Fitness: Did you hear?...

PowerBar at Boston Marathon, Fitness Showcase owner recovering from bypass surgery, Moving Comfort salutes moms, Iron Grip adds to eWeight Planner, Russell acquires Spalding, Precor and Cybex rumors, Nike links up with Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, IHRSA hosts legislative summit, LA Times story on 24 Hour Fitness ...
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>> PowerBar is at the 107th running of the Boston Marathon in a big and colorful way. A new feature is its "PowerGel Zone" at the base of "Heartbreak Hill" starting just before mile 17 of the 26.2 mile run from Hopkinton to downtown Boston. No, handing out the gels to runners there isn't new, but helping them more easily grab their preferred flavor is (and the flavor is downright vital when you suck down one of those gels). Six distribution areas were lined up on each side of the street with color-coded signage to match each flavor and volunteers wearing shirts to match the color of the gel they are handing out. Runners looked for dark brown shirts if they wanted a chocolate gel. Runners who needed a green apple gel looked for volunteers who were sporting bright green shirts. It proved to be a great way to help the runners along to the finish.

>> Fitness Showcase owner Rick Vemmer is recovering from bypass surgery in early April and doing fine, according to colleagues. A regular cardio workout guy, Vemmer apparently felt a little funny so he decided to be cautious and see a doctor. The doc found some blockage and suggested bypass -- four of 'em, all told. It also seems that being in a good shape from regular workouts likely helped the situation to be less serious since he had a strong heart. The stores in Seattle, Wash., and Kansas City, Mo., are in full swing -- "business as usual," we are told. And Vemmer will be back kickin' soon. SNEWS View: Yet another wake-up call that this of course can happen to anybody, no matter how fit. But that being fit can help someone survive and make the incident more minor.

>> Women's activewear specialist Moving Comfort is using Mother's Day to salute moms who are fit or aspire to be fit. More than 125 specialty sporting goods stores from Massachusetts to California are participating in Moving Comfort's third annual Mother's Day/Fit Mom program. Moving Comfort is providing dealers with window banners about the physical and emotional benefits of being fit, decals proclaiming "A fit mom is a powerful mom," and a gift with purchase: a date reminder log to keep track of important events like birthdays, anniversaries … and the date Mom started running or working out. "Being fit improves every aspect of a woman's life," said Ellen Wessel, Moving Comfort president. "Our annual 'fit mom' campaign reflects our decades' long commitment to providing products and programs that inspire women to get fit and stay fit." The day is May 11. Don't forget Mom.

>> Iron Grip has added five more companies to its program called eWeight Planner (no, no, not a diet program, silly -- a guide to planning the weight of iron a club needs to buy). That means 14 companies are now participating. The program, which helps clubs calculate based on size and membership the amount of total weight in plates it needs and their types, debuted at the IHRSA show in late February. The new companies are TechnoGym, Magnum, Matrix, MedX and Atlantis, which join Life Fitness, Nautilus, Cybex, Hoist, Paramount, Strive, Flex, Body Masters and Muscle Dynamics. "All the major players are included," said Donna McCallum, national sales manager for Iron Grip. "We've been very impressed with the level of excitement expressed by every manufacturer we've partnered with."

>> Russell Athletic continued the company's acquisition romp by signing an agreement to acquire the sporting goods business of Spalding Sports Worldwide Inc. for $65 million. The deal includes acquisition of brand names, inventory, contracts and related assets. Russell is not acquiring Spalding's existing golf business, which the company sells under different brand names. Sales for the Spalding sporting goods business in 2002 were $90 million, including royalties from license agreements. SNEWS View: You may not be interested in Spalding, but keep an eye on Russell. The company recently acquired Moving Comfort, Jagged Edge and Bike Athletic, and this marks its first foray into an equipment acquisition. Who knows what could be next. It appears to be on an Amer Group-like quest to be No.1 in sporting goods, as Amer Group, which owns Precor since last fall, has openly stated is its goal.

>> Speaking of Precor: Heard another good rumor the other day that is floating around the industry -- "Precor is talking with Cybex about a merger." (Insert pause here.) OK, now that you're up off the floor from your rolling-around laugh, Cybex execs have told SNEWS that's a giggle and they have no idea where that came from. And Precor CAN'T talk about mergers since it is owned by Amer Group; it would have to be Amer Group talking acquisition. SNEWS View: With Cybex being on a financial recovery in the last few years, it's an easy target for rumors and talk about acquisitions that often stem from somebody speculating to somebody, who then passes the speculation along a few times. Voila, born is a grand rumor. Now, we actually wouldn't be surprised if Amer Group considered this acquisition -- or had even broached it -- since it says it wants to be No. 1 worldwide. But we're not sure that Cybex CEO John Aglialoro is about to let go, considering his passion for the company and the business -- at least not yet.

