THE WEEKLY HOWL IS JOINING THE ARMY

Beer: My track coach in college once told us something that has always stuck with me. He told us that we were smart people so we could rationalize anything but that didn’t mean that we should ignore common sense. He was talking to us about alcohol. He didn’t want his athletes drinking because it would hinder performance and he knew that some of us would invent reasons to justify why it was okay to imbibe. What he didn’t tell us was that there was a whole cottage industry devoted to justifying the consumption of alcohol. The Ringer sent Molly McHugh down the rabbit-hole of the Beer Mile, a competition that entails drinking 4 beers and running 1 mile as fast you can. She survived to write about it and came back armed with pseudo-science about the health benefits of beer.

While ingesting beer before running certainly won’t make you go faster, Neilson isn’t the only one who thinks that it could be beneficial after exercise. Some breweries are creating beer with exactly this factor in mind. Chief among them is Sufferfest Beer, a San Francisco–based brewery with the slogan “will sweat for beer.” The aim of Sufferfest is to make a beer with some physical benefits that doesn’t sacrifice taste—though it doesn’t claim the drink aids recovery. The Sufferfest team like to qualify theirs as a “functional” beer, which means it’s meant to do something beyond tasting good and giving patrons a nice buzz. Sufferfest beer is gluten-free and has nutrients runners look for in both training and recovery—sodium, iron, potassium, and fiber. It’s also a probiotic. ABV ranges from 3.5 percent to 7.5, fairly strong for what’s deemed a “beer with benefits.” It’s sold not just in grocery stores, but also in climbing gyms and CrossFit studios. “Beer is actually really healthy,” says Sufferfest director of marketing Margaret Link, who recently completed a 50K race. The beverage is high in fiber and electrolytes, and it’s also around 90 to 95 percent water. It’s no wonder that runners crave a beer immediately after crossing the finish line, she says.

              What if I told you that there was a liquid that is 100% water? It’s called water. Alcohol is a diuretic, it is not a good thing to drink post-exercise.

“Exercise provides a wealth of benefits to brain and body, and is regarded as a protective factor against disease,” the researchers wrote. “Protective factors tend to cluster together—that is, people who engage in one healthy behavior, such as exercise, also engage in other healthy behaviors, such as maintaining a nutritious diet and getting sufficient sleep. In contrast to exercise, alcohol consumption is not typically regarded as a health-promoting behavior. … Surprisingly, several large, population-based studies have shown a positive association between physical activity and alcohol intake.” That same study’s survey of college students found that those who classified themselves as moderate drinkers were more likely to be physically active, and that as the intensity of their physical activity went up, so did their drinking. Other, broader surveys confirm the correlation beyond college students.

              So alcohol might be good for you because healthy people tend to do healthy things. This is pure rationalization. If you enjoy drinking beer, then go ahead and enjoy it. But please stop trying to convince anyone that it is good for you. It is not. Alcohol has been designated as a Level 1 carcinogen by the World Health Organization. Take a look at the list and ask yourself if you would want to put some of those substances in your body. It’s not a recovery drink and it’s not going to help you live longer. It will do the exact opposite. People will always choose to drink alcohol and that’s okay but it is dangerous to tell them that it’s actually good for you.         

Dear Gym: Gyms are notorious for making it hard for members to cancel. It’s the seedy underbelly to the fitness industry. And it not uncommon for the media to pick up on some of the most outrageous examples. From WILX 10:

Gym memberships can be a major headache when you try to cancel them. But for one Jackson woman, her health prevented her from going to the gym and being able to cancel it. Kathie Pagan was diagnosed with temporal bone infection. She has to take antibiotics through an IV often, and that prevents her from going places. She was told the only way she can cancel her gym membership is to do it in person, something she says is just not possible.

"I told him that it could possibly harm his employees and patrons," she said.

Pagan says cancelling her membership in person wouldn't be fair to her or the gym's employees and patrons.

"I wanted to stay there, I wanted to work out, I didn't think that I was going to be sick all this time. I thought he would work with me, and then when I got better I would just go back. I don't plan on not being able to work out. I hope that one day I can feel good and get physically fit."

Pagan says she tried to explain the situation to the owner, but didn't feel like she was getting anywhere.

Dear gym operators, stop making it so hard to cancel! It’s short-term thinking. Yes, you will probably get a few more months of membership dues out of that person but there is a cost to that. Think long-term. You could get that member back one day or they could even refer other people to your gym. Or you could avoid negative headlines like this one. Have more confidence. You have the privilege of selling the best product in the world: fitness. Stop acting like you’re selling time shares. You don’t need to do this kind of stuff.

This is very 20th century to me, treating the consumer as if they’re not sophisticated and basically trying to rip them off and thinking that they won’t understand what’s going on. 21st century companies excel by being customer-centric and confident in their product/service. I’ve canceled my Netflix subscription because I wasn’t using it. The process was easy and hassle-free and you know what, I ended up coming back. There have been other subscription services that I have used before that made it a pain to cancel and I’ll never go back. Because that was my last impression of the company, that they were trying to rip me off. I would never recommend those services to anyone either. That’s not good business.  

