Wreck Bag entered the fitness industry in 2014, and OCR (Obstacle Course Racing) athletes quickly gravitated toward this versatile training tool. That’s because Wreck Bag, which comes pre-filled with a shock-absorbent, bead blend, provides a solid sandbag workout without the sand, unlike most weight bags on the market. This product completely changed the game for members of the OCR community and became the Official Heavy Bag of the North American Obstacle Course Racing Championships and the OCR World Championships.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic halted most in-person events and races. Rather than pack it in, Lindon Fitness/Wreck Bag decided to double down. The company went on to launch Wreck Bag XT without much fanfare, simply wanting to get training tools in the hands of as many people as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, and at a fair price. That was in stark contrast to what was going on at the time, as many individuals and companies were taking advantage of supply shortages and price gouging consumers.
Seemingly overnight, this versatile training tool went from the must-have product for anyone in the OCR community to the must-have product for anyone who wanted a full home gym workout experience with only one convenient piece of equipment. Wreck Bag, which comes pre-filled and is ready to go whenever and wherever, is made for both casual and expert fitness enthusiasts. It’s also available in a variety of weights from five pounds (Wreck Bag Mini) to 100 pounds (Wreck Bag OG), allowing you to either lift it, push it, pull it, curl it, press it, slam it, run with it, jump with it, or pretty much anything else that you can imagine.
MuscleTech.com had the opportunity to catch up with Mindy Penney, Founder and CEO of Lindon Group, which is a woman-owned product development, innovation, and supply firm based in Providence, Rhode Island, and Bobby Penney, Head of Sales and Marketing at Lindon Fitness/Wreck Bag. We talked about why and how this unique product was invented, the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Lindon Fitness/Wreck Bag, and how Wreck Bag went from an OCR staple to a product that’s also found at outdoor boot camps, CrossFit Boxes, rehabilitation centers, home gyms, and fitness centers worldwide.
Q: Mindy, you taught a kickboxing/boot camp class every Monday, Thursday, and Friday for 18 years, and still teach the class on Mondays now. Was Wreck Bag something that you wish you had to train and teach with? Is that why you invented it?
Mindy Penney: “That was definitely not why it was invented. I can start there. (Laughing) I have been using the Wreck Bag in my class for the last five years and I love working out with Wreck Bag. We actually used the Wreck Bag Mini a lot and have an entire class dedicated to using them but there were other driving forces behind its inception.”
Q: Why was the Wreck Bag invented then?
Mindy Penney: “The invention came from another product that we were doing at Lindon Group. We actually made this product for the construction industry, which is actually how we got into construction supply. It was intended to be an erosion control bag that we were moving around being like, ‘This is an awesome workout.’ So, we cut it in half and stuffed it with some ancillary things that we had lying around to get it to 50 pounds and then it just took off from there.”
Q: So, as the Founder and CEO of Lindon Group, which is a product development, innovation, and supply firm based in Providence, Rhode Island, did you feel that you were the best person to create and bring Wreck Bag to life since this is your area of expertise?
Mindy Penney: “No, I don’t ever think I’m the best person to bring anything to life and market. (Laughing) Our theory at Lindon Group is: If it can be done, why not us? And it’s definitely a team effort. It’s never just about me, at all.
There were no driving forces besides our curiosity in the beginning of Wreck Bag. We were just like, ‘We all work out. We really love this thing. Let’s see if it has any legs.” And then the product development part of our business kicked in. With almost all of our products, they turn into something else. That’s just what happens.”
Q: Unlike traditional sandbags that you need to purchase and then measure out sand to get the correct weight, Wreck Bag comes pre-filled with a shock-absorbent bead blend. Can you talk a little bit about the creation process of Wreck Bag? How did you go from the idea stage to a finished product ready for market?
Mindy Penney: “Once we cut it in half and stuffed it with whatever we had to get it to 50 pounds, we went to one of the OCR gurus in Rhode Island and asked what he thought. He said, ‘I absolutely love this.’ So, we ended up making 100 of them and we put them out on the field. When the athletes came back to our booth after the race, we sold out of the product in just eight minutes. We were like, ‘We’re onto something here.’
The one thing that we didn’t have in the bag was sand. We had every other possible thing that we could put in it. We started getting immediate consumer feedback – what people liked, what people didn’t like, and how it felt to them. We really love our consumer feedback. I know MuscleTech does, too. It’s part of what drives us, especially in the fitness world. Every day you’re just trying to hone in on what is the best product for the most amount of people, right?
