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Trending workouts to make fitness fun and where to find them in New Orleans

Yoga, hula hooping, burlesque and other workouts to break from boredom



If reasons to skip the gym come to mind every time you reach for your sneakers, it's time to revamp your workout plan. Trying new fitness trends can help keep workouts fresh. Whether it's a class, race or workshop, a number of fitness trends can get you off the elliptical and into a fresh and energizing regimen for spring.

  Morgan Ford, a community manager at Yelp, watches trends in action as businesses rise in popularity on the crowdsourcing website. She highlights yoga as a preeminent local fitness activity. Though yoga, with its centuries-long history, can hardly be called a trend, it is finding creative permutations in New Orleans.

  "I think people are getting away from the traditional gyms," Ford says. "New Orleans has a lot of great [yoga] options and phenomenal instructors. ... I think people are better understanding that there isn't just one form of yoga."

  Some yoga offerings involve unique locations. The New Orleans Museum of Art (1 Collins C. Diboll Circle, 504-658-4100; www.noma.org) hosts a Saturday morning yoga class in its galleries or outdoor sculpture garden, using an aesthetically stimulating atmosphere to enliven a gentle workout. Elsewhere in the city, instructors reimagine traditional classes, coming up with forms like acro-yoga, held at the Swan River (2940 Canal St., 504-301-3134; www.swanriveryoga.com) yoga studio. This class uses partner acrobatics and basic tumbling, like handstands, to increase balance and flexibility and to encourage interdependence and trust between students. Ford also says nontraditional workout options are on the rise. In this case, nontraditional refers to activities associated more with fun than fitness. Pop-up burlesque workshops held by the New Orleans School of Burlesque (Crescent Lotus Dance Studio, 3143 Calhoun St., 504-382-5199; www.nolaschoolofburlesque.com) are an offbeat way to take up dance. (It doesn't hurt that burlesque includes costuming, one of New Orleans' unofficial pastimes.) Recess activities, like trampoline jumping and hula hooping, stimulate a wide range of muscle groups — along with nostalgia.

  Julie Merritt, a longtime fitness instructor, has spearheaded many hula hooping activities in New Orleans. According to Merritt, hula hooping builds musculature in the lower back and the abdominal wall, which can be weak spots for many office workers. It also improves agility and overall coordination using dance-like maneuvers.

  "Without even realizing it, you'll be sculpting your waistline by flexing and strengthening the core muscle groups, while also developing balance, stamina, coordination and fluidity of motion," Merritt says.

  Merritt hosts fitness hoop classes on Thursday nights at Canal Boulevard Baptist Deaf Church (5320 Canal Blvd., 504-273-1152), where participants use a weighted hoop to refine their techniques. On the second and fourth Mondays of each month, she invites hoop dancers to shake their hips in the industrial environment of NOLA Brewing (3001 Tchoupitoulas St., 504-896-9996; www.nolabrewing.com/event/hoops-hops) at an event she calls "Hoops and Hops."

  Elsewhere in the city, longtime fitness professionals are updating their classes to reflect the current gym scene. At Salire Fitness (4209 Magazine St., 504-821-4896; www.salirefitness.com), owner Nolan Ferraro's outdoor boot camp is well-known as a fast track to physical transformation. Though boot camp is still available, Ferraro's latest offering is a smaller course called "Body Blitz." During the hourlong circuit class, attendees work in teams of two, alternating between cardio work and strength training or conditioning.

  "[With "Body Blitz," we] wanted to design a class that offered a greater sense of community," Ferraro says. "Statistics show that people are 60 percent more likely to stay consistent and achieve fitness results if they are working out with other like-minded individuals. [This class] is smaller, team-oriented, multilevel and community-based."

  Ferraro touches on two major aspects of current fitness: team-building and full-body workouts. It's a more holistic approach to exercise. Instead of using weight machines to focus on specifics like triceps and biceps, a diverse range of exercises reinforces joint strength and integrates muscle groups. Group participation develops camaraderie and fosters accountability.

  This cohesion is also reflected in the growing popularity of team obstacle races. Quirky races include a theme or gimmick, like the paint that spatters competitors during the Color Run 5K race. More physically demanding races require intense preparation. In the Spartan run series, runners face surprise obstacles like mud pits, barbed wire and fire jumping, with repercussions for those who can't get past a hurdle.

  "If you have tried and cannot complete an obstacle, you receive a 30 burpees (a strength-training progression) penalty before you can move on," says Heathyr Stanics, a recent Spartan finisher. "It's genius, really. It forces you to find a way mentally and physically to complete [the course], because 30 burpees is exhausting."

  Obstacle course races provide community support, with daily social media blasts, hashtags and a close-knit group of runners who travel to compete in different events. In addition to the social support, this type of race reveals areas in need of improvement and promotes overall health.

  "[Since my most recent Spartan race], I've been focusing a lot of my workouts on my upper body and core strength, which is essential to pulling yourself up and over the obstacles involving walls, monkey bars and anything with a rope," Stanics says. "The Spartan lifestyle has taught me there are no excuses for not being physically active or making healthy choices in the kitchen."

  Ford thinks New Orleanians may be catching up to a more contemporary interest in good nutrition and working out.

  "I believe that locals are also trying to embrace a more healthy lifestyle," she says. "[It] doesn't just involve attending a class or hitting a gym."

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