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Vowed to get fit for 2020? Read our guide to this year’s key fitness trends before you lace up those trainers
It’s time to reboot your fitness regime for the New Year – without renewing your gym membership. In 2020, we’ll be taking a more holistic approach to exercise – which means dialling down the intensity, reconnecting with our bodies, minds and surroundings, and having a good laugh in the process. From mindful running to virtual reality, social skiing to surfing, find out why there’s more to this year’s fitness trends than meets the eye.
It’s time to forget about the finish line and focus on the journey. This year, we’re combining exercise with mindfulness, which means slowing the pace, turning down the noise and tuning into the world around us.
‘When we run without distraction we activate the brain's Default Mode Network (DMN) which is responsible for solving problems and being more creative,’ explains Dr Rangan Chatterjee, author, GP and founder of the UK’s number one health podcast, Feel Better, Live More. ‘While I love the fact that people listen to my podcast while running and walking, I would encourage everyone to go for the odd walk or run without headphones or a GPS tracker. You can hear the sounds of nature, return to the real essence of movement and allow your brain’s creativity to flourish.’
‘Every now and then, I run with nothing but a small bottle of water strapped to my hip,’ agrees Sean Conway, OS GetOutside Champion and extreme endurance adventurer. ‘It makes you fall in love with running. When you take away the tech, you analyse your body and mind more closely. How do my feet land and take off? What are the smells around me? It turns it into something you do because you want to – not because you feel the need to chase your own times or reduce your heart rate.’
Not quite ready to go it alone? Adidas Runners London organises free Mindfulness Runs suitable for people of all abilities, including new runners.
Hiking is officially trending, which is great news for our health – and our social lives. 'Regular walking brings myriad benefits for body and brain, and the best of walking is walking with others,’ says Shane O’Mara, a professor of experimental brain research and Wellcome Trust senior investigator at Trinity College Dublin’s Institute of Neuroscience, and the author of In Praise of Walking: The new science of how we walk and why it’s good for us.
‘Walking is our overlooked superpower,’ he continues. ‘It enabled us to walk out of Africa and conquer the world. We walked the world over in small groups, extended families, and tribes: at its core, our walking is social.'
Find a walking club near you on ramblers.org or, if you’re based in London, check out FRAME gym’s new free FRAME of Mind Walking Club, which is set to offer quarterly hiking trips for urbanites from January.
Rock climbing will make its Olympic debut at this year’s Games, which is sure to take the sport’s growing popularity to even greater heights. But what’s in it for you?
A stronger body and mind, for starters. ‘People think it’s all about arms, but the reality is that almost every muscle group in the body will be worked by a day of climbing,’ explains OS GetOutside Champion and high-altitude climber Kenton Cool. ‘It works your mind, too – one has to master one’s own fear in order to overcome the climb.
‘Your local climbing wall is a good place to get started and meet like-minded people, but don’t forget that you can also climb in some of the most beautiful outdoor settings.’ Why not make a long weekend of it? Organisations like Pure Outdoor and Rock & Sun offer short courses for beginners in beautiful locations such as the Peak District and even the Costa Blanca.
How do you beat the January blues, blitz festive weight gain, have your cake and eat it, too? Go skiing! Moderate downhill skiing burns around 400 calories an hour, engages the core muscles and strengthens the lower body – and all that winter sun will top up your quota of mood-enhancing vitamin D to boot. But it’s not just a great workout – going skiing can be a fantastic way to combat loneliness and meet like minds, too.
‘Skiing alone works for some people, but nothing beats a bit of chairlift banter, comedy group ski photos and friendly competition on the piste,’ says Nicky Jackson, co-founder of Cold Fusion Chalets, who organise ski and snowboarding holidays aimed at solo travellers, couples and small groups of all abilities, from single parent ski trips to ski and yoga holidays and even ski safari breaks.
‘It’s always nice to have others to look out for you on the mountain,’ she adds. ‘If you meet someone of a similar level, or just that little bit better, your skills will improve no end, and so will your confidence. And remember, great company on the mountain is great company off the mountain – dancing in ski boots is just another skill to master with your new friends!’
If switching hours of grunt work in the gym for a 5-minute boogie while the kettle boils sounds like a trend you could get on board with, listen up. ‘We know that exercising in the gym, although very beneficial, does not undo the negatives of sitting down at a desk all day,’ warns Dr Chatterjee. ‘So it’s really important to be as active as possible throughout the day.’
The good news is, it couldn’t be easier. ‘We have overcomplicated fitness,’ says Dr Chatterjee, who shares some of his favourite 5 minute workouts in his latest book, Feel Better in 5. ‘I am a huge fan of people taking their “movement” in 5-minute doses. You don’t need to join a gym, buy any equipment or even get changed – I have prescribed 5-minute workouts to my patients for years, be it 5 minutes of bodyweight exercises, 5 minutes of yoga, 5 minutes of HIIT or 5 minutes of dancing.’
‘Studies have shown you can burn more calories with a short HIIT workout than a longer regular workout,’ adds Scott Humphreys, founder of boutique fitness studio SP Athletic. ‘And that's not even allowing for the calorie burning once the session is over!’
