Each week, the Huffington Post Canada's Living team will try out something that has sparked our curiosity, and as long as we live to tell the tale, we'll let you know all about it.
Test Drive Subject: Ageless Body Bootcamp
Price: Approximately $140 for eight classes (though prices go down when you buy a package)
What It Is: Classes that use suspension training as a way to gain muscle and strength, as well as promote weight loss. And what's suspension training, you're wondering? It's a type of workout that uses your own body weight, along with a suspension tool (Ageless Body's "Fit Kit," mountain climbing-grade cords and handles is theirs) to do exercises you already know and love -- just now with a bit more of a challenge.
Trying It Out: The Ageless Body Bootcamp, which is currently running in one west-end Toronto neighbourhood, consists of a one-hour class, complete with five-minute warm-up, 12 exercises repeated twice, a few cardio stints tossed in, and core work toward the end. It sounds so simple laid out that way, but trust me, it wasn't.
The Fit Kit is tied around a giant concrete pillar in a gazebo (though it can also easily be looped over a door for home workouts). Owner Ivan Dragos reassures me this seemingly innocuous gear can hold up to 1500 pounds -- but even so, I give it some tugs before I put my full weight into it. Even if you're used to heavier weight training, suspension fitness will be a challenge, particularly because it forces you to use your own body as the weight -- and if you're not in the exact right body position, look forward to some serious twinges the next day.
SEE: Exercises from Ageless Body Bootcamp. Story continues below:
Suspended Push Up
When performing the 'Fit-Kit' push-up, the exercise becomes much more functional, as it not only targets the chest and upper body, but also demands full core stability for the movement to be properly executed.
Suspended Push Up
The movement is quite similar to a push-up performed on the ground, with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and elbows tucked in.
Skater Lunge or Leg Crossover
This is arguably the most effective leg exercise. This exercise movement works all major leg muscle groups and at the same time works your glutes, hips and core. This exercise is great for balancing and strengthening the lower back and improving hip and knee stability.
Skater Lunge or Leg Crossover
Instead of doing a simple squat, the skater lunge offers a more challenging move. To do it, put your back leg behind you at an angle and leap to the side with the forward foot. Then do so in the opposite direction. It'll feel a little awkward at first, but you'll feel like an Olympic speed skater after three or four tries. Keep your knees bent and your body as low as possible.
The plank is a very simple but effective core exercise and can be executed in two ways: elbow plank or push-up plank position. The elbow plank position is shown here.
The effectiveness of a suspended plank is greater and more functional compared to a non-suspended plank as all core and stabilizer muscles have to work together keep the body in a steady, straight line.
Reverse or Back Plank
An easy and less challenging plank which goes a long way in improving low back strength.
Reverse or Back Plank
When done in combination with hamstring curls (as shown here), it will strengthen the hamstrings, which almost always tend to be weaker than the quadriceps.
Our Thoughts: With so many workout classes opting for "new" and "improved" techniques these days, it was nice to go to a class that was purely about strength conditioning -- albeit with the suspension gimmick for a bit of interest. As someone who does strength training occasionally -- say, once a week -- the exercises were a challenge throughout. And better yet, there were plenty of options to make it more difficult once you'd mastered the original pose, merely by moving your feet around a bit.
Rather than a one-off kind of class that you can go to and say, "yeah, I tried that," the bootcamp is definitely geared toward those who intend to stick it with it for the long term. Dragos also notes it can get results quicker than other exercises, thanks to its focus on both the muscles and the core strength required to utilize the suspension kit -- attending two classes per week for a month, longtime participants I spoke of five to ten-pound weight loss.
Our Tips: To conquer suspension training, you must be prepared to feel a bit awkward, especially during the core workout. Lying down with your feet in the handles automatically feels silly, reminiscent of getting your foot stuck in something you can't quite work your way out of. But you know what? Silly kind of makes the exercises more fun, so giggle away.
And most of all, don't fear the term "suspended." This isn't about flying through the air, twisting and turning in the wind. Your feet are firmly planted on the ground throughout (except for those hilarious plank positions), and the only way you'll have lift off is if you decide to get extra ambitious and go for a pike.
Have a suggestion for a Test Drive? Tried something you loved or hated? Let us know on Twitter at @HuffPostCaLiv, or in the comments below.
Check out these other products we've put to the test:
Freya Active Sports Bra
<b>Our Thoughts</b>: Wearing this bra to yoga, a class with more relaxation, little movement and stretching, helped keep my boobs in place. Next, I wore the bra to the gym during an elliptical session and skipping workout. Again, the bra was ideal for keeping things in place and not adding strain to my back or chest. Lastly, I tried out an intense Madonna-inspired dance/cardio class in Toronto, and once again, the bra did nothing but impress. It felt great, it didn't look too cone-like under a basic t-shirt and it was easy to wash as well. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/02/26/freya-active-sports-bra-review_n_4861178.html?utm_hp_ref=test-drive" target="_blank">Read the article here</a>.
