Spring is a great time of year to get back into fitness and one way to light a fire under your feet is to challenge yourself to try something new. Here are seven exciting exercise trends to freshen up your workout routine.By Maria Allen | Photography by Dan Cutrona
“If Spin and Pilates had a baby, it would be SURFSET,” says Elizabeth O’Brien, owner of SHRED Pilates & Spin in Quincy. Designed to build a lean surfer-like physique, this workout uses The RipSurfer X, an ingenious indoor surfing apparatus that is essentially a surfboard balanced atop stability balls. Resistance bands keep the board in place but allow it to rock from side-to-side, mimicking the motion of a real surfboard.
Many of the exercises performed in a SURFSET Fitness class are inspired by real surfing maneuvers. Participants can lie on the board and “paddle,” to build shoulder and lower back strength, and then “Pop up” on the board to work the pectoral muscles and engage the core.
The SURFSET concept caused a virtual feeding frenzy when entrepreneurs Mike Hartwick and Sarah Ponn first presented the idea on the television show SharkTank (Investor Mark Cuban ended up investing $300,000 in the company.) and it has since become one of the hottest fitness trends in the country.
O’Brien and the other trainers at SHRED incorporate Pilates moves as well as high-energy interval training into the mix. Performed atop the board, these exercises require extra focus and control and build strength, balance and coordination. The studio can also be booked by private groups.
“It’s like Pilates on steroids,” says O’Brien. “There’s never a time your core rests.” Plus, hopping on a board is a fun way to work on your beach physique before summer rolls back around.
What it works: SURFSET Fitness constantly engages stabilizer muscles and provides a total-body aerobic workout.
Where to try it: Shred Pilates & Spin
453 Washington St., Quincy, 617-481-0156, www.shredbody.com
A brand-new, brightly colored indoor rock climbing facility opened up in Hingham this spring and it is already attracting the attention of athletes of all ages. Challenge Rocks, which is owned and operated by experienced climber Frederic Sontag, offers a multitude of physical challenges for kids and adults and both experts and beginners.
Rock climbing is a sport that requires strength, control and a clear head. To become an expert demands extensive practice, but anyone with an adventurous spirit and the right equipment can give this sport a try.
The 3,000-square-foot space at Challenge Rocks features impressive climbing walls that are 25 feet tall and two automatic belay devices that make it safe for people to climb without fear of falling. Highly trained staff members teach new climbers everything they need to know to get started and be safe.
Climbers must use the muscles in their arms and legs to pull themselves up vertical and inclined walls, grasping onto “holds” on the wall and following pre-planned routes of varying difficulty. Routes change frequently to take individuals to the next level of climbing. If climbing indoors isn’t really your thing, Sontag also leads rock climbing adventures in the White Mountains.
The Challenge Rocks facility also houses a massive tumbling track and there are plans in the near future to add zip lines, a high ropes course, and possibly even training equipment for people who want to brush up on their American Ninja Warrior skills.
What it works: Arms, legs and back
Where to try it: Challenge Rocks
3 Pond Park Road, Hingham
The CrossFit fitness trend may not be new, but it’s certainly hot on the South Shore. This core strength and conditioning program, originally developed by Coach Greg Glassman, is typified by constantly changing functional movements performed at a high intensity.
CrossFit athletes develop a commitment to fitness that is reinforced by a sense of community. The communal aspect is one of the key reasons why it’s so effective. This is certainly true at CrossFit 781, a 6,000-square-foot fitness and coaching facility located in Weymouth.
CrossFit 781 aims to foster a welcoming and motivational environment where “everybody knows your name.” Members range from beginners to high-level athletes who compete at regional CrossFit events.
The physical skills practiced at a CrossFit facility—like squats, kettlebell swings, medicine ball exercises and weightlifting—are designed to improve overall cardio endurance, strength, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy. Trading treadmills for tenacity, this intense fitness trend is highly addictive.
What it works: CrossFit is a total body workout.
Where to try it: CrossFit 781
With loud music blasting and participants donning ripped T-shirts and grasping florescent-green weighted drumsticks, POUND is a serious cardio exercise with rock-and-roll style.
POUND was created by founders Cristina Peerenboom and Kirsten Potenza, by combining their passions for music and fitness together. It’s a workout that requires continual upper body motion, as individuals drum rapidly on the floor using lightly weighted drumsticks, called Ripstix™.
“You might think that it would be all arms, but it’s actually 90 percent legs, glutes and core,” says Jenny Anania, owner of Secret Physique Barre Studio. “People leave class dripping in sweat.”
