Our athletes are at the center of the design and development process. When creating every new product, we send prototypes to guys across the country who push the gear to its breaking point...and beyond. Last month, this formerly individualistic testing process came to life on a whole different level.
DENVER ATHLETE SUMMIT
Last month, we brought together thirteen members of the Ten Thousand athlete team in Denver, Colorado for our inaugural Product Development Summit, a weekend of epic challenges, grueling workouts, and thoughtful conversations all with one singular purpose. Alongside Travis, our VP of Product and Keith, our CEO and Co-Founder, these men came into the weekend ready to get into the nitty gritty of all things product: a top to bottom review of all core styles, as well as testing of a variety of prototypes for the upcoming 2022 Spring-Summer season.
Although each of our athletes has a specialized focus in certain modalities, they are hybrid athletes to the core; always looking to experiment, try new things, and get out of their comfort zones. Every Ten Thousand athlete embodies the idea of pushing beyond their personal limits, and the hand-selected group that arrived in Colorado each brought along a unique skill set that would push and inspire their teammates. Some faces were familiar but for the most part, these athletes had never met in real life, their only interactions being virtual; a team zoom or a social media engagement. In so many ways, this was a long time coming.
Back Row: Travis Wright (VP of Product) Ryan Hall, Grant McCartney, Poppy Livers, Bobby Maximus, Neen Williams, Eric Hinman, Brad Seeber (Ten Thousand) Mike Aidala, Jake Boly.
Front Row: Eric Champ, Thosh Collins, Brian Levine (Ten Thousand) Keith Nowak (CEO & Co-Founder) Don Tran.
The weekend’s packed itinerary started with arguably the most daunting event, the Eldorado Park Rock Scramble led by Mike Aidala, a long-time Ten Thousand team member known for his jack of all trades athleticism. From one arm overhead squatting 315 lbs to running multiple ultramarathons, Mike’s unique blend of strength, mobility and mindfulness made him the perfect subject matter expert to kick off the weekend’s activities. The guys were up early and excited, kitted out in Tactical Shorts and Versatile Shirts. However, upon arriving at the bottom of the treacherous course, even the most fit, not to mention confident, members of the group were noticeably nervous.
“I grew up as an elite athlete, played division I soccer, and I'm probably the fittest I've ever been in my entire life right now. But this was completely outside of my wheelhouse and comfort zone. I don't like heights. Period. It was almost hard for me to focus on how the gear was performing when I was hundreds of feet off the ground holding on to some rocks. You won't catch me dead up here again. But what a rush."
- Brian Mazza
After two hours of scaling narrow and treacherous ridge lines, everyone, CEO and VP included, made it to the top together as a team. At that moment it became clear that this weekend went far beyond product testing and evaluating. Only hours into the weekend, you could see the bonds forming between these strangers, all with one thing in common; a passion and personal investment in Ten Thousand.
After a quick change into our indestructible Foundation Short and Durable Shirt, plus a brand new style launching later this year, the crew headed to APEX Human Performance in downtown Denver for a Barbell workout led by Jake Boly, our resident strength coach and powerlifter, and Bobby Maximus, an authority on all things fitness. For the seminar, Jake and Bobby helped the Ten Thousand athletes assess their deadlift form by taking an individualized approach rooted in optimizing everyone’s own biomechanics. The crew didn’t leave the comradery on the mountain top, as they quietly surrounded Thosh Collins and then burst into celebration when he broke his lifetime deadlift personal best, at over 455 lbs.
At the Collaborative Product Development Focus Group that followed each session, the guys gave equally as much effort and concentration as they provided feedback on both the new and existing products put to the test that day.
"I didn't think there were any improvements that could be made on the Tactical Shorts because they are already my favorite pair of shorts to wear for working out at the gym, trail running, and any outdoor activities. But, after re-testing them during the rock scramble we were able to find key areas to improve upon, including fit of the waistband, durability, and a better way to hold your essentials."
- Don Tran
After a much needed night’s sleep, the crew was up early Saturday morning, wearing Session Shorts and Lightweight Shirts and yet another new product for the next day’s challenges. First up was a seven mile trail run led by Eric Hinman, five-time Ironman triathlon finisher, professional adventurer, and functional fitness athlete. As the group ranged from Ryan Hall, Olympian American record holder for the Marathon, to Poppy Livers, the former star division I football player and sports performance specialist, who had never run more than 3 miles in his life, it was awesome to see this new group of friends support one another through a workout that was a breeze for some, and downright painful for others. However, every single person made it the full seven miles, even Thosh Collins who rolled an ankle and subsequently broke his foot mid-run and had to be carried over the finish line by his fellow athletes.
Following another Collaborative Product Development Focus Group, they changed into Interval Shorts and Versatile Shirts and headed back to APEX for a functional mobility session and CrossFit WOD. The mobility seminar, led by Aidala, forced the group to slow down and focus on activating small muscle groups, following a carefully outlined progression to move from the simplest of movements and holds to the most advanced handstands. It also allowed a handful of individuals to test out new fabrics selected specifically for yoga and mobility workouts. The 180 degree shift to the final workout of the weekend, a functional fitness WOD led once again by Hinman, culminated in a team 2000m row. The camaraderie, competition, and energy was palpable in these final moments, with athletes pushing each other along, screaming at the tops of their lungs, and leaving everything they had on the gym floor.
During the last focus group of the summit, the team reflected on all the gear they tried and tested throughout the weekend. Not only did they carefully analyze every aspect of each product, but they provided suggestions for future products, gave opinions on competitors’ styles, and talked about ways to be even more involved in the product development process. It was during this last conversation that you could feel these men’s investment in both the product and the process.
"When I spoke to the design team during the focus groups, they were more interested in my criticisms than they were my praises. They went into the summit with that "beginner's mind," looking for ways to tweak, fix, and troubleshoot issues that arise in their apparel and also be inspired by the athletes' needs and desires."
- Ryan Hall
The work put in during this inaugural Product Development Summit can only mean that the upgrades to the classics and evolution of new prototypes will be 100% athlete driven. Keith, Travis, and the rest of the Ten Thousand team headed back to New York with new insights, perspectives, and appreciation for the athletes that help us become better than yesterday.
ATHLETE SUMMIT TEST KIT
Rather than set out to beat someone else's record, this past summer Robbie Balenger invented his own challenge; the Colorado Crush. A marathon. Two ultramarathons. All 486 miles of the Colorado Trail. 58 mountain peaks over 14,000 ft. All without leaving his home state.read on
When we set out to develop the Session Pant and recreate one of our most popular core shorts in pant form, we knew it had to provide the same lightness, breathability, and mobility as the Session Short. We wanted the Session Pant to be minimalist, stripped down to the essentials, and prepared to get you through every high-intensity conditioning session on the days you need a little extra coverage.read on
Filson Field Test
At Ten Thousand, all our gear is built for toughness. The Versatile Shirt, Tactical Short, and the Training Crew Sock are some of those products. We designed this gear to be strong enough for the first responders whose fitness is absolutely essential to not only their own lives, but the lives around them as well. You can wear this gear to the gym, you could wear it on an off-trail hike, you can wear it on the job, and our dream was that it would wear the same no matter where you are. The only thing left to do was put the gear to the test, and we knew Alex Fitchler was the man for the job.read on