Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth nutrition, fitness and adventure courses, and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+..
If boredom was ever your excuse for skipping exercise, those days are over. The variety of workouts today boggles the mind, but amidst seemingly endless options, there are some distinct trends.
HIIT Is Intense
Short for high-intensity interval training, HIIT has been used by trainers for years, but has now skyrocketed in popularity, fueled by the growth of CrossFit facilities around the country (crossfit.com). Known for its short but extremely intense workouts, most often using body weight, a variety of free weights, and sometimes simple gym equipment, the movement has gained notoriety with its nationally televised CrossFit Games, self-described as “the sport of fitness.”
The basic premise of HIIT, which is used in many fitness programs, is simple: Instead of exercising at a steady rate, alternate short intervals of high intensity with more moderate activity or rest periods, to burn more calories and rev up metabolism for longer periods. High intensity intervals could be bursts of sprinting interspersed with lighter jogging, heart-pumping cardiovascular spurts alternated with weight training, or intense weight-training exercises interspersed with short rest periods.
Is HIIT Right for You?
High-intensity exercise isn’t right for everyone. According to a survey by the American College of Sports Medicine, many fitness professionals are concerned about unfit people attempting extreme workouts and a high injury rate.
To be done safely, HIIT, like other types of exercise, should be tailored to your fitness level. Working with a trainer is one option. Or, consider an approach that uses HIIT, but helps you work at your own pace. As an example, each person in a class at Orangetheory Fitness (orangetheoryfitness.com) receives a heart-rate monitor, along with instructions on how to work at a customized intensity level. Classes incorporate treadmills, indoor rowing, and weight training.
“You should feel better when you’re done with a workout than when you started,” says Mike Fantigrassi, MS, who develops and oversees training of trainers at the National Academy of Sports Medicine. “If you’re completely depleted or hurt or sore, or can’t walk for the next three days, that means you’re overdoing it,” he says. “You don’t have to create muscle soreness to create muscle changes within the body.”
Animal Flow Unleashes Your Wild Side
Quickly gaining fans at many Equinox clubs and online through digital videos and DVDs, Animal Flow is a new way to use all your muscles plus some you didn’t know you had while having fun. “It’s one of the most challenging workouts that I’ve ever done and at the same time, it feels like play,” says Brittany Trahan, a Certified Animal Flow Coach in Los Angeles. “It gets you moving like you did when you were a kid.”
Animals instinctively use their whole bodies while stalking prey, dodging danger, or simply getting around in a normal day. By mimicking these movements, the workout delivers a lot of benefits: improved strength, cardiovascular health, endurance, power, flexibility, mobility, and coordination.
“While most workouts hit one or two of these, Animal Flow hits them all,” says Trahan. And, she adds, “The sense of accomplishment you feel when you master a new move or flow is not something you get with other workouts.”
Although Animal Flow moves are challenging, you can work at your own pace, so it’s suitable for anyone. “You just need to have the willingness to try something a little different,” says Trahan, “and the desire to have fun while you work out.” For more information, visit globalbodyweighttraining.com.
Boot Camps Spark a Healthier Lifestyle
The popularity of extreme workouts has given boot camps—which are, by their nature, challenging—a more benign role. “They’re trying to be more for the everyday person, so it’s not so scary,” says celebrity boot camp trainer Lacey Stone (laceystonefitness.com). And their impact goes beyond the time spent doing workouts.
By the end of a typical boot camp—about a month of two or three workouts per week—many people who do fitness activities together and share a zeal for a healthy lifestyle become friends. “Everyone goes into a boot camp with a common goal—that they want to feel better,” says Stone. “So why not leave that camp with a couple of people that have the same values as you do?”
Classics Get Blended
Yoga, Pilates, and dance have all been popular in fitness, and now they’re being combined in new ways. For example:
Xtend Barre: Pilates and dance moves at a ballet-style barre, to music, sculpt and lengthen muscles, improve coordination, and improve cardiovascular fitness. xtendbarreworkout.com
Physique 57: A 57-minute class incorporates barre exercises with weight training and cardiovascular exercise. physique57.com
Yogilates: A combination of yoga and Pilates is designed for overall fitness, injury prevention, or recovery from injuries. yogilates.com
Some health clubs offer trampoline classes on individual trampolines. But trampoline parks are both fitness and entertainment attractions, with trampoline floors and walls. Fitness classes on these trampolines make walking, running, and every other type of exercise more challenging—and interesting.
Amazing Wellness contributing editor Vera Tweed is the former editor in chief of GreatLife magazine and the author of numerous books, including Hormone Harmony.