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How will gyms re-open, Spartan Race, and COVID impact on youth sports.

Minute 1: How will gyms re-open?

The owners of a New Jersey gym kicked sand in the face of their governor this week by re-opening their gym in defiance of state orders. Essentially calling the governor a girly man, the owners flung open their doors in a made-for-TV moment that was captured live on Fox News. Video of the police issuing a citation, but essentially allowing the workouts to proceed is here. Whether your local gym engages in civil disobedience or you are lucky enough to live in an area where it’s relatively safe for gyms to open, you may want to check out this CNET piece on “How to Protect Yourself from the Coronavirus While Working Out.” Additional helpful tips are in this story: “How to Stay Safe When You Go Back to the Gym.” For a long-term perspective, we enjoyed the Men’s Health list of “8 Ways Gyms Will Change Once Restrictions Are Lifted.” We are hopeful that #3 comes to fruition: Outdoor fitness services will surge. Gyms in Hong Kong are re-opening now and the protocols in place are a good indicator of what your local Planet Fitness or Equinox may look like when the doors are finally unlocked. Ultraviolet lights to sterilize phones and clear partitions around treadmills are the new normal. Check out this Bloomberg video that shows what your gym make look like soon. 

Minute 2: Will Spartan Race unlock all endurance races?

From his farm in Vermont, Spartan Race founder Joe DeSena announced that he will relaunch his obstacle race series on June 13 & 14 in Jacksonville, FL. Spartan will have plenty of Coronavirus precautions in place, but restricting the event to small crowds will not be one of them. DeSena expects 4,000 people per day in Jacksonville. DeSena’s original rationale for relaunching left him with mud on his face when said: “If you’re too afraid to live a Spartan life due to a virus, then you’re already dead.” The next day he went on Instagram to tell his followers that “I woke up to a sh@%storm this morning.” Social media had not been kind to him. In our experience, DeSena fits the profile of most change-the-world types. He’s a little bit wacky sometimes, but always passionate. His explanation in this case is no different as he explains that he watched his father die a slow death from a sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle. That, he says, is what he meant by the “you’re already dead” comment. Of course the logical output of that experience doesn’t mean gathering 4,000 people together. Whether you see his point or see his folly, endurance athletes everywhere should be wishing Spartan a healthy re-entry in June. If they can pull off a race involving thousands of people touching the same stuff over and over, it bodes well for re-opening running, triathlon and cycling races. #NotYourAverageJoe

Minute 3: Will the Coronavirus have a lasting impact on youth sports?

Kids are playing more Fortnite than football these days, as youth sports have been kicked hard by the Coronavirus. Teams and leagues may cautiously regroup this summer, but many experts fear that the pandemic may cause lasting damage to programs. Youth sports participation had already been dwindling in the U.S. due to one primary factor according to ESPN: price. As the country has moved to a pay-to-play model rather than a school-based model, kids from households with income over $100,000 have become more active while kids whose parents make less than $50,000 have become less involved. According to the head of a respected youth sports nonprofit, America Scores, Coronavirus has forced many schools or free programs to cut back, closing the door to even more kids. Amidst this crisis, we were happy to see our friends at RaceWire and Stack Sports launch one of the largest endurance race fundraisers in U.S. history to raise money for youth sports. Proceeds from their virtual race called Miles For My Community will go to Good Sports, a remarkable organization providing free gear to kids who otherwise would be left on the sidelines. Registration for the event is as cheap as $10 for kids and $20 for adults. They are using the honor system, so even if you don’t have a fancy GPS watch or Strava subscription, you can report your distance and time to the organizers to be recognized. #KickSave

Minute 4: Strava puts the Premium in Freemium

Stravacide” was a term invented to describe Strava users going way too far in order to move themselves up various running and cycling leaderboards. It was also a way to describe the company’s business strategy. For years we’ve believed that Strava offered way too many features in its free version so that 90% of users never bothered to upgrade to the premium option. That resulted in continued operating losses which could have ultimately risked the health of our favorite tracking app. That all changed this week when Strava announced that popular features like segment leaderboards and route planning would only be available in the paid version going forward. C’mon folks, we’ve been spoiled for too long. It’s only 5 bucks a month. #NoFreeRiders

Minute 5: Quick Intervals

  • While the Michael Jordan biopic The Last Dance is lighting up the Nielsen ratings, ESPN is about to release its treatment of another complicated sports star, Lance Armstrong. Lance will be the subject of a 30 for 30 series that will have endurance athletes glued to their screens while critiquing Lance on Twitter beginning Sunday at 9:00 pm EDT and concluding the following Sunday. A link to the trailer is here.

  • If you do make it back into the gym soon and want to make it a legs day, you should consider this new Livestrong story: “5 Leg Exercises That Are a Waste of Time – And What to Do Instead.” If you’re sprinkling in some core work, check out this list of 7 Static Holds which includes more than just planks and wall sits. To crank up the intensity knob a few more notches, here’s a list of workouts from Brooke Ence, a former professional dancer turned CrossFit star. The 1.4 million followers of her Insta account can’t be wrong.

  • We have liftoff. The launch of our Six Minute Mile t-shirts last week put our heads in orbit as we considered a business pivot to nothing but SMM ecommerce swag. Thank you for confirming out intern’s hunch that folks would want to wear a cool t-shirt that reads “Six Minute Mile” whether or not they could actually hit that standard. They are available in any color you want, as long as it’s black. Check ‘em out here.

  • Speaking of generating dozens of dollars in ecommerce profit, you may also want to put that credit card to use after checking out our friend Brian Metzler’s gear guide highlighting 8 new pieces of running gear at the crossroads of fashion and function. Brian’s earlier guide to trail running gear and his Top 8 Shoes for All Kinds of Runners have been some of the most popular links we’ve ever shared.

Minute 6: Daily Inspiration

As the world ponders re-opening gyms to the public, we hope that one of the first gyms allowed back is the Adaptive Training Foundation. David Vobora, a former NFL linebacker, founded ATF to help people with traumatic injuries recover physically and mentally. Vobora learned something about mental toughness when he was the absolute last player chosen in the 2008 NFL Draft – that year’s “Mr. Irrelevant.” Usually those players participate in a few practices, collect some NFL swag and are sent back home to work as assistant high school football coaches. Vobora is wired a little differently, however. He not only made the Rams, but he also became one of the only Mr. Irrelevants in history to become a starter in his rookie year.

Fast forward a few years to a parking lot where Vobora accosted Brian Aft, a U.S. Marine who had lost both legs in Afghanistan and had developed a mean heroin habit. Aft thought that Vobora was going to rob him, but instead the former linebacker had just spotted a man in rough shape and wanted to ask: “What happened?” That day changed the lives of both men forever. What happened was that both men helped to build AFT into a place where severely injured veterans and civilians could rebuild strength and hope. Prepare for a lump in your throat as you watch the brief video account of their story below.


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