Our favourite workouts of 2013
From underwater cycling to group fitness classes led by celebrity trainers, these are just a few of the popular workouts we saw in 2013
Underwater cycling studios have begun to pop up across North America. These underwater stationary bikes were originally used as physical therapy for injured athletes but have gone mainstream with group classes. (In 2013, Aqua became the first studio in New York City to offer the classes.)
According to research from the Montreal Heart Institute, water workouts are just as effective as land workouts, and "may even be more efficient from a cardio-respiratory standpoint," says study author Mathieu Gayda, a clinical exercise physiologist. The study was based on the effectiveness of an "immersible ergocycle" (an exercise bike in a pool).
The reinvented hotel workout
It's becoming easier to stick to your workout regimen while travelling. Some hotel chains are now offering fitness gear you can rent during your stay. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts across Canada have rental gear that's available to members of its Fairmont President's Club. Members of this loyalty program get access to Reebok footwear and workout gear (a track jacket, shirt and socks, plus capris and sports bras for women, and pants or shorts for men). You can also request a pre-loaded MP3 player to use during your workout, and if you like the Reebok gear you received, you can purchase new items at a 15 percent discount. Both the shoes and gear are available in Canada exclusively through the Fairmont Fit Program.
Westin Hotels & Resorts have also launched a Gear Lending Program, offering New Balance footwear and apparel on loan (including capri pants, shirts, sports bras and socks for women, and shorts, shirts and socks for men).
Jillian Michaels' BodyShred class rolled out in GoodLife Fitness gyms across the country this year and we got the chance to work out with the celebrity trainer herself. The 30-minute class is modelled after Jillian's 3-2-1 interval training approach, which consists of three minutes of strength exercises (squats with bicep curls, lunges, etc), two minutes of cardio (burpees, butt kicks, etc) and one minute of ab exercises (ab bike, mountain climbers, etc). The 3-2-1 sequence repeats three or four times with no breaks.
The class is intense. You're getting a full-body workout in just half an hour, so, as Jillian would say, "make it count."
Exercising in water keeps you from overheating, and the water provides natural resistance so you get some excellent strength training. According to Charlene Kopansky, founder and president of the Canadian Aquafitness Leaders Alliance Inc., the benefits include zero impact on your joints and improved cardiovascular fitness, just to name a couple. "The multidirectional resistance of the water also helps to reduce post-workout soreness," she says.
During your workout, you can expect your heart rate to be 10 to 15 beats slower per minute than if you were doing a typical land workout. But this doesn't mean you aren't working hard, says Kopansky. It's all gain and no pain.
If marathon running isn't your thing, shorter (5K or 10K) races with a focus on having fun with friends may be of interest. Here are a few of our favourites from 2013:
Color Me Rad runners dress all in white and get blasted in vibrant neon paint every five minutes along the 5K course.
Mud Hero is a 6K race that consists of water obstacles, slippery climbs, and lots of mud!
Not Since Moses is a unique 5K or 10K walk/run that takes place in the Bay of Fundy. Participants walk or run the ocean floor at low tide and even pass Joggins Fossil Cliffs, a UNESCO site.
For an Amazing Race-like experience try the Scion City Chase, where participants have a time limit of 6 hours to race through their city completing as many ChasePoints (checkpoint obstacles or tasks) as they can.
Stand-up paddleboarding and SUP yoga
Stand-up paddleboarding is now the "it" water sport. It's a fun, relaxing way to spend time on the water. But most of all it's a killer workout for your core and helps to tone your arms.
It's also become popular to do yoga on a SUP board while out on the lake. Devotees love the meditative benefits and the great core conditioning. Stay tuned for a new twist on this workout in 2014!
Best Health's Editor-in-Chief Bonnie Munday hit the road again this year for another cycling challenge. This time it involved six days of cycling on Prince Edward Island for a total of 350 kilometres (from one end of the island to the other).
Pssst: We're looking for your stories. Tell us about a charity challenge you've completed for a chance to win some amazing prizes, as well as $1,000 for yourself and $1,000 for the charity of your choice! Enter at besthealthmag.ca/challengecontest.
Hardcore obstacle courses
Often designed by former marines and elite athletes, obstacle races push your fitness (and your mental strength) to the limit.