New year, new you: What are the hottest fitness trends for 2011?

January 15, 2011 10:26:00 PM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


Whether motivated by New Year''s resolutions, a looming spring break at the beach, or simply a quest for healthier zest in the step, flocks of fitness seekers have Golden Triangle gyms and workout facilities brimming.  


What are the hottest fitness trends for 2011? Some are expansions on favorites like zumba and pilates. Others incorporate technology and fresh, imaginative ways to strengthen and reshape the body human. Several area fitness instructors shared what they see as some of the leading trends for the year ahead. 




Zumba still strong 


"Zumba is huge," says certified Y instructor Michelle Linn of the Latin-inspired dance-fitness program. "It started here in January of last year, and there was instant interest. The very first class, there were close to 80 people." 


Anna House of Columbus admits she''s obsessed. 


"I watched it and said, ''Oh my word, that''s it! I love the moves, the music, everything about it," enthused the mother of three, now 50. Her three-classes-a-week at the downtown Y at 602 Second Ave. N. infuse her with energy to keep up with her job in the environmental health and safety field, and with a grandchild. 


With multiple classes offered with different instructors, intensities vary.  


"It''s very cardio-related, and a high calorie-burner, too, but the amount of calories you burn is all dependent on you," said Linn. "You can burn up to 600 calories in one workout if you put forth the effort. What you put into it is what you''re going to get out of it." 


Zumba''s momentum has spawned several related Y classes for 2011, including Zumba Splash (in the pool), Teen Zumba, Zumba Tonic (for children) and Zumba Toning, said Barbara Bigelow, the Y''s director of community relations. The organization is also entering a nationwide partnership with Curves fitness franchise to teach zumba in Curves'' facilities. Those are slated to begin in February. 




Suspended animation 


At The Fitness Factor in Town Square Center, 515 18th Ave. N., Columbus, there will soon be a lot of "hanging out."  


The TRX (Total Resistance Exercise) Suspension Training system was developed by a Navy Seal and employs the user''s own body weight to deliver a total workout.  


"You can also do core training on it, as well as general strength training and stretching," said Fitness Factor owner Beth Jeffers.  


The facility''s staff also sees the Pilates Reformer growing in popularity. These machines provide a finely-tuned exercise resistance that expands on traditional pilates, which provide conditioning without adding muscle bulk. 


"People really love pilates and the Reformers," said Jeffers. "The methods increase your strength, tone your body, decompress joints, improve flexibility and range of motion and, most of all, give the body that long, lean appearance." 


Brenda White of Columbus is a Reformer fan. "It really strengthens your core, and I loved it because it stretches all of your body." 


Fitness Factor''s boot camps also continue to be a favored choice. These action-packed workouts use interval training to enhance cardio vascular fitness and increase strength, power and agility. 


Play that funky ... disco? 


Disco abs classes have "really taken off" at the Y, using exercises set to disco music and targeting the abdominal muscles. Herman Peters teaches these cardio and strength workouts at the downtown Y, where he''s a full-time fitness instructor and personal trainer. The former Commercial Dispatch Coach of the Year in both boys'' and girls'' basketball at West Lowndes School designed the abs class himself.  


"We have men, women and people of all ages, from 15 to 64. It can be adapted to people of all physical abilities, too, even those who need to sit in a chair," said Peters.  


"It''s the camaraderie of the six-pack," laughed class member Robert Lewis, 37. "Everyone in the group is there for the same reason -- to get that flat tummy. ... My stomach is going down, my endurance is coming up, and it''s a real fun exercise." 




Name your game 


"It''s really about the New Year''s resolutions right now," said Traci Wright, a physical therapist and co-owner of the recently-opened Core Fitness, the first 24/7 facility in Columbus, at 2414 Highway 45 N. 


One of the many choices members with 24-hour access enjoy is "Fitness on Request," which allows one or several members to select a class or fitness workout from a kiosk menu. The workout is then displayed on a 120-inch screen, available even at 3 in the morning.  


"You can pick cardio, abs, muscle conditioning, kick boxing, cycling, yoga, a variety of dance classes; there''s a long list," Wright noted. "And everything they would need to do the class is available in the room." 


Wright and partners Jana Whiteside, Chad Barker and Michael Putt are all physical or occupational therapists. The group also owns three Rehab at Work clinics in the city and offer complimentary consultations to members who may have health issues.  




On campus 


At Stark Recreation Center at Mississippi University for Women, zumba remains strong, said Marion McEwen, wellness coordinator for campus recreation.  


"We''re also seeing a lot of interest in the mixed martial arts conditioning and exercise drills," she added. Some of Stark''s other classes include the more advanced Super Circuit Survivor class, cardio kickbox, cycling, yoga, and crossfit, a combination of cardio, strength, endurance and flexibility training. 


At Mississippi State University, the Sanderson Center is "packed," said Fitness Director Jason Townsend. "There''s absolutely a big spike in usage; it''s the whole New Year''s resolution piece, all the way to the spring break, with students preparing for the beach body." 


Townsend sees members especially responding to "taking something pretty normal and adding a flair to it, adding a component" -- like having a cycling class get off bikes to do calisthenics, for instance. 


"Cross-over training is big, as is zumba and sharing a personal trainer with a workout partner. Belly dancing is going strong, too," added the director. 




Time to start? 


It''s no secret: Regular exercise can help control weight and stress, reduce the risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases, plus strengthen bone and muscles. It can be the difference between blah and brilliant. 


"I feel so much healthier," said House, who tries hard to never miss one of her zumba classes. "My strength has increased, and I''ve toned so much, not even thinking about it." 


For anyone who hasn''t been active for a while, however -- or if you have health concerns -- talk to your doctor before starting a new routine.  


The nonprofit American Council on Exercise is a leading authority on fitness. Its website, as well as that of the American College of Sports Medicine, offer useful resources. 


Instructors agree: Start smart. The biggest roadblock to success is often taking on too much too soon, a shortcut to discouragement.  


Select an activity or exercise suited to your current level of fitness and build from there. It can begin with something as simple as walking an extra 100 steps a day. Set goals, progress at your own pace, take advantage of moral support. Build activity into your daily routine and vary it. Know when to ease back, if necessary, and when to push. Give the "new you" a real chance to emerge.

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.