Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Real Hot Fitness Trends For 2013. What The Industry Wont Tell You.

2013 is here and PR machines are in overdrive telling you what is hot and what all the hot people are doing. Click here to see the mainstream media list.

Here I'll tell you what the real trends will be, and why some things are being pushed. And why this will be a pivotal year for the fitness industry in the UK.

Micro Gyms - A commercial chain will die

Big commercial chain gyms leak money like an old home-made wooden raft slowly sinking, they are about as profitable as an internet music streaming service (Spotify people). This is why they pay gym instructors minimum wage, try and tie you into a 12 month contract and charge their freelance personal trainers £900 a month in rent.

What Mike Boyle calls Micro Gyms are on the rise. With the rise of kettlebells, free weights and training with minimal equipment, the start up costs are less than ever before. No need to spend £10,000s on sparkly cardio machines anymore. Micro Gyms don't need as much space and they don't need as many members to survive as the big chains do. They don't have expensive money drains like Swimming Pools and they have minimal staffing costs.

In the town I live, in the last year an independent gym has opened, as well as a classes only studio, a personal training studio and a Crossfit facility. Each one of these only need a couple of hundred members to survive and if they are a small PT studio less than 50 clients probably. Whereas somewhere like Virgin Active needs 3000-5000 members.

People can generally get a better service in these micro facilities for about the same cost per month or per class as one of the chains. They don't feel like another tick on the sales managers chart. If each micro facility takes 50-100 members from the local big gym then before you know it the big gym fails. I can see this happening locally where I live. I predict by the end of the year a company like LA Fitness will go under and fail (or be taken over).

They face a three prong attack, Micro Gyms and PT studios, lone PTs and park based bootcamps and budget gyms. Lets face it, if you want to get treated like another drone in an overcrowded gym you might as well pay £9.99 a month for it rather than £60.

Yes, the Micro Gym will rise and a commercial chain will fail this year.
(Of course, some micro gyms will fail as well due to misunderstanding cash flow, margins and being too optimistic).

Small Group Training - the real reason it will trend

Small group training works well, that's the reason I mentioned it back in 2011. However, the large commercial chains are latching onto it for another reason: to save money.

Studios cost a  lot of money to run. You have to pay the studio instructors way more than you pay fitness instructors, and then you have to cover their holidays, plus you have to pay for class licences and equipment. All this and you might get 5 or 10 people turn up to a class. Most studios have a hardcore of users, they get good value for their membership. But for the big business it can be a lot of effort and money for no return and a whole bag of hassle.

The answer? Small group training. Some of the bigger chains (they know who they are) tried to binned all their studio instructors or most of them and then got their fitness instructors to teach the classes, no extra payment, minimum wage classes. Then you have all the classes on the gym floor, maybe only 30 mins or 45 minutes each, 10 people or less -bingo - you can have a class timetable with as many classes as you had before or even more, but the costs have halved. Half the classes might be small group training with the minimum wage fitness cleaner but the timetable looks good. They are told to teach the class, some aren't given the proper training and end up going through the motions.

Now let me be clear small group training works, I like it. And if the instructor is paid appropriately and has the proper training and knowledge they will motivate clients. And its great for the clients.

Its just some of the big commercial chains subsumed it to save money.

Interval Training - HIIT

Yes it works, always has. If you are in fitness and you've only just heard of this, then you have been walking around with your eyes closed or you fell off a swiss ball and developed amnesia.  It's a trend because now companies are selling courses on it. Yes, just in case you can't figure out how to use interval training or put together a 20 minute workout, someone has worked it out and will sell it to you for 4 REP points.

And see above, a 20-30 min class is cheaper to run and you can run more and pay some chump £6 an hour. Meanwhile all your members just went down to the local Crossfit and are paying them £60 a month to attend 8 classes - that's how to franchise to the max!

Interval training is just a training method, like fartlek, hill reps, 5x5 or supersets but I don't see anyone selling these as a new concept... yet

Functional Rigs

When I was at Leisure Industry Week last year you couldn't move for 'functional rigs', even the big players like Life Fitness have one. The reason is everyone wants a piece of the Crossfit pie, much like the rise of HIIT, the industry can't ignore the Crossfit franchise looming over it. A mere 5 years ago at LIW you were lucky to see a kettlebell, it was the usual cardio equipment and was pretty boring. But Micro Gyms don't buy £10,000 treadmills and the big chains only replace their equipment every 5 to 10 years at best. The functional rig, HIIT, small group training and Micro Gyms are all really part of the same trend. As a bonus they are encouraging more women to lift weights.

