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Fitness Trends 2021: what workouts will look like this year

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  • Get ready for trail runs, huge virtual challenges and eye yoga…

    2020 changed so much, but the fitness industry, undoubtedly, was one of those hit the hardest.

    Almost overnight, personal trainers had to immerse themselves in the world of Zoom, with studios offering virtual classes to keep their customers fit from home. Virtual marathons, including the 2020 London marathon, popped up left, right, and centre. As gyms remained shut, running became cool – from March to June alone, the NHS Couch to 5km app saw more than 858,000 downloads. Oh, and home workout equipment sold out everywhere, while P.E. with national treasure Joe Wicks kept the kids being homeschooled in tip-top shape.

    So, will this year look any different? After the recent announcement that the UK will be in lockdown until mid-February, your gut instinct may be saying no. But that’s where we think you’re wrong. Humans are resilient and adaptable and ever-changing, and so is the face of fitness. Hold tight – we reckon there’s some seriously exciting challenges, fit kit and apps about to hit the mainstream that’ll keep your motivation levels sky-high, even without access to a gym.

    Keep reading for our predictions of the biggest 2021 fitness trends, including even more time outside, huge virtual challenges, and a more little-and-often approach to working out generally.

    11 fitness trends to have on your radar for 2021

    1. Being outside

    We’re talking walking, hiking, jogging, trail running, cycling, and wild swimming: you name it, people are only going to continue immersing themselves in nature for 2021. There’s something about only being allowed outside once a day that just really makes you want to be outside, breathing in the fresh air, surrounded by green, huh.

    Whether you opt for one of the best UK hiking routes, decide to give trail running a go (it’s way more fun than it sounds), or immerse yourself in cold water therapy with a dunk in the sea, there’s something for everyone. Even a simple 20 minutes outside a day, according to a 2019 Nature study, lowers your stress hormones, improves your mood, and boosts your self-esteem.

    While not currently allowed, we bet outdoor classes will be all the rage once the third UK lockdown lifts, too. There was a 400% increase in the number of outdoor classes being offered by studios on ClassPass last year alone.

    2. Bigger virtual challenges 

    So you can’t go to the gym, but you can get outside. Fitness motivation at an all-time low? It’s time for a challenge, we think.

    2021 will see even more people embark on virtual races, be that running races of a 5km, 10km, half marathon, marathon or ultra-marathon distance, a cycling challenge, or a more general fitness challenge, like mastering your first five pull-ups.

    Why? Well, they’re a super simple way to keep motivated when you’re spending most of your time at home. Set yourself a challenge like, say, beating your 5km personal best, and you’ll be raring to go come your next run. This is the way people will keep going this year – focusing on fitness self-improvement, in whatever way they can.

    Ultra-marathons in particular will gain traction in 2021, with people wanting to push themselves further to prove they can and to raise money for much-deserving charities, too. Race organisers like Ultra X are ready, making their qualifier for their 2021 races virtual. No organised events gives you freedom to set your own course, but also comes with the responsibility of sourcing your own fuel, water and help, should you run into trouble. Be sensible and stay safe.

    3. Smarter virtual classes and flexible fitness

    Sure, you spent most of 2020 working out online. This year, you’ll be doing lots of virtual workouts, too, but more smartly. And by that, we mean? Apps, plans, and programmes that actually make you workout as hard as at your favourite spin class.

    That’s where apps like FIIT come in, offering near personalised workouts. You get a heart rate monitor with subscription, so you know you’re pushing yourself each session, and can even schedule classes with other FIIT members and take them at the same time. No kit? No problem – these apps have some of the best trainers in the business ready to push you to your limit.

    Being able to access fitness on demand from the comfort of your living room is a necessity right now, but so is making sure you’re getting a good workout. Flexible fitness will only continue to grow in popularity, too – mums and dads working while juggling childcare, this one’s for you. Remember fitting in five, ten or twenty minutes to stretch or sweat whenever suits you best, be that before work, mid-morning or on lunch, is better than nothing. Small wins.

    4. Remote personal training

    Think one-to-one personal training is totally off the cards? No longer, thanks to Zoom and PT’s developing clever ways to approach virtual training. While, for you, 2021 may not be about change – as we touched on in our Dry January piece, mid-global pandemic may not be the time to be putting pressure on yourself – for others, it might just be the perfect opportunity to put all that free time to good use.

    Personal trainers are ready and waiting to help you reach your goals from home. Fun fact: celebrities have been doing Zoom PT sessions for years to make sure they still get their sweat on from wherever they are on tour. Book a consultation if you have a fitness goal you need help to achieve. You won’t regret it.

    A woman using her wearable tech

    5. Increased digital wellbeing and mindfulness

    You’re not alone if you felt like the time you spent online in 2020 was too much. Work, fun, working out, and even doctor’s appointments were predominantly online thanks to COVID-19, and that doesn’t look set to change anytime soon.

