Three popular fitness programs -- P90X, CrossFit and SuperSlow -- may be fads, but they could bring in new customers and help bolster a retailer's bottom line.
They each may have started as just another late-night infomercial promising ripped abs and amazing weight loss, but after allegedly satisfied customers began posting photos and videos of their now-toned bodies online, the word spread.
Now almost everyone it seems -- since the public always seeks a magic pill for fitness and weight loss -- has heard of P90X, the intense strength and conditioning program lead by the charismatic and buff personal trainer Tony Horton. That workout and others like it play into the public's search for an easy, quick path to fitness and health by dangling phrases like "get absolutely ripped … guaranteed."
Regardless of your opinion of trendy fitness programs like P90X, CrossFit and SuperSlow, getting educated about their concepts and what equipment customers might be seeking could help your products move out the door -- and make connections to a potential customer who may one day need more.
Some specialty retailers have even played into the trend with advertising and in-store information to attract customers. Fitness Resource, for example, recently featured an ad on its website's home page with a package of gear and accessories for less than $287 (regular price, $403) that included all the key workout equipment needed for a P90X routine. The company called it an "essential equipment package" (see photo, right), including resistance tubes, a mat, a bench and other product for a discounted package price.
"The P90X package didn't seem to be either a failure or a home run," said David Nees, president of Fitness Resource in Virginia. "We are still experiencing customers asking about equipment for the program. I think it waxes and wanes depending on the level of TV promoting."
David Homa, owner at retailer All Around Fitness on the Monterey Peninsula in California, said he has customers asking about equipment for P90X and CrossFit, but hasn't actually put together a package.
"We don't offer any package deals because we don't necessarily want to encourage customers to do these workouts," he said, "but we want to point them to quality equipment so they don't buy junk online."
Even though Homa isn't thrilled with the philosophies behind the workouts, he acknowledged that fitness fads can bring in a new set of customers.
"Our normal demographic is 55-year-old men, so when a young guy in his 20s or 30s walks into the store, we can almost always guess he's going to ask about P90X or CrossFit," Homa said. "It helps when we can make that connection and then hopefully he'll remember us when he decides to make a bigger purchase."
Here's what you need to know about the three biggest workout trends:
What is it: A fitness and diet program that includes 12 workout DVDs (such as chest and back, plyometrics, shoulders and arms, cardio and yoga), a nutrition planner that offers meal suggestions and a portion size guide, and a calendar to track workout progress.
The claims: Promises to "transform your body from regular to ripped" in 90 days or your money back. The "muscle confusion" that results from the workout's combination of strength work, cardio and stretching supposedly challenges your body in a different way each day, helping you avoid fitness plateaus and enabling you to see results quickly.
Equipment: The P90X website suggests only a resistance band and a "place to do pull-ups," but message boards and P90X user-recorded videos list a pull-up bar, yoga mat (and in some cases, yoga blocks), at least two sets of varied-weight dumbbells or resistance bands, a heart rate monitor, body-fat tester, fan, towel and water bottle as essentials.
What is it: An intense strength and conditioning circuit of calisthenics, Olympic-style weight lifting, gymnastics and various cardio exercises like running and rowing. The method has been heavily used by military and law enforcement organizations, but has become more mainstream in the last few years as CrossFit gyms have opened across the country and web-based daily workouts have gained popularity.
The claims: Promises to improve your athletic conditioning and functional fitness in 10 "recognized fitness domains" including endurance, stamina, strength, balance and agility through complex, intense and constantly varied exercises.
The equipment:The CrossFit website has an extensive video library of the workout's exercises (and there are many), and encourages followers to do workouts on their own and gives tips on the best way to build their own "garage gym." The equipment used most often in the workouts, according to one CrossFit member who said he analyzed 18 months of the training program, are a standard weight-lifting bar, squat stand, bumper plates, gymnastics rings, a pull-up bar and an exercise mat. Some of the workouts also call for dumbbells, kettlebells, a rower and a glute-ham developer (GHD), medicine balls, climbing rope and a plyometric box.
What is it: A strength-training workout approach originally developed for women with osteoporosis -- the workout encourages very slowly lifting heavy weight for fewer reps than normally recommended for a traditional weight-training workout. For example, a traditional set of 8-12 bicep curls would take about 45 seconds, while a SuperSlow set of 4-6 curls would take about the same amount of time, meaning more time spent doing each rep.
The claim:Through controlled movements -- rather than using momentum -- and at least 72 hours of rest between workouts, SuperSlow will help you "accomplish your strength training needs 50 percent faster than traditional resistance training" with two, 20-minute full-body workouts done twice a week.
The equipment: The SuperSlow workout includes 10 exercises -- leg extension, leg curl, chest press, calf raise, compound row, triceps extension, shoulder press, abdominal pull-down, lat pull-down and biceps curl, normally done on machines.But the concept could likely be transferred to a non-machine workout with dumbbells and a mat.
Details: www.superslow.com (To read research on the method, click here.)
SNEWS® View: We have had some retailers tell us that the crowd seeking information and gear for such trendy workouts -- particularly the workout du jour, P90X, has definitely helped their sales. So even if you pooh-pooh such trends, knowing everything about them and the equipment needs -- perhaps even doing handouts describing what a person needs and what you carry -- could help you make friends and customers.