Beach season has arrived-and with it comes the fresh yearning to tone areas that were, until recently, comfortably covered. While terms like "fat blasting" and "calorie counting" used to typify an industry starving for fast results, experts say a holistic view of fitness is gaining ground and that many clients want a serving of inspiration alongside their cardio. "Everyone continues to get busier and busier, and our minds and bodies need to unload and decompress," says Lashaun Dale, creative manager of group fitness at Equinox. "Workouts that combine movement with meditation are growing."
Another trend: becoming a connoisseur of a handful of methods carefully chosen to target your goals. A new Manhattan-based site, FITiST, even offers a solution for the inconvenience of having to buy and maintain multiple memberships by selling a collection of classes that vary from cycling to yoga to boxing and are geared toward a specific end result, like "slim," "body and soul," or "bride."
Looking to change things up and tango with an exciting new method (or two, or three)? These standout concepts are currently leading the zeitgeist of what it means to be fit.
1. CAPONYASA 360
A fusion of two of the fitness industry's most popular international trends of the moment, Caponyasa combines the full body breathing principles of traditional Indian vinyasa yoga with the fierce cardio pacing of the Brazilian martial-arts form capoeira. The name takes its cue from the class's basic vinyasa form, which often requires 360-degree movement. Moves designed by founder Carlos Rodriguez engage the core and open the hips with wide squat stances and lunges that combine a tempo of inhales and exhales with elements of modern dance and combat technique. While the workout doesn't claim to teach self-defense, it's inevitable that the Bruce Lee-like strikes and flexes will do more than just condition your mind and body; they'll encourage confidence in your personal strength, too.
Workout focus: Core-induced motion and strengthening work target the abs and love handles, while squats home in on the butt and thighs. Sustained cardio keeps the heart rate high.
Unique quality: "The mental benefit is simple, as there is basically no time to think. For at least an hour, you are out of your mind and just moving to the beat of your heart and breath," says Rodriguez.
Commitment: Rodriguez suggests adding the 60-minute class as a burst of mind-clearing cardio conditioning two to three times a week.
Availability: Classes are offered at Equinox gyms nationwide and Pure Yoga in New York.
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2. WILLPOWER & GRACE
A leading expert in barefoot training, Reiki follower Stacey Lei Krauss combines a high-energy cardiovascular workout with soulful mind-body practice. "I created the program in NYC, where the 9:30 ladies had one hour to get it all done-look better in their skinny jeans, move with efficiency, and feel more inspired and alive," says Lei Krauss. After warming up barefoot, about 20 minutes of flexibility and strength movement is followed by a half hour of intense sweat-inducing cardio work. Repetition is integral, with 98 percent of the class containing the same choreography week after week; this is intended to make the movements part of your reflexive motor pattern, increasing your agility in everyday life.
Workout focus: In addition to full-body cardio health, the barefoot method strengthens your feet for a stronger and more stable stance. It also retrains your lower-body kinetic chain to progressively correct imbalances in your ankles, knees, and hips.
Unique quality: "I teach my instructors to create a unique willpower experience that positively influences people for hours and days after class. Willpower is your ability to make change, beginning with your power of thought. Grace is elegance of movement; it's how we land on our feet," says Lei.
Commitment: At the beginning, doing the workout two to three times a week for two months is the prescription. "You want the sequence to settle into your body so that you're always ending up sore after class," says Lei. After that, once to twice a week as part of a balanced workout routine is suggested.
Equipment: Just bare feet.
Availability: Classes are available at 24-Hour Fitness, Equinox, The Sports Club/LA, select YMCAs, and private studios across the country.
3. GRACE SOMATOMORPHIC TECHNIQUE (GST)
When's the last time you hit the gym to work out your fascia? The Saran Wrap-esque connective tissue that holds together the body's muscles, nerve endings, and blood vessels, fascia is responsible for creating the size and shape of the body. Founder Anna Rahe began to work with the still-under-the-radar tissue after years of dance left her in pain and in desperate search for a therapeutic fitness option. By harnessing the power of force through movement and spring equipment, she found that the fascia could be targeted and reshaped into alignment that is not only more attractive but rehabilitative, too. "People notice an immediate improvement to chronic aches and pains," says Rahe. Unlike traditional fitness that dictates weekly upkeep in order to maintain toning results, Rahe claims that dramatic aesthetic changes like muscle definition and tone that come as a result of GST method are permanent, since the supporting structure of the body has changed.
