Pioneers of Human Performance
How global brand EXOS uses performance systems to upgrade the lives of its 1.2 million clients worldwide.
At EXOS, which is headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, more than 3,500 employees spanning nutritionists, personal trainers, researchers, coaches, educators, programmers and more work tirelessly toward one mission: Upgrading the lives of the 1.2 million people the company influences daily.
This mission has been the company’s goal since inception in 1999, when founder and president Mark Verstegen pioneered an industry that didn’t exist, known as integrated human performance training. Verstegen created EXOS, then called Athletes’ Performance, to meet the needs all athletes required to achieve optimal performance. Those tenants of the EXOS performance methodology are centered around four pillars: mindset, nutrition, movement and recovery .
“Our goal was to provide the finest performance systems, specialists and platforms seamlessly integrated to efficiently and ethically enhance our clients’ performance,” explained Verstegen. “We brought this to life by designing and building our first world-class performance facility. It was all around this concept of putting the client at the center, seeking to understand their needs and aspirations, and then working together to develop individualized plans that guide them to achieve their goals.”
Today, this mission remains the same, but on a much larger scale. With 400 locations worldwide, the EXOS methodology is utilized by a number of elite sports organizations, the U.S. military, health systems, community organizations and employer partners such as Walgreens and Intel. In addition, it powers direct-to-consumer initiatives for brands such as adidas, Precor, SKLZ and Keiser.
And that’s just touching the surface of EXOS’ reach and influence. At the end of the day, it is a global brand you may not immediately recognize, but will come to realize is at the forefront of human performance, innovation and excellence.
“We like being in the background,” said Verstegen.
EXOS Employer & Community Solutions
In 2013, Jeff Terrill was living in Phoenix and working as a 30-year veteran of the healthcare industry. His son, Bryce, was a member of an elite soccer club that trained through Athletes’ Performance. Year after year, the soccer club excelled, making it to regionals and going to nationals on a consistent basis. To top it all off, the team’s athletes were rarely injured.
“But I never made that correlation to: Maybe there’s something that Bryce is doing in this methodology from Athletes’ Performance that could apply to what I’m doing [in healthcare],” recalled Terrill. “That is until, by coincidence, I got a phone call from an executive recruiter asking me if I happened to be familiar with this company in my backyard, Athletes’ Performance. I said, ‘Yes, my son trains there,’ and I was thinking, ‘That’s for athletes, why are you calling me?’”
Verstegen had established a second brand to Athletes’ Performance called Core Performance, a corporate wellness solution based on the same methodology utilized on the athlete side of the coin. Although Core Performance only had 12 clients at the time, those clients were giants in their respective industries. Companies like Walgreens, Intel and Cancer Treatment Centers of America were all early adopters to the EXOS corporate wellness methodology.
Those early adopters helped lay the groundwork for Core Performance’s proof of concept. Take Intel for example. It had wanted to measure engagement and the difference an EXOS partnership made to its employees’ health. A 14-week study was conducted with two groups: the control group followed Intel’s existing wellness program, and the test group followed the same program, with the addition of EXOS training and nutrition programming.
At the end of the 14 weeks, the test group saw a marked increase in improved outcomes across a number of key measurements, such as decreases in blood pressure and bad cholesterol, when compared to the control group.
With these early adopters as brand advocates, the company was ready to expand the Core Performance business — and considering Terrill’s background in healthcare, he was hired as the person to lead the charge as president of the employer and community market segments.
“At that time nothing was really hardened, if you will, in terms of our product, our operations, our ability to scale,” said Terrill. “So my first role was really to come in and create the business strategy, tied toward commercializing the product, developing the distribution strategy for the markets, the channels, the segments, and developing our operations organization to scale in preparation to grow. We were able to quickly execute building that foundation to commercialize our business.”
In June 2014, Core Performance and Athletes’ Performance were combined and rebranded under the unifying name EXOS. Under Terrill’s guidance, the corporate wellness and community side of the business has grown from 12 clients to 170.
According to Terrill, EXOS’ employer wellness and community solutions succeed where many fail because they encourage participants to take an active role in their success. “Employers so often use extrinsic motivators — money, points — and those only last so long,” he said. “The science has shown that [extrinsic motivation] doesn’t translate to meaningful adaptation and change. It’s when you get to the intrinsic motivator that real change occurs.”
EXOS instills intrinsic motivation by providing every participant with a differentiated, personalized and tailored performance plan spanning the four pillars of human performance — mindset, nutrition, movement and recovery — versus a one-size-fits-all approach.
