In 2014, the gym is the new nightclub. Calluses are the new tattoos. And strong is the new skinny.
No more excuses. You say that to yourself every year, right? Well, there’s a strong possibility this year will be different. Not because you will magically gain superhuman willpower. Or because chocolate chip cookies will suddenly taste like sawdust. But because fitness is going to be easier, more accessible and more seductive than ever before. All you need to do is stop fighting the trend and go with the flow. And while you’re at it, ditch those over sized, grubby, gym T-shirts.
1. Flip a tire
Grit and grime are trendy. As gyms started to hone their swish-appeal, adding masseurs, therapists and DJs to the mix, the notoriously fickle fitness pack dramatically changed tack. In retrospect, we should have seen it coming when Parkour and free running gained fans. Inspired by the influential Cross-Fit company, which now has an estimated 7000 affiliated gyms around the world, workouts are now tough, competitive and ruthless. On the bright side, they have also never been as thoroughly researched, scientifically designed and addictive as they are today. You and your treadmill can finally part ways. This year, you will work out under the trees, despite sweat, sunshine and bird poop. You will flaunt callused hands, occasional bruises and aching muscles. And like adrenalin-junkies all over, you’ll revel in this new world where you flip tires, carry sandbags and hoist logs of wood.
2. Get a life
Six days at the gym? Two hours each day? That’s exactly why regular people give up. Who has the time? Enter last year’s hottest exercise protocol, which will explode this year, moving from avant-garde boot camps to big format gyms: HIIT, or High Intensity training. Quick but not easy, these short sessions – anything from a few minutes to half an hour – whittle down your workout to the bare essentials. The most popular of these is Tabata, founded in Japan by Izumi Tabata when he conducted tests on two groups of athletes to compare moderate high intensity training with high intensity interval training and found that HIIT improved aerobic systems as well as anaerobic systems.
3. Not just cricket
Playing a game doesn’t necessarily make you fit. Typically, Indians grow up on cricket, segue into something like badminton in college and then amble to the golf course. This year, expect a change in people’s attitude to sports. While people once played to get fit, now fitness canters are filled with people getting fit to play. As everyone is slowly realising, a strong body enables you to do everything better. We are also going to expand our repertoire and challenge ourselves in new ways as hobbies such as surfing, scuba diving and horse-riding get more accessible.
4. Want to be an acrobat?
It happens every year. There always have to be some outrageously hip workouts which hit the headlines, drawing hordes of trend-hunters. This year’s list is topped by aerial fitness, where you’re suspended from the roof with ropes, straps or a strong silken hammock. Inspired by the enviably fit dancer-acrobats of Cirque du Soleil, it’s undeniably intriguing. Of course, yoga continues to be reinvented in some truly zany avatars. New York’s ‘Om Factory,’ for instance, offers AcroYoga, HoopVinyasa and — hold your breath — a yoga fight club.
5 Running gets filthy
More people are running. That’s for sure. Marathons get bigger every year. Running groups are springing up in every neighbourhood. And your Facebook home page is plastered with pictures of friends boasting about their 10K/ Half Marathon/ Full Marathon. The next obvious move will be runs-for-fun, as people look for completely different sets of challenges. Fortunately the 2014 calendar has plenty to offer. The 5K mud run in Hyderabad, for starters, which forces participants to run, crawl and belly flop through obstacles and water pits. Bengaluru’s midnight marathon with large display video screens along the track, flashy lighting and rock bands. Or Auroville’s trail through the forest on a dirt road.
6. Coaches go professional
A big set of biceps doesn’t cut it anymore. India’s largely unregulated fitness industry is slowly, but steadily, changing thanks to an influx of articulate, committed and well-trained young professionals. The muscle men of the past who bullied you into doing 50 push-ups every morning simply because they could are being replaced by trainers who maintain files on every client, and design intuitive workouts. It’s partly a response to the market, as customers get more demanding, enquiring about qualifications and looking for coaches they can connect with. And partly because the recent influx of professionals from fancy universities who, realising how much potential the industry has, are intent on making a career out of fitness.
7. The new celebrities
Have you heard of Dr. Mehmet Oz, popularly known as ‘America’s Doctor?’ If you’ve ever googled a fitness question, you’re probably nodding yes, because ‘Dr Oz,’ a Turkish-American cardiothoracic surgeon made famous by Oprah, comes up on almost every search. This is the year of the health celebrity, famous because of his/her ideas, unlike the ones in the past who only got famous via their clients. Usually in breathless articles with titles such as ‘Get Michelle Obama’s Arms’ or ‘Jennifer Aniston’s Legs’. Other famous names? There’s Michael Pollan, popular for his mantra ‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’ And Rich Froning, Crossfit athelete, who has been called the ‘fittest man on earth’. If you’re cleaning up your diet, then you probably a Mark Sisson fan, who explains the primal diet in his blog, Mark’s Daily Apple. Or a follower of Brad Pilon, who uses his multiple nutrition degrees to rubbish the fundamental dietician’s commandment — thou shall eat breakfast, with ‘Intermittent Fasting.’
8. Small, medium, muscle-fit
Noticed how all the gym-toned boys are suddenly in really snug tee-shirts? Or how even everyday clothing now comes in small, medium and ‘muscle-fit’ sizes? Sports wear has vaulted its way out of the gym and into offices, clubs and cafes. Those velour Juicy Coutour track pants aren’t just Kardarshian accessories anymore. As gyms, fitness studios and bootcamps become social hubs, they’re also becoming intimidatingly trendy. Workout gear goes designer in interesting ways. Australian Blackmilk offers leggings in ‘burnt velvet’, ‘spartan lace’ and ‘baby giraffe.’ In India we have Urban Yoga, with lots of spandex, and even more pink. And then there’s Lululemon, which makes what they call “technical athletic clothes for yoga, running, working out, and most other sweaty pursuits.”