THE WEEKLY HOWL IS BEING COMPARED TO STARBUCKS

Shoe Dogs: Under Armour released a functional fitness shoe, the UA TriBase reign, on December 26. I don’t know why you would release a new product the day after Christmas but this means that UA is throwing its hat into functional fitness. From The Barbell Spin:

The shoe weighs in at just 10.3 ounces and has a 2mm heel-to-toe offset. The upper is made of a combination of a tough ripstop material and durable mesh. The medial and lateral part of the shoe feature rubber wrapping to add durability, especially during rope climbs.

The heel appears to have a bit of a lower profile than current shoes available on the market, but includes an external heel counter for increased stability and a locked-in heel.

There appear to be four colorways available – black with a gum sole, white with a gum sole, white with a black sole and red with a black sole.

The UA TriBase™ Reign will be available in both men’s and women’s sizing beginning the day after Christmas at UA.com. The will retail at $120.

This is notable because the Reebok-CrossFit apparel deal is coming up in 2020. The relationship between Reebok and CrossFit is strained to say the least. Reebok got sued by CrossFit last year for withholding royalty payments and it’s tough to see how you can repair that relationship in such a short period of time. Previously, I thought that it was a given that Nike was going to pick up CrossFit because Reebok (and parent company Adidas) had blown it and Under Armour didn’t seem all that interested in functional fitness. Apart from the Big 3 of athletic apparel, there aren’t many companies that are major players in both shoes and apparel. The only one I can think of is Puma and they trail the Big 3 by a significant margin. I also couldn’t see CrossFit signing with a company that didn’t already make a functional fitness shoe. Because of that, I didn’t anything standing in the way of Nike snagging the deal. This changes things and I think that Nike will have a legitimate challenger for that deal. I even wonder if the odd timing of the release is a result of Under Armour wanting to get its shoe out there as soon as possible. Perhaps they really wanted to be able to say that they had been selling a functional fitness shoes since 2018. I still think that Nike gets the deal but they are going to have some competition.  

Real Estate: It’s no secret that traditional retail is struggling and gyms are snatching up some of the prime commercial real estate once occupied by the giants of the retail industry. However, it seems that not only are gyms filling those spaces, they are making the surrounding spaces more valuable. From the SF Chronicle:

Having an Equinox in an office building makes other tenants happy and drives office rents up, said Weinhaus. That’s motivated landlords to convert upstairs work space into fitness space even in pricey office markets like San Francisco, he said. In contrast, some upper-floor stores in San Francisco’s Union Square and Mid-Market have struggled and building owners have sought to convert retail space into offices.

Being near, or even in the same building, as housing and office uses is deliberate. “It’s really about convenience and daily need,” said Weinhaus. “People are coming to us day in and day out.”

Gyms and fitness centers can thrive in upper floors and basements, where traditional retailers might struggle, said Helen Bulwik, a veteran retail consultant and senior partner at the Newport Board Group. A local operator, Fitness SF, recently leased second-floor space at the new Transbay Transit Center.

The difference is gyms draw members who are more dedicated, rather than casual shoppers who might overlook an upper-level retailer, said Bulwik. They can also offer different services like yoga, Pilates, strength training or cardio, which means they don’t cannibalize each others’ sales, she said.

“You can kind of stick a gym anywhere. It’s kind of like Starbucks.”

              Just a few years ago, landlords were hesitant to sign leases with gyms. Now they’re seen as a sign of prestige and being compared to Starbucks. Plus, gyms can thrive in the locations that have been traditionally considered less desirable. That is remarkable. It feels like every time I read something about gyms and commercial real estate, it gets better and better. It went from (landlords don’t want to lease to gyms) to (landlords have to lease to gyms in order to fill anchor spots) to (gyms are a must-have because they drive rents up in their buildings).

Military: The military has traditionally tested the fitness of its service members with a 3 part fitness test (upper body exercise, core exercise, run). The advantage of that formula is that it is relatively easy to test. You don’t need much equipment and you can test hundreds of people at the same time. This is a huge plus when you have service members deployed all over the globe in all sorts of conditions. Now the U.S. Army is rolling out a new fitness test that consists of six exercises and requires a decent amount of equipment. This won’t be an easy for deployed units to conduct. A couple of officers stationed at West Point have submitted a proposal for a modified test. From Army Times:

 Two West Point instructors have a possible answer to that issue, which they outlined in a piece published by the academy’s Modern War Institute on Dec. 7.

“What about the special operators, foreign area officers, and soldiers assigned to remote locations or any of the 800 small bases abroad?” Maj. Zachary Griffiths and Capt. Andrew Ferreira ask.

Griffiths, a Special Forces officer currently serving as an instructor in the social sciences department, is a fellow at MWI. Ferreira, an infantry officer, is a survival swimming instructor in the physical education department.

“This test stresses similar movements and energy systems, but removes space and equipment requirements that will make the ACFT impossible for some units to execute,” they wrote, proposing a six-event alternative that can be done with limited equipment and space:

  • Three-rep deadlift with a straight bar, rather than a hexagon-shaped one.

