When it comes to getting in shape, there are multiple choices to suit your personality, ability and needs. Gone are the days when you could use “boring” as your excuse. And how fantastic is that? Being in the best shape of your life is as easy as it’s ever been.
But if you’re struggling to decide what great trend you want to try next or possibly getting your butt off the couch for the first time, here’s a list of some of the most popular trends in fitness right now, with the pros and cons of each, to help you make your decision.
Ah cross fit. Talk about a fitness trend that has exploded onto the scene. My Facebook feed is regularly filled with friends’ pictures and stats from CrossFit workouts. It’s gained cult like status, with someone at least once a week trying to convince me I should do it or asking me why I don’t. This video by Dom Mazzetti on CrossFit is hilarious.
What is CrossFit exactly? It is a strength and conditioning program that incorporates high intensity training in order to increase your endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility and balance. There’s a lot of pushing or pulling your own bodyweight, like pull ups, and lots of heavy lifting, like rolling big ass tires around.
There’s also the competitive aspect of CrossFit, which you’ve probably seen on TV. I first became aware of CrossFit after seeing the CrossFit games on TV. I was totally impressed with the athleticism and thoroughly entertained. There is no doubt that those people are incredible athletes.
But those competitors are putting in hours upon hours of training. They are professional athletes. If you are watching that and thinking that going to your local CrossFit studio for three hours a week is going to give you a body like that, think again.
I also noticed that the top women are extremely muscular. Some like that look and some do not. The physicality you desire is up to you. I don’t like a super muscular look on my body. I already have very wide shoulders and gain muscle very easily. So for me, doing CrossFit is not an option. But for an average woman, I think it would be an incredibly challenging workout where you could burn some serious calories.
And while intensity is emphasized, form is not, which can lead to injury.
Pros: High calorie burning workout, convenience (many locations), sure to increase stamina, endurance and strength.
Cons: Injury, possible large muscle gain depending on body size and type, cult like following.
Online Personal Training
I cannot express enough how much I love personal trainers. With a great trainer (which is hard to find), you will get the best workouts of your life and push yourself harder than you ever thought possible. I don’t always have one, but when I do, it’s amazing.
Unfortunately, it is a luxury that many people cannot afford. The average price is $65 an hour, so even at three sessions per week, that’s $780 a month. Fortunately, there has been an explosion of trainers and nutrition experts offering online programs. The key to this working for you is firstly, making sure you choose someone who is actually an expert. And secondly, being diligent in following the program.
I chose to go this route about a year or so ago with the same online trainer that newly crowned Miss USA Nia Sanchez used and enjoyed it. I was feeling unmotivated and mostly just plain bored. I was doing the same exercises over and over again. And although I know how to eat, I wanted an exact plan to follow, to take the thinking part out of it.
It worked in overcoming my boredom, and I found it to be worth the $100 price tag per month. At the beginning of each month, I received a month’s worth of workouts, which were broken into various body parts, along with cardio programs. I also received a nutrition plan to follow for the month.
There was some work that went into figuring out some of the terminology that I didn’t know (or I had called it something different), but overall it was a good experience and one that I recommend.
Pros: Cost effective, gives you something to follow in the gym, takes the guesswork out of eating, available to anyone with an internet connection.
Cons: Accountability, minute personal attention, and a lot of looking up exercises and correct form if you’re a newbie to the gym.
Barre classes are a trend that has swept Los Angeles, and as far as I can tell, most of the country. There are several different brands such as, Pure Barre, Cardio Barre, Pop Physique and Physique 57, among others. I’ve taken classes at both Pure Barre and Physique 57 and they were very similar. The basis for all of them is the same; an exercise program focused on sculpting and toning that was created from dance movements, particularly ballet bar work. Dancers have phenomenal bodies, so the appeal is inarguable. Who wouldn’t want to look like Misty Copeland, the first African American female soloist for the American Ballet Theatre, who was recently featured in this Under Armour ad?
Here’s what I can tell you about the classes: they are very hard and fun! As long as you qualify shaking intensely in class from the muscle burn “fun,“ you will love these classes.
There is not much of a cardiovascular workout though, as I have found that my heart rate rarely gets into what I would consider a cardiovascular range, but the workout is exhausting nonetheless. At $20 per class though, you must be prepared to cough up some big bucks for this intense class.