We listened to all of this consumer feedback. Then probably four weeks later we had what’s pretty close to the current product. We knew that we wanted to use rubber because we didn’t want to use anything that had absorbents in it. We wanted water to flow through and out. That’s because in obstacle course racing if it rains, or you have any kind of weather conditions, you’re talking about someone carrying a heavier bag than somebody else. If you have a sandbag on a rainy day, that 50-pound bag can then be 80 pounds because it has been saturated or the sand finds a way to leak out.
That’s why the OCR world kind of took this on. Then we got Wreck Bag out to a bunch of races and that whole consumer base was obsessed with it. That really pushed us. They just kept pushing us, and that really was the development of it.
We originally started with rubber, but we were finding it hard to find clean rubber and keep the cost down, so we developed our own bead blend. At this time, we’ve kind of perfected the science of our internal fill.”
Bobby Penney: “Exactly. We wanted to be able to provide people with a product that doesn’t leak sand, is easy to clean, that is resistant to mildew and mold, and able to be kept around children because it’s safe, and it’s not going to hurt them like a dumbbell or a kettlebell might. It’s also not going to make a huge noise if you live in an apartment building. And if you drop it on your foot, it’s not going to hurt you. It’s really important to us to provide a tool to our consumers that allows them to get that exercise, get that fitness in conveniently and effectively with the small amount of time that they have in their busy schedules.”
Q: Not only has Wreck Bag become a staple of OCR, the product can also be found at outdoor boot camps, CrossFit Boxes, rehabilitation facilities, home gyms, and fitness centers worldwide. The Wreck Bag was also voted “Best OCR Training Tool” by Mud Run Guide five years in a row from 2014 through 2018. What do you attribute the success of Wreck Bag to? Why do you think so many people and organizations have taken to Wreck Bag the way that they have?
Mindy Penney: “First of all, we’ve been really blessed with a bunch of great partners in the OCR world. We are the primary bag of the OCR World Championships, and we’ve had a great relationship with people in that particular genre. It’s a very loving group. When they like something it sort of spreads like wildfire, and that’s exactly what happened to us. We just kept getting feedback and making the product better. One of the external parts of our bag is polyethylene. It doesn’t get wet and it doesn’t absorb sweat. You can spray them down after a race and you don’t have to empty them out.
They started to become the common tool you would be using on the mountain, so to speak, and people would just naturally buy them to train with. So, if you’re really into obstacle course racing, you can assume that you will eventually hit a couple of races that have Wreck Bag in them, if not all of them. The COVID-19 pandemic changed things obviously, but it was definitely spread by the OCR community.”
Bobby Penney: “This is also a real family business. You know, Mindy is my mom. Our COO, Phil, and some co-workers are family members, as well. One thing that’s really cool was that in the beginning of Wreck Bag, every single bag was handmade in our warehouse. We had people really manufacturing Wreck Bag from the ground up when we first developed it. That human touch, that human feel and connection really instilled a lot of pride in our product. It wasn’t just a drop shipped product from somewhere overseas, or anything like that. We have people on the ground manufacturing it and really paying attention to every detail. That kind of mentality of handling, inspecting, and improving every single bag is still the kind of care that we put into our products today. We’re driven and committed to always making the best possible products for our consumers.”
Q: Cleanliness is probably more important than ever right now. Does it make it easier to clean the bags the way that you’ve designed them? And was that always the intention?
Mindy Penney: “Oh, yeah. The outer bag of our OG bag can be sprayed down with disinfectant, wiped down with a disinfectant wipe, or hosed down and the water will flow right through it. You just hose it off and it’s like a brand-new bag. The outer material on the Wreck Bag XT, which is our new bag and a little bit different, can still easily be cleaned using a disinfectant wipe.
During obstacle course races, athletes are climbing up and down mountains, everyone’s sweating, and some people are even bleeding. There’s a lot going on with that. Right from the get-go, even before COVID-19, we always had cleanliness, health, and safety in mind. We didn’t use that material because it was easy to clean, but it made the product even better. Our unique outer material enhanced the whole product line.”
Q: Wreck Bags are available in a range of sizes from five pounds up to 100 pounds, making them an ideal choice for people of all fitness backgrounds and levels. Why was it so important for you and your team to make a product that everyone – from the strongest athletes to people just starting out on their fitness journeys – could use?
Mindy Penney: “When we started, the main weights used for OCR were 25 and 50 pounds. During the heavy carry portion of the race, athletes would grab either a 25-pound or a 50-pound bag depending on their fitness levels. We kept it at two weights for a little while, but then we had so many people who needed more, or less, or were training for things outside of OCR.
