THE WEEKLY HOWL IS KEEPING IT OLD SCHOOL

Cycling:Last week, I wrote about Flywheel failed attempt to sell itself. I speculated about whether that indicated an industry trend or just a Flywheel issue. It might be a little bit of both. From Vox:

At the end of December, users of the popular cycling class Flywheel received an email in their inboxes with the ominous subject line, “An Announcement From Our Co-Founder.”

In the vague note, CEO Ruth Zukerman wrote that she will be stepping down from the company, citing a move to undisclosed future endeavors after nearly a decade of cultivating Flywheel into the boutique fitness behemoth it is today. 

“As an entrepreneur and creative individual with a thirst for growth, my reflection this year led me to realize — with a heavy but excited heart — that it’s time for my next adventure,” she wrote. “I know I am leaving you in the best hands with the most talented instructors who have all been trained and nurtured under my method both technically and philosophically.”

Internally, the shift had been a long time coming. In recent months, Zukerman — who also co-founded SoulCycle and played a significant role in the rise of the modern cycling movement — had reportedly been relatively hands-off while promoting her new book, Riding High: How I Kissed SoulCycle Goodbye, Co-Founded Flywheel, and Built the Life I Always Wanted. In her book, Zukerman is vocal about her strengths in the idea conceptualization part of entrepreneurship, but less so in the nuances of running a company from the business side.

                   Ruth Zukerman wanting to cash out could explain it but it doesn’t sound like that’s the whole story.

So I was surprised when in the fall of 2018 I noticed Flywheel was suddenly heavily discounted on ClassPass, which operates on a monthly flat-rate membership model where users sign up for classes using “credits.” Even at peak times (typically mornings and evenings outside of work hours), classes in New York were allocated at half their usual credits, along with a note: “Take advantage of our special half-off Flywheel pricing — only for a limited time!” 

I would have brushed it off as a promotional anomaly had it not remained this way off and on for several months across all 19 of Flywheel’s operating cities. Unlike newer studios that offer discounts in exchange for exposure, Flywheel is one of the top cycling studios in the country, with the added benefit of lack of competition from SoulCycle and Peloton, which are not on ClassPass. (ClassPass did not respond to several requests regarding the process for discounted classes.) 

Meanwhile, events behind the scenes leading up to Zukerman’s departure paint a more telling picture. In mid-2018, Flywheel quietly let go of several employees on its executive team in a move Flywheel CMO Andy Wong wrote in an email to Vox was a result of restructuring. 

“In order to create one unified, efficient team that supports both our studio and on-demand business, we’ve had to make some very difficult decisions to streamline roles,” he wrote. “This impacted fewer than 20 employees. By focusing our efforts in the most crucial areas and eliminating redundancy, we’ll deliver on our growth goals and better serve our consumers.”

            This sounds like a company that is struggling to maintain its price point. The article lays out how competitive the cycling studio landscape has become. There are a lot of studios offering high-end cycling classes and one of the first effects of fierce competition is price reduction. Selling individual classes for $34 makes for great margins but as Jeff Bezos once said “Other companies’ margins are my opportunity”. It’s always easier for a new company to build itself a certain way than it is for an established company to change. It sounds like Flywheel is struggling to change its structure in order to survive in a market in which $20 classes are becoming the norm. 

 

Old School: Personally, I don’t like a whole lot of frills with my fitness. As long as everything is clean and functional, I prefer keeping things basic. I thought that was just my thing but it appears that this might be universal. Men’s Healthconducted a double-blind study on whether people experienced better results exercising in a modern facility with a great view or an unadorned basement. The results are surprising.

When the groups were revealed, it became clear that the group exercising in the old room in the basement reported greater improvement when asked: Compared to when entering the study, how are your knee/hip pain problems now? This was contrary to what we expected. 

We interviewed some of the participants and showed them photos of the two rooms to spark a discussion about their impressions. The people exercising in the old room didn’t perceive the aged appearance negatively. They felt at home in the environment and expressed nostalgia because it reminded them of their old school gym. They also felt a stronger sense of fellowship—they were in it together and worked as a team to achieve their goals.

In the new room, the large windows were distractions and participants said that they did not feel part of a team. The large wall mirrors in the new room weren’t appreciated, either. The participants said that they didn’t like the look of their untrained legs and their often overweight bodies.

            This is definitely counter-intuitive. I assumed that I was an outlier. You would think that people would prefer the nicer facility but it appears that this might be one of those areas in which fitness is different. This would also fly in the face of the success of luxury gyms like Equinox. I wonder if there is something to the team aspect of it. Working out in an old school facility was conducive to bonding. I also think that Equinox has benefited when mid-market gyms fail to maintain a certain level of cleanliness. 

 

Motivation: There was an article this week in NPRon how one of its editors made the transition from mostly sedentary to very active. The author used measurements called METs (metabolic equivalents) to track her exercise. What is a MET?

"Just sitting, doing nothing, is a MET value of 1 — you're working at your resting metabolic rate," explains Loretta DiPietro, an exercise research scientist at George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health. "An activity that, say, is 2 METs makes you work at twice your resting metabolic rate. So getting up and walking across the room is about 2 METS."

DiPietro says the Compendium lists the MET values for all kinds of activities — everything from mopping (that's about 3.5 METS) to line dancing. (That can be almost 8 METS!)

But to count as moderately intense exercise, the magic number you want to hit is between 3 and 6 METS. (Alas, even the most vigorous sexual activity falls just short of that, according to the Compendium — though DiPietro suggests with a laugh that more research may be needed.)

 

                  Using METs to measure her activity level got her to be more active and as she got more active, she craved more.

Knowing this really changed the way I think about exercise. Instead of seeing exercise as all or nothing, I started to think about it like climbing a ladder. It's OK to start at the bottom rung and work your way up. So I started with small bursts of movement throughout my day. Instead of sending an email to a co-worker, I'd walk over and talk to them. I'd skip the elevator and take the stairs. I'd do squats at my desk and take short walks around the office whenever I could fit it in. I'd do one-on-one meetings with co-workers while walking and talking.

The more I did, the stronger I felt — and the more I wanted to do. I started using the elliptical that was gathering dust in my basement. I made a rule: I'm only allowed to watch Netflix while working out or moving in some other way (like washing dishes or folding laundry).

Then a curious thing happened: The more I exercised, the more my body craved it. These days, I even take spin class and do high-intensity interval training.

And while I did lose weight during this process (which was pretty nice — I am now at a healthy weight), that's not what's kept me going.

For me, exercise has become a bodily need. I just don't feel right without it. And while I used to think I didn't have time to work out, nowadays I don't see how I could get through my busy days without the energy I get from exercise. (And my insomnia is pretty much gone.) 

 

            This is exactly how most people should approach it. So many people try to “flip the switch” but that usually ends up leaving them really sore which makes them think that’s what it always feels like. This is a realistic approach to changing behavior and lifestyle. It’s long term thinking not short term thinking. The last paragraph is key. You want to get to the point where your body craves exercise. Your body wants to move, you just have to learn how to listen to it. And once you get to that point, you will make fitness a priority in your life. 

More Motivation: Sometimes, the answers to our problems are hiding in plain sight. We just have to be ready to see them. CityLabpublished an article about New Year’s resolutions and when and how they fail. See if you can pick out the solution to keeping your resolution.

Similarly, analysts at Foursquare identify a “Fall Off the Wagon Day” each year among gym-goers by comparing gym and fast food activity. By Foursquare’s definition, that day is when an uptick in weekly visits to fast food restaurants meets a drop in weekly visits to the gym. In 2017, that fell on the second Thursday of February, and last year, people were itching for that fast-food fix by the second Friday of that month. Between January 1 and this day in 2018, visits to fast food joints were down 4.6 percent, according to Foursquare’s analysis, while gym attendance grew by 6 percent. Based on the trend, analyst expects this year’s “Fall Off the Wagon Day” to fall on February 9, the second Saturday of the month and just 40 days into the new year.

Of course, that’s not everyone’s story. According to Strava’s 2018 Year in Sport report, there are ways to stay on course: 94 percent of users who set goals remain active nine months later, for example. As humans are social creatures, Strava’s data show that when we exercise in groups, we tend to run or bike 21 percent farther and work out 10 percent longer. But if neither running nor biking is your thing, there’s still good news. Strava’s year-end analysis finds that users are three times more likely to get more activity if they incorporate indoor activities like yoga.

                  94%!!! That’s amazing. Why does the author gloss over this? That is the answer. Setting measurable goals will keep you going. That should be the whole article. They bury the answer at the end of the article and don’t expand on it at all. People are asking the question and they have the answer. They just don’t realize it.

New Year, same problems: Whenever the calendar turns to January, I expect to see a flurry of articles offering advice to people whose New Year’s resolution is to exercise more. There is a category of those articles that recommends that people not join a gym for…reasons. I stumbled upon one and it was something. From The Hustle:

If the average gym-goer were to use a gym 7 times a week, every week, without fail, $696 per year would work out to a measly ~$1.90 per visit. Even at 4 times per week, you’d be looking at $3.36 per visit.

But here’s the thing: We don’t even come close to 7 gym visits per week. Or 4. Or even 3. What makes a gym membership a poor investment is your lack of commitment.

A study run by a pair of UC Berkeley economists found that while members anticipatevisiting a gym 9.5 times per month, they only end up going 4.17 times per month. That works out to 50 visits per year.

Assuming an average session length of 1 hour, the typical gym member is suddenly paying $14.50 per workout. This stacks up pretty poorly with other things we pay a monthly fee for:

 

                  I appreciate that they took the time to do the math but so what? It’s not surprising that not using a service you’re paying for doesn’t look in a chart. Why focus on this? Shouldn’t the goal be to be the person who actually uses their gym membership? I realize that it’s not easy but if it was easy, then everyone would already be doing it. 

It seems counter-intuitive, but big-name gyms don’t want us to work out.

“If gyms operate at more than 5% of their membership at any given time, no one can use the gym,” explains one branding consultant. “They want [people] to sign up, but they know that after the 15th of January they won’t see 95% of them again.”

The nation’s largest gym chains often sign up 20x the number of people who can actually fit in a given location. They are well aware that most won’t show up.

As Planet Money reported, one Planet Fitness branch in NYC had a max capacity of about 300, but boasted more than 6k members. Similarly, Gold’s Gym and Life Time Fitness often ink 5k-10k memberships per location despite having only being able to house 300-500 people at a time.

In essence, the people who don’t show up “subsidize” membership costs for those who actually do go, allowing gyms to keep their prices down.

 

                  It’s a good thing that gyms are open for more than 1 hour a day then. This is so stupid. It’s true that gyms don’t expect every one of its members to show up at the same time. That would be a problem. Fortunately, people like to work out at different times so it’s not so much of an issue. As for the subsidizing, that is true but isn’t that a good thing. Company finds way to lower prices. Consumers generally like that. The author goes on to recommend that you build a home gym but fails to make a convincing case for why that would be better than a gym membership other than saving a little money.

Still, it’s hard to justify the cost when the odds of regular attendance are stacked so unfavorably against you.

One alternative is to simply build your own home gym.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (or 75 minutes of “vigorous” aerobic activity), in addition to at least 2 sessions of major muscle group strength training, per week. This is easily achievable without a gym membership.

While the equipment you choose to buy depends on a number of factors, including what types of exercises you want to do, and the space you’re working with, it’s possible to build a relatively space-efficient, full-body setup for the same cost as one year at a gym.

 

                  If you don’t use your home gym, that would be a waste of money as well. You need to figure out what works for you. A home gym can be great because you can save the time that you would send driving to and from the gym. But it’s not for everyone. If you use your gym membership, it can be the best money you every spend. The same is true for home exercise equipment. Saving money is important but the most important thing is finding what works for you. And gyms don’t like members who never show up because they will cancel their membership at some point and then they have to acquire a new member to replace that revenue. Acquiring a new consumer is always more expensive than retaining a current one.

Sports: It seems like football generates an endless stream of controversies these days. One of the most serious ones is college football players contracting serious injuries during team workouts. There have even been some deaths recently. One pattern that I have noticed is that there appears to be one position that suffers a preponderance of these injuries. From ESPN:

An $11.5 million lawsuit against the NCAA, the University of Oregon and former Ducks football coach Willie Taggart was filed Wednesday on behalf of former Oregon offensive lineman Doug Brenner, seeking compensation for "serious, lifelong injuries sustained during a series of highly controversial workouts imposed on Duck players in January, 2017," Brenner's attorney told ESPN.

Taggart's strength and conditioning coach, Irele Oderinde, was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit submitted by the firm of Kafoury & McDougal and attorney Travis Eiva.

According to the lawsuit, which was filed in circuit court in the state of Oregon, "the coaches imposed a physically impossible exercise regimen of squats and told the student athletes that the workout 'would demonstrate who wanted to be on the team.'"

"The drills were done in unison, and whenever a player faltered, vomited, or fainted, his teammates were immediately punished with additional repetitions," Mark McDougal, a member of Brenner's legal team, said in a statement. "A key goal of this lawsuit is to force the NCAA to ban these kinds of punishing, abusive workouts. These workouts are contrary to NCAA guidelines for protecting players from injury and death. Guidelines, however, are only suggestions. The NCAA needs to enact and enforce binding regulations that outlaw these practices."

                  Offensive lineman at the Division I level often weight in excess of 300 pounds. Why would you expect a 6’5, 300 pound offensive lineman to be able to perform conditioning exercises with a 5’10, 180 pound cornerback? That seems like common sense but we’re constantly seeing these stories. A football team has to incorporate a bunch of athletes who have completely different bodies and abilities. There is no good reason to train them all together. The only other sport that has such vastly different athletes on the same team is Track & Field and the throwers and the sprinters never train together because it wouldn’t make any sense. The strength & conditioning coaches at these schools need to get smarter and stop harming these athletes. These incidents are easily preventable. The coaches just need to use some common sense. 

Tidbits:

-HIIT explained

-Under Armour is partneringwith Samsung in connected fitness

-A brief historyof the keto diet

-Get a mouthguard!

-3 more events have beenadded to the 2020 CrossFit season

-The Marines are consideringreplacing crunches with planks on its physical fitness test

-Part 2 of CityLab’s study on the geographyof fitness

 

THE WEEKLY HOWL DOESN'T THINK YOGA IS A SPORT

Rules: CrossFit Inc. finally released the rulebook for the 2019 CrossFit Games, which has clarified the new qualifying process. Also, transgender athletes can compete as long as they have complied with all the applicable legal and biological requirements. The basic structure of how to qualify has already been announced. What was lacking was the details. From Morning Chalk-Up:

If I’m already invited or qualified, either through a Sanctional, or the Open, can I take another qualification spot or invite?

Well it depends. Both on how you qualified or received an invite and which subsequent competition you’re involved in so here’s how it breaks down (3.01, 4.02, 4.03, 4.04):

Scenario 1: An athlete qualifies for the Games as national champion in the Open AND places top 20 worldwide in the Open.

  • That athlete would qualify for the Games as a national champion and their top 20 spot would be backfilled to the next athlete in line.

  • Example: If Rory Mckernan finishes in the top 20 worldwide for men, and is the national champion for the United States, then he qualifies as the United States national champion and his spot from the top 20 worldwide leaderboard goes to the 21st place finisher worldwide in the Open.

Scenario 2: An athlete qualifies for the Games as national champion in the Open AND wins one or more sanctioned events.

  • That athlete would qualify for the Games as a national champion and their sanctioned event invite would pass to the 2nd place athlete in the most recent sanctioned event he or she won.

  • Example: If Samantha Briggs, who has earned an invite from the Dubai CrossFit Championship, is National Champion for England/U.K, then her invite from Dubai will be extended to 2nd place Jamie Greene. If she were to win another sanctioned event, her invitation would pass to the 2nd place athlete of that event, not Jamie Greene.

Scenario 3: An athlete wins one or more sanctioned events AND finishes top 20 worldwide in the Open.

  • That athlete would qualify with a top 20 spot worldwide in the Open and their sanctioned event invite would pass to the 2nd place athlete in any sanctioned event he or she won.

  • Example: If Mat Fraser finishes top 20 worldwide in the Open, his invite from Dubai will be awarded to 2nd place Dubai finisher Bjorgvin Karl Gudmundsson. If he were to win another sanctioned event, his invitation would also pass to the 2nd place athlete of that event.

Scenario 4: An athlete wins multiple sanctioned events.

  • If an athlete has already received an invite from a sanctioned event, and then wins another one, the invite from the latter of the 2 events chronologically will be extended to the next athlete in line on the leaderboard that. Any further invites earned will also be passed down.

  • Example: If Mat Fraser, who has an invite from Dubai, skips the Open or doesn’t qualify via the Open, and then wins the Rogue Invitational, his invite from the Rogue Invitational, since it happened after Dubai, will be awarded to the 2nd place finisher, and if the 2nd place finisher (let’s call him Patricio Vellnino) has already been invited or qualified, then the 3rd place finisher will receive the invite, and so on, and so forth.

Scenario 5: An athlete qualifies by placing in the top 20 worldwide in the Open, and either declines, OR will compete on a team that has been invited to the Games.

  • That athlete’s top 20 qualifying spot from the Open will be passed down to the next athlete in line on the worldwide leaderboard.

Scenario 6: An athlete qualifies as national champion but declines, OR does not complete all the Open workouts as prescribed.

  • That athlete will not compete at the CrossFit Games, and their spot WILL NOT be backfilled or passed down to the next athlete in line on their country leaderboard.

I’m sure that this won’t seem as complicated once we’re into it but it is a lot to take in. I’m interested to see the learning curve here as athletes learn how to game the system. So the top 20 from the Open will qualify and then the 15 sanctional winners plus all the national champions. I’m trying to think of who could get screwed by this. The Open has traditionally been more of a cardio test with lighter loads in order to encourage mass participation. Assuming that doesn’t change dramatically, that could put some of the heavier, stronger athletes at a disadvantage a they could struggle to qualify from the Open. Especially if they’re citizens of a highly competitive nation.   

Fitness Inequality: CityLab ran an analysis on the density of sport and fitness centers around the country. Their findings are not surprising but still worthy of reviewing.

Availability of fitness centers is also a product of denser metros, where fewer people depend on the car. Our measure of fitness-center employees is positively associated with the metro density (.29) and even more strongly associated with the share of commuters who bike to work (.42), but negatively associated with those who drive to work alone (-.35)—a key indicator of sprawl. While this suggests a connection between fitness and walking, it also reflects the fact that denser metros—where more people walk to work—are more affluent and educated. That said, there is no association between our measure of fitness-center employees and the size of metros (measured by population). It appears that fitness centers are more a characteristic of the density, knowledge intensity, and especially the educational level of metros, rather than their size alone. Not surprisingly, given these findings, fitness-center availability is also a characteristic of more expensive cities, with a positive correlation (.37) to median housing costs.

              Fitness inequality is a very real problem in this country. It’s why you can see articles about the boom in expensive fitness boutiques alongside articles about rising obesity rates. Inequality, whether income or fitness or something else, is not a prescription for a healthy, cohesive society.

Motivation: This time of year, there is never a shortage of articles about how to achieve your New Year’s fitness resolutions. Some are good, some are bad, and many fall somewhere in between. I have 2 that I want to write about. From Insider, Jim Edwards brings us 3 things that your personal trainer doesn’t want you to know. Let’s dive in:

1.       Go to the nearest gym to you, not the nicest gym you can afford.

You will be tempted to join the fanciest gym you can afford — like that nice one you saw with the hot tub and the sauna. But your ability to continue showing up will depend on your work schedule and your personal life, not whether the steam smells minty fresh. If the gym commute is more than 10 minutes, it suddenly becomes difficult to squeeze in a workout before or after work. Ideally, you want to work out for about an hour each day. Once you factor in showering and changing, and the commute to and from your gym, that can easily end up closer to two and a half hours.

              This is absolutely true but I question whether this is something that the fitness industry doesn’t want people to know. Location/convenience are crucial in determining whether someone consistently goes to the gym. It should be the #1 consideration in selecting a gym.

2. Do the exercises you enjoy doing, and don't bother with those you hate.

Everyone knows that full-body fitness is all about changing things up. Muscle confusion! And not getting stuck in a rut! That is true.

It's good advice if you want to end up looking like Cristiano Ronaldo. But if you're a normal person, take it from me: You want the gym to be enjoyable. You do not want it to be a chore. So do the things you enjoy doing.

Remember, you're in this for the long haul, and it's not going to work if you hate it.

I like weights, running, and swimming. I almost never use an elliptical machine or one of those yoga balls. Many, many personal trainers have recommended stomach crunches to me, even though stomach crunches are one of the most useless forms of exercise. (The flatness of your stomach is almost entirely dependent on your diet and the overall amount of exercise you do, not whether you use the itty-bitty muscles just under your ribs.)

They're also really boring.

So I never do crunches.

              This is a weird one. I disagree with the basic premise but he likes “weights, running, and swimming” and can’t stand elliptical machines or doing crunches. This guy likes the most effective stuff and dislikes some of the least effective stuff. For him, this makes sense but I wouldn’t give it to most people.

3. Go to the gym even when you feel tired and don't want to.

The No.1 cause of not going to the gym is deciding to not go to the gym.

There will be many, many days when you feel too tired, or it's too late, or you have a cold coming on, and the idea of putting your feet on the coffee table seems much more appealing. But you can't do that.

Show up at the gym anyway.

Whether you like it or not. Working out when you're tired suuuuuuuuuucks. We all have days when you can get through only about 80% of your "normal" workout — but it's better than no workout.

Even half your normal workout will help you maintain your top fitness level. Not going at all, by contrast, will set you back.

Life is going to get in your way. Your boss will make you work late. You will get invitations to dinner. There will be plenty of days when you cannot go to the gym. But on the days you can, you have to go even when you don't want to.

              Suck it up and go the gym even when you don’t feel like it is always good advice. There’s always a reason to not workout. You have to learn to stop listening to that voice in your head. Gunnar Petersen, of celebrity training fame, also put out some fitness tips via the L.A. Times. Let’s talk about #1 and #5:

1. The flat-tire analogy

Everybody is aware of the pitfalls of overindulging. I’m not going to be the guy who says, “Don’t go to any parties, go to bed.” That’s not reasonable. People want to indulge and they should. Just don’t let all the wheels come off. Don’t miss your training, eat badly, get drunk and not sleep. If you lose one wheel, you can still limp along. All four wheels come off? You’re done.

               I would expand this to include the feeling of all 4 wheels coming off. You missed a couple of workouts and strayed from your nutrition plan a couple of times. The wheels haven’t come off, it just feels that way. Get back into it.

5. Fitness is free

People can’t claim not to know what to do. There are 50 million articles on fitness. I’m not going to say it’s easy to be in shape because it requires effort. But it’s easy to know what you have to do. You don’t have to go beyond the pay walls. Instagram is free and full of fitness professionals. Find something you like. If you are de-conditioned and haven’t worked out in a year and you see a guy pushing a sled 50 yards and then dropping down into a burpee and doing jumping jacks, that’s too much. So dial it back until you can say, “I like this person’s approach. I like how they speak. I can process it.”

              I love hearing this from a guy who probably charges a small fortune to train people. There’s nothing wrong with that but you don’t need Gunnar Petersen to get results. He’s a luxury. All you really need is get out there and do something. And if you have an internet connection, there is a world of free information out there.

Just Yoga It: Nike is releasing apparel designed specifically for yoga this month. What’s interesting is that (1) Nike has waited this long to sell yoga apparel (I didn’t realize that) and (2) they want you to know that they’re not into all that “Oom” crap. From Bloomberg:

Nike had previously shied away from directly battling Lululemon Athletica Inc. on its own turf -- the yoga mat. This push now pits Nike and Lululemon firmly against each other, though Nike’s not going full spiritualism and granola. Rather than leaning into yoga as a primary form of exercise, it’s touting the practice as a component of a wider workout regimen so gym rats can become more flexible, reduce recovery time and transfer movement patterns to the field.

As a result, the faces of Nike yoga aren’t typical yoga influencers. Instead, yoga is being billed as a “secret workout weapon” to prepare athletes such as NFL linebacker Khalil Mack for when he’s slamming into opposing quarterbacks on the gridiron, WNBA player Alana Beard as she’s knocking down jump-shots and sprinter Christian Coleman while he’s jetting down the track. The company will also release in January new yoga workouts on its app.

              A couple of things about Nike. First, they are methodical about expansion. Their strategy is that they get into one new sport at a time. Second, Nike thinks of itself as a sports company. So it’s interesting that they want to make it clear that they don’t consider yoga a sport (even though it is). Yoga apparel seems like a no-brainer for Nike but it may have been hamstrung by this strategy. But if you classify yoga as a subset of Nike Training then you can circumvent the one-sport-at-a-time thing. Also, Nike prides itself on designing its products for elite athletes and then using sports marketing to sell those products. A lack of well-known yoga athletes would have made that very difficult. Re-framing yoga as a way for elite athletes in other sports to improve their performance allows them to utilize their standard marketing techniques.

Stick to the basics: Nate Dern from Outside decided to go to 6 of the most unusual fitness classes in New York City and write about this experiences. I found this interesting because it tells us a lot of how to design and market fitness. His first stop: nude yoga at Naked in Motion.

In 2016, Willow Merveille founded Naked in Motion to create a safe, inclusive space that would “offer a tool for developing a kinder relationship with the mind and body.” I was skeptical. Ten of the eleven students were men. Was this a way to get more comfortable with your body, or yet another opportunity for those already comfortable with their body—mostly dudes—to flaunt it? By the end of class, I was surprised to find that I was OK with getting flexible in my birthday suit, surrounded by a classroom full of strangers. Give this a shot at least once—you’ll be a hero at parties

              It sounds like he left skeptical as well. His tepidly endorses it purely for the novelty of it. This is a gimmick. Next stop: Pilates at SLT.

SLT stands for strengthen, lengthen, and tone. The class comprises eternal planks, deep-as-you-can-go lunges, and pulsing squats, all in an intense 50-minute session. The pace of the reps is measured, but the transitions between exercises are fast, which had me looking around the room to see what contortion I was supposed to be doing. Color-coded numbers gave me Twister flashbacks. It’s a great workout, but be careful not to sprain your ego when your body starts shaking during a move called the Mermaid.

              This sounds like a tough workout but Dern does not sound enthused about it. I suspect that he is a Pilates neophyte and this class was designed for experienced practitioners who want to take it to the next level. After that it was on to cold temperature training at Brrrn.

This was the most genuinely enjoyable workout experience of the bunch. Brrrn describes itself as “the world’s first cool-temperature fitness concept.” In other words, they crank the A/C. I took a slide-board class and not only learned what slide boarding is (repeated lateral movement on a piece of slippery rubber while wearing booties), but also discovered that 55 degrees is my optimal workout temperature. I wore a tank top and for once didn’t end the class by trying to mop up an embarrassingly large puddle of sweat.

              Dern sums up the real benefit of Brrrn: you won’t sweat as much. The reason that no one else has done this yet is probably because most people associate sweat with effort. That’s why we got hot yoga before Brrrn. When I’m dressing for a run, I use the rule of thumb that once I’m warmed up I will feel about 20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature. 55 degrees is probably most people’s optimal workout temperature because it feels like 75 degrees. Calisthenics at ConBody was next.

The hardest class I took. The sign by the door said it all: “CrossFit. Cycling. Pilates. These white collar workouts aren’t cutting it.” My instructor, Coss Marte, founded ConBody after developing a workout routine during a four-year prison sentence. He didn’t particularly care about catering to our egos; he was going to lead us through a difficult workout—60 minutes without a break—and we could follow along or not. I was dripping sweat as I struggled through a series of jumping jacks, push-ups, high knees, burpees, suicide sprints, mountain climbers, bear crawls, wall sits, and more. But intense workouts aside, ConBody’s real mission is championing prison reform, and it hires formerly incar-cerated individuals to teach its classes. As soon as my hamstrings recover, I’ll be back.

              Simple, tough, and effective. It’s a no-frills workout that has an odd but compelling marketing angle: train like a convict does in prison. It’s interesting that people have figured out a way to cash in on the fetishization of prison workouts. After that it was off to a treadmill class at Mile High Run Club.

An admission: I’ve done this class before, and I love it. It’s basically an interval workout on a Woodway 4Front treadmill, a roughly $10,000 machine that is to a standard treadmill what a Tesla is to Fred Flintstone’s car. Classes are offered at 28-minute, 45-minute, and 60-minute durations. What sets MHRC apart from other treadmill-interval classes is the special attention paid to your perceived-effort level rather than to hitting specific speeds. A laminated pace chart is mounted onto each treadmill, and it encompasses a wide variety of fitness levels. Pro tip: don’t choose a machine directly opposite a mirror. Nobody has a flattering tempo face.

              Running intervals is brutally effective. His last stop was AG6, circuit-training that incorporates light-up floor tiles.

This 45-minute session at Asphalt Green, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health of local residents, makes familiar circuit-based workout stations more interesting with light-up tiles on the floor and walls that are responsive to touch. So you’re not just doing sprints, you’re doing sprints to illuminate a circle on the ground! You’re not just doing medicine-ball slams, you’re doing medicine-ball slams to illuminate a circle on the ground! You get the idea. This class was the most stimulating, but it also made me realize that sometimes all I want is a boring old jog.

              There is always a tension in the fitness industry: do you go with what sells or with what works? Dern’s 2 favorites appear to be a calisthenics class and a running class. These are 2 of the most basic activities and very low-tech ($10,000 treadmill notwithstanding). The problem with basic and low-tech is that it makes it hard to stand out in a sea of fitness classes and gyms. ConBody has a built-in story that can cut through the clutter. One has to wonder if it would as successful if it was “just” a calisthenics class. I can see why fitness entrepreneurs feel like they need some kind of gimmick to get noticed and get people in the door but how much does that hurt them in the long run? And I believe that these gimmicks hurt the entire industry as well. People see nude yoga and think that everyone in the fitness industry is just selling the latest, stupid fad. We need to get better at marketing as an industry. There is a way to sell basic but effective workouts without resorting to gimmicks.    

