From an evolutionary perspective, music predates spoken language as a form of communication. It is so ingrained in our psyche that it has the power to inspire and engage, making our classes that much more experiential. Rather than leave any of this to chance, we offer our own carefully curated playlists for use during training.
For affiliate biofit gyms with full access to these 3000+ tracks (and counting...) on private access Spotify playlists, we have divided the acoustic, world music tracks into several distinct tempos:
Movement is mid-paced and playful, Mobility is slow and acoustic, Strength is mid-paced but with lots of grit and intensity, while Stamina is fast-paced and dynamic.
For a taste of our brand's soundscape, here is a selection of short playlists available publicly on Spotify:
The concept of sustainable, eco-friendly and green buildings has been around for the past 20 years, helped along by organizations such as the Green Building Council that have dutifully guided developers, architects and corporations with their star certification system and LEED recognition.
Borne of the massive recent upswing in urbanization and the resulting high-density cities that then put added strain on our planet, the green building movement pushes an earth-friendly agenda onto our built environment.
With over 92,000 projects using LEED in over 165 countries around the world and more than 2.2million sq ft of built environment certified every single day, this is by far the most prominent rating system out there today.
LEED's key tenets include energy, water, waste, location & transportation, sustainability of a site's location and indoor environmental quality.
Moving beyond this green, eco philosophy though, more recently we have seen two concurrent trends that take the sustainability movement in a new direction.
Firstly there is biophilic, nature-inspired design that adopts a similarly planet-oriented mindset yet zeroes in on how organic and evolution-friendly design principles can have a positive psychological and physiological health impact on humans.
This planet + people mindset instantly gives biophilic design a more commercial edge, cutting through the externally oriented benefits of doing no harm to the planet with a more human-centric view of the built environment while also opening the door to overtly aesthetic choices that prioritize natural beauty.
Think vertical garden walls; air purifying plants; circadian lighting that follows the body’s daily rhythm; natural colors, patterns, textures and materials, all of which are designed to bring the outside world in, re-uniting city and countryside to create uplifting, restorative green spaces as closely aligned with our deep past as feasibly possible.
The International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge is a holistic standard that has so far logged over 330 projects and 14.1 million square feet of built environment since 2008. Key concepts that it addresses include Place: restoring a healthy interrelationship with nature; Water: creating developments that operate within the water balance of a given place and climate; Energy: relying solely on current solar income; Health + Happiness: creating environments that optimize physical and psychological health and wellbeing; Materials: endorsing products that are safe for all species through time; Equity: supporting a just, equitable world and Beauty: celebrating design that uplifts the human spirit.
A third and final segment, after eco/green/sustainable and bio/natural/organic comprises explicitly human or people-oriented buildings with designed for human health, wellness and fitness, whilst also doing no harm to the planet.
Key proponents of this approach are the WELL Building Standard and the US government-backed Centre For Active Design FITWEL standard.
WELL focuses on best practices in design and construction, backed by evidence-based medical and scientific research. To date, it has over 700 projects under its belt in 32 countries equating to 139 million sq ft of built environment. The standard covers eight key categories:
An evolution of green building standards such as LEED, the increasingly popular WELL Building Standard from Delos identifies 100 performance metrics, design strategies and policies that can be implemented across a building to have a positive impact on the health and wellness of its occupants.
WELL is complimentary to other, more environmentally-oriented standards and in many instances directly overlaps as a nature-first approach is also inherently healthy for humans; the emphasis however is simply skewed towards the occupants rather than the environment. The standard is happy to roam far and wide, from homes to offices, healthcare facilities, schools and restaurants.
FITWEL, standing for Facility Innovations Toward Wellness Environment Leadership, was launched in March 2017 and has currently impacted over 250,000 building occupants with over 380 projects around the world. They too take a heavily data-focused approach with a database of over 3000 academic studies backing up their efforts to inspire healthier workplaces and residential communities specifically.
In late January 2018, Biofit Health & Fitness is collaborating with leading London property developer EcoWorld Ballymore on a research project in the densely urban Canary Wharf district to explore the impact of exposure to indoor nature spaces on personal wellbeing.
The waterfront Wardian Case has been designed along nature-inspired, biophilic design principles by the biofit team for maximum Vitamin Nature benefits. Guests will experience an abundance of natural light, air purifying plants, circadian lighting, forest aromatherapy, acoustic world music and other health-oriented design touches. Cumulatively, these elements are expected to deliver a feeling of restored energy, calmness and focus; perfect for tackling the urban jungle outside.
