NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Crucial Conversations: I Have 99 Problems, But My (NIFS) Gym Isn’t One

karen8.29.16.jpgFor the next installment of Crucial Conversations, a series where I have a chat with some very inspirational individuals and share it with all of you, I speak with a woman who needs no elaborate introduction. That’s because not only is she pretty well known around these parts, but also because she wouldn’t have it.

She is about the business of being fit and staying fit, no frills or fancy Instagram posts, just the business, and business is good. I am referring to longtime NIFS member Karen. I had the opportunity to ask Karen a few questions about being an “ageless warrior,” what keeps her motivated, and why she continues to make NIFS her fitness home. Join me as we uncover some of the things that make this amazing individual tick!

Tony: Tell me a little about yourself.

Karen: I was born in Indianapolis in 1958 and attended Arlington High School. During my time at Arlington I ran track and field and played volleyball. I got married in 1983, and my son was born in 1984.

Tony: Besides being a high school athlete, have you always been generally healthy, fit, and active?

Karen: I used to do workout videos, when they were popular, with my young son. At the young age of 25 I was diagnosed with high blood pressure [hypertension] after the birth of my son. This was hard for me to process due to my healthy lifestyle and healthy nature. It was something that I would have to deal with for the rest of my life. I began to feel restless and my life was becoming too mundane. I hated only being able to go to work and go home every day. At this point in my life I began to become depressed. I felt that I was not accomplishing anything in my life.

Tony: How did you make the change to pull yourself out of the rut you were in?

Karen: My son was in school and doing after-school activities, and my husband was heavily involved in church, and as a firefighter he was gone from home at least two days a week. I wanted to have something of my own; I wanted a place to go to meet and talk to people, a place where I could better myself every time I was there. I felt that the only place it could be was the gym. During this time I had fallen even deeper into depression, but by April of 1994 that would all change. My husband began working out at NIFS, and I would ask him where he was going to work out and he stated NIFS. He eventually purchased a membership for me, and it was the greatest gift he ever gave me. I joined NIFS and I have been a member for 22 years.

Tony: So how did you get started?

Karen: I began to look into going to group fitness classes. Every time I became stronger and the classes became easier for me, so I would begin going to more advanced classes. I started with step, spinning, and boxing, but my true transformation began when I began taking HIT class and group training. I was in the first Slim It to Win It competition, and to compete with other members was very exciting. Each time I would look for the next challenge to accomplish. I felt my body getting stronger and my endurance was increasing; I was feeling better about myself and my life, and I was looking forward to each limit I could cross.

Tony: What has created the most change for you?

Karen: I would have to say that my change came with the challenges I faced to make myself better in the gym. I began noticing these changes when I was able to go farther and longer than I could before. I felt this process could never end; if I worked at it, I would be able to surpass all of my limits, and with each and every class I knew there would be a new challenge for me to defeat. I’ve been able to make new friends, and for me exercising is a way of life. I am the result of hard work, I am in great shape for someone who is 57 years old, and I feel that my medical issues are very minor due to the effort and time that I have put in at NIFS. It has also allowed me to deal with stress, and it gives me a generally positive outlook on life. I would like to thank all of the trainers who have helped me along the way with my transformation, especially Tony Maloney.

***

I had the pleasure of meeting this amazing lady the first day I arrived here at NIFS eight years ago, and have had the continued honor to work with her in so many different capacities. From BOSU class, HIT, Slim It to Win It, and group training, Karen has seen and done it all, and has not just done it but done it well! She took on a nickname I gave her a few years back: “Grumpy”; but those who know her know that she is far from it. But she is focused, and when there is work to be done, she is all business.

Yes! I want to try a HIT class!

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

Topics: NIFS exercise depression fitness center motivation member group training HIT Slim It to Win It Crucial Conversations student athletes hypertension making changes

High Intensity Training (HIT): No Pain, No Gain

HIT-6.jpgIf you have ever participated in High Intensity Training (HIT), you will quickly discover what separates this style of workout from other popular styles you may know, like super sets or pyramid training. The main intention behind high intensity training workouts is that the workout will challenge your body to such a level of discomfort that its threshold or maximum capacity has no choice but to rise. Now don’t let the word “such a level of discomfort” scare you away; it’s the discomfort level that we all feel during exercise at some point, and of course you can push past it.

