The fitness world is constantly evolving, sometimes for good, sometimes for the sake of it. There are several driving forces behind the changes. For one, we have updates coming from labs and universities across the world improving the knowledge of exercise and nutrition science. This is a generally a good thing, if the science is well interpreted and used appropriately we move towards a more informed and scientific approach to what we do. The next factor is the need to keep trainees engaged and interested in exercise. This often leads to the more faddish diet and exercise fashions that ultimately rise and fall. On the extreme end of this we have the uber trendy diets and classes which attract the slebs like flies on shit. This fulfills a need for some people to be seen in the right place and with the right gear as much as it does a need to keep fit, but like high fashion, there is often a trickle down effect, so is worth keeping an eye out for even if you aren't in Made in Chelsea.
The third driver, and this as a fitness consumer should worry you most, is the need of your fitness provider, whether that's a personal trainer or gym, to differentiate themselves by staying up with, or ahead of, current trends. On the face of it, that should be a good thing, but unfortunately what it actually means is your fitness advisor goes to a fitness (wild west frontier snake oil sales) conference, gets sold on some completely unsubstantiated piece of kit/supplement/training programme, and then comes and sells it on to you. Cue several months of flailing away using multicoloured plastic straps, balance training kit that belongs in a rehab setting, while you could be getting a well planned program that has progressive overload, that gets you stronger, more athletic and improves your body composition.
I should point out at this point that I'm always looking for ways to improve the service I provide, and I do integrate devices such as the ViPR and TRX, where appropriate, but too often I see trainers completely abandon regular weight training, which we know works, for something that looks cool and might not. By the way, they do this experimentation with your training, but you can bet your ass after your session involving some circus tricks and gadgetry, they go straight ahead and do some heavy barbell back squats for themselves.
So what trends can I see on the horizon? I'll start with group fitness, as I used to teach a circuit class and a couple of indoor cycling classes so therefore I consider myself an authority on the studio.
1. Group Fitness
The one thing I can pretty much guarantee with group fitness will be more of what I like to call the "Planet of the Apes" principle. The original Planet of the Apes, starring Charlton Heston, was released in 1968, only to be remade with Mark Wahlberg cast in the lead in 2001. This paved the way for a bunch of other remakes, including Clash of the Titans and Superman. And so it is with group fitness, classes are rehashed, only we don't have the decency to keep the same names so that you know what you are getting. For example, circuit training became bootcamp, which in turn became known as metcon, and is now masquerading as HIIT. Even Tabata classes are done as circuits, just using the 4 x 20 second work periods with 10 second rest timing structure.
If there is to be something new in the world of group fitness I think we'll see more strongman style training, involving loaded carries, pushing and pulling sleds, flipping things, and throwing heavy objects around. One name to look out for is City Strongman. My hunch is that they could be the next big players in this market, in the same way British Military Fitness did with the park based bootcamps. Don't be fooled into thinking this is only for big strong guys, and women who look like big strong guys, it's not. It's a great way of crossing the boundaries between strength and conditioning, and if appropriately scaled for each individual is a great way to train for most goals. Also, it's extremely therapeutic, smashing things, pushing them over and dragging heavy shit around is actually quite good fun.
Outside of this, expect a continuation of the dominance of some of the programmes currently available in the studio, Les Mills (Body Pump, Body Balance, RPM etc) and Zumba, as both instructors and members alike lack imagination and so will continue with the tired and true formats.
In all honesty, I can only guess at what some fitness instructor/inventor is about to pull out of their arse and inflict on the world. If I did know, I would be the one inventing it, in the hope that I can mince around the globe going to fitness conferences and appearing on late night infomercials instead of actually trying to work with real people to get results. But I don't, so I'll speculate instead. Suffice to say there will be something new, promising outlandish results in amazingly short time frames that will probably have a small use, without being anywhere near as effective as claimed (eg power plates, remember them? "Get 60mins of training in 10mins").
That said, there are a few bits of equipment that are already available, just not that commonplace yet, that I think we'll see more of over the next few months. Due, in my opinion, to the rise of Crossfit, weight training has moved towards the mainstream of fitness consciousness. Deadlifts, squats and olympic lifting is moving out of the dusty sports and powerlifting gyms and into commercial gyms as people start to realise the benefits to be had, including improved athleticism, physique and health. This is very much in line with what I wrote earlier with regards to the stongman training. Therefore the kinds of things we'll start to see more of are barbells, trap-bars, strongman equipment (push/pull sleds, farmers walk bars, tires etc).
In a similar vein as with the equipment, I can't foresee the next fad diet, but I know it's coming, I can just feel it. Someone out there is cooking up (pun intended) a diet based on the cherry picking of the science to support its claims. Once the nutritional science community has mobilised and explained that the only thing magical about this diet is that it restricts the calories by demonising a food or nutrient, it will have already sold millions of copies and be busy gathering dust on peoples' shelves, having only ever had the first two chapters read.
Maybe someone will write a book that actually helps people with their nutritional challenges, such as coping with your children's leftovers without eating them yourself, how to say no to alcohol without people thinking you are pregnant and how to not buy chocolate buttons and/or wine at the end of a hard day, which becomes a habit, which becomes a routine which becomes a borderline addiction.
