Joe’s take on fitness trends for 2018

I came across an article in Outside Online that caught my attention. The article summarized predictions for trends for 2018 from some people intimately involved in the fitness industry.  The article can be found HERE.

As I read through the article, I realized that I had some decent insight into each of the predictions. So, I thought I’d add my two cents to the article.  Here we go:

1. We’ll see the limits of short, fast workouts.
I agree. No doubt HIT works. But it is seriously over-marketed. And I think people are getting tired of it. There’s a point of diminishing returns in both a training stimulus and the amount of ‘new, innovative’ HIT workouts (marketing). For people who train HIT all the time, we see burnout and injury. In terms of the ‘new shiny object,’ there’s nothing new to market in terms of HIT. However, we see HIT packaged in fancy animation and data (i.e. Orange Theory and group intensity tracking.) This may add some motivation/fun to HIT, but at the fundamental level, if you apply HIT at the appropriate time and with the appropriate intensity, it works. It always has. It always will.

2. The hardcore recreations will be marketing gold.
I agree. The majority of Ironman athletes are ‘recreational.’ (they’ve just taken recreational to an extreme level…). It is trendy to have a dad-bod. It is OK to be a bigger athlete. All this is GREAT for health and wellness. The more we can de-mystify the ‘elite athlete’ the more we can all make healthy choices and life-long fitness choices. I believe that marketing to long-term health and well-being is where it’s at. We will see more personal trainers, coaches, and gyms speaking to health and wellness rather than PRs and ‘winning races.’

3. The “Niche-ification” of exercise will continue.
Agree. There are so many unique sports that have emerged. I think we will see cross-fit specialists, Spartan race clubs, etc. With the ability of technology to connect people, expect to see support groups and virtual clubs pop up around every niche sport out there.

4. There will be a pushback against individualized exercise advice.
Disagree. I believe people WANT and NEED individuated exercise advice (i.e. exercise prescription). Almost every athlete that has purchased a general training program from me has at least ONE question about how to tweak the program to fit their needs. So, individualization is important. The problem is that there are SO MANY so-called ‘experts’ that the mainstream athlete has not found VALUE in individualized programming. Coming from an academic, scientific background, I know the value and necessity of an individualized program. It’s how I coach my one-on-one athletes. It’s the ONLY way to truly help someone find their potential. That said, a decent ‘general training program’ will do wonders for everyone. It doesn’t have to be 100% custom to help people improve. I actually try to address both categories of people (those who desire individualized programming and those who want a community (see #3) and a blueprint for training.

5. The anti-sugar movement will change how we eat.
1000000% agree. You’ve heard me talk about the balance between eating for HEALTH and eating for PERFORMANCE. A big player in this is sugar. Unlike other trends (low-fat, paleo, HFLC, keto…) anti-sugar is here to stay. If our society doesn’t listen to the sugar advice, we all need to prepare for increased healthcare costs due to lifestyle disease.

6. Recovery metrics will be all the rage.
Agree. Everyone wants the ‘hack.’ Recovery is super-important, but now it is being marketed. And athletes fall for marketing. It comes down to basic science and knowing what data IS and ISN’T important. Like all of the data-tracking gizmos we use for training (and everything else in life), there is a point of diminishing returns… Sometimes too much data is harmful. So, even though I believe recovery tracking is critical to health and performance, I foresee the recovery tracking devices to peak in 2018 only to be rejected on as a ‘fitness trend’ in the future.

7. Inner health will rival outer strength.
Interesting thought here. I’ve always been an introspective athlete and used performance as an outward display of my inner health. I’ve tried to promote this notion to my athletes, with limited success. In the world of performance, outer strength is the metric in which we evaluate ourselves.  However, as mainstream health becomes more of the focus, inner health will be critical to developing a “complete human.”  I will continue to add my random philosophical comments to videos, blogs, and trainign programs.

This could be a cop out for folks who realize that strength and health are crucial to quality of life.  We may miss focusing on optimizing health in a society that prioritizes fast, processed food and inactivity.  An individuals health is crucial to thriving in all aspects of their life.  Sometimes the hardest, most challenging goals are the most valuable.

8. We’ll have more personalized (and gender-specific) training.
Agree. This seems be opposite of #4. And I agree that with the need for optimal trainign for time-crunched people, they will want personalized training (and personalized healthcare, personalized medicine, etc). At some point, we won’t tolerate incompetence when we pay for advice.

9. We’ll develop a more holistic understanding of health.
Agree. As you may know, Carrie and I have a wellness business in which we evaluate risk for lifestyle disease. We don’t work with athletes. We work with the “typical American.” These folks CRAVE understanding their health. This includes a comprehensive health evaluation. As the baby-boomers reach retirement, we will see a HUGE boost in the desire to be healthy. Health will be trendy. And hopefully the health trend will be here to stay.

10. Digital burnout will continue… Also: fecal transplants.
I 100% agree with the digital burnout. I often ask my athletes to ignore their Garmin and go by feel. There is a valuable place for data collection in health and performance, but ultimately, you can and should unplug.

I learned about the microbiome about a decade ago. If I had 5 more years of post-doc work, I would have chosen gut-bacteria and the microbiome as my field of choice. We have a poorly-understood world living in our guts. The microbiome is possibly the key to health, performance, and even longevity. Not sure if we’ll see major advances next year, but keep an eye on this space!

11. More masters athletes will prove age is just a number.
Agree. There are so many possible explanations for this. 1) we have had age-group sport as a ‘thing’ for a few decades and young athletes have been able to translate high school and college sport into adult athletics. These folks have decades of training and performing, so have a huge advantage as they age. 2) The more time you train, the better you get. If you are life-long exercise, you will reach a certain point where you can perform well. At this point, the key is to NOT SLOW DOWN. If you can maintain your fitness as you age, you will rise to the top of your age group! 3) The demographic of the elite masters athlete is typically a person with the fortune to train and race. We are fortunate to be able to have the TIME and MONEY to invest in sport. Looking at the baby boomers, they have money (they worked their asses off most of their life so they could retire), they have time (they are retired), and they have a desire to regain their health (from working their assess off most of their life). This is the perfect storm for full-time masters athletes to raise the bar of performance.

12. Power-based training will be more relevant for runners.
DISAGREE!! But only because I understand how to filter data. I HATE the Stryd (power meter for running). I used one and absolutely loathed it. Interestingly, I am 100% dependent on my bike power meter.  Perhaps, for me, I see HOW bike power is measured (a strain gauge that actually measures something). Running power… I don’t see it. I don’t like it.  I don’t see the value in seeing “run power.” What I do see is a HUGE MARKETING opportunity to see endurance athletes on yet another gadget that promises to improve training ad performance efficiency. Check me in a year to see if I change my mind, but I’m not sold. Power based running products WILL see an increase in sales in 2018, but they won’t help anyone run better.

13. Exercise will be come increasingly obsolete.
Never. Until people understand that ‘exercise doesn’t lead to health’ people will continue to join gyms and spend countless hours on treadmill, in classes, and lifting weights with NO improvement in health. I see people using exercise justification to eat more. Or penance for eating too much. I agree with the author that people will look for ‘hacks’ and alternatives to traditional exercise, but we will still search for ways to exercise.

What I DO think we will see is that people will avoid “exercise.” As we work with corporate America, we use the term “physical activity” rather than “exercise.” Exercise turns people off. And in reality, physical activity is what we all need. How we get physical activity can vary greatly and in its simplest form walking is just fine.

Lastly, I fear that the last line will become more common, “The outdoors will become a strange novelty.” There’s lots of literature that support the benefits of being outside. Let’s hope this is one trend we never see…