exercise-trends-50-year-oldI just returned from a fitness conference that had me going straight for three and half days and hearing way too many WOOO’s!!!! as I tried out new classes and the latest (whether they’re the greatest or not has yet to be determined) techniques for getting the world in shape! So here are some pearls of wisdom from the weekend. For the most part, it reinforces a lot of what I already do in leading classes and in 1:1 sessions.

1.  Weight machines are going out of favor. Free weights, (dumbbells) bands, stability and pilates balls and tubing are preferable because they use many muscle groups synergistically, the way muscles actually work together in everyday life.

2.  You can train your balance, just as you can train for strength. It’s important to work on dynamic balance, as that’s the balance we use when trying to right ourselves to prevent a fall, reach for something when standing, and decelerating quickly.

3.  Small group training as opposed to larger group training is getting more popular, as the instructor knows the group members and can correct positions and provide adaptations as needed for injuries or chronic problems.

4.  Body weight training is trending up, both on the floor and suspension training with straps like TRX training. This uses variation of angles and positions to challenge oneself in an easy-to-grade way that avoids injury. Examples are push-ups, pull-ups, shoulder exercises, and extension poses.

5. Functional exercises, which mimic the actions we use in everyday life are being taught more because people want to feel less exerted when doing their typical routines. Examples are lunges with tubing, squats (we know how often we use that position!) and dynamic balance positions. This includes “muscle balancing” which prevents overuse injuries in one set of muscles, and weakness and overstretching in the opposing set. For example, many people work quadriceps too much, without focusing on hamstrings and gluteal muscles.

6.  There’s an emphasis on overall wellness, with one’s whole program in mind, including nutrition, hydration, consistent exercise, stress management and proper sleep. Prioritizing those activities will keep you healthy, as opposed to just doing rote exercises where you may use weights and machines, but neglect overall lifestyle habits.

7.   Technology, like using a Fitbit, heart rate monitor and iPhone apps such as myfitnesspal helps track calories, steps and any movement during the day. There are remote ways to monitor progress, but most people benefit from person-to-person interaction (no big surprise here).

8.  There’s an increase in working out with others, as we are social beings (or pack animals) and we like camaraderie and knowing we’re not going it alone.

9.  Core training is a foundation for all training, not just an additional part of your body that needs trimming down. Back, postural and shoulder retraction and protraction are all important components of core training, best utilized when doing complex movements with upper and lower body.

10. “Fusion” classes combine cardio, strength training, stretching, relaxation, balance training, or classes that combine yoga and/or tai-chi and pilates, or dance and stretching, etc. Think “chi-lates” (sounds like a nice tea-coffee drink!)

11.  High intensity interval training involves 20 seconds of “all out” exertion, with intervals of 10 seconds of rest. Tabata, created by a Japanese master, uses these high intensity intervals to evoke an afterburn, where you continue to burn more calories long after the workout is finished. The total time of the workout is less, but there’s a huge increase in intensity. This needs to be done with consciousness and an excellent knowledge of body mechanics to prevent injury or strain. I still felt my hip flexors three days after I took a high intensity interval class – yowch!

12.   More aquatic classes are being offered, because it’s so easy on the joints, muscles and excellent for the back. Gravity is eliminated in the water, so former athletes and weekend warriors can worry less about re-injury. You can get a full body workout with minimal strain to soft tissue. The down side is that it doesn’t count as resistance training, so there are no real bone density benefits.

13. The industry has increased its focus on certification and licensure to practice various techniques to keep the riff-raff out of our profession! Some “trainers” just hang out a shingle and begin training people because they were marine sergeants, triathletes or gym rats and know how to work out, so they can teach others. Beware of those without credentials, or those who haven’t had plenty of background in some bodywork or medical profession. Some of the presenters had been doing personal training for several decades, and they had my respect. They’ve watched the industry morph from Jane Fonda, Jackie Sorenson, Jazzercise, and the initial introduction of “aerobics” classes. We’ve come a long way since those classes that, in hindsight, had very poor transitions and no focus on body mechanics and/or proper alignment.

14.  Latin and other types of dance classes continue to be popular because they’re fun and social. Many of these dance classes are now using resistance in the form of light weights to enhance upper body endurance.

15.  Last, but not least (and most painful) is the use of foam rollers. They can play a large role in reducing muscle tension and releasing tight fascia. Fascia is that little known but very important cellophane-like tissue that wraps around all our muscles. Much of our stiffness can be attributed to tight and gnarled fascia, as opposed to just plain old muscle knots. Both contribute to that tight feeling in our limbs, back, shoulder, pelvic girdle and neck. I found two excellent videos on YouTube on foam roller instruction that I highly recommend. Remember to go easy at the beginning. Go from a softer roller to a harder one if it’s too painful initially. With regular use, you will feel a difference in your muscle tension. Check out these videos on youtube on foam rolling to learn more:

Foam Roller Coach:

Ashley Borden:

You can find Ellen’s blog here


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