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.


-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


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.


-Adidas is bringing fast fashion to sneakers

-Fast Company interviews the founder of Barre3

-ClassPass Live is…live




Geolocation: So Strava is now a threat to national security. The future is now and that future is weird. Strava, the popular fitness-tracking app, decided last November to release a heat map illustrating the activity of its users all over the globe. A couple of months later, Nathan Ruser pointed out on Twitter that you could use that heat map to identify forward operating bases in Afghanistan as well as map the traffic patterns on known military bases. The operational security implications are of this are huge. From The Verge:

Strava’s map doesn’t necessarily reveal the presence of military installations to the world — Google Maps and public satellite imagery have already done that — but where Google Maps shows the location of buildings and roads, Stava’s map does provide some additional information. It reveals how people are moving along those areas, and how frequently, a potential security threat to personnel. For example, in the following pair of images, one can easily match up roadways and structures on Google Maps to how people are moving around Fort Benning, Georgia.

Ruser points out that anyone viewing the map can pick out Coalition bases in Syria, and installations in Afghanistan, and zooming in on these locations reveal heavily trafficked areas, as well as US installations that might not have been disclosed. Air Force Colonel John Thomas, a spokesperson for the US Central Command, explained to The Washington Post that the military is looking “into the implications of the map.” A Strava spokesperson told The Verge that the company is “committed to helping people better understand our privacy settings,” and that its map “represents an aggregated and anonymized view of over a billion activities uploaded to our platform. It excludes activities that have been marked as private and user-defined privacy zones.”

                  There are 2 main issues here. The first is the Department of Defense’s failure to control service members’ use of devices that utilize geolocation. The second is the privacy implications for civilian users. Strava wants to become Facebook for exercise and they are adopting the social network’s approach to privacy features. From Quartz:

I soon learned that the first problem was my assumption that “Enhanced Privacy” on Strava meant that my data and running routes were viewable only to my approved followers. In fact, it means no such thing. Strava’s “Leaderboard” function ranks the pace of all athletes who complete the same Segment, or a set distance on a given route that has been mapped by a user and added onto the app. Though I had Enhanced Privacy on, I hadn’t enabled “Hide from Leaderboards,” which is a separate toggle on the privacy settings in the app.

This meant that if I ran a particularly fast 200-meter segment in the park, landing me temporarily on a Leaderboard, anyone who was examining that segment in the app—whether or not I’ve allowed them to follow me—could see my workout that day. Troublingly, this also would allow them to see my first and last name and the photo attached to my profile.

                  If you want to share your runs with your friends but not make it readily available to every Tom, Dick, and Harry then you have to become an expert on Strava’s privacy settings. A lot of men reading this might not think that this is a big issue but running outside can be a time of great vulnerability for most women. Making those runs easily searchable could enable people with bad intentions to act on those intentions. It could also reveal where someone lives. From Lifehacker:

Strava’s first recommendation for privacy is to create “privacy zones” around your home, workplace, or anywhere you don’t want people snooping. (I also learned today that mountain bikers use privacy zones to hide their activity on illegal trails.) But these zones are a clumsy tool that don’t really make your whereabouts all that secret.

 First, you have to go through the Strava website to set up a privacy zone, but you can reach that through a link from the app if you know where to find it. (It’s at the bottom of the privacy settings screen.) Then, you have to enter an address, and choose how big the zone should be. Your options range from a 200 meter radius up to one kilometer, which is 0.62 miles.

Those distances might be handy if you live in a densely populated area, but if you’re on a country road, there might only be a handful of houses within your privacy zone. Strava hides the portion of a run or ride that starts or ends in a privacy zone, but that means that your profile can end up with a bunch of short activities circling a two-kilometer dead zone.

