Hybrid fitness is a popular trend
By Lisa Ziegel
The Fitness industry is an ever-evolving trade in which competition is intense. It really takes a lot to attract attention to a new exercise concept and to draw a public whose view of exercise is that it is boring and monotonous. The good news is that the days of tedious cardio and repetitious routines in group exercise classes are pretty much history. Today there is no shortage of innovative ideas, and it seems like many of the innovators are not so much concerned about re-inventing the wheel but rather, they are combining proven, successful modes and creating something new and fresh. The result is a "hybrid" of styles put together in one class or training session to create challenging total-body workouts that also engage participants' imaginations and can facilitate learning of new skills, as well as being fun (and never boring).
Following is a list of some of the most popular trends in this relatively new movement, along with fitness benefits and my recommendations that may help you decide if this type of exercise class is right for you!
- Stationary cycling and resistance training combo
Indoor or studio stationary cycling has been popular ever since the early '90s. In fact it is so popular in fitness clubs that participants often have to sign up well ahead of time to guarantee their spot on a bike in class. The term "cardio addict" may have resulted from the fact that many students rely on this as their sole form of exercise, leaving out another very important component of a well-rounded fitness regimen: Resistance training. Combo classes seek to rectify this problem by giving the cardio buffs what they want as well as what they need. One such studio chain that offers this in New York City (and now one in Los Angeles) outfits the cycling studio with resistance bands hanging from the ceiling so that cyclists do not even have to dismount. Other classes utilize hand weights for resistance.
Is this class for you? This is a great class for you if you like to sweat! In addition, some level of experience with stationary cycling classes and resistance training would be helpful. Beginners will need to build a base of cardiovascular endurance before hitting these high-intensity classes. Also, the music will be loud and energetic, and the instructor will not be shy about commanding the class, so if you're the type that thrives on that for motivation, and many do, this is your dream class.
- Cardioke (Cardio + Karaoke)
Another stalwart class genre that remains popular today since its inception in the '90s is Tae Bo, a fast-paced version of kickboxing created by Billy Blanks. Today with the popular "Glee" television show and the enduring karaoke craze continuing, Billy's son, Billy Blanks Jr., has created a fun spin on hip-hop dance classes that utilizes singing to emphasize the importance of breathing. If you are singing and dancing at the same time, you can't over-do and venture out of your "Cardio zone," yet you still have to breathe properly to master doing both. Billy Jr. emphasizes safety and high-energy fun for all ages. It sounds improbable, but it works.
Is this class for you? This class is suitable for all ages and all fitness levels. Of course, the usual precautions need to be addressed. If you are a first-timer, check with your doctor before starting out. Obviously, if you're a karaoke fan, you will love the combo of belting out your favorite popular tunes while exercising to the beat.
Boxing has, of course, been around for ages as has ballet. Pilates is only relatively newer. Combined, they blend into a fresh new workout that provides the best of all of these. Boxing alone is demanding enough and provides the cardiovascular component. Pilates is great for core strengthening, and ballet can be a rigorous test of endurance, balance and postural alignment. The class moves from one to the other with an effortless flow, although the effort of the participant is bound to be much more. Classes can now be found in clubs and studios world-wide, along with several DVDs and videos online.
Is this class for you? There could be a learning curve if you are not familiar with any of the components of the movements. It would be important to learn these before jumping into high intensity as the risk for injury can be high, so if trying a class for the first time, speak to the instructor beforehand about getting started. It could be great; however, to get a combination of cardio and strengthening as well as a fast-paced, fun workout!
Another invention of the '90s, Zumba has more recently surged in popularity. A take on Salsa dance with a cardio element, the music is an essential component as the moves are based on Latin and Afro-Cuban rhythms. This type of Zumba also includes chair exercises – yes, exercises you can do while seated in a chair! Chair exercise has been around a while, too, but could most often be found in senior centers as it was developed for folks with arthritis or other conditions that made traditional exercise difficult. Here the chair is used as a tool that facilitates a resistance training component – squats, dips and push-ups can all be incorporated along with the dance movements and all to the same energetic dance beats.
Is this class for you? If you are a fan of Zumba/dance classes, but you feel you're missing out on the resistance component of fitness, this could be your new favorite class. The movements are easy to learn and effective for strengthening. It should be easy for beginners to catch on and safe for those with joint issues, but as always, check with your physician and the instructor before trying it for the first time.
This is only a short list. There are of course many, many more - - too numerous to mention. Some may be a bit over the top (pole-dancing yoga?) or just plain impractical (strip-tease aerobics in stilettos anyone?). As I have emphasized above, it is always a good idea to check with your primary-care provider to see if starting exercise in classes like these is a good idea for you. If you are cleared and ready to start, you can find out more about each class by visiting Web sites for them or viewing videos of the classes in action on YouTube, etc., before committing to paying for a class or a series.
Luckily, we fitness professionals will never run out of ideas as the opportunity to combine exercises and music along with advances in fitness science will only continue going forward. So pick a class, try it out, and have a happy hybrid fitness experience.