The Importance of Pushing Past the Pain

During resistance training, you will at some point begin to experience a level of discomfort. This happens because lactic acid begins to be produced by muscles during intense exercise bouts, which causes muscle fatigue. Although lactic acid may slow down muscle productivity and intensity, it does not mean you have reached muscle failure and are unable to continue. Quite honestly, this means your set is just now starting (if you want to bring down barriers and advance to the next level). Most individuals get to this point of discomfort and stop their set. However, if you stop here, you are more than likely not pushing your body past its threshold point, which is important in order to increase muscle strength, endurance, and even hypertrophy (muscle building).

Specifically, in high intensity style training, most often you will reach that lactate threshold and then be pushed beyond that. Just when you think that your body can go on no longer, you dig deep within yourself and the encouragement of your teammates and find that new level. And this is why we see so many success stories in people who attend HIT workouts. They push beyond what their bodies thought they could do, past the threshold, resulting in an increase in muscle strength and endurance.

hit-high-res-logo-web-new.jpgHow NIFS Can Help

If you need help discovering what those new levels are, and some accountability to keep pushing, then I invite you to try NIFS’s High Intensity Training. Our classes are designed to motivate you to push past the limits you think are there by utilizing short bouts of high intensity work, which will increase your body’s thresholds, causing an increase of metabolism. We use our training expertise to provide the necessary motivation to close the gap between you and your body’s threshold. Once you reach this threshold, we will teach you how to tap into that next level to take your workouts to the next step on the ladder of success!

We invite you to come experience a good workout, a good team feeling, and a good environment where each participant has the same goal: to get better! Get your first session for FREE by contacting Amanda Bireline at abireline@nifs.org.

Yes! I want to try a HIT class!

This blog was written by Darius Felix, Health Fitness Instructor. Click here for more information about the NIFS bloggers.

Topics: NIFS group training accountability muscles resistance strength HIT pain high intensity muscle building

THOMAS’s CORNER: How Alcohol Can Affect Your Fitness Gains

ThinkstockPhotos-533242866.jpgThe curiosities of the human body never cease to amaze. Today’s topic is alcohol and its effect on fitness performance. Seems like a fairly straightforward and easy concept to grasp, but just as I find more details there seems to be more head scratching, mostly from the historical aspect and how we have evolved to today’s ideals.

It’s no secret that alcohol can trigger several spiraling ailments, ranging from liver disease to heart issues, in addition to the obvious weight gain and stunting of muscle development. That being said, with so much knowledge about the negatives of alcohol abuse, why would an individual not want to become independent of all the risks and dangers? The answer is not so easy to discern, but we can at least look at some of the more alarming facts.

The Health Impacts of Alcohol Abuse

The aforementioned alcohol-induced liver disease, also known as cirrhosis, is the result of abuse over a long period of time. Not everyone gets to the point of cirrhosis, but there are many other, smaller monsters that can arise (Kuzma, 2015) from your head to your toes:

  • Brain function can become unreliable.
  • Decision making abilities are limited.
  • Your looks can diminish due to blood vessel ruptures and swollen or puffy skin.
  • The heart works harder to do what it normally does.
  • Circulation is impaired.
And the list can go on for another paragraph. The fitness levels you strive for by working out like a maniac for hours at a time, several days a week (aka Gainz), are definitely compromised by the affects of alcohol.

One of the main things to remember is that alcohol acts as a diuretic, which can lead to fluid loss. Dehydration is not exactly the most welcoming environment for muscle development. Dehydration also leads to muscle fatigue. Earlier, I mentioned that you can gain weight from alcohol. This is twofold: number one, alcohol is not a calorie-free substance; and number two, we tend to eat more junk when we drink. They go nearly hand in hand. Finally, we see a hindrance in protein synthesis, the foundation of all our hard work toward Gainz. (Hanes, 2014)

Is a Little Alcohol Okay?

Now you may say, “Thomas, why does everyone keep saying that it’s okay to have a small amount of alcohol for good heart health?” Well, simply put, there are studies that have linked light/moderate alcohol consumption (like one or fewer drinks per day) with heart health. There are some catches, though. The studies found that the benefits did not help everyone; for example, those under 45 had less positive impact, younger women could have a higher risk for breast cancer, and people with hereditary alcoholism issues would not be advised to start drinking just because of this study (Gupta, 2008).