Military: One of my instructors at boot camp used to brag that he only worked out twice a year, when he was forced to take the Navy’s PFT. The PFT is max push-ups, max curl-ups, and a 1.5 mile run. It’s not terribly demanding especially considering how rampant cheating is on the push-ups and curl-ups. Basically, you could fake your way through the strength portion and then suck it up for a short run. A lot of people would cram for it, try to get in good-enough shape in the 2 months before the test and you could. Other people would fake injuries, I remember one guy who would mysteriously develop a limp the month of the PFT. The Army PFT is similar, the main difference being a slightly longer run (2 miles). But times are changing and the Army Combat Fitness Test is going to re-define what a military fitness test can look like. From Military.com

The secretary of the Army said Monday he has no doubt that soldiers will "rise to the challenge to meet the requirements" of the new Army Combat Fitness Test in October 2020.

The chief of staff of the Army put his views more bluntly.

"If you can't get in shape in 24 months, then maybe you should hit the road," Gen. Mark Milley said, referring to the Army's commitment to the new six-event ACFT.

"We don't want to lose thousands of soldiers to [the ACFT]. This fitness test is hard. No one should be under any illusions about it," he said. "But we really don't want to lose soldiers on the battlefield. We don't want young men and women to get killed in action because they weren't fit."

              The main impetus for this change is to more accurately prepare people for the rigors of combat. Push-ups, sit-ups, and running isn’t comprehensive enough. An added benefit of this overhaul will be that it will be very difficult to cram for it. The old PFT model isn’t rigorous enough. You can suck it up through some sit-ups, push-ups, and a short run, especially when you’re young which most service members are. I always preferred the USMC test (Pull-ups, Sit-ups, 3 mile run) because pull-ups are much tougher than push-ups (you have to train them!) and a 3 mile run really keeps you honest. The new Army test will require people to train year-round, you’re not going to be able to cram for this one.

Drugs are bad: Are we at a point in which everything is a thing now? It sure seems that way. Why do I say that? Because apparently taking Viagra before working out is a thing now. From Men’s Health:

Last year, Sam*, 27, started taking anabolic steroids. “I always wanted to be big and strong,” he told MensHealth.com, “At some point I realized my goals were unattainable naturally, so I hopped on the juice.” He had heard that steroid use could potentially lead to erectile dysfunction, so he started taking 10mg a day of the erectile dysfunction drug Cialis.

Then Sam started spending a lot of time on Reddit. He quickly discovered another potential benefit for Cialis. “I saw that people were taking it before their workouts,” he said. “So I changed the timing of my doses to about an hour prior to training.”

To hear Sam tell it, he noticed the difference right away. “I noticed increased vascularity and good pumps,” he said. “Plus, it seems to help reduce cramping/debilitating pumps from oral steroids. I have better erection quality as well, which is obviously pretty great.” Though he eventually dropped to 5mg per day to improve nasal congestion (a common side effect of erectile dysfunction drugs), he continues to take it before his workouts.

This encapsulates the insanity of taking PED’s. You start taking a drug to boost performance but there are side effects to the original drug so you start taking another drug to counteract those side effects but now you have to worry about the side effects of the other drug that you’re on.

And will getting a better pump (more blood in your muscles) even translate to greater muscle growth?

“Sildenafil increases blood flow to the penis and surrounding muscles, which translates into a nice strong erection,” says urologist and assistant professor at the UCF College of Medicine, Jamin Brahmbhatt, MD. “This increased blood flow is what some athletes hope to have to get them to build up their bodies faster.” Viagra also contains nitric oxide, a key ingredient in many legal bodybuilding supplements (though it's worth noting that the benefits of nitric oxide for building muscle are pretty unclear).

There's a small amount of research to support these claims. A few studies have suggested that taking sildenafil can benefit athletes competing at high altitudes, such as cyclists or long-distance runners, by delivering more oxygen to their muscles. Additionally, a 2013 study in the journal of Clinical and Translational Science suggested that sildenafil could increase muscle protein synthesis and reduce muscle fatigue, concluding that it may “represent a potential pharmacologic strategy to improve skeletal muscle function.”

But Brahmbhatt says there were serious limitations to this study. “The study found some potential benefit in gaining muscle mass if you took low doses of Viagra,” continues Dr. Brahmbhatt, “but that study was flawed by its small size. This is a great example of how you should not get caught up in the hype of one study.”

              In other words: who knows. Kids, don’t do drugs.

World Domination: CrossFit has announced another 4 events that will become a part of the 16 event qualifying circuit that will replace the Regionals. And what is definitely a trend now, all 4 events will be contested outside of the U.S. From Morning Chalk-Up:

The 2019 CrossFit Games season officially kicked off last week with the start of the Dubai CrossFit Championship and Wodapalooza CrossFit Festival online qualifiers. Athletes and fans will now have eight months of uninterrupted CrossFit competitions leading up to the CrossFit Games in August. 

Today, CrossFit HQ added four new sanctioned events, bringing the total to 10 with several more expected in coming weeks.

CrossFit Strength in Depth, the CrossFit Italian Showdown, the CrossFit Lowlands Throwdown, have all gained sanctioned status and will be qualifying one male and female athlete and one team to the CrossFit Games. The only exception to that is the CrossFit Italian Showdown, which will not include a team competition. 

Due to SouthFit CrossFit Challenge kicking off next month, it won’t become a sanctioned event until the 2020 season. 

              Strength in Depth is held in London, The Italian Showdown in Milan, the Lowlands Throwdown in the Netherlands, and the SouthFit CrossFit Challenge in Buenos Aires. That gives us 3 U.S. events (Wodapalooza, Granite Games, Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge), 2 South American events (Brazil CrossFit Championship, SouthFit CrossFit Challenge), 4 European events (Italian Showdown, Lowlands Throwdown, French Throwdown, Strength in Depth), 1 African event (Fittest in Cape Town), and one Middle Eastern event(Dubai CrossFit Championship). This is what the circuit for a sport with global aspirations looks like. It’s also something that would have been very expensive and time-consuming for CrossFit to organize itself. The downside is that it will be expensive for U.S. based athletes to travel to these events.

