips and thighs, has a similar assessment. “It’s not about being skinny right now,” he says. “People want that athletic, strong, lean look — everyone is looking for that feminine physique, and the butt is a major part of that.”


              The other major shift that I have seen is the rise of functional fitness. Fitness culture used to be split between bodybuilding and aerobic training. This split was also split between men and women. Very few women participated in bodybuilding-type training. Did the shift to functional fitness (and its emphasis on squats and deadlifts) drive a change in female beauty standards or did changing beauty standards drive a shift to functional fitness?

Law enforcement: The NY Post published an article on an NYPD officer who started organizing workout classes for other police officers. It was pretty standard fare until it dropped this doozy:

When NYPD Officer Mike Counihan began posting shirtless selfies of his ripped chest and monstrous biceps to his Instagram back in 2015, it wasn’t just to show off.

“It was about breaking the stereotype that you see on TV that cops are these out-of-shape guys who just eat doughnuts all day,” says the 210-pound, 33-year-old, Westchester native who’s amassed a nearly 180,000-person following on his Instagram, @NoDonutsHere.

“I wanted the account to encourage cops to live a healthier lifestyle — it’s tough with our schedule and demanding job, but I wanted them to see that it’s possible to get in shape.”

He had recognized a problem that’s plagued the NYPD: The Post reported in February that obese cops are a growing problem on the force, partially due to the fact that there are no physical fitness requirements to stay on the job. Several cops reported feeling nervous that fat cops wouldn’t be able to do their jobs well.

              There are no fitness requirements for police officers in the largest police department in the country. That’s crazy. There is a physical fitness requirement to join the force but not to stay on it. How does that make sense? The military conducts physical fitness tests twice a year. The demands of serving in the military and being a police officer are very similar. Police officers should hold themselves to the same standard. A little internet research shows that while many police departments do not have an ongoing physical fitness requirement, some do. But how is this not a standard requirement? And it is difficult to argue that this hasn’t led to a problem either.

Attendees included Officer Aaron Lohman, a 6-foot-5 Long Island cop who “binge ate constantly” to deal with the stress of his job. At the end of 2015, he weighed more than 425 pounds.

“And when I say more than 425 pounds, it’s because my scale only went up to 425,” Lohman, 35, tells The Post.

“I was eating what I call the police food groups: pizza, fast food, Chinese food — anything that was open past midnight.”

One night, he dreamt that he couldn’t keep up with an assailant who threw him off a building. In the dream, “as I was falling, I saw my 5-year-old daughter living her life without me.” He woke up and knew it was time for a big change.

              And this doesn’t appear to be an isolated incident. Also from the NY Post:

Ex-NYPD cop Jose Vega provided a vivid example of the problem last week when he filed suit for a job-related disability pension — because his weight soared from 180 to 395 pounds during 17 years on the force.

Multiple NYPD sources blamed the situation on the lack of any fitness mandate once cops graduate from the Police Academy.

“You see some of these officers out there: They’re fat, they’re sloppy, they’re disgusting and they’re not healthy,” one cop said.

The FDNY, by contrast, requires that firefighters and emergency medical technicians undergo comprehensive, annual physicals that include weigh-ins, cardiac exams, blood tests, X-rays and hearing and vision checks.

Those who fail to meet official standards are sidelined until they do, the FDNY said.

              This is just a no-brainer. Every police department in the country should have some sort of annual physical fitness requirement. It appears that the opposition to this stems from the union but I would love to hear their argument.       


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