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March 2017 Links I Love for Group Fitness Instructors

One of the group fitness instructors leading a class

March was a month to remember, with the SCW Fitness convention in Burlingame and family trips to San Francisco. Once again, it feels like we’re flying right into the next month. I’m pretty excited about April. This next month will kick off the six-month countdown to my wedding in October, and it’s the one-year anniversary of starting this fitness blog with you all, my fellow group fitness instructors!

Before we dive into April, I want to take a minute to share my favorite article links from the past month that group fitness instructors should check out. This is a round-up of the top fitness and health studies, tips, exercises and stories. For anyone that had a busy month, now is your chance to catch up on all the major news happenings in the industry. For example, a recent study was published revealing the benefits of strength training (see bullet 4).

Here are my favorite March 2017 links I love for group fitness instructors.

If you liked this roundup, you’ll also like my “Links I Love” roundup from February and January. You can also check out the group exercise ideas and tips page for more posts.

And, let’s connect on Twitter @GroupXMich.

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Teaching a Spin Class with the Schwinn Cycling App “Class Tamer”

When I first started to teach a spin class, I wrote my lesson plan and notes in my notebook, then created the playlist for it in iTunes. At the time, iTunes would automatically add up the time of each song and share how long the entire playlist would last. This is critical in order to properly teach a spin class, because if a playlist is an hour and five minutes but the class is only an hour, you’re going to have problems.

But then, one of Apple’s software updates removed that feature, so it no longer automatically calculated the time length of the entire playlist. For a couple weeks, I would manually add up each song to estimate if the playlist would end on time. It was time consuming and inaccurate. After the class ran (slightly!) late one too many times, I decided to find a new way to do my spin class playlists.

I remembered my Schwinn spin instructor certification trainer recommending the Schwinn cycling app, so I decided to give it a try.

Here’s my review of using the Schwinn Cycling App to teach a spin class.

The Pros

  1. The app will calculate the total time length of the playlist to help make sure you end the class on time. Schwinn Cycling app tracks total time for spin class playlist
  2. It shows how much time has passed and is left for each song in big numbers. This is nice, because I don’t have to squint to read the numbers. However, be careful to not confuse the two numbers — I’ve learned that the hard way!
  3. There’s a space to add notes for each song. This is nice when there’s no place to set your notebook, like in spin rooms that use Bluetooth stereos. I normally put my water bottle and notebook on top of the stereo next to me, but if it’s on the other side of the room, everything gets placed on my bike’s handlebars.

Add Notes to Schwinn Cycling App to Teach the Spin Class

The Cons

  1. It’s difficult to press the “next song” if you decide to skip a song during class. This can be good, since there are no accidental song changes, but it also means I’m stuck pressing the button a bunch of times in front of a class full of waiting spinners.
  2. You have to start at the beginning of your playlist, so you can’t jump to the middle very easily without clicking through each song.

Overall, I would recommend the Schwinn cycling to anyone teaching a spin class. It’s never let me down in the year I’ve used it. And, I love that it calculates the total ride time for me. Since I don’t have to press buttons all that often, it doesn’t bother me that it’s difficult. If you’re someone who bounces around your playlist, this may not be the right app for you.

For more tips and tricks, check out the group exercise ideas page. And, if you’re considering a spin certification, check out my tips on the cheapest way to become a spin instructor.

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Top Presenters Return for the 2017 SCW Fitness Pro Convention

The California SCW Fitness Pro Convention is around the corner! I was a staff assistant in 2015, but last year the convention didn’t make a stop in San Francisco, so I had to watch from afar. Now, I’m a staff assistant again this year, and can’t wait for some non-stop fitness fun. Although it has been a while, I can still remember most of my favorite sessions of the weekend. And, many of those presenters are coming back to SF for the 2017 convention. As I started planning out my schedule this year, I’ve noted the returning presenters I’d like to check out again this year.

These SCW Fitness presenters have contagious, through-the-roof energy and lots of great ideas to bring back to your fitness classes. If this is your first year at the convention, you’ll want to attend some of the sessions taught by these experts.

Abbie Appel

Abbie Appel

Abbie is an international fitness expert and educator who has written the SCW Barre Certification and updated the SCW Pilates Matwork Certification. She is a Rykä® Ambassador and a Master Trainer and Consultant for Activmotion Bar™, Body Bar® and Schwinn®.

