A swarm of new combo classes such as Piloxing, aerial yoga, Core Fusion Barre, and Neuromuscular Integrative Action are designed to confuse more than just your tongue. By mixing workouts with disparate disciplines (think: Pilates + boxing, Zumba + water aerobics) they can get your body working in ways it wouldn't otherwise, says Jessica Matthews, exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise and certified personal trainer and group instructor. (Related: Fitness Secrets from Top Trainers) "Avid spinners, for example, may be missing a strength component," she says. By taking a fusion spin class that uses resistance bands or free weights, they can train a wider range of muscle groups." What's more, these classes can be a fun way to change up a stale fitness routine.
Get Started Pick a class that has one of your favorite workouts in the name, Matthews suggests. If you're a yoga fanatic, classes such as Yogalates (yoga + Pilates) and stand-up paddleboard yoga (yoga done on a paddleboard), can be a great way to introduce a new type of workout.
No disrespect to fancy equipment, but your body is a super-efficient exercise machine all on its own. "There are so many workouts you can do with limited space and no equipment," Matthews says. You can easily tailor the intensity to fit your ability, and by allowing your body to exercise in its natural planes--rather than in stiff motions--these exercises relieve pressure on joints and reduce the risk of injury. While bodyweight workouts have been a pillar of at-home workouts for years, gyms are now upping their no-gear game, according the 2013 American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends. More personal trainers and group fitness classes now integrate bodyweight training into their workouts.
Get Started Try your gym's gear-free classes or make an appointment with a personal trainer. They can teach you new bodyweight training moves, correct your form, and give you the skills to get in a great workout wherever you go.
Has your bottom line been keeping you from personal training sessions? Consider signing up for small-group personal training. About 8 in 10 personal trainers are offering their services at deep discounts for crews of two to five, according to IDEA Health & Fitness Association. While one-on-one personal training sessions cost anywhere from $40-$100 an hour, the price of small-group training drops as low as $15 an hour per person. What's more, training with a tight-knit bunch can motivate you in ways both one-on-one personal training sessions and large group classes can't. "You have the camaraderie of people going through the experience with you. They know your name, will cheer you on, and call you out if you miss a session," says Matthews.
Get Started Ask your fittest friends to sign up with you: People tend to exercise at the same level of those around them, according to researchers from Santa Clara University. So the faster and stronger your workout companions are, they faster and stronger you'll be, too.
Are you driving your personal trainer crazy? Exercise experts dish on their Top Pet Peeves.
With blasting music, high-energy routines, and non-stop movement, these classes are more than fun. They're also a great cardiovascular workout. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse's Department of Exercise and Sport Science found that the average Zumba "fitness party" burns more than 300 calories. Plus, by engaging your entire body, dance workouts ranging from ballet to Bollywood can hit muscles traditional workouts miss.
Get Started If you belong to a gym, ask to see what dance-inspired fitness classes they have. Or, if you have a specific trademarked workout like Pure Barre, Zumba, or Masala Bhangra in mind, check the company's website for locations near you.
Hate tromping on the treadmill? Go outside. The simple switch can up your caloric burn by about 5 percent, thanks to wind and varied terrain. Plus, outdoor exercise can reduce tension, frustration, and depression better than the indoor variety, according to recent research published in Environmental Science & Technology. That's why more fitness professionals are offering outdoor activities to their clients than ever before, says Walter R. Thompson, PhD, Regents' professor of kinesiology and health at Georgia State University. (Related: Trainers' Favorite Outdoor Workouts) From hiking and kayaking to running up bleachers and performing incline pushups on park benches, fitness classes are helping people turn their local landscape into the perfect outdoor gym.
Get Started Ask your gym if it offers outdoor fitness classes, or run a simple Google search for running, biking, or outdoor yoga groups in your area. If you decide to head out solo, keep your phone on you in case of emergency. Safety first!
Based on the calisthenics the U.S. Army's basic-training program uses to kick new recruits into shape (like push-ups, squat thrusts, punches, and kicks), boot camps can torch about 600 calories an hour and are growing to be among the most popular workouts in 2013. For instance, about one-third of the member clubs of the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, a trade organization for health clubs, offer boot camp-style fitness classes. And they aren't just hot in gyms: there are hundreds of different boot-camp DVDs for sale on Amazon, and the most widely popular boot-camp workout, CrossFit, shares daily exercises online at CrossFit.com.
Get Started Boot-camps get results for a reason: They push you. Hard. But that's no reason for your form to be sloppy. If you need to, scale back on your level of intensity so that you maintain proper form. Doing to will cut your risk of injury and you'll reap better results over the long-term.
