By Karen Chadra
Editor's Full Disclosure: Mike Mellinghausen is my son (but I would have written about this business even if he wasn't).—Karen Chadra
So, how's that New Year's resolution "working out"? You know, the one where you're going to lose weight? Train for a marathon? Get that bikini bod ready?
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As we approach the end of January, many people who started with the best intentions for a healthy new year already have fallen short. Life gets in the way, and health and fitness take a back seat.
That's precisely the problem two young men from Elmhurst aim to solve. Mike Mellinghausen and Chris Wendt, who graduated from York High School in 2007, have launched a new fitness website, HomeWODS.com, that eliminates excuses for all those well-intentioned jelly bellies out there.
"There are a lot of excuses for why people don't work out. When we made this program, we kept all those things in mind," said Mellinghausen, whose day job is in corporate finance. "We make it so there are no more excuses left."
HomeWODS workouts don't require equipment, a lot of space, time or money, or any prior fitness knowledge, he said. HomeWODS—WOD means Workout of the Day—is loaded with video tutorials and demonstrations. Members will find a new indoor workout (iWOD) and outdoor workout (oWOD) posted each day of the week with tips on how to modify the moves based on skill level.
For $14 a month, members can access an archive of every HomeWODS workout video produced, along with a cache of shorter videos that demonstrate every move for newbies who might not recognize all the terms. The videos also are motivational.
So, who is the target HomeWODs member?
The workouts are designed for all fitness levels. Level 1 is great for people who never work out, and Level 3 is more geared for competitive athletes, Wendt said. The workouts scale themselves.
"I can give two people the exact same workout, let's say 30 burpees, 30 squats, 30 pushups," he said. "For one person it will take 3 minutes and it will be a killer workout. For another, it will take 10 minutes, and it's going to be a killer workout, because before this, they've only done 10 burpees at a time. People take different things out of it, but everyone takes out something."
Wendt has lived in the fitness world for most of his life. He started working out with a personal trainer at Courts Plus in Elmhurst when he was only 11 years old, and through a few twists and turns ended up finding his perfect fit with Crossfit in Naperville, where he "fell into coaching." Wendt has his Crossfit Level 1 certification, and his Crossfit mobility and gymnastics certifications. He coaches at Reckless Crossfit in Plano now.
But he doesn't limit his fitness exposure to one method. He spends time researching and participating in lots of fitness programs. Yoga by Degrees in Wheaton and Power of Your Om in Naperville are just two other places he frequents.
"I smashed two yoga classes on Wednesday," Wendt said earlier this month.
He came up with the idea for HomeWODS when, while coaching, he was being asked at least twice a week to write custom workouts for people to do at home.
"I was writing workouts for poeple on Post-it notes and in text messages. It wasn't a real good method," he said. "I decided I wanted to standardize it. I was going to start with a simple blog, but not everybody could follow the lingo, so I mostly had to wait until I saw them to demonstrate each movement. From there, the idea of a simple blog got more and more advanced. That's when I started working with Mike on the (HomeWODs) idea and how to bring this to more people."
Mellinghausen was a personal trainer, at X-Sport in Lincoln Park; he was certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. He hasn't renewed his certification because his full time corporate job pays the bills now, but he continues to stay in shape, working out at least four to five times a week. He brings a different perspective to HomeWODs.
"Chris and I live in different worlds," he said. "I'm in a corporate office setting. I'm seeing my co-workers' pressure points and the problems they're having working out."
For the stressed out CEO or the mom who needs to lose that baby fat, about 30 minutes a day is the ideal goal, they said.
"We want to be realistic with it," Wendt said. "Optimistically, you wake up and spend 30 minutes every morning, or every night, and get your workout in. But whether you get a workout in every day, every two days or every three days, you're still going to get a solid workout, you're still going to get a great calorie burn, you're going to lose fat, gain muscle and it's not going to kill you either way."
HomeWODs members will find a goal-setting area on the site, and HomeWODs trainers will periodically send them an email to check their progress. Also built into the site is a community section, where members are encouraged to post healthy recipes, personal challenges, "anything and everything that helps them live a healthier, better life," Wendt said.
Every workout is measurable, he said, and members can post their results.
"You can say, 'I did this workout at Level 2, it took me 18 minutes and 37 seconds.' "
There is also a "how to use HomeWODs" video tutorial, an "Ask a Trainer" section, a weekly column by a registered dietitian, dictionary of terms and more.
The videos are filmed all over Chicago, at Butterfield Park and other locations in Elmhurst, even in a garage or a doorway.
"We want to encourage the mentality that you can work out anywhere," Mellinghausen said. "We work out in some interesting places just to show that you can always find a place to work out."
With all the various layers of the site, it's notable that neither Mellinghausen nor Wendt had any prior experience building a website—and no outside help. They film all the videos themselves, too, with Wendt doing most of the demos and Mellinghausen filming. They were surprised at the 40-hour weeks they each had to put in to get the site up and running, however, and the site is still very time consuming.
"It was a little bit harder than we expected," Mellinghausen said. "We basically work our regular jobs, then rush home and work on the site until we literally pass out."
"I'm a fitness person," said Wendt, who's prior tech experience consisted of writing True Basic programming at York and writing accounting reports for his dad's company. "I run into problems I have no idea how to fix. First I have to learn what the problem is, then how to fix it, then implement it. One little line of code might take me a good eight to 10 hours.
"Google, Quora and Youtube were my best friends," he said.
Mellinghausen added, "It's like we'd find a little problem, then stumble down the rabbit hole."
While the initial hard work seems to have paid off—the site's various functions are operating smoothly—the hard work continues. There are plans to add new features, like video analysis of members' workouts.
"Members will be able to record themselves working out, send it in and we'll send back an annotated analysis of their video," Wendt said.
And of course they're always working on growing membership.
"We will always provide the content and the platform, but we want to turn it into a community of people with similar goals, who can connect with one another and crush off some WOD," Mellinghausen said.
HomeWODS offers a free, one-week trial; membership is $14 a month.
"You can spend as much per day on (other workout programs) as you do on HomeWODs for a month, and in one month, we put up triple the amount of workouts," Wendt said.
It's a site that "literally anyone can use and get a good workout," he said.