Here’s a bird’s eye view of lower Broadway in Nashville Saturday morning. If you’ve been to Nashville, you know that the street is home to a couple dozen restaurants and bars where you can get a beer and hear live country and rock music starting at 10 a.m. just about every day of the year.
But this picture was taken at 7 a.m. The street was blocked off to allow between 25,000 and 30,000 Beachbody coaches to do a 90-minute workout, part of the group’s national meeting.
I was not there, of course. The Significant Other and I had relocated to the city just 18 hours earlier. As this mass exercise routine was ending I was stepping out in search of coffee and and a newspaper.
The streets were full of groups of upbeat exercisers streaming back to their hotels, sweaty and happy. Downtown Nashville was a sea of spandex and brightly colored tank tops with peppy slogans.
It was an impressive display. Nashville, as you may know, is a tad warmish in the summer months. At this point, the temperature was close to 80 degrees, and the humidity must have been between 80 and 90 percent.
I like to exercise myself, but not before a morning coffee and not in this kind of weather. No bikram yogini, I.
When I found the Starbucks (there’s always a Starbucks within two blocks), I saw that many of the exercisers had repaired there for coffee themselves. The line was longer than the 9 a.m. line at an airport Starbucks.
Just ahead of me in the line was a man whose wife is active in the Beachbody movement. He shared the picture below and told me that next year’s convention will be held in New Orleans in July.
Say this much: Those Beachbody people are tough.
Beachbody was new to me, and so I looked it up. It’s a multi-level marketing program that sells exercise videos and nutrition products, and it is very popular. Typically its “coaches” are people who started as customers and really love the program. Attendance at this year’s convention was 20 percent higher than in 2015.
The company keeps making things interesting. A relatively new DVD series, the 60-day Insanity workout was called “one of the most challenging fitness programs on the planet” by WebMD.
In fact, the number of ways to exercise has increased over the years as people search for and find the activities that work for them. Just in small gyms, you can find one or more examples of the following in just about every city, suburb and town:
–Gyms in office building spaces offering only barre classes based on dance principles
–Gyms in storefronts offering only “boot-camp” group exercises in which 20 or more people rotate in small groups among aerobic and weight training stations.
–Spa/gyms offering only yoga and Pilates classes
–Gyms that hook exercisers up to cardiac monitors to optimize, and regulate, heartbeats per minute
The business model for these single-purpose outfits makes sense for the owners. People pay $25 to $35 for each group session. If a gym runs six classes each day with 20 participants in each class, that’s $25,000 in revenue per week. That covers rent and trainers with plenty of money left over.
The value proposition for customers is less clear. YMCAs and other large gyms, even the odious Equinox chain, charge less than $200 a month and offer a variety of classes into the bargain. (Plus, even in California, showers and changing rooms.)
It is also true that doing the same exercise several times each week is not as healthy as doing several different workouts.
My guess is that gregarious people like working out with people they know and that they become loyal to small gyms because they appreciate the companionship of friends and known trainers. But it sure looks expensive.