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Gyms closed, studios got replaced by screens, and equipment sales surged… a lot.
Now, nearly a year into the novel coronavirus pandemic, you might think it’d be impossible for the fitness industry to evolve even more.
But looking ahead at 2021, here at Greatist we think the fitness landscape is going to do just that.
Cue the “That’s So Raven” theme song. Then, read on for our predictions of exactly how the fitness, recovery, and fitness-fashion industries will continue to evolve over the next year.
1. Boutique studios will move online… if they haven’t already
Why? One word: survival.
Regina Wallace-Jones, senior vice president of product at Mindbody, a fitness class booking platform says that to avoid going out of business, studios had to transition to the online space. “And moving forward, I suspect businesses will have to adapt to this trend via hybrid memberships inclusive of both in-person, on demand, and virtual offerings,” she says.
Her proof: more than 1/3 (37 percent) of Americans join a livestream workout at least once a week, while (40 percent) exercise to pre-recorded fitness videos, according to a recent survey by Mindbody.
That said, surveys also show people are very ready to go back to gyms and studios when it’s safe (this ClassPass report predicts that’ll happen around September).
2. Instructors will continue teaching fitness, freelance-style
For as long as boutique fitness studios have been a thing, it’s never been the $5.00 bottles of water up-front or the funky-colored light bulbs that determined the studios success or failure.
It’s a-l-w-a-y-s been the energy, ~vibe~, and skill of the instructors.
That’s why when many of these instructors tapped into their inner entrepreneur, offering a schedule of workouts through their Instagram, they found success. To access these workouts, just follow the instructor on Instagram and tune into their IG Lives. Then, send ’em $10.00 to $35.00 on Venmo after.
The prediction: Many of these instructors are going to continue offering these classes as their former employers stay shuttered.
3. LISS will start to outshine HIIT
Basically, the opposite of HIIT, low intensity steady-state training (LISS), prioritizes moving mindfully over moving quickly. Examples include: running at a sustainable pace for 40 minutes, rowing a casual 10K, and pedaling while watching “Bridgerton.”
LISS isn’t new. In fact, it’s been mainstream in bodybuilding routines since the 60s. LISS took a backseat when HIIT became big, but now that we’ve reached 2021, it’s back in!
Why? In short because we’re all stressed the eff out.
Nick Rizzo, a competitive powerlifter and training director at RunRepeat.com explains that high-intensity exercise actually spikes our cortisol (that’s the stress hormone) levels. During ~normal times,~ our bodies normalize our cortisol levels following exercise. But now, when our cortisol levels spike, it’s possible for them to remain spiked.
Don’t read it wrong: HIIT *isn’t* bad for you! It comes with a laundry list of health benefits. But according to Rizzo, right now “a weekly workout regime consisting of 2 high-intensity workouts a week balanced out with some strength training and 1 or 2 LISS, can help reduce stress, keep you active, and lower your cortisol levels.” How’s that for a win-win-win-win?
4. Get out! Taking fitness to the great outdoors
After a year of self-quarantine, the idea of getting outside is VERY welcome (understatement). Expect to see more trainers working with clients in parks, studios holding outdoor classes (beach yoga, yes!), and people on their own finding fitness through outdoor activities ranging from hiking and biking to surfing and swimming. Mother Nature, here we come!
5. Home to hot yoga studio converters
Admit it, hot yoga fans: Cycling through 26 postures just isn’t the same when it’s done in your 65°F (18°C) bedroom-turned-office-turned-gym. Innovators agree.
That’s why long-time yogi Gillian Sky Walker and her husband Alex McDermott created The Hot Yoga Dome.
Aesthetically the love-child of a hot yoga studio and bouncy house, The Hot Yoga Dome is the first-to-market, portable at-home yoga studio. Currently, it’s available in four different models — the smallest being The Tiny Dome (perfect for small spaces) and the largest being The Hot Yoga Studio Dome—all of which are engineered to hit 100 to 105°F (38 to 41°C).
