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Fitness Trends for 2013: Topping the list…

Every year, major organizations, such as the American College of Sports Medicine, conduct worldwide surveys of fitness trends to predict the upcoming year’s most significant fitness elements, not only ‘FYI’ but to aid consumers, industry professionals and retailers (of sports and exercise equipment). Just because a category of exercise or a fitness trend is considered to be ‘out of vogue’ for this year doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue to do it. The best indicators of whether you will be successful and adhere to a particular exercise program are how quickly you see results (and how impressive they are) and whether or not you enjoy the activity. So regardless of this year’s fitness trends, always stick with what works for you.

Top Fitness Trends: Back to Basics and Group Personal Training

What fitness trends are ‘out’ and what are ‘in’ for 2013? One of the biggest fitness trends for this year is ‘going back to the basics.’ Pilates and ‘Zumba’ classes, while once all the rage, are no longer considered to be ‘hot trends’ (do not appear on the ‘top 10  fitness trends list for 2013).

So, what are the ‘basics?’ Good, common sense high-intensity aerobic exercise combined with basic resistance training moves is effective, takes less time and is cheaper, particularly if you perform body-weight training exercises (making the fitness trends list for the first time at #3).

Fitness trends for 2013 that also made the top 10 list include small group personal training and programs that combine exercise with calorie-restricted diets. Small group training offers several benefits that make it worth considering. By training four individuals (if similar fitness levels) simultaneously, each participant pays 25 percent of what one person would pay, making it more appealing cost-wise. The trainer makes money without sacrificing on quality, and the participants obtain similar or even better results.

Other Fitness Trends: Out with the new and in with the old?

Once a staple of any strength training routine, classic body weight training exercises have made a huge comeback, forcing newer sensations, such as Zumba, to take a back seat. Why? Because they are effective and do not require expensive equipment, accessories or a significant learning curve. Exercises such as push-ups, squats, lunges and even plyometric jumps benefit exercisers of all levels without busting the budget (think boot camp-style workouts).

While some old classics are making a comeback, newer fitness trends, such as TRX suspension training, are only getting hotter.

Boot Camp Fitness: Choosing the Right One

Choosing a Fitness Boot Camp

In gyms and local parks all across America, fitness boot camps are giving exercise enthusiasts something different to talk about. The term boot camp is based loosely off of military training camps which utilize jogging, sprinting, plyometrics, push-ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges and other forms of callisthenic exercises to prepare new recruits for duty, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE). The high intensity intervals performed in fitness boot camp classes helps to maximize caloric burn while promoting lean muscle growth, both key components of weight loss. These classes can be effective, fun and engaging. It’s easy to see why these military-style boot camp classes are catching on. With this increase in popularity since they first appeared in 1998,  more boot camps are popping up nationwide every day. While they offer an exciting alternative to aerobics classes, one must use caution when choosing the right boot camp.

Besides the obvious decision on price/affordability, there are several other considerations to keep in mind regarding how to choose a fitness boot camp class.

Location, Location, Location!

First and foremost, make sure the boot camp is held at a location that is within a reasonable traveling distance, whether from work or home. If you have to spend more time traveling to and from the fitness destination then actually working out, chances are it will be easier to blow off later on down the road and thus harder to stay dedicated!

Boot Camp Instructor

Make sure your boot camp instructor has some sort of credentials, such as a degree in Exercise Physiology or a related field, possesses a certification in personal training or group fitness instruction from a nationally recognized and accredited institution and/or has letters of recommendation from past employers or clients. Just because an instuctor is in good shape or may have an athletic background does not mean that he is qualified to teach a (boot camp) fitness class. It takes a watchful eye and a great deal of energy and enthusiasm to lead a group of individuals through a boot camp-style workout. That said, a certification does not automatically yield a gifted instructor that is compatible with your needs.

Take it for a test drive!

Any trainer/instructor confident in their ability to lead a quality (boot camp) fitness class should have no objection to someone participating in a free ‘trial class’ if the potential client has any reservations. This enables the potential client to see if the class is a good fit in terms of toughness and level of difficulty. It is not unusual to simply not like the instructor…some personalities just don’t mesh! Do not however, use this as an excuse to skip out of upcoming fitness commitments!