A survey created by scientists from the University of Essex, including Dr Mike Rogerson and Professor Jules Pretty OBE, will assess the benefits of exposure to this environment via a short pre- and post-visit questionnaire. The study will look at mood, stress levels and mental acuity, with the results to be published nation-wide in late Q1 of 2018.
Local residents and professionals are invited to reserve their place for an hour of quiet contemplation, a refreshing dose of ‘biophilia’ (nature contact) or a creative brainstorming session from 22 January to 2 February 2018, Monday to Friday, between 10am-6pm by emailing email@example.com (appointments will be made on a first come-first served basis).
The Wardian Case @ Ballymore, 76 Marsh Wall, London, E14 9SL (adjacent to South Quay DLR)
Here are our top tips for an evolution friendly 21st century lifestyle that is in tune with both ancestral and primal health principles, as well as biophilic and wellness-oriented design.
Spend time outside in nature whenever possible, be it in 'green spaces' (gardens, parks and forests) or 'blue' (near rivers, seas and lakes), whether for 20-minutes, two hours or two days. Reconnecting with the elements has a restorative affect and helps counter-balance the negative impact of high-stress urban routines as it allows our senses to kick in to over-drive and certain parts of our brain to switch off.
We spend 90% of our lives indoors so bring the outside in to maintain your levels of Vitamin Nature around the home, office and gym. Go big on air-purifying plants such as Mother-in-Law's tongue; incorporate wood, bamboo, leather, and marble into your home decor; prioritize natural daylight and ventilation via open windows and balconies; use large format images of natural landscapes on the walls and incorporate circadian lighting that energizes with blue-white tones by day and amber tones after dark to improve sleep patterns.
Eat real food
Base your diet around an abundance of organic, seasonal fruit and vegetables with meat and fish in moderation. Cut out processed foods with long ingredient lists and reduce your intake of bread, pasta and other high-carb 'plate fillers' with minimal nutrient value. Consider not just what you eat but where it came from and how it made the journey from farm to table.
Move every darn day, no excuses! Whether it be walking or cycling to work, a simple morning stretch routine or a full-on biofit style gym session using sandbags, medicine balls, beams and ropes that encourages 100% mindful engagement rather than high-tech machinery that invites you to switch off from the task in hand. Our genetic code was written when we needed to hunt and forage in order to survive, creating a direct correlation between movement and sustenance; now that link has been broken and calories are so easy to come by, it is imperative we find other ways to keep active.
Rest & recovery
Respect your body's need for rest, typically 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Work out what you need personally to operate at 100% every day then protect those hours as doggedly as you can. Avoid all sources of blue light such as TV, phone or computer screens 1-2 hours before bed, use blackout blinds in the bedroom and install a light system with warm amber hues for use after dark to ensure a solid night's sleep.
Train your mind like a muscle, it is your greatest asset. Learn a language, study for a qualification, practice meditation or try a dance class to mix things up. Our brain's capacity to develop new neurological pathways directly equates to skill development and nothing has been more instrumental in our rise to the top of the evolutionary tree; use it or lose it however so keep your mind active!
Take your shoes off in the home, gym and even office (when appropriate!) allowing your feet time to connect with the ground while activating the 26 tiny bones in each foot that might otherwise remain dormant in thick-soled or high-heeled shoes all day long. As this sensation becomes steadily more comfortable, consider a pair of minimalist sports shoes with 'zero drop' (i.e. no raised heel) to replicate a more natural stance even when moving around outside.
Build your tribe
Find and foster your tribe; we evolved in small groups making us inherently social animals with an innate psychological need to bond, connect and share with others yet modern technologies tend to encourage isolation. The biological need remains however so find your people, wherever they are.
Static seated positions negatively affect the lower back, posture and hip mobility; break the habit of our adult lives by finding alternatives to endless hours at a desk or table. Consider periods working at a high table or standing desk, experiment with a Swiss ball and try to change position at least once each hour to give the body a chance to balance itself out over the day.
To learn more about the biofit philosophy or to become a certified biofit coach contact firstname.lastname@example.org
"Uncivilised Genes" is one of the first truly academic books that we have found on the subject of the urban paradox - our genetic mismatch with modern life. While the likes of Mark Sisson of the primal / paleo movement have done fine work in raising awareness amongst the general public, a lot of the rationale behind it is left up to secondary sources or stated in fairly generic terms.
The basic premise that we did not evolve for city life makes complete sense for existing sympathizers who have already made up their own minds but breaking the argument down piece by piece into a bulletproof argument is the work of an academic, be it anthropologist or archaeologist.
