.Thinning Edge

coverwebFrom four-minute bursts to 5,000-year-old Indian weapons, these are the fitness trends you need to know about in 2015

Remember Tae Bo, Jazzercise, Step Aerobics and whatever those rubber band thingies were that people worked out with?

Fitness is about as trendy as haute couture, and trainers are always coming up with new ways to get people to exercise. Some of the things trending around Santa Cruz this year are shocking. People are throwing tractor tires around, swinging sledgehammers and lifting giant kettlebells. Others are kickboxing. But how about the four-minute exercise plan, which reportedly gives more benefits than a half hour of other workouts?

Or the 5,000-year-old Indian clubs that were once used as weapons and now can help stretch necks and make torsos flexible?

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We’ve got them here—and more. We’ve got a fitness club that cuts your price the more you work out. Another has members vote on what equipment or classes they want. There are plenty of local incentives to get your New Year’s resolution on, and keep it on.

The trouble in a country plagued by obesity is that most of our good intentions last only six weeks, according to statistics kept by Santa Cruz Power Fitness manager Mo Fathali. That’s not a lot, considering that many of them sign up for lengthy contracts.

“Our challenge isn’t just to get people into the club,” says Fathali. “It’s to retain them.”

The Four-Minute Workout

Kathy Davenport, owner and trainer at Bodyworks in Santa Cruz, believes in short, high-intensity workouts that train the brain and body.

Among other offerings, she’s adopted one of 2014’s biggest worldwide phenomena: Tabata, a four-minute-long, high-intensity training course.

Dr. Izumi Tabata, of the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, found that a high intensity workout of four minutes and 20 seconds was more effective in building muscle and stamina than a moderate hour-long workout.

The Tabata workout consists of eight exercises done for 20 seconds each, separated by 10 seconds of rest. As her clients progress, they can stretch the workout to eight Tabatas over 40 minutes.

So in what is said to be the longest four minutes of your life, you might do deep squats into bicep curls, then lunges and lat pulldowns, for 20 seconds each with 10 seconds of breathing in between.

“It’s a lot of fun, and it’s challenging,” Davenport says. Of course, she has other types of workouts that last longer and are individually designed for each client. Clients find it challenging to remember the order of their short exercise intervals—something that keeps their brains alert.

“I’m not talking about jumping or being hard on your joints,” Davenport says. “This gets you breathing hard and sweating. You feel alive. I design it for their bodies. Whatever aches and pains you have, we work around them. You can still get a good workout.”

She also favors a 20-minute high-intensity workout to push calorie burning.

Davenport has been in the fitness industry for 40 years, and caters to older clients looking to stay healthy and recover from injuries. This is perhaps the biggest trend among Santa Cruz trainers these days, separating themselves from the militaristic intensity training of places such as the national fitness company, CrossFit, where clients use heavy weights and giant tires for what they call “elite fitness.”

Aptos trainer Bob Pursley, a retired Santa Cruz deputy, is against all standardized intense workouts. In fact, he leans away from all equipment, preferring to focus on using the body to build the body. While his company, Functional Interval Strength Training, has weights, his ideal workout uses parks and the beach as a backdrop.

“There are other ways to get fit besides using kettlebells and throwing heavy objects and being tied down to a gym,” says Pursley, who pushes clients outdoors for challenging walks punctuated by pushups on a bench, or squats, or using stretching straps instead of weights.

“It’s all about using your body to work for you,” he says. “If people learned to use their bodies they would work out more on their own time. I’m not in the business of only keeping people close to workout. They can come back and get refreshed and we can show them new things all the time.”

Gym vs. Trainer

In 27 years of managing gyms, Fathali has learned that the best way to keep clients coming back to his Santa Cruz Power Fitness is to set them up with a personal trainer.

The average New Year’s client will last only six weeks without a trainer, he says, and 18 months with one. The trainers give guidance and accountability, he says, and at $70 an hour or $40 for a half hour, will provide the results that keep clients coming back for more. His club serves 5,500 members—only about 14 percent of whom show up on any given day. He’s got old-school classes, such as step aerobics and Zumba, and newer ones, including cardio kickboxing and yoga.

“The trend in 2015 is that people don’t see value in gym memberships,” he says. “They see value in personal training. I sit every client down and assess them, and then with a trainer they have accountability.”

People get bored just using machines, he says. And TV commercials fool us into thinking we can have perfect abs in seven minutes.

