One Small Step

Fifty years ago, astronaut Neil Armstrong took his one small step for [a] man on the moon. Five days prior to the launch of Apollo 11, David Bowie released Space Oddity, a record inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The BBC used this track during coverage of the moon landing. 

A spacewalk, it turns out, is more of a climb than a walk. The harsh outer space conditions, an extreme lack of gravity and the constraints of a cumbersome spacesuit all make it harder than on Earth. Therefore, preparing astronauts for space missions is rather challenging. One preparation method is rock climbing as it develops coordination of the trunk, back, lower arms and fingers.

After completing five Space Shuttle missions and seven spacewalks, astronaut Scott Parazysnki climbed Mount Everest. He is the first person to have both flown in space and summited the highest point on Earth. 

Just recently, NASA have developed LEMUR, a new climbing robot which can scale rock walls by gripping with hundreds of tiny fishhooks and using AI. It is apparent that climbing and space go hand in hand.

In September 2018, the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) held the World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria. It played host to 58 nations and 843 athletes; over 500kg of chalk was used on over 2,000 holds.

The Bouldering World Championship title was won by 19-year old Kai Harada from Japan. Japan triumphed again in June of this year when 23-year old Tomoa Narasaki won gold at the IFSC Worldcup in Vail.

Besides Tomoa Narasaki and the young Kai Harada, Japan produces some amazing climbers including the professional Akiyo Noguchi. She is known for winning the IFSC Climbing World Cup in Bouldering four times and she has won the Bouldering Japan Cup nine times, more than any other Japanese athlete. She has a total of 8 medals for Lead and 58 for Bouldering.

Koichiro Kobayashi, 51-years old, won gold at the Paraclimbing World Championships in 2018. Kobayashi is visually impaired but with the aid of his coach he uses the Japanese HKK climbing method (in English its DDS meaning Direction, Distance, Shape).

In June 2019, the second World Indoor Climbing Summit (WICS) was held in Sofia, Bulgaria. It hosted almost 300 attendees from 26 countries, including Japan, UK and USA. The John Atanasoff Forum on the Sofia Innovation Park was the venue and it was hosted by Walltopia. Founded in 1998, Walltopia is the world’s biggest manufacturer of artificial climbing structures exporting to over 70 countries. The Forum is located next to Walltopia’s stunning HQ building, a new cathedral to indoor climbing and bouldering.

Speakers at WICS highlighted how private equity investment in France has enabled The Arkose Group (a provider of natural urban climbing) to expand. A panel including speakers from the USA, Asia, the Middle East and the UK all gave examples of growth and regional trends.

Doug Miller, a fitness veteran from the UK spoke passionately about the evolution of the fitness industry and I spoke about areas of innovation that’s driving growth in fitness. We were followed by a panel discussion on what indoor climbing can learn from fitness with Ivaylo Penchev, CEO of Walltopia, believing “that fitness has a sexier image than climbing”.             

The image of climbing could change when the sport makes its debut at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. It will feature three disciplines: speed climbing, bouldering and lead climbing. Speed climbing pits two climbers against each other both climbing a fixed route on a 15m wall. In bouldering, climbers scale fixed routes on a 4m wall in a specified time.

At its 134th Session the International Olympic Committee (IOC) accepted a proposal from the Paris 2024 Organising Committee to include climbing as one of four additional sports, as it is not yet a permanent Olympic sport.

Different from Tokyo, Paris will expand from one to two distinct competitions with 6 to 12 medals and 40 to 72 athletes in total. Under the proposal 16 women and 16 men would compete for 6 medals in the Speed; 20 men and women would compete for 6 medals in the Bouldering and Lead. Still provisional the IOC will make a final decision by December 2020 on proposed new events following observations at the Tokyo Olympics.

The Aomi Urban Sports Park, a temporary venue close to the Athletes Village and with views across Tokyo Bay, is one of the venues looking to engage the youth with Climbing and Basketball events.

Figures from the Association of British Climbing Walls (ABC) demonstrate that around 1 million people in the UK currently climb independently indoors and estimates 59% climb exclusively indoors. The number of wall visits is up 16% on last year and ABC expect the figures to rise a further 12% across the 500 plus walls in the country. The IFSC estimate there could be around 50 million climbers worldwide by 2020.