Gustav Milne is an example of the latter, currently teaching at University College London (UCL). What sets him apart is that he previously spent 20 years at the Museum of London, giving him a unique perspective on evolutionary history within the context of an urban metropolis.
His basic premise is that "wellbeing and good health are dependent on us following evolutionary concordant behaviors". This appears to be a similar starting point to the ancestral health community in California, however Milne adopts more of a macro view that helps set him apart.
When he states that "our uncivilised past is many, many millenia longer than the history of our civilisations", we have the sense of a writer who has spent decades of his own life mulling over this complex theme, attempting to coax it into a series of rules for 21st century living. This book is the fruit of that labour.
Pages 111-112 of the first edition contain a contribution by biofit on evolutionary concordant fitness; Milne himself however is strongest when flipping between deep, evolutionary history and contemporary urban planning themes such as building active design into cities of the future to encourage more walking and cycling.
Other topics include the importance of building social (semi-tribal) networks for mental wellbeing, the role of music and dance in conveying information, and biophilia (man's innate connection to nature) in urban greenspace.
A selection of Milne's more punchy Urban Design Protocols looks like this:
- Put human locomotion at the heart of transport policy and street design
- Promote and develop participatory urban greenspace, e.g. city farms
- Promote the development of roof gardens
- Encourage street-based neighborhoods rather than enclosed estates
Overall this is an sparkling, challenging and highly engaging book that will suit the newcomer to the subject just as well as the seasoned ancestral health aficionado. Highly recommended reading.
"Uncivilised Genes" by Gustav Milne is available now.
Shannon Rempel is a 4-time Olympic athlete and one of our coaches at biofit Calgary. We sat down to hear her impressive health & fitness story so far.
Q: What sports or movement practices have been of most influence on you?
A: I’ve spent the majority of my life training and racing in the sport of speed skating so I’ve always had an appreciation and focus on technique in movements. It’s a far more technical sport than most people realize - while being strong is important, being able to translate that strength and power into the ice to generate speed is essential. For speed skaters, a lot of that requires timing/coordination, and understanding basic biomechanics of pushes and movements.
Q: What fitness / coaching qualifications do you have, besides being a biofit coach?
A: I have done personal training on and off for a few years now, and I’m also a Level 1 speed skating coach.
Q: What does a typical week of your own training look like?
A: I typically train twice a day, 6 days a week. I’m usually on the ice to skate for the morning session, then the afternoon session varies, anything from cycling, running, weight lifting, or technical dryland work. Technique, power, speed, and overall fitness are all important in speed skating, so training is quite demanding. Our training is designed to have us race ready through the winter months, so we go through cycles of training that focus on different aspects of our fitness.
Q: What kind of a dietary regime do you follow?
A: I’ve been an elite athlete for more than half my life now, so nutrition has always played an important role in my day to day fuel and performance. I focus on high quality, unprocessed foods that allow me to train energized, and also recover between sessions properly. My diet includes complex carbs, lots of fruit and veggies, protein, and healthy fats. My training load for the day usually dictates when and what I consume.
Q: What is your go to podcast, website or YouTube channel for health & fitness inspiration?
A: Most of my inspiration comes from the amazing high performance athletes that I’m surrounded by on a daily basis – watching and learning from the best in the world (in various sports) keeps me motivated to continue to learn and push myself. We also have an incredible integrated support team (physiotherapists, chiropractors, osteopaths, nutritionists, lifting coaches, and sport physiologists) that are constantly adding new and innovative ways to train and keep our bodies healthy – both preventative and restorative.
One website I do check out occasionally is altis.world which focuses on training and technique for sprinter athletes and coaches
I love to cook and create healthy recipes, so I’m always looking at blogs and websites for inspiration. Some of my go to sites include HealthfulPursuit, WholeFoods, PaleOmg, OhSheGlows
Q: What is your favourite biofit movement and why?
A: Over the past few years I have began to focus more on bodyweight exercises, so I enjoy all the biofit movements but my favourite is Monkey, it’s very versatile, increases hip mobility and helps progress to inversion and handstands, which have been really fun to work on recently.
The Japanese have been digging into the benefits of what they call "shinrinyoku" (forest bathing) for a fair while now and scientific research into the benefits of breathing in the essential oils that dense forests release into the air in particular continues to mount up.
Phytoncides are airborne anti-microbial substances that trees release as a way to fight off disease and harmful substances. If you've ever wandered through a remote pine forest you'll no doubt recall the distinct scent of that experience but there is a tangible, self-defence rationale behind it all too from the forest's perspective.
Studies have shown that breathing in phytoncides while walking in a forest has beneficial effects on human Natural Killer (NK) blood cells that help fight virus-infected cells, a tangible immune system boost that can last for up to 30 days.