  • Standing broad jump, rather than a standing power throw.

  • Hand-release push-ups, same as before.

  • A modified sprint-drag-carry, with dumb bells or other 40-lb items instead of kettle bells.

  • Leg tuck, same as before.

  • Twenty-meter multistage shuttle run, rather than a two-mile run.

My first reaction was that exempting people who are deployed in challenging environments seemed like a better answer but the more I thought about it, I came to realize that this is also a good approach to fitness in general. Working out when you’re traveling can be challenging. You probably don’t have access to all the same equipment that you do when you’re at home. When you’re at home and you have your full fitness resources at your disposal, then you can do your full routine. But when you’re on the road and you have limited resources, then you have to replace exercises that require a lot of equipment (which you may not have access to) with exercises that require less or completely different equipment. You don’t have to give up on your workout just because you don’t have access to your regular gym. You just have to be creative and flexible.

Motivation: Halle Berry shared her 2019 fitness goals on Instagram. While she is a paragon of fitness inspiration, her goals left something to be desired. From Women’s Health:

Halle then sent people to her Insta stories where she spelled out her goals for 2019:

1. “Get bad ass banging abs.” I’m a little confused about this one, since this is Halle freaking Berry, who has abs you can shred cheese on. But I guess there’s always room for improvement!

2. “Learn a new martial art.” Halle already adds martial arts into her training, but apparently there’s more to learn. Also, she’s directing and starring in an upcoming movie about MMA, so clearly she’s motivated by her work.

3. “Inspire more people.” Just peruse her #FitnessFriday posts. Done and done.

4. “Run more.” SAME.

5. “Do Bikram yoga.” Halle is already pretty big into yoga, but Bikram is pretty intense. It’s usually performed in a hot and humid room and most classes run for 90 minutes, making it no joke.

Obviously, this works for Halle Berry but this is not the best way to set your fitness goals. A goal should be measurable. How do you measure “bad ass banging abs”? How do you measure “run more”? If she runs 1 more mile than she did in 2018, has she achieved her goal? I doubt that is what she has in mind. These goals are vague and unmeasurable. You want your goals to be S.M.A.R.T. (Specific – Measurable – Achievable – Relevant – Time-bound). For #4, a better goal would be to run 500 miles in 2019. For #5, do Bikram yoga 3 times a week. Even better would be instead of a subjective aesthetic goal like #1, set a specific goal for a particular exercise. Do 20 consecutive hanging leg lifts. That way you would actually know when you’ve achieved your goal.   

Everything’s for sale: I missed this because it dropped right before the holidays but Flywheel Sports had tried to sell itself last year. From the Financial Times:

Flywheel Sports, the boutique cycle studio, hired advisers to explore strategic options including a sale of all or part of the company, but has since pulled those plans after it failed to drum up investor interest, multiple people briefed on the process said.

The company, which competes with indoor cycling studio SoulCycle, considered a sale earlier this year after growth slowed from the rapid pace it recorded when it first launched in 2010, the people said.

The slowdown and operational problems damped enthusiasm from prospective bidders and Flywheel ultimately decided to end the sales process. The company is known for its high intensity cycling classes that sees riders compete against one another, with their results projected on a screen in front of the class.

Also:
One person familiar with the sales process said that investors who looked at backing Flywheel raised concerns that its management team had been spread too thin in the run-up to its launch of the home stationary bike, and that it trailed leaders including Peloton and SoulCycle in the home and boutique fitness space, respectively. Slowing sales growth at the company’s studios was also flagged as an issue.

It is surprising that Flywheel wasn’t able to find a buyer because private equity firms have been buying up fitness companies and boutiques are the hot segment of the fitness industry. Does this indicate an issue with boutiques at-large or is it Flywheel specific?

-Possibility #1: Wall Street is concerned about a global slowdown in 2019 and possible recession. Boutiques have been growing like crazy but the market is becoming saturated and $34 fitness classes might not sell very well in a recession.

              -Possibility #2: Flywheel is losing the cycling wars to SoulCycle and Peloton. Both companies are staying focused on their physical milieu (brick and mortar for SoulCycle and digital for Peloton) and seeking growth by expanding into other disciplines. Flywheel is trying to grow by expanding from brick and mortar to digital. Perhaps this strategy is not working and prospective buyers didn’t like what they saw in Flywheel’s financial statements.

The fact that Flywheel was looking for a buyer makes me think that #2 is more likely. My guess is that Flywheel has been burning through cash developing Flywheel Anywhere (“operational problems”) and wanted a buyer with deep pockets to rescue the company. If everything was great, then I don’t think that Flywheel would have been looking to sell itself. I am still surprised that someone didn’t want to snap up one of the big names in the boutique space.

Tidbits:

-Exercise is the Fountain of Youth

-Build out your home gym in 2019

-The Marine Corps is making changes to its fitness tests

-Please forward to this to any life insurance provider that wants to use fitness tracking data