Tidbits:

-Dwayne Johnson’s new fitness competition show, the Titan Games, has debuted on NBC

-“No Judgement” sounds dangerously close to “Judgement Free Zone”

-Want to work out in a shipping container in Singapore?

-Motiv is looking to add biometric payment capability to its fitness tracking rings

-ClassPass is acquiring competitor GuavaPass

-Can we retire the “fitness guru” title?

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

 

THE WEEKLY HOWL WANTS A RULE BOOK

Made in America: Inc. Magazine crowned Bird as its Company of the Year but Rogue Fitness was a contender for the crown and got a write-up. From Inc.

In 2006, Bill Henniger was holding down a full-time operations job at General Motors and working toward an MBA at the University of Michigan. But the Air Force veteran was still looking for a challenge. He found it in CrossFit, a full-body fitness regimen that combines interval training with high-intensity workouts involving movements like running and jumping performed with weights.

After completing his level one trainer certification at the original CrossFit location in Santa Cruz, California, Henniger decided to join CrossFit's affiliate program. He purchased the rights to open CrossFit studios, or "boxes," in Toledo and Columbus, Ohio, and set about building a personal CrossFit box in his Toledo garage. It wasn't easy: Even though CrossFit boxes are so named for their minimalist approach to equipment, Henniger still had to go through multiple distributors to procure the weights, bars, and racks he needed--a costly, time-consuming process. 

As all great entrepreneurs do, Henniger saw a problem and decided to build a business to solve it. Using only his own money, he launched Rogue Fitness as an online-only distributor, creating a convenient one-stop shop for outfitting CrossFit boxes of all sizes, from garages with a few dumbbells to larger studios' rowing machines and racks.

Now, 10 years later, Rogue Fitness is the leading manufacturer of American-made strength and training equipment. The company declined to disclose revenue, but this year increased its workforce to 600, up from 160 in 2012. It recently moved into a new headquarters where it designs, builds, stores, and distributes all of its equipment . The 600,000-square-foot campus is helping to revitalize the long-struggling Milo-Grogan neighborhood in downtown Columbus. Rogue's commitment to American manufacturing, its employees, and investing in the local economy made it a contender for Inc.'s 2018 Company of the Year.

In my opinion, Rogue Fitness does not get enough credit. I don’t think that CrossFit’s rapid expansion is possible without Rogue. It doesn’t get enough press either. It’s not some trendy tech startup, it’s something much better. They actually bend metal and make things. They’re doing undeniable good (making fitness more accessible). They’re manufacturing everything in the U.S.A. And they’re doing this via a marriage of the old school and new school economies (manufacturing and online distribution).

Although Rogue Fitness is hitting its stride in 2018, the company has by no means been an overnight success. Soon after launching Rogue as an equipment distributor, Henniger cashed out part of his 401(k), moved to Columbus, and opened Rogue Fitness Columbus. While the gym portion of the business took off, the distribution side ran into some issues. It was great for customers to be able to order their gym equipment from one place, but sourcing from multiple distributors meant inconsistent shipping times and costs. Henniger realized that the company needed more warehousing space, as well as to make its own equipment. And he knew he wanted it to be American-made.

By 2012, Henniger had made his manufacturing and distribution goals a reality. "The industry norm is six to eight weeks for racks and full gym outfitting," Henniger says. "We cut this down by 98 percent by stocking everything we make." CrossFit boxes can be any size and configuration, and have any combination of equipment. Rogue sells everything from dumbbells to exercise bikes, and lets shoppers custom-build boxes on its site. All of its orders ship in one business day.

              I acknowledge my own bias but Rogue is so much more interesting than another tech startup. Especially one that doesn’t seem concerned with the chaos that it causes. I would have loved to see Rogue win COY and not because I care about meaningless awards like this. I would have loved to read more about Rogue.

Motivation: Arnold Schwarzenegger has accomplished a lot in his life but it all started with fitness. Now he’s in 70’s and he’s fighting his way back into shape and he has a lot of thoughts on what’s right and what’s wrong with America’s relationship with fitness.

Hard work and sound science has been replaced by fads, false promises, and magic pills.

When you’re promised something like “rock hard abs in 28 days,” told one special tea is all you need to lose those last 10 pounds or bombarded with flashy advertisements passed off as legitimate information, it’s easy to see why so many people just throw up their hands and give up.

It’s time for the fitness industry to be honest with people. A healthier, fitter America starts with you. There is no gimmick. There is no shortcut. There is no magic pill. Everyone’s fitness journey will be unique, but a healthy lifestyle takes commitment, patience and motivation.

              One of the disappointing things about the Internet is that instead of democratizing information, it has spread misinformation. Fitness is huge on Instagram but how many influencers hawk sketchy supplements and diet teas? I am over-generalizing because it has never been easier to find good information but I would have hoped that the cream would have risen to the top by now. But it’s still the same mix of bad and good information that we had pre-internet. It’s just easier to access all that information now. 

Going through that process showed me that many people put too much faith in big moments, believing they’ll suddenly flip a switch and be healthier. There’s no such thing. A healthier future is every tiny step we take, or every little rep, that ultimately leads us to our goal. We all think we can do it alone, but no one does anything alone. As I always say, no one is self-made. We all need support — even Terminators.

So here’s my challenge to you: Don’t wait for New Year’s Resolutions. Don’t wait for your own heart surgery or emergency. Start right now. And ask a friend to join you.

I’m not asking you to reject all the delicious food you’ll see this holiday season, because I would never do that either. I’m simply asking you to be better tomorrow than you were today, every day, and to inspire someone you care about to join you. It’s a simple resolution and it’s not as sexy as having a six-pack, but it’s the key to fulfilling the unfulfilled promise of our fitness crusade and repairing this broken industry.

Don’t chase the next big thing. Be better. Today. That’s all. If you and your training partner walked 5,000 steps yesterday, walk 5,001 today. If you ate one vegetable yesterday, eat two tomorrow. If you did a pushup for the first time today, do two tomorrow.

              This is exactly right. People chase that flip moment and then crash and burn. They try to will themselves into becoming a “fitness person” but it doesn’t work like that. And those of us that are “fitness people” are really bad at articulating why and how we became that way. So other people waste a lot of time and energy looking for a fitness epiphany.

Do no harm: There is always a threat of injury during any form of physical activity. The answer is not to avoid physical activity or ignore the risk entirely. The answer is to mitigate that risk as much as possible. This is not always done. From the NY Post:

A Bronx woman wants her trendy Westchester County gym to fork over $2.5 million after a 400-pound tire crushed her ankle during a crazy workout.

Jeannette Burgos, 39, says she was in her “boot camp”-style fitness class at the Active Health and Fitness Club in Mount Vernon on Aug. 29 when two people working out nearby lost control of the John Deere tractor tire and it came crashing down on her leg.

Rolling and flipping oversized tires has become a workout trend among hardcore fitness buffs.

“Once they got the tire off my foot, I saw [the foot] was flipped to the opposite direction of my body. My toes were facing my back,” Burgos, who filed suit against the gym in Bronx Supreme Court, told The Post.

“I was screaming in pain and agony trying to get on that stretcher. My foot was just hanging.”

Burgos claims in her suit that the gym should have known to tread lightly around the big wheels — because instructor Emil Paolucci admitted that his own niece broke her wrist using the giant tire before the plaintiff was injured.

The gym and staff “should have known of the dangerous conditions that existed including … overcrowding of classes, using a dangerous item during class, and its need to adequately protect its patrons from such conditions,” charges Burgos’s lawsuit.

               Training with a 400 pound implement of any kind is going to carry a reasonably high level of risk. A tire is even worse because it was not designed with fitness in mind. The tire in question was designed for tractors. And this instructor had already seen his own niece get her wrist broken but still didn’t think that training with a John Deere tire was a bad idea? Unbelievable. Mitigating risk in this scenario would probably have been finding another exercise that provides a similar benefit using a standard weight like a barbell, sandbag, or kettlebell. A few years ago at the CrossFit Games, Rogue Fitness debuted their version of adjustable weight tires. I think that they were called pigs. Because then everyone doesn’t have to struggle with 400 pounds! 

This episode encapsulates a lot of what is wrong in the fitness industry. There is the urge to attract attention by using something big and flashy. There is the failure to mitigate risk or even appreciate the level of risk that you’re exposing people to. And then there is the failure or possibly lack of safety procedures. No one else should be within the fall radius of a 400 pound tire. And if you don’t have the room for this in your gym, don’t do it.

Pivot: Wearables is an interesting segment to watch right now because it is so immature. Everyone is still trying to figure out where the space is headed and what their place in it will be. Right now, there is a hard pivot to wellness. From Glossy:

 The wearables market has grown over the past decade, and now a new generation of tech wearables is looking to differentiate itself by looking to the buzzy wellness industry for growth.

The industry and definition of wellness has expanded to incorporate aspects of mental health, fitness and physical health, beauty and more, resulting in a new class of consumerism and ample opportunity for companies to tap into it. In the past few years, wearables brands Bellabeat, Oura and Motiv have launched, focusing more on a holistic approach to health and less on being performance-oriented. Instead of fitness bracelets, they’re packaged as necklaces, rings or water bottles. And, in addition to the usual sleep tracking, heart rate and pedometer functions, their features include guided meditation, menstrual-cycle tracking and integration with Amazon Alexa.

“You see so many fitness and wellness [wearable] brands right now, and they are uniquely aware of their competitors. They are thinking outside the box in order to be the best,” said Aimee Gaudin, international head of marketing at Smartech stores. U.K.-based Smartech is a retailer situated within luxury department store Selfridges and began selling Motiv rings on Nov. 15.

The Apple Watch isn’t even 4 years old but it’s already pivoted twice. Phase 1 was a fashion accessory. Phase 2 was a fitness tracker. Phase 3 is a health and wellness device that can track your sleep and be an EKG. I doubt that this evolution is complete. No one has discovered the killer app yet.

Streaming Wars: Everyone wants to be Peloton these days. The company is growing like crazy at the intersection of technology and fitness and inspiring a slew of imitators and iterators. An IPO beckons sometimes next year so Peloton is not looking to slow down anytime soon. From Fast Company:

On Wednesday, Peloton opened a new production studio dedicated to yoga and meditation in New York City. The programming will be helmed by yoga instructors Kristin McGee, Anna Greenberg, and Aditi Shah. This will be the company’s third studio space.

The yoga classes will span several varieties, including vinyasa-style yoga, a more rigorous and faster-paced “power yoga,” relaxing “restorative yoga,” as well as yoga basics. The meditation category also includes numerous options, such as guided visualizations, tutorials, and breath-focused classes.

Peloton members can now sign up for classes in the studio, but they will have to wait until December 26 to access live-streamed and on-demand classes. Classes are available to Peloton Bike and Tread owners, as well as Peloton Digital subscribers.

“As we did with the addition of Bootcamp, Running, Walking, and Outdoor earlier this year, we are continuing to expand our suite of superior fitness offerings in order to provide our members with an ever more diversified array of options to stay fit, happy, and healthy,” Fred Klein, chief content officer of Peloton, said in a statement.

              Peloton is making moves towards dominating the home streaming market. There are a lot of services out there trying to be the Netflix of fitness but Peloton is the leading contender to assume that mantle and they know it. A successful IPO could put them even farther ahead as it could boost their name recognition, prestige, and ability to raise cash. The Peloton IPO might even break free of the fitness curse. There are only a couple of publicly traded fitness companies. This means that investors and analysts don’t pay much attention to the industry or take the time to understand it which makes it hard to have a great IPO. Peloton has the potential to be thought of as more of a tech stock than a fitness stock, which would attract a lot more interest. Being thought of as a tech stock can also directly lead to a significantly higher valuation.

Rules: The calendar still reads 2018 but the 2019 CrossFit Games season has already begun in Dubai. The problem is that CrossFit Inc. still hasn’t formally laid out all the rules for the new qualifying process. From Morning Chalk-Up:

The only clear indication CrossFit HQ has given regarding the release date is before the 2019 CrossFit Open.

“How will nationality be determined for national champions in the Open?”

“What happens when an athlete qualifies on a team via a sanctioned event and then as an individual in the Open? If that athlete accepts their individual invitation, who takes that team’s place?”

“If an athlete wins two sanctioned events, who does the next invitation pass to?”

“Who is handling drug testing at these sanctioned events?”

“As it’s been stated previously, will the top 20 athletes worldwide in the Open qualify for the Games or will that number change?”

These are just a few of the questions we’ve heard athletes, coaches and event organizers vocalized in the three-and-a-half-months since we broke news of the changes.

Perhaps even more alarming is the fact that publicly over the past three-and-a-half months, HQ has done little to publicly assuage concerns, fears of rule changes, or provide answers to some of these basic questions.

I’ve been supportive of CrossFit’s changes to the qualifying process but this is ridiculous. Making a large scale change like CrossFit has will always be disruptive, there is no getting around that. That doesn’t mean that you never change, you suck it up and do it anyway but you do everything you can to minimize the confusion and disruption. This is not minimizing confusion. Starting the season without a rule book is really unfair to the athletes. It was always going to be hard for them to plan their year because the rules have completely changed. That sucks but again this doesn’t mean that you never make any changes. Changing the rules but not clearly communicating them makes it impossible for the athletes to plan their year out. They’re basically guessing. It’s going to invite chaos.

At this point, I would recommend to most prospective competitors to hedge their bets in the individual and team competitions but who knows what the rules about that will end up becoming. If an athlete qualifies for both the individual and team competition and chooses to compete individually, will that invalidate the team’s qualification or will they be allowed to substitute? And CrossFit does not have the best record when it comes to managing ambiguity around its own rules. I hope that doesn’t happen here because the athletes deserve better.

Tidbits:

-This is terrifying

-Planet fitness stock is still surging

-“In particular, the increased activity observed in POMC neurons persisted for two days after a single bout of exercise”

-The fountain of youth

 

THE WEEKLY HOWL HAS A TEN YEAR RULE

Planet Apathy: Everyone knows that the fitness industry is “barbell-ing”, growing fastest at the low end and the high end. The high end is represented by companies like SoulCycle, CrossFit, and Orangetheory. The low end is represented by Planet Fitness and since going public, it is thriving. From The Motley Fool:

It was another strong quarterly workout for Planet Fitness (NYSE:PLNT). Shares of the discount gym operator hit more all-time highs last week, fueled by blowout financial results. 

Investors are used to strong quarterly outings at Planet Fitness, and they've been rewarded handsomely in the process. The stock is trading 59% higher in 2018. Planet Fitness shares have risen by at least 46% in each of its first three full years as a public company, more than tripling since going public at $16 in the summer of 2015. 

              The thing about the “barbell-ing” is that it’s not just about the price point, it’s growing at the apathy and passion ends as well. Planet Fitness has figured out how to turn apathy to its advantage. Gyms have always benefited from members that didn’t use their membership. The problem with that free money is that eventually those members will cancel and have to be replaced and acquiring new customers is expensive. There is a finite period of time that people will pay $30/month for something that they never use. Planet Fitness is based on a bet that there isn’t a finite period of time that people will $9.99/month for something that they never use. Or at least that it is a much longer period of time.  Then they designed the entire company around this bet. They built their gyms to appeal to people who don’t work-out regularly and alienate those who do. This meant getting rid of free weights, instituting the lunk alarm, and even banning certain types of exercise like plyometrics. You don’t need 30,000 square feet to accommodate your members because they’re not going to show up anyway so they save a lot of money on rent. Then to hedge against those members canceling anyway, they added pizza nights and free bagels so that members would still feel like their membership was worth it even though they never worked out. And it’s working!

The case for the upside at Planet Fitness is that the concept is not limited to hardcore workout junkies. Planet Fitness sets members back as little as $10 and only as much as $20 a month, which explains why it's been able to grow to more than 12.2 million members. It crossed the 10 million-member mark just early last year. Joining a Planet Fitness is not a bank-breaking decision. 

Planet Fitness has ramped up to 1,646 units in short order, but it hasn't even hit half as many fitness centers as it hopes to open. The goal here is 4,000 units, and by then it expects have enhanced its money-making potential through in-store initiatives and brand partnerships. In short, as good as things have been for investors since its 2015 IPO, there are still more than a few reps to go before this workout is complete. 

              Planet Fitness has figured out how to monetize people’s apathy towards fitness. The other end of the barbell is the passion side. It’s consumers paying a lot of money because they’re so passionate about their work-out. The joke about CrossFit is that the first rule of CrossFit is to always talk about CrossFit. I understand why that can be annoying but that is a reflection of how passionate CrossFitters are. What’s really interesting is that the home exercise equipment market has shifted over to the passion side after years spent on the apathy side. From Vox:

Peloton is not like the exercise bikes and NordicTracks of yore that largely ended up as clothing racks. It’s managed to harness the energy, connection, and competitiveness of a live group fitness class. Thanks to a methodical “casting” system for instructors and a well-tended and well-studied community presence on Facebook, people are exceptionally loyal to the exercise modality. The company was founded in 2012 and delivered its first bike in 2014; it boasts of having more than 1 million users.

Now, at-home, “connected” fitness options, like Peloton’s answer to SoulCycle, are ascendant. There are an abundance of class streaming apps, like the audio app Aaptiv, the so-called “Spotify of fitness,” that you only need a phone to use. But increasingly, more companies have been inspired by Peloton’s success to the point that they are asking customers to commit to pricey home equipment. There are now several Pelotons of rowing (Hydrow, Cityrow), a Peloton of weight training (Tonal), a Peloton of boxing (Rumble), and a Peloton of group cardio studio fitness (Mirror).

Like a lot of things that emerge from the wellness industry, Peloton comes at a steep price. It costs $2,000 for a bike, and that’s before you add in the monthly streaming service. The company is valued at more than $4 billion, and an IPO is likely imminent. Since people are busier and boutique fitness is more popular than ever, it’s not surprising that a business that accounts for both of these things is thriving. Peloton’s success is also a convincing sign that high-priced fitness has been normalized. It wasn’t long ago that SoulCycle’s high class prices were raising eyebrows, but now people are willing to pay up for a stationary bike of their own at home.

Everyone is consumed with building the next Peloton but we really should think about what home exercise equipment used to be. It was Nordic Tracks and cheap treadmills that ended up becoming expensive coat racks in most households and those cheap barbell sets that you could get at Walmart. It was also gimmicky crap like thigh masters and shake weights. Now it’s $2,000 Peloton bikes and Rogue Fitness products. It’s not about cheap crap and gimmicks anymore, it’s about gear that will allow you to get a gym-quality work-out in the comfort of your own home. The schism in fitness isn’t just a price thing, it’s also a schism in enthusiasm. And the home market is switching sides.

The Vox article also had an interesting depiction of what it is like to participate in a cycling class that is being streamed.

In the cycling studio, 12 instructors record classes about eight to 12 times a week each, in front of a live group of actual riders at an NYC studio; a separate treadmill studio is ramping up its offerings as the treads start to ship. Classes at the studio are $32. Lunchtime classes, which are hard to fill with paying customers, are often free.

Taking a live Peloton class at the company’s fitness studio feels like being in a TV show about a spin class, because that’s essentially what it is. The lights, cameras, and some scripted patter of the instructor are clues that this class is different from SoulCycle, Flywheel, or any of the other popular spinning classes that have taken over gym culture in the past decade. There are cameras mounted on the ceiling that zip around getting shots of the instructor from different angles, ultimately feeding the footage to a huge, high-tech video studio in the basement level.

The instructor takes care to speak to the camera more than to the IRL class. It felt slightly stilted, a thing that I found weird since it feels so authentic when you’re actually on the bike at home. I felt a little bit like a prop in the room. Brad Olson, the senior vice president of member experience at Peloton, acknowledges that having bodies in the physical space to create energy “does translate on camera. Ultimately, we’re optimizing for the million members, not for the 50 folks in the room.”

 How does this play out as streaming classes continue to proliferate? They want people in the classes because they want it to feel like a real class but if the participants feel like a “prop”, then they’re probably not coming back. Do these companies have to start offering classes for free (as Peloton is already partially doing)? I even wonder if, as the number of streaming companies grow, they will have to start competing for people willing to go to these classes. Maybe that’s with some kind of perk or benefit or maybe it’s with straight up cash.  

Big Government: The Department of Health and Human Services released the second edition of its guidelines to physical activity this week and there was one major change. From Gizmodo:

The U.S. government has released its latest recommendations on how physically active we should be to stay healthy, and do we detect a hint of desperation in their tone? The guidelines, as before, call for adults to aim for 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic exercise, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise, to get the most optimal benefits of physical activity. But they also make clear that any physical activity, no matter how short or relatively mild, is better than nothing at all.

Also:

What makes the guidelines different this time around, though, is the emphasis on convincing people that any extra exertion is worth the effort, even if they don’t meet the above numbers. There is no longer a mandate that people have to be active for at least 10 minutes at a time for it to count toward their weekly exercise. They also state, as recent research has suggested, that people can benefit from any level of exercise they are able to accomplish, no matter how small.

              It will never stop surprising me how hard it is to get people to exercise. I think that this was the right move on the part of HHS because you want to make exercise as accessible as possible. If you tell people that they should exercise for 1 hour a day, what most people hear is that you can’t do that then why bother doing anything.

A lot of people have a weird all-or-nothing attitude towards fitness. We’ll be seeing it in a couple of months when people are flooding the gyms. Maybe it’s a desire for instant gratification or a focus on short-term thinking, I don’t know. Sometimes I think that people are trying to flip a switch and turn into a “fitness person”. The quote that always comes to mind is from Bill Gates: “Most people overestimate what they can accomplish in 1 year and underestimate what they can accomplish in 10 years”. That’s the most daunting thing for most people: there is no secret. If you want to be fit then you have to do the work day in and day out for the next 10 years and the rest of your life. 

              The psychology around getting people to exercise is fascinating because it is so complex and often counter-intuitive. Fitness is the best product in the world. It will make you look good and feel good, it will make you healthier and smarter, it can earn you the respect of people around you. It can get you laid! This sounds like something that should sell itself yet selling it is incredibly complicated. HHS is discovering that. They’re basically pleading with Americans to just do something, anything and they’re not wrong to do so.

For the cynics in the crowd, though, the more lenient guidelines seem to also reflect just how few Americans are physically active. According to the HHS, only around 26 percent of men, 19 percent of women, and 20 percent of teens meet the current guidelines. And annually, around 10 percent of premature deaths and $117 billion in healthcare costs might be attributable to people not getting sufficient exercise.

              We are on a collision course with disaster if we can’t figure out how to get the majority of Americans to start exercising.

Rule the World: A couple of months ago, CrossFit began the process of revamping the process for qualifying for the CrossFit Games. It laid off dozens of employees whose main responsibilities had been in documenting and promoting the Games. The original narrative was that founder Greg Glassman was “anti-Games” and was re-structuring the company to re-focus on affiliate growth and CrossFit Health. The Regionals were discontinued and a plan to partner with existing fitness competitions was disclosed. Now that we can see the primarily international composition of the qualifying events, I am proposing a new narrative. I don’t think that Glassman was ever “anti-Games”. He just never saw the CrossFit Games as an end unto itself. The end goal wasn’t to find out who the Fittest Man and Woman was; it was to be a marketing tool for the affiliates. The only thing that’s changed is that CrossFit is getting most of its growth internationally instead of domestically. From Morning Chalk-Up:

CrossFit in Brazil is exploding, adding approximately 353 new affiliates in 2018. That’s 31%, or nearly one third, of the current gyms in Brazil. Also notable are France, Italy and Spain which added 143, 148, and 118 new affiliates, respectively.

  • Brazil — 353 new affiliates (31% of total)

  • Italy — 148 new affiliates (22%)

  • France — 143 new affiliates (30%)

  • Spain — 118 new affiliates (26%)

  • China — 47 new affiliates (31%)

China, which had about 15 affiliates in 2014, has exploded with a 920% increase in the past four years, adding more than 130 new affiliates.

Analyzing the chart above, it shouldn’t be surprising that the locations of sanctioned events closely mirrors the list of fastest growing markets as well as the top 15 countries. In fact, 14 of the 17 sanctioned events are in the top 15 countries. The only exceptions are Argentina, Iceland and United Arab Emirates.

              It was time to take the show on the road. The problem is that holding a series of international events is both very expensive (the Brazil Regional cost over $1 million) and a huge pain in the ass. So CrossFit decided to partner with competitions in the countries where it was seeing the most affiliate growth. This is just Phase 2 of the CrossFit story. Phase 1 was rapid expansion in North America and the Regionals/Games reflected that. Phase 2 is where the majority of growth is coming from Brazil, Australia, Europe, and China. And now CrossFit has re-configured the sport side to reflect that and drive more growth in those countries. They have an eye for Phase 3 by crowning National Champions based on the Open results. I am sure that they are hoping to identify and encourage growth in a new set of countries once growth starts to slow in the Phase 2 countries. Once that happens, expect to see a re-jiggering of the qualifying events again.

              None of that means that they will abandon the U.S., they just announced another U.S. event for the 2020 season. From BarBend:

The latest CrossFit Games sanctioned event (qualifier) has been announced for the 2020 CrossFit Games season. The event is set to take place in March of 2020 in Del Mar, California and is being coined the West Coast CrossFit Classic. Live and Loud Sports, who also host the Wodapalooza CrossFit Festival based in Miami, Florida, will be the hosts of this event.

Del Mar was also the home of the California/West Regional. California is the birthplace of CrossFit and home to a lot of affiliates. There wasn’t a West Coast event before this was announced and this will be a new event. The geographic placement of all these events, both international and domestic, is being carefully considered. The 2020 season will have 5 U.S. events spread across the country (Florida, California, Ohio, Texas, and Maryland). There is a method to the madness.

Nutrition: In the world of fitness and nutrition, there are trends and there are fads. Tae-bo was a fad, group exercise classes are a trend. If you want to avoid looking foolish, then you need to be able to distinguish between the two. Which brings us to the keto diet. The keto diet is booming and companies hawking products related to it are popping up all over the place. From Grub Street:

To track the keto trend, Yeji Lee, a marketing insights specialist who follows the keto craze for Kerry Taste & Nutrition, says they track consumer habits to see how many people look and act as if they’re on keto diets. That, specifically, means butter. While the market for butter, in general, has grown 5 percent this year, keto-focused butter has exploded. “One core ketogenic staple is grass-fed butter,” she explains. New data shows grass-fed butter sales are up 45 percent this year. “You see a general trend toward carb-conscious foods — which grew by 10.3 percent in the last year — and moving away from no-, low-, and reduced-fat foods, which declined by 4 percent over the same time.”

Meanwhile, Bulletproof Coffee — a keto pioneer of sorts and the group that popularized the idea of adding butter to coffee — has grown 80 percent since 2012, runs cafés in Seattle and L.A., and now sells coffee pods, as well as something called “Brain Octane MCT oil” in Whole Foods. This year, Bulletproof also raised $40 million from Starbucks investor Trinity Ventures, and $17 million the year before that.

              The keto diet is the fad, cutting back on carbs is the trend. Keto isn’t even the first diet craze in the carb cutting trend. It seems like everyone was on Atkins in the ‘00s and the keto craze has given it new life.

The Atkins plan is still around, of course, thanks to some corrective re-strategizing. Rob Lowe is the new spokesman, and there’s an Atkins 100 program rolling out: It’s a diet that allows up to 100 carbs per day, five times more than the old diet plan allowed. The thinking behind this is that the original plan was “unnecessarily restrictive” for some people, says senior vice president of innovation Linda Zink. “We want to get the message out that, yes, we offer a way to lose weight, but this is also a lifestyle.” As far how much Atkins interest is due to keto-fueled interest in low-carb diets in general, Zink says that Atkins has seen “continued growth for years,” and “we don’t see the pendulum swinging back the other way to low fat.” to it as well.

              One rule of thumb that I employ is the ten year rule: is this something that will seem ridiculous ten years from now? Cutting back on carbs? No, that seems reasonable. Putting butter in your coffee? That will seem ridiculous.

Tidbits:

-Anytime Fitness acquires Basecamp Fitness

-Febreze wants to be in your gym bag

-Ultrarunners are insane

-Yoga and meditation are very popular these days

-How to stay in shape in space

-How to stay in shape underwater

 

THE WEEKLY HOWL IS HEADED TO THE POLLS

Sugar Water: Earlier this week was Election Day where millions of people headed to the polls and voted both on who would represent us as well as a number of propositions. In Washington, voters had the opportunity to vote on whether future soda taxes should be legal. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like the voters understood what they were voting for and that was by design. From Vox:

Voters in the state passed Initiative 1634, a ballot measure that makes it impossible for cities and counties to enact new soda taxes. (An existing soda tax in Seattle will still stand.)

But some voters might not have realized they were voting against soda taxes. The industry-led campaign “Yes! To Affordable Groceries” described the measure as “opposing new taxes on everyday grocery items, such as meats, dairy and beverages.” But state-level bans on food and beverage taxes increasingly seem to be an effective way for industry to curb the soda tax momentum that’s been building.

As rates of obesity and diabetes, which have been linked to excessive soda consumption, rise, more and more US cities and counties and countries around the world have been turning to soda taxes.

The basic idea behind the taxes is this: Making drinks like soda more expensive through taxation helps reduce consumption, improves awareness of the health harms they carry, and nudges people to choose lower- or no-calorie beverages instead. To date, 40 counties and seven cities — including Berkeley, California, and Philadelphia — have implemented soda taxes, and more municipalities are currently considering them.

Preliminary research suggests these taxes do seem to curb soda drinking, and ding beverage makers’ bottom line at a time when soda sales are already flagging.

In an effort to prevent more taxes from being enacted, beverage makers are taking a page from the tobacco industry’s playbook and supporting ballot measures and state laws that block governments from passing new taxes on food and drink. But the trick is that these measures are framed as a way to help consumers avoid spending more on what they’re putting in their grocery carts.

And that’s exactly what happened in Washington last night.

There are a lot of things causing the obesity epidemic but that fact that purveyors of sugar water have so much money and power in this country is a huge factor. They stick their dirty hands into health research and politics and lobbying. The fact that they are emulating the tobacco industry’s tactics should tell you all that you need to know about Big Soda.