Cedar, oak and pine are all examples of trees that give off plenty of this type of essential oil, the latter in particular has attracted our attention as we used pine wood for our balance beams and pull-up bars in the Biofit Calgary fitness studio. We now gently diffuse 100% natural pine oil during class as a way to borrow some of the plant's positive health benefits for our clients. Biophilia and natural health in action right there people!
Read the full research report from Japan online here.
Biofit certified coach Dejuan Peart works out of our Calgary outpost and is an experienced trainer, ex-basketball player and all-round movement machine who took to our method like a duck to water in no time at all. Here we dig into his weekly training and dietary regime, amongst other things.
Q: What sports or movement practices have been of most influence on you up to now?
I dedicated a majority of my life to Basketball... in doing so, I developed an understanding of using my bodyweight to jump-run-land and rotate. Since then, I've gained a broader perspective in the way I connect with my body. Today my foundation is bodyweight movement, also known as calisthenics, using my body as resistance...so Parkour, gymnastics, dance and many more have been a strong influence on me.
Q: What coaching qualifications do you currently have?
- NASM (National Academy of Sport Medicine)--Certified Personal Trainer
- NASM (National Academy of Sport Medicine)--Corrective Exercise Specialist
- Can-Fit-Pro Certified Personal Trainer
- Neurokinetic Therapy Level 1
- FMS (Functional Movement System) 1
- MovNat Level 1 & 2
- FRCs - Functional Range Conditioning Mobility Specialist
- Progressive Calisthenics Certification
- Animal Flow Level 1 & 2
Q: Describe a typical week of your own training look like? How do you structure your own regime?
There are certain movements I practice on a daily basis......including hanging, crawling, deep squat holds, Animal Flow form specific stretches, full body CARS (controlled articular rotations). I am also increasingly trying to challenge my body in as many ways as possible; recently I've begun to explore element of Ido Portal's method at a local gym (Move to Move). So this currently includes a daily practice of handstands and balancing out my body with different mobility protocols. Each day has a different emphasis, be it bent arm or straight arm or legs. All this, plus a lot of play consumes most of my week.
Q: What does your diet look like?
I've recently finished a 21 day Sugar Detox. I was surprised as to how unbalanced I was in this area. I struggled for the first week but quickly began to develop healthy taste buds again and craved nutrient dense foods. I don't follow a specific meal plan although I currently engage in a not so strict intermittent fasting lifestyle which has an 8-hour eating window. I experiment with what works well for my body, roughly in line with the Paleo diet.
Q: What is your go to podcast, website or YouTube channel for movement inspiration?
There are literally too many inspirations for me to list but I'm constantly inspired by GMB (Gold Medal Bodies) with Ryan Hurst, Mike Fitch and my fellow Animal Flow Community (who are basically family to me) as well as Ido Portal's Movement Culture. Then there are the countless movement explorers out there, from Parkour athletes to dancers, in the end it's all about increasing your movement vocabulary.
Q: What is your favourite biofit movement?
All the movements have their unique challenges and fun elements but seeing as I love to crawl and move like an ape I will say the Gorilla, it's a movement that was familiar to me visually yet the subtle connection and engagement of the trunk to hips made it a new and rewarding learning experience.
An evolution of green building standards such as LEED, the increasingly popular WELL Building Standard from Delos identifies 100 performance metrics, design strategies and policies that can be implemented across a building to have a positive impact on the health and wellness of its occupants.
WELL is complimentary to other, more environmentally-oriented standards and in many instances directly overlaps as a nature-first approach is also inherently healthy for humans; the emphasis however is simply skewed towards the occupants rather than the environment.
We created Biofit as a sustainable, natural gym concept inspired by healthy design principles, therefore placing it firmly in line with both approaches. As the company’s Founder is currently studying to become a WELL Accredited Professional and DELOS is believed to be working on a Pilot Program for Exercise Facilities, we have cross-referenced a typical biofit gym design with each of the Standard’s seven categories to identify the common ground.
In summary, a total of 32 items from Air, Light, Fitness, Comfort and Mind are covered by our core gym product (shown in standard font below) while the addition of a health bar or retail fridge at the gym reception would help tick off an additional 18 from the Water and Nourishment sections (shown in italics below). This is how we do it:
The ‘healthy buildings’ / ‘healthy communities’ movement is being driven by a number of US organizations such as Delos and the Living Future Institute as a way to promote a positive, healthy and environmentally conscious future to corporations, architects and designers.
