Aerial yoga: a complete mind and body workout that alleviates pressure on the joints
If you don't mind working out with your feet off the ground while hanging upside down, aerial yoga might be for you. The exercise has rapidly gained popularity in the past few years, and specialist aerial yoga studios are popping up throughout New Zealand.
Rebecca Chensee runs an aerial fitness facility and says the reason for aerial yoga's popularity is because it offers a complete mind and body workout while alleviating pressure on the joints. "Because part of the body is always in the aerial swing, pressure on the joints, particularly during stretching is greatly reduced," she says.
Hanging upside down, or inversions as they're known in yoga, has benefits for the spine and the vascular system too.
"Going upside down is enjoyable for the spine as the space between each vertebrae is lengthened, alleviating lower back pain. It's especially good for people who have been sitting, hunched over a computer all day," says Chensee.
Aerial yoga classes vary and can include a combination of body-weight strengthening using the aerial swing as suspension straps, as well as intensive cardio workouts with vinyasa-style movements.
"Another major benefit of aerial yoga is that it strengthens the core, as all the exercises engage these muscles. People don't often realise until after the class how much of a core workout they've had."
If you're concerned that your aerial swing might fall, Chensee explains that their swings are rigged to metal beams that are weighted to 600kg. "Unless you weigh as much as an orca, you have nothing to worry about."
Krav Maga: learn to defend yourself while gaining strength
Krav Maga is not your typical workout. Based on a self-defence system developed for the Israeli army, it'll get you fit while you learn the important life-saving skills of self-defence.
Krav Maga expert Ron Engelman, explains that a typical class involves not only learning self-defence techniques such as kicking and punching, but also a cardio workout and strength-training exercises. While the cardio component gets you fit, it's not the sole reason why it's implemented into the class.
"In a typical self-defence class, people first learn the techniques in a positive and calm environment. Once they've mastered the skills, we pick up the pace and get people's heart rate up by endurance and cardio training. We give them a chance to put the self-defence techniques they've learnt into practise safely, in realistic conditions."
The reason for this, says Engelman, is because in a life-threatening scenario, your heart rate is elevated and your instinctual responses are heightened. Krav Maga relies on these natural responses to teach people the techniques to get themselves out of dangerous situations.
Engelman stresses that unlike most martial arts, the focus is not on fighting. "Our perspective is learning to get out of dangerous situations with minimal damage to ourselves and others. By utilising the skills learned in Krav Maga, you win by getting home safely – not by knocking out your opponent. But if you do have to fight to protect yourself, we give you the tools to do so."
Engelman believes this self-defence focus is the reason why almost half of Krav Maga class participants are women. "This is exceptional compared to other martial arts programmes," he says.
Engelman explains that in addition to ongoing Krav Maga training classes, they also hold concentrated women-only workshops called 'She Fights Back', in which women are given real tools and information to defend themselves.
"These are fun and engaging, and participants learn real self-defence skills in a positive and empowering environment," he says.
For information on Krav Maga, go to krav-maga.com.
Barre Attack: improve fitness and stamina while strengthening muscles and improving balance
Take ballet techniques like pliés and tendus, add some Pilates and cardio, and you get Barre Attack, a challenging workout designed to improve fitness and stamina while strengthening muscles and improving balance.
Certified Barre Attack instructor Sally Prentice explains that classes start at the barre with bending, stretching and squats, then move to a variety of exercises using resistance bands, hand weights and body weight.
"Sometimes an exercise looks really simple, but after one set, your legs are screaming."
Although Barre Attack incorporates ballet techniques in every workout, Prentice explains that you don't have to be a dancer to join in, as there isn't any choreography to master.
"The workouts target problem zones: the legs, butts, thighs and core – the bits many women are most concerned about."
Participants of Barre Attack classes can expect not only to see an improvement in fitness but also flexibility, posture and stamina, says Prentice.
Boxing: fitness and fun
While you'll strap up and don boxing gloves and pads, there's no heading into the ring with these boxing classes, which are really taking off. The most popular boxing classes are actually ones that teach proper boxing technique with a focus on fitness and fun – no sparring involved.
Stephen Punter, director of BoxSlim Fitness, explains that the philosophy behind boxing for fitness is to work as hard as you can but in an environment that teaches proper technique to prevent injury.