Comfortable and Capable

Most boot camp classes are designed to push participants past their comfort level while providing support with a team-like atmosphere. You still have to be able to perform the exercises without any pain or irregular discomfort. If the instructor expects you to perform a push-up, lunge, squat or run a mile – you should make sure you are capable of performing such tasks. If you have any past shoulder injuries or knee problems then a boot camp class may not be for you. It is always a good idea to communicate with your instructor prior to the sessions about any issues or concerns. The only other important considerations are to be ready and willing to physically and mentally make the commitment to get fit!


Interval Training Workouts for Weight Loss

Interval training is a popular method for increasing workout intensity to burn more calories and lose weight (body fat) faster. By definition, interval training is physical exercise routine that intersperses bursts of high-intensity (vigorous cardiovascular or aerobic) work with periods of lower-intensity work. The high-intensity periods should match your fitness level (longer high-intensity intervals for advanced exercisers). Strive to workout for at least 20 minutes (including warm-up and cool-down).

Interval training basics

You can engage in an interval training workout using a variety of exercise machines (stationary bicycle, treadmill, elliptical trainer and/or rowing machine) as well as outdoors. Interval training is used in many sports’ training. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends performing at least one (if not two) circuit or interval training workouts weekly to overcome weight loss plateaus and challenge your body. Interval training takes your exercise routine to a new level. The recommended methods for making the high-intensity intervals ‘tough’ include increasing resistance, speed or incline. A simple interval training cycle might involve cycling at a higher resistance level/faster pace for one minute and then reducing the resistance level/slowing your pace for two minutes. You’ll repeat this cycle several times depending upon the length of your workout.

Interval training: Importance of RPE

Use perceived rate of exertion (RPE) to gauge how hard you are working (1 = easiest, 10 = most strenuous). Begin your interval workout with a 5-minute warm up on your cardiovascular machine. Begin your interval training workout with a 5-minute warm up (RPE of 3 to 4) followed by 20 to 30 minutes of cycles alternating high-intensity periods with shorter, less intense or ‘recovery’ periods. During the high-intensity periods, work at a RPE of 7 to 8 and during the less-intense periods, work at a RPE of 5 to 6. End your workout with a 5-minute cool-down at a RPE of 3 to 4.

Boot camp interval training

Have you ever participated in a boot camp-style workout? These high-energy group workouts often more sophisticated interval training. During a boot-camp style workout (in a gym) you might engage in cardiovascular intervals (jump roping intervals followed by recovery jogs). Another method is to combine interval training with circuit training. You can do this yourself or in a small group. Circuit training basically involves going from one exercise to the next, doing different exercises on using various exercise equipment.

Interval training plus circuit training

Combine both styles of training by performing one set (in fairly rapid sequence) of three to five challenging strength training exercises (after a 5 minute warm-up). Sample exercises might include squats to overhead presses (with dumbbells); straight-leg push-ups with alternating dumbbell rows (one row after each push-up) and alternating lunges with bicep curls.

Next, jump on a piece of cardiovascular equipment, such as an elliptical trainer for about six or seven minutes, alternating high intensity 30 second ‘intervals’ (faster speed and higher tension) with lower-intensity recovery periods for 45 seconds to one minute. Immediately complete another set of your three to five strength training exercises (do the same exercises, choose different exercises that target the same muscles or alternate upper and lower body focused exercises). Keep in mind that compound exercises (such as squat to overhead press) are time-savers as they work multiple muscle groups simultaneously. All the while, your heart-rate remains elevated since you are never really ‘resting.’

After the second set of strength training exercises, jump on another piece of cardiovascular exercise equipment, such as a rowing machine, for another six to seven minutes for interval training. Again, alternate 30 seconds of faster rowing periods (and/or increasing tension) 45 second to one minute periods of ‘recovery’ rowing.

Do this one more time with another set of three to five strength training exercises and another six to seven minutes of interval training on another cardiovascular exercise machine, such as a treadmill. Finish this workout with a 5-minute cool down. At the end, you’ve completed a 45-minute to 1 hour workout that blasts calories and fat. Interval training, with or without circuits, keeps the intensity and pace high throughout your workout.

Interval training benefits

Two of the most significant and rewarding benefits of interval training are that it beats boredom and torches more calories in less time, aiding in weight loss. Scientific studies indicate that interval training workouts build muscle endurance more quickly than traditional (static) workouts.