The Futurama Workout Article

Preparing for the next millennium means getting your body ready for asteroid collisions and galactic travel. We asked Leela, the Futurama alien, to try the most cutting-edge workout Earth has to offer. Illustrated by Matt Groening.

What will the workout of the next millenium be like? Experts say it will make us a stronger, faster, more agile breed. Running on a treadmill will matter less than balancing on a ball. Weight lifting won't just be pushing barbells around but fine-tuning fast-twitch muscle fibers. Hollywood visionaries agree: Look at Leela, the tough-as-nails alien star of the new Fox series, Futurama, whose fitness routine includes bench-pressing her spaceship.

Sound far-fetched? Not really. As we gear up for Y2K, the cutting-edge coaches at the International Performance Institute (IPI) in Bradenton, Florida, are putting exercise science to the test on such athletes as Venus Williams and Kobe Bryant (as well as weekend warriors willing to spend $1,250 for the training). IPI pros know that forward-looking fitness isn't about exercising more but exercising smarter--taking your workout beyond twentieth-century notions of cardio, strength and flexibility. Fitness mavens of tomorrow will also sharpen three other skills: rock-like core strength, unshakable balance and explosive power.

Core strength is what you get by working the muscles of the body's midsection--the abdominals, the obliques and the lower back. Building core strength means turning your body into a more efficient machine, helping you run faster and play harder, and improving your posture.

Balance will become more essential, as life speeds up in the next century. We're going to need to react fast to everything from speeding cars to enemy lasers. Building balance means challenging your proprioceptors, the sensors in your muscles that keep you steady on your feet. "By working on a balance board or other unstable surface, you become more stable," says Josh Aycock, a trainer at IPI.

The third skill of the future is explosive power, essential for jumping high, swinging a racquet fast, or sprinting to catch the next space shuttle. Working on this means reprogramming the motor neurons that drive your muscles. Explosive exercises such as bounding or leaping cause you to "use more muscle fibers and get more power," says IPI director Jeff Sassone.

All this may feel futuristic to us, but from Leela's Y3K perspective it's almost prehistoric. Still, she was happy to demonstrate these key moves. Work them into your routine, and who knows? Soon your body may look almost alien to you!

Written by Sally Wadyka, WS&F.