Music is a key element in these fitness classes as it helps to motivate participants to work harder and creates a fun party-like atmosphere. As soon as Anania turns up the volume on the sound system the energy inside the Secret Physique studio becomes electric. Surrounded by mirrored walls, the group begins to bend, squat and lunge in unison, all the while engaging the core. The choreographed isometric movements and Yoga-based poses raise the heart rate to a fat-burning zone.
Even people who aren’t rhythmically inclined can find drumming to the beat a stress-relieving activity. It’s a fun way to fuel the adrenaline and helps to distract from the burn.
What it works: Combining cardio and toning, POUND works the legs and core.
Where to try it: Secret Physique®
Locations in Hingham, Pembroke, Plymouth and Quincy, 781-826-0600, www.secretphysique.com
“Rowing is the next spinning,” says news anchor Kerry Connolly, who opened New England’s first spinning and rowing studio, Row & Ride, in Hanover last fall. The fitness studio offers both spinning and rowing classes but it is the latter that has been getting the most buzz.
“I heard how boutique rowing studios were opening in New York City and Los Angeles and I thought the South Shore would be an ideal spot for this kind of thing,” says Connolly.
Inside Row & Ride, lines of rowing machines (or ERGs, as they are also known) face a large projection screen showing scenes of rowing teams and sculls cutting across placid bodies of water. Flashing colored lights and heart-pumping music creates a feeling of energy in the room as rowers slide their seats smoothly forward, arms outstretched, before using their legs to thrust powerfully off the footboards while pulling back on the handle. The motion is smooth and seamless.
While New England is known as an international rowing destination (think Head of the Charles Regatta) you don’t have to be an experienced rower (or cyclist) to enjoy the classes offered at Row & Ride. In fact, beginners are encouraged to try out their first class for free.
“I think there are some people who may feel intimidated,” says Connolly, who teaches the Learn to Row classes. “We work with people of all ages and fitness abilities and teach them about proper form and how to set a pace.” It’s clear that this incredibly efficient and low-impact workout is just starting to hit its stride.
What it works: Rowing is a low-impact, total-body workout.
Where to try it: Row & Ride
200 Webster Street, Hanover, 781-347-3153
Suspended in mid-air on colorful slings, aerial yoga enthusiasts may appear a bit like Cirque du Soliel performers, but they’re actually part of an increasingly popular yoga movement—and it’s quite a workout.
Integrative Aerial Yoga is a playful, energizing practice that is designed with proper anatomical alignment in mind. The exercises incorporate Vinyasa yoga and aerial circus conditioning with principles of functional movement and fascial fitness. Depending on the experience level and physical needs of the participants, classes can include a wide range of maneuvers, from inverted and gentle, restorative positions to more athletic and acrobatic poses. Moves can be modified for all levels.
“Sometimes we will have people lie on the floor with their feet on the sling or they might wrap up inside the sling like a little cocoon. In more advanced groups we might have them climb the slings for arm strengthening,” says Michelle Fleming, owner of Sanctuary Studios in Plymouth.
In all aerial yoga classes, attention is paid to breathing and balance. The yoga positions that are performed help improve everyday posture and body mechanics, leaving participants feeling lengthened and deeply relaxed.
Instructor Joanna Keseberg Welch, from Boston Integrated Body, currently offers teacher trainings in integrative aerial yoga at Sanctuary Studios in Plymouth (one will take place on April 3) and Michelle Fleming will begin teaching classes for the general public beginning in June Acro-yoga classes will also be offered.
What it works: Aerial yoga improves overall strength and flexibility.
Where to try it: Sanctuary Studios
47 Main St., 2nd Floor, Plymouth, 774-454-7290
There are a million and one 5K races to choose from, but obstacle course races take it to the next level. Only the most adventurous runners sign up for these fitness events that can involve a wide range of physical challenges. More than just a day at the gym, these runs provide a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie. The Marshfield Fairgrounds will host a few of these fun-filled events this year.
June 6 and September 12: The Gladiator Training Grounds are 5K races for all fitness levels but there are close to 40 obstacles to tackle. There are walls to climb over, walls to climb under, cargo nets, monkey bars, tunnels, slides, mud holes, water features and Tarzan ropes. Basically, this is the kind of race that employs your whole body to move, balance and twist. It is definitely not a jog around the block. www.gladiatortraininggrounds.com
September 26: The Shape Diva Dash is an adventurous women-only 5K run that is dotted with obstacles to challenge a person’s agility, balance, strength and speed. Participants jump, climb, swing and DASH their way to the finish line. The added bonus comes from knowing that the event helps raise money for Boston-area nonprofits. http://divadash.com/city/boston/