Thursday, November 3, 2011

Barefoot Running: Hot Products

The following is a brief introduction of the "barefoot shoe" industry and its major players. Much to Vibram's disappointment the market for barefoot shoes is no longer a monopoly. Vibram's innovative product has produced enough clout to entice Adidas and Fila to enter the market. Next week we will be posting an article explaining the argument between barefoot v.s shod runners. Furthermore, we will explore the relevant research and leave nothing up to the imagination. Consider this a cyber appetizer.

Vibram (The Original)
Vibram is the company that pioneered the barefoot shoe industry. The theory behind there product design is simple.

"The typical human foot is an anatomical marvel of evolution with 26 bones, 33 joints, 20 muscles and hundreds of sensory receptors, tendons and ligaments. Like the rest of the body, to keep our feet healthy, they need to be stimulated and exercised."

There product has turned barefoot running from a cult into a multimillion dollar, publicly exonerated industry. There initial marketing campaign featured a "logical" approach.

1. Feet are needed to run
2. Running barefoot makes my feet stronger
3. Barefoot running makes me a stronger runner

It makes sense right? Regardless of the science behind the marketing, Vibram's product has sold well. Vibram brought novelty to a sport that hadn't changed in 100 years. People who haven't run in years are flocking into there local running stores to begin barefoot running.

Here are Vibram's advantages:

1. 28 different models
2. Variety in pricing
3. Variety in size, style and design

adiPURE (The Big Brand Attempt)

Adidas is the most recent company to dip there hand into Vibram's market. Adidas has three major things going for them.

1. Brand Recognition
2. Great Look
3. Mark Verstegen (President, Athlete's Performance)

The partnership between Adidas and Athlete's Performance is particularly interesting. Vibram's current marketing campaigns are directed towards runners, hikers, climbers and other outdoor sports enthusiasts. Athlete's Performance is the worlds authority on Athletic Performance training. They are the big name in NFL combine, MLB and NFL off season training. The strategic partnership between these two powerhouses brings Adidas into front of the barefoot human performance training scene.

Fila Skeletoes (Yes, they're still around)

Three years ago Fila was a dead company. Fila was bought by a South Korean Hedge fund in 2007 and is under restoration. Skeletoes is Filas first major attempt to "get back in the game". Fila is definitely going to be the small player in the barefoot shoe market because it doesn't have the large brand recognition of Adidas or the history of Vibram. The main thing Fila has going for them is highly competitive pricing.

All three companies are fighting the uphill battle of convincing barefoot running hopefuls that they need shoes in order to run barefoot. This is a counter intuitive notion that consumers are buying into like wartime propaganda. That's all for now, tune in next week for the research behind barefoot running, or the lack thereof.

Monday, October 24, 2011

What's So Hot About Yoga?

The following article was written  by Christine Kwok, a colleague located in Santa Monica, CA.Christine is the founder of Balanced Strength, Inc.and has 15+ years of experience in the fitness & wellness industry, developing customized total fitness strategies for individuals, communities, and corporations. Visit for more information or to contact Christine for more information.

Over the last decade yoga has been adopted, not just by celebrities, but by professional athletes, weekend warriors, mothers, and soon-to-be moms. So, can it still be called trendy? Yoga with origins tracing back to second century B.C., in India, is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice. Over the last few centuries, practitioners and gurus have incorporated variations in methodology: breathing exercises, sequences of selected poses, flow from one pose to the next, sport-specific progressions, strength building, relaxation and recovery, and hot room practice.

( Breathe Sparky...)
In particular, hot yoga has been most controversial in athletic and social circles. Bikram, created by Bikram Choudhury and the most popular discipline of hot yoga, incorporates the repetition of 26 poses over 90 minutes, in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit and 40 percent humidity.

Proponents of hot yoga claim since it is practiced in hotter temperatures, it assists in removing toxins from one’s bodies by accelerating perspiration, helps practitioners with mental focus and meditation by forcing performance under extreme conditions (mind over matter), and increases mobility by hastening warm up. Other benefits that hot yoga gurus boast are accelerated weight loss, relief of muscle and joint pain (with regular practice for more than 30 days), stress relief, increased immunity (by practicing in a room simulating a fevered body), and improved athletic performance.