Strapped for time? Your results don't have to stall. High-intensity interval training (HIIT)--short bursts of intense exercise with short recovery breaks in between--is one of the most efficient techniques fitness professionals use today. (Search: Tabata HIIT) According to researchers from Canada's McMaster University, 10 one-minute sprints on a standard stationary bike with about one minute of rest in between, three times a week, works muscles as well as 10 hours of continuous moderate bicycling exercise over a two-week period. Besides getting you more results in less time, HIIT workouts beat boredom by regularly switching up speed and intensity, says Matthews.
Get Started Crank up the intensity of your favorite workout. You can pace any exercise--from running to weight lifting--with short burst of intense exercise followed by short recovery breaks, Matthews says. If you're a gym class hero, ask your fitness club if it offers any HIIT classes. Even if a class doesn't have "HIIT" in the name, it could still involve the technique.
Maximize your workout settng it up as a fast-paced circuit. To do this, perform a group of six to 10 exercises one after another for a specified number of repetitions before moving on to the next exercise. "There is little to no rest in between exercises, so it keeps the heart rate up and burns more calories in a shorter, faster workout," says Matthews. "Plus, by never repeating sets of the same exercise back-to-back, circuit training will let you work as many muscle groups as you want in one workout.
Get Started For the best results, perform both cardio and strength exercises within your circuit, Matthews suggest. Circuit training is versatile and can be applied to everything from high-intensity interval training bodyweight exercises to outdoor runs.
Stimulate maximum biceps growth with The Superfast Circuit.
Fitness is more than just exercise or nutrition, says Thompson. "It's a lifestyle," That's why more and more wellness coaches are springing up across the country, offering guidance on long-term changes people can make to get fit for good. They offer a one-on-one approach similar to that of personal trainers, but look holistically at a person's lifestyle to determine which healthy behavior modifications and strategies to put into place. As wellness coaching gains in popularity, more personal trainers are also offering both in-and out-of-the-gym approaches to their training.
Get Started While doctor referrals are still in their early stages, you can ask your doctor if they know of any wellness coaches near you that fit your health needs. Also ask at your gym if they staff any wellness coaches. Before your first session, think about what you want out of the partnership. While some people meet with coaches a few times just to get started with healthy strategies, others work with them regularly for years.
With more gyms partnering with group-deal sites like Groupon, LivingSocial, and YouSwoop, now's the perfect time to score a deal for your health. These websites offer anywhere from one to 10 exercise classes at steep discounts, and allow you to try a workout you wouldn't otherwise. "The deals are great for people who are not sure if they want to make a financial commitment to a class they don't know about," Matthews says. "They give people a chance to go out and try something new. Who knows, they might even find a new passion."
Everything our bodies do can be broken down into five essential movements: squat, lunge, push, pull, and rotate. Functional fitness works with these natural movements to improve joint stability and mobility and improve your quality of life. "Rather than isolating muscle groups, functional exercises require various parts of the body to work together as they were designed to," says Matthews. While this total-body technique is important for any exerciser, it is particularly beneficial for people recovering from injuries or people that have developed muscle imbalances due to training that misses key muscle groups.
Get Started Ask your gym if its personal trainers can administer a Functional Fitness Test, which will evaluate how your body performs the five essential movements, Matthews says. By revealing which of your muscle groups are weaker than others, it will give you the opportunity to better incorporate those groups into your future workouts.
In an effort to reduce healthcare costs and boost productivity, more and more companies are offering their employees a range of fitness programs and services, Thompson says. Employee incentive programs, for instance, offer workers cash prizes, gift certificates, extra vacation days, or other rewards for participating in the program. Like a little competition? In corporate fitness challenges, different companies, or different departments within the same company, compete to lose the most weight, run the fastest, or complete the most pushups.
Get Started Ask your company's human resource department if the company offers any wellness incentive programs or corporate challenges, Thompson says. If not, you can always start your own with colleagues. If a large group of competitors put in just $10, the camaraderie (combined with the sizeable cash reward) might be what you need to make fitness a priority.
Many gym memberships cost more than $600 a year, which can be a waste if you're more of a no-show than a gym rat. And getting to a health club isn't always convenient. To save money and time--and to eliminate the excuses that kept them from using their memberships in the first place--more and more people are working out at home, says Matthews.
Get Started Before you purchase kettle bells, exercise balls, and cardio equipment, try working out using your own body weight for resistance. You'll still get a great burn, and the no-gear routine will give you a chance to see if you like working out at home before you invest in gym equipment.