The hottest new exercise crazes of 2016
Want to get fit and have fun? Helen Foster reveals what yummy mummies are signing up for this year
There's nothing like the post-easter period to kick-start a new keep-fit regime. Whether that's because you need more energy to keep up with a toddler, or you’ve decided those last few pounds of baby weight have to go – as your ‘baby’ is now crawling – exercise is the way to get results. But it’s particularly difficult to get moving, and stay motivated, if the idea of running in the freezing rain or heading to the local Zumba class fills you with horror. Need some on-trend inspiration? Then check out the hottest new exercise crazes for 2016 here.
If your biggest problem with exercising is getting out of the house, online is the way to go. Log on, pick your workout and press play for a full-on class or a one-to-one trainer session in your own lounge. ‘DVDs used to fill this role, but repeating the same workout can get boring, and there’s no support or advice either,’ says online trainer Julia Buckley. ‘But with web-based training you’ll have a huge selection of routines to choose from – and there’s often personal feedback.’ Mum Martine, a learning support officer, has been using Julia's online workout since January and loves it. ‘My husband and I used to tag-team gym visits, one exercising while the other looked after our son, who’s four. It would take us hours, but now I can work out with Oliver playing beside me. I’ve never been fitter, and I love that it means our son’s also getting to see how important health and fitness is.’
Top Tip: Watching on a computer or iPad? Hook up your device to the TV so you can see the moves more clearly.
High intensity interval training (or HIIT) is one of the biggest fitness trends right now. It’s brilliant for anyone whose main problem is lack of time to work out, as the idea is that you work harder, not longer. Classes are often just 30 minutes long, and may even be as short as 20. ‘Don’t expect it to be easy though – the nature of HIIT is that you work harder than with most other forms of exercise,’ says Andrew Hedley, trainer at resistance machine-based HIIT class Speedflex in Newcastle. ‘This means you carry on burning calories for some time after your workout as well as while you’re doing it.’ While you can buy apps that teach you HIIT training, if you’re new to the idea it’s better to start off by joining a class or working with a trainer who can check that you’re doing the moves correctly. ‘It’s easy to sacrifice good technique for the sake of trying to get a little more speed, but that can lead to injury,’ says Andrew.
Top Tip: If you can, go with a friend – you’re aiming to work as hard as you can during a session and, says Andrew, ‘Studies show we work harder together.’
Try: 24 (because each class lasts just 24 minutes) at Virgin Active gyms nationwide; Speedflex, with gyms in Newcastle, Leeds, London, West Byfleet and Laurencekirk; Les Mills’ Grit classes at gyms around the country.
Rebounding and trampolining
Want a fun cardio workout? Time to get bouncing. In a rebounding class you get your own small trampoline (a rebounder), but you can also embrace your inner child by hitting a fitness class where you get to play team sports on interconnected trampolines at one of the huge centres opening around the country. ‘Rebounding is a low-impact exercise so it protects your joints, but at the same time you’re working all your key muscles, especially your legs and core, as you tense these every time your body leaves the rebounder,’ says Missie Frank, who runs London’s seriously fun Rebounce class. The other benefit of this workout is that the kids will very likely want to join in. ‘I’m well known for having to chase my three-year-old Laine everywhere but there was no escape for him when we were at Oxygen,’ says Katy, a face-painter, who’s also mum to a 16- and ten-year-old. ‘It only took a big jump in the right direction to cut him off from any escape attempts.’
Top Tip: If you’re thinking, ‘There’s no way my pelvic floor can cope with that,’ don’t panic. David Stalker, founder of Oxygen Freejumping, says that because trampolining is low-impact it’s actually less likely to cause problems than, say, running. When starting out, ‘If you are worried, smaller gentle bounces will reduce the risk of accidents,’ he tells us.
The gizmos that you wear on your wrist or ankle to track your movements are revolutionising fitness because they make it simple to work out anywhere, and they keep you motivated if the only way you can find time to work out is by grabbing ten minutes here and there. ‘They’re really good for new mums, as they particularly encourage gentle exercise such as walking, which you can do with your baby,’ says personal trainer Zanna Van Dijk.