Try the SP Athletic Tabata cardio workout, which takes just 4 minutes: do as many repetitions as you can of each exercise in 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds before moving on to the next exercise. Repeat the whole sequence twice.
If you like the motivation boost of going to a fitness class, but struggle to get to the gym, or feel a bit self-conscious, virtual reality could be the answer. It might sound like science fiction, but it’s perfectly possible to live-stream your favourite classes to your living room. See if your favourite fitness studio is already on-board with an on-demand platform like Fittever, invest in a bike or treadmill with integrated livecast capability, or download the Fiit app for instant access to hundreds of workouts.
‘From Vivian Fonseca and her famous Brazilian Method classes (voted Tatler’s best bottom class) to YogiYoga of Wandsworth, our online classes capture the unique energy and vibe of the studios we work with, while allowing you to exercise in your own time, in your own home,’ explains Fittever’s Piers Chen.
Fiit runs dedicated Cardio, Strength and Rebalance studios, a postnatal programme and even a live leaderboard function that allows you to work out with friends, family and colleagues across the country. ‘The app boasts classes from a roster of hugely respected personal trainers,’ says co-founder Ian McCaig. ‘From strength classes to build and sculpt muscle to high intensity cardio to burn fat and build stamina, to yoga flows, Pilates and breathwork to help you find your zen and improve your flexibility. And the new Apple watch capability enables Fiit users to join the live leaderboard classes, without purchasing a Fiit device.’
You might know your downward dog from your cat-cow, but do you know your yellow yoga from your blue? If not, it might be time to pay a visit to ChromaYoga, the UK’s first multisensory yoga and meditation studio, where light, colour, sound, scent and art come together, working with your circadian rhythms to enhance energy, mood, metabolism and muscle activation.
‘Our classes are grounded in the latest scientific research,’ explains ChromaYoga founder Nina Ryner. ‘For example, most people are aware that blue light from computer and phone screens can affect our sleep. But low levels of blue or full-spectrum white light can contribute to Seasonal Affective Disorder. A morning or lunchtime Blue class will set you up for an energetic, productive day. And in the evening, our Red, Yellow and Pink classes will help your brain produce the right hormones to get a good night’s sleep.’
Combining the endorphin-boosting highs of wild swimming with the physical challenge of trail running, SwimRun is a team sport that pits pairs of friends, couples or family members together against the elements. During a SwimRun race, you’ll traverse rugged natural landscapes via a series of alternating open water swims and runs. You can’t get changed, and you have to stay within 10m of your partner at all times.
It might sound challenging, but if you’re feeling disconnected, this could be just what you need. ‘SwimRun changed my life in 2019,’ says Dr Chatterjee. ‘I did two events with my 9-year-old son, which helped us bond. The challenges we faced during the races taught us both about adversity, resilience and teamwork. There is a sense of adventure and connection to nature. Once you connect yourself to nature, you automatically find yourself more connected and concerned about the environment.’
Swim Oxford’s Lock to Lock SwimRun event is perfect for newcomers. You can choose from the half stump: a 1.2k swim followed by a 7k run, and the full stump: a 1.2k swim, 7k run, 1.6k swim, 450m dash, 1k swim and 6k run.
With indoor rowing studios popping up across the country, the sport is only set to grow in popularity. And according to Chris Heron, founder and head coach at The Engine Room, the UK’s first rowing studio, it’s well worth a punt. ‘When you learn the skill of rowing, it offers a very low impact way to exercise the whole body – about 85% with every stroke,’ he explains.
‘You can burn over 300 calories in 30 minutes on an indoor rowing machine,’ adds Matt Gleed, one of British Rowing’s Go Row Indoor master trainers. ‘It’s low impact and great for core strength and flexibility. The basic technique is easy to get the hang of, making it a great way of easing into exercise – you’ll see changes to your health and fitness, fast.
‘Anyone can jump on a rowing machine and get started. It’s also hugely sociable – you can exercise with friends at the gym, or at a local rowing club. Why not have a go at one of British Rowing’s Go Row Indoor workout videos? Perfect if you’re short on time or new to rowing, they’re just 20 minutes long, free to access and really pack a punch.’
Another sport that’s set to make its debut in the 2020 Olympic Games, surfing is sure to make a splash on the fitness scene this summer. But why wait, when you can give it a go right now? That’s right – thanks to man-made inland lakes and lagoons like The Wave, which launched in late 2019, we can ride those waves all year round.
Surfing will work both your core and your cardiovascular system, but according to The Wave’s founder, osteopath Nick Hounsfield, there’s a lot more to it than that. ‘We are all so busy that we don’t take that time out to step back, reset and simply be,’ he explains. ‘So many of the ailments my clients suffered with were down to stress, inactivity and disconnection from the natural world and from each other.
‘Surfing draws on the known therapeutic effects of being active in water. It makes you feel alive. It also requires complete focus and concentration – mindfulness in action. The Wave is a space for people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to surf on safe waves all year round, share incredible experiences and come out happier, healthier and feeling invigorated.’