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Fabulous fads of today: weird workouts and weirder names

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Our coffees are full of adjectives and we’re into weird workouts with even weirder names. Despite being a wordsmith, Peter Sherwood can’t fathom it

I read this in the Great Almanac of Unproven Trivia: “Some ancients believed we are born with a finite number of heartbeats and when we use them up, it’s adios.” Which may help explain yoga. But why indulge in extremes when you could stay in bed? Or just struggle out for some tai chi.

Exercise used to be simple. I jogged, ran, hiked, climbed mountains and biked the bus route, while a frenzied upper-body workout included lifting a pint of ale and pulling tennis balls from the can. Now we need to write a cheque to achieve similar dubious benefits – indoors.

As soon as it was discovered we’d queue to swap cash for some revolutionary exercise, the world became awash with chic contortion classes, the supply of which is as infinite as stuff at Zara.

Dreaming up new names for old workouts parallels the onslaught of hot new names for coffee, a rapacious art form that seems inexhaustible. Coffee and cardio are the flimsy fiascos of the age, if you don’t count bottled water.

Coffee and cardio

In the gym there’s Spinning, Hot Yoga, Tepid Yoga, Zumba and Sumo (for serious fat-fighters). There’s Boot Camp, Flip Flop Camp (what?), Jazz Dancing, Operatic Prancing, Pilates and Piloxing (your guess is as good as mine), plus Babywearing Dance Class (seriously) and Private Stretching. As opposed to being publicly hung?

There’s even Virtual Fitness – and that’s the one for me. We’ll buy into anything vogueish. Try these joyless inventions: Blue glasses that will help you diet because blue is an unappetising colour. Wrong. Air shorts designed to make you sweat, so that you lose unwanted pounds. Wrong again. And electronic ab belts, the ultimate waste of time and money.

And on to a mesmerising selection of coffees, including Toffee Nut Crunch Latte, Ristretto Bianco (double the price for a Latin name) and Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew. I did not make that up; a major international franchise did. If it’s a shoulder-shaking chuckle from your local barista you seek, request something simple, like a coffee with no adjectives.

Costly? A decade ago, I asked a friend why we met for coffee every day. She didn’t know. Neither did I. Particularly when I found out that coffee is all about aroma: hold  your nose and all you get is a sour taste. So, we started bringing our own instant from home. We have saved an estimated HK$100,000 on coffee we didn’t much like. Not too shabby.

Since then they’ve invented Toffee Nut Crunch Latte; I haven’t indulged because I thought they were kidding. They’re not. Last year, a Starbucks’ spokeswoman proudly told the Wall Street Journal, “If you take all of our core beverages, multiply them by the modifiers and the customisation options, you get more than 87,000 combinations.” And it’s all in the smell. If someone invents small capsules with coffee aromas, we’ll just need a cup of hot water – and sniff.

As for trying a toffee nut crunch thingamajig, I envisage a theatrical explosion of lights, cameras and applause. This would be followed by the symphonic roar of Verdi’s Triumphal March as a TV reality show declares me Sucker of the Month.


Peter Sherwood has lived in DB for 20 years. The former head of an international public relations firm, Peter is the author of 15 books and has written around 400 satirical columns for the South China Morning Post.

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