                  Strava has not been immune to controversy; this is just the latest chapter. It does illustrate the tension between Strava’s desire to be a full-fledged social network (and the sharing of personal data that does with it) and the safety implications of making your exercise data available for all to see. Strava could make its privacy settings easy to understand if it wanted. It clearly doesn’t want users opting out of sharing. The question is whether that attitude will backfire on Strava. Will users opt out of Strava entirely? My first reaction is that the tech giants have been playing fast and loose with our personal data for years and it hasn’t slowed their growth. My second reaction is that outside of Facebook/Instagram, social networks are struggling. Twitter’s user growth and advertising revenue has disappointed investors since its IPO and Snapchat is similarly floundering as a publicly traded company.

Building a social network in 2018 is not nearly as appealing a prospect as it looked in 2010. Strava has some advantages baked in but there are serious concerns about privacy and some general headwinds about social network fatigue. I believe that Strava would be smart to make its privacy settings easy and intuitive to use instead of hoping that people just give up on their privacy. Once you lose your users’ trust, you will never get it back.

Hold your breath: What is the purpose of sport? Originally, it was to prepare for war. The modern version has expanded far beyond that and now encompasses leisure, exercise, competition, entertainment, among other things. Personally, I have always been fascinated by seeing what the human body is capable of and how hard we can push ourselves. I have never participated in the sport of free-diving or any other form of competitive breath-holding but it has held some interest for me. But I never really thought about whether it’s even a good idea. From The New Yorker:

But is circumventing the body’s internal warning systems really a good idea? Last October, François Billaut, a French researcher at the Université Laval, in Quebec City, published a paper examining the effects of apnea on cognitive function. Billaut spent part of his childhood in Tahiti, and he is still a scuba instructor and recreational free diver (best breath-hold: four minutes). Working with several French universities and the French National Apnea Commission, he and his colleagues recruited twelve élite free divers, twelve novice free divers, and twelve control subjects with no free-diving experience. All of them completed a series of five written tests and three computerized tests. Billaut’s team found that the élite divers scored poorly on a task called the modified Stroop test, which measures executive function. Damningly, the subjects’ scores got progressively worse as their experience increased. The most accomplished diver, a nineteen-year veteran with a best breath-hold of seven minutes and sixteen seconds, fell within the pathological range of impairment.  

When I asked Billaut how his subjects had reacted to the results, he smiled and shrugged. “Apnea is not different from many other sports, in the sense that practice at a high level often leads to deleterious impacts on human physiology,” he said. “Think about alpinists going to Mount Everest, climbers, gymnastics, marathon runners—every sport has its drawbacks when performed at the élite level.” Some of Billaut’s subjects didn’t really believe the data and hoped that the study was flawed. But, for the most part, he said, they simply accepted it as the price of admission. Bain wasn’t surprised. “The Croatian divers have the exact same sentiment as the French,” he said. “This is their life style. They’re not stopping.”

                  The difference between breath-holding and running is that running isn’t fundamentally bad for you. Running is great exercise but it can be taken to an extreme point at which you are doing more harm than good. Starving your brain of oxygen is never good for you. That’s the starting point and the more you do it, the more damage you do. I believe that in the 21st century every sport should serve the purpose of making us healthier. If a sport compromises our health at its most basic level, then perhaps we shouldn’t have it.

What goes into a shoe: The soles for Nike’s first shoes were made in Bill Bowerman’s waffle maker. Those were much simpler times. From Wired:

The latest running shoes, dubbed the Epic React Flyknit, are the first to use Nike's new React foam, which is partially made of rubber. The foam itself is being seen as a competitor to adidas' Ultraboost and Nike has included more of it on the shoe's base than in other models.

Where things get really interesting is in the design of the shoe's sole. The foam on the underside is mostly exposed to the surface below it, but also partly covered by additional rubber protection on the points of highest impact. Beneath this, the new React foam has a number of grooves, dents, and tracks running along it.

These were all designed by Nike's machine-led design. "Those tools are able to concept things the human brain can't conceive and the human hand can't draw," Schoolmeester says. The process of computation design involves converting data to structural patterns and telling the system what outcomes it should produce.

