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10 Fitness Start-Ups We Hope Make It Big

Chic Heart Rate Monitor

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An idea is born: Brenda McCaffrey, an electrical engineer, started running with a heart rate monitor after her mother's Alzheimer's disease diagnosis left her worried about protecting her own brain health. "To protect your mind you need to have good blood flow to the brain, and your heart needs to be at a certain heart rate to do that," she explains. But while she loved her fitness gadget, she wasn’t enamored with how it looked. So she took matters in her own hands and designed the Via Heartbeat bracelet, a chic piece of jewelry that works with any heart rate chest strap and glows when you hit your target heart rate zone.

Why it’s great: Unlike other heart rate monitor watches, there’s no programming required. "It needs no attention, so you can stay focused on the road," she says. 

What’s next: McCaffrey’s tweaking the design to make it even sleeker and prettier. Eventually she wants the bracelet to monitor other biometrics related to mental health. 

Free Customizable Printable Workouts

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An idea is born: William Artemon loved working out, but he rarely had a plan once he got to the gym, saying that he prefers to "freestyle it" by combining exercises he already knows with ones he sees other people doing, plus a move or two pulled from the Internet. To keep track of his routine, he jotted down exercises on a piece of paper, adding stick-figure drawings. "This is obviously not very efficient," he says, but it lead him to dream up WorkoutLabs, a website that lets users build free workouts and print them out, complete with how-to illustrations.

Why it’s great: The WorkoutLabs Custom Workout Builder not only lets you create and print personalized routines, it also allows you to customize moves based on gender. Don't feel like designing your own workout? Choose from their library of pre-made routines and programs.

What’s next: The company recently released Exercise Cards—plastic decks of cards with printed bodyweight exercises, stretches, and five workouts that you can take anywhere.

Funky, Flattering Yoga Pants

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An idea is born: Yoga enthusiast Rachel Frey wanted to attend a yoga workshop but didn’t have enough cash for a ticket. Looking for a quick way to raise dough, she decided to start her own business through Kickstarter, an online funding platform for creative projects. Drawing on her experience as a clothing designer and inspiration from seeing a fellow yogi in python-print leggings, she created a line of super-soft, funky yoga leggings and shorts called InYo.

Why it’s great: "It's a fun alternative for everyone instead of wearing all black," Frey says. It doesn't hurt that the sassy ruching detail on the rear makes them flattering for all figures.

What’s next: She's adding capris, booty shorts, and high-waisted shorts to the collection.

Free Full-Length Online Workout Videos

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An idea is born: Husband and wife Daniel and Kelli Segars started Fitness Blender because they felt there was something missing on the Internet: free, high-quality workout videos. "We didn't feel like there were any fitness websites out there that actually focused on fitness—they're all about makeup, clothes, and what you look like, not about what you can do," Daniel says. So the certified personal trainer (him) and health counselor (her) decided to turn their garage into a film studio and have been making workout videos since 2010. "We believe everyone should have access to quality health and fitness information regardless of their income or access to a gym," Kelli says.

Why it’s great: The site offers more than 300 free, full-length, easy-to-follow videos, including HIIT, strength training, Pilates, cardio, kettlebell, yoga, circuit training, barre, and more. Workouts range from five to 90 minutes and can be sorted by length, calories burned, equipment used, training type, muscle group used, and difficulty level. "We endorse fitness and nothing else,” Kelli says. “No gimmicky pieces of equipment and no supplements or diets—just good health and exercise.”

What’s next: "We want to be able to help as many people as we possibly can," Daniel says. In addition to the three to five videos a week the couple already posts, they're adding more free features to the site, including meal plans and fat-loss programs.

Workout Clothes That Empower Women

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An idea is born: Sacha Nana's father taught her at a young age to appreciate the beautiful craftsmanship and hand-stitching of his native Pakistan. When she and her family relocated to the United States, her brother stayed behind, working in the garment industry there. And when Nana heard about all the problems with cheap garment production in developing countries, she wondered if there was a way to combine her two loves—fitness and Pakistani craft—into a way to empower women all over the globe. Now she designs a line of beautiful workout clothes make by Pakistani women called NEVA, a combination of her nieces' names, Nicole and Eva. "If you're trying to transform your own life by working out, then why not transform another woman's life at the same time?" she says.

