SNEWS Qs: Chanin Cook, Harbinger Fitness

SNEWS recently chatted with Chanin Cook, Harbinger Fitness' director of marketing, about the company’s new HumanX line of functional training-specific products and why now was the time to release them.
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CrossFit and functional training is all the rage these days. Just drive down any city street, in any city, at any hour of the day, and you’ll find a CrossFit studio with people in it, working out like beasts. Long before Harbinger Fitness decided to focus its efforts on releasing functional training-specific products, the enthusiasts engaging in the activity were using its products. SNEWS recently chatted with Chanin Cook, Harbinger’s director of marketing, about the company’s new HumanX line of functional training-specific products and why now was the time to release them.

HumanX, Cook told us, stands for “Human to the power of X,” which to Harbinger means giving people the ability to harness their own power to train their bodies to function better in every day life.

Tell our readers about your new products and what makes them different from other things you've launched in the past?
HumanX by Harbinger is our new line of functional training gear. For the past 25 years, Harbinger has been known as the "go to" brand for high quality, innovative weightlifting and conditioning gear. Over the last decade we've seen a shift in the fitness market from static strength to multidiscipline training. CrossFit emerged. Gyms and clubs developed functional training group classes. And while we noticed Harbinger weightlifting gear being used in functional training workouts, we believe we could bring specialized HumanX functional training gear to these newly focused consumers. Harbinger sees functional training as a category that will continue to grow as more people reap every day performance benefits -- in strength, stability, speed and endurance.

What are your favorite features of the new products?
[Some of our] favorite "secret" features [on select products from HumanX line include]: The X2 Speed Rope’s patent-pending brass rotational mechanism with three-axis rotation, which makes this rope super fast for double unders and speed jumping; the Kettlebell Arm Guards – flexible inserts have layer of padding that no one will ever likely see, but the cushion effect when kettlebelling really will minimize bruising; The PowerAmp XXX FlexFast Cables – with one-of-a-kind injection-molded connector with soft handle for multi-position grip options – not to mention cable that is proven to last 30,000+ stretch cycles

What was the motivation for the design of the products?
At Harbinger, we focus on authenticity, quality and innovation. If we see an area in fitness where we can make a difference, we'll go for it. With functional training, we identified the trend, watched how some of our weightlifting gear was being used, and went from there in terms of designing products specifically for Functional Training.

Why did Harbinger decide to focus on CrossFit?
We began seeing Harbinger weightlifting gear used in CrossFit WODs several years ago, specifically some of our wrist wraps, lifting straps and belts. About the same time, Harbinger President David McCrane's children joined CrossFit gyms in different parts of the country. He caught their enthusiasm. Since our core weightlifting products were already being used in functional training, and there was a demand for high quality, specialized product, launching the HumanX product line was a natural extension for Harbinger.

What would you say are some of the reasons behind the popularity of CrossFit?
I see two main reasons – the first is physical, as CrossFit prepares the body to expect the unexpected and function well even in a confused muscle state. In the CrossFit gym, this may be a combination of sprints, sit-ups, rope climbs, plyo box jumps, double unders, etc. In every day life, it may be climbing stairs, chasing kids, frequent business travel, super stressed long hours, etc., and your body's ability to respond well to whatever the day brings.

The second is less tangible and more a state-of mind. CrossFit provides a close-knit, inclusive, worldwide community of like-minded fitness enthusiasts trying to be the best they can be. And while every workout is in a sense a competition, it is "communal competition" in which competitors cheer each other on, high five accomplishments and encourage each other to keep trying, again and again.

Why do you think even in the early days of CrossFit, Harbinger products were used by CrossFitters?
While CrossFit has only been around a decade or so, the philosophy behind it incorporates elements from traditional weightlifting, conditional and endurance training. Among CrossFitters there is a reverence for Strongmen, and an understanding that these "forebears" of CrossFit knew gear and they chose Harbinger. So Harbinger's 25-plus year reputation for quality and performance in weightlifting translates well in functional training.

What is your company's goal at IHRSA 2013 this year?
Our primary goals this year are to: First - officially launch HumanX and let retailers know Harbinger is now a leading provider of functional training tools, in addition to our premium weightlifting gear and hand exercise equipment; second, to officially announce our exclusive partnership with Action Wipes natural full body wet wipe – a very appealing "impulse buy" item for our specialty fitness dealers; and third, to continue to expand our international distribution network in key strategic areas with Harbinger, HumanX and Action Wipes

Why would you say IHRSA is a good place for specialty fitness retailers?
IHRSA offers one of few remaining venues for specialty fitness retailers from around the world to gather, share ideas and meet face-to-face with suppliers large and small. It is all things fitness and only things fitness, so specialty retailers can block distractions and focus their attention on developing their business through fitness management courses, discussion groups, networking and (of course) the extensive expo hall.

Who else, besides CrossFitters, are you looking to target with your new products?
All individuals involved in the broader category of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) from CrossFit to boot camp to customized strength/conditioning programming. In HIIT, the emphasis is on whole body use and muscle confusion in continuously changing workouts. The lack of routine requires one's body to deal with whatever exercise each workout brings, just as every day life brings with it a new set of challenges.
--Ana Trujillo

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