NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Sleep and Athletes: Are You Missing Out?

Sleep can be a wonderful thing. Then again, when we oversleep, we sometimes feel more tired than we were when we went to bed. Is Mr. Sandman playing a prank on us, or is sleep even more of a mystery than we’re led to believe?

I enjoy my recommended 7 to 8-hour snoozes each and every night. For the average Joe and Jane, many studies link sleep deprivation to brain function, hunger control, and disease and illness prevention.

How Much Sleep Does an Athlete Need?

ThinkstockPhotos-78056869The question I have is, “Do athletes and individuals with higher fitness aspirations need more, less, or the same amount of sleep as everyone else?” Although not many studies have been conducted on the topic, the Gatorade Sports Science Institute published an article entitled “Sleep and the Elite Athlete” that talks about sleep deprivation in depth. 

The article is somewhat inconclusive in some areas, but it goes on to state that elite athletes can perform, but begin to decrease output at around 30 hours of deprivation. The main side effects were stated as being diminished cognitive capabilities. On a positive note, napping is encouraged for improved performance, even in sleep-deprived individuals. In summary, it’s safe to assume that athletes need and benefit from sleep and naps just like everyone else (Halson, 2014).

How Can You Get More Sleep?

You may be asking yourself, “What can I do to maximize my sleep potential?” The answers vary depending on the person. 

  • Know your body and your goals. Your goals, lifestyle, and demographic (age, gender, etc.) are the major factors of your individual needs. 
  • Set the right mood by ensuring your sleep sanctuary is nice and dark, and free from distractions. 
  • Try not to take your pre-workout supplements two hours before bedtime (the instruction/warning label will give you exact information on the subject). For that matter, any caffeinated beverages will hinder your ability to fall asleep. 
  • Start a sleep journal to chronicle your sleep behaviors. Indicate duration of sleeps and naps, moods, exercise production, and eating patterns to determine what works and what does not work for you (Halson, 2014).
One thing that we know for sure is we need sleep to live. It’s part of our everyday routines, just like eating food and blinking our eyes. Trying to make sleep a priority isn’t an easy task in this fast-paced society that encourages overtime and pushing deadlines, and puts rest, relaxation, and recovery on the back burner. In a previous post, we found that sleep, along with exercise and nutrition, is one of the pieces to our fitness puzzle. Without it, we cannot see the entire big picture. 

You can improve your fitness results with a healthy sleep schedule along with exercise and nutrition. For more about the positive impacts of sleep, contact an HFS at NIFS to discuss a sleep game plan. Lastly, take time for a nap; all the cool kids (at least those aged 0 to 5) are doing it!

Until next time, REJOICE and EVOLVE.

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Instructor at NIFS. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

Topics: NIFS fitness Thomas' Corner mental sleep

What’s in Your Luggage?: The Best Traveling Fitness Tools

It’s summertime which is usually synonymous with vacations and miles of traveling. Summertime travels have been some of the best times of my life! The weather is great, there are so many things to do, the sun is out, and it’s time to relax and have some well-deserved FUN.

But it can be somewhat difficult to continue your regimen while on the road. Hotel gyms are not always the best (although most will get the job done in a crunch), you are staying in a rented home or cottage that does not include a fitness facility, and day passes to the local gym can play havoc with your vacation budget. If you are anything like me, you want do something quick but effective so you can get back to what the trip was intended for: RELAXING. So what are you to do?

Planning to stay active during your travels doesn’t have to be a huge challenge. To help you plan to stay on track in your fitness, no matter the environment, I put together a list of great tools that travel really well. So when you are packing all the clothes you probably will never wear (I am the worst about that) and your sunscreen, leave a little extra room for a few of these great tools that stow easily and will keep you moving toward your desired outcomes.fitness-travel

TRX

There is a reason the company that manufactures the very popular TRX is named Fitness Anywhere. The TRX can go and be used anywhere. From hanging the suspension trainer off your hotel door, to getting outside and securing it to a tree, the TRX is ready to go in a matter of seconds. The TRX is really your travel gym because most resisted movements you can think of that you perform in the gym can be done using the TRX. Not sold yet? The TRX rolls up into a super-small bag that won’t take up much room in your luggage or even your carry-on.

