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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Thomas’s Corner: Functional Training Series (Part 1)

ThinkstockPhotos-523032469-2.jpgWhat Is Functional Training?

The term functional training is a mainstay in the current fitness/wellness vernacular, but what is it? In lay terms, it is training that supports movements that are performed in everyday life outside the gym, or that are naturally occurring movement patterns (whether or not you use them).

Where You See Functional Training

You encounter functional training anytime you are walking, running, pushing, pulling, twisting, or bending (almost every movement!). As Mike Blume, Athletic Performance Trainer at NIFS, puts it, “Functional training improves our activities of daily living (ADLs), which will then help us get through each day easier.” This improved quality of life could affect something as simple as tying your shoes, to playing with your children on the floor, to carrying your groceries to your second-floor apartment.

Choosing the Right Functional Training Movements

Not all functional training exercises are created equal. We find that exercises that are more specific or have a greater “transfer effect” can have a greater overall impact on the participant going as far as increased brain/muscle motor control). Exercises that are on the other end of the spectrum have a lower overall impact, however.

Preventing Functional Training Injury

We find the difficulty and complexity of an exercise must be taken into consideration and may be detrimental to a person’s health and wellness if they are not physically capable of performing the movement correctly. We all know that there is nothing functional about injury due to inexperience or physical limitation. See a NIFS fitness instructor or personal trainer to discuss functional training and how it applies to your workout level.

In part 2 of this two-part series, I'll look at lifting techniques for functional training.

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood. For more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: Thomas' Corner running walking functional training muscles range of motion flexibility

Three Summer Training Lessons for Athletes

ThinkstockPhotos-491816300.jpgSummertime is in full swing, and whether you are a competitive or recreational athlete, changes are definitely happening to your normal schedule. For high school and collegiate athletes, more time is spent at home and for general fitness enthusiasts, more options are available to you to fulfill your exercise quota (in other words, doing more things outside). These are both extremely important changes that can be used to alter a routine that has lasted for the past 8 or 9 months of your life.

Student-athletes have been juggling class, competition, and training. Amateur athletes have been working (real jobs), training, and competing as well. When early spring hits, most individuals are sick of that stagnant routine and are looking to switch it up, which is why summer is welcomed by most with open arms.

Summer can also be a time when many physical aspects (such as power, strength, and speed) can decline if adequate “maintenance” of those aspects is not applied. The increase in other opportunities during summer can sometimes lead to a leniency of training that might do more harm than good.

Here are 3 things that I have learned over recent years as a strength coach, trainer, and collegiate athlete to hopefully help minimize this detraining effect.

1. Don’t focus on too much at one time.

Every summer when I would go home from school, I had a list of 5 or 6 things that I felt like I had to get better at. Each training session, I would have a ton of thoughts about how I could make those things better. Of course, I had a training packet from the football team, but felt like I had to do even more. I had to get faster, more agile, stronger, more flexible, and in better shape. At some point, I was doing more thinking about what I had to do to get better than just working hard with what I had.

Even today, I send workout packets home with each of my athletic teams. The goal, obviously, is to continue to improve their physical and mental toughness. But for some, I just want to make sure that they don’t totally fall off of the bus with all of their training. I aim to keep workouts short, sweet, but challenging. They usually focus on sport-specific training aspects for each individual team (for example, single-leg strength for runners, and rotational power for softball players). I want to make sure that the “bread and butter” of the sport remains at the forefront.

2. Get creative.

Being creative in the gym during the summer months may be due to two things:

  1. Your gym doesn’t have the equipment you want (or need) to do specific exercises, or
  2. You are looking for alternatives to exercises you already do.

If your gym doesn’t have specific pieces of equipment for exercises that you are looking to do, think about what that exercise is trying to accomplish. For instance, your workout program might call for a kettlebell swing, but your gym has no kettlebells. Think about what the target muscle is for that exercise and plan an alternative. The main muscles in the KB swing are the glutes, so doing a weighted hip bridge or a Romanian Deadlift might suffice as an alternative. Sure, it’s not a perfect match, but it’s better than not doing it at all!

If you are simply looking to get out of the monotony of your 4-day split routine, you have a ton of options. Say Tuesday is considered your “squat” day, but you want to take a break from the barbell work you have been doing. Good news: You can squat with just about anything in the gym. Kettlebells, sandbags, slosh pipes, medballs, and weighted vests are just a few options that can give you that much-needed break from your regular program. Also, try switching up the reps. If you are used to doing 5 sets of 5 reps, try a workout where you do 5 sets of 20 or 3 sets of 50. It will definitely give a little shock to your system.

