Trending Now – FUNctional Fitness

fitness-1In my over-20-year career as a health and fitness professional, I have seen and participated in nearly every fitness trend to come down the pipeline, from Cardio Box and Urban Rebounding® to YogaFit® and CrossFit®. Locally, I see current trends most prevalent in small, boutique studios—but they are accessible to anyone with inclination and motivation. Our modern, screen-based jobs compared to more active/manual labor jobs of the past have contributed to a more sedentary lifestyle; some experts even propose that “sitting is the new smoking.” In response, many of the current ways to work out are bringing function back to our bodies in an attempt to reverse the negative affects of a sedentary lifestyle. These workouts can be self-directed in your home, at your gym or even on a playground. If choosing the self-sufficient path, I recommend that you spend a little time with a trainer face to face before embarking on a self-driven fitness journey; the initial investment will reap tremendous dividends toward results and injury prevention.

Current fitness trends all have one thing in common: functional fitness. More specifically stated, functional fitness exercises train our bodies in multiple planes of motion by using whole-body integrated movements rather than isolated movements. Joseph Pilates, the creator of Pilates, says it best in his 1945 book, Return to Life Through Contrology: “Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness … the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily and satisfactorily performing our many and varied tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure.”

I’m a pragmatist, a mom and a business owner, so I want effective and efficient ways to workout. Many of the current fitness activities embody practicality and are in the realm of making your life better through quality movement. Being a seasoned Pilates trainer and exercise science nerd, I enjoy seeing this trend come out of my little world into the greater fitness context. Jerrod Ruhl, owner of Lynchburg CrossFit, agrees. “I see a trend toward capability being the measuring stick as opposed to what I look like in the mirror. How much can I deadlift, squat, clean? As opposed to, how skinny do I look?” Recently, CrossFit has gained tremendous popularity. CrossFit-style workouts include constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity, and these movements reflect aspects of gymnastics, weightlifting and more. Fresh, functional workouts can be attractive and breathe new life into a fitness regime, especially when infused with a sense of accomplishment, capability and play.

fitness-2Core-Focused Training

It is no surprise that core-focused formats are trending—they work! Many of the popular core classes are some reformulation of the classic core conditioning, Pilates. Julie Preston, a local Pilates expert, believes, “Embracing the Pilates principles stands alone as the single-most beneficial personal outcome of fitness. Pilates is not about abdominal exercises, it’s about your life—moving well from our center, our powerhouse.” With a distinct Pilates flair, barre classes mix ballet conditioning, functional fitness, dance, and are set to music. Some barre classes bring your heart rate up, while others focus on toning. Choose barre if you enjoy rhythmic exercise or need a new form of cardio. Barre classes are great cross training for runners and anyone wanting to firm up. Outside of barre classes, there are many core fusion or hybrid classes offered locally, and the self-sufficient exerciser can subscribe to PilatesAnytime for the best cache of online core workouts including barre.

fitness-3TRX Suspension Training

The TRX® Suspension Trainer™ was born in the American military’s special forces. Stuck in a wharfside warehouse waiting for a mission for days on end makes a Navy Seal get creative and turn some nylon straps into a versatile workout tool. These nylon straps evolved to become the TRX Suspension Trainer. Tracey White, a seasoned local trainer, has a penchant for incorporating the TRX Suspension Trainer into all client programs. She finds the device’s versatility to be a significant benefit. “It is scalable for intensity and overall ability. We use this with everyone—from our elderly clients, to improve balance and off-load aging joints, to our young athletes,” says White. There are so many wonderful ways to experience TRX and you’ll find various classes all over town. When choosing a place to experience TRX, be sure that you choose a credentialed trainer. Find their qualifications at www.trxtraining.com. There, you can also purchase your own straps, and download workouts and apps.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Experts all agree that high intensity interval training (HIIT) is on target and here to stay. This form of exercise brings your heart rate up, then pauses to take it down in cycles. Peer-reviewed research has validated why it’s effective. Izumi Tabata extensively researched the staple HIIT rhythm, concluding that 20 seconds of maximal work followed by 10 seconds of rest for 4 minutes delivered optimal performance. Chris Frankel, program director at Fitness Anywhere/TRX gives the most important advice to HIIT workouts. “High intensity interval training is built on strong, focused, biomechanically sound movements,” he explains. At local gyms, HIIT classes may have HIIT in the description rather than the title because the concept can be applied so many ways. HIIT programs can be created with no equipment, or by using kettlebells, barbells/dumbbells or suspension trainers. Many CrossFit-style workouts incorporate HIIT. Download the GymBoss timer app to create your Tabata workouts with your bodyweight.

fitness-4

Obstacle Race Training

Thanks in part to the success of Kacy Catanzaro in the American Ninja Warrior challenge, and the fact that NBC Sports is now televising Spartan® Races, this category of extreme bodyweight training will continue to experience exponential growth over the coming year. Think playground fun for adults! There are various ways for fitness professionals to apply their knowledge to design a proper program for obstacle races. At Peaksview Park, you’ll find stations along the paved trail to hone your climbing
and gymnastics skills.

Exercise that creates function and muscular balance will not only sculpt a strong body, but improve quality of life. When enlisting the help of a professional, ask them about their experience and training to discern if they can craft a customized workout for you. 

For classes, check out the class schedule at any of the following studios and gyms:

  • CrossFit Lynchburg
  • Iron & Grace
  • Jamerson or Downtown YMCA
  • Kinetix
  • Peakland Pilates


Alaya Sexton is an educator and leader in the realm of mind-body fitness and athletic performance.
She and her husband Chad, transplants from Minnesota, own Iron & Grace and love mountain biking and hiking in the Blue Ridge with their two children.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *