Forget fitness plateaus. This year was huge for fitness in Boulder County -- spanning life-changing yoga workshops to the emergence of a new caliber of group fitness in Longmont. One that has risen to look Boulder, the fittest city in America, straight in the eyes and challenge many of the exercise tenets that Boulder is built upon.
Every week for seven years, the Daily Camera has reviewed different fitness options around Boulder County, to expose the ever-surprising, fascinating evolutions in health and fitness. The goal: As with restaurant reviews, only for physical activity in this highly active community, to open up new possibilities to readers, while challenging the instructors to continue to improve.
At the end of each year, we look back at the classes we reviewed to single out a few that left an impression and raised the bar.
Here are our Best Workouts of the Week for 2013.
Hardest class: A tie between "Insanity" Zumba and Burn and Tone
This is a tie, between two classes in Longmont that truly have mastered the art of pushing participants to their maximum -- in terms of fitness.
Tumbao Fitness's party-style Zumba class, unofficially known as "Insanity" Zumba (that is not a registered trademark of Zumba, but rather a nickname based on how hard it is), first made major waves by becoming the first ever Longmont class rated a 10 out of 10 on an intensity scale. This Latin-based dance class is wild -- with loud, nightclub-music, colorful lights, fast dancing and a convenient kids' class next door at the same time.
Then, Longmont's latest craze, Burn and Tone, followed by Zumba, took it to the next level.
Like Tumbao, Burn and Tone offers an energetic party atmosphere, but Burn and Tone classes (partially influenced by the interval-focused Beach Body Insanity program, but with a unique flair) add the strength component, as well. Challenge yourself to your own personal max -- stay for the full two-hour series if you can -- and you'll only be out $5 per class. Hear that, Boulder? Cheap and killer.
Try Tumbao Fitness's Zumba at 1341 Sherman Drive B in Longmont, 720-917-8243. Try Burn and Tone at 476 17th Ave., Longmont, facebook.com/burnandtone.
Most innovative: Yoga Hike
This is the perfect little love child of Boulder's two passions: hiking and yoga. And it works beautifully; it's not forced, like some combo classes.
Yogi Raj Seymour takes participants on a relatively challenging hike, infused with aspects of meditation, reflection and yoga, and wraps up the class with a nurturing yoga class in the park. The hiking and connection with nature calms the mind, making the final yoga postures that much more satisfying. This class was a beautiful balance of all dimensions of health and wellness, and absolutely inspiring. Great for all levels.
Try a Yoga Hike next spring on various hiking trails throughout Boulder, yogiwalks.com.
Most efficient: Megaformer Blast (Lagree Fitness)
This new class is known as "Pilates on crack," because it takes Pilates-inspired machines and Pilates-inspired moves and kicks them up a notch (or two). You'll get lengthening and toning at the same time, plus plenty of balance and core work.
Classes are only 40 minutes long, and by the end, your muscles will be shaking so hard you'll know why. Best of all: Lagree Fitness is low-impact and relatively slow. You'll wonder how your heart can race so fast with such seemingly little work. That's the magic; in this case, huge things come in small packages.
Try the Megaformer at Boco Fit, 2100 Pearl St., unit C, Boulder, 720-441-4450, bocofitness.com.
Best kids' class: Shredder Ski and Play
Teach your kids how to ski or practice year-round at this innovative indoor ski gym, complete with ski gear and fabricated slopes. Kids fine-tune their foundational skills, before taking to the windy, chilly mountain. And even if your kid never goes skiing outdoors, Shredder is a great way to practice balance, coordination and courage. My 3-year-old left feeling confident and exhausted. Who needs a traditional ballet class when you can teach your toddler to ski?
Try Shredder Play and Ski Gym at 5541 Central Ave., Suite 105, Boulder, 303-396-1754, shredderski.com.
Best cardio: Thursday Night Live Cycling
This class is beyond fun: an indoor cycling class set to comedy and concerts projected on a giant screen in front of the room. But don't mistake this for riding the stationary bike while watching TV at the gym. This class is strategic and difficult. The TV is just there to distract your mind while your legs catch fire. One of the best cardio workouts I've gotten in ages -- while laughing all the way.
See it to believe it at BreakAway Cycle and Strength Studio, 439 Main St., Longmont, 720-491-3195,breakawaylongmont.com.
Best yoga class: Aerial Yoga
If you haven't tried Aerial Yoga, put it on your resolution list for 2013. This unique style of yoga brings yoga moves to a fabric hammock hanging from the ceiling. The best way to describe this experience is sensational. And mind-blowing. And fear-conquering. It dramatically improved my traditional yoga postures, but in such a playful way that I actually organized a private Aerial Yoga birthday party this year at the studio.
If you like yoga, or if you think you hate yoga, this class will change the way you see the world -- and your own potential.
Try it and be astonished at Sangha Studios, 917 Front St., Louisville, 303-747-3667, thesanghastudios.com.
Best overall class: 40 Days to Personal Revolution
This was one of the first classes I took in 2013, and it completely shaped my year. At Vida Yoga, Taylor White led this class, based on the book and program by Baron Baptiste, "40 Days to Personal Revolution: A Breakthrough Program to Radically Change your Body and Awaken the Sacred Within Your Soul." This six-week, small-group class combined yoga postures, meditation, reading, writing and group discussions.
I signed up reluctantly, because I generally hate "self-help" kind of fluff, and I tolerated yoga but never really understood or liked it.
But after doing yoga and meditation for 40 days straight, so much shifted inside me that it's simultaneously terrifying and elating. Since this class, yoga has become my main form of fitness. If I go a day without it, I feel disconnected. My husband began doing yoga. My daughter did, too. This month, my 64-year-old dad joined a yoga studio.
Meditation is pivotal to my survival and happiness now, and because of that, my stress levels are lower than they've ever been.
Shortly after this class, I began to notice opportunities everywhere around me to improve my satisfaction with life. As this year wraps up, I can honestly say that, due to my radical shift in perceptions, silenced fears that opened up space to see solutions, new ability to process stress and increased energy levels, I feel like I am living in abundance.
Don't get me wrong. I hate outrageous claims and promises. I am not saying this class fixed all of my problems. But I am saying the lifelong lessons I gained from this workshop, and subsequent habits it formed, helped reset my old, limiting habits and dramatically changed my approach to life, which encouraged me to work very hard, and ultimately find a way to escape the things that had trapped me before.
How's that for a best workout of the year?
Like I said, 2013 has been huge.
Learn more about the "40 Days" workshop at 303-562-5963 and embodiedtruth.com.
Contact Staff Writer Aimee Heckel at 303-473-1359 or email@example.com, and on Twitter @Aimeemay.