Resistance Band

Just like the TRX, the resistance band will add load to any movement and will take up no space in your bag. The band also provides many unique movements as well as tension throughout the entire range of motion. This equals big resistance in a small package.

Tennis/Lacrosse Ball

You have heard me speak about recovery many times before as being a huge part of your training program. A great time to spend some time recovering is when you are on vacation. Pack a tennis or lacrosse ball, or even a small foam roller to take care of your soft tissue rehab needs. Remember, the results from your program happen during recovery, so use this time to reap the benefits.

Val Slides

Also known as furniture movers, Val Slides are a great tool to add a little more oomph to your body weight exercise. With hundreds of ways to utilize these sliders to create a major metabolic and strength effect, they are a great choice to throw in your luggage. By the way, they weigh only a few ounces and are super flat, ensuring that they won’t send your suitcase over the weight limit.

Kettlebell

The kettlebell travels best if you are driving to your destination, not flying. But if you are choosing the automobile route for your vacation, the bell will fit very nicely in the trunk. I can’t even start to cover the multitude of movements that can be accomplished with the kettlebell. For those of you participating in Small Group Training or our HIT program, you’ve witnessed what a single kettlebell workout can look and feel like. The kettlebell is a very effective, very quick, and very easy tool to travel with. Grab one and throw it in the car—you will thank me for it!

These lists of workout tools is by no means exhaustive, but are the ones that I think provide the most impact while taking up the least amount of space. There is a tool I didn’t mention above, but can be the best tool of all and that is a pair of walking shoes. No matter the place, time, and who you are with, you can always go for a stroll. Enjoy your summer. You’ve worked all winter for it.

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, Health Fitness Specialist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness running walking group training resistance kettlebell workout TRX recovery traveling

Personal Trainer Lingo 101: What Are These Exercises?

Not long ago, we posted a blog entitled “Where Do ‘They’ Come Up with These Exercise Names?” in which I discussed some of the more bizarrely named exercises and provided a little background for each. Here I’d like to extend that process and discuss Personal Trainer Lingo 101 (aka “Where Do ‘They’ Come Up with These Exercise Names? Part 2). We have all heard fitness center lingo for workouts such as Pyramid Sets, AMRAPS, Supersets, and so on, but what do they mean? Some of them make sense; others, not so much. Enjoy!

Pyramid Settraninig

A pyramid set has absolutely nothing to do with building a stone structure in Egypt, but the method’s format does look similar to that of a pyramid when diagramed out. The pyramid set is a routine that is made of several rounds in which the reps decrease and weight increases each round until you reach the fewest reps you are attempting. Typically you would perform 10, 9, 8, 7, etc. until you reach one repetition. This is common practice for someone who wants a good workout without too much thinking. 

When you have completed your pyramid set, you can complete the workout by doing a “reverse pyramid set” by increasing reps per set and decreasing weight until you reach the original starting point. 

AMRAP

AMRAP is an acronym for “As Many Reps/Rounds as Possible.” This is meant to be a one-set-only bout in which maximal effort is given until exhaustion. Once your AMRAP is over (whether you are using time or effort as your end point), you will need to rest before attempting the same lift again. Many people like to do an AMRAP at the end of a workout to squeeze the last drops of energy out of their workout. 

Screen_Shot_2015-08-20_at_12.19.35_PMAs a funny side note, I like to think that if I were to give all my “might” on any particular exercise, I would therefore no longer have any “might” left and would need to take a nap to recover. The point is, even if you give all your effort, your body and mind probably won’t let you get that far before they shut down and you need to recover. As a challenge, Cara Hartman from NIFS shows a perfect example of this in her NIFS video blog series called Cara’s Weekend Challenge

Supersets

A superset sounds pretty fantastic! It is quite a handy technique that involves two complementary exercises working back to back in order to decrease rest time, promote calorie burning, and help keep your workout flowing smoothly. NIFS Intern Morgan Richardson adds, “For an awesome leg workout, I like to perform deadlifts followed by a round of plyometric box jumps.” Another example would be following your triceps extensions with biceps curls (or vice versa). You could say that would be “two tickets to the gun show,” but we will have to save that for the next installment of Personal Trainer Lingo 101.

