It's impossible to look at a magazine rack without seeing at least 10 new health and fitness trends jump out from glossy covers. The same goes for TV and online ads promising fantastic results from pills, potions and silly equipment (see the Shake Weight!). And when you go to fill up your fridge at the supermarket, more products try to tempt you with "all natural," "healthy," "trans-fat free," and so on.
The trouble is, most of these fitness products are utterly worthless, many are expensive, and some are even dangerous. When it comes to what you eat and drink, food manufacturers have figured out that they need to label differently to appeal to active people, so they're hardly impartial when it comes to making health claims. So, how do you cut through the hype and figure out which exercise, nutrition and recovery trends are legit and which are just fads? We've made our top five fall picks that you shouldn't ignore. — Phil White
1. Beet Juice
This seems like something cooked up in the Schrute Farm barn by Dwight from The Office: consuming beet juice before you paddle or workout can boost endurance. One study found that cyclists who downed beet juice prior to hopping on their bikes could go at peak power 16 percent longer than other times when the juice wasn't consumed. The reason? Nitrates in the red stuff boost oxygen intake, so your body doesn't have to work as hard to get oxygenated blood to your muscles. An added bonus: beet juice may also reduce blood pressure.
Not wanting to quaff gallons of beet juice by itself? Then try adding it to a natural blend: put beets, kale, and a handful of other fruits and vegetables in a juicer or high-powered blender and make a pre-exercise blend that you drink one to two hours before hitting the water or the gym.
2. Fitness Tracking
The days of recording workouts with pen and paper are over. If you like to keep track of your fitness activities, gain extra motivation by sharing your results and even competing with friends, or want a personalized fitness plan, there are more options than ever before. Many tracking systems have built-in syncing to Facebook and Twitter, so you can focus on working out instead of manually updating your social network.
For real-time fitness tracking you can either choose a smartphone app or a wearable device. On the app side, Runkeeper can help you monitor the miles you put in, while Adidas's miCoach prescribes workouts for various sports based on your goals and stats. When it comes to wearable technology, it's an increasingly crowded market, but we like the simplicity of the FitBit bracelet.
3. Thermal Cycling
No, this doesn't mean getting on a spinning bike in a really hot room. Scandinavian spa customers have been using the sauna/cold dip combo for years. But until recently, athletes in the US weren't aware that thermic cycling – i.e. immersing yourself in a cycle of cold to hot water – can aid recovery by boosting circulation and encouraging your body to flush out toxins through your lymphatic system. Okay, maybe that's getting a little geeky, but you get the point: the hot water/cold water post-exercise combo is legit when trying to reduce exercise-related fatigue.
If you don't want to go Laird-like extremes, try taking a hot bath and then a cold shower after you work out, or change your shower temperature from hot to cold and vice versa every two minutes. Combine with trend #5 below to say bye-bye to post-workout soreness.
4. Olympic Lifting
With a busy schedule, you want maximum fitness benefits in the shortest possible time. That's the reason CrossFit gyms have embraced Olympic-style lifting– it builds strength and power with very few repetitions and, like SUP, hits just about every muscle head to toe. This makes it a perfect off-season workout that'll have you ready to get back on your board once the water's warmer.
Getting your technique right is important, so check out USA Weightlifting's website for a list of qualified coaches, or pop into your local CrossFit affiliate. Want to add some gear to your garage gym? Then get an Olympic bar and some bumper plates, which, unlike those old metal ones, are made of rubber and bounce when you drop them.
5. Compression Clothing
Under Armor has long been pushing the benefits of wearing tight-fitting workout gear, and compression socks have become a staple in the kit bags of runners and cyclists. But, it turns out that it's not just what you put on during exercise that counts, but also what you wear afterwards. Donning compression shirts and pants post-exercise and even when you sleep can help reduce swelling and may even help your body get rid of the lactic acid that contributes to that awful next-day ache. Try wearing a compression shirt and/or pants as you wind down following a paddle, run, or tough gym session, and see if you notice a difference.
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