Will 2013 be the year you raise the barre? Swing into rope training? Hang around with TRX? Get a leg up with kickboxing or try some other workout that wasn’t on your fitness radar in 2012? With so many varied workouts available at health clubs and on DVD, you simply must say yes to something — but what?
Here are 13 workouts of varying intensity to consider. We’ve assigned each one a personality to help you decide if you will find it compatible.
1. Daredevil: You’ve probably seen the commercials for INSANITY, which claims to be the “hardest workout ever put on DVD,” and features a testimonial from one person who candidly admits to having thrown up the first day. Now that’s intense! For $150 or so, you get 10 DVDs that make up the 60-day program and some guidance on eating right. INSANITY’s on-screen presence is a bald, tattooed taskmaster named Shaun T, who will push you to your breaking point as he takes you through a machine gun-paced series of pushup jacks, ski abs, squats to plank and the like with little rest in between. Will you get a year’s worth of results in two months as the infomercials promise? If you do, you can join the ranks of those who have earned coveted INSANITY T-shirts. People with joint problems should pass. (www.beachbody.com)
2. Bipartisan: First Lady Michelle Obama and Mitt Romney running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, probably don’t agree on much, but they are both fans of P90X, another popular, high-intensity DVD home workout that promises fast results — in this case, in 90 days. Along with the DVDs, you’ll need some light-resistance bands or dumbbells and a chin-up bar if you want to try out trainer Tony Horton’s much ballyhooed 12 workouts that are said to use muscle confusion to create hard bodies. The idea is that by constantly changing your workout, your body is never able to adapt and will continue to make fitness gains. Selling for about $140, P90X combines resistance training, body-weight training, cardio, jump training, abdominal work, martial arts, stretching and yoga. Although more popular now than ever, the DVDs have been around about six years and have plenty of fans. (www.beachbody.com)
3. Maccabee: Learning the Israel Defense Forces-inspired martial art of Krav Maga will not only teach you how to defend yourself from would-be attackers and develop a warrior mindset; it will also provide you with a high-intensity interval workout, according to Kevin Mack of Atlantic Krav Maga, who trained with Krav Maga founder Alan Feldman. Hebrew for “combat contact,” Krav Maga has the advantage of making you forget you are working out, he says, as you learn functional skills like hitting, kicking, punching, throwing and placing someone in a joint lock. There are aggression and fatigue drills to tire you out. Krav Maga is suitable for all ages and fitness levels. The first class is free at Mack’s two locations in Warminster and Northern Liberties; New Jersey residents can attend a free first class at Israeli Krav Maga owned by David and Abel Kahn, Rinaldo Rossi and Don Melnick in Cherry Hill and Bordentown. (www.atlantickravmaga.com and www.israelikrav.com)
4. Barre-Belle: Remember ballet class, when words like “plié” and “arabesque” were commonly used? They may come back into your life via Vbarre classes, which Philadelphia Sports Clubs is offering at locations in Chalfont, Radnor, Society Hill and Rodin Place. It is part ballet, part Pilates and part resistance training. At a recent demonstration, about a dozen women of varying ages gracefully lined up at the barre for leg raises and pliés, did some cardio to get their heart rates up and used floor mats, resistance bands, hand weights, small balls and — best of all — booties and slide boards like those featured on “The Biggest Loser.” Vbarre is the creation of two Texans, Veronica Combs and Jacqueline Aguirre, who combined their love of ballet with Pilates. They offer inexpensive videos you can buy on their website (www.vbarre.com and www.psc.com).
5. Partier: It may not be as au courant as it used to be, but Zumba is still popular at such places as Cherry Hill’s Betty and Milton Katz JCC and Lucille Roberts. Pronounced “zoomba,” even the name sounds fun. It’s not too late to cha-cha, salsa and rumba your way to fitness with other like-minded enthusiasts of various fitness levels.