                  The barriers to entry in athletic shoes have gotten really high in the last 50 years while the barriers to entry in athletic apparel are lower than ever. Shoes require advanced machine learning. Apparel requires a basic understanding of graphic design and an account on TeeSpring. It’s weird that 2 spaces that are so closely related have moved in opposite directions like that.


Turn it down: I had no idea that the music in boutique classes was so loud. From PopSugar:

My slightly dulled hearing only lasted for an hour or two after my Spin session ended, but it continued to nag at me for far longer. Was I sacrificing my ears every time I booked another ClassPass workout? After all, it wasn't the first time I'd noticed my hearing was a little wonky after attending a group fitness class. Don't get me wrong; I like my music loud. Very loud. (I played bass in a punk band in high school, for god's sake.) But even so, some of the classes I attend seem to dangerously overdo it on the decibels. Is the very thing I'm doing in a quest to get healthier actually bad for my health?

Maybe I was being too sensitive. Maybe I just had a knack for booking exceptionally loud classes and instructors. So, a few days after that fateful Spin class, I decided to informally poll my Facebook friends. Had any of them either walked out of a workout class because the music was too loud, or been legitimately concerned that the volume in a workout class was negatively impacting their hearing? Fifty-four percent of the people who responded said yes.

"I once exited a SoulCycle class because the music was deafening," one fellow POPSUGAR editor told me. "My ears were ringing for a few minutes after I left, too." Another Facebook friend complained that even though she'd tried to wear earplugs once in an overly loud Spin class, they fell out halfway through. I, myself, can't even count the number of times I've physically moved myself away from a massive speaker in a bootcamp or hip-hop yoga class because I just couldn't take the volume.


                  Why does it have to be so loud? You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your hearing to get in shape. This feels like a lot of these classes are using overly loud music as a crutch. A great workout should be able to stand on its own. You don’t need music in order to generate energy or intensity. And doesn’t that make the instructor harder to hear? If you have to hand out earplugs, then the music is too loud.

Government Fitness: I am not one of those people who believe that government is the source of all of our problems and that everything would be better if the private sector ran it. There are things that I believe should never be in the purview of the private sector: police, first responders, prisons, the military. But there are also areas in which more government regulation is unnecessary and would stifle innovation. Fitness is one of those things and believe it or not, there is a movement to require a license to work as a fitness trainer. From Reason:

Crossfit's explosive growth was made possible in part by the lack of regulation in the fitness industry. While many states require licenses for occupations as innocuous as trimming trees, tending bar, braiding hair, or even arranging flowers, personal trainers can work without government oversight. Crossfit was free to run its own certification program, which flouts most of the conventional nutrition and exercise advice championed by government and academia.

The company regularly spars with fitness credentialing organizations with different exercise philosophies, like the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), and the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Several of them have united under the banner of the Coalition for the Registration of Exercise Professionals (CREPS), an industry group that regularly lobbies for regulation of the fitness industry. The fight is occuring largely behind-the-scenes at state legislatures across the country, where licensing laws have been introduced on 26 separate occasions since 2005. Crossfit supporters have pushed back just as hard, at times showing up in person to speak out against the bills.

The one place Crossfit lost is Washington, D.C., which passed the nation's first fitness trainer licensure law in 2014.

                  CrossFit Inc. has been fighting this tooth and nail and bringing light to the relationship between the big fitness credentialing organizations and Big Soda. And they’re right! This is a terrible idea. All this would do is create a gatekeeper for trainers and it’s not hard to figure out who would benefit from the creation of a new gate. It’s a move borne out of desperation. When you’re out of ideas and can’t compete in the marketplace, you try to get the government to protect your market share. Mark Rippetow, of Starting Strength fame summed it up best:

 "The competive marketplace is capable of sorting this out," says Rippetoe. "Did I get stronger? Did I get more fit? These should be the criteria that a competitive marketplace provides for the profession."