Top Tip: Set yourself a goal. Zanna suggests one that’s a little challenging, such as 10,000 steps or walking for 30 minutes a day. However, she says, rather than just counting steps, ‘If you want to get fitter, you do need to sweat a little. Mix up strolling, power walking and even jogging if you can.’
This has been the secret of London’s yummy mummies for a while, but now classes are opening around the country so we can all have a go. Mixing moves from Pilates, yoga and ballet, it aims to tone muscles but not bulk them up. ‘After doing barre for a while you’ll have the posture and muscle tone of a ballerina, improved balance and co-ordination, improved core strength and strong abs – not mention getting a derrière to rival that of anyone who hasn’t carried a baby,’ says Paola Di Lanzo from Paola’s Body Barre. She’s not fibbing. ‘It’s totally changed my body – and I noticed a difference even after a few classes,’ says Ilia, a banker and mother of Darius, four and Maximilian, nine months. ‘It’s all about being strong not skinny.’ We’re sold.
Top Tip: Because there’s a lot of ab work and stretching in barre work, tell your trainer if you’re a relatively new mum, as they may need to adapt moves to account for the muscle changes that occur during pregnancy.
You might have tried yoga when you were pregnant, and maybe even went to a postnatal class with your baby. But now you may well be put off because, let’s face it, some yoga classes seem to be full of women who seemingly popped out their baby mid-downward dog – and that can be a bit intimidating. The solution is the new generation of yoga classes specifically aimed at those who might be a bit bigger, or just getting back into fitness. ‘That was my main worry – I was concerned that I simply wouldn’t be flexible enough to keep up if I went to a “normal” class,’ says Kate, mother of Jack, five, Cody, three and Sam, one, and blogger at Mad About The Boys. But there’s no need to worry – the teachers at Curvy Yoga aim to be super body-positive and are also very used to adapting the postures to suit less supple or larger figures.
Top Tip: In any yoga class, if you find a pose tricky just ask the teacher if there’s a prop that can help. There are blocks and bolsters to put under your hips or knees, and ties that help you stretch further into a move.
Try: There are UK classes listed at curvyyoga.com, and you can do online classes via yoogaia.com – or simply Google ‘yoga for larger bodies’ and your local area. You’ll be surprised at how many classes there are.
One type of exercise that’s exploded in the last year is dance fitness, or dance cardio. It focuses as much on ensuring the class is a workout as it does on teaching routines. Even better, classes are really good fun. For instance there’s Globe Fit Hoola which combines dancing with hula hoops, or Clubbercise, done in a dark room with glow sticks. ‘Exercise shouldn’t feel like a chore, it should be enjoyable – as this is,’ says dance fitness instructor Hannah Murphy, founder of Globe Fit. ‘I also find that the social side is particularly good for new mums – group classes are a great way to meet new people.’ Fiona, who has a six-month-old daughter, Nina, is a huge fan. ‘I love that it doesn’t feel like a typical gym class,’ she says. ‘I only get an hour on my own each week and it’s a great time to de-stress and enjoy myself.’
Top Tip: If co-ordination is not your forte, don’t try to do everything at once. ‘Concentrate on just the arms or the feet to begin with,’ says Hannah. ‘Co-ordination is a skill and the only way to improve is to practise.’
Try: Your best resource is the The Exercise, Movement and Dance Partnership which governs dance classes in the UK and lists classes around the country.
You may have tried gym- or mat-based Pilates classes before, but rather than just relying on your own body weight for resistance you can also use Pilates equipment – something that’s not new but was not so well-known and is now gaining popularity. There’s a machine with a rolling platform called a reformer, an upright frame called a tower and the MOTR, a roller-type device; all help you focus on alignment, balance and your core muscles as you exercise. Or try a hot-from-the-US Bodhi class – Pilates while hanging from fabric straps. ‘Any form of Pilates is great to help mums reconnect with their after-baby body, but the newer workouts add a slightly greater challenge,’ says Dawne Likhodedova from bePilates.
Top Tip: If you’ve never done Pilates before, taking a few mat classes before starting any of the powered-up versions means you’ll know how to do the moves with good form, before you add extra bells and whistles.
Try: There are reformer and tower classes around the country; find Bodhi and MOTR classes at bepilates.co.uk.