6. Hanger-On: If you belong to a gym, you may have seen the metal scaffolding used for TRX training and perhaps some people dangling from long nylon straps attached to it. It definitely looks interesting and a bit circus-like, nu? TRX stands for Total Body Resistance Exercise and was developed by a former Navy SEAL; the lightweight nylon straps can support up to 350 pounds, which should cover just about any body. The beauty of TRX is that your own body weight provides the resistance. Jennifer Lopez favors TRX, as do some members of the military and Major League Baseball players. Finding a class should be easy, but you can also try this at home by purchasing the TRX Suspension Hometraining Kit ($200). Included are the straps, door anchor, quick start guide, DVD and a carrying case. (www.TRXtraining.com)
7. Seriously Twisted: A 50-foot long, 1.5-inch wide strand of manila or nylon rope will never be confused with a regular jump rope. Rope training is yet another way to improve power, strength and cardio fitness at your gym, in your home or outdoors using a tree or pole as an anchor. With the rope attached to an anchor, you can work your arms one at a time by creating big and small waves for as long as you can stand it. The rope can also be attached to a training sled for hand-over-hand rowing or put to use for pull-ups. The thick ropes can be purchased at many online retailers for $100 and up.
8. Challenged: Indoor or outdoor, pop-up or regularly scheduled, drill sergeant-led or more laid back, boot camps come in a variety of flavors. What these intense group exercise programs have in common is that they can be incredibly motivating, especially for people who need an extra push to stick to an exercise regimen. Some boot camps run on pure calisthenics and familiar standbys such as push-ups, squats and runs. At others, you’ll find dumbbells, medicine balls and jump ropes. Boot camps are so ubiquitous that it should be easy to locate one near you that feels comfortable — whistle-blowing and yelling are optional.
9. Gumby: Looking for a unique class? On Saturdays at its South Philly location, Philly Dance Fitness offers Slow Jam Stretch, a one-hour, sweat-inducing lower body stretch conditioning class combining t’ai chi, yoga, dance and Pilates. Instructor Kathy Silvestri will assist you in elongating and strengthening your body, all to a smooth R&B beat. Modifications can be made for people with joint issues and other injuries. The class may be just right for people who find yoga intimidating. (www.phillydancefitness.com)
10. Fickle: Would you like to do something different every day to challenge your body? CrossFit is a high-intensity body conditioning program that involves constant change-ups — no boring sets of multiple reps here — and there are many fitness centers in the city and suburbs that follow its approach. Exercises encourage you to use your arms, legs and core in natural movements. Weight lifting, jump ropes and rowing machines all come into play. For those who want to exercise at home, there are workouts of the day (WOD) posted on the CrossFit website. (www.crossfit.com)
11. Warrior Princess: Want to rid yourself of daily stress and build your self-confidence while you sweat bullets? There’s little rest for the weary when you perform drills consisting of basic boxing punches, body blocks and kicks for an hour or so as you do in a cardio kickboxing class. Bringing out your inner aggressor in a controlled setting can leave you with a natural high, make you stronger and earn you new friends and perhaps added respect around the house.
12. Cheerleader: Boxing not your thing? How about a cheerleading-based cardio/sculpting class? Former USC cheerleader Lauren Boggi Goldenberg developed the Lithe Method, which is exclusively offered at her studios in Northern Liberties, Old City, Rittenhouse Square and Haverford. “Lithers” get to use the method’s “higher power” band system, which hangs from the ceiling. People new to “lithing” are asked to take a beginner’s program to get up to speed before enrolling in other classes. (www.lithemethod.com)
13. Piloxed: Swedish celebrity trainer Viveca Jensen has come up with a popular workout that combines Pilates with boxing: piloxing! A challenging, high-energy cardio class that will have you dancing around, kicking and punching (sometimes with half-pound weighted open-fingered piloxing gloves). You can get your pilox on at Thrive Fitness, Philly Dance Fitness and many other Delaware Valley locations. Find them on the website, www.piloxing.com.
This article originally appeared in the Winter, 2012 issue of Inside Magazine.
Freelance writer Gail Snyder wishes to thank Hally Bayer of Thrive Pilates Philadelphia; Gene Bonetti, JCC Katz; Paul Dziewisz, Active Personal Fitness; personal trainer Sue Griffin; Deborah Hirsch, Philly Dance Fitness; Kevin Mack, Atlantic Krav Maga, Don Melnick, Israeli Krav Maga, and Lauren Boggi Goldenberg, Lithe Method.