                  Well said.

Fill her up: A couple of months ago, Reebok suggested that the Oscars should add a category for best fitness trainer. Now the fitness brand wants to convert gas stations to fitness centers once electric vehicles have rendered them obsolete. From Forbes:

To that end, Reebok and Gensler have developed a plan that would redevelop existing filling stations according to either of three health-minded models:

·       The Network: Major interstate-highway rest stops would be turned into full-blown fitness centers where motorists and their passengers can shake off the road trip cobwebs by, say, running, spinning, boxing, or taking Crossfit classes while they replenish their vehicles’ batteries.

·       The Oasis: Larger gas stations adjacent to smaller local highways would become “recharge zones” to offer those with grueling commutes a mental and physical respite via yoga and meditation pods, and meet their nutritional needs via a juice bar and a farm-to-table restaurant.

·       The Community Center: Smaller gas stations could be transformed into mini-facilities that address local residents’ needs. For example, the former repair shop section of the building could be converted into an area for teaching nutrition classes, while the mini-mart can be reconfigured to sell local healthy food, and pop-up facilities can be employed for Crossfit and spinning classes.

I don’t know that this makes a ton of sense but I kind of like what Reebok is doing here. It’s like a weird mix of brainstorming and marketing. Will people really want to knock out a WOD while their Tesla is recharging? I kind of doubt it but you never where the next great idea is going to come from. Maybe Reebok will stumble upon it while they’re trying to promote fitness like this.


-The Women’s Strength Coalition wants to get more women into powerlifting

-5 Ironmans in 5 days in NYC

-What the hell is plogging?

-Under Armour is holding NFL Combine workouts in the Mall of America this week for the Super Bowl

-Michelob Ultra wants to be the “beer for the fit”

-The history of the hotel gym


Wearables: Endgadget had a great article this week on smartwatches and the upcoming race to have the best selection of apps. Cherlynn Low likened it to how the success of the iPhone was made possible by the App Store. And she offered an explanation for why FitBit and Samsung developed their own OS instead of going with Android Wear:

First, let's quickly recap the three operating systems we're discussing. With the Fitbit Ionic, the wearables maker also debuted it’s first-ever smartwatch OS, called Fitbit OS. We'll also look at Samsung's Tizen OS as well as Garmin's own platform. There's a reason these companies came up with their own software instead of going with Android Wear. While we're not discussing it at length here, Google's system, as well as Apple's watch OS, are designed for a wider audience and are therefore multipurpose. These three proprietary offerings focus on health- and fitness-related functions instead, and they put these tools front and center.

                Apple is clearly committed to making the Apple Watch a fitness device and it sounds like the upcoming iteration of the WatchOS will be more fitness-focused. We’re still waiting on the rumored Google Pixel Watch so we can only speculate on Google’s smartwatch strategy. Perhaps they are hesitant to re-enter the wearables space after the Google Glass debacle. It sounds like FitBit and Samsung want to be the platform that is easiest to develop for. The conventional wisdom during the App Wars was that the iOS was easier to develop for than Android or Windows Phone so app developers typically built there first. That resulted in Apple having a more robust selection of apps than its competitors.

                The other thing that I am seeing is that smartwatch makers are pairing off with major sports & fitness companies. Nike and Apple have a long-standing relationship and it was probably the main reason that Nike exited the fitness tracker space. Now FitBit is working with Adidas to create an “athlete-focused version” of the Ionic, Samsung has announced a partnership with Speedo, and Under Armour is collaborating with HTC. I have to give a lot of credit to the leadership of Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour for investing so heavily in fitness software the last few years. They have put themselves into a good spot as the smartwatch/fitness tracker market matures and it’s usually better to be the software provider rather than the hardware manufacturer.    

