Gyms are shut. Parks freezing. And who knew we would eventually grow tired of Joe Wicks? What’s needed now more than ever is some serious fitness inspiration.
After all, safeguarding our physical and mental health has never been more important. Fortunately, the six biggest fitness trends for 2021 reflect our ability to innovate, adapt, and enjoy exercise — even in circumstances far from ideal.
They range from solitary to sociable, from soothing to frenetic, from high-tech to no-frills — but all are clever, endorphin-boosting and perfect for right now.
The six biggest fitness trends for 2021 reflect our ability to innovate, adapt, and enjoy exercise amid lockdowns
FITNESS CLASS WITH WATCH
Apple Fitness+, £9.99 per month (first month free), apple.com
Tech giant Apple has joined the booming digital fitness arena, with its new exercise platform Fitness+, a ‘personal fitness experience for everyone’.
My first session is courtesy of Bakari Williams, a sunny Californian, in a light-filled LA studio, who appears on my iPhone screen after I click on the Fitness app (already on my phone) and select the new Fitness+ tab.
There are 200+ on-demand yoga classes, dance classes, HIIT (high-intensity interval training), core, strength training, plus rowing, cycling, and treadmill sessions on the app, all led by charismatic trainers. They are excellent for working out at home and particularly good if you have shelled out on equipment over Christmas but require coaching. More classes are added each week.
I pick Bakari’s 20-minute HIIT workout almost at random. It involves dumbbell and bodyweight moves including squats, side-lunges, skater jumps, and is set to a hip-hop and R&B soundtrack.
Tech giant Apple has joined the booming digital fitness arena, with its new exercise platform Fitness+, a ‘personal fitness experience for everyone’
Time flies. Bakari is cheerful and chiselled, which helps, too. For those of us who aren’t terribly springy, good news — there’s a fellow instructor demonstrating non-explosive versions of each move.
My Apple Watch records my metrics, which appear on my iPhone screen during the session (if you have a bigger screen via an iPad or Apple TV, even better).
You can use Fitness+ without an Apple Watch, though exercise purists prefer to know precisely how hard they’ve worked and will love how the devices pair.
The summary post-workout shows I have burned 118 calories, my average heartbeat was 119bpm, with a range of 58-151bpm. I’m given the option of downloading the soundtracks, too.
One morning, I do ten minutes of ‘Strength with Gregg’, an efficient workout, with optional dumbbells, that includes bicep curls, shoulder presses, lunges, squats (all the nasties) with celebrity trainer Gregg Cook.
I ache the next day. I also try 20 minutes of hip-hop/R&B dance with choreographer Ben Allen, but the coordination and competence required was beyond me.
If you are an Apple fan — and many aren’t — with two of its moderately recent pieces of kit, (for example, an iPhone 6S onwards, an Apple Watch from series 3 on), plus your software is up to date (crucial), this is a slick and intuitive product.
There’s no live streaming as yet but you can preview each class, select your favourite instructor, class duration and type of exercise. There are mindful cool-downs too, with five minutes of stretching and meditation.
The ease, convenience and bite-sized workouts cleverly combat any activity resistance.
Work That aims to make personal training more accessible at a relative bargain of £30 per session
workthat.co.uk, from £30 per session
This is the year of the remote personal trainer. Top celebrity trainers such as Matt Roberts and Zana Morris now offer clients virtual options of live one-to-one training.
However, Jessica Redman, London-based founder of Work That, was ahead of the curve, launching her online PT service just before the first lockdown, to make personal training more accessible at a relative bargain of £30 per session. She has clients across the UK, and as far as Sweden and Portugal.
Whether your goal is injury rehabilitation, alleviating aches, correcting posture, toning, building strength, improving cardiovascular fitness, reducing stress or improving nutrition, it can all be achieved, via a live Zoom session, from home.
Possessing racks of weights isn’t necessary as Jessica teaches calisthenics (a form of training using mostly bodyweight exercises to improve tone, coordination, flexibility and strength). But to increase the stimulus and progress, some clients order them once they have developed in strength.
My session was a revelation. I filled in forms first, detailing health issues such as achy hips and lower back. It turns out the benefits of a great PT translate perfectly virtually — even if you see yourself at some unflattering angles on the screen.
And unlike in a gym, you can exercise barefoot if you like, so your feet and ankles get a workout, too. Jessica adapts the workout to stretch my tight hip-flexor muscles, explaining how their shortness (from sitting all day) exacerbates my back pain, and why my lumbar aches after stationary reverse lunges.
She shows me a tough but brilliant alternative (you stay low, with smaller movements — so your legs work and you don’t put your back into it). We do a variety of moves that stretch and strengthen my core and glutes.
Afterwards, I’m shaky from effort. Happily, the sofa is nearby. This is the way forward.
ClassPass (pictured) is an online subscription app that allows you to book fitness classes and spa appointments
Thanks to so many of us working from home, and with 95 per cent of gyms worldwide forced to close at various times, there has been a huge rise in online lunchtime workouts.
Noon classes have seen a 67 per cent boost in popularity, according to ClassPass, the online subscription app that allows you to book fitness classes and spa appointments. As it says, ‘lunch break is the new crunch break’. It also makes sense physiologically. By noon, we are no longer bleary-eyed, we have eaten something and our muscles have warmed up.