Workout focus: Reshaping and realigning the body by manipulating the fascia, its complex connective tissue system.
Unique quality: "Our proprietary technique eliminates excess 'energy' congestion inside muscle tissue that is responsible for thickness, bulk, and under- or overdeveloped muscle tissue related to cellulite," says Rahe.
Commitment: Rahe says regular class attendance three to four times a week should be supplemented with a more intensive private session once a month and a GST Bodywork class every six weeks.
Equipment: Choose from two methods: an apparatus-free movement class or one that uses various types of equipment to exert the mechanical forces of spring, traction, and friction.
Availability: Currently, there is one studio location in Hollywood, though GST DVDs and home equipment will be available for purchase by the end of summer.
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4. THE BAR METHOD
The firmly toned yet effortlessly elegant bodies of ballerinas have long been the envy of many, and this ballet bar-based method aims to increase flexibility, elongate your figure, and firm up muscles without adding bulk. Founder Burr Leonard created the regimen after teaching the similar-in-concept dance workout by Lotte Berk, but student complaints of knee, back, and shoulder discomfort-all common obstacles faced by dancers-inspired Leonard to collaborate with physical therapist Rick Stebbins to design a ballet-inspired workout that would be safe for joints and other injury-prone areas. At the core of the strength training is isometrics, which is the practice of toning muscles by holding a static position.
Workout focus: The sculpted arms, flat abs, lifted seat, and svelte yet firm thighs of the classic dancer's body.
Unique quality: "One of the less talked-about highlights of the Bar Method is its focus on teaching good posture and better muscle control. These skills contribute greatly to the distinctive beauty and grace in the bodies it produces," says Leonard.
Commitment: Leonard suggests sessions three to five times a week for transformative results yet notes that most students of the method tend to work out at least four times a week.
Equipment: Light two- to three-pound weights, a stretching strap, and a portable ballet bar (which you can substitute with a sturdy chair).
Availability: There are currently 39 studio locations across North America with 20 more scheduled to open this year. Seven workout DVDs are also available for at-home use.
5. METAMORPHOSIS BY TRACY ANDERSON
A-list gal pals like Gwyneth Paltrow have extolled the body-morphing virtues of Anderson's method, helping to make her Hollywood's trainer du jour. (Her latest celebrity client is Venus spokeswoman Jennifer Lopez, whose sculpted legs came courtesy of Anderson's technique.) The petite blond claims that-like her signature method-her new DVD workout program, Metamorphosis, "fights genetics" by engaging rarely worked small muscle groups to redefine and change the shape of the body. The 90-day plan includes dance-based cardio with an upbeat soundtrack. "I'm very musically motivated," says Anderson, who posts her own mix-of-the-moment on her homepage. "If you need that extra push to work-out, a great playlist can get you through it."
Workout focus: Choose from four series that are choreographed based on where your body stores fat: omnicentric (all over), hipcentric (hips and thighs), abcentric (stomach and waist), and glutecentric (butt and cellulite).
Unique quality: "Unlike running, cycling, or the elliptical, which work the same muscles over and over again, my exercises empower and strengthen the smaller supporting muscles in your body to give you a long, lean appearance," says Anderson.
Commitment: If you truly want to transform your body, Anderson recommends doing the DVD workouts six days a week at an hour each day, for the full 90-day period. There's also a recommended nutritional component to follow, with menus for the entire three-month period that suggest lean choices like turkey kale soup and grilled salmon.
Equipment: A yoga mat and weights that are no more than three pounds each.
Availability: DVDs are available for purchase on Anderson's website. Studios are open in New York and Los Angeles for live instructor-led training, as well as in the Hamptons during the summer season. Private trainers are also available in London.
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