              We’re also starting to see athletes figure out their qualifying strategies. Moving the Open from February to November seems less than ideal for Games competitors. Trying to compete in both basically means that you can’t take anytime off after the Games. Some athletes mused about not competing in the Open but it appears that CrossFit is putting the kibosh on that strategy.

Since Greg Glassman first announced changes to the CrossFit Games season six weeks ago, it was unclear what role, if any, the Open would play. As only country winners and the top 20 worldwide would receive invitations to the CrossFit Games, it appeared that the Open would offer little to no benefit for a majority of would be competitors.

Some were even expressing interest in skipping it altogether.

“The likelihood of me doing the Open is small, I think,” said Brent Fikowski in an interview with TeamRICHEY, who placed 184th worldwide and 20th in Canada in 2018. “It’s likely that I’ll probably just go to a lot of competitions and try to qualify through the competitions. I think it’s a much better use of my time for me to do that to go to the Games” 

However, with today’s updated announcement, athletes will want to think twice about skipping the 2019 CrossFit Open. 

According to a press release, “Overall competitor seeding at the Games will be determined by athletes’ scores in the 2019 worldwide CrossFit Open. Athletes who do not participate in the Open (and thus do not receive an Open score) will receive the lowest seeding and will compete in the first qualifying heats at the 2019 Games. Higher seeded athletes will compete in later heats.”

Glassman has teased the idea of elimination rounds in several interviews over the past month. CrossFit HQ confirmed that the CrossFit Games will open with mass elimination rounds to whittle the competition down to only 10 athletes, hence the emphasis placed on seeding from the Open. 

For example, the Fittest Man in Bolivia — Carlos Hurtado — ranked 5653 worldwide and 250th in the Latin America region. By comparison, Alex Vigneault was the Fittest Man in Canada and 2nd worldwide. Vigneault would compete in later heats with fitter athletes. 

CrossFit also confirmed that winners of sanctioned events will be seeded higher than national champions and possibly receive a bye out of the first elimination round. 

              Figuring out how to approach the new qualifying format is going to be tricky. Everyone will probably want to compete in the Open which means that Games competitors will need to keep training hard between the Games and the Open before taking a break. Does that make Dubai an attractive event? You could train all year to be in peak shape for August-December. And then if you don’t qualify, you have the rest of the year to make another attempt. It will be interesting to see what works and what doesn’t.

Tidbits:

-SoulCycle’s new media division is getting into music

-Meanwhile in the sleep economy…

-Your fitness tracker might not be as accurate as you want it to be

-The Science of Gym Selfies

-I don’t think that fitness snacking is a good way to describe this

-Ruth Zukerman, founder of SoulCycle and FlyWheel Sports, has a book coming out

-I need a vacation

THE WEEKLY HOWL IS GOING TO CAPITOL HILL

Get PHIT: We have an obesity epidemic in this country. We also have fitness inequality in which the least affluent are generally the least fit. Paying for fitness goods and services is a major obstacle for most people and a big driver in that fitness inequality. Miraculously, Congress might actually try to do something about that. From Club Industry:

The Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act has been introduced in both the House and U.S. Senate numerous times in the last decade, with the House bill being most recently introduced by Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) in March 2017. It currently has 135 bipartisan sponsors.

On July 12, the act passed through the committee with a vote of 28-7.

“This is tremendous news, and it’s encouraging that our voices are being heard in Washington, D.C., by our national legislators,” PHIT America founder Jim Baugh said in a media release. “Passage of the PHIT Act will make physical activity more affordable for all Americans, especially families.

The PHIT Act would amend the existing IRS code to allow for a medical care tax deduction on qualified purchases for up to $1,000 per taxpayer or $2,000 for married couples filing jointly or heads of household, according to the proposed bill.

Under these revisions, physical activity expenses—including gym memberships and youth and adult sports registration fees—would become reimbursable through pre-tax dollars via health savings accounts (HSAs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs), allowing consumers to deduct related costs after meeting the 10 percent of income threshold on medical expenses.

              Despite the fact that this bill enjoys bipartisan support in a political environment in which virtually nothing else does, this idea has come under some intense criticism. From Slate:

But the bill is more than just joke fodder. It’s also symptomatic of a long-standing sickness in American policy making: American politicians, including Democrats, are absolutely addicted to hiding pieces of the welfare state inside the tax code, rather than just spending directly on public goods and services. We deal with retirement savings through 401(k) accounts and health care with FSAs and HSAs and education through 529 accounts and offer commuter benefits and on and on. As a result, positive public policy goals—like helping Americans get fit—get channeled toward silly giveaways for wealthy corporations and upper-income families that don’t really achieve what they intend, because they’re not targeted well toward the people who need help. The fact that these ineffectual ideas are some of the only things that can still get bipartisan support is just one more sign of how broken our politics actually are.

