The New Faces of Fitness

by Michelle Fiscus. 0 Comments

There are plenty of options when it comes to fitness: whether you like lifting weights, taking dance classes, or going for a jog. Yet, some people crave something more than traditional exercise. For them, there are several new trends growing in popularity that cater to their inner adrenaline junkie and recreational athlete. For the sake of this article, I’ll call these options “extreme fitness”.


Former gymnast Greg Glassman opened the first CrossFit gym in 1995 to promote overall fitness using weightlifting, sprinting, and gymnastic techniques. The exercises are randomly put in a workout of the day (WOD). CrossFit grew in popularity once the WOD was featured online and anyone anywhere could give it a try. Workouts are short, functional, and often involve full body lifts. You never know what you’re going to get: weights, cardio or both.

Pros: CrossFit teaches people full body exercises that utilize many muscle groups. It also encourages women to lift weight—especially heavy weight which has benefits for fat loss and bone density. Besides its online presence, there are CrossFit gyms across the country that people can go to for more instruction and a sense of community.

Cons: It is so randomized that you might squat two days in a row or train your back muscles multiple days of the week. When you don’t periodize your workout and “go hard” all the time you are at risk for over training. Some of the workouts may be beyond your fitness level and there is a higher chance of injuring yourself compared to adapting to a new routine over time.


Tabata enthusiasts claim you can get fantastic results in just four minutes a day. It is a ramped of version of high intensity interval training, You do a working set for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds and repeat eight times. Japanese scientist Izumi Tabata and his fellow colleagues came up with it while studying different types of training to improve the performance of Japanese speed skaters.

Pros: High intensity interval training improves both the aerobic system and the anaerobic one, compared to moderate intensity cardio which only works the aerobic. It’s time efficient considering you are getting a high intensity workout in just four minutes.

Cons: The science behind Tabata is real but the application does not translate to the general population. You need to work at 170 percent of your VO2 Max. VO2 Max refers to the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can utilize during intense exercise. Maximum heart rate (MHR) is often calculated by subtracting your age from 220. So—if you’re 30 years old… your max heart rate (in theory) is 190. 170 percent VO2max is roughly 146 percent of one’s MHR … so, in this example 277 beats per minute. Unless you are an elite athlete or hooked up to a monitor with a doctor standing right next to you, that’s not a good idea.

Tough Mudder

Tough Mudder events are billed as the hardest fitness event on the planet. Not only do you have to run a course of 10-12 miles—but successfully scale mud, fire, water and 12 foot walls. They were originally designed by British Special Forces to test all around strength, stamina, and camaraderie.

Pros: The course gives you a complete workout: you have to be able to run, pull your body weight up, and safely jump far distances. Tough Mudder participants don’t take themselves too seriously: they favor team work instead of competition.

Cons: These races aren’t for the faint of heart; after all, they were designed for elite military professionals. While the atmosphere is supposed to be fun, the obstacles are potentially dangerous. This April, a 28 year old man from Maryland died after he drowned in a mud pool during an event. 20 others were injured at the same race. If you’re considering a Tough Mudder or similar event, remember the military go through months of practice before attempting their obstacle courses. You should give yourself comparable time.

Parkour Runs

Another extreme fitness trend owes it roots to military training. It’s called Parkour runs. Instead of traditional pre-determined obstacles, people who participate in Parkour consider anything in their way an obstacle: a bench, a wall, a street light. They try to move past it quickly by using their bodies to propel themselves past whatever is in their way.

Pros: Parkour calls on many aspects of physical fitness including running, climbing, swinging, vaulting, jumping and rolling. It’s noncompetitive and creativity is stressed, as participants are supposed to find unique ways to get passed obstacles.

Cons: Just like mud runs, true Parkour tends to be on the more dangerous side. A 24 year old girl passed away trying to jump a building during her first Parkour attempt. You need incredible power to complete the jumps, as well as almost acrobatic ability to scale walls and swing on obstacles in your environment. Parkour inspired another activity called free running which is similar but not as dangerous.

Which one is for you?

Check online to see if classes and events are in your area. Watch one before you actually participate. If you try any of these extreme fitness methods, make sure you are physically capable to keep up and don’t be too proud to take to it slowly, allowing your body time to adapt. There are many ways to stay fit, so keep trying different activities until you find the one you’re passionate about. For questions on this article or anything else fitness related email the author at


Michelle Fiscus writes a regular column for Michelle and her husband own a personal training and nutrition business based in Frederick County and hold industry certifications and credentials.

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