Post and Courier
July 30, 2014

Fitness trends in Charleston for 2014

Posted: 12/24/2013 07:00 a.m.


By David Quick

As indulgences of the Christmas holidays transition into resolutions of the New Year, most of us will take account of our fitness and set goals.

So what should we consider?

For eight years, one of the few true surveys of what's hot and what's not in fitness has been the American College of Sports Medicine's "Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends," which actually comes out in late October.

The survey, which this year was completed by 3,815 health and fitness professionals, always attracts attention nationally, usually by periodicals that publish it at face value.

I use it as an opportunity to reflect on what is and isn't happening in the Charleston area, which has a dynamic fitness town.

This year, I forwarded the survey to 16 local fitness experts for their comments.

Distilling that and knowing what I know, here's what I came up with.

1. Outdoor activities

Ranked 13th on ACSM's survey for 2014, many local experts mentioned the outdoors in some way. Charleston just has so much to offer for outdoor fitness, along with about nine to 10 months of warm or temperate weather to be outside and enjoy an array of activities, notably stand-up paddleboarding, surfing, kiteboarding and kayaking along with more terrestrial activities.

The ever-versatile paddleboard also has lent itself to providing other fitness activities, such as yoga and Pilates, on the board itself, according to Kathie Livingston, owner of Nature Adventure Outfitters.

Just this year, Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission recognized the powerful link between fitness and being outdoors by creating two new positions focused on health and fit- ness.

It also worked with the Medical University of South Carolina to hold an experimental "green fitness" program last May called "Adventure Out," holding nearly free fitness classes in parks.

2. Endurance sports

Related to outdoor activities, the endurance sports of running, cycling, swimming and triathlon also play a huge role in the Charleston area's fitness scene.

Some may consider me biased on this, but this is a town with more than 130 road and trail runs, a dozen bike rides and races and a half dozen triathlons, as well one of the 20th largest races in the United States.

All of those spawn dozens of running clinics and group runs.

Surprisingly, I've never seen endurance sports, running, cycling or triathlon on the ACSM's survey, but Janis Newton of the Medical University of South Caro- lina Wellness Center says many facilities are filled with endurance athletes cross-training for specific events.

3. Yoga, Pilates & barre

While yoga could legitimately hold the No. 3 spot alone in Charleston, throw in the related strength and flexibility activities of Pilates and barre and there's no question.

The area is home to about 30 studios, not including health clubs, featuring the activities.

Ken Immer, an avid yogi and advocate for men doing yoga, says he sees many of the other fitness activities, such as high-intensity interval training, being tapped in yoga.

"Go to a 5:45 p.m. class at Charleston Power Yoga and tell me that's not HIIT," says Immer.

4. Group training

Similarly, CrossFit "boxes" dot the landscape of Charleston and underscore the demand for group training, particularly for relatively short high-intensity interval training sessions, which tops the 2014 survey.

The CrossFit model has been emulated in other fitness club settings not affiliated with CrossFit.

Veteran trainer Meredith Nelson, owner of PrimeTime Fitness on Sullivan's Island, says the intensity of these workouts calls attention to a main theme of the ACSM's poll: the need for trained and experienced trainers.

"In the wrong hands, those workouts can be dangerous," says Nelson.

The group training phenomenon in Charleston also is evident in the number of indoor cycling studios. Starting in January, CHS Revolution joins Charleston RIDE and Velocity Cycling in downtown Charleston and Journey Cycling in Mount Pleasant.

5. Childhood obesity

The Charleston area has experienced a renaissance of physical fitness for its youth in the past few years.

The flagship has long been Louie's Kids, which continues experimenting with programming to reach the largest number of kids.

Another effort is coming from the MUSC Boeing Center for Children's Wellness, which is starting wellness councils at schools in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties.

Running events, such as the Cooper River Bridge Run and Charleston Marathon, hold kids' run events.

Local businesses, such as Fleet Feet Sports Mount Pleasant, also are reaching out by holding school run clubs and a "Support the Girls" campaign to provide girls in local ROTC pro-grams with appropriate sports bras.

6. Weight loss

The same goes for the adults on the local level.

Efforts such as the MUSC Wellness Center's Healthy Charleston Challenge, which has helped about 800 people lose 27,000 pounds in the past six years, are modeled loosely after the "Biggest Loser" competition.

These, however, tap into the right combination of forces to work: trainer-led with focuses on not only exercise but nutrition, psychology and changing life habits.

In January, Fleet Feet is holding a similar challenge called "The Ton of Fun."

And, former TrySports owner Jim Kirwan is kick- ing off a new online coaching effort, "Get America Moving."

7. Focus on seniors

Seniors, especially aging baby boomers, are being less resistant to the idea of exercising in their golden years and recognizing benefits it offers not only for preventing or holding off heart disease and easing arthritis, but also preventing falls and even loneliness.

Allison Foster, the fitness manager for Charleston County PRC, says such programs are natural ways for seniors to improve balance, flexibility, core stability, range of motion and pain management.

The growing popularity of senior fitness can be witnessed at the Lowcountry Senior Center and Mount Pleasant Senior Center.

Recently, the senior-oriented Active RX opened in Mount Pleasant.

8. Exercise professionals

With the demands by so many groups for guided fitness, a new generation of experts is lining up to fill the need.

One example was witnessed this fall when the College of Charleston experienced "considerable growth" in its exercise science major. Currently, there about 250 exercise science majors.

Luciana Marcial-Vincion, a Spinning Master instructor and co-owner of Charleston RIDE, says a theme that runs through the ACSM's survey demonstrates that consumers want "specialized training by top-notch professionals. Period."

"The digital age literally puts information at the customers' fingertips allowing them to identify the reputable organizations and trainers and discard those that are unqualified," says Marcial-Vincion.

She added that it also allows them select options that fit his or her individual lifestyle, schedule and interest.

"This places more demand on our industry professionals, not necessarily to have certifications in all the disciplines, but to at least have a knowledge of the variety out there so they can have informed discussions with their clients," she says.

For example, a Spinning instructor should have some knowledge of other disciplines, such as CrossFit, TRX or barre.

Reach David Quick at 937-5516 or dquick@postand courier.com.