Educate Yourself About Alcohol Effects

Alcohol is not going away anytime soon. It’s part of many cultures around the world and has been for thousands of years. However, the people who are trying to get fit and stay healthy for life deserve to be educated on the topic so that they can give their body a better chance to succeed. 

Those with concerns about leaving alcohol behind can rest assured that fitness and wellness programming will not leave you behind, whether you are relieving stress, making friends, or aspiring for greatness.

For a better understanding of how alcohol affects your body, please contact the NIFS Registered Dietitian, Angie Mitchell.

Until next time… Muscleheads rejoice and evolve!

THOMAS LIVENGOOD

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

Topics: NIFS fitness Thomas' Corner alcohol gainz dietitian

Max Results with Minimal Equipment, Part 3: TRX

trx-1.jpgIn the two previous installments of “Max Results with Minimal Equipment,” we took a look at sliders and superbands, definitely two of my top “go-to” pieces of gear for when I need big results with small equipment. Now it’s time to cover the big daddy of them all in the minimal gear, max results department: the TRX!

A great deal has been written about the TRX. The work done with the TRX has been huge in recent years, and it’s no surprise that it’s one of the top fitness purchases out there. I have been recommending the purchase of this system to anyone and everyone who will listen. I recommend that you add it to not only your at-home and travel programming, but also your everyday workouts. But considering we are discussing how to get results when traveling or when you can’t make it to the gym, I will keep the awesome attributes specific to that.

Silly Rabbit, TRX Are Made for Everybody and Everywhere!

Here are the top reasons why I recommend this system as a must-own piece of equipment:

  • Portable is an understatement! Coiled up properly in its handy carry cinch-bag, the TRX becomes a small pouch that fits into any suitcase or bag.
  • The setup for use of the TRX is just as simple as it is portable. The TRX can be attached to a tree if you prefer to be outside. It can be attached to a power rack or cable cross machine. Or it can even be hung from your hotel door with a handy door-mount accessory.
  • When using the TRX to perform any movement, you are really using the entire body as well. Changing vectors and bases of support will challenge the entire system, no matter whether you are doing a bicep curl or a jump squat. The system will target your ability to stabilize the trunk in all movements that you perform.
  • The TRX can train mobility, stability, strength, and metabolic resistance. There are not many, if any, pieces of equipment that can do it all, but the TRX can. What separates the TRX from all other pieces is how quickly you can increase or decrease the intensity of the exercise. Just by changing your vector (a fancy word for angle), you can load up an exercise or make it a little easier for timed sets. A single TRX system allows you to target all facets of a solid training program.
  • Countless movement options. I can confidently say that you could rotate through the multitude of exercise choices you can do with the TRX and not see the same exercise for days. There is just so much you can do with just a single system! And if you didn’t learn all you need to know from a NIFS health/fitness instructor on how to get the most out of this equipment, the great people of TRX have complied a mass of workouts and exercises you can use to get the results you are hunting.

My Favorite Movements

Here are few of my favorite movements with the TRX: 

TRX Outside Final

Top Workouts

Enjoy one of these workouts with the TRX:

TRX EMOM: Complete the following Every Minute On the Minute for 10 minutes.

  • 5x TRX Rows
  • 10x TRX Atomic Pushups
  • 15x TRX Squat Jumps

TRX :45/:15: Complete the movements highlighted on the video in order for :45 of work followed by :15 rest.

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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 bloggers, click here.

Topics: equipment workouts TRX traveling

The First Rule of NIFS Barbell Club: Talk About Barbell Club

Today marks the beginning of our Barbell Club here at NIFS. This is a free Olympic and Powerlifting program for anyone who is looking to:

  • barbell.jpgImprove performance of one or multiple lifts
  • Improve technique
  • Learn the basics about the lifts
  • Do all of the above
You may have years of experience with these different types of lifts, or you may never have attempted or thought about attempting them in your life. Regardless, everyone can benefit from what the program has to offer. As NIFS coaches, we have great experience coaching these movements in safe and effective ways that take you through the progressions. The importance of this is paramount due to the fact that the ballistic nature of many of the movements requires injury prevention. When you think about weightlifting in terms of a food chain, Olympic and Powerlifting are the king of the jungle.