>> Nike USA Inc. has linked up with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for a three-year sponsorship agreement. Nike will be a national presenting sponsor of Team In Training (TNT), the society's endurance sports training program that raises funds to support blood cancer research, education and services for patients and their families. Nike will provide performance training and race-day apparel for TNT's runners, walkers and coaches. The Nike and TNT relationship also will involve strategic marketing support and professional athlete appearances. A major goal of the new sponsorship is to increase participation for TNT. The society's Team In Training program provides 30,000 runners, walkers, cyclists and triathletes with experienced coaching, a four-to-five month comprehensive training program, travel to major races and accommodations. Since Team In Training began in 1988, participants have raised $430 million to help the society advance its mission: to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.

>> IHRSA, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, will hold its first-ever Legislative Summit, May 5-6 in Washington, D.C. The Legislative Summit is a first of its kind for the fitness-specific industry and will focus primarily on health promotion. In conjunction with the Legislative Summit, IHRSA and its local member health clubs will celebrate "Get Fit Washington D.C. Day" on May 3 by offering free workouts and special classes to the public at area IHRSA clubs (that list will be available April 28 at www.healthclubs.com). "For our part," said John McCarthy, "fitness industry operators constantly strive to eliminate the barriers that prevent more Americans from becoming physically active. By supporting legislation designed to make access to physical fitness available to the broadest reaches of American society, we feel that the club industry could make a huge contribution to the health problems associated with being sedentary and overweight." Of particular interest to IHRSA and its members of health-related legislation is the Workforce Health Incentive Program (WHIP), H.R. 1818, which is an amendment to the tax code that if passed would allow employers to deduct the cost of health club memberships for their employees. It was introduced April 11 by U.S. Representative Pat Toomey, R-Penn.

>> In the Los Angeles Times on April 14 was a story about 24 Hour Fitness clubs, the chain's growth (nearly double) in the last six years, and CEO Mark Mastrov, titled "CEO plans to continue expansion, seeing large room for growth and declaring chain 'recession-resistant.'" Staff writer James Peltz wrote: "It's lunch hour, and the gymnasium-size room for stairclimbers at the 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide Inc. club here is packed. Lined up in several rows like a marching band, about 60 patrons furiously climb up and down on machines that take them nowhere, their eyes staring at big-screen TVs hung from the ceiling. Looking on is Mark Mastrov, who wouldn't be mistaken for one of 24 Hour Fitness' personal trainers. Carrying an average build on his 6-foot frame and dressed in a nondescript brown suit, the clean-cut Mastrov looks like an accountant who walked through the wrong door. But Mastrov, 45, is founder, chairman and chief executive of 24 Hour Fitness…." Said Mastrov, "Our No. 1 competition," says Mastrov, "is the sedentary lifestyle." He also told the paper that his club is "recession-resistant" largely because it does not require long-term financial commitment. But the paper also wrote from one analyst: "'There's no question that industry revenue growth has slowed this year because of the sluggish economy," said Burke Koonce, who covers the fitness industry for Merrill Lynch & Co. "That not only makes it tougher to sign new members, but also exacerbates the industry's constant struggle with retention."

>> Among the exhibitors that have already renewed for The Super Show 2004 are New Balance, Volkl, Sport America, Cap, Lifegear and Fitness Quest. The Super Show and its World of Sports Innovation will be held Jan. 12-14, 2004, at the Orange County Convention Center, North/South Complex, in Orlando, Fla.

>> Don't be looking for Icon Health & Fitness PR contact Jayme Shepherd at the shows any longer. Shepherd got a new job doing PR for a scrapbook company in the area, partly to spend more time at home with her son. New PR contact Icon for now is Jay Wright, marketing manager. Wright can be reached at jay.wright@iconfitness.com or at 435-786-5656.

>> Fitness and outdoor are the two areas that lead the charge among the most popular recreational interests in the United States, according to a newly released study published by SGMA. Based on participation in 2002, the top 30 activities include at No. 2, treadmill exercise. Others? Stretching (6), fitness walking (7), day hiking (8), running/jogging (10), stationary cycling including indoor cycling classes (11), dumbbells (12), hand weights (13), weight machines (14), barbells (17), and abdominal machines (23). For details and the report, go to: http://www.sgma.com/reports/2003/report1049483640-30128.html

>> ispo is moving trade show dates for winter 2004 -- by one day. Responding to a reported majority of retailers asking for the show to start on Sunday so they could still serve customers in shops on Saturday, ispo has announced that the winter 2004 show will take place from Sunday, Feb. 1, to Wednesday, Feb. 4. SNEWS View: Terrific, but little good that does the U.S. contingent, or any other international attendee who needs to make a game effort to also show up at SIA (Jan. 26 to 29) and Outdoor Retailer Winter Market (Jan. 30 to Feb. 2). A better move would have been to actually push the ispo trade show back by one week -- Feb. 8 to 11. We've been told that's too late for the European market -- as if one week will really make a difference?

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