Cool rig

Low Carb- High Fat

Intermittent fasting hit the mainstream last year, there was even a program about it and the health benefits on BBC2 with accompanying BBC news article about it, see my prediction here in 2011 about it.

Like many of these things the strength/ hypertrophy training community were early adopters of this (and pre contest prep low carb and carb cycling have been mainstays of bodybuilding and figure comps for years). On a side note the first time I was aware of barefoot training was from strength training coaches, way before any runners mentioned it.

Paleo is almost in the mainstream consciousness, after being a big favourite with the Crossfitters and alike.

Low carb, high protein, high fat has been mainstream for a while with Atkins & Dukan diets. However, the focus has always been on weight loss. I think this year the health benefits will come to the fore, as well as using this strategy for endurance events.

Tim Noakes has become a big proponent of Paleo/ Low Carb/ High Fat approach. He has been emphasising the health benefits for blood sugar levels, triglycerides and heart health and disease prevention. His status as an MD and respected Sports Scientist has changed the game, whether you agree or not, what he says will have more cache than a health/ food journalist writing. It may also lead to more research.

Also the work of Jeff Volek, Stephen Phinney and Joe Friel has changed the paradigm for endurance athletes. Before, carbs were the sacred cow - you couldn't go long without them in ultra and ironman events. In 2012 The Western United States 100 miler ultra was won by Timothy Olson in a course record of less than 15 hours, and he eats low carb. Tim Noakes has said that the carb loading section in his book Lore Of Running is wrong and should be ignored. This is powerful stuff and is filtering down to average runner on the street.

Strength Coaches - All the personal trainers want to be strength coaches now

There's a reason most people in the fitness industry don't want to be called a personal trainer. It has a bad rep, it has too many connotations of some douche making a poor fool stand on a bosu while fleecing him of cash.

Personal trainers wanting to become strength coaches is now such a phenomena that in the most recent UKSCA Journal they outlined how they are working with REPs to make it a level 4 course. The UKSCA courses get booked up quick. Be careful, your coach may have learned plyometrics from the UKSCA or your trainer may have learnt it on a HIIT course. The most important thing is do they know how to apply it and qualify their athlete/client, do they have the knowledge to know when to go hard and when to do less, knowing when not to do something is just as important.

PTs are two a penny as are PT courses.

Strength and conditioning coach has more kudos. You are a coach, you train athletes, not the general public. You lift weights, you get to talk about Olympic Lifting and Mesocycles. Except of course, you don't get to train athletes. You end up trying to make some poor desk jockey do a clean and jerk because that's what the guy who taught you how to do the lifts does with the 19 year old Rugby players he trains at his university. And lets face it, they are nearly always a 'he' and they are used to working with young teams before they get broken down, damaged and retire.

Strength and conditioning is good if you really have in depth knowledge and you really know what your are doing. But has it gone too far. Joe Public is not necessarily a strength athlete, elements of the coaching may work but not all. And lets not forget, some S&C coaches can be as old skool and as misinformed as some personal trainers.

As a friend of mine said the other day, 'its swung too far', not everyone was born to Olympic lift or do sprint drills. And I say that as someone who has done the BWLA course and gives the UKSCA £50 a year.

As always there are good PTs, good strength coaches and some PTs who should be S&C coaches because of who they train. But do it because you love it, not so you can put another course on your CV, another tick in the hope of generating business. Don't be superficial in your pursuits.

Of course, if you hang out in the usual commercial gyms and big chains none of this will happen, you're probably wondering what a barbell looks like.

In most commercial gyms you will still see this as the trend.

And the rest

Crossfit will continue to grow in the UK, as well as women lifting weights and entering figure and bikini competitions.

It almost goes without saying, but Bokwa will be big (at last years Leisure Industry Week Bokwa had more flashmobs that a mobile phone advert) and by the end of the year there will be
Aqua Bokwa
Bokwa for Grey Hair
Sh'Bam for kids
Zumba HIT
Cxworx for GP referral
GRIT and metafit for cardiac rehab etc etc

And never forget, most people never go near a gym ever.

And what should be big but probably wont:

Primal Move
Animal Flow
Move Nat

Yes, slight bias as I am certified in Primal Move and I have the Animal Flow video (see my top products of 2012).

And look out for Physical Theatre classes - they're gonna be big ;)

Oh and one more thing

Remember that Olympic legacy and getting more people involved? No, neither does the fitness industry.

Forget trends

 "Move well, then move often" - Gray Cook

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting information!Perfect just what I was looking for.