Failure doesn't have to be inevitable when it comes to New Year's fitness resolutions. The key is finding an activity you like, and each new year brings a spate of new exercise concepts to experiment with. Some stand the test of time -- with 5,000 years behind it, yoga's here to stay -- and others will disappear quicker than parachute pants and scrunchies. (Does anyone remember Jazzercise?) Though L.A. remains the capital of fitness fads -- Crunch on Sunset Blvd. has classes in Circus Sports, Dodge Ball, and Cardio Striptease, to name a few -- up north we're more moderate in our workouts. We asked a few local fitness gurus to shed light on what 2005 has to offer would-be resolution keepers.
"Right now, it's all core, core, core." Even the receptionist at Gold's Gym on Market knows that core training -- strengthening the muscles of the abs and back -- is huge this year. The "core principle" of stabilizing the midsection during exercise is invading everything from cardio to weightlifting to group classes, especially balance training. Stella Sandoval, group exercise director at San Francisco Bay Club, says, "[People are] dropping the New Year's resolution of working out harder and just working out smarter. They're picking functional workouts [that are] more efficient because of the equipment that's out now." Equipment such as the BOSU balance trainer, a flat-bottomed stability ball that you've probably seen through bleary eyes during 2 a.m. infomercials. Offered at several local gyms, BOSU boot camps are popular, Sandoval says, because "instead of just doing biceps, you're standing on a ball, balancing and working your core at the same time. You're not just working one area; you're working two or three."
Shorter, more efficient workouts are on the rise as San Franciscans careen into the second half of the decade, when being away from one's BlackBerry for an hour a day is increasingly unthinkable. Express classes and boot camps that train several muscle groups at once are catching on locally. Sports Club/L.A. on Market has a "Booty-Kickin' Boot Camp," a four-week program of 90-minute classes that combine boxing drills, core training, and flexibility. "People don't have as much time to work out," says Buddy Macuha, the club's group exercise director. "We're hoping [with] shorter-duration classes that, rather than coming in six days a week and two or three hours a day, they can come in a few times a week." Both Crunch on Van Ness and Sports Club/L.A. have half-hour classes designed to fit snugly between the office and six o'clock cocktails in the nine-to-fiver's schedule.
Perhaps in reaction to the incessant go-go-go of the rat race, mind/body awareness will be bigger than ever this year. "Pilates and yoga are still hot," says Macuha. Anyone who's ever had ab envy after watching a Madonna video should try one of two new Pilates offshoots: Gyrokinesis, a combination of Pilates, dance, and tai chi; or Gyrotonic, a machine-based exercise that counts the Material Girl among its devotees. Ria Zervos, group exercise director of Club One Fillmore, predicts group Pilates Reformer classes will be a hit in 2005. In the past, these machine-based workouts were done one-on-one with a trainer, making them cost-prohibitive for those of us whose lifestyles are more Mission District than Marina.
But 2005 also finds people willing to shell out extra cash for premium classes and services such as personal training and nutrition coaching. "We've seen a gradual increase in [people] willing to pay extra money on top of dues, because they figure out that it's not gonna happen on their own," says Greg Nagaye, exercise director at Club One Santana Row in San Jose. Macuha concurs: "Nutritionists are becoming like financial experts. People are saying, 'Please help me.' They need a plan."
Just as we're craving some help wading through the glut of diet advice -- South Beach or Atkins? Low-carb or no-carb? -- gym-goers are looking for simplicity in their exercise regimens. "You'll see [fewer] choreographed classes like Hi/Lo and Step, and more classes with less choreography that attract a broad range of clients," says Nagaye. Translation: Ditch the headband and legwarmers, because Step is out, but hip-hop and Latin aerobics -- like Crunch's Samba Groove -- are coming back. According to SC/L.A.'s Macuha, "People are saying, 'I want to move again.' It has to do with MTV, Britney, Christina, J. Lo., Usher ... people are going, 'That looks like fun; let's do that.'"
On the whole, this year's fitness trends are disappointingly sensible and non-faddish, as trainers move toward sustainable workouts that fit a long-term fitness plan. Bo-ring! Okay, we all know moderation works and slow and steady wins the race and blah blah blah, but indulging in the gimmicky stuff is half the fun, even when you know it won't stick. Trend-chasers might want to try Masala Bhangra, which is huge in New York and is now offered at Club One Fillmore. "It's a real dance that men in India actually do," Zervos insists. Feeling burly? Lose the traditional free weights in favor of kettle bells, used by the Russians in the 1920s and now, Nagaye claims, making a comeback. Or put a cinematic spin on kickboxing with SC/L.A.'s Fight Groove: Channel your inner ass-kicking Uma Thurman as you learn fight sequences from films like Kill Bill and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It's no cardio striptease, but it's a start.