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SleekGeek Elan Lohmann chats about fitness tech, online communities

Since the birth of social media, individuals are constantly finding ways to use these platforms to their full advantage. One of these creatives, Elan Lohmann, used Twitter and Facebook to found SleekGeek, a community initiative to promote healthy living. Lohmann’s “previous life” consisted of corporate jobs, a workaholic attitude, and being a self-confessed chain-smoker. He eventually decided to give up that life in order to pursue SleekGeek, which has been a resounding success on Mark Zuckerberg’s social media platform.

Lohmann recently visited our offices to give us a talk about his journey. Afterwards, we sat down for a quick one-on-one chat about technology, trolls, and his thoughts on healthy living in this digital age.

Memeburn: Is social the most important technology when it comes to getting people fit?

Elan Lohmann: Is social the most important technology? Yes. I think that it is an extremely powerful technology around health and fitness. One, because it allows people to see what other people are doing. And before there wasn’t enough anecdotal evidence around other people’s results in that space.

In a way, it applies some kind of peer pressure when you constantly see people posting about their food, their workouts, that kind of thing. It allows people with similar interests to connect. That has some kind of amplification effect as well because it starts to build community around that topic. So I definitely think social media has an important role to play in health and fitness.

MB: What is your opinion on health technology, such as heart-rate monitors? Do they actually benefit users or are they just a gimmick?

EL: It definitely depends on a person’s goals. I mean, a lot of people are at different levels. And I think that at most levels there are wearable tech and devices that are applicable to a person’s level. It’s just about that person finding the tech for their level.

For example, someone who walks a lot and is starting out is going to benefit from a pedometer. Whereas someone who is training for a triathlon would go for a much more expensive options. For certain types of fitness or methodologies, it’s important to know your heart rate. I do cross fit for example where you’re not really interested in your heart rate because you know at the end that you died anyway.

So, ja, I definitely think there’s a space for it. The reason why there is a space for it is in terms of gamification and measuring it keeps people engaged with progressing. People love analytics. People like to see progress. These tools, even apps on your phone, when you go for a run for example they show you your progress and performance and I think that’s important to people and beneficial.

MB: How about exercise-related music apps such as Spotify’s new service?

EL: There are different sorts out there in the market. For example, I cannot run with music. I know people who love running without music because they want to hear themselves thinking, or the ocean, or whatever it might be. Also you know running is a certain beat you know you get metronomes. So a lot of those types of music products are also as such, you know, they are made in such a way that they fit with someone’s rhythm.

MB: Should every entrepreneur include personal fitness within their business plan?

EL: One hundred percent. Corporate wellness in this country is not taken seriously at all. Accountants are too concerned with the harder issues around the bottom line and not the softer issues. I definitely believe if your workforce is healthier they are going to have more energy, be high performing, and be optimal. It’s hard to prove, it’s fairly anecdotal, but I definitely think you should expect your employees to have a certain level of health.

MB: You seem to answer people in your groups almost instantly. How much are you online each day?

EL: *laughs* All of the time!

MB: Why have you moved away from Twitter?

EL: I found that Facebook allows for a much deeper, richer engagement of content. Twitter is great for putting content articles out there. I am a community building business, as opposed to a content provider, and so it’s been more prudent for me to focus my energy on Facebook.

Though there are really exciting things I could be doing with Twitter, I just don’t have the capacity to do both really well. But, interestingly enough, SleekGeek was really born and bread and initially got its following via Twitter and then I realised that Facebook was just much more productive in people having meaningful interactions between each other as a community.

MB: Have you dabbled with Google+?

EL: No. I like things that are tried and tested. And I also believe that it’s tempting to try different social platforms. I mean I’ve only recently started getting involved in Instagram, because we’ve started to get a lot of content that is visually appealing, “before & afters” and food, that kind of thing. But, you know, I’ve left Pinterest because when you’re a small startup rather than trying to be everywhere I decided to be really competent in certain areas. We really focus most of our attention on your Facebook group, because it served our purpose best.

MB:How do you deal with online trolls in the community? 

EL: We just created a culture of mutual respect and tolerance. The trolls get dealt with by the community. I’ve got a zero tolerance policy. I used to entertain the trolls, but I now act on behalf of the greater good. In my community, I reserve the right to have people in the community. It’s not about freedom of expression because freedom of expression doesn’t mean you can say what you want. So, ja, if people are being disruptive I’ll just deal with them and that’s that.

MB: What would you recommend as an exercise routine or foods to avoid for someone who works in an office all day?

EL: Well, sho, to answer that question is very hard. But I would say when you decide to value your health you’ll make decisions that support that. That is the key because the plan that works is the plan you stick to. I can give you the best plan in the world and if you don’t’ stick to it, it doesn’t mean anything.

You’re better off sticking to a bad plan. So I believe my message is, “value your health”. Make it a priority. If it’s your priority you’ll do things in your day that support that. People who are healthy and excel at being healthy, it just means they’ve made it a priority in their day. There’s more than enough time; there’s no excuses. I know people who are high power executives with families and all the responsibilities that everyone has and yet still manage to be healthy. It doesn’t take extra time to eat healthy.

There’s no excuse. Stop living mediocre lives. I am very passionate about wanting to help office workers live more optimal lives. And I think that if you are someone who has a lack of energy then it is something that needs to be addressed through lifestyle changes. Like to me, the biggest commodity is energy. Let’s not talk about weight loss. Let’s not talk about kilograms. Let’s talk about what is your energy for life like. If there’s a problem there, let’s fix that.

Author | Graham van der Made: Staff Reporter

Graham van der Made: Staff Reporter
Graham started out as an electronics manager at Take2 Home Entertainment and went on to spend a further ten years in the South African ecommerce industry. During this time, Graham founded and managed an online geek and hobby shop. He has always had a passion for writing and has... More
  • Matthew Davison

    This post was so informative on the community, how to deal with trolls and the methods you are using in Social media. Really Awesome, thank you

    I’ve just started a publishing site for people in the fitness and health community called http://gymselfie.com/ while travelling Asia. Im now back in CT and Ive met up with guys that worked with Burn Media and were really instrumental in giving me a strategtic look at the site. Now going to check out sleekgeek

    Thanks!!