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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

A Deep-Breathing Exercise for Stress Management

Do you ever stop to pay attention to your breath? Observe it now. Is it shallow? Is your inhale longer than your exhale? When we are stressed, we breathe more shallowly. When we relax, our breath deepens. What follows is a simple breathing technique that can help you lower your heart rate and manage your stress.

breathing for relaxation

Get into Position

Before you begin, check your posture. Often a slumped posture makes it more difficult to breathe deeply. Sit at the edge of a chair so that you can tilt your pelvis forward to bring the natural curve into your low back. Place both feet on the floor about five or six inches apart. Bring your head back so that it is in line with your spinal column.

Doing the Deep-Breathing Exercise

This exercise is a three-part breath used often in yoga classes. Follow these steps:

  1. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your ribcage. Observe your breath and state of mind.
  2. Now, begin to deepen your breath so that you feel your belly pushing out.
  3. Next, feel your ribcage expand.
  4. Finally, feel your collar bone lift up toward your chin. As you exhale, your collar bone lowers, your rib cage compresses, and your belly flattens.
  5. Try counting the inhale and exhale to make sure they are the same length. We tend to breathe more deeply on the inhale than the exhale.
  6. Breathe like this for a few minutes.
  7. Now, rest your hands on your lap. Again check in with your state of mind and your breath.

 Other Benefits of Deep Breathing

According to scientific research, deep breathing not only lowers stress and blood pressure but can also affect the brain, the immune system, and digestion. You should be able to feel the effects of this practice as it triggers your parasympathetic nervous system or relaxation response. To learn more about how breathing affects your mind, body, and spirit, click here.

Practice this breathing technique at one of our many Yoga classes at NIFS! Try a class for free today by requesting a Free Class Pass here!

Blog written by Laura Haehl, Yoga Instructor at NIFS. Meet our NIFS bloggers.

 

Topics: stress yoga health

Training for My First Triathlon—and How NIFS Can Help You, Too

The thought of completing a triathlon had been on my mind for many years before I completed my first last summer. Being a competitive distance runner for many years and having no issues riding a bicycle, this seemed like the next natural race for me to try.

triathlon

The problem was that I was (arguably still am) not a swimmer! Don’t get me wrong. I could be in a pool and splash around and not drown, but swimming continuous laps using various swim strokes and drills is not my strong point athletically speaking. I should also mention that I was the only kid in my cabin at summer camp in middle school that had to wear the yellow wristband for the pool, which indicated that I could not go into the deep end based on the performance in the swim test.

Nevertheless, this was something that was on my personal bucket list and a friend finally convinced me to sign up for my first race, telling me that the swim was not that bad and that I would be fine. With some practice and a lot of help from Kris Simpson, I was able to get through my first triathlon and overcome my fear of not being able to complete the swim portion of the race.

Lessons Learned from the First Triathlon

As for the race itself, I learned a lot from it! The most important thing that I learned is to bring two water bottles. Obviously, I knew the importance of staying hydrated during the race. I just didn’t consider losing the water bottle along the way. I dropped mine after only a few miles on the bike, which caused me to have no fluid for the ride. When I came back to the transition area, I realized I didn’t have any extra there, either. Needless to say, I was pretty dehydrated going into the run.

I also learned that swimming in open water is way different than swimming in the pool. Kris told me this would be the case, and even took me out to some open water before the race to prepare me, but it took the race itself to give me a real understanding of open-water swimming. I now feel very confident about my ability to complete the swim portion of the race and know what I need to work on in the pool to help me improve with that.

Overall, I didn’t treat the triathlon any differently than any other race that I have run in the past, with the exception of having no expectations as far as time goes, which took off a lot of pressure and allowed me to enjoy the experience. I ate my typical pre-race dinner and felt the same pre-race butterflies that I always have had before a race. I would suggest to anyone holding back on completing a triathlon to give it a try and put your hesitations aside.

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Your Turn to Try a Triathlon!

Now that I have completed my first triathlon and learned a lot from my experience, I am excited to help other women on the journey to complete their first triathlon. At NIFS, we offer a women-only triathlon training program geared toward women completing the Go Girl Triathlon at Eagle Creek Park. This program will give you the confidence and the tools that you need to complete the race! Sign up for the 6th Annual Go Girl Training Program! Reach out to Kris Simpson at [email protected] or Stephanie Kaiser at [email protected] with any questions. Training starts June 18th but you can still get registered!

