I would like to respond to your Oct. 11-17 article “The next generation in fitness arrives in Astoria/LIC,” about the Cliffs at LIC grand opening celebration Oct. 10.

I am a physician in sports medicine, and this story is a great introduction to rock climbing. It is a welcome piece of news amid numerous stories of poor health in today’s world. I am writing to encourage the Astoria community to get out and exercise. The story reviewed the opening of a new fitness center in Long Island City, The Cliffs. It is mainly a rock climbing and bouldering center, but also offers a full fitness gym, including weights, cardio and personal training services, according to its website.

This is a wonderful new addition to the growing Astoria/LIC fitness community. Rock climbing has experienced a sort of rebirth after its initial craze years ago, along with other whole-body, natural exercise trends that have taken over America in the last few years. For those of you unfamiliar, the new way to work out is not with traditional weight-and-cable machines or your basic aerobic class — and it happens to be better for you.

These progressive ways employ whole body, body weight exercises and moving in a more natural, practical, useful way. For example, rock climbing, with all those high-knee lifts, reaching, pulling and gripping would make it easier for me to go up and down stairs and to crawl on the ground chasing around my two children. Going to the gym and just doing the circuit of weight machines would not necessarily translate into real-world movements.

Other examples of these newer fitness trends include suspension training, where you do all your pushing and pulling with your arms or legs suspended in ropes from the ceiling. This forces you to be able to carry your own weight, so to speak, enabling you to do pushups, pull-ups and squats by yourself. I have seen these in fitness studios all over Astoria.

A more purist approach to this natural form of fitness is striving to become an ancestral athlete, such as in the ways of MovNat and The Primal Blueprint. These styles really make you get out there and exercise outside, ditching the rock climbing wall for a real rock, doing pull-ups from a tree branch rather than a suspension trainer. They encourage things like exercising while barefoot, too. Not surprisingly, most of the success with these forms of exercise is Out West, where the weather permits it and plenty of outdoor greenspace allows it. While these approaches make sense from a nature point of view, it may not end up being realistic in New York.

One of the more extreme approaches to this newer form of fitness is CrossFit. The CrossFit gym is a small area filled with heavy weights and an atmosphere opposite to your cookie-cutter, mega-globo-gyms of America. Here, Olympic-style lifting is the backbone and the emphasis is on multi-joint movements, heavier weights, full-body pushing and pulling and overall nonstop activity. Finding a CrossFitter with a dry shirt is rare. These guys put the work in workout.

While compound lifting, using multi-joint movements, exercising multiple muscle groups and using heavier weights than you may be accustomed to at the same time is a great fitness plan on paper, I have seen many CrossFit injuries in my office. This style may be best after you have gotten a few months of exercise under your belt. I know of two CrossFit boxes both within walking distance in my neighborhood, and as long as you play it smart with CrossFit, it is a great form of fitness.

In summary, The Cliffs marks the latest in a growing number of practical, natural, whole-body forms of fitness that are spreading over Astoria/LIC and the rest of the city. It is great progress in the area of health and wellness and a more primal, natural approach to exercise. Any these fitness trends sounds great, and I am not promoting one over the other. You could walk over to your local park and start running around, jumping, squatting, climbing, using the Parcourses or doing your own playground workout.

Search fitness equipment at nycgovparks.org to find outdoor fitness playgrounds in your area. Let’s be safe out there, and I hope one day to see you exercising naturally.

Dr. Ken Vitale


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