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There are so many terms, phrases, and gym lingo that we hear every day. Some are pretty obvious; others make us wonder what the trainers were thinking when they came up with the names and concepts. One thing we do know for sure is that it is a lot of fun to talk about them and sometimes poke a little fun. Fitness is a serious matter, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun doing it!

If you have any Personal Training Lingo 101 questions, please post them in the comments section below. We would love to discuss them (maybe you can even stump the trainer!). 

Until next time, Rejoice and Evolve,

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Instructor at NIFS. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

Topics: NIFS fitness fitness center Thomas' Corner workouts exercises

Benefits of Biking for Exercise and Fitness

ThinkstockPhotos-103584987-1Biking can have significant benefits to your overall health and fitness! If you are looking for something to try this summer that maybe you haven’t done before, consider hopping onto your bike…remember that’s that thing stashed in the back corner of the garage with flat tires and cobwebs hanging off the back of it!

I often find myself wondering what different things I can do for a workout, and since I began to incorporate biking into my routine, I have found some benefits it adds to my other workouts. Let’s take a look at what some of those are.

  • Good for your cardiovascular health. Most people consider cardio exercise as running, using the elliptical, or power walking, but throwing in some biking is proven to increase your cardiovascular fitness.
  • Helps to build muscle. Biking helps to both tone and build muscle fibers, specifically in the lower extremities targeting the calves, thighs, and buttocks. It’s also a great low-impact exercise and takes the pressure off the hip, knee, and ankle joints. If you are recovering from injuries, biking can help keep you fit and active.
  • Burns calories. As with many cardio exercises, you can burn a good amount of calories while cycling, and it will increase your metabolism once the workout is finished. To be most efficient, you want to ride faster than a leisurely pace and work through some hills or intervals when possible.
  • Helps with coordination. When you cycle you use every part of your body, which forces you to work on coordination skills. As you go, you move both feet simultaneously as well as use your body weight to shift the bike through turns, using both arms at the same time to turn, brake, and change gears. It takes some mental focus to think about all those steps, even while you’re just cruising.
  • Aids your psyche. Biking, like all exercise, is good for your overall mental health. Exercise helps to release endorphins, which keep you relaxed and reduce your levels of stress.
  • Helps with longevity. According to an article put out by the Environmental Health Perspective, the benefits of biking outweigh the risks for increasing your lifespan. Cycling, as discussed before, increases your cardiovascular health, which directly correlates to lifespan.
  • Strengthens your immune system. All exercise, including biking, helps to strengthen your immune system to fight off sickness and infection.

You can see that more than being an enjoyable leisure activity, biking can significantly add to your overall health. I have enjoyed doing some biking this summer and encourage you to give it a try outdoors at some of these local places: 

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This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: cardio calories attitude balance immunity biking muscle building

Should You Do Cardio or Strength Training First in Your Workout?

ThinkstockPhotos-477951991-newWe’ve all heard the saying, “There are no stupid questions,” but there are a lot of questions that take a lot of effort and thought to answer correctly. One such question comes to mind when we are discussing fitness: “What should I do first, cardio or strength training?”

I would say that sounds pretty cut and dry, and the answer would just be in a textbook reference somewhere, but solving this conundrum will not be so simple. When you put it in perspective, it’s almost like asking what comes first, the chicken or the egg? Both are necessary and complement each other, but the overall outcome of your fitness results could very well be determined by whether you do your cardio before or after your strength training.

Define Your Goals

While wearing your fitness investigator hat, first ask the question: “What are my fitness goals?” This will be a defining moment, because your goals will directly influence your cardio decision. Instead of thinking about what you are burning (carbohydrate or fat) to fuel your workout, think a little more about specific goals, such as increasing your cardiovascular endurance, decreasing body weight, increasing muscular strength, and so forth. 

