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Cover Story : Twelve More, Eleven More (C' Mon, You Can Do It!) : More Ways to a Better Bod!!

January 14, 1994|SUZANNE SCHLOSBERG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Suzanne Schlosberg writes frequently for The Times

It's a January tradition: You realize that your exercise program of late has consisted of laps around the holiday buffet table. You know you're in shape--the shape of an eggplant.

Once again you vow to start exercising, but before long, boredom sets in. The Stairmaster becomes the stairmonster, and your New Year's resolution becomes a thing of the past.

According to fitness experts, however, this year could be different. The fitness industry has developed new forms of exercise and updated a number of old ones. Instructors say that even the most reluctant exerciser can find a way to stay motivated.

"People in our industry are becoming a lot more innovative," says Vince Weigel, program director for the Aerobics and Fitness Assn. of America, a Sherman Oaks organization that certifies aerobics instructors and personal trainers nationwide.

Now, building muscle strength doesn't necessarily involve heavy machinery. You can pull a giant rubber band in your living room or press a foam dumbbell under water. To get a cardiovascular workout, you can slide across a plastic board or jump with a heavy rubber rope.

"There are so many methods of exercise that you can't possibly get bored," says Tim Belknap, fitness director at Mid-Valley Athletic Club in Reseda, which now offers country line-dancing classes.

Today more people understand that lifting weights isn't just about looking good. It can help ward off osteoporosis by making bones more dense. And it can help accelerate weight loss. Responding to public interest in strength training, the fitness industry has devised more convenient and less intimidating methods than the traditional one: lifting barbells. At the same time, instructors and equipment manufacturers have created more methods of cardiovascular exercise, which has been shown to significantly decrease the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. After all, how many aerobics classes can a person take?

Here's a closer look at 10 innovative ways to exercise:

1. Yoga

Marsha Accomazzo says people have the wrong idea about yoga. "They think you have to stand on your head and sit in a pretzel position," says Accomazzo, who teaches yoga in her Northridge studio, Prema Vikara. "Or they think you're tripping out or meditating on your navel."

In fact, yoga is a series of postures--some of them quite difficult--that increases flexibility, muscle tone and strength, particularly in the abdominal and lower back muscles. Yoga can even provide a cardiovascular workout if the moves are performed without rest in between.

At the same time, Accomazzo says, yoga helps reduce stress because the moves require you to concentrate on breathing. "Breathing is the link between the mind and body," she says. "It's mindful, purposeful breathing. You're too occupied to think about the stresses in your life . . . about how you've got to get to the market."

Many health clubs and studios offer yoga. To find an experienced instructor, call the International Assn. of Yoga Therapists, (310) 306-8845. To reach Accomazzo, call (818) 701-5277.

2. Step

Step Aerobics has taken, well, a giant step forward since it was introduced in health clubs five years ago. Instead of just stepping up and down on the adjustable platform, instructors are adding fancier choreography and using the steps for strength training as well. The Sports Club L.A. in West Los Angeles even has step classes in the water.

"Step aerobics has vastly expanded," says Vince Weigel, program director for the Aerobics and Fitness Assn. of America.

a Mid-Valley Athletic Club in Reseda, for instance, has introduced an "aerostep" class. Members fasten on their "aero belt"--a wide belt with elastic tubing that extends from the belt to cuffs wound around their wrists. As they step up, down, and diagonally on the step, they press their arms forward and upward, pulling the tubing from their wrist cuffs. The idea is to build upper-body strength while stepping.

"It's more intense than regular step--and that's saying a lot," said Julie Moffett, 36, of Canoga Park.

Some class members, however, have found that the arm movements require so much concentration that they take the fun out of stepping. "It's an innovative way to work out," says instructor Deby Spellman, "but it's not for everyone."

3. Slide Boarding

On a stair climber, you move up and down. On a treadmill, you move forward. What's missing from most workouts is side-to-side--lateral--motion.

The slide board has filled this gap. It's a plastic board with padded bumpers on both ends. You slip nylon booties over your athletic shoes, push off from one end of the board, then glide from side to side, mimicking the motion of a speed skater.

It's not nearly as easy as it looks. "People are really shocked at how fast your heart rate gets up," says Lea Barrett, who teaches slide board classes at the Westlake Sporthouse.

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