IMAGE: Pole dancing fitness class
Scott Barbour  /  Getty Images file
Women perform pole tricks during a pole dancing fitness class in London.
updated 7/14/2006 4:27:33 PM ET 2006-07-14T20:27:33

If you've ever fallen victim to fad diets or health club campaigns that promise unrealistic results, you've probably learned that gimmicks don't work.

At least, they didn't used to.

Take a look at your gym's class schedules. See a smattering of unfamiliar names? WarriorSati? Rope Burn? These aren't your typical aerobics classes, but new workouts designed to capture members' short attention spans.

While there will always be hardcore gym rats, huffing and puffing through squats and bicep curls and blandly peddling away on stationary bikes, gyms have learned that the best way to keep members intrigued is by offering workouts that go way beyond step classes and Jazzercise.

It's a concept that works for Crunch, a national health club chain known for grinding out unorthodox classes such as Stiletto Strength, a dance-inspired workout that includes 15 minutes of strutting in heels, and Cardio Striptease, a class that gets your heart pumping due to more than just the workout.

'Theatrical fitness'
"We call ourselves theatrical fitness," says Donna Cyrus, vice president of programming for Crunch. "We find ways to excite the mind instead of just working out the body."

As fitness centers stretch to find innovative classes to keep up with the competition, many are fusing different exercise modalities. Clay Fitness in New York City offers Budokon, a combination of martial arts and yoga. Crunch features YogaRide, a combination of yoga and spinning, and Ballroom Blitz, several different types of dance packed into one class.

It's not just hybrid workouts that fitness fanatics can look forward to. International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association spokeswoman Brooke Correia says exercise trends tend to coincide with the latest in pop culture. For example, Tour de Spinning, a class that simulates cycling through the Tour de France, is set to begin around the time of the competition.

If you're looking for high-intensity classes, gyms such as The Sports Club/LA now offer Indo-Row, a cardio and strength-training workout using indoor rowing machines. For those who want an action-packed sequence of Tai Chi movement and strengthening using a medicine ball, Equinox Fitness Club offers Speedball.

Stroller Strides for new moms
Mothers looking to lose their post-pregnancy bellies are hopping on the exercise trail. Stroller Strides, a 45-minute workout that consists of speed walking with a stroller and several strength-training intervals, has attracted about 30,000 moms across the nation. The founder of the program, Lisa Druxman, says moms are looking for a way to exercise and spend time with their kids. "It's a community and culture that we've created," she says. "Our instructors become a resource for motherhood, not just physical fitness."

Crunch owes its popularity to gimmicks like having drag queens teach aerobics classes. It began as an aerobics studio in New York City's East Village in 1989 and has since expanded into a 32-gym chain with locations in New York City, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, and soon, Washington D.C.

'Wedding Singer' workout
Recently, it introduced a series of classes based on Broadway hits, in which participants learn dance moves from the shows. This season, the featured class is "The Wedding Singer." On top of a workout, members can win tickets to the actual show and CD soundtracks.

"It started off kind of tongue-in-cheek," says Cyrus. "The workouts are outlandish, but you'll never get something without merit."

© 2012 Forbes.com

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