THE WEEKLY HOWL IS HEADED TO THE POLLS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.    Set Concrete Goals

2.    Go With a Friend

3.    Find a Comfortable Outfit

4.    Listen to Music

5.    Create a Plan

6.    Branch Out

7.    Keep a Visual Reminder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tidbits:

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

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

-Under Armour has a serious culture problem

-Don’t trust the Kardashians

-I want to work-out all night

-Redneck Fitness

THE WEEKLY HOWL IS FEELING PATRIOTIC

Stay in shape: The life of a professional athlete is a demanding one.  A big part of those demands are the physical requirements of each sport and the training required to excel in those requirements. After retirement, it is common to see athletes abandon their training and let themselves go. This has always made me a little sad. I hate to see the most physically gifted of us let their bodies fall into ruin. That’s why I was excited to see this article about former NBA player Mike Bibby in GQ:

GQ: Okay, start from retirement and take me to today. How did this happen?
I’m always in the gym. From like 7 A.M. to noon, I’m working out, training others, and playing basketball. After that, I’ll go back home, where I have a training gym. I'll train kids some more, and I can work on my basketball skills at the same time. I always try and learn new things because I want to be a coach, so everything plays into that.

People aren’t used to seeing me like this. I’m not really as big as the picture made it seem. But if I were out of shape and fat, someone would say something about that. People are going to say something about you regardless of how you look, so I try to eat well and take care of my body as much as I can.

In what ways did you change your diet?
After the BIG3 Combine, I started weighing all my food. I eat small portions, and more frequently throughout the day. I’ll have a protein shake in the morning with a protein bar to start off, and work out until about noon. Then I’ll go and have some breakfast food, like egg whites, toast, and turkey bacon, just to keep some protein in me. My lunches and dinners are a lot lighter now, since my food is getting weighed. I keep the carbs low and eat very little sugar. Since the combine, I’ve probably lost 25 pounds. I’m still strong—it’s just less fat. I knocked that off, and I feel good.

What about the lifting? It appears that there is some lifting.
I’ve always had this build, and I’ve always loved lifting weights—it’s just that when I played, teams didn’t want me to lift heavy like that. Every summer when I came back for training camp, teams would always get mad because they said I looked like a linebacker. So it was just always just one set here, one set there—that was all the lifting I did.

Once I retired, I had all the time in the world. Now I can lift heavier. I drop my kids off at school, and I’m at the gym until they have to get picked up. Plus, think about it—no one is really going to want to train with me if I’m 300 pounds and can’t get through a workout. I have to make sure I’m getting right for my next coaching job.

              I love this. I realize professional sports is its own thing but sports is supposed to be about getting people active. Former athletes should be leading the charge in getting people active. Perhaps the fact that they don’t says something about the intensity needed to compete at the highest level and the burnout that follows from it. But then you read something like this and see someone with a true passion for fitness. This guy wanted to work-out more while he was a player, his coaches had to hold him back.  I love the passion!

I also love seeing a coach who wants to lead by example; it drives me crazy how many coaches in professional sports are overweight or obese. These are guys who work in sports, have convenient access to the best equipment, demand that their players subject themselves to grueling work-outs, and they can’t be bothered to stay in shape. We need more Mike Bibby’s in the coaching ranks.

Army Strong: The U.S. Army has been testing a new concept for its Physical Fitness Test (PFT). The old test is a 2 mile run, pushups, and situps. The new test will be deadlifts, standing power throw, hand-release pushups, a 250 meter sprint/drag/carry, leg tuck, and a 2 mile run. If that wasn’t a drastic enough change, the Army has announced it will also do away with age-specific scoring. From Military.com:

If you're an infantry platoon sergeant, it doesn't matter if you're 25 or 55; all will be held to the same fitness standards with the future Army Combat Fitness Test.

The new test does away with age-specific standards and sets requirements based on job demands instead, Army officials said.

The current Army Physical Fitness Test is based on a scoring scale that does not require older soldiers to perform as well as their younger counterparts.

The new ACFT, which is scheduled to replace the APFT in October 2020, will consist of a scoring scale that's based on standards soldiers need to meet to survive in combat, according to Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost, who is overseeing the ACFT as commanding general of the U.S. Army Center of Initial Military Training.

"The bottom line is combat does not discriminate, bullets coming at you don't discriminate, the enemy coming at you does not discriminate ... by height, by gender, by age, and, quite frankly, by what uniform you are wearing," Frost said.

              The way that the current system works is that there are different scoring systems for pre-determined age groups. So if you’re in the 42-46 bracket, the standards are easier to meet than if you’re in the 22-25 bracket. Doing away with age-specific scoring will make it harder for older soldiers to meet those standards. This is most interesting at the two extremes: those struggling to meet minimum standards and those trying to ace it. For those on the low end, it’s hard to argue with this decision. The enemy will not care that you’re a 35 year old E-6 and cut you a break. On the high-end, this has the potential to affect people’s careers. Performance on the PFT factors into the evaluation process and strong performers at the more senior levels will have a harder time achieving high scores. You could argue that it will all balance out since most people in any pay-grade are roughly the same age but this will disadvantage anyone who joined the Army later than the average age. Plus, it will still not seem as impressive to not have a perfect score on the PFT. 

Privacy: Another day, another data privacy scandal that has compromised national security. This time, it’s Polar which may have inadvertently doxed a whole bunch of intelligence officers. From ZDNet:

Although the existence of many government installations are widely known, the identities of their employees were not.