One App to Rule Them All: Speaking of fitness apps, there is one that hasn’t been snapped up by Adidas or UA: Strava. For those who don’t know, Strava is an app that allows runners and cyclists to upload their workouts, analyze the data, and compare themselves to others. Men’s Journal covered the history of Strava, how it took advantage of the move to mobile and developed the Segments feature in order to attract cyclists. Now Strava wants to be the social network for exercise:

More significantly, Strava this spring introduced a new feature called Athlete Posts. It’s essentially a tool for users to create posts not tied to any particular workout. You craft a headline, write a few paragraphs (or a lot of them), maybe add a photo or two, and out it goes into your followers’ feeds. Yes, it’s a bit like Facebook—except that on Facebook, if your friends are anything like my friends, no one wants to hear about your plantar fasciitis or the precise ratio of honey to ice in your post-workout smoothie.

                I am somewhat skeptical of new social network ideas because around 5 years ago everyone and their mother tried to launch some version of one. Multiple social networks were created…for couples! But I am intrigued by Strava’s attempt for 2 reasons. The first is that they already have the eyeballs. Social networks live and die by the network effect. The network effect makes it difficult to get going and then extremely valuable once built up. Strava already has the users so they have a leg up. The second reason is that there is a pain point that they could solve. People like to talk about their workouts but most people don’t want to hear about your workouts. It’s like hearing about someone else’s dreams. (Note to self: start social media site where people post about their dreams) A social network that connects people who want to talk about their workouts has definite potential. The biggest obstacle will be the saturation of social media:

So far, Roll, who has nearly 13,000 followers, has posted about getting enough rest (“We love to competitively share our sessions here on Strava. But what if we translated that competitiveness into how we rest?”) and his smoothie routine (“tons of organic veggies and fruits, always starting with dark leafy greens”). But...  that’s it. He hasn’t posted since May 8, although his Strava training log is up-to-the-minute.

In fact, several other of Roll’s cohort don’t really post much apart from their workouts. Which isn’t to say it’s a failure—just that some may find that Facebook or Instagram suit their voices or audiences better.

                There are only so many hours in the day and updating/checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and then Strava may prove to be a little too much.

Age is just a number: TomTom is rolling out a new feature on its wearable devices that will calculate your fitness age. They will accomplish this by measuring your VO2 Max and then comparing it to other people. VO2 Max is the maximum amount of oxygen that your body can consume during exercise. Garmin launched a similar feature but didn’t have anything that looked like a test. I hope that TomTom will at least attempt to test VO2 Max instead of just estimating. Also, if you’re going to calculate someone’s fitness age, then you should include more than just VO2 Max.

iGym: Ben Court from Men’s Health got the opportunity to go inside Apple’s secret exercise lab in Silicon Valley. What he saw in Cupertino was very impressive:

The labels are appropriate, because the company that transformed the way you enjoy music and video is now sinking its teeth into a meatier challenge: new ways you can optimize your health. “Our lab has collected more data on activity and exercise than any other human performance study in history,” says Jay Blahnik, Apple’s director of fitness for health technologies, in a rare interview. “Over the past five years, we’ve logged 33,000 sessions with over 66,000 hours of data, involving more than 10,000 unique participants.” A typical clinical trial enrolls fewer than a hundred participants.

All of this sweaty data, gleaned from swimmers to yogis, gets crunched by motion experts who work in a double-secret lab (we weren’t invited to that one) to continually update the Apple Watch’s algorithms. The team wants the feedback to be as accurate as possible for as many activities as possible. This fall’s watchOS 4 upgrade, for example, will include high-intensity interval training. There’s also a new technology platform: The watch will pair with cardio machines—including Life Fitness and Technogym—as the first ever real-time two-way connection. You can monitor your training more precisely with no friction. Even if you never strap on an Apple Watch, you can learn much from the company’s research.