Motivation: Bustle published a list of 7 ways to get motivated for the gym. It wasn’t a bad list, it was pretty good. My issue is that it presented all 7 as equivalent when one stood out from the rest.

1.    Set Concrete Goals

2.    Go With a Friend

3.    Find a Comfortable Outfit

4.    Listen to Music

5.    Create a Plan

6.    Branch Out

7.    Keep a Visual Reminder

This list should be presented as #1 and some other stuff:

“Here’s the #1 way to get motivated for the gym, 4 other useful tips and some fluff”

In case you’re wondering, I would rank them in this order:

1.       Set Concrete Goals (This is the single best way to stay motivated, have a defined goal that you’re working towards)

2.       Create a Plan (Know what you’re going to do before you set foot in the gym and then get it done)

3.       Go With a Friend (Making the gym a more social experience can keep you accountable and make it more fun)

4.       Branch Out (Variety is the spice of life)

5.       Keep a Visual Reminder (This works for a lot of people)

6.       Listen to Music (This kind of contradicts #3 but also, doesn’t everyone already do this?)

7.       Find a Comfortable Outfit (As opposed to working out in uncomfortable clothes? I can’t say that it’s wrong, it’s just common sense)

What frustrates me about this is that the entire article should be about #1. That’s the real secret and I feel like it’s hiding in plain sight in article like this. They make it seem like it’s equivalent to Listen to Music.

Domination: Steve Jobs once told the CEO of Nike that they should completely streamline their product line and make it more like Apple’s. Just have one product in each category. Mark Parker did not take Jobs’ advice because athletic apparel is completely different from consumer electronics and he understood that. I think of this whenever I see someone write that something is going to replace gyms or trainers. From Fast Company:

Currently, the majority of Aaptiv’s community skews female, college-educated, under 34, with household income around $100,000. Most already have a gym membership or boutique fitness regimen, notes Agarwal, but they find that Aaptiv serves as a worthwhile add-on–either to fill in for the days they don’t head to the gym, or because the experience trumps what they get in a live class.

              The fitness industry isn’t predisposed to being a winner-take-all, zero-sum environment. It is an immature industry and frequently misunderstood. It’s not like the tech industry. There will never be an iPhone of fitness because 1) people have very different fitness goals 2) people have very different preferences for what they want their fitness experience to be and 3) some people will choose to mix and match.

              The biggest trend that we’re seeing right now is a move away from the big box gym, where you can pretty much do anything under one roof, to smaller, specialized gyms. That is only going to lead to more mix and matching. People need more fitness options not less. Convenience is the name of the game and that might mean having a traditional gym membership as well as some work-out at home options. It means that consumers are going to be assembling a routine from an increasingly diverse fitness menu. The success of a service like Aaptiv might hinge on being a complement to brick and mortar gyms not on being a gym-killer.

Army Strong: The Army’s new physical fitness test is coming in 2020 and it is not without controversy. The ACFT is a complete re-imagining of what a military fitness test can look like. The Army, Navy, and Air Force currently test push-ups, sit-ups (or some version thereof), and a short run. The Marines swap pull-ups for the push-ups but otherwise stick to the formula. The advantage of this is that it’s easy to test. You don’t need much equipment if any and you can test a lot of people at the same time. The disadvantage of this is that it’s a poor test of the fitness that is required for combat. Implementation of the ACFT is going to be a lot harder than the current test so they tried out at West Point. From War On The Rocks:

The U.S. Military Academy’s Department of Physical Education administered the ACFT twice in the past two weeks to two different populations: members of the faculty who are over 40 years old, and the class of 2019. The class of 2019 is particularly representative because the testing population is the approximate size of a light infantry battalion. Using 16 testing lanes over the course of two days, it took just under four hours per day to test 732 cadets, plus 40 minutes of daily set up and tear down. The test was administered on a large, flat field adjacent to a two-mile run course. It required 32 graders, each of whom had been trained on movement standards, grading criteria, and traffic flow through one hour-long session the week prior. By testing four cadets per lane, throughput was approximately 64 cadets every 25 minutes, yielding an overall flow rate of around 128 people per hour. Throughput was enabled by the use of six lane supervisors who helped to manage graders, monitor movement standards, and field questions. Neither the cadet population nor the over-40 population sustained any injuries during testing — a remarkable statistic given that some test participants had never done a deadlift. Cadet feedback was largely positive, in spite of the fact that few approached the maximum test score.

What did we learn about the ACFT from this experience? First, the test is not “too complicated,” nor is its execution too time- and labor-intensive for the average unit to handle. Our pilot suggests that four hours for 400 people is a generous upper limit for overall testing time. That number will only go down as units and leaders gain testing familiarity. The data show that a battalion of 514 soldiers, using one company to grade, will be able to test their entire formation in four and a half to five hours. This is, admittedly, about two–three times longer than it takes to administer the current APFT, but is still less time than it takes to rehearse for and execute a single battalion change of command.

Furthermore, the comparative complexity of the new test may turn out to be a good thing. The amount of planning and preparation required to administer the ACFT means that it will likely become a battalion-level event, as opposed to a company-, squad-, or platoon-level event that it is easy for leaders to ignore. This means that every member of the battalion will have to participate, and they will have to do so in front of other unit members. Gone are the days of pencil-whipping an APFT card or of leaders simply opting out of an APFT because they cannot be bothered to take it. The ACFT may thus bring a welcome culture change not only in its emphasis on realistic physical standards, but on its demand for visible leader accountability to those standards. Far from micromanaging, the ACFT has the potential to empower local commanders to hold themselves and their formations to a higher standard of fitness across a broader range of physical domains.

              It sound like the ACFT will take most of the work day to complete and I think that’s a good thing.  It will feel like more of an event. The old-school test felt perfunctory, something to get over with before you start another regular work day. This will require a lot more resources but that sends a message. The message is that fitness is important. It’s not just a check in the box.  Fitness should be a big deal in the military. If you think that you can’t devote 2 days a year to ensuring that your people are fit and combat-ready then you need to re-evaluate your priorities as a military leader.

Marketing: If you watch television, then there is a good chance that you have seen a commercial that looks like an ad for CrossFit and then turns out to be hawking light beer or something else completely unrelated to fitness. I dubbed this fitness marketing a while back and it is an emerging trend. From PR Newswire:

The "2018 Southwest Sports Marketing Report," crafted and commissioned by leading marketing services agency LAVIDGE, reveals insights about consumer spending choices in this fast-evolving space. Among the key findings: in addition to a preference for TV advertising around health and exercise, consumers spend more money on gym memberships than sporting events, equipment or apparel, and prefer a casual approach when it comes to sports and fitness.

Indeed, ads that contain the word "healthy" strongly resonate with consumers who want more products and services that "support a healthy lifestyle."

"We've analyzed the business from all angles and have discovered the most impactful tactics and messages to reach the sports and fitness-minded public," said David Nobs, managing director, business development at LAVIDGE.

              You can also see fitness marketing manifested in experiential marketing initiatives. This is department stores offering boutique fitness classes in order to generate foot traffic in their stores. I consider fitness marketing to be a close relative of sports marketing. PR Newswire seems to think that it is a part of sports marketing.

Sports marketing is a booming industry, continuing to dominate corporate spending, far outpacing entertainment, causes and the arts. A recent report published by ESP Properties further predicts brands will spend more on marketing, advertising and sponsorship this year, resulting in industry growth of 4.5 percent in North America and 4.9 percent globally.

"Today, the relationship between sports and entertainment is inseparable and interchangeable. Sports still makes sense as a way to enhance corporate image and increase product visibility. If done well, it provides companies with opportunities to promote brand awareness, build loyalty, deliver quality content and enhance customer relationships, all in a single package," said Nobs.

              The relationship between sports and fitness is not as close as people tend to assume. The primary way that the majority of Americans interact with sports is as a passive observer. Adults watch football, baseball, and basketball and rarely, if ever, play the game themselves. Fitness is something that people actually, they interact with it as a participant. I don’t consider fitness marketing a subset of sports marketing for that reason. You’re selling a completely different ball of wax with fitness than you are with sports.

CrossFit: There are a lot of people that are not fans of the changes that have come to the sport of CrossFit. Change is usually unpopular at first. Nicolas Atkin of the South China Morning Post is one of them.

Gone are the old Regionals. Instead now the CrossFit Open will crown 162 male, female and team national champions from each nation with a CrossFit affiliate. They will all be in Madison, Wisconsin next August, along with the winners of 16 newly-sanctioned events acting as invitationals.

These 16 events span the globe, in an attempt to give the sport a more international flavour. The first qualifier takes place in Dubai in December, with the 2019 schedule kicking off in Australia in January, before taking in other stops in Iceland, China, Dubai, South Africa, France, Brazil, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands and Argentina.

Of course, the US still gets a look in with four events. But there’s the rub – CrossFit as a sport originated in North America, and most of its best athletes are from there. And now some of them are likely to miss out on qualifying for the 2019 Games.

“[At this 2018 Games] I did see athletes coming into the arena carrying their flags. And boy, it looked like a 4th of July parade, you know?” CrossFit CEO and founder Greg Glassman told the Girls Gone WOD podcast.

“And there’s nothing wrong with that, but better than that would be a true reflection of the growth and the universal nature, the globalisation, of the affiliate … 160-something [countries], I believe, participated in the Open. They don’t all make it to the end.

              I disagree that North American athletes are going to miss out on qualifying for the Games because I think that athletes will get on a plane if they need to. People that have dedicated their lives to CrossFit will be willing to travel in order to qualify. I would be more concerned about the potential financial burden this puts on the athletes. Transporting a handful of people around the world is an easy problem to overcome. Getting the media attention that comes from having a CrossFit event in Brazil or China cannot be replicated any other way.

And while before you had a straightforward 40-man and 40-woman field at the CrossFit Games, the new qualification system will cause similar format changes.

Now there are likely to be around 200 athletes in each field, with the top 20 finishers from the CrossFit Open who aren’t national champions also qualifying, plus four “at-large” wild cards chosen by CrossFit Inc.

“What could happen – it seems enjoyable to me – is earlier in the week put 200 [athletes] to a task that leaves 10. And then [we’re] watching 10 for two days,” Glassman said. “A higher intensity, denser format, where there’s less to watch but more to see.”

He added: “In short order we’re gonna cull the herd to a very watchable and exciting number of people.”

But if so many athletes are going to be culled because they’re not good enough, then why have them there in the first place?

              This new system might not be as fair. Making a cut to ten athletes so early in the competition is going to leave out some people who could have made a late surge for the top of the leaderboard but will instead be watching from the beer garden. But sports are not always fair. There are arbitrary cutoffs in every system. In Olympic track & field, every country can send a max of 3 athletes per event. Why not 4? Why not 2? It’s an arbitrary number and every four years, there are deserving athletes who missed 3rd place by inches and get nothing to show for it. Is that fair? I don’t know but it is thrilling to watch. Sports fans live for the drama and cutting down to 10 is going to crank up the intensity on the 1st day. The drama of who gets left out is going to be fascinating.

              I think that Nicolas gets the why. CrossFit Inc. has always used the sport of CrossFit as sports marketing. That’s the ultimate goal, to grow the affiliate base. It’s not to find out who the Fittest on Earth is. Making the qualifying process more international and crowning national champions is a reflection of where CrossFit’s future growth is going to come from. Everyone will adapt to these changes. Top American athletes will hop on a plane if they have to. The Games will look very different but Mat Fraser is still going to be standing on the top of the podium when it’s all over. And ten years from now, there will be a lot more top athletes from outside North America.

Tidbits:

-How do you know when it’s time to get a new gym?

-Dwayne Johnson’s new fitness competition show looks like a combination of American Gladiators and the Hunger Games

-Under Armour has a serious culture problem

-Don’t trust the Kardashians

-I want to work-out all night

-Redneck Fitness

THE WEEKLY HOWL IS WATCHING THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA

It’s got to be the shirt: Athletic apparel has very low barriers to entry. Everyone has their own apparel line these days. You can hook up with an overseas manufacturer or an on-demand service like Teespring and be selling your own t-shirts in no time. For the athletic apparel giants, this means that they need to do something to differentiate themselves. For Nike and Adidas, that something is performance. They are going to seek innovation in the materials used and then try to convince us that we will perform better because of it. They also apply this strategy to footwear which already has much higher barriers to entry than just apparel. For Lululemon, that differentiation is going to be customization. From Fast Company:

 Lululemon plans to capitalize on its ability to track how each customer’s body moves. The Whitespace team has created a store-ready version of the treadmill I tested in the lab, which will be called the “Signature Movement Experience.” The idea is for customers to learn about their own unique pattern of motion while allowing store representatives to provide highly customized product recommendations. When I went through the experience, an algorithm identified a top bra for me based on the results, plus four other bras that would also provide the support I need. The first of these treadmills went out at the SeaWheeze Sunset Festival–the half marathon and music event in Vancouver that Lululemon sponsored this past weekend–where the company set up a booth where women could go through the process.

Now facing competition from countless activewear startups, Lululemon is eyeing its future in a post-athleisure world, where comfort–not product categories–determines what consumers wear to work as well as the gym. By capitalizing on this individualized, data-based style of customer experience, the brand wants to push the athleisure genre it pioneered in the 2000s forward. “It’s an entirely new paradigm for us,” says Waller.

It’s a smart play to not try to play the Nike/Adidas game because you’re not going to beat them at it. They’ve been doing it for too long. Plus, then you’re not differentiating yourself from them. Customization also plays into the athleisure angle. If you’re not working out in it do you really care about performance or do you care about how it feels on your skin? Isn’t that the point of athleisure? To be comfortable. This is the kind of thing that is not easy to duplicate. Anyone can start a t-shirt company but this is a lot more difficult.

 Under Armour has traditionally followed the same script as Nike and Adidas. The company was founded on moisture wicking shirts. But recently, CEO Kevin Plank was been vocal about Under Armour becoming a tech company and trying to make smart clothing happen. This is the smart way to incorporate technology into your apparel company. Put the tech into the recommendation process so that you can sell someone a shirt that fits them perfectly.

Are you well?: If you’ve ever seen The Devil Wears Prada, then you probably remember the Cerulean scene. It’s when Miranda Priestley explains to Andy how decisions made by the high-end fashion houses eventually filter down to everyday people like her. But what does that have to do with WW (the recently rebranded Weight Watchers)? Everything, of course. From Vox:

There’s a famous scene in the fashion-insider tell-all The Devil Wears Prada, in which Miranda Priestly, the Anna Wintour avatar played with icy hauteur by Meryl Streep, explains to jejune fashion assistant Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway), a wannabe serious journalist, about the trickle-down effect of high fashion.

After Andy scoffs about what she considers frivolous fashion choices, Miranda informs Andy that the frumpy blue sweater she’s wearing isn’t simply blue, it’s cerulean. Furthermore, Miranda says, her wearing that sweater is the result of a long series of fashion decisions — from an Oscar de la Renta collection featuring cerulean, to that of lower-end designers, to “some tragic ‘casual corner’ where [Andy], no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin.” High fashion, she implies, starts with luxury brands, then those trends work their way down to the mainstream.

The same process is happening with wellness.

Traditionally, the kind of luxury “wellness” product associated with lifestyle brands was a thoroughly high-end affair. There’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, with its $66 jade eggs (designed to be placed in the vagina, for dubious medical benefit). There’s SuperShe, a Finnish island resort devoted to wellness and women’s empowerment that runs $4,600 a week. Last year’s pop-up at Saks Fifth Avenue, The Wellery, was a high-end, 20-stall “wellness mall” where you could, among other things, pay $25 for a 10-minute slot to breathe in high-end Himalayan salts.

Now there’s WW, which was, until September, Weight Watchers. The affordable weight loss organization is in the process of rebranding itself as a wellness hub (the company says WW now stands for “wellness that works”). According to a press release, WW will now focus less on shedding pounds, and more on its “overall approach to health and wellbeing of inspiring powerful habits rooted in science.”

              I never made the connection before but this is how the fitness & wellness industries work as well. Fitness is much more fragmented than fashion but the same dynamic is at play. Someone starts doing something new and different in a studio in New York or California. People flock to it, possibly including some celebrities, and pay handsomely for the privilege of being on the cutting edge of fitness. This leads to expansion and copycats. Then it slowly filters down to workout DVD’s and big box gyms. Tara Burton is also right that this marks the mass market phase of wellness.

She added: “The movement has trickled down to more affordable options — as wellness is seen as not just for the rich, but something you should do for yourself. Almost like a responsibility.”

As Beth McGroarty, a spokesperson for the Global Wellness Institute, told Vox that according to the Institute’s trends report: “There is a proliferation of lower-cost wellness products and services: from a new generation of affordable healthy grocery stores to low-cost spa chains. ... We expect to see greater shifts from wellness as a luxury product to an attainable goal that’s packaged and sold by more affordable outlets.”

In other words, wellness is entering the economy class. Sometimes literally. Earlier this year, several airlines — including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic — partnered with Headspace in order to give passengers access to in-flight guided meditations, ostensibly to make the experience of traveling in economy a little less hellish. Wellness, in other words, is now being treated as a necessary corporate amenity, even for those passengers for whom $3,000 retreats or $30 barre classes would break the bank.

              This can be a double-edged sword. Health is the new wealth and people are starting to redefine success as more than just having a lot of money. That’s great. Feeling and looking good shouldn’t be a luxury product, affordable only to the upper classes. But there will be a lot of stupid fads. There already are. There will be many people who exchange their hard earned money for a bunch of pseudoscience nonsense. I suppose that is nothing new to anyone who follows the fitness industry so as always, buyer beware.

Made for TV: There is a new gym in New York City that you have to apply to for the privilege of paying up to $900 a month in membership dues. The name of the gym is Performix and now we’re learning more about its business model. From Cheddar:

Eventually, Hesse plans to use Performix House as a content generator for a streaming service his company plans to launch in January. The majority of content will be free ー all with an objective to promote other Performix-branded products. On its site, the company sells items for weight and diet management, workout performance, and general health and wellness. The company also has a subscription service, which delivers its health and wellness products to users every 30, 60, or 90 days.

"Performix uses this House as a marketing vehicle," Hesse said of his strategy. "Generally speaking, we want to provide these products as sort of complements to the customers that are already supporting our brand," he added.

              So let me see if I have this straight. Performix wants people to pay $900 a month in order to be in the background of its workout streams (which will be free) so that the company can make the real money selling supplements. I understand the concept of a loss leader and a lot of product placement during the streams could do the trick. What I’m wondering about is whether charging people almost $1000 a month for a gym membership is a smart move. I assume that they want good-looking, rich people with large social media followings to be the members of this gym. But what is in it for those people? Is Performix going to try to sell them on added exposure? The problem with that is that people with large followings want to cash in on that. They want to get paid for endorsing products. They already know how to get a lot of followers. Maybe no one will actually pay that amount. Maybe it’s just another way to establish prestige and exclusivity. Make them feel like they’re getting some amazing deal when Performix offers them a gratis membership. I don’t know.

              I do think that the gym-as-sound-stage model is going to become more prevalent. All those workout streams have to be produced somewhere. But this does speak to an underrated issue with that model: how do you manage the participants. The instructors are more straightforward, you pay them. But the people taking the classes could be an issue. You’ll need people to sign forms, you’ll need people to give the instructor some energy, you’ll want people that embody the aspirational nature of that particular workout. How do you manage all this? Paying people to take the class is not the best model but perhaps free attendance might work. I doubt that charging someone a small fortune is the answer.  

              Also this:

"I didn't open this to be in the gym business ー not that the gym business isn't a good business to be in," Matt Hesse said Tuesday in an interview with Cheddar. "It's just not our core competency."

              So your core competency is product development (supplements) but you’re opening up a gym and starting a streaming service in order to market those supplements. I think it’s interesting that Hesse mentions core competencies because this strategy is the exact opposite of focusing on your core competencies. Now you’re in 3 different businesses that require 3 different sets of core competencies. That’s a lot of stuff for Performix to get good at.

Motivation: Humans have been around for 300,000 years but in the last few decades, there has been a massive shift in the way that we work and play. We used to exercise for work and rest for leisure but the information economy largely requires the opposite. The problem is that we’re not wired for sedentary work and active leisure. From The Washington Post:

Teaming up with longtime friend Boris Cheval, a postdoctoral researcher in health and exercise psychology at the University of Geneva, the duo set out to determine why people may have the desire to exercise regularly, but struggle to follow through. It’s the “exercise paradox,” Cheval told The Post.

The problem is people’s brains are conditioned to choose the easy route, whatever calls for the least amount of energy, said Boisgontier, who studies neuroscience.

No matter what you think you want, researchers say your brain wants you to be sedentary to conserve energy. When you start contemplating physical activity, it forces your brain to work harder to counteract the urge, the study found. Even when you’re headed up to the gym to get exercise, for example, your brain may tell you to use the elevator rather than the stairs, Boisgontier said.

              Sometimes the flesh is strong and the mind is weak. You have to learn to listen to your body and turn off your brain. Your brain is good at coming up with excuses but your body wants to move. Rest days are for when your body is telling you that it doesn’t want to work-out.

CrossFit: Add Wodapalooza to the list of sanctioned CrossFit events. From Morning Chalk-Up:

Today, CrossFit HQ announced that Wodapalooza 2019 will be an official sanctioned event and qualify one male, female and team to the 2019 CrossFit Games. Wodapalooza is the 7th official CrossFit sanctioned event to be announced in recent weeks. 

“Wodapalooza brings its distinctive character and culture to the CrossFit Games season,” said CrossFit founder and Chairman Greg Glassman. “They figured out that Miami in winter — sun, bathing suits, balconies, and bright lights at night — is a world-class destination for showcasing the fittest and healthiest people on earth. It’s a party.”

              This brings the U.S to non-U.S. ration to 3:4. I also think that it’s interesting that Glassman chose to mention Wodapalooza’s atmosphere because I think that this is a major upgrade over the Regionals format. More events should try to emulate that instead of trying to come up with outlandish and possibly dangerous events. I realize that it is extremely difficult to find a venue as distinctive as Wodapalooza (it might be impossible) but this is how event organizers need to be thinking. Make your event distinctive and representative of the local area. I have a mental image of Wodapalooza that I do not have of the Granite Games.

              In other news, CrossFit also confirmed that there will be at-large spots in the new Gams format. From Boxrox:

“The CrossFit Games will return once more to Madison, Wisconsin, in the late summer of 2019. Participants in the individual Games competition will consist of:

  1. national champions as determined by the CrossFit Open;

  2. first-place, sanctioned-event winners;

  3. the top 20 overall finishers in the CrossFit Open;

  4. four at-large athletes selected by CrossFit Inc.”

This means that they now have the power to select 4 athletes that they deem Games worthy and give them a free ticket to the 2019 CrossFit Games, even if they don’t fulfill the qualifying criteria. So far CrossFit Inc have not released any more information about what ‘at-large athletes’ actually means. 

              Greg Glassman had talked about giving these at-large spots to people outside the CrossFit community in order to embarrass them. I really hope that they don’t do this. The at-large spots should go to deserving athletes who missed out on qualifying for one reason or another. Maybe someone who got hurt but is an established top competitor. Or maybe someone who had the misfortune of coming in 2nd to Mat Fraser in a qualifying event. Giving these spots away to people just so they can be embarrassed on cable television would take away from the Games.

Conduct a separate event, kind of Pros vs Joes or Celebrity Challenge for CrossFit. It doesn’t have to be just the loudmouths. They could have Mat Fraser or Patrick Vellner compete against a team of people. Let a bunch of NFL players assemble a team and see if they could beat Fraser in a 5 event format. It would be a great way to illustrate how well-rounded the top Games competitors are. Although that would be more of a Pros vs Pros.

Tidbits:

-Virtual reality might help you train harder

-The guy who designed the Peloton & SoulCycle bikes has designed his own

-Are you a cop? Because if you are then you have to tell me

-The food industry has so many issues

-“The biggest fashion brand in the world”

 

THE WEEKLY HOWL IS SELLING AMWAY

Pyramids: Forbes ran a piece this month on BeachBody and its CEO, Carl Daikeler. BeachBody is a fascinating company. You may not be familiar with the company but you probably are aware of its most well-known products, the P90X and Insanity workout DVD’s. Daikeler started his career producing infomercials for fitness products like the “:08 Min Abs” workout video. He later started BeachBody and used his infomercial prowess to market P90X, which turned into a phenomenon. The less well-known part of the BeachBody story is that is also a multi-level marketing business.

If the workout videos got people in the door and the coaches acted as the glue that held it all together, the real moneymaker was Beachbody's shakes. In 2007, Daikeler tapped his third wife, Isabelle, a kinesiologist certified in "medicine ball training," to codevelop Shakeology. The low-calorie liquid is marketed as "a daily dose of dense nutrition" that is packed with "superfoods" from around the world. The price tag: $130 for a month's supply of powder, with much of that cash flowing straight to Beachbody's bottom line.

Of course, for this vision to work, coaches need to expand their networks rapidly. Everyone who signs up with Beachbody is invited to join an accountability group, where participants follow a workout plan and log their exercise and Shakeology intake into an app. Coaches post words of encouragement--then urge others to become coaches themselves. "Basically from day one, you're being pushed toward the network marketing opportunity," says Heather Hanson, one of Beachbody's first employees, who worked with Daikeler at Guthy-Renker. "It's brilliant. Beachbody gets its hooks into you immediately."

              I would love to see BeachBody’s financials because I am very curious if the workout DVD’s are a loss leader. In other words, is BeachBody selling P90X DVD’s at a loss in order to get more people into the MLM network? I can’t think of another MLM company that uses another product like this. And it’s interesting to hear how the decision to move to a streaming model has affected the MLM side.

In 2015, Daikeler ignored his board's concerns and began offering the entire library of Beachbody workout DVDs, a $7,000 value, for just $99 a year via a Netflix-like streaming service called Beachbody on Demand. While turnover in any multilevel-marketing organization is not unusual, this decision prompted a mass exodus because it undermined a critical driver in Beachbody's successful formula: Keep the new commission-generating products coming. Last year sales declined by nearly 25%. His army of coach evangelists is shrinking. Today Daikeler has some 340,000 coaches, but that's down from 450,000 in 2016.

Listen to former elite coach Lindsey Westbrook. After seeing her $300,000 annual income drop by half, she quit in 2017 to sell "premium" wine in another pyramid organization, Direct Cellars, and has since moved on to Vasayo, a multilevel marketing company hawking wellness products. "When Beachbody on Demand came around," she says, "people were able to get a free trial and an all-access annual pass. You're no longer making any additional income from people ordering DVDs. And without people ordering DVDs throughout the year, they weren't purchasing Shakeology, either."

              That’s an intricate balance to strike. I’m sure BeachBody likes the predictable, recurring revenue that comes with subscriptions but it sounds like it really pissed off its coaches. And that’s where most of its revenue comes from.

Yet coach compensation has suffered as the company's product focus shifted from selling DVDs to selling shakes. Shakeology subscriptions, at $130 a month, now bring in two thirds of the company's revenue. But that too is under pressure: In 2017, following an investigation by the city attorney in Santa Monica, the company reached a $3.6 million settlement in which it agreed to stop making bold health claims about Shakeology, its core product.

The city of Santa Monica's crackdown has dealt a body blow to Daikeler's six-pack business model for growth. After years of boasting that Shakeology prevented mental decline, slowed the aging process, removed toxins and even helped prevent heart disease and cancer, Beachbody has been barred by the state of California from making claims that are not backed by scientific evidence.

              On a separate note: I don’t recommend getting involved in MLM. MLM companies try to go against the laws of business. The goals of a retailer should be to deliver great value to the customer and to provide a great shopping experience. Great value can be achieved by providing superior products and/or offering them at a great price. The great retailers (Amazon, Walmart, Costco) find ways to wring costs out of the value chain so they can offer the best prices. MLM companies are striving to insert more middlemen between themselves and the end-consumer. They are constantly trying to recruit more salespeople into their “down-lines” who will each need to get paid. This raises the cost of their products. They try to overcome this by taking the sale process into the personal area of the consumer’s life i.e. turning your friends and family members into salespeople who will try to sell you stuff constantly. It is a very weird model. And most people make little to no money despite what the MLM companies try to claim. From the Atlantic:

For instance, Thirty-One Gifts’ brief earnings statement acknowledges that most consultants who sell its handbags and totes will make between $183 and $1,993 annually. This range, however, comes only from “typical participants”—defined as sellers who are active at least five months out of the past year. This means those numbers skew high, because all of the sellers on the top tier making six to seven figures will be included in this average, but none of the women who signed on and couldn’t make a go of it for at least five months will be counted. Thirty-One Gifts did not return phone calls for comment.

Fitzpatrick defines fraudulent MLM outfits as businesses in which “the profit of the people at the top comes from the losses of the latest recruits.” The numbers for Jamberry say the average sales consultant makes slightly more than $200 a month for an average of seven months out of the year. Still, there is little public data on how many consultants making that much sustain those numbers, or how many are new consultants who sign on, sell for a few months, and then drop out when their friends and family stop buying. Jamberry did not respond to an interview request. At Young Living, a company that sells essential oils, 94 percent of sellers are in the lowest tier. The average monthly income for that level is a mere $1. For sellers on all 10 levels, the annual average remains only $25. Requests for comment from Young Living went unanswered.

              There are a lot of MLM companies selling fitness and nutrition related products. Beware of them all.

How the sausage is made: NYC is getting its first cold-workout studio next month. The idea is that working out in the cold is better somehow so why not open a gym based on that concept. From the NY Post:

The idea has been about three years in the making: Martin had always been intrigued by the way some of his clients exercised in the cold — one told him she felt more motivated and just worked out better in the winter months. It occurred to Martin that with all the gimmicky fitness classes in the city — including dozens of heated options — there had yet to be a cold class.

He and Adamic tested out the concept in the walk-in refrigerator of Brooklyn’s Sixpoint Brewery. A friend who works at the Red Hook brewery invited them to use the space, where they experimented doing various aerobic and anaerobic exercises — and found they were working out harder just to warm themselves up.