But now, an investigation by Dutch news site De Correspondent and Bellingcat found that Polar Flow exposed their fitness tracking data. The company's developer API could be improperly queried to retrieve fitness activities, like each running and cycling session, on any user.

With two pairs of coordinates dropped over any sensitive government location or facility, it was possible to find the names of personnel who track their fitness activities dating as far back as 2014.

The reporters identified more than 6,400 users believed to be exercising at sensitive locations, including the NSA, the White House, MI6 in London, and the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba, as well as personnel working on foreign military bases.

Names of officers and agents at foreign intelligence services, like GCHQ in Cheltenham, the French DGSE in Paris, and the Russian GRU in Moscow, were also found.

Staff at nuclear storage facilities, missile silos, and prisons were also spotted.

De Correspondent shared some of the data with ZDNet to examine.

Not only was it possible to see exactly where a user had exercised, it was easy to pinpoint exactly where a user lived, if they started or stopped their fitness tracking as soon as they left their house.

Because there were no limits on how many requests the reporters could make, coupled with easily enumerable user ID numbers, it was possible for anyone -- including malicious actors or foreign intelligence services -- to scrape the fitness activity data on millions of users.

But they also found they could trick the API into retrieving fitness tracking data on private profiles.

              This is bad. Why any security service still allows its officers to use fitness trackers is beyond me. And any civilian who uses one should take a long, hard look at privacy settings. It is interesting to watch society-level attitudes towards privacy change so quickly. People are much more comfortable with having their information out there than they were in years past. Tech optimists would say it’s because they feel that the benefits of technology outweighs the costs. Cynics would say that we’re the frog in the pot and that the water is being heated up so gradually that we won’t realize that we’re being boiled alive.

Freedom isn’t free: Patriotism is in these day yet there is a struggle to properly express that sentiment. Most people just disrespect the American flag and call it a day. What if the best way to be a patriot was to work-out? From the Military Times:

It was the fitness that provided the fuel for our nation’s freedom. More than a century and a half later, the Victory Corps of the 1940s recognized that fitness remained essential for maintaining that freedom. The plan was “Victory through Fitness” at the youth level, and as one general put it, “Young people in high school must be trained specifically to become better warriors.”

And now? We’ve gotten soft. Three out four military-age young adults are physically incapable of serving in the military. And the fitness of those who can and do serve isn’t much more encouraging. Consider:

·       For the amount of money the military spends on treating weight-related diseases every single year, it could buy the Chicago Cubs.

·       While rogue nations and terrorism are in the national security spotlight, our biggest threat is our own culture of idleness and excess.

·       While all this is going on, our grandparents are rolling in their graves, secure in the knowledge that they surely could and would kick our ass.

The time for resting on our laurels is over. Do you consider yourself a “tactical athlete”? Do you consider yourself a patriot? If you are deconditioned and dormant, you are neither.

Instead, you are a liability — a liability in a tactical situation or a liability on a health care system. You have drastically increased the odds that someone or some sickness will be able to kill you. The same sedentary lifestyle and poor dietary habits that will destroy your arteries will also distend your shot groups when it counts.

              This is an underrated concept. Fitness is freedom, in both the larger and smaller sense. Nick Barringer tackles it from the larger sense: in order for a society to remain free, it will have to be able to fight for that freedom and in order to fight for that freedom, its citizens will have to be fit. Fitness is also freedom in the individual sense. The number one thing that elderly people complain about is their loss of mobility. Being dependent on someone or something else to move equals a loss of freedom as well. And the best way to avoid that is by staying active and keeping your musculoskeletal system strong. Fitness can also be freedom from becoming dependent on medication to stay alive. If you want to be free, you need to be able to do stuff on your own. In the individual sense, that’s being able to move and lift heavy things. In the nation-wide sense, that’s being able to defend our own country. In both cases though, fitness = freedom.

Blast from the Past: Workout videos are nothing new. They’ve been around as long as the VCR. And you can still buy them. From Vogue:

And sure enough, a quick Google search brought me back to 1982, when the Oscar-winning actress released a VHS called Jane Fonda’s Workout, which was based on her exercise book that had, by that point, been firmly planted on The New York Times bestseller list for two years. The tape went on to become one of the most popular of all time—selling more than 17 million copies worldwide. “I think we all did it at some point of our lives,” my mother said when I asked her if she was familiar with it. I found it on Amazon Prime Video priced at $9.99, immediately downloaded it on my laptop, threw on my high school workout clothes, and gave it a shot.

Before things get rolling, a contemporary Fonda shows up (in a millennial pink moto jacket) to give the audience a brief intro on her revolutionary video, explaining that many moons ago, “gyms were predominately for men,” and that she mainly started this video for women to be able to have a quality workout on their own terms in the privacy of their own homes.

              I find it very interesting that Amazon has digitized old Jane Fonda workout videos. They must believe that there is demand for them amongst the type of people who would want to digitally download their workout videos. It is a common adage in Hollywood that you’re not only competing with whatever other movies are currently in the theaters, you’re competing with every movie ever made. Because the consumer has access to everything now and they might choose to watch the French Connection instead of heading out to the theaters for Mission Impossible 6. I wonder if we’re going to see a similar attitude take hold in fitness. Everything that has put on film is now at the consumer’s finger-tips. Even old Jane Fonda tapes.

Tidbits:

-Who’s winning the offseason workout video war?

-The CrossFit Games is going to include road cycling this year

-Outside Magazine profiles ultrarunning/climbing wunderkind Killian Jornet

-The Tour de France is too damn hard

 

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