              People are concerned that this will not motivate people to join a gym but only reward those who already do. I disagree with that because people love tax write-offs. My concern is that while this bill may encourage an affluent person to join a gym (or not cancel an existing membership) now it’s a tax break, it won’t encourage a low income person to do so because they probably don’t itemize their taxes or have a health savings account. In other words, this could address the obesity epidemic but not fitness inequality. But it’s better than doing nothing. The PHIT Act isn’t going to the silver bullet because nothing is. We need a suite of solutions to address our fitness problems. This can be one of them but it can’t be the only one. This is not a perfect solution but the perfect is the enemy of the good. Let’s do something! What’s the alternative? Keep doing what we’re doing (Nothing!) because that is not working. If anyone has a better idea, I would love to hear it because I’m not hearing anything. This is not the sign that politics is broken in this country. Enacting policy through the tax code is the path of least resistance for Congress. Taking the path of least resistance is human nature not a sign of the apocalypse. At least, we’re moving in the right direction for once.   

Drugs: CrossFit is cracking down on PED cheaters. The functional fitness giant announced that 10 athletes have tested positive for PEDs and will be sanctioned from competition. From BoxRox:

 

Don’t tell me that CrossFit isn’t fearless. This is what trying to clean up a sport looks like. The problem is that the American sports media does not get this. They think that catching a bunch of athletes means that the sport is dirty. The reality is that every sport is dirty, every sport has an issue with PEDs. If you’re catching anyone, then it means that you have your head in the sand. You’re encouraging your athletes to dope. The major sports organizations in this country (NFL, MLB, NBA) rarely catch anyone because they don’t want not because the athletes aren’t doping. And the sports media buys into it. Remember when they were referring to the “Steroid Era in Baseball” in the past tense as if MLB had miraculously fixed the problem. That all stopped when the Biogenesis story broke in 2013. MLB wasn’t really looking so they weren’t finding anything.

               And these sanctions have some bite to them. These are not slaps on the wrist. CrossFit denied one athlete’s TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) request and I suspect that Emily Abbott (the most high-profile athlete to get banned) is going to say the same thing. They’re setting a zero-tolerance policy here, which I think is the best one. It’s harsh but the athletes will adapt. If you are a pro athlete, then you need to pay attention to everything that goes into your body. You need to be paranoid about it. Carry around a list of banned substances, test all of your supplements, and think about everything that you put into your body. Is this a huge pain in the ass? Yes! But that’s the price to pay to compete in a somewhat clean sport.

TUEs are tough because there are legitimate reasons to have a TUE but athletes have abused them in the past. CrossFit leadership may have looked at the TRT (Testoterone Replacement Therapy) Era in Mixed Martial Arts and decided that they weren’t going to go down that path. I am sick and tired of the tainted supplement excuse. Athletes have to be responsible for whatever ends up in their system, whether it is inadvertent or not. Supplements aren’t regulated, they are the Wild Wild West. Test your supplements or don’t take any. I know that people are going to say that this is too harsh. I have sympathy for anyone in this group who inadvertently took a banned substance because I don’t think that CrossFit had established this hardline stance prior to this. It sucks to be the first one through the door but CrossFit has to start somewhere. Going forward, everyone should realize that this is the standard and act accordingly.

Boutiques: Orangetheory is on the cusp of opening its 1000th location which is fantastic growth for a company that is only nine years old. It celebrated with a profile in Fast Company that was full of interesting facts. For example, I did not know that work-outs are kept secret until members actually show up at the gym.

Orangetheory puts a unique spin on the practice by combining it with technology and behavioral psychology, then adding a dash of spontaneity. To start, club members never know what to expect at each class–it can be speed-focused, endurance training, or more strength-based. There’s no detailed schedule, just the element of surprise; clubs constantly vary modalities–split between cardio and weight-lifting–to avoid the dreaded fitness plateau. (A 26,000-strong Reddit community is devoted to dissecting every day’s mystery workout.)

“That constant changing of stimuli keeps your body adapting over the course of time and not just getting into the rut of doing the same thing every day,” says Orangetheory director of fitness Michael Piermarini. “That helps your body achieve results a bit more quickly.”

              That sounds like it was lifted straight from the CrossFit playbook. Orangetheory also relies upon the competitive spirit to motivate its members:

The heart rate monitors, meanwhile, track one’s anaerobic threshold, i.e., “afterburn,” the point where you reach 84% or 85% of your maximum heart rate and thereby increase your metabolism for the next 24 to 36 hours. This is what they deem the “orange zone.” The goal of each 60-minute class is to accumulate 12 minutes or more in this zone. Huge screens display where each member lies on the color board: blue (61%-70% of your maximum heart rate), green (71%-83%), orange (84%-91%), and the elusive red zone (92%-100%).

Fitness gamification–the art of applying competitive points during your workouts to encourage motivation–is nothing new. The behavioral strategy is the basis of cult favorites like indoor cycling club Flywheel, home app Peloton, and of course, Fitbit. It’s been called the future of health and wellness, the savior of boring workouts, and the only thing to get millennials off their tushes.

              It’s interesting that Flywheel and Peloton are mentioned but not CrossFit because Orangetheory’s training methodology has a lot more in common with CrossFit than it does with cycling classes. Then there were this little nugget:

Orangetheory isn’t slowing down: The Boca Raton-based company will soon open its 1,000th location in Portland, Oregon. California and Texas have the most locations. In 2017, it saw over $738 million in profit, a nearly 40% increase from the year prior. Females compose 80% of members, but the company sees rapid growth with men, many of them CrossFit devotees.

              I can only assume that they meant CrossFit refugees. People who started off doing CrossFit but may have found it too intense or competitive. Positioning themselves as CrossFit Lite (or a kinder, gentler CrossFit) is a good place to be and that’s obviously working out for them. The relationship between CrossFit and Orangetheory will be interesting to watch. Orangetheory might benefit from taking in CrossFit refugees but will Orangetheory also serve as a gateway drug to CrossFit?