Previously a niche discipline, indoor climbing is now booming. For example, TV coverage of climbing is expanding; BBC had the speed finals from Innsbruck on YouTube, iPlayer and app. Red Bull TV, ToFreeClimb TV, Reel Rock TV, EpivTV all cover the sport.

New technology and innovation are also providing new opportunity for climbing – indoor walls can now be installed at home and it doubles as an ambient work of art when not in use.  

Europe’s largest indoor climbing arena is the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena, next to Edinburgh airport, Scotland. Built into a disused quarry EICA has over 15,000 bolt-on holds, with 300 routes ranging in difficulty from grades 2 to 8b. The centre is also home to the only official IFSC World Record Speed wall in the UK and Scotland’s only ‘clipnclimb’.

EICA will host the IFSC European Championships (Lead and Speed) in October 2019. The IFSC biennial Climbing World Championships, for the first time in the competition history, will be hosted in Hachioji, Japan on 11-12th August 2019.

Both competitions will be keenly watched as qualifiers will later head to the Olympics. Climbing is taking one small step for sport and one giant leap for participation.

Edinburgh International Climbing Arena

Edinburgh International Climbing Arena

clipnclimb at the Arena

clipnclimb at the Arena

Fitness cocktails and boutique cannibalisation

Fitness cocktails and boutique cannibalisation: David Minton on what’s next for fitness!

Fitness and technology expert David Minton shares insights from his latest report on the evolution of boutique fitness and explains how technology will help to power ‘Fitness 2.0’

Original Source: LesMills

Fitness industry expert David Minton

Fitness industry expert David Minton

What were the key findings from your recent report on boutique fitness?

The industry has exploded in recent years and in the long run, the consumer will be the winner. The consumer is going to have so much more choice, both in terms of boutique clubs and the programming within them, which is rapidly diversifying, with ‘fitness cocktails’ – where members take multiple classes back-to-back – coming to the fore. Already, we’re starting to see brands encouraging the consumer to do one class – whether it’s spinning, HIIT, boxing, or something – and then straight into a mind and body class. This variety and ‘double dose’ of fitness is proving hugely popular, both in boutiques, and also in clubs offering virtual fitness.

What does the rise of boutiques tell us about the modern fitness consumer?

The demographics tell us that the people using them – particularly Millennials and Gen Z – like to have choice, and they don't like to be curtailed by contracts. So, to be able to just dip in and out of boutiques is really appealing to them, even if they are going to pay a higher price. Boutiques benefit from having their roots in group fitness, whereby they provide an opportunity for lots of people to participate at the same time. To be successful, you need to appeal to the wider audience and you need to provide a compelling experience that will keep them coming back for more.

How do you expect the boutique business environment to evolve?

Over the next three years, there will be more mergers and acquisitions, with a lot more money coming into the industry. In London, and in America, we’re seeing tremendous investment in the boutique industry. This investment is coming, interestingly, from hoteliers and from property developers, as well as sports stars, and current world champion boxers. It’s not just venture capitalists and hedge funds bringing in the cash – everyone’s investing.

What impact is the boutique boom having on the wider fitness market?

Each year we do an audit of the UK fitness industry, and we’ve seen across recent years – in conjunction with the rise of boutiques – significant growth in group fitness studios across all 7,000 clubs in the UK. In private clubs, 62% now have dedicated group fitness studios, while this number rises to 72% across public gym facilities. So, that’s a hell of a lot of programming being offered in these studios, with a greater recognition that high-quality programming is key to driving attendances and keeping members for longer. It’s a trend we’ve recorded in the UK and one I’ve observed on my travels globally as well.

How can traditional clubs fight back against boutiques to retain their market share?

I think that some traditional clubs have already responded fantastically well by doubling down on their group fitness offering while making a bigger play around their additional facilities that boutiques don’t have. Operators like David Lloyd and Bannatyne have developed ‘club within a club’ offerings to compete with boutiques and they’re having great success with it. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the economics of the boutique model means sooner or later we’ll reach a point where we hit the limit of the number of people prepared to pay boutique prices for an individual fitness experience.

How would you describe the role of social media in shaping the new fitness market?