I took one of Abbie’s Barre presentations in 2015, and loved her down-to-earth approach to teaching. Her presentation was genuine and had a bunch of new moves I’d never done before.

Mindy Mylrea

Mindy Mylrea

Mindy is the 2015 PFP Trainer of the Year, 2013 CanFitPro Specialty Presenter of the Year, 2008 Fitness Presenter of the Year, 2004 Can Fit Pro International Presenter of the Year, 1999 International Fitness Instructor of the Year, a National and World Aerobic Champion, and a five star presenter. Mindy is an advisory board member for Oxygen Magazine, an international presenter, author, motivational speaker, video personality, and CEC provider for SCW, ACE and AFAA.

Mindy led the very first presentation I attended back in 2015, and it was such a great way to kick off the weekend. She has so much energy and enthusiasm, plus a one-of-a-kind presentation style. I was inspired by the way she entertained and motivated the participants — something you’ll want to emulate yourself once you take her session.

Jeffrey Scott

Jeffrey Scott

Jeffrey is an International Fitness Presenter, Schwinn® Lead Master Trainer, Reebok Master Trainer and an Area Group Fitness Manager for Equinox Fitness Clubs. With more than 20 years of experience in the Health and Fitness industry, Jeffrey has conducted training workshops in over 15 countries around the world and is recognized as a top fitness educator, instructor and personal trainer who is known for his creative choreography and motivational teaching.

I attended the, “Schwinn Cycling: Rock Stars, Preachers and Party People,” session two years ago with Jeffrey, Doris Thews and Skip Jennings, and it was one of my favorite of the entire weekend. Unfortunately, Skip Jennings won’t be at the convention this year, but I’m thrilled I’ll get to take another session (or two :)) from Jeffrey and Doris.

Doris Thews

Doris Thews

Doris has 30+ years in the fitness industry. She started as a college athlete, worked as a Divisional Director for a large club chain and now owns a fitness consulting business. Doris represents several International fitness brands including her role as Program Director for Indo-Row® and ShockWave, Senior Master Trainer and Global Mentor for Schwinn®, International Development Master Trainer team member for BOSU® and Hedstrom® Fitness, Power Music® Advisory Board Member and Lead RYKA® Fit-Pro Ambassador.

Manuel Velazquez

Manuel Velazquez

Manuel is a proud faculty member for SCW Fitness Education, while being a valued trainer for Hydro-Fit, Bosu, Tabata Bootcamp and Barre Above. He is a WATERinMOTION® National Trainer and a recipient ECA-NYC OBOW All-Around International Presenter of the Year award and has been presenting at fitness conferences worldwide for over two decades. Manuel is a continuing education faculty for SCW, ACE, AFAA, ACSM, AEA, and WATERinMOTION®, and stars in over 50 Fitness Instructor Training Videos.

I was part of the staff assistant team for Manuel, and he was so nice! He has a really unique teaching and fitness style that I can only describes as “flowing”. If you’re looking to mix up your workout routines and add something different, I’d recommend checking out one of Manuel’s sessions.

This is only a partial list – there are many great presenters from 2015 that won’t be back this year, and a bunch of new faces I’m excited to meet. If there are other presenters you’re excited about, please let me know.

To see the complete list of presenters, click here. If you’re interested in attending other fitness conventions this year, check out my 2017 events list.

And, let’s connect on Twitter @GroupXMich!

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Victoria’s Secret Sport Review: Knockout Tights

For any group fitness instructor who has had to go through the agony of wearing saggy, see-through workout pants, this Victoria’s Secret Sport review is for you. I’ve had my fair share of terrible workout bottoms, and I know I’m not alone. There are so many pants out there that will stretch out after a couple washes, and start to fall at the waist during yoga or strength training.

It’s also mortifying to have your underwear or skin show through the pants because the fabric is too thin. I experienced this first hand a few years ago in one of my 6 a.m. weekday strength classes. One of my participants was courteous enough to tell me after class that when i bent into child’s pose to stretch my pants got really thin —talk about mortifying.

After that experience, I thought my search for the perfect workout pants would never end. But then I stumbled upon Victoria’s Secret Sport, and now I finally have a go-to pair of workout bottoms. The Victoria’s Secret Sport Knockout Tight, Crop or Capri will become a staple in your fitness wardrobe.