This blog was written by Stephanie Kaiser, NIFS certified Health Fitness Specialist. Meet our bloggers.

Topics: NIFS running group training swimming triathlon cycling

Quick and Easy Ways to Improve Performance Series, Shoulder Care

Shoulder Care: The Rotator Cuff

In this post I want to go over the basic anatomy of the rotator cuff, the functions of its parts, and some exercises that can help strengthen your shoulder stabilizers to keep your shoulders healthy. The shoulder tends to be a problem with not only athletes but in the general population as well. The shoulder is one of the most mobile joints we have, so when we are working up the kinetic chain we want to work on its overall stability so that we can protect it from injury.

ROTATOR CUFF

Anatomy of the Shoulder

First and foremost, the rotator cuff is a group of tendons and muscles in the shoulder connecting the upper arm (humerus) to the shoulder blade (scapula). The rotator cuff’s main purpose is to hold the head of the humerus in the glenoid (shoulder) cavity. Below are the rotator cuff muscles and their main functions.

 

The muscles in the rotator cuff include the following:    

  • Supraspinatus: Abducts the shoulder in the first 30 degrees.
  • Infraspinatus: External rotation.
  • Teres minor: External rotation.
  • Subscapularis: Internal rotation.

 You can remember these using the acronym SITS.

Exercises for Shoulder Stability

Now that you have a basic understanding of the shoulder’s anatomy and functions, let’s go over exercises that help improve strength and overall stability of the shoulder.

Supraspinatus (Abduction)

Infraspinatus and Teres Minor (External Rotation/ER)

Subscapularis (Internal Rotation/IR)

Grip Strength and Stability

Performing exercises that challenge your grip strength is another great way to improve the stability in the shoulder. These exercises target the entire shoulder instead of focusing on one muscle. Examples here include KB bottoms up variations such as half kneeling single-arm bottoms-up press or bottoms up walk.

Programming

As a strength coach, I deal with overhead and throwing athletes on a daily basis, so keeping the shoulders healthy is a big part of my job. My goal is always to keep the shoulders healthy and strong instead of waiting until they are completely out of competition due to injury. Shoulder care exercises are not just for throwing athletes. These exercises can benefit all athletes and should be integrated into your weekly training program.

The biggest concern that I deal with on a daily basis is fighting overuse injuries. Overuse injuries account for most of the shoulder injuries, and so I have to find a balance to keep their shoulders healthy. My pitchers are required to do some sort of shoulder care each day that they are in. This past year my pitchers were doing mostly supraspinatus strengthening and everyone else did more external and internal rotation exercises.

Depending on what is in your workout for the day, you can complete these either before or after the strength portion of your workout. If you have pressing, pulling, or any overhead exercises, they should be done first to activate the shoulder musculature to reduce the chance for injury. If it is more of a lower-body workout, you can finish your workout with some shoulder care exercises.

Hopefully you now have a good understanding of the importance of shoulder care, the benefits of strengthening your rotator cuff, and how to implement these exercises so that your shoulders can feel better than ever.

This blog was written by trainer Josh Jones, MS, CSCS, USAW, NIFS Center for Athletic Performance. Contact Josh by email. Read more about the NIFS bloggers here.

Topics: fitness center workouts shoulders flexibility strength

Avoiding Sweet Office Temptations for Employee Health

office sweets

Eating healthy in the workplace is an obstacle that most of us face. There are constantly birthdays, going-away parties, welcome lunches, you name it! Often, these events include desserts and special treats, so it can seem as if cookies, cupcakes, and sweet treats are a staple of your office environment. This doesn’t even account for the candy bowl that is always left sitting out.

Even at NIFS you can find us gathering for an ice cream social to welcome a new employee, bringing our favorite treat to welcome or say goodbye to our interns, and indulging in foods that you wouldn’t expect to find in a fitness center.

Simply because sweet temptation is there doesn’t mean you have to overdo it. The occasional cookie or brownie is fine, but when it seems as if these “special treats” become a daily occurrence, or you find yourself frequenting that candy bowl several times a day, it can be hard to cut those sweet temptations from your routine.

