Eight New Ways To Keep Fit And Fearless In 2015
Here’s the skinny on the latest and greatest health and fitness trends.
As with fashion, the world of health and fitness is dominated by trends. And as with fashion, some are more advisable to follow than others. But like elite ultramarathoner Mr Scott Jurek, the comparison runs further. The rapidity with which health and fitness trends change nowadays means that being caught dead using the pec deck (the 1980s called: it wants its useless exercise machine back) or doing crunches (ineffective at best; lower back-straining at worst) will betray you as being lamentably out of date in much the same way as, say, being spotted wearing the previous iteration of Nike Free trainers. Which, by the way, applies to the street and the gym floor alike.
In other words, you need to keep up – but staying abreast of the latest movements in exercise and nutrition, and sorting the bulgur wheat from the chaff, can be exhausting. (Unless, of course, you go gluten-free – in which case you may find yourself feeling less sluggish.) What you need is a “spotter” to do the heavy lifting for you.
So take a breather, pour yourself a cup of Bulletproof Coffee (made with grass-fed butter for increased energy – see below) and pore over this super-set of crazes that actually make sense. That way, instead of aimlessly joining a gym and the ranks of “resolutionaries” – the newbies who give up by mid-February and become one of the estimated 60% of “active” memberships that are unused – you’ll find something that will really help you feel better, perform better and, yes, look better. As the tirelessly quotable Mr Karl Lagerfeld said: “Vanity is the healthiest thing in life.”
Thanks chiefly to the guided Headspace app and its creator Mr Andy Puddicombe, the former Buddhist monk dubbed “the Jamie Oliver of meditation”, mindfulness – the non-spiritual process of slowing your racing mind by focusing on the present – went mainstream in 2014. So much so that, in 2015, it’s less about becoming “one with yourself”, more about doing it alongside other people. The slew of newly dedicated studios includes Unplug in Los Angeles, dubbed the “SoulCycle of meditation” after the cult spinning class that is going global. Unplug was founded by former fashion editor Ms Suze Yalof Schwartz, who has worked for Vogue and Elle. As well as 30- or 45-minute drop-in classes, they also teach Zen-master techniques to deploy in specific situations (eg, on a flight or behind the wheel). It’s all the no-rage.
In case you didn’t eagerly devour the American College of Sports Medicine’s Worldwide Fitness Trend Survey for 2015, bodyweight training – lifting yourself instead of dumbbells – came in as the No.1 trend (last year’s chart-topper, High Intensity Interval Training, was down to No.2). In short, it’s having a moment.
“With so many gimmicks out there, we’ve come full circle to see our bodies as the most versatile and effective tool,” says Mr Mike Fitch, founder of Global Bodyweight Training and creator of Animal Flow, a no-equipment class. “Bodyweight movements also have benefits for your nervous system, resulting in greater stability, power output and injury prevention.” Plus it’s free and you can do it anywhere. If you get good, you can upgrade to callisthenics – these are gymnastics-style moves, such as handstand press-ups – and show off on Instagram.
Not only a fail-safe wardrobe option, charcoal can now be found practically everywhere, from inside grooming products to supplements and juices, on account of its much-trumpeted detoxing properties. It’s usually also “activated”, which means it’s treated by heating or another method to increase its absorbency.
“Activated charcoal is a medical-grade digestive purifier that binds with toxins to speed their safe elimination from the body and is poised to become a mainstay of the cleanse ritual,” says Ms Rebekah Hall, co-founder of London-based cold-pressed concocters Botanic Lab. Available online, their ISOTONIC1 rehydrating drink is one of a growing number of beverages to incorporate the ingredient du jour. Black is the new green.
If you haven’t already used the foam rollers by the stretching mats to loosen your stiff muscles before a work-out, now’s the time to get acquainted. Self-myofascial release or SMR – a fancy term for sports massage – is assuming such importance that whole classes are being dedicated to it, such as Rx at Equinox.
“It’s about training smarter,” says Ms Lisa Wheeler, director of group fitness development for the early-adopting gym chain. “Regular recovery sessions will improve performance in your chosen activity and keep you active and pain-free for a lifetime.”
It’s also advisable to dedicate 15 minutes every evening to rolling – it’s a more constructive use of your time than watching Family Guy repeats (although you can, of course, do both). Trigger Point Therapy’s Grid roller is a personal favourite and, happily, also comes in on-trend camo. If it hurts, then you need to do it, and the more you do it, the less it will hurt.
