Fitness: Did you hear?...

Rusting equipment on a hotel's indoor pool deck, Vectra settles patent infringement with Precor, Life Fitness treadmills help break 24-hour indoor running record, Bally announces new hires and a Mexico club, get a "Toeflex" for your exercise, is Gold's for sale? … and much more…
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>> In SNEWS® travels in the last few days, we came across a hotel in Virginia with an indoor pool and workout room. Always curious, we went to check it out. Yup, indoor pool in a steamy room … with the bikes (Life Fitness), ellipticals and treadmills (both Precor) on the pool deck! We could see the rust forming on the ellipticals from the moisture and can just imagine what it's doing to the insides of the other stuff. Strength equipment (Paramount mostly) was in a side area and seemed to be faring better -- so far. Seems that sales reps oughta check out where the equipment is going to make sure it lasts longer and works better.

>> Trotting along on a Life Fitness 95Ti treadmill, ultra-marathoner Christopher Bergland broke the Guinness world record for the longest distance run on a treadmill in 24 hours at the first-ever Kiehl's "Treadathalon" at the Kiehl's store in New York City. At 8:05 a.m. on April 29, Bergland started his race for infamy on the treadmill positioned just inside the storefront of the Kiehl's flagship store in New York City's East Village for all the day's shoppers to see. By the Treadathalon's end at 8:05 a.m. the next day, Bergland logged 153.76 miles, breaking the world record set by Hungary's Edit Berces. Bergland, a Kiehl's store employee and competitive athlete, was initially running side-by-side with Dean Karnazes, also an ultra-marathoner. No word on Karnazes' outcome. To break the record, the two athletes had to maintain an average speed of 9:24-minute miles on the treadmill, and it was estimated they would each burn 1,000 calories every hour. Bergland was powered by a liquid diet of athletic gels and drinks. The Kiehl's Treadathalon raised $6,000 in 24 hours for YouthAIDS, an initiative of Population Services International bent on youth education to stop the spread of the disease.

>> Not all fitness happens indoors or on complicated equipment. A new addition to things that can get you fit include the Trikke, a three-wheeled device that a user propels without motors, wheels or pedals (www.trikke.com). Instead, you move your body weight back and forth to move it along. Fitter International (www.fitterfirst.com) is the distributor for the invention that's being promoted by the man who did the pet rock and other such things. See an article in the April 2004 Fortune Small Business magazine by clicking here. Look for demonstration teams wheeling, rocking and rolling around in a guerilla marketing approach by the company. Teams will roll out in California, Florida, then Texas, which will be followed by ones in the Northeast by early summer.

>> Life Fitness will begin construction of its third facility in Hungary later this year. The first is in Kiskoros, the second in Szekesfehervar(see SNEWS article, April 28) is focusing on "certified pre-owned equipment," and the third will be adjacent to the Kiskoros facility and will produce cardio products for customers mainly in Europe and Asia. The company told SNEWS® that the third facility "will allow us to be closer to those customers and ultimately better serve local markets." It should be ready to go by mid-2005.

>> UNITED KINGDOM -- Fitness experts in the U.K. say the government needs to come up with a hard-hitting fitness campaign if it is to succeed in its bid to make Britain healthier. Mark Bremner, managing director of 3d Leisure and FitNation, told U.K.'s Health Club Management magazine that a government-sponsored campaign with informative but no-nonsense messages is vital. "It's time we told people that if they don't exercise, they're not going to be able to play football with their kids when they're 50," he said. "And we have to get through to the kids. If we do, two generations down the line we'll have cracked it." He suggested a pilot scheme launched in the northeast by Sport England could be the basis for a national campaign. The campaign, called "Everyday sport: everybody feels better for it," will highlight how people can add activity into their daily lives. "It encourages people to stop using lifts and take the stairs, to go for a walk or to do some gardening," said Bremner. "From there what follows is people start believing they can branch out and keep exercising. It's exactly the kind of message we need to get across." Bremner's 3d Leisure operates 42 hotel-based health clubs and spearheaded FitNation -- a group of independent operators working together to harness their collective power.

>> GERMANY -- Sports nutrition company PowerBar is launching a technical line of running clothing in its markets overseen by its German office, although the U.S. office tells SNEWS® it has no plans to do the same right now. Until now, PowerBar has offered only simple outfits to its sponsored athletes, but this line will include shirts, pants and caps for all to be sold in running stores and online.