Victoria's Secret Sport Review

Victoria’s Secret Sport Review: The Fit

What I love about the workout tight, capri and crop is that they’re high rise, so you can squat and twist without worrying that the pants are going to sag too low. They’re also 23 percent Lycra, and I’ve washed mine a bunch of times and they’re still holding up good.

The one thing to remember when it comes to fit is that these run pretty small. I wear a size small, and they sometimes feel like they are suctioned to my body. When I’m teaching group exercises classes, it’s great because that fit helps to make sure the pants stay up and support me throughout the class. But, they’re not the type of pants you’d wear to lounge around the house or get cozy. Once you shimmy into these bad boys, you’ll feel inspired to work out. They’re those types of pants.

Victoria’s Secret Sport Review: The Material

The fabric is super thick — it feels like a scuba material. The fabric does not show through no matter how you twist and turn. Some of the fabrics do have a sheen to them, which makes it seem like you can see through it, but it really is thick. If you prefer lightweight, breathable fabrics, this may not be for you. I personally love the sturdiness and thickness of the fabric.

Victoria’s Secret Sport Review: The Prints

So far, I’ve gone pretty simple in my pant selection. I have two pairs of tights — one all black and the other black with some pink details. I also have a pair of black crop pants with a rainbow side detail. I did buy my mom a pair of purple capri pants for Christmas that she liked. But, when looking online, they had a lot of fun options to choose from. There are bold prints, more simple ones like the ones I have and then solid colors, as well.

Victoria’s Secret Sport Review: The Price

At full price, the knockout crop, capri and tight options are costly. I just can’t bring myself to shell out $60+ on a pair of workout pants. But, the good news is that these go on sale all the time, since the company is really pushing their new Victoria Sport brand. You’ll definitely want to wait for a sale, and you’ll likely be able to get them for around $30.

If you’ve read this far into my Victoria’s Secret Sport review, it should come as no surprise that I’m a huge fan of these workout bottoms. They give me peace of mind that my clothes will hold up against my workout, so I can focus on giving my members the best fitness class possible.

For more group exercise posts, check out the group exercise ideas and tips page.

And, let’s connect on Twitter @GroupXMich!

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February 2017 Links I Love for Fitness Instructors

Shay Mitchell's Workout for Fitness Instructors

February was a fun month for me. I got to share resistance band workouts and how I became a spinning instructor with my favorite fitness instructors and enthusiasts (yes, that’s you :)). On a personal note, I got to go bridesmaids’ dress shopping with my gals and celebrate National Margarita Day/Presidents’ Day with friends. My wedding is this October, so buckle your seat belts because it’s going to be a wild ride until then, but I will continue to post most Mondays and Wednesdays in between planning.

I may have been busy this month, but that didn’t stop me from keeping up on the latest fitness tips and trends. I pulled together a list of my favorite articles for fitness instructors, so you can easily keep up on what’s happening in the health, wellness and exercise industry.

Here’s a roundup of 10 February articles that fitness instructors and enthusiasts should read:

  1. Shay Mitchell (or should I say SLAY Mitchell?) recently posted her workout on Instagram and it is straight fire. SELF broke down all the moves in the video here. Also, those braids?! #GOALS.
  2. How to pack on muscle with eccentric exercises — I love seeing articles that teach the body mechanics behind exercise.
  3. Refinery29’s hip dip plank exercise. I anticipate group fitness participants bringing their booty too high in the air for this one, so something you’ll want to monitor when you introduce in your next Group X class.
  4. I have yet to try an Orangetheory Fitness class, but this article points out all the reasons I want to go: “Orangetheory Fitness Wants to Shame Your Half-Assed Workouts Out of Existence”
  5. Why Shape Magazine’s fitness director Jaclyn Emerick wakes up at 5 a.m. everyday. Advice for anyone looking to become a morning person.
  6. Fun Lower-body exercises to add to your fitness routine for dynamic balance.
  7. On days where you need some serious #fitspo, check out these 28 black fitness pros you should be following on Instagram.
  8. 5 creative body-weight exercises to mix things up.
  9. My kind of Valentine’s Day love: why exercise is good for the heart.
  10. And, in case you missed it, my most popular blog post from last month was this Valentine’s Day spin playlist. I’ll tell you, it was a big hit with my spinning classes!