Delos raised US$128 million across two equity rounds (2015-2016), partnering with Deepak Chopra on a STAY WELL hotel room concept and tying up with the Clinton Global Initiative. They came out of the blocks racing with a clear mission and a team of New York-based, ex-private equity gurus around the Balinese petrified wood boardroom table.
Their WELL Building Standard has laid out a detailed set of guidelines on how to ensure indoor spaces are designed with health and wellness at their core. It is divided into the following categories: Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort and Mind.
Biofit’s trademark biophilic design is a central part of the WELL Standard, as are our attention to air quality, VOC reduction, air filtration, cleaning protocol, increased ventilation, circadian lighting design, active design, physical activity spaces, fitness equipment, thermal comfort, olfactory comfort, sound reducing surfaces, thermal comfort, health & wellness awareness, beauty & design. So we're very much a part of this industry-wide development, we merely apply the principles to a gym environment with an emphasis on finding natural solutions wherever possible.
How does the WELL Standard relate to the pre-existing LEED certification for buildings? The two are designed to work side by side although LEED focuses more closely on sustainability and green credentials, i.e. the environment, while WELL is advocates wellness features for the users of an indoor space.
So LEED looks at reducing water and electricity use by integrating natural light and ventilation into a building for example with view to minimizing the harm we do to the planet and for the health of those using the building, while WELL is oriented more towards the human element looking at air quality as well as availability of fresh fruit, filtered drinking water, the promotion of stair use, on-site bicycle parking and so on.
Whether developers will opt to pursue both forms of certification combined or just one of them remains to be seen (estimated costs are around 1-2% of build costs per certification) but the initial signs are that Delos and WELL have won first mover advantage, creating and in many respects owning this new niche while doing immeasurable good in raising awareness amongst corporate office, residential developers, retail brands and healthcare centres of how we can design health into the bricks and mortar around us.
Email us if you'd like to know more about how biofit integrates these same healthy building principles into our gym designs for a doubly healthy user experience!
Understanding the pros and cons between taking on investment, setting up a gym franchise or a gym license business is a key step for any fitness entrepreneur with a strong concept with potential for scale.
The typical path leading up to this inflection point in a business's history involves a gym or studio owner setting up by themselves, possibly with some form of angel investment from friends & family before considering options for additional sites within 24-36 months, all being well.
Retaining part-ownership by taking on outside investment often appears a natural progression from this point, be that in the form of private angel investors, some form of crowdfunding via an online platform such as Seedrs, or from the gym’s own extended customer networks.
If the new investors have deep enough pockets, or can bring in others with deeper pockets than they when the time comes, then there is no reason why this approach can’t result in scale of 5-10 sites within 5-8 years in one city, as seen in several of London’s more prominent boutique fitness studio success stories such as Frame, Barrecore, Heartcore and TEN Pilates.
This option means the gym brand owner gives up a degree of control over the business in exchange for the liquidity and will be answerable to these new stakeholders. Provided the relationship is a healthy one, and stays that way, this may well be the path to least resistance for many gym entrepreneurs.
Scaling a gym business is always going to result in some sacrifice of independence however, there's no avoiding that, the only way to truly retain control is to grow organically by hitting upon a magic formula for low overheads with consistently positive sales figures. This approach is likely to equate to a far slower growth trajectory though and some will have their sites set on bigger targets.
Enter gym franchising Stage Left, a massively popular choice in the US where it has been embraced by would-be small business owners without the entrepreneurial experience, knowledge or means develop their own brand from the ground up.
Both this route and that of licensing requires the new gym concept to be codified in terms of design, equipment, training method and operational standards (see our article on that subject here).
Franchises therefore come with clear guidelines on the design, equipment choices, type of fitness training, internal operations, branding and marketing of each gym, meaning the franchisee has comparatively little to worry about at a strategic level.
In exchange for much of the thinking being done for them, the franchisee pays a gym franchise fee that could be anything from euro 15,000 - euro 50,000, depending on the prominence of the brand in question, as well as a percentage of revenues each month.
The franchisee is also responsible for covering all other ongoingbusiness costs, any improvements to the space, new signage, equipment, IT equipment and travel expenses for a franchisor representative to deliver the staff training on-site.
A middle path between these two options is a gym license system, essentially a lightweight version of a franchise, with less regulations, lower fees, less of the work done for the licensee by the licensor than in the franchisee <> franchisor relationship and generally more freedom for the license holder in how they operate their business. From the licensor’s perspective however, this equates to far less control over their brand as it scales, which has its own risks.
In this instance, the gym brand licensor relies on solid legal advice in order to protect their intellectual property (IP), ensure they have all possible copyright protection in place as well as trademark protection in each country they begin operating in. Overall, the license route is far less complex from a legal perspective than the franchise option, making it less financially onerous for a young business.
