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Transform this year's trends to aid your workouts

Published February 27. 2010 09:00AM

Although I rarely go to movies in theaters (last time was 1989 to see "Rainman") or even rent them, I find myself reading every best-of-the-year movie list I find. The same is true for best-of-the-year lists of music CDs (which I rarely buy) and theater productions (which I rarely attend).

Call it vicarious living if you will, but for some reason I'm drawn to best-of lists.

The same is true for articles that predict the trends for the upcoming year, especially the ones about health and fitness. I've probably read a dozen or so for 2010, and I feel the need to respond.

Although I'd like to think of "Fitness Master" readers as trend setters rather than trend followers, there are a few trends predicted for this year worth following with a few modifications.

Perhaps the most useful fitness trends resulted from a survey done by the American Council on Exercise. They posed questions to personal trainers and other fitness experts and then presented the findings.

Nick Sortal summarized these in an article for the Houston Chronicle this way: "People want to sweat, get it done quickly, and not spend a lot of money."

The first two qualities come together in one of ACE's trends: time-efficient workouts. ACE believes that time-crunched schedules will lead to exercisers working out quicker than before but more intensely.

This is a trend worth incorporating into your workout regiment for a whole host of reasons. Most importantly, it's to reap the benefits of intense exercise.

In fact, the "Fitness Master" article that kicked off the new year shared with you new research that found intense exercise not the leisurely 30-minute walk where you comfortably converse the entire timekeeps the telomeres from shrinking.

Telomeres are the ends of chromosomes, and their shrinking is a known indicator of aging and not only the sort of aging that leads to wrinkles, but also the more serious type that creates serious medical conditions like Alzheimer's, heart disease, and some cancers.

So if you reduce exercise time to increase intensity, that's a smart substitution especially since I believe that if you're appropriately introduced to more intense exercise, you'll come to prefer it for the sense of accomplishment that breaking a real sweat provides. Because of this, many who initially reduce exercise time to add intensity eventually return to their original, longer 45-to-60-minute workouts while remaining just as intense.

Another trend that the ACE survey predicted which probably pained the personal trainers to prognosticate was that exercisers will seek cost-conscious workouts. While this is a byproduct of a weak economy, this makes perfect sense to me regardless and the best way to cut exercising costs is to replace a health club membership with equipment you own.

I stopped joining gyms once I purchased a house. The equipment in my basement that allows me to do all sorts of weight lifting workouts easily cost less than a thousand dollars which has probably saved me 10 times that amount in membership fees and gas over the last 21 years.

Please bear in mind, however, that I have no problem working out alone and that value trumps cost. In other words, saving money on equipment isn't a bargain if you don't use the equipment.

If you need the group dynamic to remain motivated, keep paying for a gym membership, but look for ways to cut costs. If you've had a personal trainer, see if he'll train you and a buddy simultaneously for just a bit more than a private single session.

The final ACE trend worthy of mention is the movement toward what they dubbed "exergaming," the use of fitness-based video games to make exercise more appealing. While this is a good way to create interest in those who have been previously uninterested in exercise and a great way to have the elderly and the injured work out, it just can't replace the real thing especially if you're striving for a high-intensity workout.

Those looking for high intensity workouts, however, can still incorporate video images into them. It's just that the "game" part comes from your imagination.

I know a number of cyclists who, when they are forced to ride indoors, put a tape of the Tour de France or some other professional race into the VCR. After an appropriate warm-up, they "race" the riders up the mountains, peddling easily on the descents.

Runners on treadmills could do the same with tapes of road races. Those on an elliptical could watch a sport with a lot of down time like football and work out this way: go all out for the 10 to 12 seconds during each play and then recover as the teams huddle.

Other cyclists I know use indoor cycling time to catch up on favorite television shows. How are they able to really enjoy the show and still get an intense workout?

They ride as hard as possible during every commercial, and they pedal at typical training pace during the show.

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