Here are five tips for handling those indulgent treats in your office setting

1. Prepare ahead of time.

Get used to packing your lunch and bringing it with you to work. This will allow you to control what you eat during your midday meal, and it will save you money by eliminating the cost of going out to lunch on a daily basis. Packing your lunch the night before while cooking dinner will save you time and enable you to sharpen those multitasking skills. If you know that there is a potluck or special lunch at work the next day, bring in part of your lunch (maybe just the sides or a healthy salad) and supplement your packed lunch with some indulgent office treats.

2. Pack healthy snacks.

Having snacks on hand will prevent you from getting overly hungry with only unhealthy foods as an option. Packing things like low-fat cheese sticks, nuts, apples, bananas, homemade trail mix, and Greek yogurt will allow you to be prepared and stay satisfied throughout the day. This may increase your work productivity, too!

office sweets

3. Drink lots of water.

Not only is it important to stay properly hydrated throughout the day, but water helps you feel fuller longer. It can be hard to remember to drink water even if you have your favorite bottle with you, so set a reminder on your calendar telling you to drink! Emptying your water bottle will cause you to have to refill and use the restroom, which are both great excuses for getting up and out of your seat during the workday.

4. Bring a healthy dish to share.

If you know that your office is holding a gathering with food, offer to bring a healthy dish! That way, you know that there will be at least one nutritious option available. Veggies and whole-wheat pita with hummus, fruit trays, or homemade granola bars are always popular options.

5. Indulge responsibly.

Have a cookie, bowl of ice cream, or donut and enjoy every bite of it! If you never have any of the office treats, this may leave you feeling deprived and craving sweet treats all day, which could lead to overindulgence later. Just remember that it is a treat, and treats are a rare occasion!

Written by Tara Deal, NIFS Membership Manager, Group Fitness Instructor, and author of Treble in the Kitchen.

Topics: nutrition healthy habits healthy eating snacks lunch employee health

New to Exercise: 10 Minutes Makes a Difference!


Can you find two and a half hours in your weekly schedule to devote to exercise? Most adults would say NO WAY! Not with my job, running the kids around, taking care of the house, and taking care of my parents. We are all busy, but the truth is, it only takes two-and-a-half hours a week of your time to lower your risk for diseases such as cardiovascular disease, Type-2 Diabetes, and some cancers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

time to exercise

The Health Benefits of Even a Little Activity

Would you be able to complete your list of to-dos if you were dealing with a serious health condition? The same amount of activity will also help you to control your weight, improve your mental health, and increase the strength of your bones and muscles. Wouldn’t it be great to feel stronger physically and emotionally and to have more energy throughout the day? It is possible!

Take one of my clients who has a very hectic schedule himself that changes constantly, making it difficult to make it in to NIFS every day. To combat this, he has purchased a foot peddler that he keeps at his desk to sneak in some extra physical activity when he is working to keep him on track with his fitness goals.

Fitting in Small Bouts of Exercise at Work

Think about what works for your situation and how you can find the time. Another option is to take a few minutes to complete a few exercises at your desk such as an incline push-up or body-weight squat followed by a quick walk around your office space or up and down the stairwell. Other quick-fix options include parking farther away from the front door of the store or at work, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. You can do similar activities pretty much anywhere when you have a few minutes of downtime!

Finding the time is easier than you think! Even small bouts of exercise of only 10 minutes can contribute to your weekly total. First try to find time twice a day every day to walk for just 10 minutes. You only need to find 15 times a week (twice a day plus one extra) where you have 10 minutes to spare to reach your two-and-a-half hours! You could do this on your lunch break, while you are watching your kids practice, or by waking up 10 minutes earlier. Gradually, start adding more bouts of ten-minute activities into your day where you see fit. Making this positive change will make a huge difference in your health and you will be thanking yourself later in life for your lifestyle changes today!

Take that first step towards a more active lifestyle. Put down that mouse or smart phone right now and go for a 10-minute walk!

This blog was written by Stephanie Greer, NIFS certified Health Fitness Specialist. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

Topics: staying active healthy habits exercise at home walking exercise at work