An interview with Training Mobs co-founders David Sciacca and Frank Hmeiden with a special feature on a Parkour workout found on the their site
Normally on-line social networks encourage users to develop their virtual persona’s. But a new site called Training Mobs is breaking this trend.
It’s social media built for active lifestyles. Members can sign up to a free on-line account and find public workouts nearby.
It works a bit like Flash Mobs where random individuals organize public events through social media. The difference is Training Mobs are workouts that take place in a small gym, park or Lulu Lemon stores, which have partnered with the site to promote their Yoga classes.
“We want to change the concept fitness from being a year long membership to a particular gym that you end up going to for a month and a half, and then end up not going for 10 and a half months,” said David Sciacca one of three co-founders of Training Mobs. “We think that this concept of community fitness, social fitness, helps people get active and to stay active on a more regular basis.”
Users can find, follow and send messages to other Training Mob members. Workouts are usually free to attend or a minimal cost paid to the trainer organizing the mob.
“We have a pretty wide variety of mobs that are happening. So it’s not specific to marathon runners or cross-fitters or yogis, it’s broader than that,” said Sciacca.
The members of the site range from high-level athletes to people just looking to improve their health and fitness. Anyone can post a mob and all mobs are open to the public.
“A friend brought me to my first mob, it was a Yoga class,” said Training Mobs user Jessika Bertrand. “After that I signed up and started going out to more.”
Bertrand worked out sparingly before she joined the site. Now she attends weekly mobs, is more active and motivated to stay that way because of the friendships she has formed through the site.
“There is something about sweating with someone that helps build a relationship faster,” said Sciacca.
Participants bond through the workouts. A mob is more personal then going to a class at a gym. Mobsters post their pictures on their profiles and can view and send messages to other mobsters or invite them to mobs they are going to. Before you show up at a mob you can see who is going and what type of workouts they are into.
Sciacca and his friend Jonas Caruana came up with the idea for training mobs while traveling through South America after leaving their jobs. Sciacca was an investment banker and Caruana a management consultant.
“We hated what we were doing,” said Sciacca. “We decided that we were going to go down to Costa Rica. Learn to surf, learn to speak Spanish and brainstorm about what we were going to do. What it is that our next career step was?”
Both men were upset with how difficult it was to find new workouts and how expensive gym memberships locked them into a boring repetitive routine.
They dreamed up a website that streamed a list of local inexpensive workouts like a twitter feed.
With a background in business and finance both realized the potential growth a new social media site could have for people feed up with monotonous, repetitive workouts.
So they cut short their Gueveraesque tour of South America and flew straight to Buenos Aires in Argentina. It was here they met Australian software engineer Frank Hmeiden, the missing piece to the Training Mobs puzzle.
Over breakfast at a hostel in Buenos Aires the three road weary travelers hashed out a rough business plan.
On Janurary 9, 2011 the site launched across North American after a short trial in their home base of Montreal. The site has shown steady user growth since then and has started expanding into different markets.
“We’ve got a rapidly growing community in Austin [Texas] and Toronto,” said Sciacca. “We have growing communities in Calgary, Banff and Vancouver. Then there are a whole bunch of smaller communities that are just starting, like San Francisco, New York and Reno [Nevada].”
Training Mobs is simple to use and ideal for personal trainers trying to build their clientele, small independent gyms or unorthodox group workouts.
Workouts like Parkour, Capoeira or bootcamps like the one run by former French correctional officer Frederic Guéveneux.
“Let’s go, KILL!,” Guéveneux urging his group of 15 exhausted bootcamp participants to push harder through his army inspired circuit.
Guéveneux’s outdoor bootcamp has a loyal following but hopes posting his workouts on Training Mobs will increase his business.
“I have used Training Mobs for almost three weeks,” said Guéveneux after the session. “I like it, simple, easy, friendly. People can come and look at pictures and ask me questions about the workout.”
Trainers that have been using Training Mobs since January have noticed steady growth in their classes.
“I would say it’s fifty-fifty,” said Michael Deboever about the ratio of Training Mob users to his usual crowd.
Deboever runs a Spartan Bootcamp every Sunday in preparation for a challenging race up Mount Tremblant at the end of May. It is a high intensity workout that challenges your physical and mental stamina.
Participants move from push-ups to one-legged squats to abdominal exercises and are always in motion working their cardiovascular endurance as well. Deboever is a cross-fit instructor, which combines Olympic weight lifting, gymnastics and metabolic conditioning.
“[Cross-fit] is functional movement constantly varied at high intensity, respecting technique and consistency,” said Deboever.
When he started posting his workouts on Training mobs in late January, he would get one or two extras to add to his group. Now at the beginning of April he is getting 12-15 extra members to his workouts.
The appeal of the site to personal trainers has initiated the coming release of Training Mobs Pro. This will cost money join but trainers will have more features available to them like being able to post videos of their workouts and charge people attending when they RSVP on-line. Currently if a mobster is a no show to a mob that costs money there is not way for the trainer to charge them.
Training Mobs Pro, if a success, will provide a needed revenue stream. Sciacca, Caruana and Hmeiden are all weary of putting advertisements on their site for fear that it will drive away users at a point where the site needs to generate more traffic.
The plan for Training Mobs is for it to grow to the point where there are mobs in as many places a possible. Perfect for people that travel on business or vacationers that don’t want to add 10-15 pounds along with the memories of their recent trip.
“I want to overhear people at bus stops saying ‘let’s go out to get drinks later,’ and they say ‘sorry I’ve got a mob to go to’ I want it to get come common parlance.” said Hmeiden.
Soundslide of a Spartan Bootcamp run on top of Mount Royal. The workout was posted on Training Mobs by Cross-Fit instructor Michael Deboever