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Fitness Startups 101: The Case for Longevity And Growth

peloton workout

There’s no arguing that the fitness space is more crowded than ever, and in the larger equipment space (exercise bikes in particular), new fitness startups are popping up more frequently than we’ve ever seen before. Unlike other workout trends, there’s a level of commitment involved in adding an exercise bike to your home workout routine, and a fair bit of evaluation is required to determine what exercise bike is actually right for you.

This decision is made all the more complicated by advancements in technology. Streaming/live video training has rapidly become the “new normal”, and thus users also need to consider the additional carrying costs of subscriptions, as well as whether or not they will continue to get the same kind of enjoyment out of this type of workout in the months and years to come. While we can thank Peloton for being the catalyst for this segment of the fitness category, they as well as many other brands follow a very similar method in terms of motivation. As we all know, what motivates some will not motivate others, hence why we’ve also see significant growth from brands like MYX Fitness who have approached the category with a different and much more personal approach. They are just one of many that have answered the industry’s call for affordable alternatives to Peloton, but thus far they remain the one that has done so most effectively.

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We’ve long questioned the longevity of some of these fitness startups, as any proper reviewer should. While their product might be the ‘hot ticket’ now, market trends change, and startups are often the first to fall. That said, much of what we’ve been seeing leads us to believe that many of the fitness industry’s latest players are here to stay. As it stands, the user retention rate of some of these startups is absolutely astounding. MYX Fitness has a user retention rate of 98% after the first year of ownership. Peloton isn’t all that far behind, coming in at 96%. To give you a bit of context, the entertainment giant Netflix holds a retention rate of 93% after the first year of use. It’s precisely this kind of performance that pushes brands to the front of the pack when comparing different types of fitness equipment, and pending some sort of catastrophic failure, we’re quite confident in their ability to succeed.

So, how do they do it? While each brand has their own approach, to a degree, there are common threads we can draw between the more successful cases.

 

Streaming Fitness — The Case For User Retention

Getting people hooked on home fitness for the first time is by no means an easy task, nor is it by any means a new endeavor. There’s a reason we’ve all heard wisecracks about treadmills and exercise bikes becoming clothing racks exist, after all. While some are better at staying motivated than others, the latest technology push of the fitness industry has played a major role in the changes we’re seeing with user intent in the fitness space. Having instructor-led training in your home (virtually) is in essence an extension of the age of the workout video that first entered our homes on VHS back in the ’80s with workout pioneers like Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons.

In its latest form, the streaming workouts offered by Peloton, MYX Fitness, iFit, and several others are certainly a different breed altogether, but the ethos is the same. Having someone on screen encouraging you to follow along changed the motivation game when compared to trying to work out all on your own. What then divides the pack becomes how that motivation is presented, and what metrics are used to drive you. Brands love saying that their methods are different than the competition, but in reality there are only two real distinct methods at play in the market at the moment. Here’s how they break down.

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Getting Personal

With gyms closed in many areas, and there being a general hesitance on the part of some to engage in indoor group fitness activities of any variety, decisions regarding one’s fitness and activity are more personal than they’ve ever been. It’s not about hitting the gym with your buddies any more, nor is it about competing against a class of other riders in indoor cycling classes. For many, getting active at home is a personal wellness venture. It’s about staying healthy and active, and preserving ones own mental and physical wellbeing.

This is where brands like MYX Fitness and others come into the equation. With MYX, there’s no leaderboard, or any of the competitive jargon that the likes of Peloton and others try to sell you. You also aren’t held to one set standard as you’re training. Where MYX dials things in is through heart rate rather than cadence and resistance settings—so long as you’re pushing yourself and getting that blood pumping, you’re hitting the necessary targets to stay in shape. MYX trainers also operate accordingly, and have a very warm and personalized approach to their coaching. This isn’t a military drill, this is a professional trainer inviting you along for a ride that will motivate you to push yourself to your limits as much as you’re comfortable doing so.

 

Community Method

On the other end of the spectrum we have the community method, or competition method, depending on how you look at it. This is the land of Peloton, iFit, Echelon, and others, where the training focus revolves around competing with friends and strangers that are all a part of the brand in question’s riding community. In the case of Peloton, there are certainly airs of “all the cool kids are doing it”, if you look at their marketing and branding approach, but it’s safe to say that this pack mentality works for some. For some personality types, competition is a huge motivator, and it’s easier to compete with others than it is to compete with yourself. This was already proven by the massive indoor cycling studio boom we were seeing before the pandemic, and it’s one that has been extended into the home with these brands.

The reality of the matter is that a broad swath of the population is connected through community competition in some form or fashion. Whether it’s keeping up with your bestie and their amazing photos of home cooking on Instagram, or making sure you have the greenest yard on the block, competition is inherent to human existence and there’s good reason that it works in the fitness space. That said, not everyone is motivated to be the fastest, and some quickly lose that motivation when they feel themselves falling behind the pack.

 

Which Method is Right For You?

Obviously answering this question requires a fair bit of introspection, but based on our experience within the category, we can certainly assist with a little direction. Narrowing down this choice will come down to answering three relatively simple questions.

What’s Your Current Fitness level?

This is by no means an answer that is on a one-to-ten scale, but rather an analysis of your current level of activity. Are you generally fairly fit and active, and looking to supplement your current workout routine? Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that you’re generally a bit more of the sedentary type. There is no wrong answer here, and the fact that you’ve been researching is already a step in the right direction. As a general rule, more entry-level users will be better suited to fitness brands and equipment that is more personalized in nature. The learning curve can be steep in some cases, and you don’t need the added distraction of competition, or seeing how your results stack up against anyone else.

 

Are You Competitive?

When you play games or sports with friends, do you enjoy the collaboration or do you play to win? Are you the person in the household that no one wants to play board games with because you take them too seriously? Has anyone in your immediate circles ever referred to you as “Alpha” or a “type A personality”? These aren’t always easy questions to answer but if any of the above is leaving you thinking that you feel seen, then maybe the community and competition method of training is right for you after all.

What’s Next?

This becomes an interesting talking point, as we’ve yet to really reach the plateau of the intersection of fitness and technology. VR headsets are starting to inch their way into the space, as is the idea of gamifying the workout category. Granted, both of those sound like a bit of a novelty or gimmick at this point, but you never really know.

When talking about already established areas—indoor cycles, treadmills, rowers, and ellipticals—the only real wiggle room in the category comes in making these bikes and these subscriptions more affordable. Again, this is where MYX Fitness entered the ring, as the affordable Peloton alternative, but the question then becomes whether or not anyone is capable of making a more affordable bike with a lower subscription cost that isn’t a tragic piece of garbage. For now we have our doubts, but we’ll simply have to wait and see.

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