If you liked this list, you’ll also like my link roundups from January and December. You can also check out other group exercise ideas and tips here.

(Image Source: Byrdie)

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How to Best Use Indoor Cycling Bike Consoles

Indoor cycling bike consoles

Late last year, my gym finally got new (to us) indoor cycling bikes with consoles. Even though they’re used bikes, it’s so exciting to have consoles that we can use to measure different aspects of the indoor cycling routine. One participant even commented that indoor cycling rides are more challenging when you have a console to hold you accountable and motivate you. The only bummer I find with most indoor cycling bike consoles, including ours, is that the numbers can vary so drastically from bike to bike, and sometimes even day to day on the same bike. Especially as the indoor cycling bike consoles start to get some wear and tear, they’re easily off calibration, and usually read much different numbers than you would see if you were riding outside.

So, here’s the problem: how do you suggest a range to work within for any of the items displayed on the console (speed, RPM, watts, etc.) when the bikes’ calibration varies so drastically? For example, you might say, “your WATTS should be between 100 and 500,” but what if their WATTS are calculated on a bike console with an inaccurate calibration? Even if the calibration is correct, 100 to 500 is such a huge range to work with as a participant.

My solution? Do the same interval more than once, and use the first interval as a guide to match or surpass in the remaining intervals. That way, it doesn’t really matter if the numbers are inaccurate, because riders will be able to reach their max using measurements they establish instead.

Indoor Cycling with Bike Consoles Ride #1: WATTS

For example, if you want to track WATTS, you can suggest:

“We’re going to do a breathless, sprint interval for 30 seconds. Resistance is just a touch above flat road. During your interval, observe your WATTS to see how high you can get that number. In the next interval, I want you to try to match those WATTS. In the final interval, I want you to try to pass those WATTS.”

That way, participants are pushing to find their very best WATTS they’re able to ride that day, despite any inaccurate indoor cycling bike consoles’ calibrations, and can use that to guide the rest of their ride.

Indoor Cycling with Bike Consoles Ride #2: Distance

Another measure I like to use is distance and time. These two are nice companion measurements, and you can do quite a few exercises with them.

For example, you can track distance over a specified amount of time:

“We’re going to do a breathless, sprint interval for 60 seconds, seeing how far we can go using that distance measurement. Then, on our next interval, we’re going to cut both numbers in half, so half the distance in half the time.”

Creating a guide measurement to follow for the rest of the class helps to avoid the issues we typically find when offering broad ranges for participants to follow. Make sure that you start over each week, asking participants to observe and measure their numbers on the first interval, since they may switch bikes from week to week or their indoor cycling bike consoles may have been altered since. Then, use that metric as a guide to match or beat during other intervals in the class.

For more tips and tricks, check out the group exercise ideas page. You can also find spinning playlists and workouts here.

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Group Fitness Instructor Tips for Small Class Sizes

Group fitness instructor teaching a small class

Sometimes beyond all of our control, we show up to teach our group fitness class only to find just a couple participants ready to join in. I know firsthand that this can feel embarrassing and stressful. But, when there are holidays like Presidents’ Day, or it’s the first beautiful sunshine-y Saturday after months of gloomy weather, it’s hard to fault your regulars that decide to skip class. Here are a few group fitness instructor tips for making the most of smaller class sizes.

  1. Do not focus on what (or who) is missing.

A natural reaction to walking into a seemingly empty room is to ask, “Where is everyone?” However, you do not want to call attention to the fact that your class is small today. If you focus on what’s missing, you make it seem like the participants that did show up are not important. Why give any extra energy or attention to the folks that aren’t there when you could be instead focusing on giving the ones that did show up the best workout of their lives?

  1. Frame the small group fitness class size as a positive.

What can you do with this group of people that you couldn’t do with a larger group? Can you play that song that you love that one of your no-show regulars always complains about? Can you do those leg exercises that you normally can’t do because they take up too much room? Is there any equipment you can dust off because there’s now enough to go around?

Take advantage of the smaller class size to do some of the things you normally can’t do.

  1. Throw in some of those all-time favorite exercises.

If folks usually love the arm exercise routine you do, then use it as an opportunity to please the participants that showed up. Crowd favorites are my go-to on days where the class size is smaller or I’m feeling off for some reason.