Mealspirations Delivery Service
Our Thoughts: I really like the idea of a service that gives you ideas of meals for the week (I can't tell you the number of times I've searched 'meal planning calendar' online), along with high-quality ingredients and recipes that you might not attempt otherwise. Once they're made, the meals are very yummy and often leave leftovers for lunch the next day. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/02/19/mealspirations-delivery_n_4815861.html" target="_hplink">Read the article here. </a>
Madonna's Hard Candy 'Addicted To Sweat' Class
<b>What it is</b>: A 60-minute cardio and dance class for all levels that challenges your ability to stretch, balance and dance. The class was taught by Madonna's trainer Nicole Winhoffer, who also happens to be the creative director of the Addicted To Sweat program and a kickass dancer. Using a variety of equipment, including steps and towels, the high-energy workout is meant to push your cardio limits and "harden" your body. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/02/11/madonna-hard-candy-fitness-toronto_n_4769566.html" target="_blank">Read the story here</a>.
<strong>Our Thoughts: </strong>I'm only 5 feet tall, so I'm up for trying anything that targets getting long, lean muscles as opposed to short and stocky ones. The best part is, you can do it anywhere. All you need is a mat, and maybe a chair if you want to get into some of the deep stretches. The balance between strengthening and stretching while focusing on your core also feels kinder to your body than just punishing it with high impact cardio or heavy weights. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/08/01/essentrics-review_n_3670444.html?utm_hp_ref=test-drive" target="_hplink">Read the story here. </a>
<strong>Our Thoughts:</strong> The abs portions was probably my favourite. Even though having your whole body on a machine seems a bit awkward at first, you start to adapt to it. These exercises challenged my balance, energy levels and of course, my lack of flexibility. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/07/12/studio-lagree-review_n_3505560.html" target="_hplink">Read the story here. </a>
<strong>Our Thoughts:</strong> The Chromebook is not yet for everyone. You have to "live and breathe" Google in order to be able to use the device to its fullest potential, and also be connected to the Internet. Lucky for me, I use Google's Enterprise service and it integrates beautifully with the device. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/05/29/chromebook-review_n_3346629.html?utm_hp_ref=test-drive" target="_hplink">Read the story here. </a>
Kobo Aura HD
<strong>Our Thoughts:</strong>The Kobo Aura HD addresses the three most important factors in an ereader flawlessly — screen quality, speed and battery life. The secondary objectives such as form factor and feel in hand are somewhat off. One could argue that the device is bulky and the back design does not resemble a conventional, modern gadget. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/05/08/kobo-aura-review_n_3239669.html" target="_blank">Read the story here</a>
Microsoft's Surface Windows 8
<strong>Our thoughts:</strong> The size was a little too big — for a tablet at least. For my own use, I would've preferred something smaller in size. However, when it came to typing, size did matter. Since the tablet can rotate, it was easy on the fingers for typing. Next was the quality of photos and videos. For a tablet, I thought the images worked well. Pictures were easy to scroll through (I tested out saving a few in a folder), and videos online were quick to upload. The photo quality for the built-in camera was average — but I've never been a big fan of taking photos with tablets to begin with. (Taking self-portraits with them are even more awkward). The tablet also included a cool travel tool that let you browse different cities and their go-to spots — pretty neat. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/12/microsoft-surface-review-_n_2830782.html" target="_blank">Read the story here</a>
Divine Heritage Artistry's Bollywood & Bhangra class
<strong>Our Thoughts:</strong> "Years of watching "So You Think You Can Dance" had me terrified to make any hand gestures that might offend, but that didn't seem to be too much of a concern at Sarkar's class. I've never tried Bollywood dancing before, and at first found it a challenge to keep up with the moves -- but fortunately, the size of the class (around 60 people) made me instantly less self-conscious and I was able to enjoy just spending the hour learning new steps." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/14/bollywood-dance-moves_n_2678478.html#slide=2109843" target="_hplink">Read the story here.</a>
<strong>Our Thoughts:</strong> "The first thing I noticed when I got my digest was how empty my inbox was. At least 15 of my regular emails were grouped into one convenient email that was easy to read on my phone and the computer. I also noticed I didn't miss the emails I had unsubscribed to -- I actually couldn't even remember a lot of them." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/01/24/organize-emails_n_2516217.html" target="_hplink">Read the story here. </a>
Kobo Mini, Kobo Glo Review
<strong>Our Thoughts: </strong> Wow, it's light. Really light. I'm a media junkie so I pick up magazines, newspapers and other things to read like a stray dog picks up fleas. The Mini is probably lighter than this week's issue of The New Yorker and it's definitely lighter than that September issue of Vogue (DEFINITELY lighter). <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/11/07/kobo-mini-kobo-glo-review_n_2089735.html?utm_hp_ref=test-drive" target="_hplink">Read the story here. </a>
Slow Cooker Love
<b>Tips</b>: If you're planning to start your meal in the morning, the trick is to prepare the ingredients or any sauces the night before. Leaving your full chicken or curries for the morning can get frustrating -- and sloppy. Another option for those of you who don't want to leave your cooker on during the day is to leave it on overnight and unplug it in the morning. This way you have a lunch and a leftover dinner. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/11/01/slow-cooker-recipes_n_2049274.html?utm_hp_ref=test-drive" target="_hplink">Read the story here.</a>
Hot Dog Stuffed Crust Pizza
<b>The Warning</b>: Not everyone in the office was willing to try Pizza Hut's newest pizza fusion. One editor even described it "wrong," which is probably the biggest thing we have to warn you about: People will judge you for your willingness to try new things. They will judge you hard for your acceptance of hot dogs and pizza belonging together. You may even lose a few friends in the process. Granted, that's what ordering in is for, so feel free to leave your food-fusion hating friends at the restaurant. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/10/12/hot-dog-stuffed-crust-pizza-canada_n_1961905.html?utm_hp_ref=test-drive" target="_hplink">Read the story here</a>.