In the coming months, we predict that more and more companies will emerge with innovations that transform your warm home into a hot yoga studio. *Insert obligatory flame emoji here*.
6. Gender? Never heard of her
At some point, you’ve probably heard a trainer quip, “Let’s go, ladies!” or “Let’s do the work, boys!” But in an era when genders and identities of all types gather at fitness spaces, trainers will ditch “ladies” or “guys” in favor of “y’all,” “team,” or other non-gendered terms.
Portland, OR-based certified personal trainer Emma Middlebrook sees 2021 as a year that fitness trainers steer away from using gender to designate who should lift what weights as well. Rather than, “Men should grab 45 pound bells, and women should grab 25,” trainers will opt for: “Grab 25-pound bells, unless you can press more than 100 pounds, then grab the 45-pound bells.”
Overall, trainers will be more aware of how they use gendered terms and tailor it to meet the needs of their classes and clients. Hell yeah!
7. 🎵Rub, rub, rub, rub your muscles🎵
If you sang that “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”, you were right.
Known scientifically as topical analgesic medicine, muscle rubs are actually an effective method for treating muscle aches and pains(!), according to Bob Arnot MD, an Emmy award-winning broadcast and previous chief medical correspondent for NBC and CBS News.
“With the dangers of opioid pain relief well known, more and more physicians are recommending topical analgesics as the first-line of treatment,” he says. Data on these rubs backs him up. “The over-the-counter topical analgesic sector has grown from approximately $450 million in retail sales in 2010 to $1.05 billion in 2020 according to IRI Multiple Outlet data,” he says.
He adds that “a research review included a clinical recommendation that physicians should work to transition more people towards ‘going topical’ first for pain relief.”
8. HRV will become *the* most meaningful fitness metric
Sure, you’ve heard the hoopla about tracking your HR (heart rate). But have you heard the noise about tracking your HRV (heart rate variability)??
“Heart rate variability measures [in milliseconds] the amount of time between heartbeats,” says Kristen Holmes, the vice president of performance science at Whoop, a wearable tracker that gives you super specific, personalized insights about your sleep, strain, stress, recovery levels, and more. “HRV is an excellent indicator of adaptive capacity.”
A high HRV indicates that there is more variation in the amount of time between your heartbeats, which indicates that your body is better-able to cope with stressors, than those with lower HRV, she explains.
“You can impact your HRV through things like improving quality and quantity of sleep, reducing alcohol and drug intake, and doing things to help your body and mind adapt to stress [like meditating],” says Holmes.
Here’s the rub: “It can be hard to know if you’re actually doing things that benefit your life without a metric,” she says. And that’s where HRV comes into play. “Coming out of the stressful year that was 2020, beginning to learn more about their HRV can help people begin to tackle that stress, and then take the right steps to lower it,” she says.
9. Less booze, more snooze
According to a survey study, alcohol consumption is up at least 54 percent from pre-pandemic times. You probs know that in the long term, this can worsen health outcomes. But did you know that in the short term it really funks with your Zzz’s? Yep.
“Nothing causes sleep disruptions quite like going to bed with alcohol in your system,” says Dr. Sujay Kansagra, sleep health expert with Mattress Firm. “And nothing stops sleep disruptions quite like starting to go to bed with a zero blood alcohol concentration (BAC).”
Seeking help for alcohol consumption
If you suspect your alcohol consumption is becoming a concern, seek out care from your healthcare provider or trusted family member. Or, call the SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
He’s hopeful that in the New Year, people will begin to recognize just how much alcohol may be affecting their energy, mood and sleep negatively.
Holmes notes that one of the most common effects of tracking HRV data is reduced alcohol intake, which is why she suspects (or at least, hopes) we’ll see an overall decrease in alcohol consumption too.
10. CBD and melatonin will continue to be bought in combo-pills
Speaking of sleep… This year, CBD and melatonin will be sitting in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G. Of course, by kissing, we mean helping your body spend the time in dreamland it needs.
