The only thing harder than starting a new workout program is sticking with it. Boredom and lack of variety makes it tough to get motivated. Plus, muscles adapt after a while and results come to a screeching halt. The solution? Creative, fun workouts that keep your body and mind engaged.
The only thing harder than starting a new workout program is sticking with it. Boredom and lack of variety makes it tough to get motivated. Plus, muscles adapt after a while and results come to a screeching halt. The solution? Creative, fun workouts that keep your body and mind engaged. "One group of exercising people will do the same class over and over and eventually burn out," says Tom Holland, exercise physiologist and author of "Swim, Bike, Run -- Eat." "Others like to do the 'class of the moment' and constantly try new stuff, which can be less than effective in some cases. If you're just starting out any activity is good, but for the fit person these classes are often more about creativity than intensity." Check out the following new workouts and expert tips on their pros and cons.
1. Indoor Rowing Classes
Indoor rowing classes are shaping up to rival indoor cycling as the next big trend, as rowing studios like CityRow, RowZone and GoRow crop up in such cities as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. "CrossFit has played a role in popularizing rowing as a workout," says fitness expert Tom Holland. "It's much harder than people think to do it technically correctly. You want to be sure to use good form to avoid getting hurt." Proper form uses a catch-drive-finish-recovery rhythm. A vigorous hour-long rowing class can burn between 500 and 600 calories, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
2. Orange Theory Workouts
Its name refers to the orange zone of training -- circuit training that pushes your body to burn calories long after you've finished working out. Called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), Orange Theory is like "CrossFit Lite," says fitness expert Tom Holland. "It's a good workout in general, with overarching content based on circuit training that's heart rate-based. You get a great mix of cardio and strength training that keeps you in the orange zone." Depending on the intensity of your workout, target heart rate zones range between 50 and 90 percent of your maximum heart rate. For example, the target heart rate zone for a 30-year-old is between 95 and 162 beats per minute; 90 to 157 bpm for a 40-year-old. "It takes the group aspect of exercise and adds a little bit of science with the heart rate monitor," Holland says.
3. Aqua Spinning
Cycling classes can be tough, and there's no shortage of creative options to take your mind off the pain (and monotony), from Spin karaoke to SoulCycle and fusion classes that incorporate yoga into the routine. The newest trend: Just add water. Aqua Spinning began in France and Italy and has recently been gaining traction in the States. The water resistance slows down your legs, but be aware that the 800-calorie-per-hour claim may be overstated, says fitness expert Tom Holland. The Aquatic Exercise Association reports you can expect to burn between 400 and 500 calories per water workout. "Claims that it gets rid of cellulite is unfounded, however," says Holland. "But on the plus side, it's a great way to mix up your workout. There are things you can do in the water you can't do on land, such as leaning back on the bike." Traditional water aerobics is easier on the joints, but Holland believes the jury's still out on that as well. Claims that can't be argued: It's impact-free on joints, improves cardiovascular endurance and actively enhances blood flow.
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4. The Star Wars Workout
You don't have to be a "Star Wars" fan to enjoy the benefits of a workout based on wielding a light saber. "One of the most effective ways to develop total-body strength is by moving a mass through gravity, as opposed to merely lifting a mass upward against the downward pull of gravity," says Pete McCall, senior advisor for the American Council on Exercise. "Whether it is a modern-era light saber or a traditional sword, moving a mass through gravity helps develop the strength of most of the muscles in the upper body while helping to improve balance, coordination and muscle timing." Workouts incorporate martial arts, calisthenics and body-weight moves like burpees. Various sword-fighting classes have become popular through the years (without using real swords), and this class is hopping on a popular bandwagon in an effort to gain publicity and provide alternative programming to members, McCall says.
5. Climbing Workouts
Another brutal piece of cardio equipment battling its way to the top of boutique gym classes, the VersaClimber, may be the biggest calorie burner yet. The VersaClimber website claims the machine burns more calories than a step climber, Spin bike or treadmill. It's been around for years, but it usually ends up in the corner of the gym gathering dust. For whatever reason, it has experienced a resurgence in popularity lately. The machine mimics climbing by using both your arms and legs on a nearly vertical platform. "Using both the arms and legs at the same time is an excellent strategy for boosting the number of calories burned during a workout," says personal trainer Pete McCall. "Plus, the upright position of the body can be more comfortable for individuals with trouble walking on a treadmill or using an elliptical runner. It's a great total-body workout."
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6. Hula Hooping
Channeling your inner child and swinging your hips around in a circle is likely to make you laugh, which in itself makes it worth doing at least a couple of times, says personal trainer Pete McCall. "A longtime favorite of kids still stuck in the 1950s, hula hooping has experienced a minor resurgence. Hooping can be a challenging workout, but once you get the timing down and can keep the hoop moving, it can also be a lot of fun." A study by the American Council on Exercise showed that hooping burns 210 calories for a 30-minute session, which falls into guidelines for weight management and meets industry standards for improving cardiovascular fitness. Start with a weighted hoop, which moves more slowly, making it easier if you're a beginner.
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What do you get when you merge running with crawling? Well, crunning, of course. A new Internet craze with origins in Australia, crunning involves "running" while on hands and feet with your rear end up in the air. "As a total-body movement, it does benefit many other parts of the body in ways that may only be matched by rowing and cross-country skiing," says Irv Rubenstein, founder of STEPS, a science-based fitness facility in Nashville. "It can provide a cardio benefit, but not to the extent its promoter believes. Any time the arms are doing a major part of body-weight bearing, it takes off some of the load from the lower extremities." Using less muscle mass gives less of an aerobic benefit, and it's also difficult to stay up on the wrists and shoulders long enough to get a substantial aerobic benefit, he says. "Don't try this on a treadmill."
Related: 11 Myths About Running Debunked
8. Circus Workouts
Bring on the clowns! Working out like a circus performer -- think swinging from a trapeze, partner balancing and hanging from silks along with other acrobatics -- takes flexibility and strength, says STEPS founder Irv Rubenstein. "Many of the moves and positions require you to hold them for a long time (e.g., holding a split in midair between two chairs), which takes strength, so they can make you stronger." In addition, some of the contortions, mostly isometric, require great control and use your own body weight. These moves, such as lifting another person, develop a dancer's or gymnast's strength, but it usually doesn't translate into the kind of strength average athletes might need for a sport, Rubenstein says. "In regards to aerobic benefits, it's better than walking but not as good as running."
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9. High-Altitude/Elevation Training Masks
These odd-looking breathing devices cropping up in gyms mimic working out at a high altitude. They make it harder for the wearer to breathe, allegedly strengthening the lungs by creating pulmonary resistance, which leads to improved sports performance. "They increase resistance to air flow, which makes it harder to move the same volume of air," says Ray Casciari, M.D., pulmonologist at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California. "It's like breathing through a straw. But although respiratory muscle training has been shown to be helpful in disease states like COPD, they've never been proven to improve performance in normal individuals." The masks do not create hypoxia (lack of oxygen), so adaptations that normally occur during actual high-altitude training don't happen with the masks, he says.
What Do YOU Think?
Had you heard of any of these trends before? Which ones were new to you? Will you try any of them this year, or have you already? Are there other crazy fitness trends you've heard of? What do you think of them? Are there pros and cons of the preceding workouts you'd add? Let us know your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below!
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