Pros: Intense sculpting class that emphasizes elongating the muscles, great music, professional dancers as teachers (depending on which studio you choose).
Cons: Expense, additional cardio would be needed depending on your goals, accessibility depending on your area.
I’m sure you’ve seen many of your Facebook friends posting pictures from their latest Spartan Race, ROC Race or The Zombie Run, which are races involving obstacles, or maybe others such as The Color Run, which is a more basic 5k run.
Regardless the race, setting a goal such as these can be a great way to commit to a training program and see some real results.
I’ve completed two Tough Mudders, a race which claims to be the “toughest race on the planet.” Although I could easily argue that there are multi day adventure races that are incredibly more difficult and challenging than a four hour Tough Mudder, I can tell you that it is very challenging and incredibly fun. It’s certainly not the kind of race that you can simply show up for and think you are going to get through. Though, by the number of people I saw quitting throughout the route, some misguided individuals must believe so.
There are a few key things to remember about races such as these. Firstly, choose one that suits a fitness level that you can obtain in a reasonable amount of training time. I believe that twelve weeks is a reasonable amount of training time for most goals. If you’ve never run before, don’t choose a marathon that’s three weeks away. Conversely, if you’re already pretty fit but want to take up a notch, maybe selecting a Touch Mudder (11-12 miles with extreme obstacles) that is a month or two away, gives you just the motivation you need to bump the intensity of your workouts and incorporate other types of training that will be utilized on a course such as that one.
The most important aspect is to be prepared. In my last race, a guy died of a heart attack literally steps in front of me. Now maybe he had an unknown heart condition. Or maybe he was 50 pounds overweight and decided today was the day he was going to change his life. If it’s the latter, as admirable as that may sound, don’t be stupid. Use these types of fun races to motivate you to either get in the shape you’ve always wanted to or take your training to the next level.
Pros: Goal for motivation, can do in teams with friends, bragging rights.
Cons: Could be dangerous if you’re not properly prepared
I’m going to be honest and tell you that I don’t see the appeal of Zumba. It could be because I’m a dancer and it feels too beginner for me. Or maybe because the last time I saw a class in progress, there were so many girls in there shaking it, I was annoyed just watching. But my feelings aside, Zumba appears to be here to stay.
Zumba is dance class that emphasizes high-energy movements in order to burn a lot of calories and get your body moving. Basically, it’s dancing! They want you to have fun while working out and enjoy the whole experience. It is not advanced dance and requires no previous training. Think more in terms of “in da club,” rather than “in the studio.” And as the Zumba website says, “15 million people can’t be wrong.”
Pros: Offered at many gyms as part of their regular class schedule (so no additional charge), fun and high energy.
Cons: Packed classes, possibly not interesting enough if you have previous dance training, no strength training involved.
A talent not reserved solely for exotic dancers anymore, Pole Dancing has earned a legitimate spot in the fitness industry for its ability to increase strength and flexibility. It has gained so much popularity that even IFBB Fitness Champion Oksana Grishina, included it in her winning fitness routine at the 2014 Arnold Fitness International, a move that some felt devalued her abilities and talents.
From a fitness perspective though, it does have its benefits. It may look like a cakewalk, but have you ever actually climbed a pole? It is no easy task. While I haven’t tried the class out personally, having previously been an aerial artist (Spanish Web), I’m knowledgeable on what this type of work out entails.
In my opinion, increasing and challenging your levels of strength doesn’t come into play until you are able to do more advanced moves, which is great for someone who already has a fair amount of strength and flexibility, but not so great if not. Ultimately if this gets your butt off the couch, it can’t be a bad thing. Plus, if you became serious about it, there are competitions you can enter, which would boost your motivation to stay on track with both your workouts and eating. And I think many women are drawn to it for its obvious confidence booster in the sexiness department.
Pros: Confidence booster, something unique and different.
Cons: Availability in your area, would likely need additional cardio and strength training for maximum fat loss.
Bikram, or “sweaty yoga” as my good friend likes to call it, is a type of yoga that is ideally performed in a heated room of 104 degrees Fahrenheit and a humidity of 40% and is typically a 90 minute class, though you can find 60 minutes at some studios. According to Bikramyogahermosabeach.com, “It has been proved and experienced by millions that these 26 postures systematically work every part of the body, to give all the internal organs, all the veins, all the ligament, and all the muscles everything they need to maintain optimum health and maximum function.”