It’s funny – for years operators tried to ban mobile phones in clubs. Now, there’s nothing they want more than for you to take out your phone and start snapping pictures and sharing them. Boutiques were very quick to realise the marketing potential of social media – particularly on Instagram, where engagement tends to be much higher than other platforms – so they made sure their club designs were chic and shareable.

I think traditional clubs have been a little slow to realise the potential of both YouTube and Instagram – partly because it takes more time to get it right and nail the quality. The other reason is they’re still trying to work out, how much they should allow user-generated content to feed into their social media channels, versus high-quality, branded content. These are difficult questions and different club models will tackle them in different ways.

And what should the strategy for traditional clubs be in the face of growing home fitness offerings?

Without a doubt, technology is going to power the next great growth in fitness – Fitness 2.0 if you like. The interplay between the club and on-demand fitness will no doubt increase, and this will mix very well for clubs which can provide high-quality content and 360-degree fitness offerings for their members. Those who fail to adapt could find their members turning to influencers and fitness streaming services, so operators have to stay very aware of consumer preferences and what’s coming. Obviously, Peloton is making a big play in the home fitness market at the moment, which will be interesting to watch. In the back of my mind I keep thinking that, historically, people have purchased home equipment and then it’s soon become an expensive clothes horse. Will we see a different outcome this time around?

Tech giants like Apple and Google are also investing heavily in fitness, what does that mean for the wider industry?

Some of the biggest companies in the world and the smartest teams are homing in on our industry. Apple, Samsung, Google have all begun with fitness watches and that’s just the start of what’s coming. Competition will become fiercer, but these companies will also help to grow the market, so there are pros and cons to their involvement. Again, it will be the consumer who benefits most and new technology will help to heighten the member experience and offer data insights that we previously could only dream of.

How will this evolve over the next few years?

One of the most interesting developments over the next few years will be to see whether we actually all get fitted with computer chips. The technology already exists and chips would enable us to monitor our health immediately and offer unprecedented insights into our fitness metrics. But there are always going to be health and privacy concerns around putting technology into your body, so it’ll be interesting to see if it falls by the wayside like Google Glass did, or if computer chips fitted under our skin become as ubiquitous as smartphones.

World Indoor Climbing Summit

Yesterday David attended the World Indoor Climbing Summit in Sofia, Bulgaria. Held at the impressive Sofia Tech Park, the event aims to gather members of the climbing community from all over the world.

David was invited to discuss the UK Fitness market and how the climbing industry can learn from it. He joined a panel with Ivaylo Penchev (Walltopia), Doug Miller (Sales Makers) and Per-Anders Dagborn (Sports Club Vallentuna).


Peloton is about to IPO

Here’s why its business could enchant investors the way its exercise bikes have dazzled fitness geeks.

Original source: Business Insider

Peloton CEO John Foley is steering his startup to an expected initial public offering later this year.

  • Peloton, a maker of smart stationary bikes and treadmills, has confidentially filed its paperwork for an initial public offering.

  • The company’s valuation and sales have skyrocketed since it was founded in 2012.

  • Peloton is aiming to be something like an Apple or Tesla for the fitness world, offering an all-inclusive package that includes both hardware and a subscription service.

  • But it faces a growing number of rivals and challenges, including the relatively high-price of its equipment.

Michael Duda knew from the first time he met John Foley that he wanted to make a bet on Foley’s fitness equipment startup, Peloton.

Duda liked Foley’s idea of trying to make a stationary bike that looked like a piece of art, and pairing it with a subscription service that would stream fitness classes and instructors straight to users’ homes. He also thought Foley’s timing was right: when they met in 2012, SoulCycle and Flywheel were both starting to make names for themselves in the fitness market with programs built around groups exercising together on stationary bikes.

But mostly what impressed Duda was John Foley himself.

“He had a drive, had a passion, and what certainly has been shown to be an insatiable focus on disrupting a category,” said Duda, a managing partner at Bullish, a startup accelerator and investment firm that’s also backed online mattress firm Casper and eyeglass retailer Warby Parker.

Duda’s bet is looking pretty smart these days. Peloton’s valuation has skyrocketed from $17.5 million when it completed its first venture round that year to $4.2 billion when it got its most recent round of financing last August.

