get fit!

The Reformer machine allows you to isolate specific body parts and build core strength.


We all know how quickly some fitness trends become dated. How many millions of Tae Bo videos and Ab Rockers are shoved in the back of guest room closets?  luckily, our residents have plenty of choices in fun fitness trends for 2013. Some can be done at home,  others with a group of friends at a nearby studio and still others in peaceful solitude. Here’s a sample of the hottest local workouts.


Invented by boxer Joseph Pilates decades ago, the Reformer machine, a complicated tangle of mats, bars and springs, looks like a medieval torture device, but it allows clients to isolate specific body parts, which works to build strength in the core of the body and maintain fitness even during injury. However, the average person needs the guidance of a personal trainer to use one (plus, buying a quality one for the living room would run you well into five figures).  Expect to pay at least $50-$60 per hour to use one with a trainer, although you can always share your session with another person to slash the cost and increase the fun. Available at Simple Sol, Washington Road; JCC South Hills, Kane Boulevard, Scott.

Difficulty scale: Adaptable to any fitness level

Mud race obstacle courses offer more  challenging ways to hoof it than a few laps around the track.
Mud race obstacle courses offer more challenging ways to hoof it than a few laps around the track. Photo from Seven Springs Mountain Resort.

As if running three to 10 miles weren’t enough, the local racing circuit is now full of more challenging ways to hoof it. Whether you want to be chased by zombies while shimmying under electrified fences (“Run for Your Lives”), or run through pits of fire (“Tough Mudder”) or wade through lakes (“Mud on the Mountain”), you’ll find plenty of ways to test your mettle or just put yourself in traction. Bonus: These races tend to have fantastic after-run bashes with live music, food and beer, in case you’d like to replace some of those calories you just burned. Some local dates: Mud on the Mountain, Seven Springs: usually held in November. 5K Foam Fest, Butler, June 15. Ruckus, Washington, Pa: July 13. Tough Mudder, Powerline Park, St. Clairsville, Ohio: August 24-25. Run for Your Lives, Wampum, Pa: August 3.  Prices vary but are usually significantly more than a “plain” race.

Difficulty scale: Gasp


You’ll see celebs everywhere talking about these home-training DVDs, which is amazing, considering they can afford a live-in personal trainer or membership at the most exclusive clubs. P90X2 is the second installment of a multi-million-selling 90-day fitness program consisting primarily of targeted high-repetition weightlifting for toning, added to flexibility exercises such as yoga. Insanity is a 60-day high-intensity interval training program, which means you do lots of very fast bursts of cardio and plyometrics (read: explosive jumps) with very little rest in between sets. Insanity requires no equipment; P90X2 requires some equipment such as dumbbells, a balance ball, pull-up bar (or resistance bands) and yoga mat. Both programs require a base level of good fitness to avoid injury, but neither requires expertise in the moves to begin. $140 each at The before and after pics are inspiring, although if you look closely, you’ll see many of those folks are former athletes.

Difficulty scale: Gasp

Crossfit makes you stronger and more fit to do what you need to do in life. Mt. Lebanon firefighters do two Crossfit sessions a week.
Crossfit makes you stronger and more fit to do what you need to do in life. Mt. Lebanon firefighters do two Crossfit sessions a week.

The funny thing about fitness classes is that they often don’t translate into real-life activities. Really, how many old-school aerobics “grapevines” have you ever done while loading heavy groceries into your car? The theory behind CrossFit, invented by trainer/coach Greg Glassman in the 1990s, is that your fitness routine should make you stronger, more powerful and more fit to do what you need to do in life, which is why the Mt. Lebanon Fire Department does CrossFit twice a week. Let’s face it, if they have to carry you out of a burning building, do you really care if they can enthusiastically do a 60-minute Spinning class? Wouldn’t you rather know they’ve lifted weights over their heads, schlepped a heavy sack up a flight of stairs and smacked a steel bar with a 10-pound sledgehammer 50 times? In CrossFit, you’ll use equipment, such as kettlebells and traditional weights, to build muscle. You’ll use your body to do torturous-but-results-driven moves such as  burpees. (Remember the old squat-thrusts from gym class? They work!) It also calls for high-intensity bursts in sets sometimes called “tabatas”—doing as many repetitions of an exercise as you can for 20 seconds then resting for 10 seconds, and then repeating eight times. Throw in some pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups (and maybe some throw-ups) and you’re done.