Apple is one of the most secretive companies ever. It is interesting that they are letting journalists take a peak under the hood. Their normal M.O. is to keep everything under wraps so that they can wow everyone when the finished product is debuted. Granted, Apple is not letting anyone see the next Apple Watch but they are going out of their way to demonstrate their commitment to fitness. I’m wondering who this is all for though. Is it for the app developers? So that they will choose the watchOS as the go-to platform for fitness apps. Or for Apple’s competitors in smartwatches? So that they know that trying to compete with the world’s most valuable company is futile. Or for consumers? So we all know that watchOS 4 is being designed around fitness & health. Perhaps Apple realized that the Watch wasn’t getting the amount of speculation and free publicity that its products usually received leading up to a launch and wanted to prime the pump. The keynote event, where watchOS4 will be officially introduced, is on September 12.

Fitness Marketing: Business Insider published an article on The Wellery, an entire floor of Saks Fifth Avenue flagship store in Manhattan dedicated to health and wellness. Basically, Saks has built a 16,000 square foot gym/spa. There are group exercise classes, detoxification rooms, guided meditation, laser treatments, fat-freezing procedures, and of course plenty of opportunities to purchase athletic apparel and equipment. I recommend following the link just to see the pictures. This is also the article that I would point people to if they wanted to know what fitness marketing is. Fitness is becoming the way that retailers generate foot traffic. Your local shopping mall might do it with a big box gym and high-end retailers like Saks will do it with boutique fitness classes and spa treatments.

Motivation: Believe it or not, people are still starting up exercise-rewards apps. Kilter Rewards is one of the newest ones. They saw the failure of Pact (formerly GymPact) and decided that the problem was that people wanted redeemable credits not cash. Kilter will award users credits for going to the gym. These credits can be used to buy coffee, food, and athletic apparel. I don’t see how a $1 Starbucks coupon is going to be effective when straight cash wasn’t. I am going to assume that Kilter is using credits because they negotiated a way to get those credits for less than their dollar value. And now they are trying to make it sound like that will be some kind of advantage. I am curious as to what their monetization strategy is. Pact took from the un-fit in order to give to the fit. Kilter is talking about a freemium model in which users can join for free but their rewards will be capped. I don’t see that working. They are going to have a hell of a time getting people to pay for a subscription. Plus, you can’t pay people to work out. It doesn’t work. The people starting these companies (as well as the people that are funding them) don’t understand what motivates people to get and stay fit.

                If they want to learn, then this would be a great place to start. Brad Stulberg is the co-author of Peak Performance and a former management consultant and White House staffer. From Quartz:

The same logic applies to areas beyond diet and exercise—whether our goals involve parenting, relationships, careers, or our creative ambitions. Research shows that the problem with focusing too much on end results and big goals is that they’re too black and white: you either achieve the goal or you don’t. If you do achieve them, then it’s all too easy to get carried away basking in the glory. You’re liable to become complacent and next thing you know, you’ve already fallen behind your competition. If you fail to achieve your big goals, however, then the opposite holds true: you’re likely to become sad, lose motivation, and in the worst-case scenario, burn out and quit whatever it is you were doing altogether.

Psychologists call this mindset “obsessive passion”—when a person’s drive is fueled not by how much they enjoy a given activity, but by external results, recognition, and rewards. Obsessive passion is linked to anxiety, cheating, depression, and burnout.

                Intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. Which one do you think that redeemable credits falls under? I am adding this book to my Amazon wish list.

First World Problems: In case you need a reminder that fitness can be cheap as you need it to be, the Pioneer explored the burgeoning fitness scene in Cuba. No one has any money or fancy equipment. Getting any equipment at all is a battle. But that isn’t stopping people from pursuing their fitness goals. They build their own equipment from spare parts and open gyms in their backyards. Just a bunch of people who want to be better than they were the day before.


-New Guinness world records for Most Pull-ups in 1 minute: Men-51 Women-31 (by CrossFit Games winner Tia Toomey)

-You can buy Star Wars themed kettlebells now

-No, EMS is just another fad