Thoughts: "With its motto of "the natural taste," iögo is created without gelatin, artificial colours or flavours, and no preservatives. Available in seven lines (fat-free yogurt, probiotic yogurt with lactose-free options, Greek-style yogurt, drinkable yogurt, fresh cheese and -- wait for it -- cheese in a tube), iögo comes in over 40 flavours." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/22/iogo-yogurt-in-canada-new_n_1821397.html?utm_hp_ref=test-drive" target="_hplink">Read the story here. </a>
Extension Room Ballet Class
Our Thoughts: "Like any dance workout, this isn't as easy as it looks and it may take me a few classes to actually catch up and follow every move. The pace did slow me down a bit and by the time I ended up understanding one dance move, the instructor was onto the next one -- I definitely would stand closer next time. But in terms of a workout, it was great. My abs, arms and legs were sore the next day and my back felt more relaxed than ever -- especially after sitting at a desk for eight hours a day." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/08/extension-room-test-drive_n_1755924.html?utm_hp_ref=test-drive" target="_hplink">Read the story here. </a>
<strong>Our Thoughts: </strong>While we didn't have a chance to try out all the features on this prototype (like the full-featured iDrive Touch controller), this system looks to be the most comprehensive out on the market. Announcing Twitter and Facebook statuses has sure been a good way to pass the time in traffic, and those mapping graphics are truly fantastic.
<strong>Our Thoughts:</strong> With so many workout classes opting for "new" and "improved" techniques these days, it was nice to go to a class that was purely about strength conditioning -- albeit with the suspension gimmick for a bit of interest. As someone who does strength training occasionally -- say, once a week -- the exercises were a challenge throughout. And better yet, there were plenty of options to make it more difficult once you'd mastered the original pose, merely by moving your feet around a bit.
Combining the use of ballet barres, resistance bands and weighted balls, BarreWorks is a group fitness course that focuses on muscle sculpting, cardio, core conditioning and forcing our bodies to stay balanced. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/20/barreworks-test-drive_n_1597764.html?utm_hp_ref=test-drive" target="_hplink">Read more here.</a>
Our Thoughts: Did I feel the burn? I felt it right after and the next day, but just like any workout aftermath, it was the best type of pain. My shoulders, neck and thighs felt both tense and relaxed. I could feel that I worked out my abs and butt, even if I couldn't keep up with all of the moves. I realized this was not necessarily for a beginner like me. I did have to work at my own pace, but, with a few more classes, I can see myself catching up. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/23/socacize-test-drive_n_1537190.html" target="_hplink">Read the story here.</a>
LeRoy's Gourmet Flavored Ketchup
<b>What It Is</b>: Figuring Heinz et al had the classic ketchup market cornered, LeRoy's, a Milwaukee-based company, set out to innovate. They concocted flavours such as Dill & Celery, Homemade Chili, Mustard & Spice, Smokey Mesquite and Beer & Onion (two additional flavours, Crispy Bacon and Ghost Pepper & Aged Cheddar came out earlier in 2012).<br> Available in select stores in the U.S., and hoping to arrive in Canada this summer, the ketchups are meant for anything from fries to burgers to chips -- or any other recipe incorporating this favoured condiment.