“There’s definitely been a rise in classes that incorporate treadmills as people look for more high-intensity work-outs,” says Mr Lee Mullins, founder of Workshop gym at London’s Bulgari Hotel. “The class setting increases the drive to push hard and to make the intensity high; all you have to do is ramp the speed up.”
The treadmill trend is also driven by tech upgrades: the strikingly-arced Woodway Curve ones that you’ll find at Workshop, for example, are self-powered, running on nothing but your own blood, sweat and tears.
“The track weighs 40kgs, so it increases your calorie burn by 30%,” adds Mr Mullins. “It’s also great for the environment.” But mainly for you.
More than ever, the fitness industry in 2015 calls to mind the psycho hitchhiker from There’s Something About Mary: “You heard of Eight-Minute Abs? This is going to blow that out of the water: Seven. Minute. Abs.” Work-outs are shrinking to fit our schedules, backed by science that says you can get results in less time by dialling up the intensity. Phenomenally popular home work-outs Insanity and P90X now come in bite-size 30-minute versions.
If that seems excessive, try a Tabata class: flat out for 20 seconds, rest for 10, up to a total of just four minutes (not including warm-up and cool-down). Then there’s the new book by renowned trainer Mr Adam Rosante – named by Details magazine as one to watch – which promises a 30-Second Body. But before you start looking forward to your shower, be warned: to reap the benefits of short, sharp work-outs, they need to be painfully sharp. Some of the subjects in Professor Izumi Tabata’s original study couldn’t even finish the four minutes – and they were Olympic athletes.
Whoosh. That’s the sound of half a decade of nutritional “wisdom” going out of the window. “The current state of diet data overwhelmingly shows that most people are consuming too many sugars and starches,” says Dr Jeff Volek, author of The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living. The slimmed-down version: it’s not fat making you fat, but rather carbs. In fact, fat is good: the bulk of your calories – as much as half – should be healthy fats from nuts, avocados and coconut oil, which help you feel full and even burn the fat around your middle. (NB: Trans fats from junk food are still bad, sorry.)
There are performance benefits, too: by eating more fat and fewer carbs, you encourage your body to burn fat for fuel, which means that during exercise it can tap into its stores for energy, so you don’t hit “the wall”. No wonder everybody from Ironmen to Mr LeBron James is suddenly chewing the fat.
Your social life and health are no longer mutually exclusive thanks to the surprising rise of sober raves such as No Lights, No Lycra: dancing in the dark that promises zero judgment (or booze) and has gone global. Even more surprising – but no less popular – are pre-work “breakfast clubs”, AKA early-morning dance parties that invite you to rave your way into the day by taking the place of your usual gym session: see Daybreaker (New York, LA, San Francisco and London, with more cities to come) and Morning Gloryville (London and New York).
The explanation for why anyone in their right mind would want to hit the dance floor before they get to their desk is that it’s exercise that feels like hedonism and not hard work. In lieu of anything illegal, the only stimulants are coffee, smoothies and wake-up massages, and your high will come from endorphins alone.
The obstacle arms race On the whole, mud runs are good clean fun. But a certain hardcore fraternity seems hell-bent on raising the stakes – submersion in water, running through fire, electrocution – such that their events resemble a lethal Guantanamo Bay theme park. It’s not tough; it’s moronic.
Unstable surface training Science says that performing squats on a Bosu ball or wobble board has zero benefit or real-world application, and common sense agrees. You increase your chances of injury. Balance training, however (eg, standing on one leg while brushing your teeth) is useful. Try it with your eyes closed.
Hot barre “The new bikram” is ballet in 40-degree heat. Nothing against ballet at all, but anything “hot” – yoga, Pilates, Yogilates, whatever – just makes you sweaty and convinced that you’ve worked much harder than you have. And that you definitely deserve a Krispy Kreme.
Anything that vibrates As attractive as the idea of a machine doing the work for you undeniably is, the evidence behind it is shaky to say the least. Whether you stand on it, attach it to your stomach or wave it in a comically masturbatory fashion, you’ll probably wind up just as wobbly.
Ear stapling Based on acupuncture principles, and entirely lacking in scientific proof, a staple is inserted into the cartilage of your inner ear to supposedly suppress cravings. If you don’t think this is the most preposterous thing you’ve ever heard, then you’ve presumably had it done.
What To Wear
Illustrations by Mr Antony Hare