“Fitness is hard,” he says. “It’s not five-to-seven minutes. It’s 40 minutes three times a week. People are lazy. They buy home equipment and after two weeks it becomes an expensive coat hanger. You want to know a scary statistic? Eighty-four percent of the people in this country are involved in an exercise program. That means my audience is only 16 percent of this community.”

Fathali uses dollar incentives to break the inertia. If you sign up for his $45 monthly fee, he will give you a $1 break for each day you workout in the first month—lowering the following months’ fees accordingly. So, if you work out every day for a month, your annual monthly fee is $15.

Cabrillo Fitness manager Shawn Johnston is a believer in high-intensity cross training workouts, a series of which was developed by his club’s chain, Toadal Fitness. He also believes in personal trainers. Every new member gets three free sessions with a trainer and follow-up phone calls to see how he or she is doing.

To keep up with new fitness trends, Johnston’s club gives members a chance to vote twice a year on new classes or machines they want. “That way we learn about things right away, as opposed to waiting for it to trickle down from YouTube in France,” he says. One possible new class involves hula dancing, he says, suggested by a member.

With five area clubs, ranging from Scotts Valley to Aptos, locally owned Toadal Fitness is the area’s most expansive, and includes classes such as pilates, spinning, boot camp, yoga, zumba, tai chi and qigong.

Johnston sees a trend of older members needing serious guidance coming back from injuries and finding ways to exercise without damaging their bodies. He also likes to keep members from getting bored with the same habits and exercises. Small classes are one answer, he says. They are less costly than a one-on-one trainer, but they provide incentive to keep pushing. “You can be carrying around 46 years of bad habits,” Johnston says. “Our goal is to create new, healthy ones.”

5,000 Years Old = New Again

Rocky Snyder, owner of Rocky’s Fitness, has found a 5,000-year-old fitness tool and made it new again. Indian clubs that look like juggling pins had their birth in India where they were used to train warriors to be strong and flexible. The British were so impressed with the devices that they adopted them for military training. They crossed over to the U.S. in the 1930s, when they were were used in school gymnasiums. Then they disappeared.

On a training summit, Snyder met an Iowa athletic educator who brought them back. A surfer and weight lifter, Snyder had been having problems with his shoulder that he thought would require surgery to fix, but repetitive movements with the clubs fixed it.

“Swinging them in a circular fashion opens up the shoulders, relieves tension around the torso and neck, and helps build coordination,” Snyder says.

“When you look at da Vinci’s ‘Illustrated Man’ you see the arms reach a circle. The older we get the more that sphere shrinks. This expands the level of support and comfort in all directions. It’s a nice focus without lifting a bunch of heavy weights.”

Snyder, who may be the only trainer to refer to Leonardo da Vinci as a mentor, also focuses on getting baby boomers back in shape with a workout he calls a “bridge program,” which includes corrective exercises to get rid of pain and improve the quality of life. He uses some kettlebell weights and straps and tries to change things up so that people don’t get bored.

“We don’t stay with the same Odwalla drink all our lives,” he says. “We want something different. Fitness is no exception.” BK


Bodyworks: 1624 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz. www.scbodyworks.com, 425-2639

F.I.S.T: 804 Estates Drive, Aptos. www.fistfitness.net, 588-6628

Santa Cruz Power Fitness, 620 Water St., Santa Cruz. www.santacruzpowerfitness.com, 425-0951)

Toadal Fitness: www.toadalfitness.com for information about clubs in downtown Santa Cruz, Westside, Live Oak, Scotts Valley and Aptos.

Rocky’s Fitness: 4135 Portola Drive, Capitola. www.rockysfitnesscenter.com, 479-0867


Self-Help That Really Helps

One writer reveals her secret obsession with self-help books, in the hopes of helping readers find the ones that transcend the genre’s shady reputation

Here’s my dirty little secret: alongside the literature, art, travel, satire, and way too many cookbooks lining my bookshelves, there are an embarrassing number of self-help titles. What can I say? As addictions go, it beats heroin, porn, or hidden stashes of oreos (OK, I actually do have a few of those). More to the point, I’ve always been drawn by the siren song of personal development, and soothed more often than I care to admit by advice that I don’t put into practice. Procrastination, thy name is Eckhart Tolle.

The self-help industry lives for January, when our resolutions have been made—eat less, move more, save money, let go, seize the day, be nice—and we’re looking for something, anything, to help us keep them. Our weight issues feel conquerable, and goals like running a 10K or wearing a bathing suit in public seem as far off as summer solstice. The happiness and habit gurus are champing at the bit, too, raring to break down all paths to perfection into 10 easy steps (or rather, seven easy steps, or rules, or codes. Self-help authors love the number seven).

