It's that time of year again -- the time when gyms start advertising free pizza with every membership sale, and late-night TV fills up with juicer and ab machine infomercials promoted by hardbodies who almost certainly don't use the products they're selling.
Oh, fitness hypocrisy, how we adore thee.
It's also the time of year when fitness trends become buzzy -- where even those who view "exercise" as a four-letter word start brushing up on their knowledge so they'll have something to say at happy hour and cocktail parties. Because if you don't know that crawling is the new running, how can you possibly have anything worthwhile to share? (Kidding. Sort of.)
Never fear, I've got your back. Here are a few of the buzziest fitness trends to hit the streets in 2017.
According to The Washington Post, "crawling is the new plank." Yes, crawling like a baby.
The concept comes from the 2011 book Becoming Bulletproof, written by Tim Anderson, the co-founder of a "human movement education" company, Original Strength. Anderson's argument for crawling is that, simply put, babies crawl before they walk. They crawl to develop unilateral strength in all four limbs to contribute to a healthy gait pattern. By encouraging adults to introduce crawling into a training program, he's helping them "press reset" on their own poor movement patterns to help reinstate enhanced mobility.
Which brings us to the actual trend -- movement -- although "crawling" is certainly more buzz-worthy.
Katy Bowman, a biomechanist and the author of Movement Matters, puts it this way, "It's not about exercise at all, but about movement. That moving more throughout the day might be better than trying to find the best way to spend that single hour you've allotted to [exercise]." And where movement is concerned, range of motion and fluidity come into play. The idea that it's not just about performing a squat or going for a run, but that you should constantly move, working your joints through their full range of motion in different patterns to support a healthy, pain-free, fully mobile life.
As such, more personal trainers, fitness instructors, and health coaches will add movement theory to their clients' programs, and movement-based workouts, like yoga and Pilates, will continue to grow as cross-training for other activities. But feel free to crawl to your heart's content.
Commuting is the new best time to work out
It should come as no surprise that walking follows crawling, but despite its perpetual popularity as a form of exercise, walking isn't usually considered "trendy." A funny thing happens, though, when broke millennials can't afford gyms or cars -- they turn basic human movement into the coolest thing since sliced bread.
At least, that's according to the American Council on Exercise's (ACE) latest rundown of 2017 fitness trends, which reports that millennials flocking to big, expensive cities are looking for alternative (i.e., cheaper) ways to get around. As a result, walking and cycling commutes are picking up steam, along with a corresponding rise in sales of commuter bikes, cycling gear, and athleisure attire.
Just, you know, keep an eye on your athleisure budget. Walking and cycling may be comparatively cheap (and a whole lot better for you than sitting in a car), but all the "must-have" accessories can really add up.
Rest days aren't for "rest" anymore
Rest and recovery workouts were big trends in 2016, and they show no sign of slowing down in 2017 (or anytime, really) -- because, let's be real, who doesn't love the fact that rest is the new workout? As CrossFit, extreme races, and high-intensity interval training have left people practically crippled from post-workout muscle soreness, more people are recognizing they have to make time for recuperation.
And they’re bragging about it.
According to WGSN, the leading global trends forecaster, there are more than 1.2 million #restday hashtags on Instagram, and it's not just stretching, foam rolling, and mind-body workouts gaining steam. Mike Clancy, the owner of Mike Clancy Training, explains, "Considering the growing amount of daily activity on smartphones, tablets, and so forth, the need for better recovery habits will be the new focus of the wellness and fitness industry." As such, everything from cryotherapy to hydrotherapy and halotherapy are getting fresh buzz, along with an increased focus on sleep habits, recovery mattresses and pillows, and "nap classes."
You may have heard of "intuitive eating," a big trend a few years ago focused on a mindful approach to food consumption -- an approach where you really stop and think about what your body needs (and how much it needs) before sitting down to eat. Well, it was just a matter of time before intuitive training took its turn in the spotlight.
