Beth Galis is totally hot. No, seriously. Several days a week, the Spokane yoga instructor cranks up the heat in her studio to 104 degrees, turns on a humidifier and leads a 90-minute class that takes participants through a series of 26 yoga poses.
The aim of what is aptly called “hot yoga” is to flush the body’s various systems with new blood flow, strengthen and improve flexibility of bones and muscles, and warm and stretch connective tissues.
“(The heat) deepens the practice, deepens the stretches, and increases the relaxation,” says Galis, adding that students are drenched with sweat during the workouts.
“I end up feeling cool in the class because the sweat cools my body off, but I’m in the minority saying that.”
Hot yoga is one of the, well, hottest fitness trends today. As Americans rev up their workouts, re-evaluate their eating habits and make goals for the new year, many will turn to the latest trends to enliven their old routines, finally connect with a fitness style that speaks to them or simply strive to be au courant.
Yoga – hot or otherwise – and Pilates will continue to be strong fitness trends in 2009. But exercise classes based on international dance styles, using technology such as iPods and Wii Fit products, and inexpensive “back-to-basics” routines also will be among this year’s most popular exercise modes, according to the American Council of Exercise’s annual survey of fitness and weight-loss experts.
“The overarching theme for fitness in 2009 is getting more bang for the buck,” the council’s chief science officer, Cedric X. Bryant, said in a release. “Consumers will engage in workouts that provide multiple benefits due to time and economic limitations.”
Taking classes in small studios – such as the one in the basement of Galis’ home ( www.bethgalis.com) – will also be popular this year, the council says.
Another trend the council says will remain strong after several years in the spotlight are fitness “boot camps,” popularized on television shows such as NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.”
That should be good news to Spokane physical trainer Danna Snow, who runs Spokane Adventure Boot Camp for Women (www.youradventure bootcamp.com) on the upper South Hill.
Snow leads groups of 15 to 20 women through four-week camps costing $200 to $300 that focus on exercise and nutrition.
The women who follow all parts of the camp – including changes to diet – lose between 12 and 15 pounds over the course of the month, she says. Those who work out but don’t follow the food plan lose 7 or 8 pounds, on average.
The group dynamic is part of the program’s success, Snow says.
“Being in a class takes away the thought process of, ‘What do I do when I’m here?’ ” she says. “There’s no thought to this. They just do what I tell them to do.”
At Jezreel Fitness ( www.jezreelfitness.com ), a six-month-old club on Spokane’s North Side, owner Kim Bellamy hosts occasional lunches at a nearby restaurant to help build a sense of community among members.
She also uses lights and music to create what she calls “fitness magic” in a disco-style atmosphere.
“Every single move is prechoreographed with the music,” Bellamy says. “It’s a little bit more theatrical, the classes go by quicker and people see results because they become addicted to coming.”
The studio’s overhead lights are dimmed and the instructors are on a stage, illuminated by revolving, colored spotlights.
Participants who might feel intimidated in a bright gym surrounded by mirrors are more comfortable in the darkened studio, Bellamy says. She claims some members have so much fun, they come twice a day to work out – and have the figures and physiques to prove it.
Twenty-year fitness industry veteran Shelley Sandifur has taught everything from senior chair aerobics to slide aerobics for children. Then, after stumbling into a yoga class by mistake, she gradually gave up other forms of exercise.
Americans have practiced yoga for decades, but Sandifur, who owns Twist Yoga Studio ( www.twistyogastudio.com ), says it didn’t boom in Spokane until about five years ago.
“People are looking for a more holistic approach to working out,” she says. “(Yoga) teaches you to do things maybe you don’t want to do, like breath and relax.”
Lynn Leonard also has worked in the fitness industry for more than two decades and has seen fitness trends come and go. She first started taking classes at a community center in the 1980s after putting on some weight while working two jobs.
“It was jumping jacks, the grapevine and lift your knees up for an hour,” she says.
Leonard filled in when her instructor went on vacation and never looked back. Today, she teaches 10 group fitness classes a week at Oz Fitness’ South Hill gym ( www.ozfitness.com ).
In the beginning, Leonard says, only one type of person took aerobics classes: women who wanted to lose weight.
As clubs began incorporating weight lifting, cycling, dance, yoga, pilates and other exercise styles into the routines, the makeup of her classes diversified.
“People have a variety of things to choose from now,” Leonard says. “It appeals to a more diverse group of people, so you have an opportunity to effect change in so many more people.”
Leonard started attracting more men to her classes when she began teaching yoga.
“A lot of the guys start to realize they’re getting older and maybe their flexibility is gone or maybe they never had any,” she says. “One guy said, ‘I love yoga because it makes my golf game so much better.’ ”
Leonard has seen fitness fashion styles come and go, too. When she first started, everyone wore cotton T-shirts and gym shorts. Then leotards became the rage, which led to thong-style leotards over tights.
“You look back and think, ‘Oh, my heavens. What were we doing?’ ” she says.
Today, clothes are designed to fit the activity – soft pants for yoga, snug shorts for cycling. The standard sneakers Leonard wore in the 1980s have made way for tennis shoes with the right shape and support, depending on the exercise being done.
Leonard, who is 50 but says she feels about 33, has gone along with almost all the trends that have surfaced.
She was frustrated at first when aerobics routines became more complicated than jumping jacks and grapevines, though.
“ ‘Step’ came in and that got boring, so they did double step and triple step,” Leonard says. “To me, that’s one more thing that says to somebody, ‘I can’t do this.’ I want everybody to feel like they can come in and do this.”
And there was one fitness wave Leonard refused to ride.
“Pole dancing,” she says, referring to a strip-tease aerobics style. “I just had to say absolutely not.”
Megan Cooley can be reached at (509) 326-6024 or