If you think this is a relatively new phenomenon, think again. Benjamin Franklin got the ball rolling in 1759 with Poor Richard’s Almanac, and followed up with his autobiography. Readers still gravitate to his practical engagement with the process of self-improvement, but also note how often he praises his own humility. Ralph Waldo Emerson followed, coining the phrase “self-help” in his essay “Compensation.” The concept really took off, though, with Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” which still flies off the shelves. For better or worse, the notion of self-help is as American as apple pie.

But buyer beware. The self-help industry will take in over $12 billion this year in the United States alone; such is our eagerness to live our best lives. If you wonder who is benefiting most from our collective yearning, just ask Oprah.

While there are gifted writers exploring behavioral psychology and personal development, there can be an addictive quality to the consumption of self-help books. The people most likely to buy one in the next year are the same people who bought them last year.

So, can any of us flawed, susceptible, curious readers have a healthy relationship with self-help books? Is there middle ground in such a vast territory of emotional aspiration traveled by so many charlatans?

The answer to both questions is: maybe. The best way to start is probably to ditch the “self-help” label. As George Carlin put it so well, “I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, ‘Where’s the self-help section?’ She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.” Since he spent his career pondering the absurdities of the human condition, I think he would agree that any one-size-fits-all guide to well-being should be kicked to the curb. Instead, it’s up to us to seek out great writing, solid research, relevant experience, and earned insight.

That said, I remain a semi-abashed fan of the genre, so the question is: what’s worth reading as we hope for a healthier, happier 2015?

To get started, check out Atul Gawande’s book “Checklist Manifesto.” Finally, someone makes checklists cool. If anyone gives you grief about your endless list-making, throw some Gawande power at them and say, “checklists save lives.” His new book, “Being Mortal,” cuts straight to the visceral heart of our humanity, and argues with great compassion that as we age, the quality of our lives matters more than extending them.

For all the misfits sure that success is meant for others, read Malcolm Gladwell’s “David & Goliath.” He points out that weakness is often strength under the right circumstances, and backs up his work with wonderful storytelling and research. His book “Outliers” shines too, reminding us that even extraordinary circumstances don’t trump long hours (or years) of real effort.

Lively, smart, well-researched and filled with fascinating anecdotes, Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit” helps us understand the triggers and routines that dump us onto the habit loop, and how to turn those very cues to our advantage. You’ll never look at habits the same way again, and, better still, you’ll learn how to change them.

Time to clean house? It’s hard to say whether Marie Kondo is a Zen nanny or a clutter-busting evangelist, but she knows something we could stand to learn: our happiness or unhappiness is directly related (at least in part) to the quantity of our stuff, and not necessarily in a good way. Her book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” is a charmingly eccentric, surprisingly relatable guide to keeping only what brings you joy.

Rebecca Solnit comes to every subject with soul and insight, but her slim-yet-powerful book, “Men Explain Things to Me,” is a feminist manifesto for the 21st century. Witty, sobering, and ultimately optimistic, she offers men a glimpse at the way their wives, mothers, sisters and daughters think, and she offers women the assurance that our journey matters.

Equally tuned in to “aha” moments are the great humorists. Read Mark Twain, Anne Lamott, Caitlin Moran, and David Sedaris, to name a few, for fearless writing, tough love, questionable advice, and compassion when it counts. Great novelists and poets teach volumes as well. Whether it’s Toni Morrison, Alice Munro, John Green, or Billy Collins, their finest work speaks to our better selves.

I’m also a huge fan of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s annual Books for a Better Life Award. It’s been around for more than a decade and gains more fans every year. Curated by influential journalists, publishing, and healthcare professionals, it awards the best titles in 10 categories, including health, food, green issues, parenting, psychology, relationships, motivation, spirit, etc. This year’s nominees can be found at nationalmssociety.org.

So let your curiosity nudge you gently toward your dreams, but be realistic. There are countless ideas about how to move forward in life, and a wealth of writers to light the way.

Santa Cruz 2015: Races and Events

Santa Cruz Polar Plunge Feb. 28
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, 10 a.m.

Each plunger must raise at least $125 to plunge themselves in the winter-chilled ocean. All proceeds go to support athletes from Northern California and Nevada participating in the Special Olympics. Plungers are encouraged to wear a costume of their choice to the plunge and will be able to participate in a costume contest. Visit polarplungenorcalnv.com/santacruz for additional information about the plunge and registration.