This is the option we have taken with Biofit, a license model, with an eye on potentially moving up to a franchise model at some stage in the future once the brand is more mature and funds allow.
So, if you are interested in opening a licensed Biofit gym or fitness studio in your home country, contact us via the form below, we would love to hear from you!
We are strong believers in the benefits of training outdoors, it is the fundamental premise that underlies all our efforts to bring the outside world in through biophilic (natural) design principles in our gyms.
Years spent exercising in parks, forests and beaches using our bodyweight and elements of the environment around us felt so right that we set out to recreate at least some of that same positivity in an urban, indoor gym.
A Biofit space will never replicate nature in its entirety but it can do certain clever things to offer authentic natural elements even indoors such as using natural plants, materials, colours, textures and scents for example while carefully removing all technology.
So what is it about spending time with Mother Nature in general, and natural fitness training outdoors in particular, that is so darn good for you?
Real world purpose
In many gyms, the movements we’re asked to rep out on a piece of machinery become completely detached from any real world purpose. When training in a natural environment, the gap between movement and function is reduced to almost nothing as we are able to pull ourselves up onto a branch and climb on top of it for example, not just rep out the chin-to-bar pull-ups. We soon realize that an outdoor pull-up is going to require added grip strength and is only half the movement anyway, we then need to get our body on top of the branch as well!
More stimuli when barefoot
Going barefoot on varied terrain helps to wake up the feet, activating many of the smaller muscles that would previously be dormant in shoes on a perfectly flat surface indoors. Scrunch your toes, let your feet get a little dirty and reconnect with the earth. Go crazy and don't wash them as soon as you get home either!
One of the key outputs from our Jan 2017 research study into the wellness benefits of a Biofit gym session was that clients felt more connected to nature afterwards. Why was this important? Because a connection with nature is a reflection of vitality and purpose in life (, Howell et al 2011; Nisbet et al 2011). If we can create that effect indoors imagine what a hike in the mountains will do for you.
Exposure to Vitamin D
The only vitamin that the human body generates for itself, direct exposure of skin to sunlight is like a human version of photosynthesis. Nourishing both mind and body, sunshine is best taken in short bursts through the larger body parts such as chest and back. Use sun protection and avoid burning the skin above all else, just try to find a way to make sunshine your friend not your enemy. Consider a Vit D supplement if you live in the northern hemisphere with limited hope of sunshine for much of the year.
Improvising with what’s around us, natural fitness has variety in-built into its DNA, all that is required is a slight change of location and we can find ourselves confronted with a new set of ‘toys’ to play with during a movement session, be it a hill, rock or tree. By removing all fixed equipment from our gym floor and constantly bringing out different combinations of equipment, we aim to replicate something similar.
This may be an obvious one but humans simply were not built for spending all our time indoors staring at screens with shoes on our feet and halogen lights dictating our sleeping patterns. Getting outside when you move and train is a way to re-align the body and its internal clock with the natural cycle of day and night, amongst other things!
Spend enough time outside in an isolated natural location and studies have shown that your heart rate will soon start to slow gently and levels of the stress hormone cortisol will decrease. So while 30 minutes is good, a few hours is even better for these kind of subtle physiological changes to take place. A half day exploring should do the trick, three days camping would set you up for the month! Even our research study showed that a Biofit session noticeably reduced stress levels in 75% clients after 45-90 mins in the green, leafy studio.
Only in the great outdoors in deep woodland, near a lake or beach are we able to inhale the beneficial bacteria, negatively charged ions and plant-derived essential oils or phytoncides that we evolved with over millions of years, all of which play a part in improving gut health and mental wellbeing. Inspired by this insight, a Biofit gym uses natural aromatherapy and air purifiers that remove pollutants while adding negative ions to the air.
Outdoors we inevitably find ourselves surrounded by the sounds of birds and other animals, of the smell of the ocean or pine trees, of the chiaroscuro light effect of sunshine filtering through a dense forest canopy, of fallen leaves underfoot and a host of other subtle details that, collectively, create an incredibly dense and nourishing sensory experience.
Training indoors in a sterile, formulaic environment is deliberately designed to remove the need to concentrate on what is around us, where we are putting our feet, what the weather is doing, and so on. Not being present in the moment as it is happening when outside is a recipe for disaster. Nature simply commands our attention, meaning an additional mindful quality to any time spent outdoors. Mindful movement is one of our key tenets, staying present and focused while training helps relax the mind and restore mental energy for other tasks after class.