Once participants start seeing success, they oftentimes become even further bought into the program. “What happens is the individual begins to achieve what we call their personal return on investment,” said Terrill. “They have less pain, more energy, they feel more resilient, and they see the risk factors that lead to disease or injury eliminated from their body. And they say, ‘I want more.’ We have thousands of testimonials that say just that.”
At EXOS, Terrill feels more successful at making a positive impact than he did when working in the healthcare industry, due to the positive outcomes they’re able to provide their clients. “It’s been a great success story of the receptivity beyond early adopters to the solutions that we provide in the marketplace,” he said. “So now, it’s really about continuing that growth strategy, looking at some of the accelerants that will help us, and being more effective and efficient to continue to bring improved affordability of our solutions to the marketplace.”
EXOS Energy Systems Development (ESD) Technology
Eight years ago, EXOS identified a number of key challenges as a facility operator, one of which included bringing their personal training services to scale. As is the case in many health clubs, one-on-one training is limited by the number of members who are interested and who can afford it.
EXOS set out to solve this specific challenge — and others — through the development of EXOS Energy Systems Development (ESD) Technology, a software application that runs on select pieces of Precor cardio equipment. The product was developed in partnership with Precor and EXOS’ performance innovation team.
EXOS ESD Technology delivers easily accessible, personalized workouts and data tracking via Precor’s Preva OS touchscreen interface on bikes, treadmills and ellipticals. Based on EXOS’ methodology, the user-friendly experience drives member engagement, results and retention, while also improving operational efficiency.
According to Kevin Elsey, the vice president of the performance innovation team, ESD Technology also solves the key challenge of providing more consumers with tailored programming, without having to participate in personal training services. “What we’re trying to do with ESD Technology is enable trainers and strengthen their scale of services,” he said. “Some clubs have 6,000-plus members, and there’s no way for a staff of 10 trainers to write personalized plans for all of those populations. What we wanted to do is provide this platform to allow operators to really amplify the impact.”
When a user begins a workout on an ESD Technology-enabled piece of Precor equipment, they’ll be prompted to create a user account and go through an evaluation that establishes a baseline to build on and measure progress. Then, it recommends targeted training zones tailored to the user, which evolve as the user progresses toward their goals. At key milestones, new evaluations are encouraged to stimulate continued progress and breakthrough plateaus.
“One of the key differentiators between ESD Technology and some of your traditional cardio, is this is very deliberate,” said Elsey. “It’s intense, and I use that relatively, but it helps push people out of their comfort zones and improves their cardiovascular performance. This is a great way to really focus the intention of the workout so the member gets the best bang for the buck.”
Another key benefit to the ESD Technology is improved workout efficiency for users. According to Elsey, many members in health clubs often “plod along,” with no real way to know if they’re making progress. “With ESD Technology, because workouts are so targeted toward the individual, users get much better outcomes in a fraction of the time,” he explained. “The average duration over thousands of users is 21 minutes for ESD Technology workouts. If you compare that to the industry norms of 45 or 60 minutes, 21 minutes is a great reduction in average time. So the efficiency that it allows for the facilities to open up and get better usage on the equipment and the investment they’re making, is a really great benefit.”
In an institutional review board study, EXOS found that 32 percent of users said they would exercise more often if they had access to EXOS ESD Technology, and those that did burned 18 percent more calories every 30 minutes when compared to other traditional cardio equipment.
For Elsey, being able to solve challenges like improving a cardio user’s efficiency or bringing personal training services to scale, is hugely inspiring. “I feel like EXOS as an organization is constantly in a learning process, and we have a ton of great expertise across our teams in the field working with different populations,” he said. “I feel very fortunate and excited by the fact I get to tap into that at any moment to help evolve the product and solutions we’re building to ensure we’re applying the insights we’ve learned across the board. We’re not just a technology company sitting in an office trying to think up what the end user wants — we are an operator, and we serve millions of people every day. Those insights are funneled directly back into the innovation team that we can apply forward.”
Whether EXOS is working with an employer on improving the health of its staff, providing one-on-one coaching to an NFL athlete, or collaborating with Precor on the latest software application, it all goes back to the company’s mission to upgrade the lives of those that use its products and solutions.
“We have an amazing performance culture at EXOS that centers around our responsibility to serve our clients, and we fulfill that responsibility with great respect and humility,” said Verstegen. “Our performance culture has led to an optimal environment for continuous improvement and integration immediately applied into upgrading our clients’ performance.”
As the next chapter for EXOS, the company will continue to expand its reach across all markets and be an innovator in the space of human performance. And, it will do so as one unified team.