From cocooning to acting like a bear, what the smartest gym-goers will be doing next year.
Just as it’s inevitable that we will overindulge at Christmas, so we can bank on the fitness industry attempting to lure us back into shape come January. Gyms, ever more creative, will move us on from interval training, fitness tracking and boutique boxing. But to what?
A new pop-up indoor “outdoor” gym — the Biofit organic fitness studio in Notting Hill, London (biofit.io) — heralds a new eco-sensitive movement, with equipment handcrafted from natural materials, lots of vegetation and an acoustic soundtrack. Its creator, Matt Morley, says it will be a healing environment, and a study by the UKactive Research Institute will evaluate its impact on mood, anxiety levels, and mental performance.
Expect somewhat primitive exercises. “Human evolutionary history shows we’ve been lifting, carrying, jumping, striking and crawling for millions of years . . . so we start there,” says Morley.
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Crawl like a bear
Bear-crawling seems destined to be in most new fat-burning workouts next year. Think of it as a moving plank and you’ll begin to see why it appeals to trainers. “It’s very demanding for the core muscles,” says Jon Denoris, the owner of the Club 51 fitness studios in Notting Hill and Marylebone. “You have to maintain that core position, but add in forward, backward and lateral movement, which makes it considerably more challenging.”
For a basic crawl the wrists and elbows are stacked under the shoulders, knees hovering a few inches off the ground and back flat. “I get clients to start with baby movements, 10-15 steps with everything well tucked in,” says Denoris. “Flaring out your shoulders and elbows makes it more challenging. Try try crawling uphill, with a weighted jacket or adding in mountain climbers and press-ups mid-movement. It’s incredibly effective.”
Work the room
It’s time to consider if your routine is dictated by your gym’s layout rather than by what’s best for your body. Research by the Edinburgh-based consultancy GYMetrix found that gyms are often guilty of placing equipment where it’s least likely to be used — treadmills, for example, are more popular when facing towards the weightlifting or stretching areas rather than positioned to overlook a scenic view out of the window.
Some gyms, including Fitness First, are planning radical overhauls for January. “Traditionally, we would have separate cardio, weights and freestyle areas,” says Lee Matthews, its UK fitness and marketing manager, “but we’ve mixed up the gym floor layout and now have cardio in the freestyle areas so that members can easily transition from cardio to strength work.” You may curse when you can’t find your kettlebells after Christmas, but it will pay off in the longer term.
Get on the Stepmill
Although most gym-users skirt around the latest bit of kit, one to look out for in 2017 is the Stairmaster Gauntlet or the Life Fitness PowerMill moving staircases. In the US, the hashtag #stairmonster has already been coined for this unforgiving new-generation stepper which, unlike the original from the Jane Fonda era, has steps at a fixed height that move at a constant rate — keep up or get off.
Stair-climbing has been shown to lower blood pressure and a Harvard University study showed that seven minutes of stair-climbing a day halved the risk of heart attacks over ten years. Yet it’s the butt-firming benefit that holds the biggest appeal.
Ditch the protein balls
If there’s a downside to high-intensity training it’s that it can leave exercisers vulnerable to upper respiratory infection. However, according to Dr Jonathan Peake, a lecturer in sports science, these immune-boosting white blood cells are not destroyed by hard exercise as was once thought, but are simply diverted to parts of the body perceived to be under stress such as the lungs, gut and mucus membranes where they become less effective.
In this month’s Journal of Applied Physiology, Peake and his team suggest taking simple steps to ensure you don’t fall victim to gym germs, including eating carbs during intense exercise lasting longer than 90 minutes to “minimise immune disturbances related to exercise”. You should also ditch the post-workout protein balls and shakes, opting for eating good quality carbs — wholemeal bread or pasta, grains and porridge — within two hours of finishing all hard sessions.
After a year spent bombarding us with hardcore workouts in 2017 there will be a movement towards the recuperation of body and mind.
So, if even anti-gravity yoga — performed upside down in a fabric trapeze — is too much like hard work, you can try Cocoon, a recovery class at GymBox designed specifically to allow you time to rest in a hammock. From February you can also indulge in the Calm by Candlelight sessions at Virgin Active gyms, billed as a restorative stretching class held in a candlelit room, while the HeadStrong session at Equinox does involve some brain training, but partly entails lying down and “rebooting” your breathing.
A recent study from Michigan University found that even those who don’t buy into the whole mindfulness trend seem to benefit from regular meditation or “quiet time”. Reporting in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in September, the researchers found that participants who engaged in meditation had better “emotional recovery” after being shown negative pictures.
But really, the new classes are just an excuse to do nothing, passing it off as exercise.