Tanning: One of the unappreciated aspects of mission statements is that they define a company’s purpose. This might sound unnecessary to you but it can be surprisingly easy for a company to lose its way. For example, should a gym have tanning beds? From UConn Today:

Gyms are places people go to get healthier. But nearly half the gyms in the U.S. contain a potentially addictive carcinogen – tanning beds, report UConn researchers in the July 18 issue of JAMA Dermatology.

Exercise reduces the risk of every cancer except one – melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. People who exercise heavily are at greater risk of skin cancer, and yet many gyms in the U.S. have tanning beds. In other words, tanning beds in gyms are targeting people who are already at higher risk of skin cancer.

Exercise and tanning are both activities people use to improve their appearance; and people who tan in gyms tan more often – and more addictively – than other people who use tanning beds, according to a study run by UConn psychologist Sherry Pagoto.

              What is the mission statement of a gym? Is it make its members healthier or to make them look better? Most of the time, there is not a huge distinction but tanning beds brings that issue to the fore. If the mission is to make people healthier, then there should be no place for tanning beds in that gym. If the mission is to make people look better, health be damned, then tanning beds in a gym make sense. You can guess where I come down on this issue. Every gym’s mission statement SHOULD be to make people healthier. Therefore, tanning beds don’t belong in gyms. It’s all about the mission statement.

Trends vs. Fads: For some reason, USA Today decided that its readers would want to know what the biggest fitness trend was in the year that they were born. So they did the research and compiled a list starting in 1956 and going all the way to the present.

America’s obsession with physical fitness may have started with President Dwight Eisenhower’s creation of the President’s Council on Youth Fitness in 1956. The program was created as a response to some alarming statistics relating to the physical strength of America’s youth. Specifically, some 60% of American children had failed a physical fitness test, compared to just 9% of European children.

The average amount of calories Americans consume on a daily basis has increased by hundreds over the past few decades, making it harder to stay in shape. While exercise is important, diet is the primary factor in weight gain or weight loss.

As American waistlines expanded, an array of products hit the market promising to be the best, fastest way to help people slim down. Many relied on celebrities who were already in shape or other so-called “fitness gurus” to sell. Upbeat hosts told people how to best work their bodies on television, then VHS tapes, and now on DVDs and online classes.

As technology advanced, many workouts became more high-tech. Americans quickly moved beyond barbells. Hula hoops were one of the first new fitness products to hit the market. Other machines like the treadmill, stationary bike and NordicTrack took activities normally reserved for the outdoors and allowed consumers to get the same type of workout without leaving the home.

While there is no way to determine how many people were embracing an exercise fad in any given year, we attempted to match each fad with the year that it first appeared or the year it became one of the most popular ways for Americans to exercise.

              The first thing that struck me was how all over the place this list is. The invention of the treadmill was the biggest exercise fad of 1978 while two years later, it was gravity boots. The fact that major media outlets are comfortable categorizing everything as a fad is a real problem for the perception of the fitness industry. Some of the things on this list are advancements in technology or proven programs. Other things are the Shake Weight. This is the perception that the fitness industry needs to change: that every new idea in fitness is just another fad. There is a negative connotation to fad and that diminishes the whole industry.

              The thing that I always tell people is that there is a difference between a fad and a trend. A fad fades quickly. A trend sticks around, changes the industry, and is bigger than the brand that popularized. Group exercise classes aren’t a fad but you could say that Tae-Bo was. USA Today could have written that it was determining what the biggest fitness story was the year that you were born. But I think it’s reflexive for people to refer to everything in fitness as a fad and that creates a negative perception. I’m not sure how we change this but we need to.

Tidbits:

-Does pregnancy make women run faster?

-The European fitness market is bigger than the U.S. one

-Garmin and Golds Gym are partnering up

THE WEEKLY HOWL IS BODYBUILDING IN MIAMI

Steroids: The Miami New Timespublished an article on the self-described “Pablo Escobar of steroids”, Richard Rodriguez, this week. It is a wild read. Rodriguez made millions selling steroids online and lived a lavish lifestyle in South Florida.

In fact, as the feds soon laid out in court, Rodriguez had built one of the largest online steroid operations in U.S. history. While celebrity bodybuilders flexed on Instagram inside his gym and hawked drugs from his website, Wellness Fitness Nutrition — WFN for short — Rodriguez sold nearly $10 million worth of steroids in two years. He bought a McLaren and a Mercedes-Benz SLS, gifted his wife Cartier jewelry and trips to Europe, and became famous in pro bodybuilding, where he was widely known as Dr. Rodriguez even though he had no medical degree.

Now, after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and awaiting sentencing, Rodriguez has offered New Times an unprecedented look at how a steroid operation works today.

Interviews with the steroid kingpin and his associates, hundreds of pages of court filings, and thousands of sales records from his business make two things clear: Scores of clients, from attorneys to medical doctors to cops, brazenly bought his illegal products online before he was busted, and five years after New Timesexposed the Biogenesis steroid clinic — which eventually led to an unprecedented round of suspensions in Major League Baseball — Florida authorities still have little interest in slowing the rise of unregulated steroid clinics in the state.