              This is remarkable because you’re not supposed to say that out loud. You’re not supposed to admit that you came up with the marketing angle first and the pseudo-science second. You’re also supposed to do a better job of selling that pseudo-science. This is exactly the thought process that I imagine going into something like this. I am just amazed that the founders admitted it to a reporter.

              This is what is wrong with the fitness industry. I understand entrepreneurs who are looking for ways to differentiate themselves in a crowded market but this is dishonest. These guys don’t actually believe that their way is better or even if it makes sense. They’re selling snake oil and they’re not even good at it. You want to differentiate? Figure out what works first and then figure out how you’re going to market it. Sell results and the customers will come. Then you won’t have to invent a bunch of pseudo-science and worry about keeping your story straight. 

Motivation: Since we’re talking about what’s wrong with the fitness industry, let’s head on over to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Don’t come into Desiree Nathanson’s fitness class seeking a “No pain, no gain” experience.

“Start small,” advised Nathanson, co-owner of Interfusion Fitness in Brookhaven. “People make a huge mistake with trying to jump in the deep end. Instead of saying, ‘I’m going to the gym every day this week!,’ maybe just try one or two.”

The fitness industry can be complicit, she observed.

“Lose 20 pounds in two weeks! Come get this booty by doing squats!” she said, reciting hypothetical come-ons. “No. Everybody has a different ideal. Our ideal should be our bodies at their most healthy.”

              There’s 2 big ideas here. The first is that people often overdo it when starting a new fitness routine and then don’t last. It’s much smarter to start small and ramp it up. This allows you to adapt to the changes in your lifestyle, it allows your body to adapt to the changes in the demands that you’re placing on it, and it allows you to collect some wins and positive feedback. It is also not what the fitness industry usually wants to sell you. An important thing to keep in mind is that everyone wants to maximize the amount of money that they can make. It’s a big reason that running has been taking a beating in the fitness world lately. Because the people selling things don’t know how to make money off people running so they try to convince everyone that running is bad. And fast results sell better than a slow, measured approach to changing your lifestyle. So that’s what they sell.

              The second idea is the fitness industry focuses too much on appearance. I actually think that there has been some improvement here recently even though it is still a big problem. The rise of functional fitness has prioritized what your body can do over what your body looks like even though there is still a lot of emphasis on looking good. But what looks good?

“People are trying to achieve these bodies that might not even be real,” she said, adding that while nutrition and exercise are key, genetics can contribute to beauty and fitness perfection. “People are trying to get J. Lo’s butt? You have to go back in time and get J. Lo’s parents.”

              I agree that most people cannot replicate Jennifer Lopez’s posterior, no matter how many squats and lunges they do. But I’d rather see people strive for J. Lo’s body than Kate Moss’. The female ideal used to be supermodel thin and that’s it. There is definitely more variety in what an attractive female form is these days. A woman doesn’t have to “heroin chic”-thin in order to be considered attractive these days. This doesn’t mean that there are not numerous issues related to female standards of beauty in our society. I am just saying that it’s a slightly better world when a woman looking to make herself attractive is more likely to set up camp in a squat rack than she is to starve herself.

Mixed messages: Pregnancy seems to invite 2 phenomenon of intrusive behavior. The first is strangers thinking that it’s okay to touch a pregnant woman’s belly without asking. The second is judging them for everything that they do or eat. Why does the state of being pregnant seem to indicate a loss of agency for so many women? From Shape:

So much of being an athlete is about respecting your body and just listening to it. When I got pregnant with my first child in 2016, I tried to abide by the same motto. I didn't know what to expect, but I had a really good and longstanding relationship with my ob-gyn, so he was able to help me navigate what's safe and what my body's capable of when it comes to exercising while pregnant. One thing he always said that has stuck with me is that there isn't a lifestyle prescription for pregnancy. It's not one-size-fits-all for every woman or even for each pregnancy. It's all about just really being in tune with your body and taking it one day at a time. I followed that rule with my first pregnancy and felt fantastic. And now that I'm 36 weeks along with my second, I'm doing the same.

Something I'll never quite understand though? Why others feel the need to shame pregnant women for simply doing what makes them feel best.

My first exposure to the shaming began when I was about 34 weeks along into my first pregnancy and my belly popped. I had just competed in my first CrossFit games while eight months pregnant, and when the media caught on to my story and my Instagram account, I started to get some negative feedback on my fitness posts. It probably did seem like a lot of weight to some people, who were thinking, "how can this eight-months-pregnant trainer deadlift 155 pounds?" But what they didn't know was that I was actually working at 50 percent of my normal pre-pregnancy rep max. Still, I understand that it can look drastic and crazy from the outside.  

I went into my second pregnancy a bit more prepared for the criticism. Offline, when I'm working out in my gym, the reaction is still mostly positive. People will come up to me and say, "Wow! I can't believe you just did those handstand push-ups upside down pregnant!" They're just kind of shocked or amazed. But online, there have been so many mean comments I've received on my Instagram posts or in DMs like, "This is an easy way for an abortion or miscarriage" or "You know, if you didn't want a child you shouldn't have had sex in the first place." It's awful. It's just so odd to me because I would never say anything like that to any other person, let alone a woman who is going through such a powerful and emotional experience of growing a human inside of them.

              I have no respect for people who write things on social media that they would never say to someone’s face but that’s an issue for another time. Why is it so hard for people to conceive that this woman has already adjusted her workout to account for pregnancy? Just because she is still lifting more weight than a lot of people can lift without a small person inside them doesn’t mean that she’s overdoing it.

There also seems to be a weird attitude around proper fitness and nutrition for pregnant women. If you believe everything that you read, then pregnant woman shouldn’t eat anything because everything could potentially be bad for the baby. And pregnant women need to stay active but every form of exercise is potentially hazardous as well. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Subscriptions: CrossFit is partnering with Strass Brands to offer a meal-kit service. Staying true to the brand, the meal kit will be Paleo Diet dream, big ole box of meat. From Today:

After the initial success of the meal-kit delivery service Blue Apron, other brands have been trying to capitalize on the pre-prepped, curated recipe trend that creates a middle ground between takeout and full-blown cooking from scratch. More recently, healthy lifestyle brands like Weight Watchers and Whole30 have launched their own meal kits as a way to target consumers seeking to follow their programs with less hassle in the kitchen.

But the CrossFit Box, which sells for $215, is one of the more expensive pre-packaged deals on the market. However, its contents can be frozen if you're not planning to use them right away. It includes five packages of cage free chicken breasts, three pounds of grass-fed ground beef, a selection of grass-fed steaks including lean tenderloin, ribeye, strip and sirloin, plus a package of ready-to-eat grass-fed beef sticks. It can be delivered in one to three month intervals.

              That is a lot of meat. Two thoughts here: the first is that the comparison to Blue Apron is not all that great. Blue Apron has been struggling since its IPO in 2017. From Forbes:

Blue Apron was one of the pioneers in delivering cooking with convenience—the experience of cooking, and learning how to make new dishes, without the hassle of finding and measuring ingredients. Online subscriptions grew at a 219% CAGR from 2014 to 2016, from $78 million to $795 million, giving the company a 57% market share. But Blue Apron’s fortunes changed in the second quarter of 2017, around the time of its June 2017 IPO, coincidentally. The company’s quarter-over-quarter revenue declined in the second, third and fourth quarters, and its fourth-quarter revenue was down 13% versus the same period in 2016.

              Investors love meal-kit delivery and subscription boxes because they love the subscription business model. Once you have someone signed up for a subscription, there is less pressure to re-acquire that customer the next time that they are buying that product or service. The path of least resistance is to remain a subscriber. Cash flows become much more predictable and you don’t have to spend as much money on marketing (theoretically). That doesn’t mean that everything should be a subscription business either. And the meal-kit delivery market is showing the signs of a lot of strain.

The same three forces that are hurting Blue Apron and others in the $5 billion online meal kit market are benefiting the grocery chains from which meal kits initially took share.

1) High customer churn has caused online-only meal kit subscription growth to stall.

2) Packaging, shipping and customer acquisition costs are too high.

3) New entrants are disrupting the disruptors.

              No one has cracked the food delivery business model yet and it’s not for lack of trying. Some of the largest companies in the world (Amazon, Walmart) are working on it. My second thought was this is not really a meal kit so much as it is a box of meat. The only reason to buy this is if you’re get a deal on buying in bulk. You’re not getting any vegetables so you still have to go to a grocery store. So it’s not exactly the same as Blue Apron and therefore might not run into the same problems. This may also only appeal to CrossFit acolytes who adhere to a Paleo diet (and will therefore be confident that they are going to eat a lot of meat) and have strong brand loyalty. Maybe that’s exactly what CrossFit is planning for.

TidBits:

-(Old Man Voice) I remember when there was only company that sold kettlebells

-How is the Tulum Jungle Gym not at the top of this list?

-Barry’s Bootcamp CEO on building a fitness community

-In case you weren’t sure that SoulCyclers have a lot of disposable income

-Don’t talk to anyone at the gym

THE WEEKLY HOWL IS DOING CHEEK BURPEES

Fraud: Albert Einstein once said that “if you can’t explain it to a six-year old, then you don’t understand it yourself”.  I have a similar theory about fitness: if you need tons of really expensive equipment to get someone in shape, then you don’t know what you’re doing. Enter Dave Asprey, the mastermind behind putting in your coffee, and his new venture, Bulletproof Labs. From Outside:

Bulletproof Labs, which opened last October, is Asprey’s next big thing, an attempt to expand his self-improvement empire beyond beverages and books. Modeled after Alpha Labs—Asprey’s private million-dollar performance center at his home near Victoria, British Columbia—the Santa Monica establishment will, Bulletproof claims, help you regenerate cells, shed fat, layer on muscle, calm your mind, recharge your soul, extend your life, and transform yourself into a productivity powerhouse. 

I arrive at the facility by bicycle on a warm fall day. Next door, Bulletproof Coffee’s outdoor tables are packed with young people hunched over laptops, cradling paper cups of buttery brain power. Bulletproof Labs’ reflective glass windows give the place an air of mystery while reminding you that you’re not as fit and optimized as you might like to think you are. For a middle-aged man whose body and brain are increasingly difficult to keep sharp, the promise of what awaits inside is tantalizing.

The space is bright and tight, a gleaming wellness arcade that includes, among other things, a cryotherapy tank, a bone-density trainer, and a recliner that emits electromagnetic pulses through your butt. It’s a gym of sorts (although Bulletproof insists that it isn’t) but also a meditation center, recovery lounge, and body-analysis clinic—or, as I heard one person put it, a day spa for tech bros. Among the sophisticated machines are several large pods that resemble futuristic sarcophagi, one of which spins slowly, dreamily, behind a large glass divider. Depending on how you’re feeling that day, you can have your naked body zapped with infrared lasers, receive intravenous vitamins, grunt out a high-­intensity circuit on a recumbent trainer while wrapped in cold pads, or sit in a pressure chamber that will whisk you to the virtual summit of Everest and back to sea level in a few minutes.

              This is pseudoscience at its worst and Dave Asprey is a flim-flam man. He rose to prominence with his promotion of Bullet-Proof Coffee (coffee with butter in it) and the claim that it transformed his body. Of course, it turns out that he was also taking testosterone and modafinil among other things. But he claimed that it was the coffee that was responsible for his new physique. Now, he wants to sell you a whole bunch of other stuff as well. Nick Heil spent a week at Bullet-Proof Labs but that does not mean that Outside went easy on him.

There is also abundant controversy surrounding Bulletproof’s claims. Some doctors have presented evidence, including a case study shared at a meeting of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists in 2014, suggesting a correlation between otherwise-healthy individuals incorporating Bulletproof coffee into their diet and elevated blood lipids—a cardiac risk factor. Running coach Steve Magness called the Bulletproof Diet bogus on his Science of Running blog in 2014, arguing that whatever benefits Asprey claims he’s experienced from his coffee and nutrition plan come from his use of testosterone, nootropics, and thyroid medication. “He portrays himself as a ‘biohacker’ who has found out all of these secrets about diet, exercise, and such,” Magness wrote, “when the reality is he’s simply a guy who took and continues to take PEDs.” For his part, Asprey has always been transparent about his drug use. 

He came under additional fire for insisting that Bulletproof coffee is processed to eliminate mycotoxins (toxic mold), and got a huge bump in sales when he touted this on the Joe Rogan podcast in 2014. Rogan later fact-checked the claims, and in a subsequent episode roasted Asprey for saying Bulletproof was toxin-free while other coffees were not, which isn’t true: the coffee industry safeguards against mold toxicity, which has only been found in minuscule amounts. Asprey has since toned down the claims but hasn’t recanted them. “Mycotoxins are real,” he told me.

There will always be a Dave Asprey out there because there will always be people who want to sell you something expensive that you don’t need. This type of thing is tempting because in every other aspect of our lives, technology is changing everything and it’s natural to think that technology could change our general fitness and well-being as well. But technology cannot improve the need to move around and lift heavy things and you don’t need new technology to do that. The best fitness equipment is the most low-tech stuff. Don’t give your money to the Dave Aspreys of the world. I have no idea whether he believes his own BS but it is BS.

Face lift: If you want your body to look better, what do you do? You hit the gym and workout. If you want your face to look better, what do you do? Get a face-lift or Botox injections, maybe put a whole bunch of makeup on. Are your body and your face really all that different? Why isn’t there a gym for your face? It turns out that there is, in London. It’s called FaceGym (what else could you possibly call it?) From Fast Company:

 “The muscles on your body and the muscles in your face are exactly the same—you have the same physiology,” explains founder Inge Theron. “So why wouldn’t you work out those 40 muscles in the face?”

Thereon is opening a 2,000-square-foot flagship space at 0 Bond Street in New York City’s NoHo neighborhood this September. Much like a regular gym, members go through a 30- or 45-minute communal class that mimics a fitness session: a warmup, a detailed routine, followed by a cool-down. Trainers knead, massage, and contort the face to best sculpt and tone facial muscles, much like a non-invasive DIY face-lift. Classes start at $70.

While there are relaxing elements reminiscent of a spa experience, “at the end, your muscles hurt just as much as if you’d been to the gym,” reports Theron. “There are absolutely moments that are very, very vigorous . . . We call it ‘sweet pain.'”

Advanced members can opt for laser sculpting and more aggressive muscle manipulation. These sessions involve an electric muscle stimulator that help one, as Theron explains, do “sit-ups for your facial muscles.” She affectionately calls them “cheek burpies.”

I admit that I thought that this sounds silly at first but it makes a lot of sense. You have muscles in your face just like you have muscles in the rest of your body. Why spend so much time on those other muscles and ignore the ones in your face? Especially when your face is what people see the most. The face has always been the domain of the beauty industry, could this bring it over to the fitness industry? Or could it further along the convergence of the fitness and beauty industries? I don’t know but this is an intriguing idea. Right now, FaceGym is the equivalent of a boutique class, actually 2 boutique classes. Most people aren’t going to pay $70 a session, so what is the scalable solution?

Camera Ready: Gym selfies are nothing new. You probably seen people taking them or scrolled past them in your social media feed or both. It’s the new version of flexing in the mirror and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. And that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with being excited about the progress that you’re making and wanting to share it with other people. But does a gym need a dedicated space for selfies? One gym in Connecticut says maybe. From Shape:

And The Edge Fitness Clubs is trying to take the sweaty selfie to a whole new level. The brand decided to give members access to a Gym Selfie Room at their Fairfield, CT, facility—an entire space dedicated to the post-workout photos. The initiative was fostered from results a survey Edge Fitness Clubs commissioned, which showed that 43 percent of adults who go to a gym have taken a picture or video of themselves while there, with 27 percent of those photos being selfies.

With this new selfie space, gym goers would not only have a spot to take all the post-sweat pics they want without gawkers wondering what they're doing, but the room would be stocked with hair products, fitness accessories, and even photo-friendly lighting to ensure the best social-worthy pic.

              It turns out that there was so much backlash on social media that Edge Fitness decided to scrap the whole idea. There are a lot of issues with a selfie room. Does it celebrate aesthetics over functionality? Does it promote body image dysmorphia? Is social media having a negative effect on people’s self-esteem and well-being? Those are all good questions but I want to posit a different one. Is a selfie room just a waste of space in a gym?

Gyms are a real estate business. You need to find a good location at a good price and then you need to maximize the space that you have. A gym should maximize the amount of space that is dedicated to its core activity, fitness. No business has unlimited resources and a selfie room means less space for actual fitness activities. I believe that a gym should be designed to provide members the best space to improve their fitness not to be trendy or to increase social media presence. Don’t waste space on something as frivolous as a selfie room. Members can take a selfie whenever or wherever. Isn’t that the whole point? They come to the gym to work-out. Give them as much space as possible to do just that.

Keeping the lights on: A gym in Sacramento has started to tap into the energy that its members generate while working out. Sacramento Eco Fitness is taking the energy that is created on its bikes, treadmills, and ellipticals and using that to offset its electrical bill:

So how, exactly, can your workout power a building? Without going full Bill Nye, here’s the deal: Specially designed green fitness equipment can harness the energy you use when you’re pedaling a bike or moving on an elliptical or treadmill and transform it into usable electricity. Sacramento Eco Fitness uses SportsArt ECO-POWR machines, which have built-in micro-inverters and juice up the electrical grid via standard wall outlets. Since this is a growing industry, you might see different approaches in different gyms; some machines only power a gym’s electrics while they’re in use, while other equipment is set up so that energy can be stored in batteries.

              That’s pretty cool but does it really make that big of a difference?

After installing ECO-POWR cycles, Sacramento Eco Fitness saw their monthly electricity expenditures drop from $680 to $30. That’s pretty huge! And the gym has no intention of stopping there. Recently, the facility added a SportsArt treadmill capable of converting human energy to electricity, which should capture and store even more power. The gym hopes to share its energy with surrounding businesses within the next couple of years.

              Wow, that is impressive. This won’t single-handedly solve our energy problems but every little bit helps and that’s a great savings for that gym. Plus, its members get to work-out and save the planet at the same time. 

Fitness Apps: If a little of something is good, then does that make more of it better? Not necessarily. But that is the situation we find ourselves in with regard to technology. Smartphones and social media are good things but if you spend all day on Facebook and Instagram instead of interacting with the real world, then you are going to end up miserable. What about fitness apps? Can we overdo it with them too? From Medical Xpress:

I had been feeling a bit run down before heading to the gym, so I had planned on an easy workout. But then I turned on my bike's computer, which is connected to data from all the other bikes at the gym. I started a new route on the app I use, and as I pedalled, it showed that I was only in third place for my whole gym. I could have slowed down, but I didn't want to be any lower on the leader board.

I'm one of the younger members of my gym, and my pride was on the line. So I threw away my workout plan and instead idiotically chased a stranger's time. The day after, I developed a fever and felt as though getting up the stairs to bed was an insurmountable task. I did this to myself, and it's not the first time. I'm a fitness app fanatic.

Fitness apps such as Strava, Nike+ Run Club and Espresso Bikes allow tens of millions of users to virtually race one another, and even compete against Olympians. Though these apps can provide inspiration to get out the door, experts say mobile fitness apps may be sabotaging people's workouts and even putting them in danger.

              You don’t want to train all-out every day of your life but fitness apps encourage people to do exactly that. A major problem we have with technology right now is that products are being designed to be addictive so that its creators can get rich. No one is content to build an app that is designed to be used 3 times a week. They want to make something that users will use every day whether that is good for them or not. We probably do need more regulation (although I doubt that anything is coming anytime soon) but in the meantime we all need to find our own personal balance. Strava might be great for pushing yourself but sometimes you need to back off as well. Either users need to devise their own schedule for using fitness apps or the apps could make an effort to provide some balance. For example, Strava could offer a way to track whether you stuck to your goal of running 5 miles in 40 minutes while maintaining a heart rate of 120. Users could choose whether they want to enter the leaderboard mode or active recovery mode. That way Strava could still be a part of its users’ daily routines without encouraging them to overdo it. 

Motivation: Barbell Apparel conducted a survey and found that athletic apparel is crucial to people’s motivation to work-out. Yes, there is an element of self-serving here but let’s dive in anyway. From the NY Post:

“Your fitness isn’t a result of what you do today, it’s the culmination of what you’re willing to do every day,” said Hanson. “We founded our company with the belief that expertly made clothing could help support and motivate people to reach their full potential in the gym. Sometimes all it takes to tackle that next workout, is putting on an amazing fitting piece of clothing that motivates you. At the end of the day, those who get the best results are rarely the most talented, but almost always the most motivated.”

Top 15 things that keep people motivated to hit the gym:

  1. Seeing results in their body 58.7 percent/1174
  2. Putting on gym clothes 58.2 percent/1163
  3. Drinking a lot of water 46.3 percent/925
  4. Going with partner 44.8 percent/895
  5. Eating a healthy lunch 43.3 percent/866
  6. Setting achievable goals 40.2 percent/804
  7. Listening to a psych-up playlist 38.8 percent/775
  8. Joining a class at their gym 34.3 percent/685
  9. Working out in the morning 33.8 percent/676
  10. Eating a healthy snack beforehand 33.6 percent/672
  11. Talking about going 33.0 percent/659
  12. Eating a healthy breakfast 32.5 percent/649
  13. Telling your partner you’re going 32.1 percent/642
  14. Being able to track your progress 32.0 percent/640
  15. Telling a colleague you’re going 29.7 percent/593

Does putting on your gym clothes count as motivation or is that just starting your routine? Could I include starting my warm-up. There are many days when I do not feel like working out but once I get the blood pumping, I am good to go. A lot of these aren’t motivation so much as ways to make sure that you work-out (such as working out in the morning) or just different ways to stay accountable to someone or something. You can count that as staying motivated but I think that we need to change the conversation around motivation. So much of this list falls under accountability which can work but it is not the most sustainable method. And there are several ones that are just variations on sticking to the routine.

I realize that Barbell Apparel may have done something to ensure that apparel came up near the top of the survey but this is a decent reflection of how people think about motivation. We need a shift towards intrinsic motivation and this survey shows that people are focused on extrinsic motivation.

TidBits:

-Donald Trump has not appointed anyone to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition

-Dairy farmers in Michigan are using fitness trackers to monitor their cows

-SNL’s take on athleisure wear

-Hip thrusts are all the rage these days

-CrossFit Games champion Tia Toomey won gold in weightlifting at the Commonwealth Games

THE WEEKLY HOWL REMEMBERS THE MICROSOFT KIN

Fitness Trackers: FitBit is in a bit of a bind. They are one of the first names that come to mind when anyone mentions fitness trackers but the industry is barbell-ing. Apple is taking over the high-end with its line of Apple Watches and foreign companies are taking over the low-end with very cheap trackers. So what is a mid-size hardware company to do then? Launch a line of fitness trackers that are designed for children. From TechCrunch:

The Ace was inevitable. Sure, Fitbit is leaning into smartwatches with today’s launch of the Versa, but the company’s current line of fitness trackers left a key demographic unserved. The new wearable, which is essential a scaled down version of the company’s entry level Alta tracker, is aimed squarely at kids aged eight to 13.

              My pet theory is that fitness trackers are following the same path as smartphones. This would make the Ace the Microsoft Kin of fitness tracking. What’s that you say, you don’t remember the Microsoft Kin? That’s because it was a short-lived disaster. In 2010, Microsoft tried to sell a phone built around social networks that would appeal to teenagers. What was never clear was how this was different from a true smartphone. The Kin was a quasi-smartphone that still required a full-priced data plan. It made no sense and it was never clear why teenagers would want one. It was a product made for no one.

              Tech products don’t need to be designed for specific age groups. Especially if you are trying to sell that product to young people. Young people tend to be more proficient with technology than older people so why would you try to sell them a less sophisticated product? Maybe you’re thinking that parents will want to save a few bucks when buying a fitness tracker for their kids. Well then, you shouldn’t price it at $99. The thing is though that underneath this ill-advised hardware launch is the future of FitBit: software.

The biggest differentiators here are on the software side. Parents can add to the ace to a family account on their own mobile device to track their kids’ activity. The app will also let them vet the friends they add for competing fitness goals and limit the information kids see on their own app, if they device. If the kid has a phone, the Ace will also display call notifications.  

              This makes sense but it doesn’t require manufacturing a separate line of hardware. FitBit needs to focus on this kind of software innovation. They have a strong brand and an intimate knowledge of the fitness tracking market. Unfortunately, they have the misfortune of competing with Apple in hardware right now. 

Where there’s smoke: A couple of weeks ago, Strava found itself at the center of a national security controversy over its heat map. The heat map was illustrating routes that were getting a lot of use by Strava users. This was a worldwide map and people were able to identify forward operating bases in Afghanistan as well as where American service members were walking and running on military bases. Strava is still trying to figure out how to deal with this. From Reuters:

Strava is launching a new version of the heat map, a tool that displays data in map form, that will bar access to street-level details to anyone but registered Strava users, Strava Chief Executive James Quarles told Reuters. 

Roads and trails with little activity will not show up on the revised map until several different users upload workouts in that area, the company said. The map will also be refreshed monthly to remove data people have made private. 

Security experts previously spotted on Strava’s map what they believed to be the movements of U.S. soldiers in Africa and of people who work at a suspected Taiwanese missile command, all of whom had shared workouts apparently without realizing the implications.

              Why do I feel like Strava would be better off just scrapping the heat map altogether? I still think that Strava doesn’t quite grasp the challenges of protecting its users’ privacy with its own ambition of becoming the social network for exercise. I suppose that they are embracing the Silicon Valley mantra of moving fast and worrying about the consequences later.

Inclusivity: Have you ever felt like an outsider? At some point in your life, have you ever felt like you didn’t belong wherever you were? It can be a profoundly alienating experience that makes you want to withdraw even more from your environment and the people around you. Most of us have experienced that at some point in our lives. But if you’re reading this, then odds are that you don’t feel that way when you walk into a gym. Most likely, you feel like you belong there and you may even feel like you’re part of a community. However, the fitness world makes a lot of people feel like outsiders. From the Washington Post:

Many folks who eschew regular workouts have said they are really avoiding the recurrence of painful past experiences, such as fellow gym-goers blatantly mocking them, trainers saying their physical efforts weren’t good enough and street harassment for simply taking a walk outside. One new mother described to me her wonder that the glares she experienced ceased only when she had a newborn in tow.

The prevailing myth about overweight and obese people is that if they just worked harder, they would become thin, but that’s actually not a typical outcome. Jennifer Kuk, a kinesiologist and associate professor at York University, says, “Weight management science is very complex, and much of how the body responds to weight-loss attempts is outside human control.”

On any typical day, higher-weight people may have to put extra emotional labor into getting mentally prepared to take on our appearance-driven fitness culture. Even a locker-room comment of “I’ve seen you here a few times. Keep up the good work!” can feel condescending.

              The gym can be an intimidating place. There is no doubt about that. If I was an overweight or obese person, then I don’t think that I would feel comfortable in a gym. We need a culture change and not just the fitness culture. We need our entire culture to change in the way that we view and treat overweight people. The other thing that we can do is to stop focusing so much on weight. Instead we should focus on what our bodies can do. Everyone is not built to run marathons and have six-pack abs. Some people are built to lift heavy things. That can be a source of confidence and pride and it’s a lot better than feeling shame for not being able to conform to what society considers an attractive body type.  

Motivation: For a lot of people, there is only one measurement that matters when it comes to their fitness: their weight. Is this an antiquated and deeply flawed way to measure your fitness? Yes, absolutely. It discourages people from strength training, can promote unrealistic body composition goals, and is often not compatible with how most people actually want to look. But what numbers should we be looking at? GQ has some answers:

Check your body measurements

Confirm that you are shrinking or expanding as intended by taking circumferential measurements of relevant body parts. Waist circumference, for example, is an effective way to track changes in a place that many of us watch the closest: belly fat.

              This is a superior way to measure body composition.

Check your performance

Bench pressing a tad more, doing one more bodyweight squat, shaving ten seconds off your mile time, and squeezing out one or two more pull-ups than last week all show that you’re making meaningful progress. This means that if you’re not keeping a simple workout diary that commemorates what you accomplish in the gym each day, you're missing out on valuable data, and you should fix that right now.

              Focusing on what your body can do rather than on what it looks like is much healthier and much more fun. It also enables a shift from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation.

Check your clothes

We all want to look hot naked, but if your clothes are starting to fit better in the right areas, that’s a sign that good things are happening to your body, even if the scale is less effusive with its praise.

              This is an easier way to track your body composition.

Check your camera roll

Let’s be honest: Whether you want to lose or gain weight, looking a certain way is probably more important to you than a number. Act like it by taking infomercial-style before-and-after photos at regular intervals. The camera doesn’t lie, and over a long period of time, you’ll see exactly what physical changes are or aren’t happening—a brutally honest visual element to accompany the rest of your data points.

              Better to focus on what you look like rather than on just what the scale tells you.

Check yourself

Assessing how you feel on a day-to-day basis is probably the most overlooked way to measure whether everything you're doing is good for you. Are you sleeping better? Do you feel healthy? And, critically, is your sex drive at... full speed? “A healthy libido tends to indicate that things are going well,” admits Romaniello. “Decreased libido is a sign that something needs to be changed.”

              Working out should make you feel good. This is the number one reason why I love fitness. This is more qualitative than quantitative but it I still an excellent way to assess whether your routine is working.

Crossfit: The CrossFit Open serves 2 masters every year. The first is the need to have a first stage in the qualification process for the CrossFit Games. Athletes qualify for the Regionals (where they compete for spots in the Games) by participating in the Open. As its name suggest, the Open is open to anyone who wants to compete and thousands do. The second master is to drive CrossFit participation and give thousands of CrossFitters an opportunity to test themselves against the rest of the CrossFit world.

Typically, CrossFit has balanced these two demands by making the Open events a little “easier” and then ramping up the difficulty in the Regionals. What do I mean by “easier”? Keeping the weights lower and avoiding some of the more challenging and technical exercises like muscle-ups. Most people can’t deadlift 405 pounds, never mind crank out reps in the middle of a metabolic conditioning work-out. But that is the kind of thing that you would see in the CrossFit Games. This has been a source of frustration for some CrossFitters who would like to see an event lineup that is closer to what is programmed in the Games. They feel that the Open favors people with higher levels of aerobic fitness and lower levels of strength. Well, be careful what you wish for. From Barbend:

Last night, we concluded the final athlete submissions for the third 2018 CrossFit Open Workout 18.3. If you’re currently competing in the Open, then you probably don’t need us to remind you just how tough this workout was. And for those not competing, to give you context, Open workout 18.3 involved a total of: 800 double-unders, 48 muscle-ups, 40 dumbbell snatches, and 40 overhead barbell squats (if you completed it, which almost no one did).