What Movements Will You Learn?

Here are the movements that may be coached during your session:

  • IMG_7315.jpgClean (Hang or Power)
  • Clean and Jerk
  • Snatch
  • Deadlift
  • Squat
  • Bench Press
How Can Barbell Club Help You?

As one of the coaches of the NIFS Barbell Club, my plan is to help out with any individual questions that members may have. If you’ve been around these lifts in the past, you know that there are many details that go into making the movement safe and successful. One of my favorite tools to use is slow-motion video. Many people have done these lifts for years and have never seen themselves do it on video. This can give you an idea of your bar path as well as visual cues with posture (head/foot position, and spine angle).

Another tool that can help you achieve your goals will be advice in programming. You may have been working on a lift for months and have made steady progress but have recently plateaued. Where do you go from there? After ensuring that your technique looks sound, my next goal would be to give you a few ideas on other lifts that you can perform to improve the main lift. For instance, you want to improve your snatch and have failed for the past 2 weeks at 93kg. Instead of continuously failing at 93, how about adding a few sets of “snatch pulls” at that trouble weight or even higher? This will help your body start to adapt to handling that amount of weight.

Can New Powerlifters Join?

But what if you have never attempted to do any Olympic or Powerlifting movement? Are you still allowed to attend? Absolutely! Beginners are my favorite individuals to instruct in these techniques because they have no preconceived notion of what the lift is supposed to be. We will help you learn the basics of the movement and let the session lead to wherever it may. As a beginner, the goal is not to be doing a full snatch or clean and jerk on day 1. More than likely, you will not be able to absorb enough knowledge within that one-hour session to do that. Instead, our goal is to build the foundational movement pattern that will allow you to excel in future training sessions.

No matter your experience level, come give Barbell Club a shot. Did I mention that IT’S FREE? You have nothing to lose and a wealth of knowledge to gain!

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

Topics: NIFS group training NIFS programs injury prevention weightlifting safety personal training powerlifting

Helping Picky Kids Get Better Nutrition

ThinkstockPhotos-474735668.jpgHas dinnertime become the dreaded time lately? Getting picky children to eat can be very frustrating. Children of different ages may respond differently to various tactics. Here are a few ideas for how you can get your child to try (and hopefully like) new foods, and get better nutrition.

Pregnant and Lactating Women

Some research shows that the foods that a woman eats during pregnancy may “program” the fetus’ food preferences later in life. Both amniotic fluid and breast milk take on flavors and odors of the foods mom eats. When pregnant and breastfeeding, try these tactics:

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods to expose your baby to an assortment of flavors and smells. This may reduce the chance that your child will be a picky eater.
  • Avoid a diet based around junk food. Your need for additional calories is not a good reason to eat food that contains no nutritional value. Doing so may increase the amount of sugar needed to experience reward in your child’s developing brain, possibly leading to loss of control and binge-eating episodes later in life.

Infants

Feed your baby variety. It often takes the introduction of a new food ten times for a young child to develop a taste for it. Most babies grimace at every new food. Keep trying a food and your baby may learn to like it.

  • Introduce vegetables before fruits so that the child does not get used to eating sweet foods all the time.
  • When eating several different foods at one meal, introduce new foods before familiar favorites. If they do not know mashed bananas are available, they may try the lima bean puree.
  • Do not avoid foods because you do not like them. Your child may learn to like different foods than you.

Toddlers and Children

As with babies, toddlers may refuse foods—not because they don’t like them, but because they begin to realize they have a choice. Let your child make other decisions, like what book to read, or what clothes to wear, but not what to eat once the food is on the table. A toddler’s growth may be slowing down, so they may eat less. If they are not eating, they may be full from snacks or juice, or they may have been served a portion that is too large. Babies and toddlers will not starve themselves!

