Maximum Impact

Four new fitness programs that push you to your limits and make getting physical fun again.

     Not enthusiastic about another round on the elliptical? Tired of watching the digital miles tick by as you trudge along on the treadmill? A new generation of fitness programs offers promise for those tired of old routines and others who, er, never quite found the inspiration to get off the couch in the first place.

     These new ways of getting in shape toss out the standard solitary routines on intimidating machines in favor of regimens that rely on teamwork and self-propelled exercises. Some of them even sound a bit old-fashioned. Push-ups, anyone?

     The good news here is that to stay on top of fitness trends in 2013, you won’t have to make serious equipment investments. Why buy what you’ve already got? Those extra pounds from overindulging become quite useful when your own body-weight provides the resistance.

     Body-weight exercises are a proven way to get and stay fit, according to today’s fitness gurus who have a wealth of ingenious techniques to help us get into shape. Here’s a roundup of some of our favorite new fitness programs.

Sweat, SEAL Team-Style

“Getting fit is not easy,” says John McGuire, founder of the Richmond-based SEAL Team Physical Training Inc., “so our goal is to keep it fun, and if you’re with friends mixing it up and having a good time, it makes it easier.” A former Navy SEAL, McGuire offers his programs in Richmond, Charlottesville and Washington, D.C., and hopes to expand across the country. Rain (or snow!) or shine, classes are held outside, year-round, in public parks and sometimes on college campuses. “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear,” says McGuire.

     Participants must first complete a two-week basic fitness class. After that, they can take part in the early morning (i.e., before sunrise) classes. Participants are about evenly divided between men and women, and McGuire says every stripe of fitness level and age is represented. The classes move around from park to park and typically have members working in teams on drills as simple as push-ups and as unusual as crab soccer and tug-of-war.

Tighten Up with TRX Suspension Training

If you prefer to workout indoors, you might try another Navy SEAL exercise innovation: TRX Suspension Training. Touted as a “full-body workout,” TRX (short for “total body resistance exercise”) uses a pair of sturdy nylon straps adjustable to different lengths, which are secured to a bar set high in the wall or ceiling. Using your own body weight, you use the bright yellow and black straps to do moves that include squats and pull-ups working either from the floor with your feet suspended in the straps, or from a standing position holding onto the straps with your hands. Home TRX kits are available for around $200, or you can take the class at a gym. “Because you can make the movement easier or harder depending on how you position your body relative to the straps, it’s an ideal, low-impact way to build strength, balance, flexibility and joint stability,” says Stephen Fralin of Gold’s Gym in Roanoke, which holds regular TRX classes.

CrossFit Takes It Old School

We have the military and police academies to thank for another new fitness program: CrossFit. Described as “high-intensity group fitness workouts,” CrossFit includes completing a series of exercises—squats, push-ups, squat jumps—mixed with intervals of weightlifting during a 45-60 minute long class. “It’s sort of the new of the old,” explains Chris Garay, general manager of CrossFit Charlottesville. “We are using old-fashioned training protocols in a different way to get great results and have more fun doing it.” These are hard workouts that combine Olympic-style lifting with intense cardio. There is even a competitive version of CrossFit in which teams try to out-perform each other as they go through their paces.

You Gotta Try Tabata

Another new interpretation of interval training is Tabata, named for its founder, Izumi Tabata, a professor and researcher at Japan’s Ritsumeikan University. Professor Tabata found that high-intensity intermittent training improves the aerobic system as well as the anaerobic system, resulting in better muscular performance and endurance. Tabata training typically involves eight rounds of performing a high-intensity activity—push-ups, body weight squats, medicine ball slams, rope jumping for 20 seconds—interspersed with 10 seconds of rest. “It stays fresh because the activities you can do are virtually limitless,” says Jesse Wareing, whose family owns Wareing’s Gym in Virginia Beach. The hour-long classes are usually attended by serious athletes (or those who wish to be) of every age. “It’s all about what you’re willing to put into it. That’s what you’re going to get out of it,” he says. “But I guess that’s true about just about anything.”

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