Over the past six months, we’ve been deep diving into the intricacies of rolling out Biofit studios via a network of licensed affiliates around the world.
The pros and cons of gym license vs gym franchise growth strategies will be addressed in a separate article, here we focus on what needs to happen internally within a gym business before expanding beyond the first site or showroom based on what we've learnt.
Essentially this involves defining the concept's design standards, equipment packages, training methodology and operational standards, ensuring it can be faithfully replicated in whole (franchise model) or in part (license model) across multiple locations and territories.
Codifying the intellectual property (IP) in this way requires an investment of time and cash on the part of the owner in order to create the various manuals that, when taken together, serve as a blueprint for subsequent sites.
A lawyer's input is also advisable to help protect the gym brand IP through copyright and a rock-solid license or franchise agreement template that can be used for each new gym site as the business grows.
Simple economics dictates that the onus on aesthetics increases the further upmarket you go. Imagine a vertical line starting from bare bones budget gyms, moving up to rugged no-frills CrossFit boxes, to concept-driven boutique fitness studios and on up to luxury facilities that offer a complete wellness solution with pool, spa and juice bar.
Biofit typically sits nestled in the security of the mid- or premium gym market, it's the safest place to do business in our view!
CrossFit deliberately avoid giving any strong indications on gym design, preferring to focus on the training method and equipment.
A Gym Design Standards document however will likely cover anything from the entrance signage to the arrival area, reception desk, training zones, changing areas, bathrooms and back of house.
Direction can be given on colours, materials, finishes, furniture, flooring, lighting, plants and wall decorations, allowing varying degrees of individuality at site level according to the brand in question.
One of Biofit’s key points of differentiation comes via our collaboration with world-renowned architectural designer and landscape architect Lily Jencks who integrates the world of garden design into our more functional gym requirements.
We create green, leafy indoor gyms designed to have an impact on mind and soul, while clients are working on their bodies, it's a delicate balancing act so rather than handing over a mere manual we provide the concept design ourselves for implementation by a small local design & build team.
It's hard to define a gym brand’s equipment standards without also looking at its training methodology and target audience as the three are so intimately connected.
Whereas a martial arts gym client will typically expect relatively little beyond tatami-style mats and a plethora of gloves, pads and bags on offer, a CrossFit client will eventually come to appreciate the range of Olympic bars, weight plates, kettle-bells and functional rigs on offer. In both these cases, the changing and shower facilities are often an after-thought; clients are there to learn and train hard, tacitly accepting that everything else is secondary.
A luxury gym meanwhile may aim to render the workout experience as comfortable as possible with high-tech cardio and weight machines loaded with touch screen entertainment, hypoxic chambers, spinning studios, heated yoga rooms and so on. Licensed affiliate or franchise gym equipment packages and design standards therefore play a far greater role in the gym experience as a point of differentiation.
Biofit's approach takes a middle path; when outdoors we use what is around us but when indoors in a gym format we need to replicate as many lifelike situations as possible and stimulate a variety of movements; for that we select a mix of sandbags, balls, beams, bars and ropes as well as pads and gloves for play & fight techniques. Everything is made of wood, cotton, leather, bamboo and rubber, ensuring a consistently premium, natural aesthetic.
Defining a cohesive fitness method isn't an overnight process, in fact it is often the fruit of many years of learning, testing, experimenting and piecing together a system that delivers results.
With a method well defined and codified, rather than simply understood by the existing head coach for example, it is easier to start teaching seminars, workshops and certifications for both the fitness public and professionals.
Biofit's Level 1 training manual provides a background section on our natural ethos and belief system before diving into a catalogue of our movements with explanations for each, categorized by class type, with a series of class templates as well.
This is a catch-all term that includes branding, sales & marketing as well day to day operations in the gym or studio such as music policy, a preferred Customer Relationship Management system (e.g. MindBody), and much more besides.
How will the coaches start and end each class? What sounds or scents will be part of the class experience? How do clients check-in or reserve a class in advance? Who greets them at reception, if anyone, and how should they make them feel upon arrival and departure? What are the coaches wearing in the gym everyday? What method do the coaches follow during personal training sessions? Will there be Small Group Training options available?
Biofit operates on a license model rather than franchise, meaning that our control and direction over affiliate gyms is limited, we provide the template but there is plenty of room for individuality at local level. For example, we have our own 2000 track playlist collection that affiliates can use, but if it simply doesn't translate so well into downtown Bangkok or a residential corner of Moscow we're not going to force it on the licensee!
If you are interested to learn more about becoming a Biofit affiliate please contact us using the form below.
