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No More Hamster Wheel

Group classes are adding excitement to cardio machines
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A Machine for Every Body

Here's a rundown of some of the latest fitness machine classes.

  • Boathouse. These group rowing classes were developed by Concept II, the leading manufacturer of rowing machines. Unlike the developers of Trekking, and other programs, Concept II doesn't require clubs to pay a franchise fee or to follow a specific format. So Boathouse classes vary greatly. They're "designed to take a serious group of athletes to the next level," says Bill Patton, marketing director for Concept II. For seniors, some clubs offer low-intensity Boathouse classes, which can strengthen the back and improve flexibility.
  • Stomp. This new 25-minute workout was developed by stairclimber manufacturer Stairmaster. Rather than monotonously stepping up and down at the same level, you change speeds, vary the depth of your step, and even emphasize one leg at a time. You also do the "stomp," a maneuver that involves lifting both legs in the air simultaneously and literally stomping on the machine. Stomp master trainer Tony Lattimore swears that this cannot break the stairclimber. "Unless you're some 300-pound football player doing it wrong, you can't hurt the machine," Lattimore says.
  • Trekking. It's virtually impossible to get bored during one of these 30-minute treadmill classes. "We've added the intensity of hill training and speedplay, [so] people are surprised that 30 minutes has gone by," says program co-developer Therese Iknoian. Trekking instructors place a big emphasis on techniques for preventing injuries. They also urge class members to go at their own pace, rather than compete with the trekkers next to them. "I've taught obese people right next to very fit runners," Iknoian says.
  • Precor Fit. The latest entry into the group machine class market, Precor Fit, will be launched in April 2000. Classes are taught on the popular Precor elliptical trainer; you pedal your feet in an oval motion while standing upright. There will be two versions of the class, 30 minutes and 50 minutes, and classes will be taught only by trainers certified by the American Council on Exercise. "The goal isn't to kick your butt in 45 minutes," says program developer Isabel Lorca, a Los Angeles fitness trainer. "We want to educate people about the proper technique and make them conscious of what's going on with their bodies so that exercise isn't mindless."

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