Why it’s great: The comfy jackets, which come in relaxed and athletic fits, are made completely in Pakistan, where women hand-stitch the finishing touch: a quote by Ghandi reading, "Be the change." The company pays a living wage, completely transforming their workers’ lives.

What’s next: In spring 2014, Nana plans to add a capri pant and tank top to the line along with a fun cover-up, like a jacket or vest. She also hopes to expand her product to other developing countries to help more women in the garment industry. 

Motivational Health Counseling

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An idea is born: Born deaf, Joshua Ledbetter was saddened to encounter discrimination when he tried to get a job in the health and exercise science field. So he decided to start his own company focused on health and nutritional counseling in addition to helping people turn their "weaknesses" into strengths. He even turned his last name into the company's new motto, "Live every day better."

Why it’s great: The Ledbetter Project site offers one-on-one fitness and nutrition counseling with an emphasis on identifying each client's unique struggles and finding a program to help them. The site also includes a platform for users to connect with and support one another. 

Future plans: Ledbetter, along with co-founder Jessi Jean, want to turn the Ledbetter Project into a reality show as a “positive twist on the diet genre," Jean says. This fall they'll start a speaking tour of different high school groups across the country to share Ledbetter's story and inspire others to overcome their personal obstacles. 

No-Stink Gym Shirts

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An idea is born: Arbab “Sam” Mazumdar is a man with simple needs: All he wanted was a workout shirt that was clean, comfortable, well-designed—and that fought off funk. He finally hit on a fabric made with silver fibers to combat odor-causing bacteria and a vented design to wick smelly sweat away. The result? SilverAir shirts.

Why it’s great: Fine Italian yarn and a seamless cut means that the shirt "feels so smooth and light you'll feel like you're naked...in a good way!" Mazumadar says. He also stitches motivational sayings onto the hem of each shirt so that when you lift it up to wipe off sweat, you’ll be inspired to push a little harder.

Future plans: After recently adding a long-sleeve tee to the line, Mazumdar is taking suggestions for items he should add next.

Sports Bra to Stash Your Stuff

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An idea is born: Electronic dance music superfan Christina Conrad was tired of losing her phone at high-energy concerts. She tried stashing the device in her bra for safe-keeping—and discovered that it doesn't work very well. What Conrad needed was a little zipper pouch tucked securely into her bra, kind of like a fanny pack for your rack. Behold: the Boobypack.

Why it’s great: The Boobypack keeps your phone, cash, or ID safe and sweat-free, and comes in a variety of bright colors and patterns to boot. Conrad says it can be worn alone as a top, over another underwire bra (for added support), or under a regular top.

What’s next: She’ll keep expanding her line of "motorboat totes" with more fun designs.

Social Network for Gym Members

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An idea is born: You're not alone if you've ever felt totally alone in a crowded gym: One of the biggest problems people say they have with gyms is making connections with other members. Enter Activore. The brainchild of five impressively fit dudes—Wesley Adam, Vik Panda, Brian Dominick, Benjamin Melancon, and Stefan Freudenberg—this app and online platform aims to connect gym users online so they can have more real-life interactions offline. Their goal is to keep you happy and social at the gym so you want to keep coming back.

Why it’s great: Similar to other social media sites, you can “follow” someone’s profile to see what workouts she's trying or send a message to meet up for a class. The more connections you make, the more welcome you'll feel at your gym.

What’s next: The company is focused on adding more gyms and members to the site.

No-Slip, No-Tangle Earbuds

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An idea is born: Californian triathlete Ron Johnson grew up running in the sun and sand. But while he always loved listening to music during his workouts, he hated dealing with slippery earbuds, tangled wires, and equipment malfunctions. Frustrated, he invented AudioNoggin, a small device that securely clips to a cap, positioning an ultra-thin high-fidelity speaker over each ear.

Why it’s great: Because AudioNoggin sits above your ear and not inside it, you never have to worry about it falling out, tangling, or hurting your ears. The Bluetooth-enabled device syncs with your phone and has a microphone so you can answer calls. Plus, as many outdoor runners know, it's safer to run if you can hear your environment. AudioNoggin allows you to listen to your favorite music or podcasts without losing the ability to detect a car coming up behind you or the crunching of leaves under your feet.

What’s next: AudioNoggin is still in Kickstarter fundraising mode before it becomes a reality. In the meantime, designers are working to make it adaptable for other sport helmets like those used in biking, skiing, and snowboarding.

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