Oh, did we mention there was a 14-minute time cap to get all of this work done? 

18.3 proved to be so tough that very few athletes actually completed all of the work in the given time allotment, and most ended up treating this workout like an AMRAP.

Wow. It’s almost as if Dave Castro wanted to shut all those people up with the CrossFit equivalent of a kick to the nuts. The 18.3 work-out is below:

2 Rounds for Time with a 14 minute time cap:

100 Double-Unders
20 Overhead Squats (115lbs/80lbs)
100 Double-Unders
12 Ring Muscle-Ups
100 Double-Unders
20 Dumbbell Snatch (50lbs/35lbs)
100 Double-Unders
12 Bar Muscle-Ups

Real Estate: It’s no secret that shopping malls have been filling the department store void with big box gyms. There just aren’t that many businesses that are interested in leasing more than 30,000 square feet of retail space but gyms are one of them. The hope is that gyms and restaurants will generate foot traffic that the retail stores can take advantage of. Appearing on CNBC, retail expert Jan Kniffen threw cold water on that idea.

"Putting things in to get somebody to come to the mall is a good idea. The bad news is when it's something like a gym you don't get very much cross shopping," Jan Kniffen, CEO of J. Kniffen Worldwide Enterprises CEO, told CNBC's "On the Money" in an interview.

The retail consultant says people may go to a juice bar, or something that's related to their work out —but that's about it. As for malls that are putting in grocery stores, Kniffen says while that may drive foot traffic, it's only to that particular store.

"When you put in a grocery store, people do not go in the mall. They go into the grocery store, they shop, and they go home."

              He has a point about people who come in before and after work. They are on a schedule and are highly unlikely to start window-shopping. I would like to see some data on this though. The percentage of gym-goers who also browse might be lower than someone who is going to a J.C. Penney but the foot traffic is probably higher. Where does that leave the overall number of gym-goers/browsers? Also, a gym-goer might go to the gym 3-5 times a week. That’s 3-5 times a week that this person is seeing the signs for all those retail stores. That’s great exposure and makes it much more likely that this person might make a separate visit to go shopping. That person is still engaging with the mall 3-5 times a week which is mallrat territory. There are not that many businesses that people visit as often as they visit the gym. Mr. Kniffen should not underestimate the value of that.

Leadership: Hey, guess what? Fitness leadership is now a thing. From the Harvard Business Review:

This hasn’t gone unnoticed by some leaders, and a new generation of CEOs taking a cue from this last bastion of the Protestant work ethic. In contrast to “transformational” and “authentic” leadership, which has been criticized for being fuzzy and wishy-washy, “fitness leadership,” as we refer to it, offers a more concrete approach. As a hard-working employee, you will be measured by and rewarded for the long hours you put in at the office and the gym. In exchange, a fitness leader can offer a sense certainty, justice, and camaraderie in a time where employees are otherwise plagued by uncertainty, injustice, and isolation.

Henrik Bunge is one such leader. He’s the CEO and self-titled “Head Coach” of Björn Borg, the Swedish sports fashion company named after the tennis star.

Last fall, we joined Bunge and his employees for “sports hour,” a mandatory fitness class for all employees every Friday between 11 and noon. In pairs, we were throwing kicks and punches at each other, with the kickboxing instructor yelling, “C’mon, harder!” from the podium.

After class, Bunge explained his sports-meets-work philosophy when we met for lunch at an elegant Thai restaurant. “Take a football player. He will always know how he performs. But if you go to the marketing department and ask them, they’re usually clueless.”

              This seems more like an offshoot of sports leadership than anything else. Sports appeal to a lot of people because it is easy to see the link between the work you put in and your results in competition. It is viewed as a true meritocracy by most people where the business world is not seen that way by most. That, and a focus on teamwork, has made sports leadership models attractive to generations of leaders and managers. Fitness has the same link between work and results that sports has and thanks to CrossFit, fitness is now a sport.

              What’s different is that it’s not easy to incorporate traditional team sports into the corporate lifestyle. The CEO might think that Bear Bryant and Mike Ditka might be great role models but it would be difficult to organize tackle football games at lunch. Fitness on the other hand is very easy to incorporate.

Intrigued by our lunch meeting with Bunge, one of us embarked on an ethnographic study of the company which has now lasted for over a year. Since September 2016, Torkild has spent a couple of days a week at the Björn Borg headquarters, attending workshops, meetings, and fitness tests; having lunch with and talking with employees; and participating in sports hours (25 to date). As part of this research, we have learned that team leaders run wall squat competitions with their teams, that staff members measure their physical strength through push-up competitions, and that many break the monotony of work with a game of ping pong. One Friday morning, a male employee walked into the kitchen area, topless, to show that he had achieved his physical target: a six-pack abdomen.

              This type of culture is not going to be for everyone. And it sounds like it has led to a lot of turnover at Bjorn Borg. The test will be if this leads to more productive and dynamic employees. The KPI’s seem to indicate that it is doing that. We will see how many companies follow their lead. It is also important to note that Bjorn Borg is a sports apparel company. Trying to install this culture at a retail or manufacturing company could be much more challenging.

TidBits:

-Adidas is bringing fast fashion to sneakers

-Fast Company interviews the founder of Barre3

-ClassPass Live is…live

 

 

THE WEEKLY HOWL IS NOW THE WEEKLY BLOCKCHAIN

Motivation: The path of least resistance guides a great deal of human behavior and nutrition is no exception. We are in the midst of an obesity epidemic and a lot of that is the result of having cheap junk food within arm’s reach at all times. You can attach this from 2 angles. The first is trying to remove all that junk food from arm’s reach. San Francisco tried this a few years ago by banning vending machines from city property. The second is by trying to make all that junk food not so cheap. From Vox:

Now researchers from New York University and Tufts writing in the American Journal of Public Health are making the case for shifting food prices in ways that steer consumers toward healthier diet choices. 

More specifically, they argue, a junk food tax — on “non-essential” foods like candy, soda, and potato chips — should be the next frontier in public health. 

According to their review of the scientific literature on junk food tax bills and laws, a federal tax on unhealthy foods would be both legally and administratively feasible in the US. Instead of a sales tax that would show up at the point of purchase, the researchers argue for an excise tax on junk food manufacturers. That should increase the shelf price of junk foods and beverages, and deter consumers from bringing unhealthy food choices to the checkout counter in the first place.

                  Believe it or not, this has been successful in other counties. Passing that would be a challenge here but it is heartening to know that there are some possible solutions.

The World Health Organization has looked at the Hungary tax, and found that junk food consumption decreased both because of the price increase and also the educational campaigns around the tax — an effect also seen with soda taxes. “Consumers of unhealthy food products responded to the tax by choosing a cheaper, often healthier product (7 to 16 percent of those surveyed), consumed less of the unhealthy product (5 to 16 percent), changed to another brand of the product (5 to 11 percent) or substituted some other food (often a healthier alternative).”

                  Soda taxes would have been unthinkable a decade ago but we’re starting to see them now. It can take a while for public perception to shift but it can happen.

It costs how much: Boutique fitness isn’t cheap. In fact, it is very expensive. How expensive? Let’s find out. Carrie Carrollo from PopSugar kept track of all of her fitness purchases and added them up:

Grand Total: $452.89 for 11 boutique classes, a pair of cycling shoes, and a monthly gym membership. Yikes! After I subtract the shoes and factor in POPSUGAR's (totally awesome) $50 employee wellness reimbursement, my actual total comes out to $272.36 out of pocket.

Well, folks, there you have it. You're probably looking at that number and judging me — and that's totally OK because I'm judging myself a bit, too. Of course you can stay active for significantly less — or even free — but do I regret it? Not one bit. Working up a good sweat and finding alone time (preferably in dark rooms with loud music) is one of my favorite things in the world. That being said, I'm still a 22-year-old who pays her own bills, so it's not quite the most sustainable habit. As a result, I've since dialed it back and shifted how (and where) I spend my money on working out. Group fitness keep me accountable, so I joined a gym that offers a range of classes I enjoy the most and which has awesome amenities to boot. I'll continue to pop into boutique studios when I feel like I need it or simply want to join a friend.

                  That’s a lot of money. I have to wonder how sustainable all of this is? I’m the first person to say that fitness is priceless but we all have to live on some kind of budget. Is there some kind of business model that can make boutique fitness affordable without destroying what people love about it? Maybe it’s streaming or possibly some kind of bundling. For all of ClassPass’ success, it seems that they are struggling to pull this off and now it looks like they’re pivoting to streaming.

How to Make Friends and Blast Your Quads: For some reason, I never seem to get sick of articles about how working out is replacing golf as the premier networking activity. It’s probably because golf has never interested me and I never liked the idea that not playing it would hold back my career. Anyway, from Bloomberg:

Most health trends come and go almost as fast as you’ve unpacked your cold-press juicer. 

But the business world’s affinity for combining client meetings and workouts is only getting stronger at intensive fitness spots such as Barry’s Bootcamp, SoulCycle, and Rumble, as well as gyms like those of Equinox Holdings Inc. The trend has been building for a while with professionals in media relations and the entertainment industry in such cities as New York and Los Angeles. With bankers slowly embracing the model in recent years, Wall Street is now fully engaged in this approach.

“Instead of going out, I see so many entertain by going to workout classes before and after work,” says Sean Liebowitz, a director and energy/industrials trader at Sanford Bernstein& Co., who specifically mentions Rumble, SoulCycle, and Ripped as popular venues.

            Who has time to play golf anyway? Playing 18 holes takes up at least 4 hours. I can’t even imagine when I would try to squeeze that in. I love fitness and it’s a battle to find 1 hour every day to do something that makes me a better person. It sounds like Wall Street is starting to feel the same way:

The high-intensity biking destination SoulCycle now has a four-person corporate sales team to accommodate demand for events and special business requests. “There are only so many steaks business people want to eat in a week,” says Gabby Etrog Cohen, senior vice president of public relations and brand strategy. “Across the board, people are time-strapped, they don’t have four hours to hit the golf course, or two hours for a boozy meal. Plus, they want to do something good for themselves, plus they get networking out of it.”

                  There are a lot of things wrong with the world right now but an increased focus on fitness is not one of them. It’s also never been a better time to be a fitness professional.

Don’t be this guy: The owner of a CrossFit box in North Carolina thought that it would be a good idea to post pictures of his female members’ posteriors with sexualized captions to Instagram. Needless to say, this has turned out the way that he pictured in his head.

A person upset with the video took still shots from it and posted them on Facebook, stating that it was inappropriate. As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 850 people had offered reviews of Blue Ridge CrossFit, dropping the gym's rating to 1.5 stars out of five and leaving often blistering comments.

While Tomlo contends the video was shot in a sense of fun and with the women's consent, at least one woman in the video disputes that.

"To me, it’s disgusting," said Arden resident Amanda Turlington, who said she's in the video but did not see it until it was posted to social media on Instagram and a friend alerted her. "Here we have women in a vulnerable position, and what does he do? He takes the opportunity to take video where we're all inverted and you have no idea what we're doing, and he takes that when we can't tell what he's doing, and then posts that inappropriate video and inappropriate hashtags on the image of our bodies on Instagram for everyone to see."

                  After the initial backlash, did he realize the error of his ways and offer an apology? Of course not.

The controversy erupted over the weekend, in part because of a profanity-laden response Tomlo posted, chastising those who were offended. 

"It has been brought to my attention that some people chose to get butt hurt today and make a public post in this group," Tomlo wrote, suggesting that if members are upset they should schedule a meeting with him to discuss the matter or "find a place that is a better fit for you."

"Creating some sort of delusional and ignorant drama is not your option here," Tomlo wrote.

                  What a dumbass. How can you expect people to feel comfortable in your gym if pictures like this are going to show up on Instagram? It really pisses me off when someone like this jackass thinks that he should be able to dictate what someone is allowed to be offended by. If you want to be funny, make yourself the subject of the joke. Objectifying women and then trying to defend it as humor is pathetic.

Bitcoin Bubble: Fitness apps are very hot right now. Investors are interested in the potential of software to help people work out. But you know what’s even hotter? Crypto-currencies! If only there were some way to combine the two. From TechCrunch:

Want a way to workout and earn some coin? Sweatcoin has risen to the top of the App Store for helping folks get something more than just a glow for taking those daily steps.

The startup says it has accumulated more than 5 million users in the past year and increased revenue by 266 percent in the last quarter. There are more than 2 million weekly active users on the app, and growing, making it one of the fastest-growing fitness apps in the App Store and second to the top in the free apps, next only to the Google Arts & Culture app that blew up over the weekend.

It works like this: users sign up and then hook up their smartphone’s health and fitness data and GPS location to the app. The app then tracks how many steps you take in a day and rewards you a monetary “sweat” value according to your movements. For every 1,000 steps recorded, the app will pay out .95 in “sweatcoins.” Users can later trade these coins in for fitness gear, workout classes, gift cards and a number of other offerings.

                  Also:

Co-founder Anton Derlyatka also told TechCrunch he’d like to “even include the ability to pay taxes with sweatcoin” in the future. Other co-founder Oleg Fomenko also mentioned plans to develop an “open-source blockchain DLT technology that will allow Sweatcoin to be traded like any other major crypto- or fiat currency.”

“We are out to fundamentally change the value ascribed to health and fitness and provide the motivation for people to lead better lives,” Fomenko said.

                  Are they serious or is this just an attempt to pull a Kodak? Do they really believe that Sweatcoins are going to become an actual currency? That sounds like some weird, dystopian future ala Idiocracy. The thing that I really want to know is how they plan to make money. Paying people to work-out has not panned out for other startups and I don’t see what’s different about SweatCoin other than a tenuous connection to blockchain.

Lead by example: Donald Trump had his annual physical last week which inspired Splinter to propose that he complete the Presidential Fitness Test instead:

On Friday, Donald Trump received his first physical exam as president. On Tuesday, his doctor, Ronny Jackson—who also served under George W. Bush and Barack Obama—did his best to reassure the White House press pool, the rest of the country, and the world that the president is the picture of mental and physical health.

Physical examinations: No fun! So boring! Rather than undergoing a monotony of blood and pee tests, I have an exciting alternative option for the president: compete in the Presidential Physical Fitness Test.

If you went to public school in the United States between 1966 and 2012, you should know what I’m talking about. Each spring, your gym teacher would pull out the ol’ clipboard and announce it was time to compete for the Presidential Physical Fitness Award, created to honor the most boneheaded jocks in your class and humiliate everyone else.

Then the tests would begin: the pull-up (for boys); the flexed-arm hang (for girls); the standing broad jump; the sit-and-reach (aka the Dreaded Box Test); and of course, the beep test, also known as the pacer test, also known as the shuttle run.

                  I have a better idea: why doesn’t the President complete the military PFA (Physical Fitness Assessment). Active duty service members have to pass a PFA every six months. It would be great to see the Commander-in-Chief show some support by doing one as well. It would be a magnificent photo opportunity and at the same time it would build awareness of what the military lifestyle entails. Plus, a 4 year term would allow the President to cycle through the PFA’s of the 4 service branches (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines). It’s almost impossible to imagine Trump doing a PFA since he treats exercise with disdain (and has the physique to show for it) but I could picture Barack Obama or George W. Bush doing it.

                  Let’s make this happen once we get a President who’s not afraid to break a sweat. The media would love it, the military would love it, and voters would love it. And it would be a great way for the Commander-in-Chief to display his or her fitness as the leader of the free world.

Performance Enhancing Drugs: If a sport isn’t conducting random, year-round drug testing, then its drug testing program is a joke. Scheduled testing allows athletes to cycle off and piss clean when they need to. Testing has to be random to even have a prayer of catching anyone. Even then, cheaters will find a way to cheat. Just ask Lance Armstrong. Why am I bringing this up? Because I was pleasantly surprised to see that CrossFit is doing random, year-round testing. From The Barbell Spin:

The Wodapalooza Fitness Festival is one of the largest functional fitness competitions in the world. Top CrossFit athletes have descended down to Miami, Florida, for the last competition before the start of the 2018 CrossFit Open. CrossFit Games veterans like Katrin Davidsdottir, Kari Pearce, Dakota Rager and Garret Fisher are in attendance.

But CrossFit athletes are not the ones in attendance. CrossFit HQ has sent its drug testing partner, Drug Free Sport, down to Miami to conduct drug tests of some of the top athletes.

CrossFit is coming out of a year that saw its 3rd place finisher at the CrossFit Games, Ricky Garard, fail a drug test. As the Open approaches, Dave Castro and CrossFit appear to be making its drug testing program front and center.

                  It’s refreshing to see a sports organization try to get in front of the PED problem. CrossFit hasn’t had a full-blown drug scandal yet but it appears that they are trying to prevent one instead of sticking their head in the sand and pretending that it’s somehow exempt from the temptation to cheat.

TidBits:

-Fitness app Zeamo has info on 25,000 gyms worldwide

-MTV is starting a fitness vertical

-You can now register for the CrossFit Open

-“Wellness is the new nightlife”

-Planet Fitness stock is up 70% over the last year

THE WEEKLY HOWL DOESN'T QUALIFY AS A RUNNER

Running: Have you ever heard of Brooks? If you’re not a runner, then the odds are that you have not. Brooks is a running shoe manufacturer based in Seattle that appeals to serious runners. The running shoe market has always struck me as a little strange because the 2 biggest players (Nike, Adidas) seem indifferent to the needs of a large number of runners. Nike has always said that its products are for the athletes. For running, that means that they design shoes for people with good running biomechanics. The soles are narrow and stiff and there is little in the way of motion control. But everyone doesn’t have the biomechanics of an Olympic marathoner. So there is a market for shoes that correct for over-pronation (when the foot rolls too far inward) and there is a market for shoes in varying widths. This has allowed companies like Brooks and New Balance to succeed by serving those niches. Now Bloomberg is reporting that Brooks wants to get away from motion control and steal market share from Nike in the casual runner segment.

It’s no surprise then that in about 2009 a new trend, spurred by ultramarathoner Chris McDougall’s book Born to Run emerged: Maybe running was so natural and organic that shoes weren’t even necessary.

McDougall looked at injury rates and said, wait a minute, why were runners still wrecking their knees and getting shin splints as often as they did 30 years ago? What were these expensive shoes even doing? At the same time, several biomedical researchers published papers questioning the relation between pronation and injury. “When you tried to look at the science behind the shoes, there wasn’t any,” says Nick Campitelli, an Akron podiatrist who writes Dr. Nick’s Running Blog. “Companies talked about innovation, but they usually meant the shoe’s materials, not evidence-based biomechanical studies.” Born to Run became a best-seller; sales of traditional running shoes dropped. Suddenly, people started plodding through parks in a product from the Italian company Vibram SpA, which began making thin rubbery slippers with individual toe pockets that look a little like work gloves for your feet.

“I was like, Oh my God, nobody is going to run in our shoes anymore,” says Carson Caprara, Brooks’s director of global footwear product line management. Caprara, a marathoner, had read Born to Run but never thought its notions would catch on. He watched confusedly as these slippers grew to account for almost a fifth of all running shoe sales.

              So Brooks’ reaction to the minimalist running shoe craze is to move away from motion control, focus more on design, and start doing some advertising. The company has long relied upon specialty running stores in which salespeople recommend shoes based upon in-store evaluations of customers’ running gait instead of traditional advertising. This could be a good move to make because if motion control has been de-bunked then Brooks needs to find a new niche. This could be a bad move because Brooks hasn’t found a new niche, they’re just trying to do the same thing that Nike is doing only with a lot less money and a lot less expertise in design and marketing. It’s easy for me to write that Brooks needs to figure out a new angle to appeal to serious runners ignored by Nike and Adidas and then use the specialty shoes to spread the gospel. It’s not easy to identify that angle.

              Another thing that I found interesting is that Brooks seems to have the exact opposite attitude as Nike. Nike is well-known for promoting the idea that everyone is an athlete whether they realize it yet or not. Apparently Brooks doesn’t share that sentiment:

According to the people at Brooks Sports Inc., I’m not a runner. I’m what’s known within the company as a person who runs. “There’s a difference,” says Brooks Chief Executive Officer Jim Weber, who’s run three to five mornings a week, every week, for 35 years but apparently isn’t a runner either. When he says this, I give him a look, because, frankly, that’s ridiculous. I’ve been running for more than two decades. I run on business trips and vacations. I track my weekly mileage and voluntarily eat packets of electrolyte-enhanced goo that—why does no one talk about this?—tastes like mediocre cake frosting. In 2016, I ran my first marathon, an experience that melded transcendent euphoria and throbbing pain into an entirely new emotion I can’t really describe, other than to say it was both the best and worst thing I’ve ever felt. How am I not a runner?

“That’s a self-defined runner,” Weber explains, not a runner in the competitive, professional sense. And that’s all right, because—and here Weber lowers his voice like he’s gossiping about someone behind her back—“Running’s not really a sport.”

              I don’t get this brand.

 Real Estate: Fitness is now a luxury product. People want access to fitness facilities even if they never use them. From Mansion Global:

In a survey of renter preferences across the U.S., 82% of renters say an on-site fitness center is an important building amenity, with 55% saying they wouldn’t rent in a property without one. Yet 42% of the respondents say they rarely or never use their fitness center—a significant gap between people’s exercise ambitions and their follow-through.

The survey, conducted with the National Multifamily Housing Council, a nonprofit trade group, by real-estate research firm Kingsley Associates, was done in July 2017. In it, 272,743 residents of 4,795 rental communities across the U.S. were asked about what they look for in apartment developments and what they are willing to pay for certain perks.

 “It’s all a question of what will get people to sign a lease,” says Caitlin Sugrue Walter, senior director of research at the NMHC. “If 82% say they need a fitness center, then most places will have a fitness center.”

              I’d love to see how this has evolved over the years. Is this progress? Will we ever bridge that gap between the 82% who want a gym and the 40% that actually use the gym? Fitness is such a weird product in that people say that it’s important and are willing to pay for it but you have to twist their arms to actually use what they paid for. I can’t think of anything else quite like it.   

Motivation: January is a busy time for the fitness industry. New Year’s resolutions leads to people flooding into gyms and new workout programs before losing steam and reverting to their old habits. Reegan Von Wildenradt from Men’s Health has some very useful advice:

This is where the #realtalk starts. It's going to sound harsh, but it's only because we care. You might not go to the gym 360 days of the year. Many, many guys just like you will not even go for more than 15 days. Our challenge to you is, don't be that guy going balls-to-the-walls every damn day, January 2nd to January 7th, only to never be seen again from January 8th onward...

...until the following January.

Don't be him. Instead, be the dude who starts small and builds. Don't start by going to the gym every damn day. Try going two times a week. Then three. Build up to five visits a week, because science says that's prime. Don't eat this shit after your workouts. Do workouts you enjoy. Lift some weights. Throw a little bit of cardio into the mix.

              This is the most under-rated piece of advice in fitness. Don’t come roaring out of the gate and then fail to finish the race. Start slow and then build up. It’s unrealistic to expect that you will completely change the way that you live your life just before the calendar now reads January. Plus, it will be much easier to achieve your goals. Achieving those easier goals (going to the gym 2 time this week) and then setting slightly ambitious goals (going to the gym 3 times next week) allows you to build up momentum and confidence. I see people who go all out that first time back and then they are so sore that they dread going back. That reinforces the perception that working out is a torturous experience. The sorest that I have ever been was after the first week of track practice in 9th grade. If I all ever knew about fitness was recreating that experience every January, then I would probably hate working out too.  

Fads: The caricature of the fitness industry is that it is nothing more never-ending series of stupid fads. Is there some true to this? Yes, there has always been a lot of stupid fads in fitness but that is not all there is. It’s just that the stupid fads are designed to suck up all the publicity. But they do succeed in perpetuating the caricature. What’s the latest stupid fad? Working out in your birth door suit. From Business Insider:

Hanson Fitness, a New York gym chain favoured by celebrities including Rihanna, has launched a new full body conditioning class at its Soho outpost — and it requires participants to be naked.

A spokeswoman for the gym told Business Insider that while the gym is unsure if it's the city's first ever naked exercise class, it's "certainly the first nude class for this type of exercise."

The nude class is designed to be a total body workout in which attendees use their body weight as resistance to work the glute, butt, legs, and core – "making you look and feel good naked."

              Why? Just, why? What benefits could working out naked provide?

1. It releases endorphins.

"Sunlight on the exposed skin will lead to the body producing Vitamin D which aids in bone and muscle health," according to the gym. "Vitamin D also leads to serotonin production, the hormone responsible for our mood regulation."

Vitamin D is not an endorphin. And this isn’t an outdoor gym.

2. It increases body awareness and empowerment.

"While you’re in your birthday suit, you can see every inch of your body which makes it easy to see if you’re cheating on your exercises."

Because most people exercise in baggy sweats these days? Just get some workout apparel that fits properly.

3. It makes for unrestricted movement.

"While naked, there’s nothing at all holding you back. The only limitations are your own, not because you can’t move in a certain angle in your cute workout clothes."

What are they talking about? Who has workout clothes that inhibit their range of motion?

4. Less laundry.

(Pretty self-explanatory).

I’ll give them this one but the need for added workout towels would probably negate it. This is yet another stupid fad that will go down in the annals of fitness as a pointless endeavor that its creator could not even create a coherent rationale for.

Trends: My standard defense against the fads accusation is that the fitness industry is driven by trends not fads. SoulCyle may be a fad but cycling classes are a trend that has been going strong for years. The industry is always evolving and it’s the trends that drive that evolution. So what are going to be the trends that drive the industry in 2018? From NPR:

Among the top findings: Many of us prefer quick fitness routines, perhaps because we're busier than ever. For the second year in a row, the survey's results show high-intensity interval training tops the list of fitness trends, according to Walter R. Thompson, a research physiologist at Georgia State University and president of the ACSM.

 

Typically, the high-intensity routines are simple, Thompson explains, involving short bursts of high-intensity exercise, such as sprinting or jumping rope, followed by a short period of rest or recovery, and can take less than 30 minutes from start to finish.

              People are busier than ever these days. Designing workouts to be short and intense makes sense.

The No. 2 fitness trend as we head into 2018 might surprise you: group exercise classes, with minimal equipment.

Based on the new survey, Thompson says fewer people will be plugging in their earbuds and zoning out on fancy new pieces of electronic gym equipment.

"Commercial clubs are moving away from the shiny new bells and whistles into more basic kinds of exercise programs." This means more simple things like body weight exercises, lunges, pushups and planks.

If there is equipment, it is likely to be minimal, such as weights, body bars, kettle bells or jump-ropes, according to Amy Dixon, director of group fitness programming for Equinox Fitness Clubs, a global network of gyms.

             

              The best fitness is low-tech fitness. Plus, it makes the logistics so much easier.

"In our clubs, those who work out in group classes are the most consistent," says Dixon.

Thompson says research suggests this "connection" to others in working toward a common fitness goal can make a big difference in being able to stick with a routine — which may be why personal training is less popular this year and group training is up.

"Wearable technology" as fitness aids — including activity trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors and GPS tracking devices — certainly haven't gone away, Thompson says, they're just slipping in popularity, according to the survey.

At first, Thompson says, "everyone wanted to talk about wearable tech because it accurately counted your steps and heart rate; but it turns out, that's all it did."

              They’ve pitted wearables against community, which is interesting. Headphone syndrome is definitely a thing but I hadn’t considered that having people glued to the tiny screens on their wrists during a workout could be as alienating as having people glued to their smartphones during the rest of the day.

Sweat to Win: Competition is the driving force behind several of the most high-profile companies in the industry (CrossFit, FlyWheel, Orangetheory). Those 3 workouts are serious and intense. What if someone designed a workout that was more like your grade school gym class? From WSJ:

IMPATIENT TO ESCAPE a mundane exercise routine of running, Andrew Feigelman stepped into Throwback Fitness in Midtown Manhattan, a retro gym that aims to make workouts a game—and felt like he was stepping back through time. Beneath a poster of Schwarzenegger hulking out in his ’80s action-star prime and Ferris Bueller in full recline, the New York native was greeted by a trainer decked out like a junior high Phys Ed. coach: crew cut, high socks, varsity tee, whistle around his neck. Pop music blared as Mr. Feigelman, 31, was introduced to intense variations on relay races, basketball and dodgeball inspired by the days of recess past.

The sweat session culminated in an unconventional game of basketball. Divided into two teams, players earned a shot on their opponents’s basket only by completing a quick circuit of push-ups, sit-ups and mountain climbers. The 45-minute workout left Mr. Feigelman gassed—and his team victorious.

              Staring at the big board in a FlyWheel class or obsessing over Fran times isn’t going to be for everyone. But the spirit of competition and gamification can be.

“Competition shifts the main objective from the more obscure goal of general fitness to a simple one: Get more points now,” said Dr. Don Vaughn, a neuroscience postdoctoral fellow at UCLA. Gamification helps us transcend our “impatient biology,” Dr. Vaughn said, by giving us short-term highs—win or lose—that keep us motivated and determined to chase long-term fitness goals.

 

              My only question is how would Throwback help people bridge that gap between the short-term (winning the class) and the long-term? Because the best competition is when you’re competing against yourself and that requires quantification. How do you quantify dodgeball?