We started figuring out how to manipulate the inner weight. Our team figured that out by using different internal ratios of materials, rather than changing the external size of each bag, we could feasibly create multiple SKU’s. It was a little bit of a math problem, but again, we were paying attention to the needs of our consumers. We started to watch athletes use the bag and we began learning new moves every day. We’ve thought of a lot of them, but sometimes we’re like, ‘Didn’t think of that one!’ (Laughing). One day we realized, ‘Holy cow, this is so much bigger than we thought it is as far as what people are actually doing with it. I mean, we had 90-year-old women slamming our five-pound Mini!”
Wreck Bag is also used for rehab and physical therapy. For many industries there’s a weight you have to be able to lift in order to get back to work. In the construction industry that weight is 80 pounds, which is the equivalent to a bag of cement. As we started getting into these different outlets outside of the OCR world, we started seeing how the different weights were being used. We really wanted to target as many consumers as we could who would want it for whatever reason they would want it.”
Bobby Penney: “Something that I noticed when I started using the XT was that it really was holding me accountable. There was no excuse to not use it. I work out with my XT every day, as well as the bands and the jump rope that we have. Those things mixed together give me the perfect 15-minute workout, and its accessibility actually brought consistency back to working out for me. Giving people the ability to functionally work on all aspects of their body using one tool is really important to us.”
Q: The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the fitness industry in a big way. When the lockdowns happened, gyms were forced to shut their doors and fitness enthusiasts started buying up any gear that they could get their hands on for their own home gyms. There was also a kettlebell and dumbbell shortage, making it difficult for people to find weights to work out with. How did the COVID-19 pandemic impact Wreck Bag and your Lindon Fitness operating division?
Mindy Penney: “By God’s grace, we literally had just invested in a lot of inventory because of high demand. So, we loved the fact that we were ready and could supply. It was a time when people were price gouging and we wanted to do the exact opposite because we didn’t believe it was right.
It was good for our business, but we also started really seeing the need for at-home fitness products differently than we had seen it before. We were known as an outdoor, rugged, and intense product but when everyone had to exercise inside due to the pandemic, we started to shift our focus to the at-home fitness crowd. During that time, we created a new product called the Wreck Bag XT, which has more handles, a softer exterior and is built specifically for home use. It did very, very well.
We didn’t even have a formal launch which we would normally do for our other products. It just sort of picked up great organic traction and we went with it. With the XT we wanted to just encourage people to move their body. While stuck at home, people were getting tired, people were sleeping more, and we were hearing so much feedback about people’s struggles with home fitness. So, our core message became, ‘Just put the Wreck Bag on your back and do 10 squats next to your desk. Just put it under your desk and you can use it in between meetings. You can lift it up on your legs, and just get a little leg workout in.’ We started seeing a side of Wreck Bag that we hadn’t seen before. It was the same product as the original with just a few changes and it really reassured us how versatile the Wreck Bag truly is.
The response from the XT kicked us in the butt a little bit to create an app, which will be launching July 1st. Though it was stressful in the beginning of the pandemic, we definitely had some great takeaways. And the way we saw it, the XT was going to launch anyway, so we just launched it a lot earlier and we didn’t get too formal. We thought, ‘People need it, let’s just get it out there and handle the content and marketing later. It became much bigger than us, and we realized it’s not about Lindon at this point, it’s about doing right by our Wrecknation community. So, that’s what we did.”
Bobby Penney: “For the Wreck Bag XT, and all of the bags that we produce, it’s really about the versatility of the product, and being able to tailor it to different fitness and workout regimens. So, with the XT’s new handle options, skin-friendly fabric, and different weights, people are able to not only complete really creative, fun, and interesting workouts that you don’t get with normal gym equipment, but they are also able to do those traditional squats, curls, and presses. So, it’s really, where your imagination begins and ends, and how you want to use the product.”
Q: Mindy, as the Founder and CEO of Lindon Group, which is a small, woman-owned, and Certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprise that consists of three operating divisions – Lindon Defense, Lindon Supply, and Lindon Fitness/Wreck Bag, what would you say is the most challenging part of being an entrepreneur and what is the most rewarding part?
Mindy Penney: “The challenges really create the reward. Every single day is a challenge, and every single day is rewarding. I think one of the challenges of being an entrepreneur is that you have a lot of responsibility, right? You’re responsible for every part of the business, from taking care of our employees to making sure that we have the best quality products for our consumers. We almost have zero returns, and we are proud of that. We really stand by our team and our products and try to get them out there in the best possible way.