>> A patent infringement lawsuit filed a year ago by Vectra Fitness against Precor's home gyms has been settled out of court, according to Joe Sanchez, legal counsel for Vectra. The terms of the agreement are confidential, but Sanchez said they were reached early last fall and just needed finalizing before the paperwork was signed in late March and the case dismissed by the U.S. District Court of Washington, in Seattle. "We're happy with the way it's turned out. All of our concerns have been addressed," Sanchez told SNEWS®. "I think both parties are happy. This is something that was settled relatively quickly." Meanwhile, a default judgment was filed in the patent infringement case against Northern Lights since the Canadian company is no longer actively selling in the United States. If the company returns, it can be re-opened. Vectra has another suit pending against Internetfitness.com, makers of Smooth equipment. In that case, Vectra charged the company with misleading information on its website that affected Vectra product as well as with patent infringement. The patent infringement cases involve Vectra's 1994 re-issued patent on its No Cable Change Pulley System, a patent that was originally issued in 1989.

>> The Daily Deal reported last week that a possible sale of Venice, Calif.-based, Gold's Gym International (GGI) by Brockway, Moran & Partners was on the horizon. SNEWS® called the company directly and talked to Derek Barton, senior vice president of marketing for Gold's Gym, who has also heard the rumors and fielded various calls, including licensees, asking about it. "Like any business, any business is for sale," Barton told us. "I've been here 19 years and everybody wants to buy us, but nothing is done right now and there's nothing to comment on. We've heard the rumors, you've heard the rumors. I don't know where people get this information from. We have a list of people who've called and if we ever do (sell), we'll let you know. Right now, we're not commenting on rumors."

>> Registration for retailers and buyers is officially open for the Health & Fitness Business 2004 expo and conference, slated for Aug. 19-21 in Denver, Colo. Its revamped website, www.healthandfitnessbiz.com, now has online registration at http://www.healthandfitnessbiz.com/healthandfitness/registration_hnf.jsp. Registration is free to retailers and buyers until July 9. Questions? Call 949-376-6271.

>> Have you seen the most recent of occasional humorous take-offs of the Bowflex: On ESPN, you'll find commercials recently by Bud Light for its "Toeflex." The Toeflex allows users to -- as the TV ads put it -- fulfill their exercise needs while watching sports on TV (and, of course, also drinking Bud beers, we assume). The Toeflex is a little toe-flexing machine. Also from Bud came one for the "Treadmill 2000," which is a tiny treadmill about the size of a matchbox that someone can pull out of pocket and "run" on with his fingers (of course, it's a guy!). SNEWS® View: These are a giggle, as well as a bit of a sad statement about society's deep-down desires regarding exercise. But it's also a positive statement on the Bowflex's name recognition in our culture.

>> Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp. (NYSE:BFT) announced April 28 that John Dwyer, CFO and director of the company, has resigned from the company, and William Fanelli, senior vice president of finance, has been appointed acting CFO. Since 1993, Fanelli has served in various capacities with Bally and its predecessors, including senior vice president of finance since 2001 and senior vice president of operations from 1997 to 2001. In other personnel news, Bally has appointed Ben Amante as vice president of franchising to oversee the future franchise development of the company's brands. Recently, Amante, a 19-year franchising veteran, led Gold's Gym International Franchising through a broad expansion in the U.S. and international markets. He has also held key franchise management positions at Nissan Motor Corp. USA and Midas International. "Together, Crunch, Gorilla Sports and Bally Total Fitness are a formidable alliance," Amante said in a statement. In related news, Bally opened the first Bally Total Fitness franchise in Monterrey, Mexico, and plans additional franchised facilities in Monterrey, Mexico City and other major cities in the near future. It is partnering with Consorcio Spectrum, S.A. de C.V. to develop 10 clubs over the next eight years. "Entering the Mexican market is just the beginning," said Amante. "Over the next several years we will identify and position ourselves in many key global markets by rolling out a master franchise plan. Fitness is a universal service because no matter what the culture is, good health and feeling good about yourself is a universal desire." Consorcio Spectrum was formed by a group of Mexican investors to develop and operate health fitness facilities in Mexico.

>> Aloha to all those Precor suppliers and customers arm-twisted (!) to spend a few days in Hawaii this week! They are in "meetings" in Maui. We're sure Precor is managing to work business in nicely with discussion groups at swim-up bars featuring Mai Tai's topped with paper umbrellas. Hmmm…wonder if each umbrella has a Precor logo on it? It's a tough job, as we say here, but somebody has to do it.

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