And the company’s value could soon jump even higher – perhaps as high as $8 billion – if public investors are anywhere near as bullish on it as their private counterparts. Peloton last week confidentially filed for an initial public offering.

Peloton expanded its lineup last year with the Tread, a smart treadmill.

Peloton expanded its lineup last year with the Tread, a smart treadmill.

Peloton is trying to be a combination of Apple and Gillette

Peloton is technically a fitness equipment manufacturer. It now makes a treadmill to go with its fitness bike. But from the beginning, Foley and his team have aimed to offer more than just run-of-the-mill exercise equipment.

The company is trying to do something that had rarely been done in the fitness market before it came along. Like Apple or Tesla, it offers a complete package of goods and services. It not only makes its equipment, it provides the service that’s streamed to its devices, and it sells its gadgets through its own chain of retail stores.

“I don’t know anyone else who’s come close to that, and he’s done it,” Duda said.

But it’s also taken a page from the likes of Gillette – its business model is similar to the classic razorblade model. Although it sells its equipment at high prices – its stationary bike starts at $2,245, including delivery charges, while its treadmill goes for $4,300 on up – its subscription service is what actually generates fat profits for the company.

The company charges customers $39 a month, but that service only costs it about $4 per user to provide, said Andrew Mitchell, a general partner at Brand Foundry Ventures, which was an early investor in Peloton but later sold its shares. Better yet, Peloton equipment owners frequently stick with the service for the long term.

They “sell the bike into your house [at] barely any profit, but reap the benefit of a software … margin and on retention,” Mitchell said in an email.

The company’s streaming service, which allows customers to participate in live workouts or stream recorded ones, has been one of the keys to its success, said David Minton, founder of The Leisure Database Company, a market research firm. Those programs have added an element of fun and interactivity to its equipment that rival gadgets typically haven’t had, he said.

“Traditionally people have purchased gym equipment for the home that then becomes a clothes horse,” Minton said. “The reason why Peloton has revolutionized that particular market is because you get so engrossed in the programs that you’re streaming.”

Peloton streams classes to the screens on customers’ equipment including ones led by cycling instructor Cody Rigsby.

Peloton streams classes to the screens on customers’ equipment including ones led by cycling instructor Cody Rigsby.

Business is booming

Peloton doesn’t disclose detailed financial reports to the public, at least not yet. But the indications are that its business is booming.

Its sales went from $160 million in 2016 to $400 million in 2017, the company told the New York Times last year. It expected to bring in $700 million in sales in its most recent fiscal year, which ended in February, according to the Times.

Meanwhile, the company’s share of the US gym equipment market is in the process of rising from basically 0% in 2014 to an expected 6.2% by the end of its fiscal year this coming February, according to IBISWorld, a market research firm.

“Peloton has been a complete disrupter in the at-home fitness equipment space,” said Marisa Lifschutz, an analyst with IBISWorld.

Company representatives declined to comment, citing the company’s IPO-related quiet period.

But its products could have limited mass-market appeal

As quickly as the company has grown and as much success as it’s had thus far, it could face challenges expanding its market in the future. It’s largely focused on selling equipment to individual consumers to use in their homes. That segment represents about 26% of the market for US-manufactured gym equipment, according to IBISWorld. But it leaves out another huge segment – gyms and health clubs, which represent another 24% of the market.

What’s more, the relatively large size and limited selection of Peloton’s equipment will likely rule out purchases by many consumers.

It’s hard to fit a treadmill or even a stationary bike in many apartments or even houses. Treadmills and stationary bikes are two of the most popular categories of equipment made by US manufacturers, but they only represent about 41% of the total market. Peloton doesn’t make a stair stepper, a category that’s nearly as popular treadmills.

Peloton’s initial product was its Bike, a smart stationary bicycle.

Peloton’s initial product was its Bike, a smart stationary bicycle.

Peloton’s market could be limited further by the cost of its equipment. Many consumers simply can’t afford to spend $39 a month on an exercise subscription, much less $2,000 or even $4,000 on a piece of exercise equipment. Other manufacturers charge high prices for similar equipment, but they often get a large portion of their sales from gyms and fitness centers that can afford to pay those prices.

