Contrary to what you might think, the beginning of the year is actually a great time to choose a new gym.
Sure, January for health clubs is like August in the Hamptons: A period when people are willing to pay top dollar for membership. Suddenly, every health club is jammed with pudgy, out-of-breath New Year's resolutioners — who may or may not look like you. But, like the first days in Navy Seals training, those who can't hack it drop out pretty fast.
For those who will be able to tough it out mentally as well as physically this year, there are some nifty surprises in store. Gone are the days when getting in shape meant simply running, puffing through an aerobics class, doing squats or lifting weights. Appreciating that many of their newest clients are dissatisfied veterans of numerous health club campaigns, gyms today are doing more than offering the latest machinery and plants in the locker room.
According to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) in Boston, more than a million people are expected to join a gym in the month of January alone. For the $14.8 billion industry, where membership dues and fees make up almost 80 percent of the total revenue, staying on top of the latest fitness trends is key. And more and more that means offering exercises that not only provide results fast, but also are increasingly tailored to clients' interests.
"Exercise is considered a leisure activity, and people want to have fun. In the past, it was typical to find a box club with treadmills and weights, now it's about creating an experience," says Katie Rollauer, IHRSA research manager. "Clubs are figuring out new ways to keep members engaged with interesting classes."
How interesting? The newest offering at Crunch Fitness Gyms across the U.S. not only makes their female members look good in high heels, they make them exercise in them. Recently introduced, "Stiletto Strength" classes consist of a 30-minute routine of Pilates and strength training, with the last 15 minutes spent strutting around in 3-inch heels. But instead of being a class for training aspiring dominatrixes, it actually turned out to be a strength and stretch class that used classical dance moves to tone the legs.
At Equinox Fitness, new offerings include a sword-wielding class called Forza and at Clay Health Club in New York City, members can tighten their abs with an Indian dance called "Masala Bhangra."
"People are blending different types of modalities to create new workouts because something like Pilates can get repetitive and boring," says Patricia Moreno, an Equinox Instructor and creator of the class Intensati, where she inspires members to live balanced lives through a blend of meditation and martial arts. "I like to create classes that no one is doing, so I rarely look to the fitness industry itself for inspiration but outside of it and see what I can bring into it."
On the other hand, many clubs are finding bigger benefits in targeting a smaller crowd. IHRSA says appealing to a niche audience is also a growing trend. For instance, Hanson Personal Training Studio in New York City simply offers personal training sessions for members who may not want to exercise with others or who don't want monthly membership fees. For those looking to skip out of the gym experience altogether, a trend that may serve to be a truly hot experience is Bikram yoga studios, where clients follow a series of yoga techniques in a room of 90 to 120 degrees.
So whether your idea of getting in shape entails stretching in intense heat or holding the Lotus pose while lunging, Forbes.com has compiled a list of hot fitness trends that appeal to just about everyone. With any luck, if you like these workouts, maybe this will be the year you actually follow up on your New Year's resolutions.