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.