I generally do better with “repetition” exercises than “continuous” exercises. The former refers to any movement with a set number of reps (crunches) while the latter refers to any position held for a set amount of time (planks). As a kid, I used to clock-stare for every second of the diabolical, two-minute planks they’d have us perform in gym class. As an adult, I like to think I’ve fostered a bit more patience — and yet I’ll still check my phone’s alarm to discover I have over a minute left of balancing on my elbows.
Just because I prefer repetition exercises doesn’t mean that they’re a more worthy pursuit; after all, counting towards a set number of reps can often lead to poor, overexcited form. Whenever we hurry our way through a round of 25 crunches (or 10 bicep curls, or 100 mountain climbers, what have you), we tend to rely more heavily on parts of the body that shouldn’t be the star of the exercise. Usually, that means the back. When all the focus is on finishing an exercise, there’s little focus left for doing it properly, or embracing what’s known as “mind-muscle connection,” a relationship that many trainers swear by for unlocking better, sustainable results.
The ideal workout routine includes elements of both repetition and continuous exercises, yet finds ways to keep focus at the forefront for each. For some in the fitness world, that means eliminating distractions (no Netflix while getting after it) or setting goals (it’s easier to handle pain when there’s a big number you’re shooting for). But for BlazePod, a “flash reflex training” company founded in 2015, the keys to more focused workouts are a set of glowing neon cones, and a good deal of fun.
Welcome to the new era of reaction training. BlazePod’s basic set includes six LED pods that connect via Bluetooth to BlazePod’s corresponding fitness app on your phone. When you first download the app, it asks for your favorite color — I chose green — which then becomes your “Go!” color throughout every activity. The pods are hardy little things made from a “smash-proof” exterior that’s meant to be hit, kicked and generally whack-a-moled throughout a variety of exercises. Also in a kit: charging bases to make sure they pods don’t run out of light, along with straps, height adaptors and suction cups to help position the pods all over your gym/basement/garage/backyard.
The first activity I tried out after setting up my BlazePods was called Plank Focus. Go figure. The rules called for four pods to be placed in a line along the ground, with a foot of space in between each. After pressing start, I had a few moments to get into a plank position before the “game” began. The pods then began lighting up chaotically (all different colors, never for more than a second-and-a-half at a time) and my task was to only tap the pods that lit up my chosen color: green. Sometimes, multiple pods lit up green. I got docked a point if I couldn’t nab both of them, and further penalized whenever I swatted purple, yellow or blue.
I played this game four times in a row, intent on beating my score, before it occurred to me that I’d performed two minutes of a plank. And not a bad one, either; in order to keep my balance while reaching from side to side, I really had to tighten my core and glutes — two crucial elements to a good plank. And because there was no guarantee of any light turning on again, I couldn’t rely on a pendulum swing to go back and forth. I had to settle, grit my teeth and pay attention to which light came on. Only then could I push forward with one purposeful jab before returning quickly to center.
Such is the Miyagi-like joy of “fun fitness,” or any product, class or trend that helps trainees break a sweat without ever really realizing how they got there. We’ve discussed before why play is as important as exercise for adults; well, BlazePods are the rare fitness innovation that blends both. Sometimes, it’s just easier to focus while fooling around. For BlazePod, that means an app full of activities that hinge on reaction time and agility — fight-or-flight instincts that come naturally to us but are often forgotten when we perform the same rote routines with medicine balls, dumbbells and yoga mats.
To that end, BlazePod’s full arsenal of games includes drills for basketball, soccer and tennis. It’s easy to see the apparatus and app being a godsend for a coach or gym teacher running a summer training camp. But there’s more than enough there for anyone looking to shake up their home fitness routine, especially as we all march into an uncertain future with health clubs. It isn’t trivial to be more inclined towards trying a shuttle run or shuffle sprints or jump taps just because the object you’re touching is a bright, flashing light. The fun factor that the pods bring — and the focus that they engender — might be the wild card that your workouts need in this long, crazy year.
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