Goal: Cardiovascular Endurance

If your goal is to increase cardiovascular endurance, the most sensible next step is to perform cardio exercise and vice versa with increasing muscular strength (Roizen, 2014). Although there has been some research on the topic, a 2013 study at the Life Science Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that both walking and running were beneficial to good health, and went so far as to say that walking may be even more beneficial to good health (which is also a topic we will cover in a future blog. 

This makes it seem as though normal individuals with sensible goals can make their lives a lot easier and focus on more manageable ambitions, such as the aforementioned weight loss, etc.

Goal: Losing Weight and Gaining Muscle

Probably the most commonplace goal I hear as a personal trainer is, “I want to lose weight, and gain muscle.” How does that fit into our cardio vs. strength training riddle? Without spending a huge amount of time reading tomes of fitness research, alternating the cardio and strength order and doing various cycles is one way to make sure both of your goals are met and you continue to have a well-balanced regimen. Variety is the spice of life, is it not? 

I encourage you to continue this discussion in the comments area. As we go along our fitness quests, we do not have to go alone. A Health Fitness Specialist can provide some much-needed guidance, and can lend a helping hand when you need to be lifted back on the wagon. Feel free to stop by the NIFS track desk, or call to schedule an appointment today!

Rejoice and evolve,

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Instructor at NIFS. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

Topics: cardio workouts strength personal training

Training Tips for Former Athletes: Stay Fit and Motivated

MasieI recently ended my rugby career at Indiana University. I had been playing for 9 years, and competed in various other sports before that. Until now, I have always had a coach scheduling practices and creating workouts for me, and have always pushed myself to my limits for the team.

If you've played sports your whole life but now you are in the real world with other responsibilities and time constraints that did not exist when you were an athlete, you may start to lose your strength and endurance. You may have even noticed changes in your body due to your lifestyle change. You want to stay in shape or get back in shape, but you are unsure where to start or what to do. 

Here are a few tips to help you figure out how to train as a former athlete.

  • Acknowledge that you are no longer a competitive athlete. You are now a former athlete. This is a hard step to take because in your heart you will always be an athlete. You are just no longer a part of a team or competition, and that is okay. 
  • Create new goals for yourself that pertain to your life now. Back in college or high school, you trained a lot, and you trained hard. You had a deadline to be in shape before your first game. However, this mindset may not work now with your new lifestyle. You need to set new goals, which can include cardiovascular training like running or biking. Or your goal could be to lose weight or fat. Your goal can even simply be to maintain a certain overall fitness level. 
  • Train better, not harder. During athletic training you were told to run more, lift more, and practice more in order to be the best and win. This mindset and form of training may have worked then, but that doesn't necessarily mean it works now. You need to train better and more efficiently. Training better is easier to maintain and accomplish than trying to train as hard as you did before. But how do you know you are training better, when all you have known is how to train hard?
Join a Training Program

Many gyms offer training programs for marathons or triathlons or even weight loss. What is great about these programs is that they have coaches that create workouts and guide you through them. You will work alongside others in the program and can get the feeling of being part of a team. Here at NIFS we offer a variety of training programs

Find a Personal Trainer

If you are interested in working on your own, but still feel that you need more guidance, look into personal training. Trainers offer you the accountability that coaches and practices did. Personal trainers can help create new goals for you and lead you through specific, efficient programs. 

Working Out on Your Own

If you need help finding a starting point, here are some tips and examples you can use to help. You'll want to focus on full-body, multi-joint lifts. 

Here are examples of some exercises you can use as the basis of your workouts:

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Deadlifts
  • Rows
  • Pull-ups
  • Pushups

Choose a few to perform for each workout. You can alternate between 2 and 3 days per week, performing 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions each. 

When performing cardio, a great goal is to try to complete at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise each week. For example, you can complete five 30-minute sessions of cardio each week. You can also perform them on the same day as your strength training. 

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In the end, take time to find what works best for you at this time in your life. Training like you did when you were an athlete isn't always what works. Explore your options, and find what you like to do now. 

