Local fitness experts speak

"Personal training will certainly see some changes for the better. Although more knowledge is available for trainers, it is the knowledge of the consumer, however, that will drive the business. Today, people looking for a trainer have a much better idea of what type of individual they need to help them reach their goals ... I'm happy to say that the concept of someone walking into a gym and being assigned the next available trainer is on the way out."

- John Di Giovanni, pubisher of Oblique Magazine

"I subscribe to many types of fitness training - periodization training for athletes, interval training, yoga, sprint training, core training. ... However, at the almost ripe age of 46, I can tell you that my body has benefited the most from 'mobility training,' such as foam rolling and active flexibility training. It just makes good sense, feels good and I have incredibly measurable results. "

- Tracie Long Mathewes, director of Long Training Studios and Tracie Long Fitness fitness video company

"I think we will see more fitness-related social events as more young professionals move to Charleston. Sport leagues, fun runs, running/drinking clubs, networking events around physical activity."

- Susan Johnson, director of the Medical University of South Carolina Office of Health Promotion

"The No. 1 trend (on the national survey), high intensity interval training, is definitely a trend that is very popular here in Charleston. Historically, people are attracted to a 'quick fix.' HIIT is a short, intense workout and can be very effective."

- Siobhan Maize, a part-time psychology instructor at College of Charleston, mother, marathon swimmer, ultra marathon runner and triathlete.

"I am seeing huge numbers of 30-something to 40-something athletes moving to yoga, either exclusively as a lower-impact way to stay toned and healthy or as a balance to the stresses of CrossFit, running, and other sports on our aging bones and joints ... Another trend I see happening is the 'juggling' of multiple nonconventional, studio-style group activities. We have so many customers now who do, for example, yoga on Tuesdays and Thursdays, rock climbing at the climbing studio on Mondays, run club on Wednesdays, hip-hop dance on Fridays and (Spinning at) Charleston RIDE on Saturdays."

- Thomas Glenn, co-owner of The Yoga House of Charleston.

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.

Top fitness trends for 2014

These are the Top 20 fitness trends for 2014, according to the American College of Sports Medicine's "Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2014."

The results were published in the ACSM's November/December 2013 edition of "Health & Fitness Journal."

The survey was completed by 3,815 health and fitness professionals worldwide.

1. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): HIIT involves short bursts of activity followed by a short period of rest or recovery. These exercise programs are usually performed in less than 30 minutes.

2. Body Weight Training: Body weight training uses minimal equipment making it more affordable, but is not limited push-ups, pull-ups and other old school "calisthenics."

3. Certified, Experienced Fitness Professionals: Given the large number of organizations offering health and fitness certifications, it's important that consumers choose professionals certified through programs that are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.

4. Strength Training: Strength training remains an essential part of a complete physical activity program for all fitness levels, ages and genders.

5. Exercise and Weight Loss: In addition to nutrition, exercise is a key component of a proper weight loss program.

6. Future Generation of Experts: More and more students are majoring in kinesiology, which indicates that they are preparing themselves for careers in allied health fields such as personal training.

7. Fitness Programs for Older Adults: As the baby boom generation ages into retirement, many are aware of the benefits of exercise for everything from preventing heart disease, falls and easing arthritis and are in need of age-appropriate fitness programs.

8. Functional Fitness: This is a trend toward using strength training to improve balance and ease of daily living and relates to programs for older adults.

9. Group Personal Training: Despite an improving economy, many people still reap the benefits of less expensive personal training along with the enjoying the camaraderie of others.

10. Yoga: Based on ancient tradition, yoga utilizes a series of specific bodily postures practiced for health and relaxation. The variety of yoga styles also continue to grow and include power, Bikram, Jivamukti, ashtanga, vinyasa, acro and kids.

11. Exercise Programs to Treat or Prevent Childhood Obesity: Despite leveling off in the recent year, childhood and adolescent obesity continues to be a major health issue and programs aimed at preventing are starting to flourish in an array of arenas.

12. Work site Health Promotion: Designed to improve the health of workers, this is a trend for a range of programs and services that incorporate systems to evaluate fitness, health care costs, and worker productivity.

13. Core Training: Core training stresses strength and conditioning of the stabilizing muscles of the abdomen, thorax and back. It typically includes exercises of the hips, lower back and abdomen, all of which provide support for the spine and thorax.

14. Outdoor Activities: Outdoor activities often include hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and games or sports and first broke into the Top 20 last year.

15. Circuit Training: Returning to the poll this year, circuit training is a group of six to 10 exercises that are completed one after another and in a predetermined sequence.

16. Outcome Measurements: Also reappearing is outcome measurements, or tracking progress of fitness levels via weight, pulse rate, blood pressure, strength and cardio gains and VO2 max, to determine the benefits of health and fitness programs in disease management and to document success in changing negative lifestyle habits.

17. Wellness Coaching: Using a one-on-one approach, either in person or online, wellness coaching integrates behavioral change science into health promotion, disease prevention and rehabilitation programs.

18. Sport-Specific Training: This trend incorporates sport-specific training for sports such as baseball and tennis, designed especially for young athletes.

19. Worker Incentive Programs: Similar to No. 12, worker incentive programming is a trend that creates incentive programs to stimulate positive healthy behavior change as part of employer-based health promotion programming and health care benefits.

20. Boot Camp: A Top 20 trend for the past four years, boot camps, featuring military-style drills and calisthenics, rounds out the list this year.

So what should we consider?

Local panel of surveyed experts

Zach Conrad: Owner of Chucktown Fitness, personal trainer and male winner of Oblique Magazine's 2011 "Best Abs" contest.

Tyler Cross: Coordinator of the fitness and wellness program for Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission and a top local runner.

John Di Giovanni: Publisher of Oblique Magazine.

Allison Foster: Manager of the fitness and wellness program for CCPRC.

Thomas Glenn: Co-owner of Yoga House of Charleston.

Susan Johnson: Director of the health promotion office at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Ken Immer: Founder and CEO of graw foods and leader of Yoga 4 Men.

Kathie Livingston: Owner of Nature Adventure Outfitters.

Siobhan Maize: Part-time psychology instructor at College of Charleston, ultra marathoner, marathon swimmer and triathlete.

Luciana MARCIAL-Vincion: Spinning master instructor and co-owner of Charleston RIDE.

Coleen Martin: registered dietitian with MUSC Boeing Center for Children's Wellness and MUSC LEAN Team, as well as an avid tennis player.

Tracie Long Mathewes: Director of Long Training Studios and owner of Tracie Long Fitness video company.

Meredith Nelson: Owner of PrimeTime Fitness and past president of Charleston Running Club, 2012 and 2013, and adventure traveler.

Amy Minkel: Co-owner of Fleet Feet Sports Mount Pleasant and coordinator for the Support the Girls! and upcoming "Ton of Fun" weight loss challenge.

Janis Newton: Interim director of the MUSC Wellness Center, founder of Healthy Charleston Challenge, and longtime local group fitness leader.

Louis Yuhasz: Founder and "guru" of Louie's Kids, an effort to prevent and treat childhood obesity.

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.