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Daniel Freedman is the co-founder and co-CEO of BurnAlong, an online fitness and wellness video platform. He is the co-author of the award-winning, NYT top-10 bestseller, “The Black Banners,” and a former columnist for Forbes. He’s worked at senior positions at the United Nations and the U.S. Senate, and was previously a leader at an HR tech company and an intelligence consultancy. Freedman began his career at the Wall Street Journal and is a graduate of the London School of Economics.
Here, Freedman shares insight into how he got his start in the health and fitness industry, keys to success and technology trends.
CS: How did you get your start in the health and fitness industry?
DF: Between work, travel and a growing family, I had less time to attend the gym in-person on a daily basis and started getting out of shape. I tried lots of online programs, and started each strong, but then after a few weeks lost motivation. My co-founder of BurnAlong, Mike Kott, and I realized that what really keeps people motivated and on-track at home are the same people who keep them motivated and on-track in-person (offline): their friends, trainers and favorite class instructors — not strangers.
They don’t need Hollywood celebrity trainers; they want their favorite instructors and friends from their neighborhood. And that’s how was BurnAlong started.
CS: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome and how did you overcome it?
DF: Being told I’d never be able to run or play sports again after a serious knee injury. Instead of accepting what the doctor said, and doing the surgery he was insisting on, we found an alternative to surgery, and after a year of recovery and intensive physical therapy I was running and playing sports again.
CS: What are the keys to your success?
DF: Optimism, energy, exercise, a belief in the goodness of people, and always asking why.
CS: What’s your favorite leadership book and why?
DF: “High Output Management” by Andy Grove. He built an iconic company and took the company where few at the time realized it needed to go — and in this book, he shares how to build and run a company.
CS: Why should health clubs consider adding virtual fitness to their opportunities?
DF: Because your members and prospective members are already exercising online — just not with you. That leads to attrition. So instead of letting others build relationships with your members online, you can strengthen the relationships you already have with them, build new relationships with prospective members, and earn revenue in the process.
CS: What technologies are you seeing members being interested in?
DF: Wearables and tracking tools that allow them not to just track what they’re doing alone, but comparing their behavior with others. Whether they do that to compete, or simply to encourage or for encouragement, people are social beings and want that connection to those they know and trust.
CS: How does BurnAlong differentiate from competitors in the industry?
DF: We don’t believe the online experience replaces the offline. We believe that, like in the music and sports industries, they complement each other and each makes the other more effective. We partner with local gyms, studios and wellness professionals across the country. We’re a partner, not a competitor. We do the tech, they do the fitness. We also don’t charge gyms and studios — it’s a real partnership, and our partners earn money from it when we do.
CS: Why should clubs consider partnering with BurnAlong?
DF: If they’re interested in boosting retention, recruiting new members and earning money online — at no cost to them, they should partner with us.
Great instructors are often asked, “Can you record your class, I can’t make it tomorrow.” Those members don’t want to see someone else. They don’t need Hollywood. They want to see their local favorites they know and trust. And so our partners’ members see BurnAlong as a really valuable service — staying connected when life gets in the way.
The alternative is surrendering the online and allowing your members to exercise with other instructors from home. That’s not going to help your instructors or your club.
For more information on BurnAlong, visit https://www.burnalong.com/. Follow BurnAlong on Twitter @BurnAlong and Freedman @dfreed1.