By Shawn Radcliffe Men’s Fitness
If you’re looking for the top exercise trends of 2013, try looking elsewhere. Unlike the American College of Sports Medicine, which releases an annual top-20 list of what’s hot in the workout world, our list includes only the weird, the wacky, and the wild—the things that make you turn your head when you see them at the gym or on the track.
But is catching your eye enough reason to jump on the eccentric-exercise bandwagon? Maybe not, but some of these could be on their way to top-20 status.
Before you join in, find out what these weird trends are all about—and whether there’s any science to back up their flashy oddness.
1. Backwards Running
Sometimes the best way to move ahead in running is by going backwards—literally. Although the research is limited, there may be some benefits. Running backwards uses 30 percent more energy than moving forward at the same speed, according to a 2011 study, while other research has found that this uncommon technique—in which runners strike on the front of the foot and launch from the heels—might also save your knees by creating less impact on the front of the knees. The biggest drawback? Not being able to see where you’re going, of course—so stick to a track or run with two forward-facing friends alongside you.
2. Dog Yoga
Dogs in yoga class? Have dog owners (or yogis, depending how you look at it…) finally gone too far? During dog yoga (FYI: the cool kids call it “doga”), poodles and shih tzus can be seen doing their own yoga poses, or relaxing while draped over their owner’s neck. NYC-based yoga teacher Tiffany Cruikshank, whose dog Lulu (yes, named after Lululemon yoga clothes) can sometimes be seen on the sidelines at her classes, is a strong advocate of mixing it up. “Dogs have an instant way of lightening the mood of a yoga class,” she says. “What can be a potentially serious endeavor becomes a fun exploration when you add a dog to the mix.” There’s no formal certification for dog yoga instructors, so you may be hard-pressed to find a class. Your best bet is to look for an outdoor yoga class and ask the teacher if there’s room for your best friend.
3. Trapeze Classes
Using modified circus equipment, trapeze classes pit you against gravity. Much of this intense cardiovascular workout focuses on your upper body and core muscles, while giving you a much-needed break from the monotony of a treadmill. Working with a trapeze bar hung from the ceiling, the arm work involves suspended jumps and pull-ups, various planks done with your feet strapped to the bar, and a series of spins that require the use of arm and core muscles. Gyms like Equinox in NYC have jumped on the circus bandwagon by offering trapeze classes that get you a few inches off the ground, but dedicated schools like the Trapeze School New York will give you the real circus deal—23 feet in the air. So take your pick. Either way, you’ll feel the burn the next day.
4. Barefoot Workout
Intrigued by barefoot running, but not ready to step on the sidewalk without shoes? Try a barefoot workout in the safety of your local gym. Using familiar exercises—such as squats, dead lifts and kettlebell swings—barefoot workouts can improve your sense of balance, as well as strengthen the muscles in the legs and feet. Some podiatrists even recommend barefoot exercise to combat flat feet. If you are new to barefoot training, “start walking around barefoot at home and introduce foot mobilization exercises,” NYC-based podiatrist Emily Splichal, DPM, MS, CPT, told BuiltLean. After that, work slowly into eccentric exercise such as “reverse heel raises, walking backward on a treadmill and jumping rope—all barefoot.”
5. Kinesiology Tape
Bright-colored stripes stuck to the body is a trend that splashed onto the world stage during the 2012 London Olympics, but now kinesiology tape is finding its way into the realms of the weekend warriors. Designed to support injured muscles and joints, as well as to encourage blood flow, kines tape functions like a brace or wrap—but lets your muscles move more freely. (For example, a few strips across the lower back are supposed to help ease pain in the sacroiliac joint without any bulky bandages. )But does it live up to the claims? A 2012 review found that, while kinesiology tape may improve strength or range of motion in some injuries, it may not be any better than traditional ways to deal with injured muscles—except, of course, that it’s a tad flashier.