 

TidBits:

-Demand for athleisure has caused the price of cotton to drop

-The U.S. Navy is easing its fitness standards

-Men’s Health reviews the Metcon 4

-Dave Castro is dropping hints about the CrossFit Open

-Asana Rebel receives $6.5 million in Series A funding

THE WEEKLY HOWL IS MAKING ROOM FOR FREE WEIGHTS

Free Weights: There are 2 industries in which I am highly skeptical of innovation: fitness and finance. If someone is trying to sell you a financial product that is overly complicated and you can barely understand, run away. If it’s not a stock or a bond (or a fund of stocks or bonds), then it was probably designed to rip you off. And if someone is trying to sell you some great new strength training machine that perfectly replicates a movement, you are probably better off just doing the original movement. The best fitness is old school fitness. And the best way to do old school fitness is with free weights. I’m far from the only person that believes this and the big box gyms are taking notice. From the WSJ:

Traditional health clubs are removing some machines to open floor space for more personal and small-group training, often popular high-intensity or strength-focused workouts. Some gyms also are increasing the number of fitness classes, as experienced gym-goers seek more engaging workouts and less time staring ahead on an elliptical or push-pulling on weight machines.

“No question there’s been a movement away from those pieces,” says Charles Huff, vice president of facilities for 24 Hour Fitness. In recent years the 420-location chain has scaled back cardio and weight machines to 50% of floor space from about 66%, Mr. Huff says. The gym devotes the other half of floor space to free weights and functional training, which includes things like kettlebell swings and body-weight exercises with TRX suspension straps. It has also expanded its studio group-exercise classes.

              Free weights are cheaper, more effective, more versatile, and require less maintenance than strength-training machines. That is an amazing sentence to type out. So why do weight machines even exist?

Despite 24 Hour Fitness’s move away from cardio and weight machines, at least a few of the familiar rows of equipment are here to stay, Mr. Huff says.

“A ton of people join our club and have never been to a club before,” he says. “The resistance machines and the cardio equipment is almost designed for someone to walk up to that doesn’t necessarily know that they’re doing.”

              Free weights are low-cost, high-knowledge. Machines are high-cost, low-knowledge. It’s encouraging to see things moving in the right direction though. Big-box gyms could still stand to get rid of a lot of their machines.

Fitness Planning: Health care costs in this country have been steadily rising for as long as I can remember. There are a number of factors at play but the effect of the obesity epidemic cannot be overlooked. Should people be planning for the impact that their health (or lack thereof) will have on their finances? From the Stillwater Gazette:

How great would it be if people were encouraged, as part of their planning for the future and even their retirement, to get a realistic idea of health care costs if we maintain our health or not? I can just picture your financial planner looking at your health records, your workout history, doing a movement analysis to give you an estimation of your needed savings based on your current movement patterns, endurance and heart health.

              This is an interesting idea. It’s probably a good idea if you think that people should have a comprehensive retirement plan. If you think that this will scare people straight, I highly doubt it. First off, I don’t think that people are all that confused regarding the link between being over-weight and having health problems. Second, people are really bad at getting motivated for things that might happen in 10 or 20 or 30 years. Third, this wouldn’t be all that different from a doctor telling someone that they need to lose weight. It might scare that person into joining a gym but it probably won’t keep them going to the gym. Shouldn’t people be more scared of the thought of dying prematurely? From MarketWatch:

Being overweight or obese is associated with a higher risk of dying prematurely than being a healthier weight — and the risk increases with additional pounds, according to a separate international study released last year also by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the University of Cambridge in the U.K. Researchers joined forces in 2013 to establish the Global BMI (Body Mass Index) Mortality Collaboration, which included more than 500 investigators from over 300 global institutions.

Looking at specific causes of death, the study found that, for each five-unit increase in BMI (from, say, 30 to 35) — body mass index is measured by a formula that divides your body weight your height — the corresponding increases in risk were 49% for cardiovascular mortality, 38% for respiratory disease mortality and 19% for cancer mortality. That means these people are 49%, 38% and 19% more likely to die earlier than a person who has a healthy body weight.

              If that doesn’t scare the beejezus out of you, I really doubt that talking about health care costs will do the trick.

Guilt Trip: Pure Gym, a U.K.-based gym operator, tweeted out a guide on the 26th to how much “damage” Christmas dinner had done to our bodies. This tweet brought on an avalanche of outrage. From BuzzFeed News:

Others said the language in the post could be harmful to people who have eating disorders. Harriet Fairclough told BuzzFeed News the tweet "was poorly worded and poorly timed". "It’s obvious they just wanted a few more sign-ups by guilting people, which is cruel," she said.

The 20-year-old from Bournemouth said: "I know a large number of people who struggle with restrictive disorders who see Christmas as a challenge and are often very proud of themselves for managing any amount of food.

"I cannot imagine how it must feel to be proud of yourself for not listening to the voice of your eating disorder and then see the Pure Gym tweet, which would validate those negative thoughts and could potentially ruin an already challenging day and maybe even trigger a relapse."

              Was this post insensitive and offensive? Yes, very much so. Should Pure Gym have known better? Yes, although I would have thought that people would have been more critical for fat-shaming rather than triggering people with eating disorders. The question that really sticks with me is why did Pure Gym think that this was going to be effective marketing? There have been marketing campaigns that have come under criticism for fat-shaming but at least they utilized humor. I’m not condoning them but I can see the train of thought. This is pure guilt. Guilt is not the bedrock on which great marketing is built upon. Motivating people to work-out is very tricky but guilt is not the answer. Fitness is a positive good, it’s not life insurance. You have to inspire people not guilt them.   

Intensity: People tend to slow down as they age. Even those that continue to exercise tend to gravitate towards less intense forms of exercise. Is that a choice or a biological imperative? From the NY Times:

Other studies this year reinforced the notion that age need not be a deterrent to hard exercise and that such workouts could be key to healthy aging. An animal study that I wrote about in July, for instance, found that frail, elderly mice were capable of completing brief spurts of high-intensity running on little treadmills, if the treadmill’s pace were adjusted to each mouse’s individual fitness level.

After four months of this kind of training, the exercised animals were stronger and more aerobically fit than other mice of the same age, and few remained physically frail. Perhaps most striking, “the animals had tolerated the high-intensity interval training well,” one of the scientists who conducted the study told me.

              This has always felt like a chicken or egg dilemma. Is someone feeling their age because of the inevitability of aging or because they have reduced their activity levels? Is it biology or psychology? I do believe that the number one mistake is that as you get older, you have to get smarter about the little things. When you’re young, you can get away with cutting corners on things like rest and recovery. As you get older, those mistakes will really bit you in the ass. And the best way to get in shape is to stay in shape.

But of course, mice are not people. So it was another study this year that to my mind provided the most persuasive evidence that strenuous exercise alters how we age. In that study, which I wrote about in March (which became my most popular column this year), scientists at the Mayo Clinic compared differences in gene expression inside muscle cells after younger and older people had completed various types of workouts.

But of course, mice are not people. So it was another study this year that to my mind provided the most persuasive evidence that strenuous exercise alters how we age. In that study, which I wrote about in March (which became my most popular column this year), scientists at the Mayo Clinic compared differences in gene expression inside muscle cells after younger and older people had completed various types of workouts.

The greatest differences were seen in the operations of genes after people had practiced high-intensity interval training for 12 weeks. In younger people who exercised this way, almost 275 genes were firing differently now than they had been before the exercise. But in people older than 64, more than 400 genes were working differently now and many of those genes are known to be related to the health and aging of cells.

In effect, the intense exercise seemed to be changing muscle cells in ways that theoretically could affect biological aging.            

              Our bodies respond to stimuli. If you tell your body that it’s not time to slow down yet, then your body will respond to that accordingly. Stay young by staying active.

Wearables: Do you want to feel depressed and hopeless about the obesity epidemic? Yes? Then let’s hear what Wired has to say about fitness trackers:

Personal technology is getting a bad rap these days. It keeps getting more addictive: Notifications keep us glued to our phones. Auto-playing episodes lure us into Netflix binges. Social awareness cues—like the "seen-by" list on Instagram Stories—enslave us to obsessive, ouroboric usage patterns. (Blink twice if you've ever closed Instagram, only to re-open it reflexively.) Our devices, apps, and platforms, experts increasingly warn, have been engineered to capture our attention and ingrain habits that are (it seems self-evident) less than healthy.

Unless, that is, you're talking about fitness trackers. For years, the problem with Fitbits, Garmins, Apple Watches, and their ilk has been that they aren't addictive enough. About one third of people who buy fitness trackers stop using them within six months, and more than half eventually abandon them altogether.

              I never thought of it like that but they’re absolutely right. Fitness trackers & smartwatches is the one piece of hardware that has proven to not be addictive. We’re addicted to screens yet we aren’t mass adopting the one screen that could potentially make us healthier. There are a number of reasons why this might be besides the idea that people hate exercising: it’s still early days for fitness trackers, we’re still waiting on the killer app, we hit the point of gadget fatigue. The Wired article hits upon some optimism at the end:

These are just some of the ways wearable manufacturers have begun borrowing theories from psychology and behavioral economics to motivate users in recent years—and there will be more to come. "They're constantly adding features," says Brandeis University psychologist Alycia Sullivan, a researcher at the Boston Roybal Center for Active Lifestyle Interventions and coauthor of a recent review of fitness tracker motivation strategies. Now that these devices are small, powerful, and packed with sensors, she says, expect most of those features to show up on the software side of things. "That's where these companies are most able to leverage the data they're accumulating toward interactive, personalized information you'll actually use."

It may have taken them a while to catch up with the Facebooks and Netflixes of the world, but our fitness devices are finally poised to hijack our brains—and bodies—for good.

              That’s a strong close but that opening really got to me.

Trainers: Australian Vogue may not be your first source of musings about the fitness industry but they have some thoughts:

The new luxury is about feeling good internally. (Looking good is a welcome side effect.) But becoming your “best self” is a status symbol that comes with lasting real-life benefits. Longevity has become the ultimate gift with purchase. Pumped up by Instagram memes and #fitspo imagery, motivated clients are pushing trainers to lift their game, too. Once it was enough for PTs to stand back and bark orders. Now they are expected to be thought leaders, lifestyle gurus and agents of radical change. Being a PT is not about telling people what to do any more, says Kraschnefski. “PTs need to be able to recognise detrimental behaviours and coach their clients towards positive behavioural change,” she says. “And not just while they are in the gym, but in other areas of their life, such as what they eat and how they manage stress.”

 

Bridges says the trainers leading the field are expanding their clients’ mental and emotional selves, not just aerobic capacity. “We’ve always been motivators, but the pressure is on, because of consumer demand and expectation, to be much more multifaceted ourselves as trainers,” she says. She warns that consumers need to make sure their trainers are qualified to advise them on areas outside the physical training sphere: “Training people in the mental and emotional fields is a really specialised skill set and it’s important for all parties that no-one oversteps their remit and expertise.”

 

              Sweet Fancy Moses! Is this for real? What are they envisioning here? I understand the hype but I would expect a media outlet to push back against it. Question whether people should be expecting their trainer to also be their life coach. Question whether it’s realistic to expect someone to be an expert in all aspects of human psychology and physiology. Do a basic sanity test.

TidBits:

-The Four P’s of Anytime Fitness

-The Greater LA area gets its first Ninja Warrior gym

-There’s a trainer in Dallas known as the “Hip Whisperer”

-How to Instagram

-Men’s Health Best and Worst of 2017

-Rogue Fitness releases its own air bike

-The U.S. Winter Olympics team talks about their toughest workouts

-How to design a gym

THE WEEKLY HOWL IS TRAINING FOR 2020

Wearables: For some reason, I had assumed that Adidas had already exited the wearables space. Well, I was wrong. The Germans announced this week that they were doing so. From WWD:

Adidas has discontinued its Digital Sports business unit, calling into question 74 staff jobs.

The business unit was the driving force behind the development of wearable technology, consisting of technology experts in the fields of data science, experience design, algorithm development and software and hardware engineering. Adidas first ventured into the wearable area in 2001 with the launch of sensor-enabled footwear.

                  And guess what? Adidas wants to ditch hardware and focus on software:

The redefined strategy is in line with Adidas chief executive officer Kasper Rorsted’s plans for more digital experiences. The realignment will entail the company consolidating some of its apps to focus on its two most powerful platforms Runtastic and its relaunched Adidas app. The latter is an AI-enabled shopping app that is meant to offer a more personalized consumer experience that was introduced last month at Dreamforce.

                  It seems like this move is long overdue. Adidas hasn’t released a new watch in 2 years, which is probably why I thought that Adidas had already pulled the plug on wearables. And they announced that they will be partnering with FitBit on a new smartwatch coming out in 2018. The path for athletic apparel companies seems very clear here. Develop or acquire your own fitness tracking software and partner with a hardware manufacturer on smartwatches/fitness tracking wearables. The only question for Adidas is how Reebok fits into this. Reebok has made a successful pivot back into a fitness brand with its sponsorship of CrossFit, the UFC, and Spartan Race. Fitness tracking is a logical extension of that brand but will Adidas decide to keep that to itself?  

                  Speaking of wearables, it is important to remember that the future of fitness tracking is far from settled. Perhaps the ultimate form will be something completely different from what we’re seeing right now. Perhaps we are all underestimating the significance of the ear. From CNBC:

"I always say that there are two places where we can measure everything," said electrical engineer Steven LeBoeuf. "The ear and the rear."

The rear is an unlikely target, but the ear is increasingly garnering interest and attention from the largest technology companies.

LeBoeuf is co-founder and president of Valencell, which develops bio-sensors for companies such as Samsung and Jabra. Many of these clients are finally looking at the ear, after years of focus on putting sensors into wrist-worn applications, such as watches and bands, that were considered more trendy. (Apple is not currently a Valencell client.)

There are a few reasons behind this shift, according to LeBoeuf.

The ear is an ideal spot for measuring vital signs such as heart rate, temperature and pulse. Unlike wrist-worn devices that are constantly shifting around, which affects accuracy, the ear is more stable.

The blood flow signal is also stronger from the ear, which makes it easier to track heart rate.

Another factor is the ubiquity of earpieces, from hearing aids to wireless headsets, which are increasingly popular with runners and gym-goers. Companies including Bragi, Samsung and Jabra all have health- and fitness-tracking features in their ear accessories, which are sometimes referred to as "hearables."

                  And hearables is projected to grow! From Wareable:

Then there are hearables, which IDC says will increasingly offer either fitness tracking or audio augmentation. That segment is set to go from 1.7 million shipments in 2017 to 10.6 million in 2021. Smart clothing is also set to grow, going from 2.4 million in 2017 to 11.5 million in 2021, but IDC warns that the primary driver will be step-counting shoes. Sensor-laden clothes, like the Levi's Commuter Jacket, will still have potential, but they're likely to have limited use that mimics features people already have on their smartwatches and hearables, making them a tough buy for most people.

                  This could be a major driver for audio-based training systems like Aaptiv. If we are already wearing a hearable to track our fitness, why not add an AI-based trainer to tell us what to do?

Cross-Roads: The sport of weight-lifting is in a weird place. It is on the verge of losing its status as an Olympic sport due to a rash of performance enhancing drugs scandals. Ratings have never been good and that is something that the IOC very much cares about (probably a lot more than doping violations). Weight-lifting has never been one of the glamour sports of the Olympics, it is practically invisible outside of the Olympics, and most Americans couldn’t even tell you what it is. But there is hope: the CrossFit effect.

                  Weight-lifting has always toiled in obscurity in the U.S. It is not one of the standard high school sports and body-building’s takeover of fitness culture at the close of the 20th century relegated it to the fringes. And then CrossFit came along. The clean & jerk and the snatch are crucial components of the CrossFit methodology and CrossFit’s explosive popularity has brought weight-lifting in front of millions of people.  That increased level of participation means that the sport now has a bigger talent pool and some stars are emerging. From the WSJ:

 Like Ms. Rogers and most of today’s lifters, I learned the snatch and clean-and-jerk through CrossFit, which, any coach or athlete will tell you, has been the single most important force in popularizing the sport. Between the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, membership in USA Weightlifting (USAW) more than doubled, from 11,000 to over 26,000. But those numbers only account for people actively competing at local and national meets. Because of CrossFit, which incorporates the lifts, many hundreds of thousands of others are now engaged in weightlifting as part of their exercise routine.

                  There are promising young stars like Mattie Rogers and C.J. Cummings. Mattie Rogers in particular has proved adept at utilizing social media to connect with fans. And weight-lifting may prove to be a sport suited for the online age.

So, too, should the decline of television. Weightlifting has never thrived on the networks, but, as Ms. Rogers’s 475,000 Instagram followers suggest, it’s a smash hit on social media. Instagram and Facebook not only highlight weightlifting’s elegance and explosiveness, they allow you to share a single particularly spectacular lift and watch it repeatedly. Social media also inserts the fan into the athlete’s story, letting us follow our favorites as they train, warm up and react backstage.

Being able to plug in to weightlifting at any odd moment, combined with the rising number of people actually doing the lifts, has caused its audience to ripple outward in expanding waves. Those who take a few minutes to tune into the World Weightlifting Championships next week—they’re not on TV, only streamed live on the internet—may just be inspired to pick up a barbell themselves.

                  The popularity of sports has always been defined by the medium in which people followed it. Baseball was the sport of the radio age with its slower, more methodical pace and focus on subtle strategy. Football has dominated the television age with its constant bursts of short, intense action. It is still unclear which sports will dominate the online age. I believe that sports with shorter run times (there has never been more competition for our entertainment & leisure hours) and impressive highlights that can go viral will thrive. Weight-lifting definitely fulfills the latter requirement. But there is still that drug problem. From ESPN:

When a new, more sensitive test for steroid metabolites became available in recent years, the IOC targeted weightlifting in its stored sample retesting program for obvious reasons. Thirty Olympic medalists have since been stripped. The men's 94-kg weight class at the 2012 London Games was so decimated by disqualifications that the fifth-place finisher became the gold medalist. Lidia Valentin of Spain, fifth in the women's 75-kg weight class at the Beijing 2008 Olympics and fourth in London, is now the 2008 silver medalist and 2012 champion.

Canada's Christine Girard finished fourth in the 63-kg class in Beijing, a result she says was both devastating and encouraging to an athlete who rejected drug use. "I knew then it was possible to get a podium while being clean," she says. "But it was still my biggest failure." She missed her last two lifts. Had she made them, she would have won Canada's first medal of the Games and its first women's medal in the sport. "It was hard to take then, but harder to take now," she says.

Girard retired on a redemptive note after a bronze medal performance in London. In the summer of 2016, retesting bumped her to the bronze medal position for Beijing. Her London bronze was upgraded to silver, and a gold is pending. "I don't want to lose myself in the what-ifs," she says. "I learned I will never really know how good I was."

            It is very difficult to root out a PED problem when it is has become so ingrained in the culture of the sport. If the television ratings were strong, the IOC wouldn’t be talking about removing it from the schedule. Cycling has gone to hell and back with its PED issues but I never heard any talk about removing it from the Olympics. But after the backlash they received from trying to remove wrestling, I suspect that this will be the excuse that the IOC uses.

            So what’s next for weight-lifting? I have no idea. Maybe all those CrossFitters tune in to weight-lifting in 2020. Maybe the IOC starts to appreciate online eyeballs a little more. Maybe weight-lifting is removed after 2020 but makes a return when CrossFit becomes an Olympic sport in 2028. No matter what happens with the Olympics though, CrossFit has given weight-lifting a new lease on life.

Epidemic: Obesity is an epidemic in this country.  There is no getting around that. And there will be consequences. From Strong Nation:

The new Citizen-Readiness Index shows that, nationwide:

• 12 percent of adults aged 17-24 have been arrested at least once.

• Approximately 1 in 8 young adults aged 16 to 24 are neither employed nor in school.

• More than 70 percent of those between the ages of 17 and 24 cannot qualify for military service due to problems with obesity, education, drug abuse or crime.

 

                  Holy crap! 70% of young people can’t qualify for the military. That is a scary problem. What the hell would we do if we had to institute the draft? This is an issue of national security. And its not a problem that can be easily fixed. By the time that we come to terms with this, it will probably be too late. Please teach your kids how to be active and how to exercise. We need to bring the Greek ideal back: strong and balanced in mind and body. If you’re reading this then I assume that you have a strong interest in fitness. So spread the gospel. Infect others with your passion.

When in India: It is no secret how the development of our economy and our society has contributed to the degradation of our bodies and created the need for the fitness industry. Now we are watching the process repeat itself in other less developed nations but in hyper-speed. People are going from under-nourished to obese in a single generation. From Bloomberg:

In the 1970s, India was so concerned about malnutrition that it established daily caloric minimums. Now, three decades into an economic boom, large sections of the country have gotten fat. According to a 2014 study published in the Lancet, male obesity in India has increased almost 2,500 percent since 1975, and the country today has the world’s third-largest population of obese women. The Indian Heart and Stroke Association reports that a quarter of all male heart attack patients are younger than 40. As much as 9 percent of the population has diabetes—119 million people.

                  As a result, India is showing signs of a burgeoning gym culture. And it is partially driven by Bollywood.

Prashant Sawant was working at a Talwalkars competitor when he obtained, by chance, a superstar client: Shah Rukh Khan, an actor known as the King of Bollywood, who needed help rehabbing a leg injury. Khan was slim, with a bulbous nose and piercing eyes, and had built a career largely on playing relatable love interests. In 2007, when he was 42, he told Sawant he’d decided to take a radical step. For his next movie, Om Shanti Om, a meta-romantic thriller set in the film industry, he “wanted to get ripped.”

A kind of abdominal arms race ensued, with Bollywood directors insisting that stars transform themselves for suddenly requisite shirtless scenes. Emraan Hashmi—known as a “kissing star” because of his willingness to smooch actresses on-screen—says he first encountered the demand two years later. “I was given an absurd time frame and told I had to drastically cut down my fat percentage,” he says.

 

                  It is a fascinating article and I highly recommend it. Any country that wants to transition into an information economy will have to reckon with a rise in obesity. That will require the development of a fitness industry. I wonder if any governments will try to get ahead of this and build up a fitness industry before its citizens get fat. We’ve seen how this play goes, it is no secret anymore. Does anyone have the sense to prepare for it?

Motivation: It’s almost here. We are mere days away from the New Year and with it the onset of New Years’ resolutions, a disproportionate amount of which will focus on fitness. Which means that there will be a million articles about how to keep those resolutions past January. The NY Times has got the jump on it and already published something. Let’s check in on them:

4. Commit to a Date-Specific Goal.

Goals don’t need to be lofty to be effective, but it’s useful to sign up for an event such as a 5K walk, triathlon or ballroom dance competition. By goal-setting, preferably with a target just slightly outside your comfort zone, you’re more likely to stick with a fitness regimen. The best approach here is to jump right in, select a goal and register. Once it’s on your calendar you’ll know where you’re headed and can work to get there in time.

                  Great advice! Get past the vague (lose weight, get in shape, look good naked). Don’t focus on losing weight. Set a performance goal with a deadline. And it doesn’t have to be limited to endurance events. It could be to deadlift twice your bodyweight, perform 20 consecutive pull-ups, or compete in the CrossFit Open. There is a world of fitness events out there besides road-races and triathlons. And the great thing about performance goals is that you can always find a new one.

TidBits:

-Reebok releases the Nano 8

-Please don’t offer unsolicited advice at the gym

-Health & Wellness can be a weird industry

-Virtual reality boxing

THE WEEKLY HOWL IS WRITING ABOUT ECONOMICS

Apple Watch: GymKit has arrived in the United States, sort of.

With GymKit, when you step onto a compatible treadmill or elliptical, you simply tap your watch against the machine and the two are paired; the machine’s display mirrors what’s on your wrist, and the specific stats tracked by the machine are relayed to your watch. By syncing them up, you get a more complete picture of your workout, including more accurate calorie burn estimates—and with less effort, as your watch already has your height and weight information. At the moment, GymKit is only available at one gym in New York, but in 2018 it will roll out in Equinox facilities across the country. Over time, the connected platform will also integrate with machines from companies including Cybex, Life Fitness, Matrix, Schwinn, Stairmaster, Star Trac, and TechnoGym at other chains, too.

                This will be a big deal when it is ubiquitous. The question is how long it will take for most gyms to GymKit-capable. From Forbes:

Technogym is the launch partner, though more companies will follow soon. And it's not limited just to the newest machines, around three quarters of Technogym’s existing equipment can be simply upgraded to work with GymKit.

As Enrico Manaresi, TechnoGym Global PR Director, told me, the equipment in the first British club to be upgraded was modified in a matter of a couple of hours. ‘Digital connectivity and connectivity in these products makes it a successful lifestyle solution for people. All the new equipment we make will have this capability built in and we’re upgrading existing machines as quickly as we can. It’s a way to connect to a new community and make that connection even more personalized,’ he said.

                So TechnoGym can modify their existing equipment but I don’t know if other equipment manufacturers can or want to do that. Which could mean that it is a couple of years before gyms upgrade to the newest, GymKit-compatible machines. Don’t hold your breath.

Pay Per Visit: POPiN is an app that allows you to purchase gym time by the minute. I have used this blog to express my support for this idea in the past as well as my bewilderment as to why so many gyms make it so hard to purchase a short-term pass at a reasonable price. CEO Dalton Han talked to Business Insider about the challenges of selling this idea to gym operators:

Han says that gyms are too optimistic about their ability to convert occasional customers into full-time members. Rather than taking away potential revenue from unsold memberships, POPiN would bring the gyms customers who know they won't use the gym enough to justify a membership and can't be convinced otherwise without an extended trial. Gyms would receive a new revenue stream instead of replacing an existing one.

                This is easy money. Why wouldn’t you want people to pay to test out your service? And the idea that it would cannibalize standard memberships is ridiculous.

The current per-minute rates range from $0.14 to $0.26, which means that a sixty-minute workout at Tribeca Health & Fitness costs $10.80, instead of the $20 one would have to pay for a day pass.

But, if you do that same, 60-minute workout four times each week, you'd end up paying around $172 per month, which is $83 more than the gym's rate for a month-to-month membership. If a user visits a single gym often enough, POPiN will recommend that user buy a membership.

                If someone is so opposed to long-term memberships that they would pay that much of a premium to avoid it, just let them. Let them pay way too much money so they don’t feel locked in. Most of those people are probably travelers anyway. And gym operators don’t even need a middleman. Just offer no-strings attached day passes for $10, one week passes for $25 and then keep all the money.

Carrot or Stick: Fast on the heels of Pact’s demise, a new startup aims to master the art of paying people to work-out. This startup’s name is Karrot Health (get it?) and they want to be the middleman between companies that want their employees to be healthier and those same employees. From Built in Chicago:

“When I worked for Uber, they gave me $80 a month for a gym membership, which adds up to almost $1,000 per year,” said founder and CEO Kelley Halpin. “All they could tell was that, at some point, I signed up for a gym.”

Karrot lets employers set up a recurring “bonus” for employees that is unlocked by hitting certain fitness milestones — like logging 10,000 calories’ worth of workouts in a single month. Employees track progress using wearable devices or the fitness tracking features built into their smartphones.

Also:

Halpin said Karrot is currently gearing up for beta tests with a handful of early customers. Companies typically offer around $50 per month per employee in incentives, but they’re free to adjust that amount as they see fit.              

                You can’t pay people to exercise. It doesn’t work. I realize that the idea of it will always tantalize people but the motivation to work-out has to come from a deeper place than the prospect of an extra $50 at the end of the month. This feels like the difference between economics and behavorial economics. Traditional economists think that people make perfectly rational decisions about their well-being. Behavorial economists recognize that most people are anything but perfectly rational and that decision-making process is influenced by many factors. This is a company borne out of traditional economics. People could get in better shape and make a little bit of money, of course they’ll do this. But that’s not how the human mind works. How can I be sure? By using the classic economist’s argument for why something won’t work: if it was that easy, why hasn’t someone else done it already?  

Going National: There has been a lot of money flowing into the fitness industry the last few years as private equity firms have been buying up gym operators. Now TPG, one of the biggest PE firms, wants to capitalize on the fragmentation. From Well + Good:

Private equity firm TPG, which has approximately $73 billion in assets, sees this wide-open market as a major business opportunity. The company’s growth-investment arm has added recovery-based studio StretchLab to its fitness portfolio, which also includes Club Pilates and CycleBar. What’s more, TPG has created an entirely new company, Xponential Fitness, to serve as the umbrella to these sweat boxes—and any others acquired in the future.

                Fitness is still a very young and immature industry. There is a huge opportunity for someone with deep pockets to build a national brand in several disciplines.

 He explains that with each new vertical Xponential takes on (think: yoga, boxing), the goal is to hit 1,000+ studios. For now, the company plans to stick to investing in boutique fitness genres which have been tested over time and require some barrier of entry in terms of instructor training (e.g. Pilates, which requires months of training for its teachers). “We’re looking for things that are non-faddish, that will be around for a long time,” Geisler told Well+Good. 

The company plans to acquire just one brand per vertical, which means being incredibly selective about their purchases. “We want to see multiple units open and doing well,” Geisler explains. “We’re also looking for founders who have a compelling story, and for companies that fit in with our other brands.” Once a new studio has been brought into the Xponential fold, branding work (e.g. ethos, imagery, website, etc.) will commence while a dedicated team is built to run the franchise business out of Orange County, California.

                My thoughts:

-PE firms have been buying up gyms but they haven’t been taking them to IPO and they aren’t any options for strategic buyers. So their only exit strategy has been to sell them to another private equity firm which leads to diminishing returns. This is a bold strategy but if it works Xponetial could be a candidate for an IPO.

-There is the potential to bundle several boutique disciplines together this way. From Bloomberg:

Geisler said Xponential’s components will operate as independent brands: CycleBar, an indoor cycling studio chain; Club Pilates, which uses the traditional reformer equipment for workouts; and StretchLab, which leads classes in recovery and movement. Xponential aims to attract franchisees who may want to own several different exercise “modalities” in a single market, Grabowski said.

                A franchisee that owns 3 different boutiques in one city could offer a membership to all 3. That would be very interesting. The one drawback that I could see is if this corporatization of the boutiques diminishes the quality. Fitness is an industry driven by passion. Can you keep that passion alive when you’re operating multiple gyms in multiple disciplines? That will be the billion dollar question.

