Beach Bodies



Whether or not you have actually bought the DVDs, chances are you’ve heard of Shaun T and “Insanity”, or Tony Horton and “P90X”. The high energy infomercials on which they’ve been sold are undeniably captivating and dominated the airwaves at those hours we all seem to be looking for something to watch. The infomercials and workouts, as well as the before and after body transformations, have made superstars, or “Super Trainers”, out of these fitness personalities, and earned the company that produces these workouts over $1 billion in sales.

Beachbody is the company behind these DVDs and many more, and producer of the most popular at home fitness and weight loss programming that also includes FOCUS T2521 Day FixBrazil Butt Lift, Fixate, and Hip Hop ABS, among others. P90X alone has sold approximately 7 million DVD copies since its inception. Beachbody On Demand launched in March of 2015, giving consumers unlimited streaming access to the entire library of workouts via their computers. Now available online is a wide variety of programs designed for those who want to lose weight, build muscle, learn to dance, start yoga, or simply eat healthier.

Included in the Beachbody On Demand programming there is also a reality show called The 20’s: The Search for the Next Beachbody Super Trainer. Hosted by one of the original reality TV stars, Dan Cortese, who many will remember from MTV Sports, the show pits a group of 10 hot bodied trainers against each other in competition to see who has what it takes to be the next fitness superstar. Viewers will decide the winner via online voting. At stake is a guaranteed product development contract, the chance to be the next Beachbody Super Trainer, and the opportunity to earn millions of dollars in royalties, bonuses and appearance fees.

Beachbody was founded in 1998 by Carl Daikeler and Jon Congdon, who, like the thousands they are attracting, hate to work out. Says Daikeler, “Please make it so that when that alarm goes off at 5am, I don’t throw the clock against the wall.” Wanting to know more about the CEO of a fitness company who doesn’t like to exercise and how Beachbody has turned that sentiment into a billion dollar business, we chatted with Daikeler to find out what it takes to be a Beachbody Super Trainer and how that first VHS tape started it all.

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SOS: Regardless of whether they do the workouts or have bought the DVDs, most people seem to know at least one Beachbody trainer or workout. Why do you think they have transcended the genre in such a dominant way?

CD: We look for people who connect very well through the camera, but it really starts before that. The first step is coming up with a concept, which we think as a company wants to satisfy the demand for fitness… what will help solve the problem? I think what’s unique about us as executives and an innovation team is we don’t like to work out.

SOS: I heard you say that on the first episode of The 20s and thought that was pretty funny for a guy running a fitness company.

CD: It’s the truth and an important part of the story. I hate it, so I’m constantly trying to solve my own problem. I don’t like to eat vegetables, so I’m constantly trying to solve that problem. I could eat pizza for every meal, so I’m constantly trying to find devices that could help me live a healthy, more active lifestyle.

SOS: How do you find these “Super Trainers” as you call them?

CD: We’ll come up with a concept and then from an ongoing list of talent we’ll look for the appropriate one to deliver the message. It started with Tony Horton. Then we saw Shaun T teaching class – actually substituting a class for Cathy Smith…

SOS: Who is one of the original VHS home workout stars…

CD: Right… and this guy was just wowing the audience. We thought there was definitely something there. We had this concept which was more of dance hip-hip kind of program called Hip Hop ABS. I had this other concept which was kind of the gauntlet of fitness called Insanity and he said, “Let me do that.” I told him, “You’re the wrong guy for that — you’re the dance guy”, but he said, “Let me try something, let me see what I can develop.” He put together 15-minute routine and had 4 people doing the workout. Literally the last 3 minutes everyone was just laying on the ground. So okay, you’re our Insanity guy.

SOS: How do you integrate the workout and the trainer?


CD: It starts with concept and we’ll continue to work it out until we bring in a personality that’s appropriate — what we call a “Super Trainer”.  Autumn Calabrese of 21 Day Fix is another great story. We had this 21 Day portion control concept, but we couldn’t get it off base for like 3 years. We talked to multiple trainers, auditioned people, and then we met Autumn. She had already created a portion control program and it was perfect. Now she’s one of the most famous trainers in the world over the course of the last four years since the launch of 21 Day Fix.