I’ve found that people’s opinions on Bikram are extreme in one direction or the other. They either love it or hate it. I gave it a go but didn’t last. I’ve had trouble getting into yoga, because with my dance and acrobatic background, I have rarely found it challenging enough. I thought that Bikram would be a great way to make it challenging, which it absolutely did, but mostly in the “I’m going to pass out and die from heat exhaustion and not being allowed to drink any water” sort of way.
However, I don’t want to discount the health benefits of sweating it out. The detoxification alone makes Bikram a healthy choice. And it’s a field of fitness that requires great concentration, breathing, balancing, strength and flexibility. Yoga instructors usually emphasize stress release during the class, which is also a huge positive.
Pros: Detoxification, entire body workout, leaves your skin looking beautiful, great for your mind.
Cons: Cost, absolutely not possible if you have a low tolerance for heat or sweating, studios tend to smell, instructors are rigid about breaks (including water).
TRX stands for Total Body Resistance Exercise and was created by a Navy Seal.
The system consists of two adjustable nylon straps, which are fastened to the wall or an overhead beam of some sort. There are multiple exercises you can perform with these straps that will engage and work every body part.
Many fitness studios and most gyms have a TRX system available for members to use and offer classes to teach the proper exercise. If you’ve ever attempted to use the TRX bands, then you know that they offer quite a workout (if used correctly).
My problem with TRX is that every single time I am at the gym I see some idiot trainer who has his beginner client painfully attempting push ups on these straps, when the person should clearly have learned the proper form and gained the strength required to perform a push up on the floor first. Or I see some other poor soul, bless his heart, trying to impress or do something trendy but it’s just not working.
I see a lot of terrible form in the gym. But the use of TRX might be the worse. It’s a pretty new system to come onto scene, so maybe that’s why there doesn’t appear to be a ton a people who actually know how to use it correctly. And I’m one of those people. I know very few exercises to do, which is why I don’t do it. I don’t want to look like the dude I just mentioned.
So while I believe that resistance training, using your body weight as well as core strength for exercises is fantastic, this is one you will want to be sure to take a class on first.
Pros: Difficult workout, no waiting in line for other equipment, could be used at home.
Cons: Instruction or demonstration required, poor form could be an issue. No cardiovascular element.
Boot camp style classes burst onto the scene a few years ago and continue to be popular. The concept is simple; military style workouts that incorporate strength exercises like push-ups and sit-ups with a cardiovascular element such as running or mountain climbers.
Many gyms offer Boot camp as well as your local trainer who may be doing classes in a neighborhood park. I’ve found that generally, it is an ass kicking affordable workout.
Different trainers do of course have different styles. Most do the whole yelling in your face thing, though not all do. But what does seem to be consistent is the intensity of the class, which is great.
Pros: Cost, calorie burn, great overall workout.
Cons: Being yelled at may not be your thing, availability in your area.
High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT is a kick butt workout that will save you time, boost your metabolism and burn a whole lot of calories.
The idea behind HIIT is that you perform short, intense bursts of exercise for a small amount of time interchanged with periods of rest. I’ve got some good examples of HIIT workouts along with an article on the topic that you may find of good use.
The exertion that is required in sprinting type workouts like these (and when I use the term “sprint,” I’m not referring solely to running, but rather to going as hard as possible) will take an immense amount of energy from you and you will find it difficult to do on a daily basis. I recommend doing HIIT style workouts every other day at the maximum.
The most wonderful aspect of HIIT is the time required; my sessions last anywhere from ten to twenty minutes. Yes, it’s an excruciating twenty minutes, but it’s over in a flash, and research as shown that the fat burning benefits last well after the session is finished.
Pros: Tons of variety, may be performed at home, small time commitment, enormous fat burning benefits.
Cons: Hard as hell.
Any one of these fitness trends is absolutely worth trying. They all have their benefits, and undoubtedly one of them will speak to you and give you the motivation that you need. When it comes to classes, remember that much can depend on the instructor, so if you’re not a fan the first time around, it’s always a good idea to give someone else a try. And with any exercise, proper form and technique is essential to remaining healthy and injury free. If you are unsure, always seek out a professional’s help.