Wednesday November 4th, 2015

The approach to physical activity and sports was once pretty easy-going and unfocused at Reebok’s 66-acre campus at the base of the Blue Hills southwest of Boston. But five years ago that started to change. It changed with a mindset shift toward specific fitness—CrossFit, Spartan Races, and other group activities—and it came with a facility upgrade.

“We were always a sports brand and our employees were engaged in being fans of sports and in some cases participating,” Matt O’Toole, Reebok president, tells SI.com. “But we really hadn’t gotten enough people moving on a day-to-day basis.”

Realizing that physical exercise helps to stimulate cognitive abilities, five years ago Reebok dedicated an hour of every day for the 1,000 on-campus employees to get moving—anything from walking to a hard CrossFit WOD to a run into the Blue Hills. This philosophy required facilities to match.

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“The first new thing we did was build the CrossFit box,” O’Toole says. One of the largest in the nation, at 12,000 square feet, it can hold 100 members during a single workout. By bringing in seven of the world’s top CrossFit trainers, Reebok retooled its philosophy both in fitness and in product around this new on-campus destination.

They didn’t stop there. Along with the basketball court, 400-meter track and much more already in place, Reebok has since added a boxing/kickboxing/martial arts facility to meet demand. They bought mountain bikes for employees to use in the hills, created running clubs and brought in high-level trainers for a variety of fitness activities.

Here’s a run-down of the sweat-inducing stops available: a 37,000-square-foot, three-floor fitness center with a basketball court (can also be used for volleyball or badminton), a 34-bike cycle studio, a group exercise studio, free weights, a cardio area, training areas with battle ropes and more, locker rooms with towel services, a soccer pitch, tennis courts, a softball and baseball field, therapy areas and a Spartan Race obstacle course.

“We have a much stronger infrastructure in place,” O’Toole says. “Our secret sauce is we wanted everything to be group-based and community-based so you are not just coming to a gym and putting on headphones on a treadmill and having an autonomous experience. It is about creating communities around fitness and keeping people coming back.”

courtesy Reebok

The five-year focus has driven a new culture on campus. CrossFit remains popular and the boxing facility, still relatively new, has grown immensely in attention. “If you look at the scope of the activities, each one of them has found its audience,” O’Toole says. “You end up having someone doing a CrossFit WOD on Monday, yoga on Tuesday and going for a run on Wednesday. [Employees] really mix it up.”

The Spartan Race obstacle course provides a good example of that. Not a common activity for the average gym, this sprint course takes about 30 minutes for someone to complete, usually serving as an add-on to other activities.

O’Toole says that with such variety on campus, the employees have a desire to move beyond the campus, putting together teams to compete in everything from Spartan races to Ragnar Relay (overnight races) teams.

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With a fitness home on campus for so much sporting variety, O’Toole says that also helps inform product. “The designers, developers, product engineers, they are testing the prototypes everyday,” O’Toole says. “We are really living it. We have done CrossFit WODs and waded through Spartan Race mud puddles. Almost anytime you come at lunch, you’ll see a lot of future products in action being tested by people who really understand these activities.”

Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, sneakers and training for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb

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