With drugs shipped in bulk from China and then mixed in legal pharmacies or Rodriguez's own labs, it was almost comically easy for WFN to sell powerful compounds banned by the FDA for human consumption. If a pair of snitches hadn't ratted out Rodriguez to the feds, he might still be lording over a musclebound Miami empire rather than spending his days in a New York prison cell.

"Florida is a vanity-driven state where the market for steroids is enormous," Rodriguez says. "Most of our profit didn't come from power builders or pro athletes; it was just regular guys like you and me."

Some thoughts:

-The next time that someone tries to claim that their sport does not have a PED (Performance Enhancing Drug) issue, just remember how many people are willing to take steroids just to look good. No imagine that there is money and glory at stake and no one is willing to do what it takes to gain an edge on their competitors. 

-Bodybuilding has got to have the worst culture when it comes to PED’s. It has to be the only sport that has separate drug-freecompetitions. And there are a lot of people who doubt whether the athletes competingin natural bodybuilding are really clean. It’s just accepted that everyone involved in the sport is taking a ton of PED’s.

-Prior to 2000, the fitness culture in the U.S. was dominated by bodybuiding. Since then functional fitness has growing and gaining influence and I think that it is a great thing. Bodybuilding’s relationship with PED’s and obsession with aesthetics at the expense of function always troubled me. That kind of culture should not dominate the fitness landscape. 

-Read the article. It’s amazing how quickly this guy built an online steroid empire and how fast it all fell apart. 

Manage your time: Fitness apps are all the rage these days and POPiN has been getting more than its share of attention. The app is a way to purchase gym time by the minute instead of paying for a membership or a day pass. Business Insiderdid a profile of POPiN and one paragraph stood out to me:

The app also emphasizes that time truly is money. Knowing that I was paying by the minute, I was hyper-aware of the quality of my workout and didn't waste time scrolling through my phone or dawdling like I normally would. Each action or repetition felt more intentional — it'd be wasteful otherwise. 

            This is how you should always workout. I don’t think that the existence of pay by the minute services like POPiN will change the way that everyone approaches fitness but it would be great if it did. It drives me crazy to watch people who waste their time in the gym because I imagine that they bemoan the fact that they spend all this time working out yet fail to get the results that they want. Now I will want to read this paragraph to them. 

Business to Business: Subscription models have always been the envy of the business world.Lately, entrepreneurs have dedicated themselves to bringing that business model to new industries. One of the more high-profile ones has been MoviePass, an attempt to make movie theaters a monthly subscription. The company has been struggling to reach profitability, in fact it loses money on every subscriber. Now AMC has announced its own competitor service. Forbespublished an article on and decided to make a comparison to the fitness industry:

MoviePass has built a money-losing business on monthly memberships for unlimited movies. Now AMC Theatres is coming out with their own entry in that business model, A-List, which will cosst $19.99 per month for three movies a week. These movie membership plans have much in common with gym memberships, but also some important differences. A closer look reveals that MoviePass looks unsustainable, but AMC can probably make their membership plan work.

Gyms that rely on monthly membership build their business model on the knowledge that a large number of people will sign up (many of them right around New Year Day) and then rarely cross the doorway to the gym. In fact, some estimates suggest that two-thirds of gym members never use the gym to which they belong. That lets them keep average costs lower because they don’t need to stock the gym based on their actual paying membership, instead they can size their facilities to the ones that actually show up.

MoviePass has one membership plan that allows you to watch a movie a day for $9.95, plus a more limited option of three movies a month for $7.95. However, unlike gyms, MoviePass has to pay when a member uses their membership. A gym is just crowded if more members than expected get dedicated. In contrast, MoviePass has to pay the full ticket cost for every movie their members go see, so higher usage is much more expensive to MoviePass than to a gym. This difference is not a trivial one; thanks to those costs, MoviePass is losing $40 million a month, and those loses are expected to increase. Unless MoviePass can find a new revenue stream, somehow monetizing the data from its members at an incredibly high rate, it seems doomed.

            Yes, there are a lot of people who pay membership dues and rarely use it. The problem with this is that people don’t like to pay for something that they never use. So they cancel their memberships and now the gym has to acquire a new customer to replace the one that left. And it is always more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain a current one. I don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for the fitness industry but it always irks me when people assert that gyms have some magic formula. Subscription models are nice but there is nothing magic about high churn rates. 

The rich get thinner:There is a national conversation about income equality but less well-known is fitness inequality. And the two appear to be correlated. From the Washington Post:

We found that, overall, median household income does the best job of predicting physical fitness out of the variables we looked at: The more money you have, the more exercise you get. You need disposable income to buy a gym membership or running shoes, after all.

The CDC study takes this relationship one step further by looking at the types of jobs people have in each state. States with higher percentages of people in managerial and professional roles, which tend to pay more money, have higher rates of physical activity.

We also turned up an interesting correlation between religiosity, or rather the lack thereof, and physical fitness: States with higher numbers of nonreligious people had higher rates of exercise. As the Public Religion Research Institute has reported, cities tend to be “hubs” for the religiously unaffiliated, and they're often full of the types of high-paying jobs that the CDC links to higher rates of exercise. There may also be a simple mechanism at work by which people who don't go to church have more time to exercise on the weekends.

Conversely, fitness is negatively associated with the share of people in a state who voted for President Trump in 2016. This is where we need to point out, emphatically, that simple correlations like these don't tell us much about causation. It seems highly unlikely that pulling the lever for Trump would somehow make a person decide to hang up her running shoes. More likely, Trump support is related to a whole host of other structural factors, like income and demographics, that also relate to rates of fitness.