I'll wrap up by saying this, whatever your reasons for embarking on a fitness journey, if you know your desired destination, we'll already have a route to take you there. In all my years of being a fitness satnav, I have very rarely been unable to point people in the right direction, it's just that sometimes people don't want to take the route suggested. I hope that through improvements in exercise and nutritional science we can refine our approach, and that these improvements make it through to the service providers and through to you to help you find the quickest route. However, if you are waiting for a magic teleportation device or shortcut, I suggest that you don't hold your breath.
In the meantime, I'm heading back on to the gym floor to resume my role as fitness sherpa to guide someone up their training Everest.
Before I start this blog, I'll ask a quick question, have you ever noticed how the people who are in the best shape, the fittest, strongest and leanest, never seem to use these kinds of fast track solutions? So what gives? Can these short term strategies lead to long term results? Or are they a just a way of promising the holy grail of fitness which is big results in return for minimum effort but in reality they come up short?
As a trainer I should be happy to see people trying to make an effort, right? I mean, what's the worse that can happen if you try something, albeit unsustainable, for a couple of weeks or months? Well, there are two potential issues. I'll start with the physiological problem first.
1. What happens to your metabolism when you diet
During a consultation a client once expressed his intention to “reset his metabolism” by following a juice diet that he had seen on the internet for a period of two weeks. The theory being that he would lose a couple of kilos over that period and “kick start” his fat loss. The only problem being that that is not how the metabolism works, sadly dieting has the opposite effect on your metabolism.
Repeated dieting makes you fatter, and the effect appears to be dose dependant. In other words, the more often that you diet, the fatter you will end up. This effect is independent of genetics and is referred to as "dieting-induced weight gain". This appears to be as a result of several factors, but essentially the calorie deficit triggers some metabolic adaptations, sometimes referred to as metabolic damage, which effectively decreases the amount of calories you expend at rest and increases your body's ability to preferentially store calories as fat when they do arrive. This, frankly, is an awesome evolutionary adaptation if you need to survive harsh winters or periods of low food availability. Just think, one year you nearly starve to death over winter, so next year, your body saves energy as fat ready for the next one. Not quite so great if you crash dieted for your friends wedding this year to fit in the hideous bridesmaid's dress, and next year you are getting married in August in a strapless number and want to shift that stubborn upperback fat. Therefore if you are embarking on some kind of diet, it wants to be either a long term sustainable change, or at the very least, be aware that a short term strategy may have long term consequences. In other words, think before you diet.
So what about detox/cleanse diets? Maybe you are doing it for the health benefits rather than the weight loss. That's a good thing to work towards, good health is a fantastic thing to have, after all, whenever someone says, "at least you've got your health" when your life is going down the pan, imagine how bad it would be if you didn't even have that? So do these diets actually resolve your bodies toxic build up?
First of all, a quick digression about toxicity. Anything can be toxic at the right dose. Too much water can kill, and has done, so simply saying something is toxic requires a bit more context. In other words, there are many things in our diets that are toxic at the right dose, but safe or even beneficial below that. An example of the overuse of the word toxic is when people put it in the sentence “sugar is toxic”. It’s not, unless over a certain dose. I’m not recommending high levels of sugar as being healthy, but to suggest the odd sugary treat can’t be part of a healthy diet is frankly both alarmist and ignorant.
To return to the question of detox diets and their efficacy, I'll leave you with three points which should make you think twice about starting a cleanse, particularly one which costs money. The first is this; in 2009 an investigation into 15 detox products found that not a single producer could name any of the toxins that their products were supposed to be combating when asked. The second is that the body is quite capable of detoxifying itself thank you very much. Liver, kidney, lungs, skin etc. all doing a great job without mysterious products. The third is this; any restrictive diet by it's nature can lead to deficiencies, a healthy diet should be varied and contain all the essential nutrients required for healthy function. Some of these detoxes encourage being on juices and cutting back on meat and protein in general. Protein is not bad for you, essential amino acids are just that, essential, as indeed are essential fatty acids.
Toxins are indeed real, it's just that there is no evidence to suggest that detox diets actually remove them.
2. The Wrong Mindset
If you are still not convinced by the physiological arguments, there is the behavioural issue. If you want to get results, and not in a kind of airey-fairey sort of way, then you need to get your head around the fact that hard work and consistency trumps short termism everytime. Short term goals can be great, but only in as much as they should ultimately be part of a bigger picture. If you want to lose a few pounds quickly, that's OK, but you do need to have some sort of exit strategy from your diet to prevent rebound. In the meantime, if you want to improve your diet, make changes that suit you, that you think that you can do, not for 10 days, or 4 weeks, but that you can see yourself doing in 2 years, 5 years and for the rest of your life.
Each individual and their goals are different, but if you have a few things with regards to your diet and lifestyle that need overhauling, you are probably better off setting yourself one or two achievable goals to accomplish to start with. This might be going to the gym twice a week and eating 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per kg of your body weight per day. Once these behaviours have become your new normal, then add in some more, bit by bit you will lay down some sustainable changes that will improve your health, physique and performance.
That said, it is totally understandable if you feel like you absolutely have to change your physique in a short space of time, in preparation for a wedding for example. It that situation, a piecemeal approach may not cut it, and you will need a more drastic approach to meet your goals. Please just bear in mind that severe restrictions and hardcore approaches can lead to big rebounds, so just be aware of the pact you are making with yourself.
I'm off for a quick lemon and pepper colon cleanse so I'll leave you to your protein shakes and push ups,