Back to work(ing out)

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If gyms and running tracks around town feel more crowded this month, it is not just your imagination at play: gym membership sales, and attendance of existing members, spike in the early autumn. With a host of new tools and trends to try out, it is now easier than ever to keep training sessions fresh and challenging. Whether headed to the gym for the first time, or a veteran fitness fanatic, there are lots of new ways to keep training sessions exciting. Here’s a guide to some of the latest trends to try out.

Minimalist Running
Advocates of minimalist running believe that we run most naturally in bare feet. They argue that barefoot running increases awareness of running, how the foot hits the ground and the feedback that it sends the body. Over time, foot and ankle muscles strengthen, encouraging fore-foot running, which is easier on knees and hips than landing with a heavy heel strike.

Minimalist running shoes come in a variety of styles. The original barefoot shoe has five toes and a thin sole to protect feet from heat, cold, and debris on the road. Major shoe companies have now tweaked the style, offering a more traditional looking trainer that is extremely light with a thin, flat sole and little support on the upper.

Minimalist running needs to be approached with some caution. Beginners and avid runners alike need to follow a training plan that transitions them slowly into shoes with little support. Mileage must increase slowly so that adaptations within the body can be absorbed to build strength, while avoiding injury. Runners with existing foot problems should speak with a podiatrist before slipping into a pair of minimalist shoes.

TRX
Who knew three little letters could pack so much punch: TRX is the latest, and arguably greatest, innovation in functional training since the stability ball. It was first created by a Navy SEAL, stranded on a tour of duty with nowhere to train. He took two lengths of nylon webbing, attached them to a fixed object, and performed modified versions of traditional exercises (lunges, push-ups, rows and the like) using the weight of his own body to create resistance. Suspension training was born.

Technogym has now packaged the idea into a tidy system of nylon straps and handles. Simply place hands or feet in the handles and perform the exercise. One of the key benefits of using TRX is that core muscles must be stabilized before performing an exercise. So that lunge isn’t just for legs and bottom, it is also working abs. Light and portable, this piece of equipment can be taken anywhere and simply anchored to a standard door for the duration of a session. In gyms, they are anchored to walls, ceilings and TRX frames. Anyone will benefit from using TRX, but if new to the gym, ask a personal trainer to demonstrate how to adjust the straps as well as a few simple exercises.

ViPR
Pronounced ‘viper’, this new tool looks like a weighted rubber tube, an extremely versatile tool that develops strength while working in all planes of motion.

Created by Michol Dalcourt during his time as a strength and conditioning coach for NHL hockey players, ViPR is an acronym that stands for vitality, performance and re-conditioning. Dalcourt observed that traditional exercise tools restrict natural freedom of movement in the body. ViPR combines the benefits of traditional strength training while using free flowing movement, resulting in highly effective functional training. In our daily lives, we do not reach, twist, or prevent ourselves from falling in a set pattern of motion. Freedom to move, and to train the body to move freely, is what life-long fitness is about – this is functional training at its core.

Virtually indestructible, the ViPR can be lifted, thrown, pulled, pushed, bounced, rolled and balanced on. It comes in seven weights and can be used by anyone in the gym, but first ask a trainer to help with a few exercises. After that, observe what others are doing and then give it a try. It is amazing how great it feels to move freely while developing strength and power.