            First off, correlation is not causation. The Post acknowledges this but seems to want to find a cause in their data. I believe that it’s a cultural issue. Educated people who live in urban areas are more likely to value fitness. There are a thousand articles about millennials who can’t really afford SoulCycle but value it so much that they find a way to pay for it. That type of person is also less likely to attend religious services and support Donald Trump. 

It does take money to exercise but not as much as people think. Fitness can be as cheap and low-tech as you need it to be. The biggest financial issue holding people back is a lack of walkable/runnable neighborhoods. But that’s more of an inner city issue than a rural one. Although if you’ve ever tried to run in a rural area, you may have found that it’s not always a friendly environment for runners.  

We have a lot of divides in our country. I think that this is another by-product of our diverging cultures.             

Real estate: Once upon a time, landlords did not like gyms. That is no longer the case. The commercial real estate industry has embraced gym operators and they are snapping up some of the best locations. GlobeSt.comtalked to CBRE about this development:

GlobeSt.com: Why have fitness tenants become such active retail occupiers? 

Petra Durnin: Fitness clients seek more experiential retail options that extend beyond the workout period. Fitness centers provide a service that is internet proof, occupy much of the space left behind from big box/department store closures, fill non-peak retail hours, and attract new customers willing to travel farther for unique fitness experiences. The natural partnership between anchor tenants such as grocers is formed due to the trend towards healthy living. Nearby amenities such as restaurants, coffee shops and personal services attract gym goers, increase foot traffic and sales.

            Landlords used to dislike gyms because they didn’t believe that gym-goers were the right kind of foot traffic, i.e. shoppers. A lot has changed in the last few years. Beyond being “internet proof”, gyms attract affluent consumers multiple times a week. It’s hard to imagine how landlords ever considered that a bad thing. What else might change in the coming years?

GlobeSt.com: Is this a lasting trend? What is your outlook for fitness center activity? 

Durnin: A future trend could be for fitness clubs to locate near residential communities or medical/hospital complexes. They could partner with mixed-use and lifestyle centers with a larger experiential platform instead of traditional retail centers. Boutique fitness clubs could look to diversify further to provide an even more personalized experience with unconventional offerings such as trampoline parks and skydiving centers.

            That was very vague. It’s I don’t think that CBRE has a good sense of where the fitness industry is headed. Have you ever been to a trampoline park? You could fit at least 5 boutiques into one trampoline park. That is not something that you offer on the side. Neither is indoor skydiving. 

 

Tidbits:

-So you think that your hamstrings are strong?

-Reebok tries and fails to have evidence from its lawsuit with CrossFit sealed

-You  pre-order Dave Castro’s book

-The CrossFit Games are staying in Madison through 2021

-BuzzFeed goes long on Russell Berger

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 IS DRINKING COFFEE DURING SOULCYCLE

The Barbell Effect: FourSquare put out an analysis of its traffic showing that 25% of all gym-goers went to a Planet Fitness last quarter. Forbes theorizes that Planet Fitness’ success will be good for other gyms:

"That's a great situation for everybody if they look at it right," he adds. Once they start visiting a low-priced gym like Planet Fitness and getting results, some members move up to higher-priced gyms to take advantage of amenities like yoga classes, fitness consultations, and weight-loss challenges. (And they may keep their Planet Fitness membership as well if Caro's "second gym" statement is correct.)

I like the idea that Planet Fitness will serve as some people’s starter gym but I am very skeptical. Planet Fitness has designed itself to attract people who will not continue to come to the gym but will continue to pay their dues. I would like to see how many of the people who visited a Planet Fitness last quarter will do so this quarter. I believe that it is much more likely that these people stop working out altogether.

Also from Forbes:

If mid-market gyms are feeling the crunch, Planet Fitness isn't to blame. Thomas suggests that it's because these gyms are not able to differentiate themselves from high-end gyms and HVLP clubs. "The folks in the middle, I affectionately refer to them as the DIY model," he says. "They charge $39-$49 per month and say, 'Come on in and have at it.' They haven't figured out what makes them unique. At the end of the day, it's about solving problems for people. If they're getting squeezed, they have to think they're not solving problems."

                I agree that the mid-market gyms are failing to convey their value to the consumer. Your typical big-box gym tries to be a little bit of everything which makes it hard to develop a strong brand. The way that they should be differentiating themselves is value. A mid-market gym is the best value in the fitness market. A low cost operator like Planet Fitness is cheaper but you get what you pay for. A high-end gym like Equinox is really nice but you don’t need all that to get fit. It is a DIY model but you know what, DIY is in right now. There is a marketing strategy that could be built out of that value proposition; mid-market gyms just need to do that but they’re not.

Time to Panic?: Street Fight dug into the same Foursquare data and found that the number of cycling studios has doubled in the last 2 years while visits per location has tumbled by 30%.

“As a cycling enthusiast, I was particularly surprised … because I have been hearing about so many new openings in my city, New York, and elsewhere,” says Foursquare’s Editor-at-Large, Sarah Spagnolo. “It makes one wonder about how long this bubble will last, and whether to combat this issue, studios will slow the pace of expansion, look to expand in different regional markets instead of in their backyard, or continue to diversify their offerings; SoulCycle started selling bathing suits this summer, for example.”

            The barriers to entry to opening a fitness boutique are low and it appears that a lot of players have flooded the market. I expect to see a lot of studios closing up shop in the next couple of years but they’ll probably put a lot of pressure on pricing on their way out.