Julia Healey, director at ClassPass, says: ‘The pandemic has shifted our routines. We’re no longer biking to work, walking around large offices or stepping outside to grab lunch.
‘The lunchtime workout has become the perfect way to break up the at-home workday and take an intentional moment for self-care.
‘A rise in workouts at noon is a positive signal that we’re building new, healthy habits at home and making exercise a priority.
‘During a recent Class- Pass survey, 80 per cent of professionals shared that fitness has been crucial to establishing new pandemic routines, and it’s likely that noon will remain a popular time to work up a sweat in 2021.’
Peloton Tread (pictured), the latest running machine from interactive fitness platform Peloton isn’t cheap but, judging by the success of the brand to date, it’s an investment millions will likely make
THE NEW PELOTON
At £2,295 plus a £39/month subscription, Peloton Tread, the latest running machine from interactive fitness platform Peloton isn’t cheap but, judging by the success of the brand to date, it’s an investment millions will likely make.
It follows on from the now famous Peloton exercise bike (Rishi Sunak and Michelle Obama are fans), which enables you to attend live-streamed studio-style spin classes from home, the large screen behind the handlebars making it brilliantly immersive and fun.
It’s sociable and as competitive as you want it to be, with a roster of elite instructors. This addictive combination has grown the Peloton ‘community’ to more than 3.6 million members.
The Tread itself is spacious and sturdy yet compact, with what the brand calls an ‘infinity belt’. That is, while the machine has a crossbar, there’s no shield at the front, so you can hit your full stride and not worry about stubbing your toe.
It gives a sense of freedom. Also, rather than jabbing frantically at the screen to increase or decrease speed, you twist a dial on your left.
There’s a ‘jump button’, too, if you are interval training and want a faster speed change.
You twist a dial on your right to control incline (up to 12.5 per cent).
Its screen is luxurious at 23.8 in, and you can choose live running, walking or bootcamp classes. Or simply tilt the screen if you want to dismount to do floor-work.
There’s an all-time leader board, so even if your class isn’t live, you can see your rank in the fitness hierarchy.
Filters include instructor, duration, music genre and difficulty, so whether you fancy a power run, with a pop soundtrack, led by your favourite coach in New York, or a scenic hike along an Argentinian trail, your wish is on demand.
Thanks to the sustained assault on our physical and mental health, in 2021 we are fully embracing the powers of exercise as medicine using platforms such as Hayo’u Fit
hayoufit.com, 45-minute class is £10
Thanks to the sustained assault on our physical and mental health, in 2021 we are fully embracing the powers of exercise as medicine.
ClassPass reports a dramatic rise in bookings for restorative activities such as yoga (up 25 per cent) since the start of the pandemic, and NHS England, NHS Improvement, ukactive, Sport England and the National Academy for Social Prescribing have now teamed up to offer up to 100,000 people free gym and physical activity sessions in 2021.
Among the many excellent new initiatives that combine physical activity with nurturing emotional wellbeing is the Hayo’u Fit platform, founded by Chinese medicine practitioner Katie Brindle, who at the start of lockdown began sharing her daily Qigong practice on Instagram.
Qigong, often referred to as Chinese yoga, is about opening the energy channels of the body, stretching muscles and combining movement and breath to help cleanse the organs.
Research has shown that it reduces stress hormones and blood pressure and can improve immunity and cognitive function and relieve chronic pain from conditions such as fibromyalgia and arthritis.
Hayo’u Fit has six instructors taking live Zoom classes. My gentle session required focus and got the blood pumping — halfway through I felt a warm internal glow — but it also calmed and revived.
There are more dynamic and challenging options, too.
Jaxjox KettlebellConnect 2.0 (pictured) is a ‘six weights in one’ adjustable kettlebell. This ‘smart’ kettlebell also connects to the Jaxjox app, tracking your reps, sets, weight, time, volume and power, to determine your Fitness IQ score
SMART HOME GYM KIT
With fitness clubs closed, home gym equipment sales in the UK have shot up a huge 5,813 per cent since lockdown last March, according to price comparison site Idealo.
Last July, more gym weights were sold than in all of 2019. Yet who has room to store five kettlebells and a weight bench?
The greatest barrier to getting fit at home is a lack of equipment, says leading trainer Steve Mellor, of AMP in London. His gym has been lending clients equipment in lockdown so they can strength train effectively at home.
There are some ingenious new home gym options. Jaxjox KettlebellConnect 2.0 is a ‘six weights in one’ adjustable kettlebell (from 5.5 kg to 19 kg; £229, argos.co.uk, above). You can change its weight in 3 kg increments by pushing a button.
This ‘smart’ kettlebell also connects to the Jaxjox app, tracking your reps, sets, weight, time, volume and power, to determine your Fitness IQ score. A £12.99 pm subscription to the Jaxjox app gives you access to live and on-demand classes (jaxjox.co.uk).
If you prefer your work out tech-free, the neat Technogym Bench (£1,190 — ouch — technogym.com) includes five pairs of hexagon dumbbells, three resistance bands, weighted knuckles and a training mat which store neatly within the bench ‘box’ —all you need to sculpt those glutes and build your six-pack from home.
Here’s to a fit, strong and healthy 2021.