What does science say? To date, there is no scientific evidence that proves whether or not practicing yoga in extreme temperatures can deliver the above results. However, there have been studies on hatha yoga, a practice that incorporates breathing exercises and repetitions of various poses similar to that of Bikram or other hot yoga, in more mild environments. Twenty-two participants in this six-week pilot study reported reduced low back pain, improved balance, and decreased feelings of depression. So, one might be able to infer hot yoga could yield similar results…but, does a hot room cancel it all out?

One study on heat training published by the American College of Sports Medicine recognizes that athletes of all levels have varying tolerance for heat training. However, consistent findings showed that all athletes displayed evidence of diminished performance and/or heat exhaustion by the time their core temperatures reached 104 degrees Fahrenheit. On exertion, many athletes will exhibit core temperatures higher than the ambient temperature. Popular hot yoga classes are practiced in a studio heated between 92-106 degrees.

What does this mean for the hot yoga athlete? When heat training is “unavoidable”, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends, pre-cooling the body prior to exercise if possible, resting every 30 minutes or more frequently if necessary, and hydrating with cool water frequently.

Also, when exercising in a 85+ degree studio, practitioners must be mindful of several other dangers: the false sense that they have greater mobility than they are actually capable of; furthered unhygienic conditions that allow bacteria and other pathogens to breed and multiply (viruses and bacteria do not deactivate or die until at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit); and a greater physical stress induced by elevated heart rate and blood pressure.

There are several arguments on both sides of this coin. First, and most important, check with your personal physician to see if hot yoga is safe for you to try and ultimately, practice. Then, decide if it is something that you would benefit from and enjoy (if there is nothing else that will keep you physically active and your physician gives you approval.) And of course, be aware of how your body is reacting to the activity throughout the workout and be cautious with what you are doing—rest when you feel like you should and stay well hydrated—which is a good habit in daily living, anyway.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pheidippides: Don't Share His Fate

This past Saturday was a day full of mixed emotions for the marathon community. There was a new course record set in Chicago but that story is taking the back seat to a story much more tragic.

(Decent Turnout...)
William Caviness was a 35-year-old fire fighter from the great state of North Carolina. He was running to raise money to help burn victims on there long and expensive road to recovery. Reports indicate that Caviness suffered a massive heart attack 500 yards from the finish line. Paramedics were able to get his heart beating again but he died 1 hour and 45 minutes later.

The scary fact is that unless you have ever had a stress test you really have no idea if you have an exercise induced arrhythmia. The only way to find out is to have some type of acute attack. I recently had the great honor of meeting a former professional cyclist who is now an extremely successful transplant games athlete. He suffered a massive "widow maker" heart attack during the last mile of an elite road race. During the long wait between his heart attack and his heart transplant he discovered that the chest pain he had experienced his whole life was actually a HUGE warning sign. 

This is why I believe that individuals should be required to have a full stress test prior to entering there first marathon. This would disallow people with congenital heart defects and arrhythmia's from participating. Taking this precaution would be an obvious hassle for race coordinators but in the long run it would be worth it.

(We Should Know Better)

We should take a lesson from Pheidippides, the runner of the first marathon, who died upon its completion. Marathon running can be extremely dangerous, proper precautions should be taken.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Roast: Shake Weight Edition

This post begins Will to Perform's Friday Roast Series! We begin with the easiest product we could think of... Shake Weight.

(These two were made for each other)

Claims of the Shake Weight®

“Shake Weight® Utilizes New Workout Technology Called Dynamic Inertia, which can increase Muscle Activity to nearly 300% compared to a Standard Dumbbell.”

Dear Shake Weight: If your “validation research” is legitimate then please publish it! The scientific community would LOVE to see the IRB, methods and raw data from your “study”. Additionally, saying that “a world leader in biomechanics” claimed your product burns five times as many calories as conventional dumbbell workouts is complete quackery. 