Papa’s got a brand new bike: Bloomberg reports that SoulCycle is rolling out a new bike. Here’s the quick and dirty:

-Requires less maintenance

-Increased resistance due to heavier wheel

-Smoother ride

-Designed for upper-body choreography

-Still no data-measurement tools

There’s always a fatal flaw though:

But there was one flagrant flaw that Wiener and some of his early morning riders found on the new bike: The beverage baskets have been replaced by horizontal trays, giving them no place to keep their fresh cups of coffee within hand’s reach during the ride. “You can’t put your coffee in it anymore,” he said. “That’s what I miss, and a lot of people say they miss.” 

                People are drinking coffee during SoulCycle???

Why Not OrangeZone?: Inc. ranked Orangetheory at #60 on the Inc 500 List of Fastest Growing Companies in America last year and they love the workout model:

Under orange lights, upbeat music, and the direction of an energetic coach, members move through a program that rotates between treadmills, rowers, and free weights with the intent to accumulate 12-20 minutes in the "orange zone," which is reached when the chest or wrist monitor registers a heart rate at 84% or higher of your maximum heart rate. According to OTF, this is the zone that creates the EPOC calorie burn, and minutes in the orange zone earn members "splat points" (which are tracked and emailed to each member after class purely for fitness tracking purposes).

Research has shown that the feeling of positive progress is an incredibly powerful performance motivator. Accumulating minutes in the orange zone ("splat points") provides a reward after each workout. Whether we're talking about business or fitness, things that are hard to build due to prolonged effort become more manageable with immediate and consistent pats on the back. It's not exactly gamifying since there's no strategy or competition - it's really just a rewards system that feels like recognition. It's like training seals (actual seals, not Navy SEALS): touch the ball; get a fish. Push your heart rate up into the orange zone; get a point.

Creating a feedback loop is a great way to keep people engaged and motivated. It’s even better when it doesn’t have to rely on competition.

The Games are Coming: We’re less than one week away from the opening of the CrossFit Games and starting to get an idea of what it will look like. Courtesy of BarBend:

Individual

Thursday

Friday

Event 1: Run 1.5 mile, Swim 500m, Run 1.5

Event 1: Sprint-O-Course

Event 2: Bike Event

Event 2: 1-RM Snatch

Event 3: Triple G Chipper

Team

Thursday

Friday

Event 1: Run 1.5 mile, Swim 500m, Run 1.5

Event 1: Sprint-O-Course

Event 2: 1-RM Clean & Jerk Males

Event 3: 1-RM Clean & Jerk Females

 

Day One for individuals is a double-serving of aerobic fitness followed by an obstacle course, a test of pure strength, and a classic metcon on Day 2.  I like what I see so far. Also from BarBend:

The brand new obstacle course is yet another sign that the Reebok CrossFit Games is focusing on further expanding athletes’ understanding of “fitness,” Of course, the Games have always featured running and swimming, but the biking, obstacle course, and significant shift toward dumbbell and other non-barbell movements seems to signify that fitness is getting an even broader definition. We’re all for it.

The CrossFit Games will be held in Madison, WI from August 3-6 and will be broadcast on CBS Sports, Facebook, and the CrossFit Games website.

 

Bodybuilding: VQR had a great piece on Mr. Olympia and the sport of bodybuilding. It focuses on the prominent role that steroids plays in the sport and is well worth your time to read. Towards the end of the article, it was revealed that Dwayne Johnson was partnering up with CBS Sports to bring Mr. Olympia to network television. Bodybuilding seems like a long-shot for mainstream acceptance:

At any rate, the potential embrace of the sport by a larger audience would seem to forecast—implicitly, at least—an embrace of steroids. If knowledge of performance-enhancing drugs became more widespread, the way cannabis use in movies and television increased awareness and preceded decriminalization in some states and legalization in others, maybe this mass-market version of the Mr. Olympia could succeed. In that way, the private steroid culture of the competition would be disseminated more widely, perhaps to the point at which color commentary during these events would combine discussions of posing acumen with analysis of steroid cycles, of drug use, of an athlete’s choice of site-injection oil to mask his weakest areas.

“It’ll never happen,” Aaron Cook, an amateur powerlifter and close friend, said to me when I shared this idea with him. “Though, man, I’d love for it to happen, because honestly, I think when everyone is on steroids, it gets us back to genetics, only this time it’s whose genetics tolerate steroids the best, whose body reacts the best to steroids. I’ve been using for years, and while I’ve gotten results, I look like garbage. Yet Phil Heath looks amazing. I want to know what he takes, what he uses. That’s my dream, to watch experts talk about that on TV. But I don’t know that many other folks share that dream.”

A few thoughts here:

-Anytime I hear someone suggest that the solution to PED usage in sports is to just let everyone take whatever they want, I will now want to quote this article. If you legalize PED’s, then you have to embrace their use. The use of steroids will have to be addressed and woven into the narrative of the sport. Steroids will become a part of the culture of that sport and once that happens, how many parents will want to let their children participate in that sport?

-A bigger spotlight may not be what bodybuilding needs. I could see this whole thing backfiring as people come to realize that bodybuilding doesn’t even pretend that steroid usage isn’t ubiquitous at all levels of the sport. It’s not hard to imagine some politician making this their pet issue.

-CBS Sports is very late to the content acquisition party.

TidBits:

-Boutique fitness apparel is all the rage these days

 -Breaking down the vein photo

-Welcome to the fitness lab

-Want to geek out on sport science?