Yuri Elkaim, a health and fitness expert, New York Times best-selling author, and former pro soccer player, sums it up this way: "Intuitive training essentially means listening to your body and exercising in a way that honors how you're feeling on a day-to-day basis." He emphasizes that lots of prescribed workout programs are great for helping people develop a routine, but their "one-size-fits-all" structure ignores individual needs. "Intuitive training allows you to check in with your body... If you're exhausted, it's probably a good idea not to do that intense workout and maybe opt for a lighter recovery session or a gentle yoga routine."
The challenge, of course, is that if you're not really committed to following a workout routine, you can "intuitively train" your way right out of the gym. Let's be real: There are only so many days your body intuitively "needs to stay on the couch for a Netflix binge" instead of "needs to sub yoga for CrossFit" before you're no longer intuitively training, and just making excuses not to exercise.
Elkaim says, "The only prerequisite with intuitive training is that you should have a decent understanding of how to train properly. If you don't, your best bet is to have a number of different workouts at your disposal that you can pick and choose from based on how your body's feeling."
In other words, if you rate your energy and overall health on a scale of one to five, have a different workout pre-planned for each level of energy.
Online workouts will continue to explode on every platform
Apps. Online training and virtual studios. Facebook Live. Instagram. Snapchat. You can now find free or low-cost classes and personal training 24 hours a day, seven days a week, if you're willing to take five seconds to search for it. ACE's 2017 trendcast agrees, stating that social media outlets, in particular, provide fitness professionals with a way to connect with people around the world while finding new sources of revenue.
Jennifer Leah Gottlieb of JLG Fitness points out that for the average consumer, "convenience remains king," which is why live-streaming classes are gaining such steam, "I've recently begun an online coaching program to accommodate clients that are not local or have sporadic travel schedules because of their jobs." The only downside to the rise of anywhere, anytime fitness? You literally can’t use the "I don't have time or access" excuse to skip a session.
Fitness vacations will officially become A Thing
It used to be that vacations were just that -- vacations. Now, vacations need to be something truly Instagrammable, with a life-changing story of personal betterment, a la Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.
Luckily, you don't have to walk the entire Pacific Crest Trail by yourself to have the experience, because according to Stacy Schwartz, co-founder and CEO of Ketanga Fitness Retreats, "The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) recently reported that global wellness tourism revenues grew an impressive 14% from 2013 to 2015, more than twice as fast as overall tourism. GWI also projected this 'unstoppable' travel category will grow another 37.5%, to $808 billion, by 2020."
In other words, there's a retreat for that. Whether you want to take a cycling tour of France, a fitness trip to Arizona, or you want to combine your family's Disney vacation with a racing event, there's a wellness tour that will cater to your every desire.
Boutique fitness is making its way into big gyms
First there were big gyms with generic group fitness classes. Then there were little gyms without group fitness classes. Then there was the rise of the expensive, specialized boutique fitness studio.
Now? Big gyms are trying to fight their way back to the front of the line by bringing boutique-style classes into their clubs, often at a fraction of the cost of similar classes at smaller, private studios. So if you're trying to decide between a $50 monthly membership to a larger gym or a $200 monthly membership to a boutique fitness studio, check the gym's group fitness offerings to see if they're similar to the boutique experience. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Wearables are everywhere. From Fitbit to Garmin to Apple Watch, it's hard to imagine a time when you couldn't track your step count and calorie burn with the press of a button. But wearables are getting smarter, with an element of artificial intelligence turning them from wearables to "awareables."
As WGSN forecasting explains, "'Awareables' technology goes beyond the fitness wearable by providing real-time coaching based on a user's own physiology, making us more aware of our bodies." For instance, Vi uses an earbud to track its wearer's workout, offering real-time advice based on the gathered data. Likewise, Cheil Spain's Blind Cap is a swimming cap that uses Bluetooth technology to alert the wearer when to execute a turn, making swimming a more accessible activity for the visually impaired.
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