Pete McCall by Pete McCall

One of the most elusive traits coveted by humankind is the ability to predict the future. Based on the study of past events we can develop a hypothesis about what might occur, but there is no way to know for sure what can happen in the coming days, weeks or years.

This is especially true in the fitness industry. It is almost impossible to predict what new trend will encourage the masses to get up and start sweating. A specific piece of equipment, workout program or exercise technique may become popular because it helps people achieve results or because it’s just a fun way to exercise and creates an enjoyable experience. CrossFit is an example of a trend that exploded in popularity because the high-intensity exercises and varied programming of the Workouts of the Day (WOD) produce results. Plus, the group component of CrossFit, the competition-based programming and its Spartan setting creates a unique experience that is completely different than the traditional big box gym, which has helped elevate it to a fitness lifestyle.

As we begin the process of closing out 2014, it’s time to identify the programs or products that could become the next CrossFit and shape the fitness landscape in 2015. As a fitness educator and consultant who works with certification organizations, equipment manufacturers, apparel companies and health clubs, I’m in a unique position to be able to identify upcoming fitness trends. In an effort to pinpoint the trends that we will see in the coming year, I reached out to a number of other educators and industry thought leaders to develop a list of what is in store for 2015.

1. More people will utilize wearable technology to monitor and record biometric data. 

Heart-rate monitors have been worn for years to monitor exercise intensity during a workout, but in the past few years a number of wearable devices have been introduced that help us track calorie burning all day long, while also monitoring our sleep habits at night. The New Year will see the release of the Apple iWatch, which is ushering in a whole new category of wearable technology that can help us develop a greater understanding of how our bodies function. The most interesting feature is that Apple’s new mobile operating system (iOS 8) will create a dashboard on your phone that can be used to monitor and record a variety of important health data that can help you live your life to the fullest.

2. Online video-on-demand workout programs will become increasingly common.

From television shows to VHS tapes to DVDs, people have long used video technology to follow a home-based workout led by an experienced instructor. Video-on-demand services have been growing in popularity and the coming year will see an explosion of online, video-on-demand workout programs developed specifically for mobile devices that will allow fitness consumers to enjoy an instructor-led workout anywhere they choose.

3. Online personal training goes mainstream.

When it was first introduced, online personal training was been considered a poor substitute for working with a real live trainer. From video conferencing to wearable devices used to record activity levels, technology has recently made it more feasible to offer personalized fitness coaching services via an online or mobile platform. The next year will see further growth in this segment as personal trainers become more comfortable using technology to offer virtual coaching services. The primary difference between video-on-demand workout programs and online personal training is that the former offers workouts for general goals while the latter delivers specific, progressively challenging programs to achieve well-defined fitness outcomes.

4. “Functional training” will recede from our lexicon and the concept of loaded movement training will become more popular.

Traditional free-weight resistance training features curvilinear movement patterns that move the resistance directly against the downward force of gravity. On the other hand, loaded movement training (LMT) is defined as the process of moving a mass through gravity (the definition of the term shifting) in a task-based, multiplanar movement pattern. LMT is the progression of functional training, which has become an overused term to describe a variety of activities more suited for a circus performance than a weight room.

5. Group-based training programs will be personalized to each individual participating in the workout.

In the past, taking a group exercise class meant moving the same way at the same time and same speed as everyone else in the room. Technology to track intensity and work-rate (via heart-rate monitors) on a screen in the front of a studio allows an instructor to provide a group workout that allows each participant to work at his or her own comfort level. While this technology itself is not new, 2015 will see a rapid growth in personalized group workout programs.

6. Participation in one-on-one personal training will decline at large health clubs in favor of small group or semi-private training programs.

Small-group training programs will continue to grow in popularity and more health clubs will feature fee-based small-group programs as the primary way to deliver an instructor-led workout experience to their members. This may be the year we see revenue from small-group programming surpass revenue generated by one-on-one personal training.

7. Workout programs will move away from pure High-intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and start featuring more intelligent program design that allows for proper recovery from the stresses of exercise.

Recovery is the component of the workout program that is most often overlooked, even though the body becomes stronger in the time period after workout, not during the workout itself. HIIT is popular because it produces results, but performing too much high-intensity training too frequently could lead to overtraining or soft-tissue injury. It also could be a reason why participants stop exercising. This is starting to change as educated fitness professionals are beginning to recognize that recovery is key for their clients’ success.

8. Trainers and clients will begin to use biomarkers to track progress from an exercise program.

For years, researchers have used hormone levels and metabolic markers in the bloodstream to study how exercise affects human physiology. As the costs of blood tests drop, 2015 will see personal trainers starting to use blood testing to help assess a client’s fitness level and physiological status. Don’t worry—personal trainers won’t be taking blood from their clients. Clients will use a dedicated collection sight to withdraw blood, which will then be sent to a lab for processing. Personal trainers will not diagnose any health issues, but instead will watch markers such as testosterone or cortisol to identify whether a client is in an optimal anabolic (muscle building) state or is experiencing a period of stress, which could elevate levels of cortisol and be an indicator of overtraining.

9. Competitive formats like American Ninja Warrior, parkour, Spartan Race and obstacle course races will continue to grow in popularity. 

Thanks in part to the success of Kacy Catanzaro in the American Ninja Warrior challenge, the fact that NBC Sports is now televising Spartan Races, and the emergence of gyms designed specifically for parkour or free-running, this category of extreme bodyweight training will continue to experience exponential growth over the coming year.

10. Old-school group-exercise programs and full-service health clubs will make a comeback.

This is my long-shot, against-the-grain prediction, but I do think that 2015 may become the year for the retro workout craze as many group exercise programs that have faded from the mainstream will make a resurgence. We may see a return of programs like dance aerobics, instructor-led treadmill and stair climber-based workouts and group kickboxing classes. In addition, while small studios have turned the industry on its head over the past five years, in 2015 we will begin to see fitness enthusiasts gravitate back to multipurpose health clubs that can offer a variety of different workout experiences under a single roof.

There is no easy way to tell which of these trends could become the next CrossFit, but this list should give you an idea of what we’ll see in the fitness industry in 2015. You can use this information to plan your continuing education so you can be up-to-date on the latest trends before they become popular.