Feature Article - September 2002
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Get with the Programs

The latest trends shaping up in the fitness arena

By Mitch Martin

The boxer rebellion

IDEA's Gilroy says boxing-based classes appeared to be plateauing, though they showed a 47 percent increase in the organization's survey.

Full-contact boxing, in particular, is viewed as problematic because of the possibility of injury.

"I think were seeing a little plateau because there have been some lawsuits and injuries and that sort of thing," Gilroy says.

But boxing remains popular in niches, in large measure because it has a unique combination of glamour, adrenaline and history combined with a prodigious workout.

Crunch Fitness, for example, offers contact boxing and kickboxing classes. Cyrus says boxing is a good draw as a niche program, often with one-on-one instruction.

Boxing has long had a particular appeal in the urban environment. In Pittsburgh, Pa., the legendary Chuck Senft has run the Brookline Boxing Club for 45 years. Senft says boxing programs can be run safely by very experienced professionals.

Boxing can attract trainers who don't have a "fitness and fun" attitude, which can be particularly dangerous because training often starts at the age of 8, says Senft, a former U.S. Army champion.

"I'm the type of guy that if one of my kids doesn't show up, I'm going to talk to his parents and find out what the problem is," Senft says. "You really need someone that's genuinely interested in kids, not just trying to find the next Sugar Ray Robinson."

Senft says the rewards of boxing are unique, instilling a high degree of self-confidence, pride and discipline. He says the benefits of boxing can be profound for disadvantaged or troubled children. And, besides, Senft says, it's a heck of a workout.

"I've had very in-shape Marines come here and not be able to go to work the next day," Senft says.

Because of the unique demands of the workout, Senft says one of the most important things is not to let young boxers into the ring until they are in top physical shape.

"Sparring is the icing on the cake," he says.

The next thing

It is difficult to judge the future hot trends in fitness—and perhaps even more difficult to judge which new programming initiative will have real staying power.


For example, some experts say that Pilates is still expanding its interest base.

More generally, Cyrus says fitness trends, like many cultural trends, would continue to develop from the two American coasts. She is developing a new regime that combined an apparatus workout with a traditional aerobic/dance style class. She says she wasn't ready to reveal the workout, but says it would be a departure from previous classes.

"It's going to be a workout involving cables and a tower," Cyrus says. "It will be based on a very free, dancing-style motion with a lyrical-type feel to it."

ACE's Bryant predicted a melding of indoor fitness with outdoor activities. He predicted the organization of indoor workouts would increasingly go toward the outdoors.

"One of the real possible antidotes to the problem of boredom and long-term adherence is use of the outdoors," Bryant says. "You are seeing a lot of fitness facilities taking people outside for biking, climbing and that sort of thing. And I think, in the future, you will see more of that."