Interview with coach Dejuan Peart (Biofit Calgary)

Dejuan Peart - Biofit Calgary - profile pic.jpeg

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. 

Biofit and the WELL Building Standard

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:

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Healthy Buildings & Communities

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! 

Building A Gym Brand, Part 2: investment, franchising or licensing

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!

Name *
Name

10 Health Benefits of Training Outdoors

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!

Nature-Connectedness

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.

In-built variety

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.

Evolution friendly

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!

Stress-reducing

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. 

Friendly bacteria

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.

Multi-sensory

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.

Mindfulness

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.

BUILDING A GYM BRAND: PART 1

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.

GYM DESIGN

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.

EQUIPMENT

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. 

TRAINING METHOD

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. 

OPERATIONS

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.

 

Name *
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Nature & Wellness Design event

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.

Ethical Shopping

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. 

MusicToMoveTo Playlist 7

This playlist starts slow and soulful via Mali and Brazil before swinging across into a melting pot of big band / roots sounds and then steps up the tempo with some some meaty Afro-beat, the climax is a boisterous tribal-latino track. It's all about #MusicToMoveTo people. Click here to listen and turn it up loud.

1. The Toure- Raichel Collective, Hodu

2. Fabiano do Nascimento, Minha Ciranda

3. Holy Forest, Africa Calling

4. Bola Johnson, Lagos Sisi

5. Captain Planet, Cicada

 

Natural Born Heroes by Chris McDougall

Following on from our recent review of Chris McDougall's first book, Born To Run, this is his follow-up that takes a more wide-ranging view of human strength and endurance. As the title suggest, our subject matter are heroic humans through the ages as McDougall digs into how each example with journalist vigor. 

This structure neatly opens up various avenues of health and fitness for discussion, most seemingly subjects close to McDougall's heart. Fact-checkers will be frustrated by the absence of a decent set of footnotes and references to corroborate some of the statements that follow.

The heroes of ancient Greece "learned how to use their own body fat for fuel instead of relying on bursts of sugar" for example, "fat as fuel is an all but forgotten secret of endurance athletes but when it's revived the results are astonishing"; no academic reference is offered to illustrate where the claim came from however.

Quite how we know that Hercules and Achilles were on fully ketogenic, low carb high fat diets is not covered therefore but it there is an undeniably strong case for arguing, as the author does here, that the ancient Greeks "more than 2000 years ago.. got serious about the business of releasing the hero inside us all".

Wars are often cited as key moments in history for leadership and resilience, the worst in man seemingly bringing out the best in man in a darkly symbiotic relationship. McDougall zeroes in on the Second World War when looking for case studies to bring his thesis to life, and he finds what he is looking for on the island of Crete where the national army is said to have  repeatedly resisted far larger attacking forces, much to Hitler's dismay.

We're taken on a whistlestop tour through a series of wartime heroes operating on the island, from amateur British guerrillas hiding out in the mountains to local long-distance runners acting as human carrier pigeons for top secret communications.

It's when the author steps back however, to take a more analytical, big picture approach that things get really interesting. We meet a neurobiologist who explains how in evolutionary terms a bigger brain was the key component in learning to aim a spear at a fast-moving target, anticipating an animal's movement and factoring their forward momentum into a throw. 

"Hip rotation is the key, whipping a rock is simple but sequential so if you don't practice the link between opening the hips and releasing the arm you'll lose the knack or never learn it in the first place... the reason women don't throw as well as men, it seems, is that they don't throw as much".

Equally, there is a worthy section on the importance of real world combat skills throughout our evolution from primates and how, from a purist's perspective, combat sports have lost some of their essence by allowing so many rules and regulations to creep in, tidying the action up into a TV-friendly spectator sport. The reality is though that combat is also a highly demanding and at times dangerous skill, which takes considerable practice to do right meaning some basic ground rules and protection are essential. 

A section on what is described as 'natural training' receives glowing approval from the author. Moving away from repetitions and weights in favour of fun and play with an added element of altruism takes you directly to George Hebert's concept of the Natural Method, popularised briefly in France just before the outbreak of the First World War.

Hebert believed it was about being strong to be useful, about working in packs for a common good when required, and about the skills required to help someone in need when the time came. This approach can be broken down into three admittedly rather awkward categories:

  1. Pursuit: walk, run, crawl
  2. Escape: climb, balance, swim, jump
  3. Attack: throw lift, fight

The key things taken out of the mix were a restrictive gym environment and all form of competition in favour of collaboration and a larger, long-term goal of self-improvement.