And while Peloton has had success selling home-based equipment, it’s going against the prevailing trend in the market. People are increasingly exercising in gyms rather than at home, Lifschutz said in a report for IBISWorld in April. Consumers recognize that they get access to a more varied selection of equipment and classes in a gym or club than they could get at home, she said in the report.

“The increasing popularity of gyms and health clubs suggests a shrinking demand for home gym equipment among the broader population, the exception being affluent consumers, who are the primary market for home exercise equipment,” Lifschutz said in the report.

Competition is increasing, but Peloton is responding

While Peloton helped pioneer the market for smart fitness equipment, it’s seen increasing competition. Flywheel now sells a smart stationary bike of its own that allows owners to tune in live and pre-recorded spinning classes.

Life Fitness and Amer Sports, two of the biggest fitness equipment makers, offer their own lines of fitness equipment with tablet-like screens that allow users to stream classes or run apps. With some of these devices, owners can track their workouts using their Apple or Android smartwatches. Indeed, the fitness industry could go in the direction of the car industry, where automakers have been able to upgrade their in-car entertainment systems by working with Google and Apple and linking them to owners’ smartphones, said Minton.

If the same trend plays out in the fitness market, consumers may not see a need to pay up for a specialized stationary bike kitted out with proprietary equipment.

“The big tech companies all have fitness teams,” he said. “They’ve seen,” he continued, “an industry that’s ripe for disruption.”

The company offers a version of its streaming service for customers who don’t own its machines.

The company offers a version of its streaming service for customers who don’t own its machines.

Peloton has been working to address some of these challenges. It now offers a financing program that allows customers to pay for its equipment in monthly installments, rather than up front. Under the plan for its entry-level stationary bike, consumers pay $59 a month for 39 months. Customers pay $179 a month for 24 months under its plan for its treadmill.

The company also offers customers a way to get into its ecosystem without having to shell out big bucks for one of its machines. People without a Peloton device can subscribe to a version of its streaming service for $20 a month.

While the company remains focused on the home market, it’s been selling a commercial version of its bike to hotels, opening up a secondary market for the company and a way to introduce its service to new consumers. Customers can get on a Peloton bike and tune in its exercise programs in dozens of hotels around the country.

And it may broaden its lineup. Company President William Lynch indicated that Peloton is interested in developing a rowing machine next, Medium reported earlier this year.

Duda is optimistic about the company’s future. It’s already far exceeded his expectations. It’s benefited from being more than just a fitness equipment maker and likely will continue to do so, he said.

“There’s a lot of upside left in this company,” he said.


SOSI Press Release.png

The 2019 State of the UK Swimming Industry Report reveals that the UK swimming industry has not changed significantly in the last 12 months. 26 swimming pool sites have opened and 27 have closed.

The 2019 report highlights that the industry, over the 12 month period to the end of March 2019, has seen an increase in the number of swimming pools opening and a decrease in the number of swimming pools closing compared to the previous year.

Nuffield and GLL remain the UK’s leading private and public operators (by number of sites with a pool). Public leisure trust GLL lead the way with 146 swimming centres, followed by Nuffield who have 111 clubs with a swimming pool.

The 2019 report shows that 84% of the UK population live within 2 miles of one of the 3,170 swimming pool sites.

Commenting on the figures, David Minton, Director of LeisureDB said: “Although the total stock of swimming pools doesn’t change dramatically, year to year, the carrying capacity of the water keeps expanding. It’s very encouraging to see participation is growing across the industry. Operators have found that by differentiating the offering, improving the customer journey and providing digital solutions helps towards engaging the consumer both in and out of the water.”


Summary of Key Facts

  • The number of swimming pool sites in the UK is 3,170.

  • 26 public and private swimming pool sites opened in the last 12 months, up from 22 in 2018.

  • 27 public and private swimming pool sites closed in the last 12 months, down from 33 in 2018.

  • The public pay and play swim fee increased by 5% to £4.58.



The State of the UK Swimming Industry Report is compiled from the most comprehensive review of the UK swimming industry, involving individual contact with all sites. The reporting period is the 12 months to 31st March 2019. The audit and resulting figures are compiled by independent leisure market analysts, LeisureDB, who have been monitoring the performance of the fitness and swimming industry for over 30 years. Further details of the report can be found here 2019 State of the UK Swimming Industry Report.