ISIS Sports Bra
<strong>Our Thoughts:</strong> "Compared to my last bra with no real support, yes, the ISIS was better. Compared to another one I own from Lululemon that boasts similar functions? I would rank them about the same. This bra does the job of securing your girls when you're running or jumping, and it does a great job of collecting sweat. The straps, again, are the selling point, thanks to the support they allow." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/04/25/isis-sports-bra_n_1452356.html" target="_hplink">Read more here. </a>
Lumosity.com's Brain Games
<strong>Our Thoughts:</strong> As someone who's less than stringent about adhering to any particular gym or general wellness schedule, I actually found myself looking forward to my daily Lumosity games. The idea that I could be making my brain work better just by memorizing matrix patterns or figuring out rules to a card game was incredibly appealing, and really compelled me to 'play' every day. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/16/lumosity-brain-training_n_1245345.html?ref=test-drive" target="_hplink">Read more here. </a>
Imagine Organic Hearty Chicken Noodle Soup
<strong>Our Thoughts: </strong>First, you should know that I L.O.V.E. soup. I can eat it day and night, hot or cold, any time of the year. There are two things I will never get tired of: soup and cheese. Oh, and bacon. Oh, and fruit. <br>So I have pretty high standards for my soup, and especially chicken soup. My mom's is the best (5 stars!), my grandma's was the second-best (4.5 stars!). Canned and prepared soups will do the trick, but generally don't fool me (1 - 3 stars). How did Imagine's soup measure up? <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/21/test-drive-imagine-chicken-soup_n_1368615.html?ref=test-drive" target="_hplink">Read more here. </a>
Kinect's Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012
<strong>Our Thoughts:</strong> Approaching the workout as a game is great in concept, but tougher to do when you find yourself yelling at the screen as the trainer "asks" you to do another 12 squats. And that's probably the game's greatest asset -- the feeling that you have a personal trainer motivating you to keep going. Yes, it is a computer-generated person who doesn't respond when you tell them you've had enough, but for many people, this push can be the difference between sitting on the couch and getting up and air boxing. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/04/12/your-shape-fitness-evolved_n_1417815.html?ref=test-drive" target="_hplink">Read more here. </a>
<strong>Our Thoughts: </strong>Did it work, you ask? Pretty darn good as a moisturizer. It left my skin feeling ridiculously soft, and didn't cause breakouts like I feared it would, but that may be because I use another moisturizer with glycolic acid to help keep my skin clear. But it left my skin dewy, plumped up and kind of glowing, and was a good companion to my other moisturizer (NeoStrata, which I can't recommend enough). <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/01/06/argan-oil-anti-aging_n_1189238.html?ref=test-drive" target="_hplink">Read more here. </a>
Snacks Of The Week
PRICE: $3<br>AVAILABLE AT: Most grocery stores across Canada. What's In It: 25 per cent of your daily iron. <br>Putting It To Use: Cooked along green vegetables and mushrooms, this tofu makes the perfect protein option for vegetarians. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/02/23/food-products-test-drive-_n_1294300.html?ref=test-drive#s715178&title=Presidents_Choice_Berry" target="_hplink">Read more here. </a>
Be Kool Kids Fever Patches
<strong>Our Thoughts:</strong> Now, we must be honest -- our testers were a group of adults, none of whom had fevers. So the sheets were slightly small for our foreheads, but no less effective because of it. As soon as we stuck them on, the cool, tingling sensation made an impact, alleviating tiredness and for some, the after effects of excessive holiday partying, including headaches. Taking the "patch" on and off did mean it lost adhesion, but when left alone, the sheet was as cool as when it started, even three hours later. We can imagine in the case of a fever, the sheets would be greatly appreciated, but definitely shouldn't take the place of appropriate medication. We also loved that the sheets were cold upon impact, with no need to stick them into a freezer. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/12/23/bekoool-kids-soft-gel_n_1167653.html?ref=test-drive" target="_hplink">Read more here. </a>
Starbucks Cake Pop Kit
Our Thoughts: In the end, I had some pretty good-looking cake pops to give my family, though we could each only eat one because of the sweetness. Were they the same as the ones you buy at Starbucks? Not exactly -- baristas apparently have a better handle on covering the ball in icing, and seem to tone down the sugar so as to keep customers from going into a diabetic shock. On the plus side, the homemade pops were much more moist than the ones in store. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/11/24/starbucks-cake-pop-kit_n_1110167.html" target="_hplink">Read more here. </a>
<b>What It Is</b>: Get ready to feel like a little kid in a candy store -- just replace all that candy with Coke. The Coca-Cola Freestyle machine is nothing like your typical soft drink fountain. This touch-screen mixer lets you combine up to 100 flavours of traditional Coca-Cola brands with new (and tasty) shots of peach, cherry and lime-flavoured products. Oh, and did we mention the machine also includes the return of classic Cherry and Vanilla Coke? <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/09/06/coca-cola-freestyle-mixing-flavours-_n_1858109.html?utm_hp_ref=test-drive" target="_hplink">Read the story here.</a>