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One Blogger's Tale...

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A little while back, I was pumping along on the cardio-machine at my gym, XSport Fitness, when Barack Obama came on the television attached to my Arc-Trainer. He was speaking to the AMA about his health care plan when he mentioned that we, as Americans, have to do more to take responsibility for our health and well-being. Specifically, he mentioned that people need to eat right and go to the gym more often.

His mention of the gym sparked an idea.

First... I love my gym. XSport Fitness has a great selection of equipment, there are enough machines to ensure that I'm never crowded out of doing whatever it is I want to do and the staff and trainers are uncommonly accessible and helpful. In short, it's the best gym I've ever used.

Second, in addition to enjoying a good work out, I'm a struggling activist/blogger. Believe it or not, having access to the Huffington Post does not immediately translate into windfalls of cash. Getting your name in the newspaper or mug on the TV doesn't necessarily make you rich. The truth is that over the course of four years of blogging and activism, I've probably netted less than $10,000.

A trip through the blogosphere will further underscore the "blogger's plight". Between the recession and the fact that this is off-election year, your favorite bloggers are struggling. Advertising revenues are wayyyyy down and fundraising appeals just just don't get the results they did not too long ago.

So... As I heard Obama talk about the need for Americans to spend more time getting fit, I decided to marry fitness, blogging and advertising. I'm in Fairfax, VA -- just outside of Washington DC. XSport Fitness has just launched a new gym in Alexandria. I suspect that DC/Northern Virginia residents are, relatively speaking, fairly frequent blog visitors. I decided to call XSport corporate headquarters and see if I could blog for them in exchange for free membership.

I ended up talking to their head of marketing and customer service. Overall, she loved the idea, but she was concerned that I might be labeled a "sell-out" or otherwise see my credibility compromised. I assured her that the disclosure ethic that has been embraced by bloggers should immunize me from that kind of criticism and we moved on. In the end, she told me that she didn't care if I wrote about XSport or not, but that she'd like to use me as a sort of not-so-secret-shopper -- I'd write her whenever anything seemed amiss or unusually excellent. In exchange, my membership fee would be waived.

So, what's the moral of this story? Well, I guess I'm writing this for two reasons.

1) To let y'all know about a new gym in town called XSport Fitness. They are a growing gym -- they are all over Illinois (they started out in Chicago and now have 22 gyms across Illinois -- with more coming), they just opened a second gym in Northern Virginia (in Alexandria, about 10 miles from their other gym in Merrifield) and they have a location in Garden City, NY. If there is one in your neighborhood and you are a fitness buff or thinking of becoming one (and as far as I'm concerned, if we're going to have a public health option, it's your patriotic duty to at least make an effort), I really recommend that you check them out. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I know you're going to love 'em. They really are fantastic.

And, as importantly...

2) If you are a struggling blogger, go make some things happen for yourself. Got a favorite restaurant? Offer to blog about it... Know a great hair stylist? Why not see what you can barter? After all, even if we aren't getting rich, we are talking to a lot of people. And $50/month saved is $50/month earned, right? The idea is similar to what happened when television first got its start. Shows would be interrupted in mid-stride so the host could pitch his favorite motor oil. Today, with product placements, celebrity endorsements, corporate sponsorships and slick commercials, well... we look back on that model and think it's quaint. And, I guess it is. But that was the state of advertising; the broadcasters took what was available and made it work. Maybe we need to start doing the same sorts of things...

Certainly can't hurt.