When predicting fitness trends, you can’t help but feel vindicated by Albert Einstein’s assertion that the distinction between past, present, and future is “nothing more than a stubbornly persistent illusion.”
Will 2024 be the year we harness the power of wearable technology to optimize high-intensity interval training while incorporating functional bodyweight training and ultimately achieve total health? I flipped through the New Year’s prediction column and it was 2016.
The never-ending loop of fitness trends that come and go shows that the fundamentals of exercise and health remain the same year after year. But it’s also a reminder that we don’t know everything yet, and that the way we pursue our fitness goals may improve incrementally as a result.
In that spirit, here are four ideas that will make waves in the fitness world in 2024.
French researchers have published an interesting study testing the idea that a foam mattress topper with high thermal mass may improve sleep quality after an intense workout. Result is? It didn’t work.
This is great news, as there is a deep-seated bias in exercise science that favors publishing only positive research results. This creates a very misleading impression that almost every pill, gadget, and novelty mattress cover “works.” Because all the negative research is buried in some professor’s desk drawer.
This is a difficult problem to solve. Because discovering what’s going on isn’t all that fun. I don’t work. But there’s a growing movement in exercise science, and science more broadly, that is committed to publishing results, even if they don’t produce any sexy surprises.
And in fact, everyone should be happy that the results are zero, because they no longer have to waste time and money on ineffective training hacks.
Hybrid athletes want to lift heavy weights, run long distances, and look like Arnold Schwarzenegger from his Venice Beach days. Who wouldn’t?
In sports science, researchers have been puzzled for decades by the so-called interference effect that occurs when trying to simultaneously optimize strength and endurance. Part of the solution is getting enough nutrition, especially protein. The same goes for thinking about how to space out your workouts so that endurance training doesn’t come too closely after strength training, for example.
The made-for-Instagram hybrid athlete trend is primarily about one-shilling bespoke supplement lines. But as an ambitious goal, it’s a refreshing change from the clash of cultures that has traditionally divided muscleheads and endurance enthusiasts. There is growing evidence that pushing both ends of the spectrum is good for your health and longevity. Even better, hybrid influencers make it look fun.
Don’t call this a comeback. That’s because carbohydrates remain the mainstay of sports nutrition, even in the peak keto diet era.
But lately, Tour de France cyclists have been pushing their carbohydrate intake to new levels, reaching up to 120 grams of carbohydrates per hour. This is roughly double the maximum recommended by sports dietitians as recently as 10 years ago. Scientists are testing this protocol, and the practice is spreading to other sports such as triathlons and ultrarunning.
Losing so many carbohydrates requires training your digestive system and using specially formulated carbohydrate mixtures, but this is not necessary for anyone other than elite athletes competing in extreme endurance events. However, this means that even the most established fields of sports science continue to evolve, and that even recreational marathoners are likely increasing their (usually much lower) carbohydrate intake during races. Reminds you of what you may benefit from.
Kieran Lamb is a numbers expert. In addition to his engineering degree, the 25-year-old pro runner from Vancouver, who set Canadian records for indoor and outdoor 3,000 meters this year, also holds a master’s degree in information systems.
But when he runs, he wears a simple Timex Ironman stopwatch. There’s no GPS, heart rate monitor, or Siri.
“It took me a while to get the nerve,” he told The New York Times this fall. “But it has been liberating.”
Lam is not alone. As wearable technology becomes smaller, faster and more widespread, some athletes are embracing a wired future.
But some people take a different path, believing that tapping into their emotions can provide more insight than any high-tech wearable. And so far, the evidence suggests they’re right.
Alex Hutchinson is the author of Endure: The limits of mind, body, and the mysterious elasticity of human performance..Follow him in the thread @sweat_science.