From Hebert there is a direct line to modern-day fitness in the form of MovNat / Erwan LeCorre and the likes of the Wildfitness doing their natural movement thing in the open-air. Hebert did create his own type of gymnasium as well, which in turn leads you directly to our Biofit Studio concept.

So in summary, lots of useful info in this book, making it a good intro to those looking to explore the link between natural fitness and heroes, past and present.

Born To Run by Chris McDougall

Born To Run is one of those seminal texts within a specific sub-culture that gains almost cult-like status. As we look back to it now, seven years after its first publication, and in the wake of the fall from grace of Vibram five-fingers (they were taken to court by various Americans complaining of misrepresentation), the book reads as more of an adventure story than an anthropological analysis of man's running abilities but holds a reader's attention throughout. As long as you like running!

McDougall is a journalist turned storyteller, so this is ideal for someone looking for a non-scientific introduction to the concept of barefoot running. Written at a time when ultra marathons were just taking off and Vibram's minimalist shoes were entering the mainstream, Born To Run rode the crest of a wave. Like all the best investigative journalists, McDougall was in the right time at the right place.

And that place just happened to be Mexico where a tribe called the Tarahumara were reportedly displaying incredible physical abilities in a mythical long distance race gaining notoriety amongst the running community for its extreme test of physical endurance. The difference was that the Tarahumara run with at most a small piece of leather wrapped around the soles of their feet and were completely disconnected from the complex world of detailed training regimes used by the elite American runners they compete against. These guys just ran, they didn't strength train or carb load or practice yoga, and they were beating just about everybody. McDougall smelt a story.

Above all this is an exploration of the art and science of man's innate ability to cover considerable distances on two feet without rest, something that sets us apart from all other animals on the planet.

"That's the benefit of being a naked, sweaty animal", says one expert quoted in the book, "... as long as we keep sweating we can keep going".

We also explore the dietary regimes of the world's elite ultra runners in an attempt to pin down the magic formula - for the author the answer likely lies somewhere between a vegetarian and a paleo-style diet.

Floating just beneath the surface of Born To Run lies the philosophy we are so fond of that suggests modern man may not have it all worked out after all and that there are lessons to be learnt from seemingly primitive cultures around the world, whether it be their diet, physical skill or happiness quota. 

http://www.chrismcdougall.com/

Interview with Founder Matt Morley

How did you initially break into the fitness industry? 

I started training seriously when I was around 14 years old growing up in leafy south-west London. For many years my training consisted purely of middle distance running, swimming and free weights; no mobility work, no guidance from a coach and no real appreciation of movement per se.

In my mid-20s I moved to South Africa and added kickboxing, surfing and hatha yoga into my weekly routine; my body didn't like it and I was forced to recognise that my regime up to that point had been woefully incomplete. 

Something was missing. As it turns out, lots was missing but I had discovered a hidden path and that was all that mattered. Strength work now came from functional bodyweight movements. Muay thai improved my fast twitch muscle fibres, reaction times and cardio endurance for 1-3 min rounds. Yoga started the slow process of addressing my flexibility issues as well as my previously unchecked monkey mind.

After SA I spent four years living in a tiny town on the coast in Montenegro where I continued to train outdoors with minimal equipment, develop my kickboxing practice and dive deeper into hatha yoga. I also began to research the work of Mark Sisson, Gymnastic Bodies, Movnat and Ido Portal online. A whole new world was opening up before me that would eventually dominate most of my waking hours.

What skills do you bring to the fitness sector from your previous professional experience?

I began my career with boutique consultancy business Luxury Branding in London where I was a Strategist working on Executive level projects for the likes of Armani Hotels & Resorts / Emaar Properties, One & Only Resorts / Kerzner International, Dorchester Collection / Sultan of Brunei and various entrepreneurs from the hospitality, real estate and wellness sectors.

In early 2010 the business relocated to Cape Town, South Africa with the aim of becoming operators via the launch of a regional private members club concept. As the crash kicked in six months later and funding dried up we refocused on local client work and moved downstream from strategy to marketing communications and creative.

Still determined to make our mark however, we conceptualized, launched and operated the Southern Africa Luxury Association (SALA) with myself as Commercial Director working hand-in-hand with local entrepreneurs.

