Vancouver fitness guru Ron Zalko has seen many workout trends come and go in his 37 years in the industry.
He recalls exercising with Jane Fonda at the height of the aerobics craze in the 1980s. Then there were the martial-arts oriented moves of the 1990s, followed by the rise of street-dance exercises in the early part of this century.
Shortly before the new year dawned, Zalko sat down for an interview with the Georgia Straight at his Kitsilano gym to discuss what’s most popular nowadays.
Some of his observations might surprise you.
Weight training for women
Zalko revealed that during the past year, weight training has become increasingly popular for female members of his gym. “It gives you more toning, firming, definition, and self-esteem,” he said. “Women who do weight training have wonderful bodies.”
Several Hollywood actors have gone public about the benefits that this is having for them, including the star of the 2017 Wonder Woman film, Gal Gadot. “I do cardio,” Gadot told E! News, “but I don’t like it as much. I’d rather do weights.”
Others who enjoy weight training include Blake Lively, Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Kate Upton, singer Gwen Stefani, and Oscar winner Emma Stone. Scarlett Johansson is another one, bluntly telling French Elle magazine several years ago that she "works out like a guy".
Zalko said that one of the benefits of weight training is it can also delay the loss of bone density and the onset of osteoporosis. And he insisted that lifting weights will help a person lose weight.
He also dismissed any concerns that women will bulk up and become unattractive through this activity.
“Women don’t have the same testosterone levels as men unless they take steroids or if they eat up to 5,000 calories a day,” Zalko quipped.
One member of his gym is actor Eric McCormack, who was recently nominated for a Golden Globe for his role in Will & Grace. And, yes, McCormack lifts weights in addition to doing cardio and sometimes singing on the treadmill.
High-intensity interval training
For people who don’t have a great deal of time, this type of cardiovascular exercise is seen as a relatively quick fix. There are many variations, but Zalko’s preferred approach begins with 10 minutes on a treadmill. It starts with low-intensity slow walking for two minutes, then switches to high intensity for one or two minutes, then back to low intensity for another one or two minutes, and then back to high intensity (and so on).
At the end of 10 minutes, the person switches to an elliptical exercise machine. Again, the movements are adjusted between low and high intensities during one- or two-minute periods. Again, this lasts for 10 minutes.
Next, the person moves to the step mill, again interspersing low- and high-intensity exercises by adjusting the tension level. That’s followed by 10 minutes on a stationary bicycle.
Then there's an option of doing 20 minutes of weight training afterward, making for a complete one-hour workout.
One of the benefits of this approach is that it exercises different muscle groups. The StairMaster and the stationary bike essentially train the body to move horizontally, whereas the elliptical machine and the step mill train the body to ascend.
Zalko said he devised this approach after seeing how much difficulty a friend had running a race from Ambleside Beach to the top of Grouse Mountain.
“He couldn’t do the climb,” he said. “It’s a different workout. It’s a different muscle. It’s different breathing.”
The fitness guru has a warning, however. Anyone who gets involved in high-intensity interval training is going to do a lot of sweating.
But he also noted that this type of exercise can produce 450 percent more human growth hormone than normal, which increases the burning of calories and slows down the aging process.
Teenagers working out
Zalko said that there are about 10 teenagers who come to his gym with the blessing of their parents. It thrills him to see these young people working out rather than texting, doing drugs, drinking, or playing video games and getting fat.
“One of them wants to be a policeman,” he said.
Twerk and Afrobeat Fitness
Miley Cyrus might be the world’s most famous twerker after her performance with Robin Thicke at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards. But since then, twerk fitness has become a hot craze in Los Angeles.
It’s as you can imagine: swivelling and jerking the hips while working the glutes, accompanied by some full-throttle music. And in 2018, Zalko will offer classes in twerk fitness at his gym.
“Lots of ladies love it,” he said. “I wanted to spice it up a little bit.”
He’s also introducing classes in Afrobeat fitness, which will complement the zumba, boxerfit, pilates, yoga, and early-morning indoor-cycling workouts.
“I like to see people reaching their goals, changing their lifestyle, and being happy for where they are,” Zalko declared. “That’s where I get my high.”