Data Overload: The quantified self is all the rage these days. People are using fitness trackers and smartwatches and fitness apps to collect data about their bodies and of course all that data will lead to greater health and performance. But there does come a point in which we can have too much data. There is a concept in economics called diminishing marginal returns. The idea is that just because a little of something is good, that doesn’t mean that a lot of that same thing is great. A cup of coffee in the morning might be a great way to start the day but if you drank it all day, you’d be a jittery mess. So how does this apply to fitness tracking? From Slate:

But for road racers, fall and winter are the offseason: a time to wind down and relax, to take some time to do other activities or ride a bike without the stress of specifically planned workouts. “Leave your Garmin at home, don’t look at the numbers, just have fun!” my coach said. Just have fun? Having been indoctrinated into all these tech tools for so long, the idea of riding “just for fun” was, frankly, anxiety inducing. If I don’t track anything, how will I get an accurate picture of my fitness? And if I don’t share my workout with the world, how will the world know what I’ve done? Most importantly: How do I know if I had fun if I don’t know how hard I worked out?

                My competitive running days pre-dated the advent of fitness trackers but I still found a way to achieve information overload: my watch. I would obsessively check my watch when I was running, especially when I was running from home. I think that I counted 10 different times when I would check my watch on my standard 5 mile loop. What’s the problem with this? You never relax. Every day should not be a hard day but it’s tough to have an easy run when you have splits you need to hit.

 I knew that my dependence on my ride tracking was a problem, and I’m not the first to experience it. Professional cyclist Kathryn Bertine found herself in a similar situation:

“You know, you could just not look at the power meter,” a friend suggested.

“That’s crazy talk,” [she] said.

I’ve had similar conversations. Bertine ended up taking a year away from the technology, and she came away better for it. While I’m not sure I’m ready to take that step, I do recognize the value in getting outside just for the pure joy of it, and I have been taking baby steps toward doing it.

                I would have had the exact same reaction if someone had told me to leave my watch at home but it would have been the best piece of advice that I could have ever received in my running career. Peter Drucker, management guru, famously said that “what get measured, gets managed”. The problem is that some things shouldn’t get managed.

Athleisure: How much money do SoulCycle clients have? The cycling studio chain is launching a new fashion line in conjunction with Public School, a popular streetwear brand. From Bloomberg:

Gegler is one of about 60 people who came to the launch of SoulCycle’s latest retail collaboration, a line of high-end workout clothing designed in tandem with Public School, the hip, New York-based streetwear brand. The two companies unveiled the line during a SoulCycle class that doubled as fashion show. In the middle of the session, models walked through the studio wearing such items as $185 leggings, $125 sports bras, and even a $655 bomber jacket meant to be worn to and from class. Riders clapped as they pedaled to the beat of the music.

                These people are not price sensitive at all, are they? Pay $34 per class and then shell out $655 for a bomber jacket to wear to class. Wow. That sounds like a great business to be in. I wonder how much money SoulCycle is making from retail:

SoulCycle, which is owned by Related Cos. via its Equinox Fitness subsidiary, has been selling its own branded clothing for years. Each month, the company puts out a new collection of 40 to 60 styles for sale at each of its more than 80 studios, annexes, and pop-ups, as well as online. The spin behemoth, which was on the cusp of an initial public offering back in 2015 before retreating, doesn’t make most of its money from merchandise, though. Retail is more of a marketing tactic.

                If it’s a marketing tactic, why not charge less than an arm and a leg? Why not lower the price and get more people out there wearing your brand? The margin on $655 jackets and $125 sports bras has to be huge. If SoulCycle isn’t making money charging LuluLemon prices, then something is very wrong here. Maybe if SoulCycle ever goes through with its IPO, we can see what’s going on.

TidBits:

-Rogue Fitness will be the official equipment provider for the World’s Strongest Man competition

-Planet Fitness is developing AI-enabled virtual trainers

-Nike is launching the Metcon 4 this month

-FitBit’s transition into a medical device

-If you live near a gym, you’re less likely to be obese

 

THE WEEKLY HOWL IS PIVOTING TO VIDEO

Streaming: ClassPass is getting into the streaming business. ClassPass Live is launching in 2018. Videos will be produced in-house and then available for live or delayed streaming. From The Verge:

It'll cost $10 a month for existing members and $15 a month for new members. A $60 starter kit fee includes a heart rate monitor and Google Chromecast. ClassPass founder Payal Kadakia tells Business Insider that the first classes will involve heart rate training, and that, of course, the shipped heart rate monitors will evaluate a wearer's workout.

              It’s always interesting when a company decides to start competing with its own collaborators. ClassPass is supposed to be a way for people to discover great, new fitness classes and boutiques to tap into unused capacity. Now ClassPass is going to compete with all these boutiques by offering a streaming alternative. Is this a good move? Maybe. ClassPass has been struggling to make the economics of its original business model work. There is a lot of potential in streaming fitness and the business model is not pretty straight forward. Digital fitness is poised for tremendous growth over the next 5 years. From Well + Good:

“When you look at how to really scale a fitness business, digital opens up the exponential growth curve for these brands,” says Aarti Kapoor, a Moelis analyst who focuses on the wellness space. It’s no wonder then that the global digital-fitness market is expected to reach an estimated $27.4 billion by 2022 and is forecasted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 33 percent from 2017 to 2022.

              I want to see if this turns out to be a classic startup pivot or if ClassPass tries to do both. They have raised a lot of money recently so they could be a formidable competitor in digital fitness. But what form will digital fitness take in the future? If you believe Ethan Agarwal, the CEO of Aaptiv, that future is audio. From Forbes:

Agarwal’s bet was on audio as the best way to communicate during a workout, and he continues to believe in the superiority of the form factor to video. He points to strength training, Aaptiv’s fastest growing category of 2017. “You download a video onto your iPad, and you put it on the floor and try to watch a video on a 9-inch screen. That’s a bad user experience,” he says. “What works better is a phone on your arm and a trainer in your ear.”

              I’m not so sure about that. Obviously, audio makes sense if you’re actually running or biking outside but if you’re at home, why couldn’t you stream a video on your flat-screen TV? Audio would make sense for strength training at the gym though. The other issue is that it is a lot easier to show something than it is to describe it. A picture is worth a thousand words after all. Audio will have a very steep learning curve but if Aaptiv (or someone else) can get to the top, then it could be something special. It reminds me of sports casting. The radio announcers are always way better because they can’t lean on the video like the TV announcers can. From Esquire:

“In a studio space you have an interaction of the people in the room with you, which brings a great energy,” says Ed Hall, instructor at New York City’s Aqua Studio and New York Sports Clubs, as well as on the Aaptiv app. “In the app, I need to pay even closer attention to the programming and what I’m saying out loud. Since they can’t see me, I have to be very specific—almost impeccable—with my words. I have to paint a picture verbally.”

              This won’t be easy so it’s a good thing that Aaptiv has been raising a lot of money. $26 million in the last round. They’re going to need it.

Motivation: Motivating people to work-out is the white whale of the fitness industry. It feels like everything and anything has been tried already but we still have a long way to go. Perhaps Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman has some ideas. From 538:

The good news is that the feel of exercise can be manipulated. Behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman and psychologist Barbara Fredrickson developed the “peak-end rule,” which holds that people judge events not by the overall experience but by some combination of how they feel at the most extreme part and at the end of the event. One example: Kahneman and his colleagues had study subjects immerse their hands in 57-degree water for 60 seconds and, separately, do the same thing with the other hand but tack on an additional 30 seconds while slightly warming the water to a temperature of 59 degrees. Given a choice, the subjects opted to repeat the longer trial. Experiences that end with a bad part are more likely to be recalled as unpleasant than if a miserable part comes toward the beginning, even if the average discomfort is the same.

A typical exercise session, however, tends to feel crappier as time passes, especially if you’re not fit. So researchers Panteleimon Ekkekakis, Zachary Zenko and Dan Ariely wondered what would happen if the usual workout script were flipped. They showed in a study published last year that among 46 adults, those who completed a cycling session structured so the intensity ramped down — providing a positive slope of pleasure — “felt more pleasant after exercise, remembered their exercise to be more pleasant, predicted that future exercise sessions would be more pleasant and enjoyed their exercise more,” said Zenko, a kinesiologist and exercise psychologist at Duke University’s Center for Advanced Hindsight. Even though both groups experienced a similar amount of overall pleasure during the session, the ones who finished by winding down their effort enjoyed the workout more and had more pleasant memories of it. More research is needed to see if that could translate into sustained behavior change.

              This is intriguing. Is this a recency bias thing? The last thing someone remembers is being in a world of hurt and that sticks with them. I wonder if this is factoring in the cooldown. A well-designed workout should have a cooldown and not abruptly end. Shouldn’t that be the psychological and physical wind-down? Something to think about when designing a workout.

Weight Watchers: If you ever want to see how an organization can stay true to its values but adapt to a changing market, look no further than Weight Watchers. Fast Company profiled the company this week and laid out it re-invented itself. The first move that Weight Watchers made was to figure out why their subscriptions were declining:

But what the brand heard, loud and clear, was that the term “diet” was rife with negative connotations. It’s a word that feels more reactive than proactive, and screams failure should they ever fall off course.

“If I look at my mother’s generation, people would fix things that were broken,” says Grossman. “Today’s generation is more preventative; they want to live healthily. They want to educate themselves.”

              A diet is not sustainable. It’s something that you do for a short period of time. We need sustainable fitness and nutrition plans. Calorie-counting used to be in vogue but now people want something that they can integrate into their lives for the long-term.

Shortly thereafter, the brand revealed its Beyond the Scale program, which brought its new “livable” philosophy to two more sectors: fitness and mind-set. It’s an interconnected approach that incorporates equal amounts of movement, happiness, and meditation to one’s weight loss goal. And instead of pure calorie counting, members were encouraged to pursue healthier eating choices with the new SmartPoints system, which focuses on lean protein, fruits, and vegetables while translating mind-bogglingly complex nutritional information into simple numbers assigned a value based on calories, saturated fat, sugar, and protein.

              And Weight Watchers didn’t stop there. They changed the way that they run their physical meetings and got into wellness travel. And it’s working. Revenue is up 14% as is member recruitment. What this shows me is the power of a company that has a true mission. Weight Watchers’ mission is to improve the quality of people’s lives. That allowed them to adapt to the times while staying true to its mission and brand. People still want to look and feel better, that’s never going to change. Weight Watchers just had to change its approach to helping people look and feel better. 

Pay As You Go: At the TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin Hackathon, a team created an app that would let gym-goers pay for their work-out on a per machine basis.

The TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin Hackathon project uses NFC to let you check in at work-out machines. You’re then charged a fee for how long you use the machine, and Gym-As-You-Go keeps a percentage. “The most painful point of gyms are these 24 month contracts” says teammate Sebastian Steins.

Pay-as-you-go pricing could give lazy people who rarely work out a way to waste less money, and gyms a way to attract a different type of customer. Especially popular machines could be surge priced so they’re always available if you’re desperate for a certain exercise and don’t have time to wait.

Gyms could lower prices in off-peak hours to balance their attendance across the week to avoid overcrowding. And gyms would learn which equipment is the most popular so they can buy more, keep it maintained, or advertise that they have it.

              So they identify the target consumer as “lazy people who rarely work out” and then assume that cost is the barrier? That doesn’t make any sense. I hate the idea that I would have to check-in to every piece of equipment that I use. What a pain in the ass! And how are you going to put a NFC reader on a barbell? What if I’m doing a conditioning work-out in which I’m using several pieces of equipment? Would I have to check-in each time? I am going to go out on a limb here and say that these people have not spent much time in a gym and do not understand the industry at all. I have a feeling that they have not even considered how free weights factor in to their business plan.  

              Also, it drives me crazy when people tout technology as the solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. Gym operators don’t need this app in order to know which equipment is most popular. You just have to look around and pay attention. Some of these tech guys think that everyone besides themselves is an idiot and needs technology to know which way is up. 

Ninjas: American Ninja Warrior is a phenomenon. The popular NBC show is going into its 10th season and shows no signs of slowing down and there is now an ecosystem developing around it. The TV show is the foundation but we are now seeing other “ninja” competitions and organizations that want to mold it into an organized sport as well as a growing number of gyms that offer ANW-style obstacles. And of course, there are also companies that supply those gyms with obstacles. And some of those gyms are branching out into team-building and military training courses. Let’s talk about some of those gyms. Who are their main customers? From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

“The main customers are kids between the ages of 5 and 14,” said Kevin Hogan, an accountant turned ninja warrior competitor who owns Ninjas United gyms in St. Cloud and Buffalo.

Gym owners and instructors, who often include people who have competed on “American Ninja Warrior,” say that kids are doing more than just having fun imitating the stunts seen on the show: Some hope to be athletes in an emerging sport.

“Our intention is to be the pioneer, to turn this into a legitimate sport,” said Sarah Schoback, a stay-at-home mom from St. Louis Park who won a spot on “American Ninja Warrior” and started her own gym, Obstacle Academy in Edina, in 2016.

“A new sport is started every decade and we truly believe this is it,” said Megan Noel, marketing director for NinjaZone, a youth obstacle course program marketed to gymnastics clubs worldwide.

              You always want to hook them when they’re young and apparently that’s exactly what these gyms are doing. Combine that with the fact that it’s already on primetime network television and you could have a monster. Think about how new sports usually have to fight to get on TV in order to get any exposure and what an advantage it is to start off that way. This is also an individual sport that people could continue to participate long after they get out of adolescence. I am interested to see how this ecosystem develops especially in regards to the mothership of the NBC show. A sport being born out of a TV show seems strange but the sport of MMA was born out of a pay-per-view spectacle. What’s different is that NBC doesn’t seem to be interested in doing anything besides continuing to produce the show. That leaves a vacuum of power that several groups are trying to fill. We’ll see what happens.

Community: The Atlantic really likes the idea that fitness is the new religion. They published an article this week titled “The Consumerist Church of Fitness Classes”. This comes after an article from June titled “The Church of CrossFit” as well as this. Is there anything to this idea? Sure. Programs like SoulCycle and CrossFit provide people a sense of community and identity, something that draws people to organized religion. But what other similarities are there?

As Rypinski notes, beyond helping us meet like-minded people, exercise helps us ground ourselves in our bodies the same way that religious ritual can (with movements like crossing ourselves, or bowing and kneeling). Many middle- and upper-class people spend most of their days ignoring their physical selves in favor of mentally tasking work; exercise helps one become reembodied.

              Give me a break! Crossing yourself is not on the same level as a vigorous workout. Bowing and kneeling grounds us in our bodies? That’s preposterous. Does the author stop there? Of course not.

SoulCycle, for instance, paints its room with mantras that immediately subsume new riders into a collective “we” that “aspires to inspire” by way of activities like “find[ing] freedom in our sprints.” Even more than solo exercise, these classes mimic the structure of religious ritual by creating specific pockets of community. They assign times to arrive, instructors to revere as gurus, and routines to perform on command.

The explicit promise that exercise has a spiritual component seems to elevate it to a higher purpose: Instead of focusing solely on the health and attractiveness of the body, it suggests that fitness is a gateway to a much larger and more lasting state of happiness and fulfillment, much like religious practice.

              SoulCycle has class schedules and a set routine, therefore it must be a religion. This article is so lazily written. It never bothers to define religion; it just points out some similarities between fitness and religion and then makes its conclusion. And one of those similarities is a schedule. Fitness isn’t the new religion. It doesn’t provide morality, a way to view to the world, or establish a relationship between humanity and the transcendental. It does provide community but so do a whole bunch of other things. I don’t know the Atlantic is so interested in pushing this idea but they should make a better argument or just stop.

TidBits:

-2 women wear no clothes to a Planet Fitness, no one notices

-Gym in Melbourne will also serve alcohol after workout class

-Women are more efficient at processing oxygen than men are

-Marriott partners with Joffrey Ballet to offer VOD barre classes in rooms

-The 3 biggest fitness trends of 2017 according to ClassPass

THE WEEKLY HOWL IS EXPANDING INTO EUROPE

Cycling: SoulCycle has a lot going on right now. They’ve opened up SoulAnnex, a bike-less boutique, in the Flatiron district of Manhattan. CEO Melanie Whelan on the decision to expand into other fitness disciplines:

A lot of riders have been with us for 10, 11 years, and so they’re looking for different challenges. We’ve been listening to our riders, whether it’s anecdotally in the lobbies of the studios—they’re telling Janet, they’re telling Rique, “I want to spend more time with you”—all the way to doing quantitative research. We have 700,000 people in our ecosystem and we ask them, “What are you looking for from us? What should we change?” They’re obviously doing things other than SoulCycle. What are they, and what can we learn from that?

                I find it interesting that SoulCycle is trying to capture a greater share of its existing consumer’s fitness spending while Flywheel is going after all the people that don’t live in New York, California, or Miami. SoulCycle is the company with declared IPO aspirations but Flywheel has the better strategy for an eventual IPO. There’s nothing wrong with SoulCycle’s strategy but it is definitely the more conservative one. Staying in your lane and being a profitable company is a great thing but it is not the path to IPO glory. But maybe they haven’t ruled out a home bike option either:

I think that people want to extend their relationship with SoulCycle, and I think there is an opportunity to do that. Because, again, what we’re competing against is time. And so if there’s a way for us to meet our riders where they are and deliver an experience that makes them feel the way that they feel when they’re at SoulCycle or in a SoulAnnex class, then it’s something to be considered.

                I’m not sure if this is just CEO boilerplate talk or if SoulCycle is really considering this. If it’s the latter, then I am concerned. Strategy is about making choices. SoulCycle has made the choice to stay in brick and mortar gyms but expand into other forms of fitness. Trying do everything at once isn’t a strategy, it’s throwing things against the wall and hoping something sticks.

                Speaking of brick and mortar gyms, SoulCycle will be crossing the pond and opening up a 3 locations in London in 2019. If they stick to physical locations, they will have to make a big international push. There are only so many cities that could support SoulCycle. They’ve probably hit the limit in the U.S. so they need to go abroad in search of growth.  

                Last but not least, American Express has announced that SoulCycle will be a wellness perk for premium card holders. What does that mean exactly?

 So how are they doing that? With three gratis classes for every 20-pack of classes purchased by premium card holders, plus 10 first-class-free passes to give away to some lucky pals. Will other credit card companies follow suit and offer up wellness goodies—instead of industry standards like airplane miles—in the coming months? Please say yes, Visa, Mastercard, and Discover!

                In case you had any doubt that companies view fitness as a way to connect with young, affluent, urban consumers. 

Technology: 3D Scanners have started to show up in high-end gyms. It’s an interesting piece of technology since it could replace the often tedious process of measuring bodies with calipers and tape measures. It should also be more accurate which would be a good thing. However, I am already concerned that people don’t understand how it should fit into a person’s relationship with fitness.

                WYSO published an article about 3D body scanners titled “Need Motivation to Hit the Gym? 3D Body Scan Fitness Tech Aims to Help”. That is an incredibly deceptive headline because that is not what Frequency Fit, the gym that WYSO visited, said that they want to do.

It’s a health-club machine that harnesses the power of 3D technology.  

It's a simple idea, says Frequency Fitness gym owner and personal trainer Ben Heal.

"The last thing you want to do, when it comes down to structuring your body, is to get six months, eight months, one year into a program and not know what it's doing to you until it's too late, and then you have to reverse those conditions," he says.

Also:

For many people, the thought of seeing their bodies replicated on a computer screen is intimidating. It can even be depressing.

“What you have to be careful of is letting those thoughts or feelings creep into your head, that you don’t look good or that you're not good enough. You have to have a realistic outlook on your physicality and if there's things that you want to change you should address that with a physician or a trainer who can help you make those changes in a healthy manner,” Heal says.

And that’s what the 3D scanner is designed to do, he says: arm people with more accurate information so they can make faster progress toward their fitness goals.

                The scanner is not about motivation, it is about measuring results. Frequency Fit understands this and also seems to understand that focusing too much on appearance can be problematic. The article is fine, it’s only the headline that implies that 3D scanners should motivate you to workout. Lasting motivation is going to come from an intrinsic place. Focusing on what your body can do rather than what it looks like is a good start. 3D scanners can be a great tool but they shouldn’t be relied on for motivation.

Wearables: Under Armour announced that they are discontinuing their fitness wearables line. That is generally thought of as a good idea as it was burning through cash. Now the Trefis Team at NASDAQ thinks that UA should exit connected fitness altogether by shuttling their software division:

UA's Connected Fitness business generated less than 2% of the total revenues during the first nine months of 2017. While the company continued to record heavy increases in users across its platform, the segment consistently recorded losses over the period. This was primarily because the company's digital ecosystem was heavily fragmented. Many of the users only tried out the free versions of the apps instead of the paid ones with premium features. Further, combining this business with a growing inventory of hardware products like HealthBox have helped create a very undesirable position for the company, at a time when even market leaders like Fitbit are struggling to make ends meet.

UA spent heavily to acquire several companies which it then cobbled together to form its Connected Fitness division. The original vision was to transform UA into a tech company that would eventually usher in the age of smart clothing. That dream appears to be dead and now UA has to figure out what the plan for Connected Fitness is. They shouldn’t expect Connected Fitness to be a money-maker. Connected Fitness could be a way to collect data and keep the UA brand top of mind. The problem is that they didn’t develop these apps in-house. They spent millions of dollars (which now need to be recouped) and the apps have their own branding, not UA’s. Does this mean that I think that UA should completely shut down Connected Fitness? No, there’s a reason that Nike and Adidas have dropped the hardware and are focusing on software. I think that UA needs to figure out what they’re doing here and should think about creating a united brand for these apps because it is not clear right now.

All or Nothing: Jen Ator, the fitness director for Women’s Health, has a book coming out and needs to promote it. So she shared some of her fitness tips and hit the nail on the head:

Too many women fall into an all-or-nothing mindset with diet and exercise. When they're feeling motivated to see results, they flip the switch on and jack it up all the way—hitting the gym every single day, nixing every "bad" food in the book, logging every cal. Straight superhero-fit status. The problem? As I discuss in Fitness Fix, anyone can suffer through a brutal month of overtraining and calorie restriction and lose a few quick pounds, but research has continually proven that it's simply not sustainable long term, physically or mentally. Hit a single roadblock—like a week off from the gym or that pint of Haagen-Dazs you swore you would eat just a quarter of—and the wheels come off. That one slipup is perceived as a complete failure, and you flip the "being healthy" switch back off and give up. Whomp.

                I see this all the time, from both men and women. This may be the single biggest mistake that people make. I don’t know why everyone is wired to think of fitness this way: that you have to go all-in right from the start. Maybe they’re scared that if they don’t see results right away then they’ll lose motivation.  I don’t think that I have ever seen someone make it work that way. First off, it’s so much change all at once. My diet is far from perfect but I have no desire to change everything one day. I make small changes, one at a time. That way nothing seems too daunting or disruptive to my life. And once I have a handle on that change, then I think about the next one. She also hit upon the other problem: sustainability. The most hardcore program in the world is not going to work for you if you can’t sustain it. Look at anyone who is constantly starting and stopping. Are they getting results? It’s the people that are consistent that get results.

Just Eat Food: Low-carb diets have been in vogue for years now. Switching to one can be unpleasant though as the body adapts to not having access to carbohydrates. Ketone supplements are supposed to bridge this gap and make the transition easier. But apparently, they bring their own problems along for the ride. Some researchers at the Australian Institute of Sport decide to see how ketone supplements would affect elite cyclists.

The results were unanimous. Every rider performed worse after drinking the ketone supplement. Their times were about 2 percent slower and their power output almost 4 percent less, declines that, in actual competition, would drop them from contention for medals.

Every rider also reported some degree of gastrointestinal upset after drinking the ketone supplement. One experienced such “prolonged vomiting and dizziness,” the scientists reported, that he could not start the time trial. Others had symptoms ranging from dry retching to relatively mild nausea.

Not surprisingly, the riders all guessed during which trial they had the ketones, based on their stomachs’ reactions. But most told the scientists that they thought they were riding faster during that trial, because the pedaling had felt so difficult. Told that their performance in fact had declined, almost all announced that they were no longer interested in using ketones for performance enhancement.

                Just eat food. If you need a supplement to make your transition to a new diet, then maybe it’s not a good idea. You’re robbing Peter to pay back Paul. This reminds me of people who drink caffeine all day to stay awake and then have to drink alcohol at night to come down so they can sleep. The less drugs or supplements that you put into your body, the better off you will feel.

That is so Fetch: Stop trying to make EMS happen! It is not some magic way to get the benefits of exercise without actually exercising. EMS is Electrical Muscle Stimulation. The idea is that the electrodes make your muscles contract (even though there is no resistance) and that muscle contraction will lead to growth and increased strength. The problem is that your muscles aren’t contracting very hard. Men’s Health sent Ebenezer Samuel to see what all the hype was about but the trainer he went to was quick to say that EMS didn’t have any “muscle-building or fat-burning magic”. He did predict that “by next year, you’ll see SoulCyle-esque EMS gyms offering ‘group’ workouts” though. So what did Samuel learn?

Two 20-minute EMS sessions have me convinced that this won’t revolutionize your training life. BUT What EMS can do well is what Elzomor claims: it can support your other gym efforts by enhancing your mind-muscle connection. He says he trains many of his clients with standard gym practices, then supplements that work with twice-a-week EMS sessions. “You need to do more than EMS [to see a difference],” says Elzomor. “You still have to go to the gym.”

EMS can also potentially enhance your ability to make certain muscle groups "fire." Often, desk jobs and sedentary lifestyles cause underutilized muscles to become less responsive; if you work in an office and don't regularly work out, there's a good chance that your lats and glutes, muscles that lengthen during sitting, aren't as "active" as they should be, which can hurt your posture. 20 minutes of EMS can help activate those muscles and build body awareness.        

                Using EMS as a means to identify muscle imbalances seems reasonable although very expensive at $145 per session. But how are “SoulCyle-esque” classes going to work? I feel like this trainer is trying to have it both ways.

TidBits:

-“Don’t worry about it and you’ll be great, said nobody ever”

-Bloomberg reviews the FitBit Ionic

-Looking for a yoga app?

-One of the co-founders of SoulCycle has joined WeWork as Chief Brand Officer

-Train your brain

-Malls like gyms now

THE WEEKLY HOWL IS DRINKING HIS COFFEE BLACK

Running: The NYC Marathon was on Sunday and 50,000 runners took to the streets and ran from the Verrazano Bridge to finish in Central Park. Twenty years ago, the marathon had 25,000 runners and I thought that was crazy. I have no idea how they accommodate that many runners. And they are turning away thousands more who want to run. However, this kind of demand is not consistent across all road races. From the NY Times:

But not every race is so popular. Road races have hit the wall. The number of finishers in events in the United States has fallen from a peak of about 19 million in 2013 to just over 17 million in 2016.

High fees, a glut of race options and competition from other fitness activities have shrunk the fields at many races.

“It’s possible we got too big too fast,” said Rich Harshbarger, the chief executive of Running USA, an industry group. Road races saw 300 percent growth in the number of finishers from 1990 to 2013, with a concentrated boom from 2008 to 2013. As participation recedes, Harshbarger expects some races to fold.

“We’ve still seen supply outstrip demand, and I think that’s going to change next year,” Harshbarger added.

                There are way too many races these days and they are way too expensive.

Road races are also experiencing competition from things like studio classes, group yoga and CrossFit. High fees for races have also become an issue. In 2006, the average five-kilometer race cost $13.50, according to Road Race Management, an industry publication. Now the average is $34. In 2006, the average marathon cost $69.97. That’s now $123.

In a 2017 survey, Running USA found that 20 percent of runners expected to decrease their race participation. Half of the runners in the survey said they thought that races were too expensive and that cost was a top 10 factor in deciding whether or not to register for a race. The survey also indicated that six in 10 runners would participate in more races if fees were low.

                Why the hell should I pay $34 for a 5K race? If you’re not a serious runner trying to run a fast time on a fast course, then it really doesn’t make sense. Not at that price. At least in a marathon, you need and get aid stations. That would be tougher to do on your own. But if you just want to run 3.1 miles, then there is really no need. No one is going to be impressed by your t-shirt either.

                The other thing is that people are looking for experiences that they can share on social media. Events like Tough Mudder and Spartan Race offer that in a way that small road races do not. And the problem is not that people are running less. They’re just not shelling out for over-priced road races.

“While we’re seeing the decline on the event side,” she said, “people are still staying active in their clubs.”

Less formal running groups are also creating opportunities that compete with paid events. Dave Welsh, the owner of three stores in South Jersey that cater to runners, said that after three years of decline, his business had leveled off. While he still sees a lot of interest in the sport, he also recognizes that free races or group runs are likely to lure people away from events with fees.

                The dirty secret at the heart of the road-racing industry is that most people don’t need to pay to run a 5K or a 10K. If you’re not trying to run fast and you don’t need aid stations, then you don’t really need to pay any money. But when it’s only $13 to run, why not? It’s fun and you get a free t-shirt. People are starting to figure that out now that it’s $34. Events like the NYC Marathon will continue to thrive because it is an iconic experience. And people are still hungry for that.

                I also want to note that Shalene Flanagan was the first American woman to win NY since 1977!!! Congratulations to her.

AI Trainer: We are going to see a lot of stories the next few years about artificial intelligence putting every coach and trainer out of business. Most of the people writing those articles won’t know the first thing about fitness but it would be foolish to think that AI won’t have an impact. But what might that impact look like? Christina Bonnington from Self used a “virtual run coaching system” from Vi Fitness to improve her running. Let’s delve in:

I've never been a great runner. I identify as a cyclist, and spend most of my exercise time biking around my neighborhood and training for races. But during the "off season" in the fall, I like to switch things up and hit the trails on foot for a change. Typically, I run in short, quick bursts, then get tired and end up walking or jogging the rest of the way—my average pace ends up being around 13 minutes per mile. On good days, I've been able to clock some miles in the 8- to 9-mile range. Bottom line: My running is really inconsistent, and I've never gotten to the point where I feel comfortable or proud of doing it.

                Not to be mean but it sounds like she did not know how to run. She really needs someone to run alongside her and give her some guidance. Not the sort of thing that a typical trainer would help her with but perfect for an AI trainer.

Vi offered reminders about proper form, tips for breathing, and helped me raise my cadence by eight steps per minute, on average. This helped me run faster and more efficiently, and I've found that my whole body (specifically my knees and feet) feels better during and after my runs.

