GET FIT GUIDE 2013: The Best Shape of Your Life

The Active Times road-tests the most popular programs

With the arrival of a new year comes a slough of New Year's resolutions. And every January 1, improved fitness always tops the list of most popular—and, often, hardest to attain—commitments.

But if you do want to prepare for that backpacking trip through India, work on your six-pack or run your first marathon, what's the best way to get in shape? Here, we've analyzed top fitness programs, gathered pro tips and looked into the latest and greatest new fitness equipment to help you find the best way to shape up in 2013.

The Active Times' Fad Fitness Challenge was a six-week-long project in which five hapless writers immersed themselves in five popular fitness programs—CrossFit, Insanity, Barre, Flywheel and Kettlebell classes—for the dual purposes of getting in shape and evaluating them for you, our readers. Our guinea pigs busted their butts, burnt countless calories and discovered muscles they'd long since mothballed to emerge into the New Year with a well-rounded perspective of the top fitness fads. Here's what they found:

“Traditional interval training includes short bursts of full-out effort followed by longer periods of less intense exercise. However, the Insanity system uses longer bursts of intense exercise with only short periods of rest. The goal is to work to your maximum capacity and push your own limits, which, the program claims, will extend if you stick with it. Insanity is a 60-day commitment and the program comes with an online support system, meal plan ideas and 60 days worth of videos that include resistance training for the upper body, core exercises, cardio, plyometrics and sports drills. No additional props are necessary.” Click here for Insanity.


"Flywheel isn’t exactly indoor cycling, either. Like its competitor, SoulCycle, Flywheel is about sensory immersion. You’re in a dark room with loud, continuous music pumping—in my first class, the music flowed for 45 minutes as if mixed by a DJ. There’s an instructor who’s more like the world’s most encouraging drill sergeant—not far off in the case of Steven, who told me he was in The Marines—and who also happens to make the playlist and modulate the volume throughout the class. Actual quote: “You’re going to take this fucking workout and say ‘You’re mine!’” And yet, after the first 30 minutes of non-stop sprinting, upright pedaling, lifting, such an exhortation sounded about right.” Click here for Flywheel.


“The Russian-inspired kettlebell craze looks like it’s here to stay, and since swinging a kettlebell seems like a lot more fun than bench-pressing or lifting dumbbells, I think that this might be the perfect introduction to that “other” corner of the gym. Plus it's pretty apparent that I need to do something about my upper body strength. (I can't even hop a fence: It's sad.)” Click here for kettlebells.


“If you’ve never heard of it, CrossFit is a wildly popular non-specialized fitness program that uses universal movements to promote overall health. Sound confusing? Essentially, the idea is to tap into a very primal kind of fitness, one that is full-body and includes movements—squatting, running, jumping, throwing, pulling and picking things up—that humans have been performing for thousands of years, since well before the invention of weight machines, gyms, protein shakes, vitamins, supplements and the like, and which they still perform frequently in everyday life.” Click here for CrossFit.


“The stream came from Physique 57—a barre method program that’s been lauded as a toning, shaping, calorie-burning blessing by the likes of Denise Richards, Kelly Ripa and Kristen Bell and has been gaining popularity across the country for the past couple years. And the obscenities came from my mouth because this neverending squat—and the small muscle varations that came with it—hurt. A lot.” Click here for Barre.





Skiing—Ease In to the Season
Skiing—When Nordic Skiing, Glide From Your Ankle
Skiing—Interval Your Way to Endurance Skiing
Skiing—Ski From Your Core
Skiing—Improved Balance for Telemark Skiing
Skiing—A Big, Balanced Breakfast For Power on the Slopes
Skiing—Stretch Before You Ski
Skiing—A Telemarker's Tips on Pre-Season Strength


Running—Make Your Stretches Dynamic
Running—Don't Ignore Recovery Days
Running—Stride Your Way to Speed
Running—Try Bikram Yoga. Seriously
Running—Set Mid-Race Goals
Running—Increase Your Injury Resistance With This Cool Down
Running—When to Chuck Your Shoes
Running—Get Your Speed Workouts Straight
Running—Stronger Feet = Fewer Injuries
Running—Slowly Build Up a Solid Training Base


Nutrition—You're Probably Overeating, So Cut It Out
Nutrition—Make Yogurt Your Post-Workout Snack
Nutrition—Actually, Make That Fat-Free Greek Yogurt
Nutrition—Eat When Your Metabolism is Primed
Nutrtion—Don't Guess On H2O


Triathlon—Train Smarter in 2013
Triathlon—Improve Your Swim Stroke
Triathlon—Drop the December Pounds
Triathlon—Sleep Really Does Matter


Cycling—Pedal Properly
Cycling—Get Strong Faster By Supplementing Cycling
Cycling—Start a Stretching Routine
Cycling—Choose the Right Shoes
Cycling—Physiology, Pain Tolerance and Aggression = Your Best Friends


Fitness—Perfect Your Plank
Fitness—Do NOT Sit At the Gym
Fitness—Change Up Your Tired Routine
Fitness—Ditch Weight Machines
Fitness—If You Miss a Workout, Let It Be
Fitness—A Stability Exercise for Endurance Athletes
Fitness—Box Jumps Are Your New Full-Body Workout
Fitness—Find Motivation in the Morning

Stay tuned for more tips and gear...