Dear Shake Weight: The previously quoted claim indicates a 300% increase in muscle activity compared to dumbbell workouts. The infomercial says “five times as much muscle activity” as conventional workouts. Please at least have the common courtesy to keep your lies consistent!

“Scientifically Proven Results”

Dear Shake Weight: Perhaps you missed the part of science class when they explained what SCIENCE is! Science is not paying a nameless doctor to use your product for a week and swear by its results for the rest of his or her life. Nor is it handing your product to thirty soccer moms and asking them how much it made their arms burn. Peer review is one of the staples of true research. If you don’t allow critics the chance to critique your research it is invalid. 

“Get Incredible Results in Just 6 Minutes a Day”

Dear Shake Weight: If you have been sedentary your entire life this statement might actually be truthful. None the less it’s misleading! Go pick up a 2.5 pound rock and shake it back and forth for six minutes! Not only will you save yourself 19.95 but you will look much cooler shaking a nice chunk of shale or lime stone!

(Dynamic Inertia!!!)

We do need to give Shake Weight credit for one thing. There market share for the Christmas time White Elephant market is second to none. That's all for now. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Ree-Think Your Marketing

The Federal Trade Commission announced Wednesday that Reebok has agreed to provide 25 million dollars in refunds to customers who purchased Reebok's “toning shoes”.  According to the Federal Trade Commission, “Reebok’s ads made unsupported claims that walking in EasyTone footwear was “proven” to lead to 28 percent more strength and tone in the buttock muscles and 11 percent more strength and tone in hamstring and calf muscles than regular walking shoes.”  

This is why Will Hawkins Consulting exists. The mission of WHC is, to match health and wellness product developers with research universities that excel in product validation research. Allow us to set up a validation trial with a major research institution. You’ll be glad you did.


Monday, September 26, 2011

No NO-XPLODE- No Problem

Statistically speaking, a meta-analysis combines the results of several studies that address a set of related research hypotheses. Meta-analyses are so cool because in the process of compiling similar research studies you end up with an extremely large test pool. Having a large test pool lends legitimacy to any research study. The following meta-analysis (Doherty & Smith, 2005) combined 21 studies to explore the relationship between caffeine consumption and Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) during exercise.

As one would expect this meta-analysis found that caffeine does lower RPE during exercise. In comparison to placebo, caffeine reduced RPE during exercise by 5.6% (95% CI (confidence interval). The reason for the decreased RPE with exercise is pretty complex. Previous research studies indicate that caffeine’s ability to increase the central nervous systems sympathetic tone is the largest underlying reason for the observed phenomena. Manifestations of this effect include, increased respiration rate, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and increased maximal motor unit recruitment. These factors combine to account for the decreased rate of perceived exertion at a given work rate. 


This research goes a long way in the validation of caffeine supplement claims. The interesting thing is that most caffeine products are labeled as Nitrous Oxide (NO) products but the effect of NO on human performance is negligible at best. Essentially, caffeine provides the benefit while NO serves as the cool marketing tool to suck in the consumers dollar.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Improving the Legitimacy of Exercise Science

Last week the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur foundation announced its annual “Genius Grant” recipients. The grant features a 500,000 “no strings attached” check that is dispersed over five years. Among this year’s recipients was Dr. Kevin Guskiewicz, a Sports Medicine researcher at the University of North Carolina. Dr. Guskiewicz has spent the past 18 years studying sport induced concussions including acute diagnosis and long-term effects. Last week’s grant announcement was a monumental milestone in the Exercise Science realm. Exercise Science research is being moved off the back burner, into the public eye and the big research dollars are moving right behind.


One would think 500,000 dollars would evoke a bigger smile

Another instance of the improving academic view of Exercise Science is shaping up with the passage of “Obama Care” on Capitol Hill. This combined with Michelle Obama’s self proclaimed fight against childhood obesity will lead to HUGE epidemiological research grant opportunity. Additionally, it brings an increased likelihood of having national licensure exams for clinical physiologist and insurance covered visits. All these things will only grow the legitimacy of the field. For a field of science that is only 40-50 years old, Exercise Science is doing pretty well.  


Obama playing against UNC (Ironic ehh?)