Working out at home and finding new and interesting ways to do it has kept many of us sane this past year. It’s become clear that mental health is squarely in the forefront of fitness these days and achieving balance and mental stability can help us become more physically fit.
“A fit body is nothing without a healthy mind,” says Quan Bailey, certified personal trainer and Isopure Athlete. “Mental health awareness puts things in perspective when it comes to fitness. It teaches us to stop comparing ourselves to one another and to focus more on our personal journeys. With less comparison and more self-love, the journey to our best bodies becomes a lot easier, because you are happier throughout the process.”
If 2020 has taught us anything, it is to appreciate the importance of staying strong and fit, building up our immune systems, focusing on our health and wellness. But with so many gyms closed, and access to classes and gym equipment limited, we’ve had to figure out a new way. “This is a better time than ever to get moving,” says Harley Pasternak, NY Times best- selling author, global fitness advisor to Four Seasons Hotels, spokesperson for Forme Life and Hyperice. “The bar has changed regarding what it means to be physically active. Fitness today is more simplified, individualized and personalized. Walking and recovery are prioritized for the first time.”
As we move into 2021, there are exciting innovations that will help us stay fit. From wearables to wellness trackers to workout recovery, here is some of the most fascinating news on the fitness front.
This is the year of recovery, as many of us realize that pushing ourselves to the brink may not be such a great idea. “People were going so hard in everything,” says Pasternak. “CrossFit and boot camps led to injuries and burnout,” he continues. “Balance, with recovery, is more important.” Recovery means giving your body what it requires so you can continue to work out, according to sports dietician Becci Twombley, RD, CSSD. “It’s a constant process, whether you’re training or not.” Staying hydrated, getting seven hours of sleep each night, eating well and massaging your muscles can all help. Research has shown that rubbing a CBD topical with menthol and camphor into sore muscles can help reduce pain. Try CBDistillery CBD Relief Stick, Extract Labs Muscle Cream, CBDMedic Muscle & Joint Pain Relief Spray, or the arnica- based Kneipp Intensive Cream Joint & Muscle.
And there are great tools for self-massage. “I’m a huge fan of massage therapy guns and cryotherapy,” says Bailey. “With massage therapy guns you can break up tissue and help increase blood flow, which leads to faster recovery. With cryotherapy you can reduce inflammation, increase blood flow to your muscles and help with nerve issues as well. It’s easier than ever to stay healthy, consistent and injury-free.”
The Hyperice Hypervolt, a highly effective performance and recovery tech tool that looks a bit like a blow dryer, works by engaging with an app on your phone. “The app turns on your Hyperice, and tells you how long and where to use it,” says Pasternak. “It’s like having a personal trainer.” Created for use before workouts to warm up the body, and afterward for recovery, Hyperice began as a locker-room tool for professional athletes in the NBA, NFL and PGA. Tennis great Naomi Osaka is also a fan (see her recovery tips, on page 56), and became an early backer. It’s been endorsed by Olympians Colleen Quigley, Chari Hawkins and Tia Toomey, as well as pro mountain-bike racer Kate Courtney. Hyperice has begun partnering with massage therapists, and is slowly moving into spas, as a noncontact massage tool, helpful during a pandemic.
Nutrition + Fuel
“If you are hydrated and refueled, you are going to have a lot more resilience,” says Twombley. “Pre-fueling sets you up for success. After a workout, it’s important to clean up any damage that was done.”
Antioxidants, protein, functional food and drink and supplements can all aid in recovery. “After you work out, you want to have a combination of protein (to repair the tissue) and antioxidants (to clean up microtears in the muscle),” Twombley continues. She recommends theobromine, an antioxidant found in nuts, like pistachios, and cacao; anthocyanins, which give red, purple and blue plants their coloring; and polyphenols, found in cherries, strawberries, blueberries and more. Try Cheribundi Rebuild or Cheribundi Hydrate tart cherry juice, which can help reduce muscle soreness from the inside—and it’s delicious!
Protein is also important, especially if you push hard or feel run-down. Every cell in the body needs it, although, according to top trainers I’ve spoken to, most of us get enough protein in a healthy diet. However, protein powders (i.e., whey, pea, rice, chia, collagen) are great on the go. “Powdered protein is convenient,” says Twombley. “A protein packet is a good option after you work out at the gym. But if you are heading right home to dinner, you don’t need it.”
Blender-free packets like YourSuper.com travel packs feature a range of superfood blends, and make it even easier to prepare by simply adding water. USDA Certified Organic Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Plant contains organic pea, brown rice and sacha inchi proteins, vitamin B12 and essential amino acids to support muscle recovery. Evive frozen blender-free smoothies, with pea or chia protein, electrolytes, aminos, beet powder, are easy to keep in the freezer, then pop out a single-serve section, and mix with water. Not only are protein powders available in new and innovative flavors and formulations, but one of my personal favorites, non-GMO Isopure Zero Carb Protein, Unflavored, has only two ingredients, and no taste at all.