In the background I also ran a quarterly, Anglo-Russian lifestyle magazine named V V that I launched and edited from 2007-2013, as well as contributing commentary pieces for a range of other lifestyle magazines such as GQ.

In 2010 I moved from consulting to an in-house role as Head of Marketing at Porto Montenegro on the Adriatic Coast, a mixed-use real estate and superyacht marina development that now attracts 10,000 visitors a day in summer and some of the largest yachts afloat. Living on-site for four years I built and managed a team of 13 people while overseeing a multi-million pound marketing budget with aggressive real estate and marina berth sales targets. Working closely with architects and interior designers, as well as the operations and sales teams in a 400-person company helped round out my skill set neatly. 

What market opportunity did you identify for Biofit that made you become an entrepreneur?

As a deep believer in the value of bodyweight training outside in nature, yet a fan of city living and with family located in notoriously rainy London I became interested in the idea of a fitness studio that brought the outside in, offering a nature-inspired indoor environment in which to train for real world fitness using a bespoke range of hand-crafted equipment. 

At the same time, the tech giants of Silicon Valley were all adopting biophilic, nature-inspired architecture and interiors as a way to boost employee productivity, reduce stress levels and enhance staff retention. If Google, Amazon and Apple were all in on this philosophy, why had indoor fitness studios not taken notice yet?

Crossfit boxes and yoga studios had also opened up the fitness market like never before, disrupting the previous gym membership business model and introducing two distinct yet ultimately movement-based practices to the masses. In that sense, Biofit would aim to humbly stand on the shoulders of giants.

What is the Biofit elevator pitch? How do you sum up what it's about?

Biofit is made up of three key pillars: an urban fitness studio concept, equipment range and training methodology all inspired by nature. 

The business is led by myself, bringing expertise in real estate, customer experience, design and marketing to the party, accompanied by a team of coaches, interior / landscape architects and fitness industry experts.

Where is the business going to grow from here? 

Our aim is to disrupt the fitness market with a premium brand that puts nature at its core, following ethical and environmentally-friendly business practices along the way.

Our collection of equipment will be sold to consumers online to businesses such as boutique hotels, gyms and residential buildings.

Our fitness studio concept can become an owner-operated or franchised concept complete with equipment and training program. There is also scope for offering white labelled gym design services to the real estate and hospitality industries.

Our training methodology can function as a set of standalone fitness classes adopted by mainstream gyms, as well as an online coaching program, touring workshops and coaching certificates. 

What stage is the project currently at?

I've spent the past 18 months in London putting together the business plan, a range of prototype equipment, six class programs, the studio's interior concept with designer Lily Jencks, sourcing all the necessary suppliers, building a team of expert coaches, curating the class playlists, building a website and social media presence, running a series of pop-up classes and workshops in central London and looking at countless potential premises for our own pop-up studio.

What wider socio-cultural trends are you tapping into with Biofit? 

The turn to nature is evident in numerous fields today. Organic, seasonal, provenance-heavy food is big business, from farmers markets to supermarkets such as Planet Organic, as well as restaurants and juice bars. Everything from single origin coffee to grass-fed meats now come with narratives that speak of small-scale production, fair trade prices and ethical values. These trends have largely slipped by the fitness sector unnoticed.

Even luxury brands from the worlds of fashion and watches have had to go back to basics in recent years, dialing up their craftsmanship credentials as a way to justify prices as wallets were squeezed and consumers became more savvy with their spending. 

Much closer to home, functional fitness and bodyweight training are now immensely popular as a new generation wake up to the benefits of stepping away from expensive but inherently restrictive gym machinery. The biggest trend of direct relevance in many ways is the shift to military bootcamp style training and Obstacle Course Races such as Tough Mudder. 

How is Biofit different to existing fitness businesses such as MovNat and CrossFit?

On paper MovNat share a similar philosophy to us, attempting to bring nature and fitness together again; it is in the operational delivery that our two paths diverge. Movnat are less interested in tackling the conundrum of every day training in an inner city location with inclement weather for nine months of the year - a challenge that we have set out specifically to address. 

As such, they are less of a studio or class concept business, preferring to pop-up around the world with workshops, coaching certificates and, more recently, a collection of co-branded equipment. Presumably this means they can all spend more time in nature doing what they love; they're certainly no fools!

