BEIRUT: If you resolved to get in shape in 2014 but balk at the thought of tedious treadmills and banal bench presses this might be your lucky year. A new wave of user-friendly fitness trends has taken root in Beirut, making it ever easier (and even enjoyable!) to shed the dreaded holiday bulge.
In Beirut, as throughout the world, trainers are singing the praises of a new fitness movement called functional training.
“The exercises resemble your everyday movements,” explained Roueida Saba, a wellness consultant at GSpa in Ashrafieh. Exercises are designed to mimic the way you move when you climb stairs, for example, or carry a baby.
“It’s both fun and efficient,” Saba said.
GSpa has adopted the Italian-created Queenax system to facilitate the functional training trend. Queenax combines different exercise stations in a single structure, something akin to a playground for aspiring fitsters.
GSpa also features the Imoove, a vibrating platform that allows users to work out “in 3-D,” according to Saba. The elliptical platform copies the body’s natural vertebral movement to help muscles relearn proper posture and balance, both important aspects of the functional fitness regime.
“Nothing is as effective for [retraining] deep muscles,” said Saba of the Imoove.
Not all trainers are investing in new equipment, however. For Rafa Chabtini, who owns boutique gym Trainstation with her sister Hiba Safieddine, functional fitness isn’t about the accessories.
“We’re getting more and more away from the dumbbells, because you don’t actually need them,” Chabtini said. “It’s a workout you can do anywhere ... We have a garden so we very often do outdoor classes and we use everything – benches, trees, stairs – all the things you can actually use in your daily life. You really don’t need to be in a studio.”
For those with a tight 2014 schedule, however, another regimen might be in order. In the new year, Trainstation will expand its 30-minute express classes which target specific regions of the body through high-intensity workouts.
“People are busy but still want to come to the gym and they want results,” Chabtini explained. “It’s something that worldwide is working for people who are taking lunch breaks, who want to squeeze the gym between two things.”
Alex Nazarian, co-founder of U Energy in Downtown, also touted the benefits of high-intensity interval workouts, which he claims are “the best for fat loss.”
A new U Energy class called “U Crazy” will blend different cardio-intensive movements in fast succession. “Your body adapts if you’re always doing the same thing,” Nazarian said, adding that variety is key to getting, and staying, in shape.
Later this year, Nazarian also intends to start offering CrossFit courses. CrossFit, a controversial community-based exercise regime that has turned into a competitive sport, combines Olympic lifting, high-intensity metabolic training, and gymnastics. Many overzealous and undertrained CrossFit enthusiasts have sustained injuries in competitions, Nazarian said.
“For us, when we introduce it, it’s only about teaching people the basics,” he said. “We’re offering it as a ... beginner’s course.”
For those who can’t stomach crunches and jumping jacks, Spin 360 offers the chance to hoof your way into shape. The studio’s newly created class, Dance Sport Endurance, is sure to be a favorite in the new year, says executive manager Marie-Claude Bittar.
“It’s a mix of all the dances, Latino, ballroom ... quick step, jive, cha cha ... with a cardio beat, something to warm you up. We include quick fitness moves for the legs and abs,” she said. “It’s a cardio workout that allows people to learn to dance at the same time.”
If it’s the post-pie abs you’re most concerned about, Spin 360 is also offering a new oriental dance class. “It’s both belly dancing and ballet. Belly and ballet!” Bittar exclaimed. “It’s about the abdominals.”
But for some longtime trainers, fitness fads are just that: fleeting.
Suha Rebeiz of the Body Care Club has taught the same class, “Back to Basics” for 33 years.
“Every five minutes they come up with a new name,” Rebeiz said, lamenting ? la mode fitness regimes. “I’m an old-fashioned person and I believe in old-fashioned exercises,” she added proudly.
From crunches to light-weight dumbbell lifting, the class emphasizes the golden oldies.