On 1 February, Biofit hosted three speakers at its pop-up showroom in west London to discuss the impact of nature and wellness design. Biofit founder Matt Morley introduced the physical and mental benefits of working out in nature, and how one of the driving aims of his Biofit concept is to “create positive spaces of wellbeing”.
The three speakers included landscape architect Lily Jencks who discussed her inspiration behind the studio’s design; Elliot Flowers from the University of Essex Green Exercise Group on the health benefits of combining exercise and exposure to nature; and consultant Despina Katsikakis talking about wellness design in the workplace.
Biofit shares these top ten ten take outs from the evening:
1. Biofit is a world first. This is the first fitness facility to combine green exercise with biophilic design in an indoor urban environment. “No-one to my knowledge has combined biophilia and an indoor gym before; we have hybridized the two by bringing the outside in. Biophilia is one of the big themes of the moment...Humans need the connection to natural landscapes, living systems and ecology.” (Jencks)
2. Bringing health to hospitals. Scientists have proven that views of a natural landscape reduce patient recovery times. The connection to natural light, changing seasons and fresh air are also crucial. Additional hospital design research has shown that indoor plants can decrease patients’ reliance on pain medication. Both patients and staff were seen to benefit from a greater sense of wellbeing through this connection with nature.
3. Plants for air quality. Plants are crucial for good air quality (as a 1989 study by NASA proved) which was a key consideration in the design of the Biofit studio. Jencks sought to create an authentic sense of place by using largely native, seasonal plants, such as ivy and ferns, as well as a select few non-native species, such as palms and Mother-In-Law’s Tongue, chosen for their prodigious oxygen producing properties.
4. A cohesive concept. Biofit’s respect for nature meant a mindful approach to sourcing materials, with priority given to the natural, responsibly sourced and sustainable. It also opened the door to multi-sensory details such as textured grass-like carpets by Interface, pine essence aromatherapy and an acoustic world music playlist.
5. Quantifiable data: Morley commissioned an innovative research study by the ukactive Research Institute and the University of Essex Green Exercise Group. They took a scientific approach to quantifying the impact on mood, anxiety-levels and cognitive function of clients before and after experiencing a Biofit class. Results of the research will be released later this spring.
6. About ‘Green exercise’: Research around activity that takes place in a natural environment has shown it has a positive effect on health and wellbeing, specifically by improving self-esteem, mood and stress-coping mechanisms. The Biofit studio is an example of how active participation in green exercise can be brought into a controlled urban environment while retaining the significant positive health effects.
7. Challenges in the world of work: Katsikakis explained that 85% of the world’s workers work in high density urban environments and we tend to spend 90% of our time indoors. When we’re indoors, 82% of our time is spent sitting down in an office which is a strong reason why 70% of the world’s workers are disengaged and uninspired and not contributing their best. For those of us that sit for three hours a day, our life expectancy is reduced by two years. And sadly, working out in the gym doesn’t make up for it. (Katsikakis)
8. The dream office space? According to Katsikakis, the three main things workers consistently want from their office are natural light, greenery or access to nature and the ability to concentrate. Interestingly, these all work together. If you introduce circadian lighting into the office, which mimics the way the sun changes throughout the day, we see improvement in sleep which has a knock on effect on productivity. Similarly, the introduction of plants into the office leads people to feeling 30% better, while boosting productivity by 6-8%. Despite this, 40% offices have no natural light and 60% offices have no greenery.
9. The future of work: For Katsikakis, it’s about bringing humanity back into the workplace so people can connect meaningfully and be more mindful about what they’re doing. In the world of real estate, this means focusing on well thought through and activated amenities - such as the Biofit studio - which has a real purpose and brings inspiration, respite and delight. It helps people perform better and improve their quality of life at work.
10. Better for all: Absenteeism costs the UK workplace £16billion per annum, and £9.8billion of that is due to stress related illnesses from working in poor environments. "o the cost of doing things differently, by reconnecting us with nature and one another, and creating work spaces that inspire us is negligent against the benefits for individuals, organizations and the economy." (Katsikakis)
Between 9 January - 3 February 2017, over 200 people visited the temporary Biofit showroom in London to experience a Biofit class. Founder Matt Morley is now seeking partnerships with forward thinking residential and commercial real estate developers, as well as those in the hospitality and spa sectors.
This is a commentary piece on the shift towards ethical shopping that we wrote for the up-and-coming LUMEN magazine based out of Belgrade, Serbia. We touch on brands like Stella McCartney, Patagonia, Aveda, Forevermark Diamonds and BELU water in our investigation of triple bottom line business that balance people, planet and profit.