Unlike some choreographed boxing classes that have participants punching the air in a sequence set to music, their boxing for fitness classes involve partnering clients up so they can provide each other with resistance while punching or holding focus pads to some great music.
"We don't punch the air because that can sometimes hyper-extend the elbows and shoulders, which can cause injury," he says.
Denis Krastic from Burn Boxing and Fitness in Melbourne agrees, and includes the use of specialised boxing equipment such as floor-to-ceiling balls, speedballs and combo bags in every class. Using this equipment, participants are taught boxing techniques such as jab and cross, upper cuts and hooks.
Krastic has noticed a definite increase in the number of women choosing to take up boxing, with women making up more than 80 per cent of their membership base.
"The main driver is self-defence," he says. "As opposed to martial arts, which can take years to learn, boxing techniques are easy to learn, which gives women confidence in defending themselves.
"In boxing for fitness classes, we don't train fighters, and this attracts women because they can learn boxing techniques while getting fit, toned and strong at the same time."
For more information, and to find a class near you, check out boxslim.co.nz.
Trampoline classes: "exercise in disguise"
Remember all the fun you had as a kid jumping on your backyard trampoline? Now you can relive those days while getting fit at the same time. Trampoline classes are increasing in popularity and are a fun alternative to traditional exercise.
The indoor trampolining park franchise JUMP holds classes called JUMP.fit in which as many as 100 interconnecting trampolines are the platform on which participants exercise. Co-founder and managing director of JUMP.fit Sandra Mu explains that jumping may feel like a lot of fun but is actually "exercise in disguise, giving you an all-over body workout".
She explains that exercising on a trampoline utilises all the muscle groups yet is low impact, and it's a great cardio workout too.
Classes are 45 minutes long and participants perform Zuu-style exercises that have been modified to utilise the benefits of resistance training on the trampolines.
"In addition to jumping exercises, we do traditional exercises like press-ups. However, unlike you would on the floor, on the trampoline you simply pulse with your arms using the resistance of the mat to get a core and arm workout," says Mu.
If you're worried about what all that jumping will do for your bladder control, Mu explains that all the tensing involved in jumping actually strengthens the pelvic floor.
A similar jumping experience gaining popularity across the Tasman, sees participants exercise on specially developed mini-trampolines while holding an adjustable handlebar attached to the front of the trampoline for coordination and balance. It's also suitable for people with joint issues due to the soft fall of the trampoline netting.
"The programme consists of fast and slow jumps, dynamic sprints and upper body weight work," says Denisa Klimova, brand manager and instructor at Jumping Fitness Australia in Melbourne.
While JUMP.fit classes cater for most levels of fitness and age groups, they also offer a six-week JUMP.Bootcamp if you're looking for a more intense workout. For more information, visit jumpwithus.co.nz.
Metafit: fat burning exercise for the time-poor
If you're short on time and want a workout that keeps on burning fat long after you're finished, the workouts Metafit might be worth a try. Developed by ex-Royal Marine Commando and Ironman triathlete Justin Corcoran, Metafit takes your training to a whole new level.
Touted as a 'true' high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout, Metafit uses a combination of body-weight exercises and explosive cardio movements that work large muscle groups such as the glutes and quads to get maximum fat-burning results.
Metafit's Daniel Wilson explains that the reason for the workout's growing popularity is because it stays true to the HIIT protocol.
He says that for it to classify as a true HIIT workout, participants should be exercising at over 90 per cent of their maximum heart rate, with active and passive recovery periods interspersed between short work intervals. Workouts should also be no longer than 24 minutes in duration.
"Anything over 24 minutes will go outside the HIIT scope, because you just can't exercise at that intensity for a long period of time," says Wilson, adding that Metafit workouts range from just 16 to 24 minutes.
Wilson stresses that although Metafit isn't easy, it shouldn't deter people who are coming back to exercise after a hiatus or injury. "All our exercises can be modified to suit the beginner. Even doing the modified exercise will still get you up to the heart rate that's needed to burn fat."
MetaPWR: cranking it up a notch
MetaPWR takes the concept of Metafit and cranks it up a notch with medicine balls, ropes and kettlebells. Although the sessions are intense, each exercise can be modified and participants can opt to use different weights.
"MetaPWR is different to Metafit as it's more of a metabolic resistance session," says Wilson. "We're still working at 80-90 per cent of our maximum heart rate, but more focus is placed on loading muscle."
To find coaches around NZ, go to metafit-australia.com.