I’m now comfortable running at a 9-minute pace for extended periods, a vast improvement from my 13-minute average a month ago. I’m also walking less and running more each time.

                This seems like an ideal job for a virtual trainer and it’s not stealing a job from a human trainer. The vast majority of people who work-out do not work-out with a trainer. Personal and group training is high-profile and top of mind when it comes to fitness. The people who pay for training/coaching don’t tend to be that price-sensitive but do value community and the personal touch. AI trainers are going to tap into all the people who wouldn’t otherwise hire a trainer like this woman. She’s always wanted to run faster but she never received any coaching. And she probably never would have if it wasn’t for Vi Fitness.  

Gym Class: Quick question: What is the point of gym class? Education should be about learning to think critically and preparing for a successful, fulfilling life. Gym class should be about learning how to develop one’s body and staying in good health. So how does dodgeball fit into that? From the NY Post:

At a time when schools are all about getting students ready for college or jobs, experts say it’s a chance for more physical education teachers to look beyond graduation, too, and leave even the least competitive students with the will and skills to keep moving. In many places, that has meant more bike-riding, outdoor hikes and yoga, and less dodgeball and shimmying up a rope — more choice about which activity to pursue and less emphasis on who’s the best at it.

“The most important job of a great physical education teacher is to appreciate every student in that class, not just the highly skilled,” said Whitcomb, whose program pre-dates the new law and is among those considered models for the more modern approach.

Also:

Washington, D.C., teachers put all of the district’s second-graders on bicycles to gain a lifelong skill. Fourth- and seventh-graders do parkour, in which students leap and vault over obstacles in a way that’s more freewheeling than skill-specific gymnastics. D.C. sixth-graders learn orienteering, including how to read a compass and geocache. High schoolers swim.

“We want to teach a variety of these foundational movement skills with cycling, swimming, parkour. So that they’re very individualized,” said Miriam Kenyon, the district’s director of health and physical education, “and when you have that, you can’t take it away.”

                I fully support a physical education curriculum that incorporates activities that people will actually participate in outside of gym class. I believe that there are two areas that are not taught in school but in which Americans are sorely lacking: fitness and finances. At least, some schools are starting to include fitness.

Fitness Marketing: Nerdstrong is a gym in LA that combines fitness and popular culture. I love both of those things but I don’t really get the appeal of combining them. From Vice:

David, the trainer overseeing the class, made good on the promise in the gym's name and injected ample nerdy commentary into his instructions. While correcting my form on a kettlebell exercise, David suggested I shout "I have the power," and channel He-Man raising his sword.

 

                That’s not for me but if it works for someone else, that’s great. But that’s not what interests me in this article. Warner Brothers ran a joint promotion with Nerdstrong for the science fiction film, Blade Runner 2049. Nerdstrong held a Blade Runner-themed workout and Warner Brothers gave out free t-shirts and posters. Using fitness to promote a non-fitness product or service? That’s fitness marketing! It’s interesting to see a major movie studio dip their toes into this area. And for a movie that has no direct fitness connection no less. I would expect this for a movie like Superman, where the superhero’s physique is the center of attention.

Motivation: The NY Times ran a piece on micro-actions. What are micro-actions you ask?

Micro-actions are actions so small, so easy, that they hardly feel worth doing. When we think of things like this (if we ever do) we often think about how taking one small action, repeatedly, over long periods of time, adds up. It’s the compounding effect of incremental change, and it’s awesome.

But what I’m talking about is different. Maybe an example will help.

When I travel, I often don’t feel like exercising, but I know I’ll feel way better if I do. So, I take a micro-action. I put on my gym clothes and commit to walking to the hotel gym. That’s it. The trick I use to make it happen? I just say to myself, “I wonder what the gym in this hotel is like?”

                This is a classic trick. You’re tired so you tell yourself that you’ll do a short workout and once the blood is flowing, you end up doing your full workout anyway. It’s also a great way to tell if you’re really tired or if your mind is playing tricks on you. If you’re really tired, then you might cut that workout short. The other thing that I do a lot is turn my mind off. Sometimes, my mind gets into excuse mode. I don’t feel like working out so my mind starts generating excuses for why I shouldn’t. So I turn my mind off and just follow my routine. Get home from work, change into my workout clothes, and get going. I won’t give myself the opportunity to talk myself out of working out that day. Your mind can play tricks on you, so sometimes you have to play some back.

Wearables: We already knew that Aetna was planning to give away Apple Watches to some of its customers. Now we’re finding out that the two companies are working together on health apps:

CEO Mark Bertolini says Aetna presented Apple with a list of the top drivers of health costs and the two companies have been working together on apps that can it can use to provide incentives to make healthier choices. Aetna workers are co-located at Apple's offices in Cupertino, he said, as the company looks to have a variety of apps ready in time for the Jan. 1 start of the Apple Watch pilot program.

"If we can make it work it will be well worth it for us to give everybody an Apple Watch but we've got to get the technology right," Bertolini said Tuesday while speaking at the Techonomy conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

                Apple is all in on health and fitness. It’s interesting to see them seek out partners in the development process. This is the company that doesn’t believe in market research. I’m glad to see that Apple has the humility to understand that this is a different field than they’re used to and that they are committed to getting it right.

The Tribalism of Fitness: Jocko Willink is many things. Retired Navy SEAL, best-selling author, leadership guru, early rising enthusiast, Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, and fitness fanatic. Business Insider profiled his approach to fitness. Two thoughts: (1) I like his focus on the fundamentals and (2) he has a bad-ass garage gym. What struck me was a quote toward the end of the article:

"Some people, they take their form of working out as a religion that they think is better than everyone else's," he said. "I'm not like that. If you have a better way to work out and you can teach it to me, and I find it to be useful, and gets me in better shape, I'm all about."

                The fitness industry has a lot of issues but this is near the top of the list. Fitness is extremely tribal. People tend to find a workout that they like and then it becomes part of their identity. This passion is great but it can also be counter-productive. Too many people believe that in order to prove that their workout is the best then they need to put down other people’s workouts. This leads to a toxic environment and a rash of bad information that confuses new-comers. Jocko nailed it here. Religion is based on belief. No one can prove to you that any religion is right or wrong. You choose to believe. Fitness should be based on empirical proof. Either it works or it doesn’t. It’s great to be passionate about fitness but that passion shouldn’t be based on a blind belief that your method is the best and only way to get fit.

                How do we get there? For starters, never forget that fitness is an industry. Imagine that you want to start selling a fitness methodology. Does it make sense to sell 50% of a plan? Or would it be better to market your system as the only thing that someone would ever need to do to be in the best shape of their life? Clearly, the latter makes more sense so that is what people do. It’s marketing. The key is not swallow all of it. That doesn’t mean that it’s not a good program or that you couldn’t learn something from it. Just understand that they’re selling you on something. Take what works and move on.   

Don’t Do This: So apparently people are now putting raw eggs in their coffee. Am I missing something? Because that sounds disgusting to me. From Men’s Health:

I’ve used egg coffee a few times before, doing some fasted cardio in the morning,” says Bubbs. “It was a nice boost, similar to Bulletproof Coffee, but with the nutrient-dense bonus of the yolk, compared to simply fatty acids.” Many of the ultra-marathoners he trains also enjoy a creamy cup of egg coffee pre-workout, too. In fact, pretty much all of his athletes eat eggs and drink coffee as part of their training and recovery meals, he says—just not together.

 

                There is nothing magic about mixing eggs or butter with your coffee. I suppose that it’s harmless but it’s foolish to think that mixing it together is any better than consuming both separately. But maybe you like putting eggs or butter into your coffee, in which case more power to you. However, I imagine that they are a lot of people choking these concoctions down in the hope of gaining some kind of edge.

Waiting:  I came across this article in D Magazine about a rowing studio in Dallas.

Rowing is huge right now. The low-impact workout has been dubbed “the heir to spinning” and utilizes one of the most effective pieces of equipment for burning fat. (There’s a reason The Social Network used awesomely-toned Armie Hammer to portray the Harvard rowers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.) So when Crowbar Cardio, one of the few Dallas studios offering rowing, abruptly closed its doors on Greenville Avenue this summer, people were understandably distraught.

                I feel like people have been predicting rowing being the new cycling for years now. I may have made a prediction or two myself. I wonder why it hasn’t taken off as a group exercise concept yet. Rowing machines aren’t prohibitively expensive, it’s a fairly basic movement, and it’s zero impact. Those factors shouldn’t be holding it back. And then it’s a total body exercise which would make for a great workout. What’s the missing ingredient here?  

TidBits:

-The NBA is getting leaner

-The ancient Egyptians had gyms

-New world record for pull-ups?

-Snapchat may get into fitness tracking

-Under Armour was losing millions on fitness trackers

-CrossFit announces changes to the structure of regional qualifying for the CrossFit Games

 

 

THE WEEKLY HOWL IS THE PELOTON OF BLOGS

Wearables: If you receive health insurance through John Hancock, you may be eligible to receive an Apple Watch for only $25. Sounds like an amazing deal, doesn’t it? Any drawbacks?

This is kind of creepy for a few reasons. Knowing your personal activity stats could encourage you to stay healthy (though some research has questioned this). But basing benefits on physical activity could inadvertently penalize people who have less time to make it to the gym, like lower-income people or new moms (and participants may wind up having to pay more than the $25 for their watch if they do not meet certain goals). Not to mention that, while you may not realize it, information like how many steps you have taken in a day can wind up being abused or used against you in the wrong hands.

Court cases now regularly include evidence gleaned from fitness trackers. In 2014, in a first-of-its-kind case, a Canadian law firm used Fitbit history to assist in proving a client’s personal injury claim. And in 2015, data from a Fitbit was used to undermine a woman’s rape claim. Just this year, a man’s pacemaker put him in prison for arson. Reached for comment, a spokesperson for John Hancock did not respond to a request for specific details on how much policyholder data it would have access to under the program.

Maybe you would be better off shelling out the extra $300+ yourself. I understand that using a fitness tracker that you purchased yourself does not insulate you from having your data abused but you’re probably still better off not sharing it with your insurer. This program doesn’t even give you any sort of discount on your insurance. You have to earn it through exercise otherwise John Hancock can stick you with the bill:

As long as Vitality members exercise regularly for two years, they will be allowed to keep the device for free. If they don't, they'll have to pay it off in installments. The Series 3 costs upwards of $299.

That is not a good deal for the consumer. Is it even a good deal for the insurers? Baby boomers might not be able to figure out how to work the Apple Watch.

A 2015 study from the interest group AARP asked consumers over the age of 50 to sport a wearable for six weeks and report back on their experiences.

Despite high levels of interest from this population, which accounts for 1 in 3 Americans, many reported usability issues. Eighty-nine percent shared frustrations with the setup process, and many also struggled with the data inaccuracy, the lack of instructions, and the challenges with putting on the device.

Most damning of all is that many users didn't even finish the six-week study, opting to abandon their wearable after a month (the average participation was 32 days).

Not great Bob. We are still not there on fitness trackers.

Gym Etiquette: Men’s Health conducted a Twitter poll for the worst breaches in gym etiquette.

6,292 Twitter users responded to our poll this week, and 40 percent of you answered "Machine hogging" as the number one gym offense. You guys are dead on. There is absolutely nothing worse than waiting longer than your entire workout was supposed to last for some dude to get off the only damn leg extension machine in the entire gym. If it seriously takes you longer than 10 minutes—and that is generous—to move on from an exercise machine, you're doing it wrong, man.

Bottom of Form

"Not wiping down machines" came in a close second, at 38 percent, followed by "Machine lurking" at 14 percent. "Using closest treadmill"—you know, when someone takes the treadmill right beside you, even though there are plenty of others available—got 8 percent.

Interesting that machine hogging and machine lurking both made the top 3. Isn’t lurking a response to people who camp out on a piece of equipment? I think that my biggest pet peeve is people who take up a piece of equipment without even using it. I’m talking about the person who uses a plyo box as a table for their phone and water bottle. Or the person who uses the dip bars as a towel rack. Or all the people that do floor exercises underneath the TRX straps.

The Cycling Wars: This is a little old but somehow I missed it. SoulCycle is branching out beyond cycling. The company is opening a new studio in Manhattan called SoulAnnex. From Well And Good:

According to its website, Soul instructors will teach classes in three modalities: Move, energetic classes where you can “embrace the rhythm”; Define, Soul’s take on HIIT; and Align, classes that promote active recovery.

This is an interesting move. I’m a little surprised that SoulCycle isn’t trying to move into the home cycling market like Flywheel is. For a publicly traded company, that seems like a better avenue to growth. Not to say that SoulAnnex won’t be a success but they will probably end up opening up studios in the same cities that SoulCycle already has cycling studios. They need to find a way to get into the country outside of NYC, LA, SF, and Miami.  SoulAnnex is doubling down on the markets that they already own.

Speaking of home cycling, Peloton has introduced a new financing program. From the Wall Street Journal:

Peloton is now shifting gears with a new financing program ($97 per month for 39 months for both the bike and subscription service), an ad campaign that’s more relatable to a diverse consumer base and an NBC Olympics sponsorship. Peloton counts NBCUniversal among its investors, and has raised nearly $450 million in total funding to date.

“We had this idea of a very affluent rider who many of our early adopters were,” she said. “We realized, through conversations with our community, that there was a huge opportunity with people who thought $2,000 was a huge investment but were [buying] it over and over again because the product is so important to them.”

                Peloton has IPO ambitions of its own and this is a smart move to expand beyond very affluent people who can easily drop $2000 on a piece of exercise equipment. Making Peloton $97/month also brings it back to a framework that most Americans have been trained to think about fitness costs: the monthly membership dues. That is still very expensive relative to a big box gym but pretty cheap relative to a boutique. Plus, you are guaranteed a seat.

                In a sign that Peloton has hit the big-time, other startups have begun pitching themselves as the Peloton of their sport. From Forbes:

 Thus, Baptiste made it his mission, at the start of 2017, to create a platform that makes running on a treadmill more enjoyable for all. The result of his efforts is Studio, a mobile app being referred to as the "Peloton for running," which is now live in the App Store, offering "boutique fitness style running classes" that can be used on any brand of treadmill.

"Think of it like Netflix or Spotify," says Baptiste. "It cost $15 per month for unlimited access or $99 if you pay up front for the year. At $15 per month, that's less than half the price for a typical SoulCycle or Barry's Bootcamp class up in New York."

                It’s not the Peloton of running unless you’re also selling the treadmill. That’s a big part of their business model. And Studio must be the blandest name that they could come up with. I assume that they have ambitions beyond running but still. How soon until someone launches the Peloton of rowing?

Competitive Fitness: Fitness has been getting more competitive. CrossFit was founded on the principle of being able to compete with everyone else and turned fitness into a sport. FlyWheel’s defining feature is the torque board, a monitor at the front of the room that displays exactly how hard everyone is pedaling and turns every class into a race. Even Orangetheory gamifies their classes, participants wear heart-rate monitors and the number of orange zones achieved are transmitted to overhead screens. Which is why it is interesting that Barre3, led by founder Sadie Lincoln, has gone in the opposite direction:

In her boutique classes—a fast-paced mixture of cardio, yoga, and pilates—attendees are constantly told to modify movements and, more or less, express their individuality.            

“Everything we do in class is a mirror of how we want to live life,” she explains to attendees. “We’ve been told this big fat lie in the fitness industry [of]  ‘do this and you can be like this’… What happens in the 60 minutes [of class] isn’t what shapes you or changes you–it’s what you learn and how you to apply that to the rest of your day”

It’s why, during any one class, you’ll see someone stretching their legs by the barre, while the remaining attendees are positioned in a downward dog. When the instructor commands a 30-second plank, more than a handful have no qualms giving it less than half that time–or sometimes more.

                Competition is a powerful tool in motivation and it is no surprise to see so many companies baking it into their DNA. The drawback is the lack of personalization and the risk of burnout and injury. I am always skeptical of one-size-fits-all programs so it is good to see a company have success with this formula as well. It is much more laid back and therefore not as attention-grabbing as competition-based systems but I’m glad to see that there is still a place for this in the fitness world.

Motivation: The CNN Health vertical had a good piece on the link between Type A personalities and struggling with fitness and nutrition plans. Their thesis was that the hallmarks of a Type A can work against them when trying to implement a fitness plan.

 Type A personalities are known for being punctual, all-in, organized, competitive and rule-following.

These qualities also mean they can get frustrated with mainstream diets and workout programs when they don't work.

The problem is that weight loss programs have a one-size-fits-all structure to appeal to the masses. So for Type As committed to a program and following it diligently but frustrated by failure, it may be the program that's a failure, not them.

 

                It is an interesting idea. I can see where a Type A might think that if they cannot follow the plan to the letter, then it’s not worth doing at all. And I see this attitude all the time! People miss a day or cheat on their diet and they get completely derailed by that one little mistake. They abandon their plan because they’ve “failed” and end up starting from scratch a couple of weeks or months later. I also see it when people begin their fitness journey. They want to go from 0-60 right away and when that leaves them exhausted and sore, they lose their motivation to continue. I hadn’t considered how personality type might play into it though. The author of the CNN article advocates becoming more flexible and adaptive. That’s not bad advice but I wonder how easily a Type A personality might find it to follow that advice. Maybe fitness and nutrition plans are the ones that need to change and include ramping up periods and allow for missed workouts.

Athleisure: At the Fast Company Innovation Festival, Andrea Bell, the director of consumer insights for WGSN, claimed that they predicted the athleisure trend back in 2007. I’m more interested in their reasoning for their claimed prediction:

But the real origins of the athleisure trend, Bell said, date to the body-image ideals of the fashion world earlier this century. By 2007, WGSN saw athletic wear as a possible trend in the making. Then came the financial crisis of 2008, which led to a new preference for “stealth wealth.” Rather than indulging in flashy luxury items, Bell said, “people…wanted it to be seen they were going to the gym and juicing.”

By 2010, stealth wealth had morphed into a general “anti-hedonism” sentiment among millennials. And in 2011, the fashion business embraced athletic wear, fulfilling the vision that WGSN had anticipated a few years earlier. Since then, it’s not only grown even more mainstream but also spun off sub-trends such as doggy athleisure.

                I don’t doubt that “stealth wealth” in the wake of the financial crisis was a factor but it’s a mistake to discount the rise of fitness as a luxury product. Health is the new wealth and people are splurging on SoulCycle and LuluLemon. Participating in the most challenging fitness classes is now a status symbol. It is inevitable that people would want to signal their devotion to fitness by wearing athletic apparel. It is similar to the way that Ralph Lauren built a fashion empire based on an image of polo and sailing. Those were the past times of the wealthy and people wanted to be associated with that. Now it’s hipper to hit up FlyWheel or CrossFit and people want to be associated with that. I’m sure that at some point fashion will trend back to a more formal look because fashion is cyclical but people will still be working out. 

Too Much of a Good Thing: Every now and then, the exercise science community throws the media a bone. The bone is a study that can be misconstrued to contradict commonly held perceptions about fitness. Maybe chocolate is actually a health food. Maybe working out will make you fatter. The latest one is that fitness may actually be bad for your heart. From the Sacramento Bee:

To reach their results, researchers analyzed the workout patterns and health of 3,175 black and white men and women aged 18 to 30 over a span of 25 years. The subjects were participants in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study, in which they self-reported their health and exercise in eight follow-up examinations over a quarter of a century.

Subjects were also given heart scans so researchers could look at the state of their arteries.

The findings suggested that white men who work out around 8 hours a week or more have nearly double the chance of suffering from heart disease than those who exercised less than two-and-a-half hours a week.

            Why do I hate this? Because it gives people an excuse to not work out. Very few people will read these articles carefully. They will skim a headline and now the waters are muddied. They’ve been told for years that they need to work out for their health but now maybe that’s not true. And if you’re pre-disposed to not want to work-out, this is all you need.

            Of course, you can overdo it. Elite runners will run over 100 miles per week for years on end. That’s not actually good for your health. It is completely overdoing it from a health perspective. But it shouldn’t lead you to tell people that running is bad for them. You can overdose on water but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t drink water. It’s not even clear that this would lead to any heart issues. From Time Magazine:

"This [study] doesn't apply to 99% of people," says Dr. Deepak Bhatt, executive director of interventional cardiovascular services at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "Most people are not getting into this range of exercise. The problem in the U.S. is the exact opposite, that most people are getting nowhere near the recommended amount of exercise."

Even if hardcore exercisers do have more calcium buildup, it's still not clear if that's damaging the heart, says Dr. Aaron Baggish, director of the cardiovascular performance program at Massachusetts General Hospital. While the results are intriguing, the study doesn't actually show that people with a heightened risk of CAC went on to have heart attacks or other health problems, Baggish says, and that means it's too soon to say whether extreme exercise is actually causing heart issues.

While doctors know that calcium buildup in the hearts of sedentary people is a bad sign, Baggish says it's not clear whether that's true of very active people, too. The body deploys calcium to repair injuries and inflammation, so marathon runners, endurance athletes and other regular exercisers may accumulate calcium as the body recovers from stress, he says—but that doesn't necessarily mean it's causing problems.

            So extreme exercise will stress the cardiovascular system which may or may not cause any health problems. Unfortunately, that is not nearly as compelling of a headline.

TidBits:

-The U.S. Army is testing its new physical readiness test

-CrossFit on the Great Wall of China

-What’s the toughest workout class in LA?

 

THE WEEKLY HOWL IS EARNING HIS SHOWER

Smart Clothes: CNN dove into the wild world of fitness technology. What did we learn? That there are a lot of people who want to sell you unnecessary stuff:

Wearable tech companies, from Athos to Hexoskin, are even offering compression shirts, tank tops, leggings and shorts embedded with biometric-tracking sensors to measure how your body is performing during a workout.

"Think of the textiles taking on the electronics by picking up data points from athletes, rather than having rigid wearable technology solutions on a wrist or on the chest," Zok said. So, "athletes would be wearing a sleeve, or would be wearing just a compression shirt, and integrated inside the shirt would be the sensors."

           

            But how is a smart-shirt an improvement over a smartwatch? Because it’s rigid? And the “smart” component of the smart-shirt won’t be? This feels like the smartphone phenomenon but in reverse. The smartphone destroyed the market for other hand-held, electronic devices (MP3 players, navigation units, digital cameras, PDAs) because it could perform those functions as well as many other things. The smartwatch is the smartphone of fitness trackers so why do we need all these other products? Because they are not going to be cheap:

 

As for the devices already on the market, smart socks and smart rings can cost about $200 respectively; smart shirts, smart shorts or smart leggings can cost up to $400 each; a personalized computer coach can range from an $80 sensor to a $450 investment; and your own drone might set you back $500 or more.

For an athlete training to win, the cost can be worth it, said the Legacy Sports Institute's Lee. It's just a matter of finding the right device for the right goal.

 

                Holy Crud! $400 for a smart-shirt? That’s more than the Apple Watch goes for. And you can’t just buy one. You’ll need to get like 5 in order to get you through the week, assuming that you’re going to keep up on your laundry. So instead of buying 1 smartwatch for less than $400, I should spend $2000 for 5 smart-shirts. I have still never heard a compelling reason why smart-clothing will be superior to a smart-watch. And I can wear the smartwatch every day. If there is a marginal benefit, then I could see professional athletes shelling out the cash. For them, it could be worth the money. But for the rest of us, I still fail to see the wisdom in wasting this much money. The Internet of Things is still a compelling concept for companies looking for future growth but the truth is that we don’t need everything we own to be a tech product. 

Magic Pill: Imagine if the Magic Pill, the pill that could give you all the physical benefits of exercise without having to exercise, actually existed. Bloomberg reports that it might. Mitobridge Inc., a biotech startup based in La Jolla, CA, has been developing a new drug that could “safely upgrade human cellular metabolism”. Mitobridge has begun Phase 1 testing on humans and expects to have it completed by July 2018. But what exactly does this drug do?

In 2003, Evans and his team tweaked mouse genes to turn the fat-burning switches on permanently in fat tissue, and their mice slimmed down dramatically. A year later he flipped the fat burners on in muscle tissue, and the mice developed Type 1 muscle, the kind found in marathon runners and endurance cyclists. These mice lasted an hour longer on the treadmill than normal ones and ran twice as far. The downside was burnout, says Michael Downes, a senior scientist who’s been working with Evans since the 1990s. Permanently flipping all of the cellular switches on made the mice’s muscles grow faster than any known medication had.

                First off, don’t expect this to upend the fitness industry anytime soon. The FDA approval process is long, expensive, and complicated and there is no guarantee that MAO211 will get the thumbs up. Then, the drug is being developed for sufferers of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. So it won’t be approved for cosmetic purposes and it will also be prohibitively expensive as long as the patent hasn’t expired. Drug patents last for 20 years so we’re looking at decades before we might start to see this as something that is widely available.

                However, we may see this within our lifetimes. How would the Magic Pill effect the fitness industry? Would people still workout? I can only speak for myself but I would still workout. The benefits of exercise go beyond physical appearance. Working out is my stress relief. The human body was built to move around, not sit still. Magic Pill or not, I need to move around every day or I would go nuts. Exercise has also been linked to maintaining cognitive function. Would the Magic Pill give similar results? Probably not but who knows. Or would it just keep the body looking good while the mind languished? Unfortunately, most people do not share my passion for fitness and would probably welcome a life in which they never exercise and didn’t get fat. I don’t think that a Magic Pill would kill the fitness industry but it would certainly impede its growth. Fortunately, we still have a couple of decades to figure it out.

WeWorkOut: WeWork, the operator of co-working and co-living spaces, has opened its first gym in Manhattan. The gym is named Rise by We, (why?), membership is completely separate from the co-working membership, and is divided into 3 areas. The first area is reserved for combat sports training (boxing, kickboxing, and mixed martial arts), the second area for cardio, and the third area for yoga and meditation. Then there is a “semi-private” area devoted to group training in functional fitness. There is also a spa and café.

                I am intrigued by WeWork’s entrance into the fitness industry. It tells me 2 things. The first is that WeWork considers gyms to be a real estate business. The second is that WeWork believes fitness to be a high priority for millennials. WeWork’s business is built around millennials and they wouldn’t be getting into this space if they didn’t think that their customers were very interested.

                There aren’t a lot of details out there but I have to assume that this is designed to be a co-working out space with lots of yoga and MMA classes. That would be most consistent with the WeWork brand and the design of the gym seems to support that.        Still I am disappointed that for $185/month, you get very little access to any strength training equipment. I understand that you want to push the group training program but come on.

Customized Workouts: I have always been frustrated by one-size-fits-all training programs. Everyone’s body responds differently to training yet the vast majority of coaches and gurus push “their” training program, the one true way guaranteed to deliver results. The problem is that there is no one true way because everybody is not the same. If you want results, you have to figure out what your body responds to and that can take time. Or you could put a test tube of your saliva in the mail. Tom Piccolo from Men’s Health did just that and got his results.

  I decided to test out DNAFit, a company that makes training and diet recommendations based on your specific genome. According to the company, there’s a distinct link between genes and trainability. “If we give a large group of people the same training program, we see large differences in how they respond to that training program,” explains Andrew Steele, the head of product at DNAFit. Steele says that studies have shown that 50% of those differences can be attributed to a person’s genetic makeup. The other factors are non-genetic-related (diet, sleep, environment, etc.). 

                What did he learn?

1)      He should focus on endurance sports

2)      His body recovers from exercise slower than the average person

3)      His soft tissue is at risk for injury

4)      He’s lactose intolerant  

 

Other than #4 (which is odd because he says that he is not), these are all things that could be learned through the trial and error of training. This does save a lot of time though and the price ($80) is very reasonable. It does raise the question plaguing DNA-based startups regarding their accuracy though and DNAFit’s explanation for how Tom could be lactose intolerant despite never suffering the symptoms of it were less than convincing. There is a lot of potential here. I just don’t think that we’re there yet on this one. 

Motivation: Adam Gilbert published a fantastic piece on motivation this week. He outlined 12 tips to staying committed to your fitness goals. Let’s go through each one:

1)      Start Small

I know that people want to see results fast but one of the most common mistake is doing too much too fast. Then they get really, really sore and tired and working out seems like a hellish experience to them. Start small and build up. It’s also overwhelming to make so many changes to your lifestyle at once. Make one change a week. People overestimate what they can done in a short period of time and underestimate what they can get done in a long period of time.

2)      Follow the 10-minute rule

If you really don’t feel like working out, just get started and if you still want to stop 10 minutes in then stop. Most likely, you won’t but it makes getting started less daunting. The other thing that I do sometimes when I’m not feeling it is turn off my mind. Don’t listen to the excuses that are starting to form and just do the damn thing.

3)      Pair exercise with something else

Sometimes I will watch a little TV while I work out. It works.

4)      Never waste a shower

I thought that I was the only one who does this. Now I feel weird and guilty when I shower but didn’t work out. Showers are for closers. 

5)      Don’t push to exhaustion

Leave a little in the tank. It’ll make you more excited to do it all over the next day. Consistency is king!

6)      Access the power of Mondays

This one I’ve never used but I can see how it is effective.

7)      Have fun

Find something that you like doing and you’re more likely to keep doing it. This is a lot more to fitness than running and lifting weights.

8)      Honor your commitment to “you time”

Make your workouts part of your schedule, not something that you hope to squeeze into a busy day

9)      Opt for the do-nothing strategy

Never done this but I love the idea of someone forcing themselves to just sit there instead of working out.

10)   Identify the real problem

Make your fitness program as friction-less as possible. For me, that means that I need to have home workout options.

11)   Follow the “one day” rule

I live by this rule. I can miss one day but not two days in a row.

12)   Don’t exercise to lose weight

The best reason to work out is to feel good, physically and emotionally. It will keep you coming back long after that extra weight is gone.

TidBits:

-Hong Kong-based gym & retail chain, Pure Group, is looking to sell itself for as much as $500 million

-Don’t deny it, we all do this

-“Twenty percent of our audience is working out starting at 11 p.m., ain’t that crazy?

-Asics wants to be known for fitness, not just running

-Technogym has mastered corporate wellness