Six Fitness Trends To Follow This Year

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Six Fitness Trends To Follow This Year

Words by Mr Jamie Millar

12 January 2017

From gymnastics to boxing via the office-hour workout – the hottest new ways to get yourself in shape.

For those of you who don’t await the annual publication of the American College Of Sports Medicine’s Worldwide Survey Of Fitness Trends with baited breath, top of the charts for 2017 is wearable tech. So, in addition to your fitness tracker or smartwatch, you can look forward to working out while wearing clothing made from smart fabric that measures your respiration, heart rate and hydration level, plus a VR headset so you can pretend you already look like Mr Ryan Gosling. At least that might stop you giving up on your New Year’s resolution before February.

The rest of the ACSM’s rundown is rather more mundane: bodyweight, strength training, high-intensity interval training (Hiit). With fitness underpinned by basic principles that rarely alter, the surrounding industry is therefore reliant on novelty to grab and hold our fleeting interest. This neophilia often leads to the trumpeting of so-called trends that are preposterously esoteric, largely spurious and adopted by only 10 people, all of whom live in LA. For the purposes of this round-up, we’ve restricted our scope to: a) things that can legitimately be called trends; and b) things you should actually bother doing. See you next January.

The recent calisthenics or “street workout” trend for gymnastics-style bodyweight exercises carves the type of marble-hard physiques that the ancient Greeks would have approved of. But contemporary Instagram braggarts too often skip the painstaking years of conditioning that are necessary to do this properly, jump straight into a reverse lever and tear a bicep tendon.

With bodyweight training holding its position near the top of the ACSM’s survey, proper gymnastics is calling, and it wants its moves back. Specialist facilities are handspringing up, and former US national team coach Mr Christopher Sommer has launched an accessible online course. Don’t expect instant Insta fodder; do expect rigorous attention to proper form and mobility that will bulletproof your body as well as beach-ready it.

Mr Sommer and his GymnasticBodies programme have been featured on the wildly popular podcast of Silicon Valley self-improvement guru Mr Tim Ferriss and in his book Tools Of Titans. Expect to hear more people telling you that they’re “cleaning up their handstand”.

The latest and greatest boutique studio class can give you a kick up the glutes in the short term. But you’re not exactly getting a programme that’s tailored to your individual needs, or structured progression, so there’s a limit to just how effective such classes, however voguish, can be. Besides, many men simply aren’t comfortable with them. Statistically, women are much more likely to attend, especially at Ass & Abs (available at Frame in London, and actually a pretty legit workout).

Personal training, however, is more expensive, and can be just as intimidating, which has prompted a growth in shrinking class sizes, usually six to eight people, but as few as two. More affordable than one-on-one coaching, small-group training is economically viable for trainers and trainees alike, and can provide the best of both worlds: the close supervision required to teach complex skills such as Olympic lifting, but also the camaraderie – or competitiveness – of a group setting. Plus, there’s no need for a megaphone.

Forward-thinking and not entirely altruistic employers are realising that improved health benefits benefit them in turn, in the form of a happy, healthy and therefore more productive workforce. If your company isn’t booking out the conference room for yoga teachers, massage therapists and stress coaches on an almost weekly basis, speak to your HR department.

As you might expect, tech companies are among the earliest adopters. Doctors, physical therapists and chiropractors are all in at Google’s Mountain View campus; Airbnb dishes up daily organic lunch and weekly yoga at its San Francisco crib; neighbouring Twitter’s “flexitime” also includes Pilates, and it doesn’t track how much holiday its employees take.

Cycling, meanwhile, has become the new golf – not just the preferred pastime for men of a certain age, but also the default mode of corporate networking, with deals being struck in the saddle rather than on the green.

Speaking of green, offices are being configured to promote wellness, with more natural light (one study found that office workers who sat next to a window slept better, exercised more and had a sunnier disposition than their colleagues) and plants (having them in view reduces stress – even having a nature scene as your desktop picture can help). Meditation app Headspace’s new Santa Monica headquarters features meditation pods made from layers of machine-cut wood; one of Facebook’s buildings in the aptly named city of Menlo Park has 400 trees and a half-mile walking loop – on its roof.

And if your cubicle isn’t up to par, you can always hang out at Brooklyn Boulders, a co-working space combined with a climbing wall.

Boxing has been rumbling on as a fitness trend for a while now, helped by female models such as Ms Gigi Hadid hitting up scenester fight clubs such as New York’s Gotham, Overthrow and Shadowbox.

Spreading out from the fitness hipicentre that is NYC, London’s own Kobox is being followed by BXR, which opens this month a jab’s throw from Mr André Balazs’s Chiltern Firehouse hotel and restaurant on the same chichi street. Endorsed by superhero-proportioned heavyweight champion and Under Armour ambassador Mr Anthony Joshua, BXR promises an authentic training experience, minus the spit and sawdust of boxing-film stereotype.

Pugilism has by no means cornered the market on fresh sweatboxes, or indeed initialism. Tightening its stranglehold on the sport of MMA (mixed martial arts), the Ultimate Fighting Championship is rolling out branded UFC gyms across the globe from North America to Australia and the UAE. Meanwhile, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is advocated by everyone from Mr Ferriss to Bodyism founder Mr James Duigan, and is mercifully low-impact.

Any exercise has the potential to be profoundly meditative – think of Mr Arnold Schwarzenegger visualising his biceps growing mid-curl. (Incidentally, he also did transcendental meditation.) But all too often we work out distractedly, which stymies our results. And while Hiit can and should have its place in your regime, putting yourself through the (tread)mill in a darkened basement while music blares out isn’t always the best thing when you’re already running on empty.

Physical activity should be a pressure valve, not something else to stress about. Bringing some balancing yin to our yang-filled, hard-charging lives is a movement towards mindful exercise, promoting greater connection between mind and body (and the faintly annoying elision “mindbody”). Yogi Mr Patrick Beach’s Calm By Candlelight class at Virgin Active will further bring to light ultra-restorative yin yoga, which is slower and more focused on breathing. Hopefully, not so much that the candles blow out.

A confluence of factors is contributing to a renaissance in al fresco fitness. Obstacle races and mud runs continue to prove inexplicably popular, while parkour is popping, thanks to TV show Ninja Warrior and the film of video game franchise Assassin’s Creed. Park gyms with pull-up bars are becoming commonplace, as are primal movement classes such as Animal Flow. Even the CrossFit Games is open-air.

There’s also biophilia, the growing field of research indicating that natural environments and materials are beneficial for our health. (Walking for just five minutes in a green space is enough to reduce stress.) Not to mention continued studies into vitamin D, a wonder drug that is involved in (among other things) testosterone production, fat loss and the prevention of heart disease and cancer, which we principally derive from sunlight.

Perhaps more than anything, though, the outdoors is in because of a back-to-basics mentality that can also be traced to gymnastics and combat sports. Although not exactly basic, they require minimal equipment (and usually outlay), plus they’re time-honoured and therefore proven. Unlike the latest fad.

Illustrations by Mr Tommy Parker