CrossFit is a giant multi-billion dollar business now but to zero in specifically on what distinguishes their training philosophy from ours - a CrossFit workout is built around a random combination of gymnastics, Olympic lifting and cardiovascular endurance. While they too espouse all-round physical preparedness as their ultimate goal, their method involves heavy barbells, weights and machinery. Reps, speed and competition are central to every workout.

In contrast, Biofit has no barbells, dumbbells or cardio machines in the studio, nor do we worry too much about how many reps we do, we focus on quality not quantity. CrossFit is a chimp, we 're the bonobo. 

We train hard and fast some days, slow and heavy on others, then focus on mobility, play and movement skills while the body recovers.  

What are the wellness benefits of a nature-inspired, biophilic fitness studio environment?

Prescribing time in nature, or forest bathing, as a wellness cure is common currency in places like South Korea and Japan. Green prescriptions have been making waves in New Zealand for many years now and the UK has been pushing for something similar too via Natural England.

In practical terms the key benefits of spending time in nature or in biophilic indoor spaces have been identified as a reduction in stress levels, improved focus and concentration and enhanced productivity. Our aim is to harness those same benefits to create a functional fitness studio environment that is actively benefitting our clients while they are busy training. Here is a useful study by Human Spaces on this very subject.

Who are Biofit's customers and why do you think they are drawn to the brand?

From the very beginning this has been about offering a value system not just a studio space, equipment or training program. Very few fitness brands have really gone beyond product to communicating a complete lifestyle, with the obvious exception of Equinox, they re-wrote the rulebook in that sense.

We've put together a cohesive, 360 degree concept and I think our early customers have picked up on that. It's about reconnecting with nature, going back to basics but also recognizing that the most efficient way of maintaining a regular training practice is to have a like-minded community around you in a conveniently located space where the work gets done every day, no matter the weather. 

They're people who think about where their food comes from, feel disconnected from the typical urban gym experience and are now looking for an alternative. They are discerning, independent thinkers prepared to seek out and adopt non-mainstream brands where they feel a meaningful connection.

As our approach prioritizes mobility, skill and quality of movement over mere physical appearances, we tend to appeal to a slightly more mature audience who are ready to think in those terms. Although we preach playing a long game of steady, consistent practice throughout life, rather than a "get-ripped-quick" approach, ironically there is nothing better than bodyweight training and a real food diet for developing a lean, strong and flexible body!

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The Great Diet Myth

The Great Diet Myth

Our latest contribution to LUMEN magazine in Belgrade outlines our thinking on the modern diet industry and its numerous fads. We offer some suggestions on how to cut through the crap to something approaching an objective truth: more vegetables, more seasonality, more organic produce, less but higher quality meat and fish and no, but no processed foods. Three UK-based companies are featured in the piece, namely Farmdrop (tech), Farm Stand (hospitality) and Daylesford (retail). 

The Rewilding Movement

If you take even a passing interest in all matters natural, you'll likely have come across the term 'rewilding' recently, a concept that has been steadily gaining traction and ardent supporters. So what does it mean exactly?

Rewilding is an attempt to create the conditions in which natural ecosystems can do what they do without the negative impact of civilization. Rather than trying to turn back time or preserve what once was, this approach recognises that nature is itself in a constant state of flux, each species being intimately connected with a myriad of others, often in ways we struggle to see for ourselves.

Ecologists now use the term 'trophic cascade' to describe natural processes that link animals at the very top of the food chain to those at the bottom. For example a high level predator can, over time, transform the landscape around them as brought to life in the two videos below looking at the impact of wolves and whales on their respective ecosystems.

There are also certain missing animals in an ecosystem that have become known as keystone species, such as the beaver, with an impact on its environment that cascades through to influence a large number of other species. Beavers build dams out of branches and trees which not only slow down the flow of rivers but in turn create habitats for voles, otters, ducks and frogs.

Reintroducing beavers is therefore a way to increase trophic diversity, or as George Monbiot puts it in his book Feral, "enhancing the number of opportunities for animals, plants and other creatures to feed on each other, to rebuild the broken strands in the web of life". 

One of the key dangers in assessing this kind of ecological impact is something known as 'shifting baseline syndrome' whereby each generation has a tendency to look back only as far as its own childhood, or perhaps a generation back, when assessing how much the situation has changed whereas the true timescales involved are far far greater.

