Experts weigh in on the next-big-things in exercise and wellness (and how to use them to reach your goals faster)
Gyms Go Digital
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Online training has been a growing trend for awhile now, but this year, expect to see more major gyms launching online platforms. Crunch Gym, the first national fitness chain to offer their group fitness program online, debuted their site Crunch Live in November, with plans to expand the content library in 2014.
"We feel strongly that the real future for the at-home workout market is in a digital experience, especially given the digital streaming capabilities of televisions and the prevalence of devices like Apple TV, says Christina DeGuardi, senior vice president of marketing, branding, and communications at Crunch. "We believe that what we do at Crunch is unique and special, and now we are able to share it with more and more people outside of our brick and mortar establishments.”
As more and more boutique fitness studios and specialized classes pop up online, offering consumers the option to choose when and where they work out, expect to see more major gyms following suit. Click here to see 13 of our favorite workouts that already offer online streaming.
Emphasis on Recovery
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Fitness pros have long known that after your workout, during the recovery phase, is when the body truly becomes fitter. But exactly what you should be doing during this phase and for how long has recently been a hot topic of research—which explains the influx of workout programming, fitness products, and education on how proper recovery can yield better results, says Nicole Nichols, fitness expert for SparkPeople.com. “In 2014 you’ll see even more information and products aimed at fitness recovery for optimal results (think foam rolling, ice baths, massage, heat, and other strategies to speed up and optimize the recovery and rebuilding process)," she says.
You can expect to see this trend in large gyms and smaller studios, with more classes that focus on stimulating flexibility, restoration, and myofascial release, says Carol Espel, senior global director of group fitness and Pilates for Equinox. These techniques can help promote recovery and enhance overall sports performance and longevity in training, whatever your goals might be, Espel says.
The right recovery-to-work ratio depends on your personal training plan and goals, so talk with a fitness professional if you're not sure about how to find the right balance for you.
Express (But Intense) Workouts
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Given the desire (and need) of our increasingly busy population to "train smarter, not longer," expect to see even more express-style workouts (30 minutes or less) in 2014, says Jessica Matthews, M.S., certified personal trainer and assistant professor of exercise science at Miramar College. Everything from popular DVD-based programs (such as Focus T-25 and the newly released P90X3) to high-intensity interval training style classes (Tabata-inspired classes and CrossFit) are designed to be as efficient and effective as possible.
For best results, Matthews recommends doing these intense, full-body workouts three days a week, allowing 48 to 72 hours between strength sessions for proper recovery.
Yoga as Cross-Training
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With more people than ever making high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and circuit-style programs like CrossFit part of their regular routine, the need for complimentary stability and mobility training has never been higher—and yoga can provide both, Matthews says. Be on the lookout for more yoga offerings specifically designed with the CrossFit devotee and intense exerciser in mind to help them get more out of their workouts and stay safe, she says.
Already a regular at your local CrossFit Box? Matthews recommends rounding out your weekly routine with two or three yoga sessions. And no time is no excuse—you can mash the two training styles together with this yoga CrossFit plan!
Corrective Exercise for Pain Management and Postural Issues
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“When most people meet with a personal trainer for the first time, one of their goals is usually to ‘feel better;' a loaded statement that usually includes reducing chronic pain that may have been plaguing that client for years (like low-back pain, arthritis, neck or shoulder issues),” says Jacque Ratliff, exercise physiologist and spokesperson for the American Council On Exercise. The growing number of people who experience aches and pains on a regular basis has inspired many personal trainers to learn more about "corrective exercise techniques" so they can help client's address these issues and improve quality of life.
“Working with a certified professional can be the difference between a client feeling the best they have felt in years or continuing down the path of chronic pain,” Ratliff says.
If you're dealing with chronic pain, corrective exercise techniques might be an effective tool for long-term relief. Search online for a certified pro (ACE offers an advanced health and fitness specialist certification) near you to learn more.
Workouts Designed to Build Brainpower
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A trend noted for 2013, exercise that incorporates cognition-building challenges and specific movement patterns to improve brain function will continue to expand this year. “People are interested in creating longevity for their brains as well as their bodies,” Espel says. We’ll see more experiential fitness classes that involve an elevated approach to the mind-body-brain connection. For example, Equinox's Yoga Flow Play class offers a music sampling experience and explores how certain vibrations and sounds impact yoga flow and poses.
Brain-boosting exercise may sound complex, but it can be as simple as working on your balance or coordination (Click here for an example of a brain-boosting multi-directional drill).
Nutrition Takes Center Stage
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“People are more aware than ever that what they eat may matter more than putting in gym time,” says Sandy Todd Webster, editor in chief for the IDEA Health and Fitness Association. So there's a good chance you'll see more nutrition-based offerings like food and diet coaching in 2014.
“Empowering people to break the chain of crazy fad/yo-yo dieting by educating them to eat sensibly is an immeasurable benefit," Webster says. "If you can teach a person how to eat well and stop putting unnecessary additives and chemicals into the body, their system will breathe a sigh of relief and start metabolizing the way it’s meant to. It will finally recognize the ‘information’ she's putting in rather than getting inflamed and fighting unrecognizable processed substances."
Webster recommends taking advantage of the trend by gathering as much information from reliable sources (like a registered dietitian, nutritionist, or a fitness professional with a strong nutrition credential). And don’t be afraid to ask for referrals (the best personal trainers can often refer you to dietary pros they know and respect), she says.
Small Group Training
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From boutique fitness studios to the larger gym chains, small group training will continue to flourish this year, Webster says. This is good news for both trainers (who make more money per hour with groups yet still retain clients at a lower price point) and clients (who benefit from reduced pricing and the additional motivation of training with friends or peers).
Get in on the trend by searching for a small group session near you (visit IDEA Fitness Connect to find a certified trainer in your area) or inquire at your gym about the small group programs they may offer.
This type of training enhances compliance, builds a feeling of tribal belonging, and considerably ups the fun factor, especially if you have a great trainer who understands group dynamic well, Webster says.
“When you’re giving 110 percent, sweating with the same group every workout, you come away with a great feeling of connectedness and team spirit,” she says. “I personally have a whole new social group because of small group training. We call ourselves the ‘Iron Chicks.’ We’ve all put on muscle and reduced our body fat, we're doing pull-ups with minimal or no assistance, and we're lifting impressive amounts of weight. We cheer each other on during workouts and have progressed to celebrating milestones in each others’ lives.”
Wearable Fitness Devices
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Wearable fitness devices are no longer the badge of a health and fitness junkie—they're being worn by anyone who wants to move a little more and feel better, Nichols says. And we can plan to see even more advances in technology and connectivity as wearable fitness devices continue to evolve in the coming months.
“Get ready to see even more cool innovation for bluetooth, mobile apps (and app connectivity), and more products in this field at a variety of price points,” Nichols says. Just be sure to do your homework before you buy—some pricier devices might offer more features than you really need to reach your goals so to save money, skip the ones with tools you'll never use.
Another interesting piece of this tracking device trend will be the ability to use your gadget to verify your workouts for your employer and insurance company—and be rewarded for it, Nichols says. “As this technology becomes more widespread, don’t be surprised if your health insurance company offers incentives for your verified workout data.”
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