  1. Above all else, give the class a challenging workout.

Participants are willing to overlook a lot as long as they get a good workout. Maybe they are the only ones who showed up, or maybe you led the same routine you did last week with the same playlist, but as long as they leave feeling like they got the workout they wanted, it’s all good.

It can be unnerving to walk into an almost empty group fitness class. As long as you try to spin it as a positive, and focus on giving the folks that did show up the workout they want, everyone will be happy. It also makes me feel better to think that most people probably won’t remember this class in a couple months, maybe even weeks, and we still get paid no matter how many people show up.

For more tips and tricks, check out the group exercise ideas page.

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Schwinn Certification Review: How I Became a Spinning Instructor

Realizing that I got my indoor cycling Schwinn certification back in 2015 to officially become a spinning instructor, this review is long, long overdue! I want to share my experience with you today since the Schwinn Indoor Cycle certification is a relatively cheap way to become a spin instructor and it’s also my personal recommendation for aspiring spin instructors.

For background, I passed my ACE Fitness group exercise certification test in 2010, and started teaching strength and step, plus subbing spin classes every once in a blue moon. In 2015, one of my gyms needed a new permanent instructor for an evening spin class, and I jumped at the opportunity. The only caveat: I needed to get a spinning certification. Every gym has a different policy — some need just a general group exercise certification and others have more specific requirements. So, it’s a good idea to check with the gym(s) you want to teach at before getting new certifications.

I had taken a couple Schwinn classes at the SCW Mania convention that same year, and had already fallen in love with the brand. With that in mind, I knew I wanted to take a Schwinn certification course. Up until then, I had been dragging my feet because of the extra costs, but I learned that there’s only a one-time fee to get your Schwinn certification — no extra costs associated with continuing education! Woo!

So, I signed up for a course with Shannon Fable at Crunch Fitness in San Francisco.

Shannon Fable

Shannon is an IDEA and ACE Instructor of the Year and a fitness business and programming consultant. She’s helped brands such as Anytime Fitness, Schwinn®, POWER SYSTEMS®, ACE and BOSU® over the past 20 years. Shannon is a member of the ACE Board of Directors, is the owner of GroupEx PRO®, a cloud based group fitness management tool, and Balletone®.

I loved Shannon’s presentation style. She was truly authentic and genuine, which is rare in this industry. I give major props to Schwinn for how they select their master instructors. They are some of the best in the biz and will get you pumped to be teaching spin classes.

The Schwinn Certification Training Details

  • Time: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Breaks: The day is jam-packed. We had a lunch break, and a few quick bathroom breaks.
  • What to Bring:
    • Snacks
    • Lunch (unless there’s a place nearby to grab something)
    • Water (most gyms will have faucets to fill your bottles)
    • Towels (you can usually grab some from the front desk at the gym)
    • Pens/pencils
    • They’ll give you a workbook to take notes, but you might also want to bring your own notebook
    • Clipboard (optional; makes it easier to write without a desk)
    • Sweatshirt (when not riding, a lot of the rooms can get cold)
    • Spin shoes (if you have them)
    • Come dressed in workout clothes, ready to ride
    • Change of clothes (optional; if you tend to sweat a lot, might be nice to have a change of clothes for after the first ride)
  • Cost: $199
  • CECs (continuing education credits): 1.20 ACE CECs, .08 NASM CECs and 8.00 AFAA CEUs

The Schwinn Certification Review

Schwinn Certification Workbook

Overall, the training was great. I was nervous about taking the class with a bunch of really experienced riders, but the class was much more diverse than I expected. There are people that have never taught a single class before, and there are others that have been teaching for decades. Most of the participants there were really nice and made the group/partner work fun.

The morning kicked off with an overview of the technical stuff — bike functions, how to use the monitors/consoles, and body mechanics on the bikes. We went through how to fit users for the bikes in both a “quick fit” and “high performance fit”. This was one of my favorite parts, because it’s one of the most important elements of teaching spinning classes. The bike fit will make or break someone’s experience in your class, so this formal training was critical.

Then, we talked through class planning, cueing, music and motivation. Shannon did recommend avoiding asking participants for song suggestions, because then you’ll be stuck playing whatever song they suggest, whether it’s good or bad — funny, ’cause it’s true!

