Working out is hard. You have to, like, get off the extremely cushy couch that you and your bros worked so hard to move into your apartment. You have to wear weird clothes that are enchanted with wicking abilities. You have to listen to up-tempo music when you’d much rather kick back to some genuine Longmont slow jams.
In most cases, the hardest thing about working out is finding the motivation to do so. Unless, of course, you work with people who are so gung-ho about it that you’re powerless to resist. Take Boulder-based startup Bracket Labs, for example.
The six-person company, founded in 2010, builds productivity and collaboration products for the Salesforce platform. They also build muscle. I spoke with Bracket Labs’ co-founder Eric Wu about his company’s culture, which integrates the strength and conditioning program known as CrossFit into their daily routine to create an environment of fitness and geekness.
“I was a trainer at Boulder CrossFit and my co-founder, Blakely Graham, was one of the first clients at CrossFit Roots,” Wu said. “When we started talking about doing a startup together, it was understood that the fundamentals of CrossFit would influence our values and culture. Once we started rolling, it became obvious where to insert little fitness pieces, whether it was installing a pull-up bar in the office, running a program to increase everybody’s push-ups or discussing the intricacies of shoulder function.”
A pull-up bar isn’t usually listed among the perks of tech startups. In fact, many would interpret it as punishment for bad behavior rather than a workplace motivator. While CrossFit is designed to maximize general physical fitness across a number of skills (such as cardiovascular endurance, strength, agility and power output), what else does it offer employees?
“The biggest benefit is not even related to fitness. It’s the team bonding and camaraderie,” Wu said. “From a fitness point of view, building software requires a strong creative spark, and fit people can harness and focus that spark into work a lot more effectively.”
I’ll admit it sounds pretty snazzy. The idea of connecting with colleagues over something more compelling than a shared hatred for the printer strikes me as novel. However, the typical nerd diet of coffee and cupcakes doesn’t seem adequate to fuel something as rigorous as CrossFit. I would assume that the office refrigerator is full of egg yolks instead of soda?
“We have a few meals together each week, and we end up bringing in foods that fit the paleo diet,” Wu said, referring to the popular nutrition plan that eschews sugar, starch and dairy in favor of lots of meat, veggies and fruit. “Our lead developer has lost 25 pounds since starting with us.”
Boulder is no stranger to scarily fit people. Does its location help the Bracket Labs team adhere to its fitness regimen?
“Boulder’s lifestyle and emphasis on activity creates an environment where we don’t sound crazy when we tell people we have a pull-up bar in the office or that we serve paleo lunches,” said Wu. “It’s interesting and maybe slightly different, but in some regions of the country we would sound insane.”
It’s hard to ignore the local battlecry to “Keep Boulder weird,” but I think there are just as many people who want to “Keep Boulder ripped.”