3. Don’t forget what summer is for!

Every competitive athlete, young or old, constantly thinks about their sport and how they can improve their performance. For most, there is no such thing as an off season anymore. There is never a chance to truly take their mind off of what they compete in, which can lead to burnout after a couple of seasons. Summer is meant for unwinding from heavy workloads, in class or with jobs. Mental and emotional recovery are just as important as physical recovery. If your mind has not recovered from the past year of training and competing, it will be very hard to devote the same amount of time and effort to the next season.

You still need to train for your sport, but post-training activities are a good way to unwind after a hard workout. Go to the lake, go fishing, go golfing: do something that allows you to enjoy the summer. You will only have a few months of opportunities like this. Work hard, play hard!

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This blog was written by Alex Soller, NIFS Athletic Performance Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

Topics: summer training strength power speed off-season athletes student athletes

Managing Allergies for Outdoor Exercise and Fitness in Summer

ThinkstockPhotos-186470186.jpgFor many who enjoy the summer months for different outdoor exercise and activities, allergies can be one of the most frustrating and challenging things to deal with. And if you are anything like me, simply popping a ton of pills to try and acclimate yourself to the outdoor environment isn’t ideal.

Summer Allergies Can Derail Your Fitness

You might be thinking to yourself, “Okay, if I go outside and get some fresh air, maybe this will open up my airways and help me to breathe better.” But it’s actually the opposite effect. When you are exercising, naturally you breathe harder. As you suck in more air, you are exposing yourself to more allergens that are floating around in the air.

Tips for Managing Seasonal Allergies Outdoors

Let me share some tips that can be helpful for you to manage those seasonal allergies. The key is to be prepared!

  • Be smart in your selection of activities. For example, if you have an allergy to grass, maybe you should choose to shoot some hoops on the cement surface instead of going for a round of golf.
  • Breathe in using your nose. The little hairs inside your nose act as a filter to try and stop some of those allergens from getting into your airways and lungs.
  • Check the calendar. Look for your allergies and when they are “in season.”
  • Check the weather. If you go to weather.com’s Allergy Tracker, you can find different levels of the allergens in the air.
  • Be cautious of running in a city. Sometimes where extra exhaust is present, additional irritation can occur with allergies.
  • Choose the right time of day. Early in the morning or later into the night are the times when the allergens in the air are at their lowest.
  • Be conscious of the activity level. If allergy levels are high, choosing a lower intensity level for your workout would be a good option.
  • Protect your eyes. Try and wear sunglasses if you can. One of the ways the allergens get into your body is through your eyes, so try to cover them.
  • Shower immediately after your workout. Be sure to take a shower and put on clean clothes to get all the allergens off your body.
  • Go inside. There are times when the levels are just too high to be outside if you are hypersensitive to certain allergens.

Even if you have allergies, it’s okay to keep doing things outside. Just be sure to monitor your body! Take just a few moments at the start of your day and try to plan around the peak times when the allergens will be at their highest level.

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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: exercise fitness staying active summer outdoor allergies

A Hero’s Workout: Train Like a Firefighter (with Functional Movement)

ThinkstockPhotos-87452256.jpgFor just shy of a year now, NIFS has had the honor and privilege of assisting in the training of the Indianapolis Fire Department’s new Firefighter Recruit Class. We are currently wrapping up the second recruit class (Recruit Class #81, actually) trained here at NIFS.

To have the opportunity to work with such a distinguished organization, rich with history and a tradition in excellence, has been a true career highlight for me. Having two brothers who serve their communities as firefighters, I have been pretty close to this occupation and its phenomenal individuals for some time now. The respect and admiration I have for them, to do what they do and keep us safe, are immeasurable.

These soon-to-be firefighters take part in over 20 weeks of training to ready them to assume the huge responsibility of being a lifesaver and community protector. In essence, it’s “hero training.” Physical Training (PT) is only one aspect of the academy; combined with EMS and Fire School, these recruits battle long days of both physical and mental demands.

The Importance of Functional Movement

We take the training of these individuals very seriously with a main focus of movement first, performance second. We use the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) to guide our programming because the better the mover, the better the firefighter. I recently shared a great research article in which the FMS was used to determine the injury rates of first responders (mainly firefighters), and the findings are very telling. To sum it up, if you score a 14 or lower on the FMS, your injury risk skyrockets. We utilize the screen and corrective exercises associated with basic movement patterns to enhance the recruit’s movement with the hopes of increasing injury prevention, while at the same time improving their performance. Even heroes have some dysfunction.

Firefighters have one of the most physically demanding occupations on the planet. And it doesn’t just revolve around a big strength component; a firefighter’s aerobic capacity must be high as well. A firefighter may go from a position of rest into a full sprint in a moment’s notice and then breathe bottled air while running into burning buildings and homes and dragging victims from wreckage. This demands a high level of aerobic capacity, a level only gained through training. Our job as coaches is to ensure that recruits improve absolute strength, anaerobic and aerobic fitness, while always improving their movement.

