Exercise and the South Bay have an unyielding relationship. Yoga studios thrive on nearly every block, and rarely does a weekend pass without a local 5- or 10-kilometer race to run on Saturday morning. The South Bay is blessed with sunny and warm days most of the year, which provides endless opportunities to get out of the house with our families and be active. This is a good thing, of course, because an active lifestyle is linked to longer life expectancy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also promote an active lifestyle as a way to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and several forms of cancer.
Although flowing to Ujjayi breath in yoga and running the hills of Palos Verdes have been popular exercise options in the South Bay for quite a while, a few workout options gained popularity over the last year or so. Read on to find out more about how your neighbors are breaking a sweat.
All-inclusive gyms around the South Bay offer indoor cycling classes where members are led by a certified group fitness instructor through a full workout on a stationary bicycle. Indoor cycling classes are very popular among residents, and the workout is gaining loyal followers. In addition to the larger gyms, over the last year and a half, a few boutique workout facilities that focus almost solely on indoor cycling opened locally and are experiencing success.
JJ Hendershot, group fitness manager at Equinox in Palos Verdes, teaches indoor cycling classes that fill up a half-hour before class begins and quite regularly include a waiting list of members-just in case someone who signed up can't get to the gym and a spot becomes available.
"Cycle classes are a ton of cardio," says Hendershot. "Most people start riding because they are looking at the class as a quick and effective way to lose weight. As they continue, they recognize that cycle classes increase cardiovascular endurance, build muscle, tone legs and release endorphins. And as students become even more advanced, they are able to tone triceps and shoulders, increase back and abdominal strength and build mental fortitude."
Hendershot explains that when done correctly, students are able to maintain an optimal heart rate for an extended period of time. The workout is both safe and effective for a range of populations.
"As with any workout, the effectiveness of the workout equates directly to the investment made by the student. Bikes equipped with a console gauging watts (a measure of power) or miles per hour give the rider direct feedback, which allows for a minute-by-minute assessment of effort. Those who want to see a change in their ability and body can use the monitor to push past current levels in a safe, measurable and effective way."
If you're worried that you'll need fancy equipment or need to already be in shape for such a great workout-don't be. "I have 16-year-olds, 80-year-olds, women who are nine months pregnant and students who are rehabbing injuries in my classes. Indoor cycling is a workout that is safe for most, given that you can increase or decrease the tension on the wheel and slow down or pick up pace to individualize your workout. Unless your doctor is concerned from an exertion or range of motion standpoint, cycling is an exercise for all bodies," says Hendershot.
You also do not need cycling shoes to ride on a stationary bike. Most gyms and studios have "triple link pedals," which means you can ride in regular shoes with a cage on the pedal, or in SPD or Look cleats. However, Hendershot does recommend investing in a pair of cycling shoes if you plan on attending cycling classes weekly. She explains that you will be able to pull up on the pedals in a cycling shoe rather than just pushing down on the pedals.
Indoor cycling is a great training method for anyone who is interested in riding outdoors on a bike. Most stationary indoor cycling bikes are modeled after a road bike. Although crank length, seat size and handlebar design are different, the overall workout is a great way to train for the outdoors. "Many of us ride indoors when we can't get outside on our bikes. Or perhaps we just need a group of hot sweaty people, an instructor yelling at us and some pumping music to motivate us here and there," says Hendershot.
Indoor cycling classes are full of people who are looking to improve their physical fitness, whether it is cardiovascular fitness, fat loss or even training for an Ironman or marathon. "Every person, regardless of their individual goals, benefits from every class because it has become truly accessible to all. And everyone can be successful from day one!" says Hendershot.
PiYo is a workout that blends basic Pilates exercises with yoga poses. The class is designed to improve muscle strength, core stability and balance. "PiYo delivers strength through balance," says Randy Okuda, instructor of PiYo classes at Torrance Memorial Medical Center. "It is a total body workout with a lot of rhythm, and it is a lot of fun."
Okuda explains that PiYo is suited for anyone who wants to strengthen muscles and improve balance. "My classes are all levels, and modifications are provided so that students can participate at a level suitable for their fitness level. However, PiYo is not for anyone who needs assistance standing or who has serious knee or hip problems."
Star Taylor, a 37-year-old nurse from Lomita, has been taking fitness classes with Okuda for nearly 10 years. She credits her improved strength and conditioning to Okuda's classes. "My body seems stronger and better conditioned- particularly in my core muscles-since I started PiYo. And this is even after having kids," says Taylor. "PiYo is a way for workout, and best of all, I always leave feeling good about myself after class."
PiYo certainly gained momentum in 2011. Three people attended Okuda's first class when it opened a little more than a year ago. Now his class is almost always at capacity.
Okuda's trick to fast results is simple: "Do as much as you can within the limits of what your body is telling you to do. Listen to your body, and do not push through when it tells you that you need to stop."
T'ai chi ch'uan (commonly known as tai chi) is a sophisticated Chinese exercise for physical and mental well-being. Its history exceeds 1,000 years and represents China's highest cultural expressions. Richard Goodman is a tai chi instructor who teaches classes throughout the South Bay including the Center for Healthy Living at Malaga Cove. He has studied, practiced and taught the exercise for more than 30 years.
"Tai chi is a series of continuous slow, circular movements performed while alternating the body's weight by shifting back and forth. Gentle, twisting movements are performed while harmonizing the mind, body, breath and movement," explains Goodman.
Because the movements in tai chi are gentle and low impact, it is a suitable workout for everyone, including older adults. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health, people practice tai chi to improve overall wellness. Specifically this includes physical condition, muscle strength and coordination. Tai chi also helps those who practice it sleep better, improve balance and decrease the risk of falls, particularly for the elderly.
"Tai chi is becoming better known and more accessible every year in the South Bay and around the world, primarily due to the generous and tireless sharing of four generations of the Master Tung family," explains Goodman. "They are the primary recipients from the original founding lineage. Hundreds of long-time students (including myself ) from Master Kai Ying Tung's Academy of T'ai Chi Ch'uan are privileged to assist him and his son, Master Tung Chen Wei, (both currently teaching in Los Angeles) in spreading the many personal and social benefits of this magnificent art."
Suspension training is a form of exercise that utilizes a pulley system and a person's body weight to achieve improved core stability, balance, flexibility and strength. The well-known suspension training system TRX® was originally developed by a Navy SEAL and involves a variety of multi-planar, compound movements.
Lisa Cavallaro, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist who runs the CHANGE (Cardiovascular Health Achieved through Nutrition, Guidance and Exercise) program for the Torrance Memorial Lundquist Cardiovascular Institute. She uses the TRX system in the exercise routine of CHANGE, which is primarily focused on aerobic and resistance training.
"Suspension training is popular because it is lightweight and portable. It is very good for home use, and those who utilize it need only their body weight for resistance. Additional weights and equipment are not needed," says Cavallaro.
The CHANGE program has seen all ages of men and women using the TRX system effectively. "Some of the people using the TRX system in our classes are into their 70s," says Cavallaro. "We use it primarily for upper body resistance training-chest and back. It does take a bit of practice to get used to the positions required to properly execute the exercises. We would not use the system with someone who has had any neck, shoulder or back injuries or someone who is not steady on their feet."
If any of these exercise classes have piqued your interest, inquire at your health club about classes. You can likely speak to instructors about the exercise before jumping in. Looking for a new gym in 2012? Ask about the classes you are interested in before signing up. Most South Bay gyms offer a free class, day pass or week pass so you can gain a feel for the type of exercises and fitness classes available.
Learn more about Torrance Memorial's fitness classes.