With more of us working remotely—and working out at home—it’s no surprise that innovative home fitness equipment designed to fit comfortably into small home offices or sync with sleek interior design has become increasingly popular.
Perhaps the most sophisticated and versatile of the genre of “mirrors,” Forme Life, designed by award-winning designer Yves Behar, features a full-length mirror and a range of subscription-based classes that are easy to access via touch screen. Billed as “a studio for body and mind,” Forme Life integrates strength training, Pilates and stretching with the latest technology, including voice control. There are two models, the Studio and the Studio Lift, which also includes high-tech strength training equipment that disappears when it’s not being used. It enables you to curate your workouts based on your ability, fitness goals—even your mood.
“Forme Life is an amazing tool to help you personalize your workout and have the tools and resistance cables to tone, tighten and recover,” says Pasternak, who is the Forme Life chief fitness advisor. The company has been rolling out retail stores where consumers can try the equipment.
Treadly, weighing in at 77 pounds, is a small but sturdy treadmill that folds up neatly and slides under a desk or bed for easy storage. The new Treadly app is a great way to connect with family, friends and colleagues for a group workout. With a maximum speed of five miles per hour, it’s designed to be a multitasker: You can walk and talk on the phone while working out, without subjecting anyone to your heavy breathing!
Tech + Wellness Trackers
It’s easy to find tech watches to help you track your steps, but the next generation of tech has taken fitness and wellness tracking to another level. Now you can track your own blood oxygen, glucose, biomarkers like vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and more to help improve performance and overall health.
Whoop is wearable technology that measures your heart rate and interprets the readings for you. Hugely popular with professional athletes, fitness enthusiasts and captains of industry, Whoop was created by Will Ahmed, who was captain of the squash team at Harvard when he overtrained and underperformed, which led him to look for something that would have tipped him off about what was going on with his heart rate while exercising.
What he devised was a wearable band intended to be worn 24/7. It is embedded with a small plastic sensor that captures your heart rate. “From that data, you can derive heart-rate variability, respiratory rate and sleep rate status, which can help you understand how you are sleeping, and why, to help you sleep better,” says Emily Capodilupo, VP, Data Science and Research, Whoop. “Once you can quantify a problem, you can solve it,” she says. “For example, if you are not meeting your fitness goals, we can recommend interventions and then use data to quantify if the changes are helping.”
Whoop is subscription-based, at $30 per month, which includes the wrist-band—in a range of designs—plus data and analytics. “The idea of super-accessible health care at home is where everyone wants to be,” says Capodilupo. “We’re going to see a merging of wearables and wellness trackers into the medical space. This is just the beginning.”
Levels Health, backed by a team of MDs, is an FDA-approved and regulated device that tracks glucose in your blood. Glucose levels are not only related to diabetes, they have implications in many other health-related areas. Vessel Health functions a bit like a home pregnancy test. It tests your urine on a test strip, which is then scanned into an app where it is scored. In two to three minutes, you get readings for these biomarkers: vitamins B7 (folate) and B9 (biotin), vitamin C, magnesium, creatinine, calcium, pH, ketone A and B, cortisol, hydration.
The readings enable you to change your diet or supplement based on what you need. You can purchase one-, three- or six-month- subscriptions; four tests for $50. Plus, for every card it sells, Vessel donates one month to the nonprofit Vitamin Angels, which goes to underserved populations.
The new Apple Watch Series 6 not only has a fantastic design, it’s a game-changer in terms of helping monitor wellness, including a blood oxygen sensor and app that measures the oxygen saturation of your blood. These days, oxygen saturation—how much oxygen is carried by the red blood cells from the lungs throughout the body— has become an important way to measure health. Apple is participating in three independent research studies to explore future health applications of blood oxygen and working with faculty from the University of Washington School of Medicine to learn how heart rate and blood oxygen readings from the app may serve as early signs of respiratory conditions like influenza and COVID-19.
Several new sites offer targeted or comprehensive classes with personalized instruction to help you stay energized and fit and enhance your well-being. WellSet is a centralized platform that will enable you to source and book wellness practitioners in more than 30 categories. Their software syncs your health concerns with coaches and experts in yoga, Pilates, somatic movement, functional medicine and more to targeted mind-body modalities such as meditation, breathwork, energy healing, so that you can “find your healer.”
MyLifeWell was just launched by founder Gaurav Goomer, who was looking for a site to help him find balance, and decided to create one. It features a range of curated wellness programs and products designed to support everyday wellness, in three tracks: Live Well, where you can live stream classes and private consults with top wellness instructors in Vinyasa Yoga, QiGong, Strength Training, Pain Management and more; Travel Well, which offers wellness trips and retreats to luxe destinations like Ananda in the Himalayas and Canyon Ranch; and Shop Well, a curated collection of goods from fitness equipment to yoga mats and supplements.