SOS: How do you come up with the workout concepts?

CD: We do listen to the market and what the market is asking for. As long as we think we can deliver it well over video then we’ll go ahead and commit to a whole program. A good example is we got a lot of requests for yoga. But yoga is a very difficult thing to do correctly without someone having their eyes on you. We created the 3 Week Yoga Retreat that’s exclusively on Beachbody On Demand. It’s basically a starter for people who don’t want to walk into a studio and have to sheepishly stand in the back of the room while everyone else is balancing on one finger. It’s a chance for them to do it at home in a very gradual phased approach to creating some expertise in yoga. Because it’s so difficult to do yoga right we actually produced the videos with people behind a curtain. They had to be able to listen to the cues and still be able to do it right. There have been “introduction to yoga” workouts before but it’s just one tape or one DVD, and we have literally 21 over the course of 21 days that ramp you up.

SOS: It seems like you’ve figured out the formula. How did you get started? Who was the trainer? What was the workout?

CD: The very first I would say substantial workout was Power 90 with Tony Horton. He had been my trainer and had given me some concepts. Then he went off and trained a bunch of guys for a movie. When he came back 3 months later I was in really good shape, and he said, “What’d you do?” I said, “I just did what you told me to do.” That was the birth of that concept. But I think you’re giving us a way too much credit. Literally we’ve got nothing figured out. It is a constant reinvention and innovation cycle that every time we think we have it figured out, we don’t. And look… the trend of obesity is still going up.

SOS: Beachbody is the at-home fitness company people know and you have created these fitness superstars. People know their names and I think that’s a really interesting mark of success. I think people forget that it isn’t just the workout. There are lots of great workouts and people don’t do them. Obviously the workout is the bottom line, but on top of that you’ve got to have that person who makes you want to do it. That’s what people gravitate to. Take SoulCycle for example. There are 70 studios and however many teachers. Some classes are packed or you can’t get in, and some have empty bikes. Where you have been so successful is in finding these charismatic personalities. I think that’s what is most noticeable in watching The 20’s.

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CD: I think people take for granted the concept that anybody can be a “Super Trainer”. They can teach class and they can do a video, but I think The 20’s really demonstrates the difference. What Tony Horton or Autumn Calabrese do is a very complicated communication challenge that very few people can do. Those who can do it need hundreds of hours of practice to be as good as Tony is in P90X or Autumn is in Country Heat. It’s a real art firm. It’s a real talent.

SOS: What are you finding streaming online that’s the same, different, expected, unexpected from the DVDs?

CD: It’s definitely similar to the DVDs. Whatever programs are top on DVD — meaning what we’re selling — are the top ones people are consuming on Beachbody On Demand. 21 Day Fix Cardio is our number one workout online. Then Cize, which is a dance program, is trending as number two. We just did a sneak peek for a new program called Core de Force which blew away all prior records for a single day. We can watch the behavior, which is something you can’t do with DVD because you sell it and then it’s just gone. Now we get a chance to see do people finish the workout? Do they just do half? Do they like longer workouts? Shorter workouts? It really gives us so much more insight into what people’s preferences are. It becomes this algorithm or matrix of being able to provide the next workout that they are more likely to want to do.

SOS: With all the different kinds of programming as well as the nutritional supplements you sell, I see Beachbody as a lifestyle brand? What are other things you might want to incorporate?

CD: Our strategy is very simple and the theory is whoever is the most successful at getting people results wins. Everything we do and our entire product pipeline — the ecosystem that we’ve built with peer support and accountability — is all around that person who’s struggled with everything else or who has a gym membership and never goes. If we can get them to lose that 30 lbs, they will be a walking billboard for us and attract another 20 people. Our goal is to help them lose that 30 lbs. and keep it off. That’s the end game. It’s easy to sell hope. It’s really hard to achieve results.