A Typical Workout

So what does a typical training session for a firefighter look like? Check out this video to get a little taste of some of the best movements and exercises we use to help prepare these tactical athletes. Feeling confident that you can handle these exercises? Here is your chance to try it for yourself, and experience a workout straight from the programming page! Complete the workout that follows and let us know how it went. Do you have what it takes to battle this firefighting workout inferno?   

You will need a set of heavy kettlebells, a super band attached to a pull-up station for a nifty exercise I learned from Captain Jordan Ponder of Firefighter Performance Training, 1 heavy sandbag and 1 lighter bag, and a sled with a medium to heavy load. Complete the following round of exercises as many times as you can in 20 minutes. Want a little extra work? Wear a weighted vest or simply add more time.

  • Crawling x40 meters
  • Farmer Carry x40 meters
  • Sandbag Firefighter Clean x10
  • Pipe Pull x10 each side
  • Sandbag Stair Climb x5 flights
  • Over-the-shoulder sled drag x40 meters 

 

Firefighter-workout.jpg

The physical and mental demands that are placed on these recruits during their training, and even more so when they are in the field, are mammoth. But with great training from their officers and their NIFS coaching crew, I am pretty confident that they will be ready to tackle anything. I can’t describe the respect I have for those who sign up to be our everyday heroes. I can only work as hard as I can to help prepare these phenomenal individuals for the battles that await them, and provide the city of Indianapolis with their superheroes!

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggersclick here.

Topics: NIFS fitness center workouts injury prevention strength functional movement

Summer Nutrition: Packing a Healthy Eating Picnic

ThinkstockPhotos-465173011.jpgDuring the summer, the days are stretching longer, the temperatures are rising, and the sun is shining brighter! It’s time to enjoy the outdoors. Whenever I visit bigger cities, I notice that their parks are packed with people enjoying picnics, which is one of my favorite things to do to explore and discover a new outdoor space. So let’s bring the picnic to our local parks! Surprise your significant other, take the family out for an afternoon in the park, or enjoy time with friends playing football or frisbee.

Equipment to Bring

When planning a picnic, make a list of items you will need, especially if this is your first time. Here are some items you may need to bring:

  • Plastic or paper plates
  • Can opener and corkscrew
  • Disposable eating utensils
  • Garbage bag
  • Reusable, heavy-duty serving pieces
  • Roll of paper towels
  • Disposable plastic cups
  • Salt and pepper
  • Paper or cloth napkins
  • Thermos for drinks or soups
  • Bread knife or sharp knife
  • Insect repellent
  • Wet napkins
  • Matches
  • First aid kit and sunscreen
  • Tablecloth
  • Small cutting board

Healthy and Delicious Picnic Food Options

Think healthy! Typical picnic fare—such as potato salads, greasy burgers, chips, and beer—can be high in calories and fat. You do not have to compromise your waistline when planning a picnic. Try some of the following tips to keep your meal tasty and light.

Appetizers:

  • Cut up veggies—carrots, celery, broccoli, and green and red pepper—and bring along a low-fat dip. Brightly colored veggies will maximize the amount of vitamins you get in your meal.
  • Good options for salty snacks include crackers topped with peanut butter, baked tortilla chips and salsa, and nuts and dried fruit mix.
  • Try a garden salad with vegetables, beans, and fruits, topped with nuts and an oil-and-vinegar dressing.
  • Avoid creamy pasta and potato salads. They are high in fat; and if left in the heat, can create an ideal medium for bacterial growth, which can cause food-borne illness.

Entrees:

  • Try pita sandwiches or wraps. Pair a protein source—turkey, chicken, lean ham, tuna or salmon—with lettuce leaves and vegetables such as chopped celery, peppers, onion, and shredded carrots.
  • Replace mayonnaise with mustard or drizzle with olive oil and vinegar dressing.
  • Salads topped with flaked tuna or salmon and oil and vinegar dressing.
  • If your picnic area has a barbecue grill, try grilled chicken breasts, lean hamburgers, turkey burgers, or veggie burgers. Opt for a whole-grain bun instead of white.
  • Grill vegetables on a skewer. Try red or green peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, and onion.
  • Corn on the cob is an excellent choice to add to an entree. For added flavor, use garlic or onion powder. Grill for a great taste.

Desserts:

  • Skipping out on the high-fat treats doesn’t mean you need to miss out on a summer sweet. Try a colorful fruit salad with peaches, mangoes, berries, kiwi, and watermelon.
  • Take along angel food cake and top with mixed berries.

Drinks:

  • Be sure to drink at least eight glasses of water per day for proper hydration.
  • Sweet drinks can increase thirst and add unwanted calories. Instead, try natural fruit juices diluted with water.
  • Try to limit alcohol intake, as alcohol can be dehydrating and high in calories.

Get outside, be active, and enjoy a tasty and healthy lunch at a local park!

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

Topics: nutrition healthy eating summer picnics