And, if your class moans and groans when you play a certain song, you can say, “Alright, we’ve played a bunch of different songs here today. This next one is for me, because I love it!”

Of course, we also did two rides throughout the day to practice and experience what we were learning.

Would I recommend Schwinn Cycling?

As you can probably tell, I loved getting my Schwinn certification to officially become a spinning instructor, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in teaching. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much experience with the other spinning certification programs, so I can’t really compare them for you today. I can say that my experience with Schwinn and as a spinning instructor has been excellent.

Since I already had a class lined up, I was able to dive right in to teaching, and have made the money back that it cost to take the course. I love teaching spin classes, there’s something unique about being stationed on a bike that allows instructors to get creative with how we motivate the class. Participants are able to get more introspective, so we can tap into personalized, goal-oriented motivational cues.

If you’re interested in taking a Schwinn certification workshop, check out their event calendar here.

You may also like my recent Valentine’s Day spin workout and playlist, or check out other group exercise tips.

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January 2017 Links I Love for Fitness Instructors

January links I love for fitness instructors

January marks a busy time for fitness instructors, with the New Year’s resolution gym-goers packing classes at all hours. It’s also a good time for group exercise instructors to add in new workout playlists and freshen up their routines, to add some new material for the new year. With so much going on, it’s hard to keep up with the latest trends and articles in the fitness industry.

From new exercise ideas to tips for maximizing workout efficiency, this month’s links list is jam-packed with new ideas to bring to your next Group X class. Here’s a look at my favorite fitness and wellness-themed articles from January to help my fellow fitness instructors stay up-to-date on what’s happening in the industry.

January links I love for fitness instructors:

  1. Even just a little bit of exercise will improve your mood.
  2. How to choose the right weights when strength training.
  3. For the first time since 2014, ACE Fitness as developed a new key policy position statement — the inactivity epidemic.
  4. How to maximize efficiency of workout time using creative exercise techniques.
  5. The only running playlist you need by Refinery29.
  6. The six-pack ab moves your trainer didn’t tell you about.
  7. 14 back and shoulder exercises for a strong upper body.
  8. “I’ve Helped Thousands Of People Get In Shape—This Is The Fastest Way To See Results”
  9. Ways to make your workout more effective.
  10. Men’s Journal’s “Getting Fit from Scratch” series has so many great workout ideas!
  11. How to turn exercise into a lifelong habit or “practice” like they do in yoga.
  12. How to be mindful at your desk.

If you liked this post, you’ll also like my fitness and wellness link roundups from this past December and November. You can also check out the group exercise ideas page for similar posts for fitness instructors.

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Outdoor Fitness Brand Does Good: Patagonia Requests to Buy Your Old Clothes Back

Outdoor Fitness Brand Patagonia Does Good

I always love to hear about a fitness brand making good, conscious decisions on behalf of the customer, and sometimes even the world, without prioritizing profits. According to Fast Company, last week Patagonia announced they will soon offer store credit to customers returning their old Patagonia gear. Then, they’ll clean the item up and repair it so it can be resold on the website.

The fitness brand is looking to start this new program soon:

“In a new take-back program that will launch in April, the company will begin offering store credit for used (but still usable) clothing. At its repair facility in Reno, California—the largest garment repair center in North America—it will wash used clothes with a new waterless technology that helps restore the fabric, and then make any needed repairs. The refurbished garment will be sold on Patagonia’s website.”

When asked if the new program will hurt sales, Rick Ridgeway, Patagonia’s VP of environmental affairs, wasn’t concerned. “We have a model that is attracting enough people, an increasing amount of people, that want to align with our value proposition,” says Ridgeway. “That is a business for us. It really works well.”

Sure, maybe they won’t sell as many new clothes, but I’m confident that many people will continue to purchase from the fitness brand in the future, given their consumer-conscious decision making. In order for this program to work, Patagonia needs to make durable outdoor fitness gear, which it does. The goal is to reduce the amount of jackets someone will need in their lifetime, by keeping the same high-quality jacket for longer. That way, the company ends up making less jackets, which results in a smaller impact on the environment.

Way to go, Patagonia! Check back in on the group exercise ideas and tips page for more fitness brand news.

(Image source: The American Genius