Ian Berger CF-L1, founder of Altrufuel, a collagen-hemp product line designed for athletes says their Unwind supplements, which contains hemp extract, valerian root, and melatonin, has seen a steep increase in sales since the beginning of the pandemic.
11. Pelvic floor healthcare goes home
Raise your hand if penetrative sex has recently become painful for you. Or, if you suddenly need to give yourself a lil pep talk before being able to coax your body into whizzing. Or if your tailbone has been tender AF.
The culprit could be a too-tight pelvic floor.
“The pelvic floor muscles are very closely tied in with our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, which are also known as the fight or flight or rest and digest systems,” says Corey Silbert, a pelvic floor therapist with Pelvic Gym, a pelvic health education platform created by the Ohnut. When we’re under extreme stress like — you guessed it! — COVID-19-included survival stress, our muscles, including our pelvic floor muscles, tense up.
“When we’re under stress, we contract our muscles, which causes pelvic floor muscle tension, trigger points, and pain,” she says. This means that there are many folks experiencing pelvic floor distress during the pandemic.
The best way to counteract such distress is working with a trauma-informed pelvic floor therapist. “Finding a good pelvic floor pelvic therapist can be hard and the pandemic has resulted in people not being able to travel to, or otherwise see, their PT regularly,” says Silbert.
While no gadget can totally replace a real-life pelvic floor therapist, there are a variety of services and products that may help, such as Pelvic Gym, The Vagina Gym, and Elvie. When it comes to these routines, consistency and repetition matter. So, these products may help support your pelvic healthcare between in-person visits.
12. Fashion? More like fash-fun!
“Thanks to the pandemic, we’re all cooped up and many of us can’t get to our gyms and get our moods up from the natural endorphin boost in the same way,” says Hardip Manki, creative director and owner, CHRLDR, which has recently released a line that’s all about majestic metallics, tickled tie-dye, and cheeky animal prints. “As such, fashion companies are hoping to induce that mood boost through bright colors and fun prints,” he says.
Pip Edwards, Founder and designer of P.E Nation, a lux active wear creator offers a similar sentiment. “Colour and prints on clothing definitely brings joy and confidence to the wearer, she says. “Right now especially, being bold and bright on the outside, is good for the soul on the inside.”
Other brands leaning into the fash-fun movement include:
Even brands notoriously known for their blah colors (don’t @ me) are zhuzing it up. Girlfriend Collective recently expanded their offerings to include smile-inducing colors like Tart and Dew. And Outdoor Voices recently put out a pair of cheetah print tights. Fun!
13. Period-proof panties become period-proof pants
If you menstruate, likely you’ve heard of Thinx. The leaders in the period panty industry, Thinx has helped make menstruating more sustainable since 2013. Well, in January (2021), they launched a line of activewear: Thinx Activewear.
Consisting of training shorts, leggings, cycle shorts, and leotards, the line is designed to hold anywhere from 2 to 5(!) tampons worth of blood. Pretty impressive, right?
14. Fitness gear, but make it healthcare-conscious
Would you wear — or at least buy — socks decorated with lil stethoscopes to support healthcare workers? Swiftwick is banking on it. On February 8, they launched the limited edition Vision Medical Hero sock in honor of the healthcare workers that have helped keep us safe through this (understatement alert) tumultuous year.
They’re not the only fitness clothing company doing good for frontline workers.
At this point, most of the big dogs in the fitness industry have. New Balance is making masks for hospital workers, Adidas and Nike started manufacturing face shields, and Under Armour donated $2 million to those most affected by the novel coronavirus. *Throws confetti.*
Gabrielle Kassel (she/her) is a queer sex educator and wellness journalist who is committed to helping people feel the best they can in their bodies. In addition to Healthline, her work has appeared in publications such as Shape, Cosmopolitan, Well+Good, Health, Self, Women’s Health, Greatist, and more! In her free time, Gabrielle can be found coaching CrossFit, reviewing pleasure products, hiking with her border collie, or recording episodes of the podcast she co-hosts called Bad In Bed. Follow her on Instagram @Gabriellekassel.