But those are the challenges, right? Making sure that you are maintaining the quality of your product, while keeping your prices as competitive as possible. And where we can be better, we try to be better. For Lindon Group, the reward is truly the consumer satisfaction. We do have different entities within the business and consumer satisfaction means different things to each one of them. No matter the time of year there’s always a lot going on and it’s all challenging. I can never think of a day where I don’t feel challenged, but I also can’t think of a day where I don’t feel rewarded by those challenges. I don’t think you become an entrepreneur unless there’s a part of you that actually likes the stress.” (Laughing)
Q: Wreck Bags are also used at operating bases to assist the US Military with their training. How does it make you feel knowing that servicemen and servicewomen are able to enhance their fitness by using a product that you created?
Mindy Penney: “Well, one of our company’s divisions, Lindon Defense, makes an explosive test kit for the military, so we’ve always been involved with the military. Over the years we got great insight from the military on their fitness needs and how they could use the product, especially on Navy ships because there are no metal weights to thud and the Wreck Bag can get wet and won’t be ruined or damaged. The material that’s used in Wreck Bag is very conducive to their training style and living arrangements so it was a natural fit. We love the military, we’re proud of our military, and we’re always happy to supply them with anything they need from bomb detection kits to Wreck Bags!”
Q: MuscleTech is on a mission to redefine what it means to be strong. So, Mindy, as an entrepreneur, CEO, kickboxing/boot camp class instructor, mother, and wife, what does strength mean to you?
Mindy Penney: “If you open a Wreck Bag box, you will get a card with a lion on it. And it will have Ephesians 6:10 on the other side which reads: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. For me, that is where my strength comes from. I mean to our company, that is what strength is.
As far as strength in general, I believe it is constantly being redefined, especially within this last year. The pandemic took a toll on all of us physically, but also mentally and emotionally. Mental and emotional strength is more important now than ever and it’s up to fitness companies such as ours to be a part of this shift in focus. I give MuscleTech kudos for recognizing this and being a key player in redefining it.
But for Lindon Group, we are a faith-based company. Our strength, and definitely my personal strength, in every area comes from the Lord.”
Q: How does Lindon Fitness/Wreck Bag choose the companies that you partner with? What goes into the decision-making process?
Mindy Penney: “Ethics. Ethical people that we can have fun working with. We are all about having fun and believe that this is a journey and we are going to make the most of it. That starts with surrounding our team with the right people. We hope that the outcome of the journey is going to be what we all expect and plan it to be, but embracing all aspects of the journey, good and bad, is what’s really important to us. We have a very happy workplace and our team works hard to foster a culture of passion, integrity, and excellence. We enjoy working with each other and we take care of each other. And we look for the same things from our partners.
MuscleTech’s core values, and what you’re doing, it’s very in-line with who we are. Love your people, love your consumer, and do good. So, when you see that, automatically I’m like, ‘Yes, that’s a company that I’ll work with.’
We’re not a get fit quick scheme. That’s not what Wreck Bag is. With Wreck Bag, we hope that you love it, and we’ll do anything that we can to help you in your fitness journey, or your well-being journey.”
Bobby Penney: “Mindy summed it up perfectly. Our team takes pride in our core values, integrity, excellence, accountability, work life balance, and treating others as we would want to be treated. It’s truly those values that we look for in potential partners. Connecting people’s fitness with their everyday life is very important to us, and I think that MuscleTech’s commitment to redefining strength is really important with what’s going on in the world. Mental strength, the consistency of working out and motivating yourself during these crazy times, is super important.”
Q: What advice do you have for any MuscleTech community members who are interested in using Wreck Bag to take their fitness to the next level?
Mindy Penney: “One of the things that we love about Wreck Bag, and our biggest thing is: Be creative. We just did a photoshoot the other day, and we had these awesome models who were using the Wreck Bag in ways we hadn’t seen. People think, ‘I can go for a run with it, or curl it.’ but you can do over a hundred full body exercises with Wreck Bag. You can go as intense as you want, or as low-intensity as you want. You can literally use Wreck Bag with any workout that you have. If you’re doing cardio, you can pick it up and also do strength training. If you want to do core training, it hits every single body part with this one tool.
It’s funny because the fittest of the fit, and the less fit models, were all doing different things with it. I can’t even tell you how many new things we learned. (Laughing). They were like, ‘Oh my gosh, I didn’t think that it could be so intense when I picked it up.’ And then for the people who just want to be next to their desk and get 10 squats in, they’ll be able to feel like they’ve accomplished something in the way of fitness.
So, I would say: Try it. It may look intimidating to people who aren’t familiar with odd object training, but our app is going to help with that. We have realized that people get it in the OCR world because it was really simple for them. They’d put it on their back and go for a training run, and they knew that they might have to carry it in a certain way. But as it has gotten more mainstream, we have learned that people really do like direction, especially in today’s world with the technology that’s out there. You know, just being able to have something to guide you is definitely what our people are asking for. And we’re going to deliver for them.”