At the end of each year, the American College of Sports Medicine publishes its findings about the top trends in personal fitness. These trends reveal what types of training are on the ascent—or decline—and helps both medical professionals and business owners anticipate the fitness goals, strategies, and needs of the market at large. So what personal fitness trends are poised to make waves in 2014?
CrossFit Hitting All the Right Notes
Before we get into why CrossFit is enjoying such huge success right now, let’s take a moment to review the top ten fitness trends of 2014, as reported by the ACSM:
- High-Intensity Interval Training
- Body Weight Training
- Educated, Certified, and Experienced Fitness Professionals
- Strength Training
- Exercise and Weight Loss
- Personal Training
- Fitness Programs for Older Adults
- Functional Fitness
- Group Personal Training
Notice how trend numbers 1-9 are highlighted? That’s because CrossFit incorporates some element of each of those trends in its overall program. If you alternate your workout time between CrossFit and Yoga, you’re essentially covering all 10 of the top trends in personal fitness this year. The good news in all of this is really for CrossFit devotees and business owners: CrossFit is here to stay!
What is High-Intensity Interval Training?
The top fitness trend of the year, and a cornerstone of programs like CrossFit, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is based on “short bursts of high-intensity bouts of exercise followed by a short period of rest or recovery.” Basically whatever you’re doing in your routine, you’re going to push yourself hard and fast, give yourself a short break, and then go again.
That sounds dangerous. Are HIIT programs like CrossFit dangerous?
It’s a fair question. In the ACSM report, it’s made clear that HIIT programs like CrossFit are the number 1 trend despite “the warnings of many survey respondents about the potential dangers. Most of the comments were ‘clients love this because of the short time,’ but many others warned ‘Very, very popular. However, high injury rates. We need more highly trained professionals working in this area.’” So the findings of the ACSM seem to indicate that the best thing about HIIT programs like CrossFit is also the worst—you can get great results out of short workout time, but that very intensity often leads to high rates of injury.
Can HIIT programs like CrossFit be made more safe?
Another great question, and while we don’t have all the answers and are certainly not medical professionals, we do have one important thing to contribute: a stable, padded floor should be an essential part of any high-intensity workout to support your body weight and provide shock absorption to minimize wear-and-tear on your joints. If your HIIT workout space takes place on a hard surface such as concrete, blacktop, or on a sports surface such as a basketball or tennis court, you’re really flirting with disaster when it comes to the toll that workout could take on your knees, ankles, and even your shins and hips.
What are the best floor mats for a HIIT workout like CrossFit?
We’re so glad you asked! When planning a workout space for a high-intensity interval training program like CrossFit, you want to design an anti-fatigue surface that will provide stability and shock absorption to maximize the protection factor. For all of the above, we recommend designing a large surface area with EVA foam mats that are at least 1/2" thick, but 3/4" thickness is even better. Building a large surface area (ie hundreds of square feet) will maximize the stability of your floor. If you only build a 24-square-foot workout space, the impact of your workout itself may generate enough force to shift the floor under you, which could result in injury.
By building a larger surface area, you’re increasing the amount of friction between the mats and the subfloor, which adds stability. If you are participating in a multi-person class in a large space, this is essential. Thicker is better, because thicker means more shock absorption. Conducting any kind of weight-bearing exercises in motion (even if that weight is just your own body weight—see fitness trend #2), puts tremendous strain on the ligaments and tendons holding your joints together. A well-padded floor gives your joints a much-needed assist by reducing the stress they have to handle from each impact.
Which foam mats do you recommend for CrossFit?
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A final hat tip to Dave Chung of Examiner.com for his summary of the ACSM report, the substance of which is available to journal subscribers only. He’s got a great summary of the article’s contents if you’re looking for a more in-depth review of the trends.