    That’s why new tech habits will come to the fore in 2021, with a strong focus on mindfulness and digital wellbeing. People will ditch online for offline, where possible, and seek a further disconnect from the digital world. It can be as simple as putting your work laptop in a box when your working day ends – every little helps.

    FYI, Apple now lets you set a time restriction for your apps – we’d recommend limiting your Instagram usage, stat – and offers a screen time round-up at the end of each week. 2021 will see people actually starting to pay attention to these figures and actioning them, too. They have too much of an impact on your mental wellbeing to be ignored.

    6. Digital therapy

    We all know mental fitness is as important as physical fitness. Another essential day-to-day task that’s been taken online in recent months? Therapy. Many counsellors have had to move online, meaning you’ll be talking. to person via Zoom, phone call or video link, instead of in person.

    Rather than putting people off, many seem to have been encouraged by the accessibility and non-invasive nature of e-therapy, according to a JMIR Mental Health study. The NHS has a whole list of reasons as to why talking therapy could help you – if you’re suffering from low mood, anxiety, or have undergone recent trauma – and BetterHelp has a handy guide to finding the right therapist for you, should you be considering it but unsure where to start.

    In a year where stress levels and mental health struggles will only increase, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone if you’re struggling.

    A woman meditating in her back garden

    7. Eye yoga

    Your tired eyes after yet more Zoom calls are going to need some TLC this year. 2020 was all about jade rolling – enter stage right, eye yoga, ideal for laptop-fatigued faces. Not sure what it is? Eye yoga uses tiny movements to stretch, move and gently massage the eyes and surrounding muscles, helping to release tension, according to Chatty Dobson, yoga teacher and owner of FLEX Chelsea.

    Give it a try: Dobson shares that less is best when exercising your eyes. Try tiny movements, such as looking up, down, left and right for 10 seconds each, gently kneading the brow bone, and ‘palming’ (cupping your hands over your eyes). They’re all extremely effective, quick and easy to do, she adds.

    On that note, blue light blocking glasses will be your new best friend – better rest, FTW. We love these WALDO blue blocking frames. Plus, remedying poor posture, mobility movements and extra stretching will be all over your Instagram feed, too. Ergonomic chair and new glasses, anyone?

    8. Natural remedies for anxiety 

    We live in a fairly anxiety-inducing world, at current, and so even those not normally prone may be suffering from low mood, stomach butterflies and restlessness at current. 2021’s answer? CBD, nootropics, and natural remedies, in general. They’re no longer woo-woo wellness remit, but mainstream, and ready to help boost your zen.

    Brit-based brand Pure Sport CBD saw a 400% increase in sales in 2020, and companies like London Nootropics have seen a peak in interest in their high-quality adaptogens from around the world. Basically, 2021 will be the year natural remedies become accessible and convenient. If it’s good enough for Ayurvedic and Asian medicine… watch this space.

    A woman stretching her hamstrings in her liivng room

    9. Even more wearable run tech

    We’ve already covered that everyone’s loving running right now, and will continue to do so in 2021. But how will the face of running change, to keep up with demand? Even more exciting wearable tech, that’s how.

    Take NURVV Run, for example – a new smart device designed for all runners offering a completely unique running insight. Their insoles have a whopping 16 precision sensors on each insole, and in turn measure your footstrike, cadence, pronation and more – from your feet.

    Not for you? 2021 will be all about tracking across multiple platforms, be that your step count, sleep stats, Strava runs, Apple movement rings, or Garmin miles.

    10. Exercising globally

    Feeling a little isolated thanks to lockdown 3.0 and missing your group spin classes? 2021 promises a whole host of AI and virtual reality offerings to get you moving, from HIIT workouts in sunny Australia to cycling in Amsterdam. BitGym and Zwift are great examples – transporting you to thousands of beautiful locations around the world for your workout. No holiday? No problem.

    Not so keen on the working-out-in-a-different-city-from-your-living-room thing? Tune in to live workout from any of your favourite classes around the globe. Miss your old Pilates or yoga studio, or keen to see how they flow and sweat further afield? Now’s your chance to try. See – silver linings.

    Tieing in with the little-and-often approach to fitness we mentioned at the top of the article, we reckon less-is-more will champion the 2021 meditation scene. Everyone could do with a little respite right now, and meditation offers just that. There’s only one slight hitch – it can seem quite daunting, and, well, not for you if you’ve never tried it before.

    That’s where micro mindfulness and meditation practices come into your daily routine. A 15-minute walk every morning, mindful breathing while making your morning cuppa, and small acts of kindness all count.

    Keen to start? Headspace have just launched a new Netflix Docuseries Headspace Guide to Meditation in an attempt to bring mindfulness to a wider audience, and it’s a great starting point if you’re a meditation newbie. Plus, fun fact: studies have found as little as three minutes of meditation a day can have positive benefits.

    Know of any 2021 fitness trends we may have missed? Let us know on social at @marieclaireuk.

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