29th Annual Santa Cruz Paddlefest and 7th Annual Surftech Shootout Weekend of March 13-15

A weekend full of stand-up paddle board activities returns to West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz. Registration has not opened yet, so check their website regularly for updated information at shootout.surftech.com

Go Green Saint Patrick’s Day 5K, 10K, Half Marathon March 15
Vasona Park, Los Gatos

Fees for the races vary and are subject to change closer to the race date. Visit www.moshan-productions.com and go to the event page to see additional race information and registration.

She.Is.Beautiful 5K and 10K March 22, 2015
Lighthouse Point 701 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz

Ladies of all ages are welcome to join—there is even a stroller-pushing baby-mama division. $43 for both 5K and 10K fees. Visit runsheisbeautiful.com to see race weekend events leading up to the race, as well as additional race information and registration.

Santa Cruz Half Marathon and 10K (5K sold out) April 12
West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz

Half marathon will start at 8:00 a.m. and 10K will start at 8:15 a.m. at Beach and Main streets near Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and both races will finish at Cowell Beach. Fees for the events vary and are subject to change closer to the event date. Visit firstwave-events.com for additional race information and registration.

Sierra Azul Trail Challenge: 5K, 10K, Half Marathon, 18.8 miles, 50K Trail Runs April 25
16845 Hicks Road, Los Gatos, and all races will start at 8 a.m.

Fees for the races will vary and are subject to change closer to the race date. There will be a shuttle for the runners to take them to the start line at an additional cost of $10. Visit www.tctruns.com for additional race information and registration.

Santa Cruz Retro Triathlon April 26
Simpkins Swim Center in Santa Cruz.

This triathlon gives athletes a chance to embrace their retro style while combining the love of fitness and working out. This triathlon is for youth, adults, and athletes of all ranges with the spirit of fun and participation and not competition. The race will not be ranked. Visit finishlineproduction.com for additional race information and registration.

SuperKid Splash & Dash April 26
Simpkins Swim Center in Santa Cruz.

Open to kids age 7-15. Athletes that are 6 years old but will be 7 by December 2015 will be allowed to participate. The race includes a swim in Simpkins pool and a run in the adjacent park on dirt roads and trails. Visit finishlineproduction.com for additional race information and registration.

35th Annual Human Race Walkathon & Fun Run May 9
2300 Delaware Ave., Santa Cruz

A kickoff breakfast at Seacliff Inn will take place Feb. 6 where you can pick up your pledge sheets and posters. To RSVP for the breakfast and to stay updated with details for this year’s race visit humanracesc.org.

Surfer’s Path Marathon, Capitola Half Marathon and Relay May 17
Start line is at Beach Street and the corner of Cliff Street, across from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Arcade

All races start together at 7 a.m. Races will finish at Cowell Beach. Fees for the races will vary and are subject to change closer to the race date. Visit surferspathmarathon.com for additional race information and registration.

Dip and Dash Aquathlon #1 July 12

With a choice of a short swim or a long swim at Cowell Beach, athletes will also have a 4-mile run up West Cliff Drive before returning to the beach at the finish. This is the first of three Dip and Dash Aquathlons. Fees for the races vary and are subject to change. Visit finishlineproduction.com for additional information.

San Lorenzo River 10K, Half Marathon, 30K, Marathon, 50K Trail Runs June 13
Harvey West Park, Santa Cruz

Fees for all the races vary and are subject to change closer to the race date. For more information visit their website at coastaltrailruns.com

43rd Annual Wharf to Wharf: Santa Cruz to Capitola July 26

Join up to 16,000 runners on a scenic 6-mile race from Santa Cruz to Capitola. Visit wharftowharf.com to stay updated with new information about this year’s race.

Santa Cruz Trail Run Aug. 2
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, Felton

The 10K will start at 9 a.m. and both the half marathon and 30K will start at 8:30 a.m., with a 6-hour time limit on the 30K race. Fees for each race vary and are subject to change closer to the event date. Visit insidetrail.com/santa-cruz-trail-run for additional race information and registration.

Tri Santa Cruz & Dip and Dash Aquathlon #2 Aug. 9
Cowell Beach, Santa Cruz.

There will be two distances for the aquathlon. Register at packet pick-up locations, online registration is now closed. Visit finishlineproduction.com for additional race information.

Dip and Dash Aquathlon #3 Aug. 30
Cowell Beach in Santa Cruz.

Awards will be given to athletes who took part in two or more of the Dip and Dash series. Registration is closed online, but in-person registration at 7 a.m. on race day will be allowed. Visit www.finishlineproduction.com for additional race information.


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