If you’re a solitary exerciser, check out the Workout of the Day and instructional videos at But most people like the sense of community in the CrossFit “Box” (don’t call it a gym!) If that’s you, check out Kevin Beamon’s CrossFit Mt. Lebanon, planned to open at 427 Washington Road next month. Details and prices:

Difficulty scale: Challenging but can be modified for various  levels of fitness.


Better known as hot yoga, heated vinyasa yoga happens in a 95+ degree room with the humidity cranked way up. Participants are guided through flowing poses using proper breathing technique and body form. While you do sweat over every inch of your body, the practice can be relaxing, especially during the concluding savasana, where you lie in stillness and meditation on the mat. Prices are around $15 for a 90-minute session and can be purchased in packages at a discount. Most places have introductory specials to try it out—and you do have to try it more than once to really get it. Available at Yoga Flow, North Highland Road, Upper St. Clair; South Hills Power Yoga, West Liberty Avenue, Dormont. A cousin of this style of yoga is Bikram, which is a specific format of 26 yoga poses done twice in 90 minutes in a 105-degree room with 40 percent humidity. Got it? Only local spot for it is Bikram Yoga Mt. Lebanon, 704 Washington Road.

Difficulty scale: Intense but adaptable for all fitness levels


A close cousin of CrossFit is metabolic training, another high intensity workout that mixes the best of circuit training—or weights, using high reps of relatively low weight—with sets of plyo and cardio (sprints!), with very little rest in between sets. But because you’re rotating the muscle groups, you’re getting the most out of your time. Rasheed Marshall, a personal trainer at Amerifit, says it creates the highly coveted “afterburn,” or a body that continues to burn high numbers of calories even when the workout is over. “You will drop a lot of weight,” Marshall says. It can be done in a class, or with a personal trainer, alone or in small groups. Available as private appointments with Marshall at Amerifit, Roessler Road, Scott, or in groups or private sessions at the JCC with personal trainer Kinsey Helou. Prices for private sessions range from $30 to more than $60 depending on session length and length of contract. JCC class is free with membership.

Difficulty scale: Gasp


BarreIf you are a woman who grew up in the 1970s or ’80s, chances are you took a little ballet. So it will not be news to you to hear that a fitness class based on ballet principles isn’t easy. The fitness principles of barre include strengthening and lengthening muscles, while you gain balance and grace. One of the leading trends in the South Hills these days is Pilates-style barre classes, which also incorporate light hand weights and lots of ab work. By the end, the tushy will be burning. Prices range from around $8 to $23 a class. Available at Simple Sol, Washington Road; Pure Barre, Cochran Road; JCC, South Hills; Studio Pantera, East Main Street, Carnegie.

Difficulty scale: All fitness levels

Resistance is what TRX is all about—and offers another way to get a Pilates-type toning workout.
Resistance is what TRX is all about—and offers another way to get a Pilates-type toning workout.

At first glance, TRX looks like something out of the circus. Participants are suspended from flexible bands (attached to sturdy things like the HVAC system in the ceiling), and they work against gravity using body weight. Whether you do a pull-up or bridge or other exercise, it’s all made more challenging because of the resistance. But it also is completely customizable. Lower the bands closer to the floor and make it harder. Put your feet in a different position and make the exercise easier. It’s another way to get a Pilates-type toning workout that can grow as your abilities improve. Sessions are various lengths but always include warmups, cooldowns and abdominal work. Given at the JCC in groups or private sessions with trainer Connie Pastorius. About $60/hour for private session, $78 for six group classes.

Difficulty scale: All fitness levels