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Jill S. Brown Headshot

What's Hot and What's Not for Spring Fitness

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It's crunch season! Literally and figuratively. Forget about the obligatory New Year's drivel when most people talk about losing weight and getting in shape. No matter how well-intentioned you are in January, come February or maybe even March, the majority slide down the slippery slope and back into old, unhealthy habits. But suddenly comes spring, sunshine, warm weather and the panic of baring that pale, doughy body -- an excellent motivator for getting off the couch.

Now that it's time to shape up before you ship out on your vacation, what's going to get you into shape as fast as possible? A look at the fitness trends for 2011 may be a good place to start. Every year the industry brain trusts put out publications predicting what the growing trends are for the upcoming year in fitness. My following recommendations are not just based on my opinion or the colleagues I quoted, but from the studies published in the American College of Sports Medicine Health & Fitness Journal (Vol. 14 / no. 6) and the American Council on Exercise's "Top Fitness Trends for 2011" Survey.

Boot Camps are in and Cardio Kickboxing is out. Jumping eight spots from the number 16 spot in the last ACSM Worldwide Fitness Trend Survey is the high-intensity, military-inspired, Boot Camp. Pat Soley, Group Fitness Manager at the Sports Club/LA says boot camp type classes give exercisers "more bang for their buck by covering cardio and strength training all in one class." Most people don't want to spend hours on end at the gym to get the results they want. And for that matter, many boot camps don't require a gym at all! Cardio kickboxing classes used to be how to get cardio and strength in one workout, but these days they don't pack the punch they used to.

Pilates is still a mainstay but ho-hum compared to the recent proliferation of thigh-burning, rump-raising "bar" or "barre" classes. All it takes is one mention by Madonna and voila! You've got a fitness trend -- or fad, depending on how long the upswing lasts. This is the first year that Pilates has not made it into the top ten on the ACSM survey in several years. For 2011, it's not even in the top 20.

Wanna shake your groove thing? Zumba is the hot trend in dance type classes. Sure, hip hop still rules the club scene, but Zumba is the new party in the gym because it's easy to learn. You can buy the DVDs and brush up on your moves at home. Toni Brown, a long time Group Fitness Director for Spectrum Athletic Clubs says, "People just want to dance... [and] have fun!" And, Jay Blahnik, fitness expert, author and video personality, agrees, saying that "complex choreography were exciting, but not mainstream enough to keep a growing audience." Zumba is taught in a way "that even make[s] it possible for the non-dancer to enjoy."

Love the sweat but not the choreography? Then Spinning®, or indoor cycling (as it's known if you're at a gym not licensing the trademarked name from the company that launched the now ubiquitous group sweat-a-thon), is still making the cut at number 15 on the American College of Sports Medicine's Top 20 Worldwide Fitness Trend Survey. Most gyms have either Spinning® or some type of indoor cycling program because it works for such a wide population of people. There are also plenty of studios that cater just to this type of class. If it wasn't so effective, this workout would have faded away long ago. No gym would invest the kind of money needed for this program, which includes buying special bikes for typically 20 to 50 people, setting up an appropriate sound system, and making the space for it, if was a fad. Tony Berlant, Programs Manager for Mad Dogg Athletics (Spinning's parent company) says their program is in over "35,000 facilities in more than 100 countries worldwide and that number grows annually." Jay Blahnik says, as a fitness trend, "indoor cycling is still going strong because it is a simple, motivating and engaging way to get cardio into your routine without being hard to follow or complicated to learn."

If you prefer to share your sweat and your trainer with an intimate group of your pals, then Small Group Training is up your alley. It's a top ten fitness trend this year according to the American Council on Exercise industry survey and it ranks number 14 out of 20 on the ACSM 2011 Worldwide Fitness Trend Survey. Whether it's for the cost-saving aspect, a healthy way to socialize or because the buddy system is a tried and true method for sticking to your fitness goals, small group workouts with a trainer is gaining popularity. And with good reason, since it is a surefire way to get a customized workout you can share with your pals, and it can be done anywhere, like at your local park or right in your own backyard.

If you like your workout to be all about you and you alone, then you're actually not alone. Now that the economy is bouncing back, why not let a certified trainer help your body bounce back into shape too? Both aforementioned surveys concur that personal training is a top 10 trend in fitness not only this year, but for as long as many of these reports have existed. Having been a personal trainer since 1994 and having seen the growth in popularity, I don't really see a time when the need for knowledgeable, experienced, certified personal trainers will die.

Also making the cut in the Top 10 from ACSM's survey are: baby boomer fitness programs, children and obesity programs, core training (includes muscles of the pelvis, hips, lower back, and abdomen), functional fitness (workouts that improve balance, coordination and mimic many of the movements we do in our daily lives) and good ol' strength training, because muscles are in fashion all year long.

However you're trying to get your body ready for the spring and summer seasons, there's a fitness trend to suit your style. Since there's no better accessory than wearing a body you're proud of, get out there and start moving!