Anyone living in the UK today may very well look at the many rolling green hills and assume that they are untouched corners of countryside whereas in fact those same fields used to be dense closed canopy forest. For the past 6000 years, grazing sheep have transformed much of the country from dense forest to open forest, to scrub and finally heath. The countryside may look leafy therefore but it is not how it used to be. Grazing sheep prevent woodland from regenerating yet sheep farming has been heavily subsidized here since the Second World War. Perspective is everything.

For more on this topic, we highly recommend George Monbiot's book Feral, info here.

 

The Rise of Crossfit by J.C Herz

Opinion on CrossFit tends to fall into one of two camps: those who have tried it, loved it, 'converted' and never looked back, and those who dislike it vehemently for its competitive atmosphere, sparse training environments and the prominence of barbell lifting. 

It's not for everyone, that much is clear yet it is without doubt the single most important phenomenon to happen to the fitness industry in the past decade, bar none. It's also a US$1billion+ business that was started by one man in a garage and practically no investment 15 years ago. So, like it or not, if you are seriously into fitness, you need to know your Crossfit. 

This book, written by a devotee of the training regime does not claim to be an evenly balanced account of Crossfit's pros and cons. Herz's fascination with the brand is hard to suppress, resulting in a tone that may eventually aggravate more skeptical readers. Nonetheless, she does a decent job of breaking down the birth of the movement in California, its early appeal to certain key audience segments and the primary factors of its success.

One of the key insights made by company Founder Greg Glassman, and the one that has arguably had the most benefit for the wider fitness community in our view, was identifying the ten key attributes of all-round fitness: strength, cardio endurance, stamina, power, flexibility, speed, agility, coordination, accuracy and balance. This approach borrows heavily from the army's notion of General Physical Preparedness (GPP), or being ready for anything anytime and is also a shared belief of ours at Biofit. It explains why spin classes, yoga and HIIT are never going to prepare you for the real world.

By incorporating the neurological components of fitness, CrossFit also opened up a new front that went far beyond what most standard gym equipment could ever cope with. This eventually spawned an entire new sector of businesses such as Rogue that supplied kit for the CrossFit workouts such as rings, ropes, sledges, slam balls and more.

CrossFit was at the same time infiltrating the armed forces, both at home and abroad, developing a cult following for its Metabolic Conditioning (MetCon) workouts and focus on heavy Olympic lifting. In a quirky brand-wide twist, WODs (daily workouts) were either named after fallen war veterans or girls.

To tap into the inherent competitive and community aspects of what he was building, Glassman put together an annual event known as the CrossFit Games where top athletes would battle it out in a series of randomly selected WODs. From a business and brand building perspective, this was another master stroke, providing a tangible opportunity for devotees to come together each year to collectively live the brand outside of their own 'box' (a CrossFit studio).

The number of boxes around the US mushroomed so fast as a result of Glassman's hands-off affiliate (as opposed to franchise) strategy that required little more than a low annual fee (starting at US$500), a certified coach and a web page. No brand standards, no equipment regulation but the class workouts were posted online every day for the box owners to follow.

This brilliantly simple, open-source formula came with its own risks (customer injuries from poor coaching standards being the primary one) but ultimately served to fuel the growth of the grassroots movement in a way that a more tightly controlled concept could never have achieved. By way of illustration, a total of 50,000 CF trainers had been certified by 2012, just 11 years after the certificates were first offered in 2001 and almost all of them in the USA.

Clients typically stump up US$150-250 per month to attend the group training sessions led by a certified coach - essentially buying shared access to an expert trainer rather than entry to a room full of machines and equipment. By placing the emphasis back on the coach and the knowledge that he or she shares during each session, CrossFit undoubtedly put the fitness industry back on course. Martial arts dojos had never lost this approach of course while gyms only had comparatively expensive Personal Trainers. Glassman split the difference and changed the game.

Finally, CrossFit rose to fame at exactly the same time as the paleo diet that it so heavily espoused. Coincidence? Perhaps not. The two are inextricably linked in the US at least. Training this hard on a caveman diet based around meat, fish and vegetables with a high fat, high protein and low carb nutrient breakdown was a revolutionary idea for many but it worked. The ripped bodies of Crossfit athletes was testament to that and the primal, raw feel of paleo and this type of training was a match made in heaven.