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This blog was written by Masie Duncan, Health Fitness Instructor and Weight Loss Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: cardio motivation accountability NIFS programs endurance strength personal training team training

50 Shades of Bruise: Non-Contact Contusions After a Workout

With an element of self-consciousness and a mystery to some, non-contact bruises due to exercise can cause some discomfort and become a deterrent to those who really need exercise but don’t want this side-effect. Typically occurring following an intense bout of exercise (such as a marathon), non-contact bruises appear even though the individual may not have physically injured the area.

Other types of bruises occur more often than not from some type of physical trauma. If you have experienced this exercise side effect or just are curious about the topic, we will take a closer look at the bruising phenomena simply known as a contusion.

What Causes Bruising After Exercise?ThinkstockPhotos-200380515-001

Several factors are associated with these developments, including age, experience, current medication, and genetics. Most bruises occur following a significant accident, fall, or surgery, but not always. Some bruises are caused by some underlying weakness in the blood pathways. The exercise (whether it is extensive “pounding the pavement” or “pumping the weights”) intensifies over the course of time, leading to a bruise effect. 

The bruise, usually bluish, purple, or green, is caused by small ruptures in blood capillaries that seem to develop near the recent trauma site and can be more or less serious depending on the severity of the injury. 

On a side note, people who are bruised due to being struck are only amplifying the issue by exercising. The bruise will go away slower, stay the same, or even get worse. Other issues other than bruising that come up include swelling and pain (WebMD, 2015).

How to Heal Contusions

The best remedy for a bruise is to rest the body part that is bruised. Applying a slight pressure wrap can be helpful. Normal pain management devices such as ointment and Tylenol seem to be the most common treatment for aches and discomfort. 

You can also look to a dietitian to see whether your diet is a contributing factor (MD-Health, 2015). People low in certain vitamins and minerals are more apt to the bruise effect. Your age and medications can cause blood to thin, leading to an unmerited bruise (WebMD, 2015).

If the problem persists, I would recommend calling your physician. If your physician feels that your condition is not serious, you can resume exercise when you feel comfortable doing so. Most likely, you can resume normal activity following recovery. Your bruise can just be a simple reminder that our bodies are pretty amazing machines and we need to take care of them to ensure we can continue to “pound the pavement” or “pump the weights” for a long, long time. 

Rejoice and Evolve,

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Instructor at NIFS. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.
Topics: exercise nutrition fitness center Thomas' Corner injury prevention injuries

NIFS’s New Healthy Eating App: My Nutrition Coach

My-Nutrition-Coach-outline-no-back-1Choosing the right foods for healthy eating can be a challenge. Life is busy and sometimes the thing that gets left behind is a well-balanced meal or snack. We want to help you change that! Studies show that individuals who have to be accountable for their food choices lose more weight and keep it off than those who attempt to do it alone.

Often when you are motivated to make a weight loss change, the first thought is to cut out your favorite foods that you are worried you eat too much of. Or you start eating salads every day for lunch and dinner. 95% of people who lose weight will gain it back. The successful 5% of people learn how to eat a balanced diet that includes ALL foods!

My Nutrition Coach is a new app specifically created to help our members develop a healthy plan for food choices, while also providing consistent support to help educate and develop good lifelong habits. 

How to Use the App

When you sit down to eat, just snap a picture of your meal. You can also add your beverage, your mood, and your hunger level. At midnight your entries will be uploaded, and the next day you will get feedback and suggestions from me, NIFS Registered Dietitian Angie Scheetz. Videos, handouts, and suggestions for how to reach your personal wellness goals will also be sent your way, giving you more resources to achieve your nutrition and fitness goals. nutrition-screen

Quick and Effective Nutrition Feedback

This program is quick and easy, and on average should take only 5 minutes per day, but the support, feedback, and resources you will receive throughout the program are equal to a personal, weekly nutrition consultation in traditional programs.

Don’t underestimate the role that proper nutrition plays in your health and fitness. If you are interested in signing up for this program or want more information, please email me at ascheetz@nifs.org or call me at 274-3432, ext. 239. I look forward to working with you!

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This blog was written by Angie Scheetz, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: nutrition weight loss healthy eating NIFS programs weight management