  • Eat with your children, and eat the same things. Dad can’t avoid green vegetables, and mom can’t avoid bread or starchy vegetables; your child will pick up on that and think they can avoid certain foods, too.
  • Turn the TV off. Young children need to focus on eating, and distractions such as cartoons will keep them from eating.
  • Make foods fun! Arrange a fruit salad as a smiley face. Use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches into fun shapes.
  • Let kids play with their food, and be tolerant of messes! It helps kids experience the food’s texture and smell, and will help them eat it, too.
  • Make dips out of cottage cheese, tofu, yogurt, guacamole, peanut butter, or pureed fruits and vegetables. Your child can dip fruits and vegetables, rice cakes, toast, or other nutritious foods.
  • Find a fun character-inspired cookbook, choose a recipe, and make it together.
  • Serve one food at a time, keeping other options out of sight. Start with new foods or foods the child does not like as well first, and then add familiar foods and favorites.

More Tips for Parents

Here are some more ideas that will help make mealtimes more pleasant:

  • Don’t force your child to eat anything.
  • At most meals, try to offer mainly healthy choices.
  • Allow your children to ask for seconds.
  • Do not force your child to finish a meal, even if they want dessert.
  • Deemphasize dessert as a prize; don’t make children finish their vegetables to get it.
  • Have your children rate new foods with a pre-made “New Food Chart”: have them draw a happy face if they like it and a sad face if they don’t.
  • Finally, praise the child for trying new foods. That will encourage them to do it more often.

Hopefully by trying some of these suggestions, you can get your kids on the road to healthy eating—and start enjoying mealtimes more!

Related: Back-to-School Nutrition with Lunch Makeovers

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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 snacks lunch kids pregnancy lactation

Software Update: Why Mindset Is Crucial to Fitness Success

ThinkstockPhotos-524261293.jpgI recently attended the Perform Better 3-Day Functional Training Summit in Chicago, where the leaders of the fitness world converged to drop a whole bunch of knowledge and inspiration on fitness pros. I have been attending this, what Alex refers to as a “Fitness Concert,”every year since I started at NIFS. It is something I really look forward to yearly, and this year was even better because I had seven other NIFS pros with me. Just as in recent years, it was a great experience of learning, refocus, and reenergizing.

Attitude: A Missing Puzzle Piece

But this year I left with a different feeling than in the past. I felt that I had been missing a very important piece of the success puzzle for so long, and it had nothing to do with movement. It was probably the most powerful of everything I took away from the “concert.” Most years I cultivate new ways to challenge the body through movement and methods of training, as well as grab a few great ideas about how to help people see what their true self is truly capable of. But not this year. Now don’t get me wrong, those topics were presented, and I enjoyed hearing those concepts, but they did not create the biggest impact for me this time around. The biggest idea that created the most impact for me was that MINDSET matters the most in fitness (and really anything you want to accomplish).

Brian Grasso was the presenter who really changed the way I think about creating change, and really blew my mind (pun intended) by revealing that life’s problems are mainly due to a “software” (the mind) problem, not a “hardware” (you) problem. I am a huge believer that things happen for a reason, and me choosing to see Brian’s presentation that day in Chicago was on purpose. In a previous post I wrote about an experience attending Wanderlust and the impact the concept of mindfulness had on me, and no more than a month later I was sitting listening to Brian talk about why mindset matters the most in anything we wish to be successful in, or to create change.

“Life’s problems are mainly due to a “software” (the mind) problem, not a “hardware” (you) problem.”

My Top 5 Takeaways from the Perform Better Presentation

Brian presented so much in a short amount of time—far more than I could do justice to in a single post. But here are my top 5 takeaways from his life-changing presentation.

Mindset is not motivation. Mindset is understanding YOU and how you see and interpret the world, and how you fit into it. Motivation, or motivational speeches and activities, tends to be short-lived with a crash at the end. This cycle is similar to illicit drug use; it provides an intense high followed by an equal low. This will result in two things: the want for more of that feeling, and the feeling of failure. Brian gave the perfect example by presenting the question, “Why are Tony Robbins motivational speaking engagements always sold out?” He provides that emotional response, making people feel great, but eventually that high goes away and people are left to their original problems, and feel the need to go back and get more motivation without focusing on the main issue: a negative mindset. 

The unconscious mind drives your life: Our unconscious mind drives our lives and shapes our world. It serves as our software for our behaviors. Our software can be shaped by the sequence of the unconscious which is:

Influence            Perceptions      Belief System      Expectation
(we incur)           (we carry)           (we accept)            (we hold)

These are some pretty powerful drivers for our behavior; knowing what is driving the behavior allows us to really change a lifestyle that needs help. Our software (unconscious) can be classified as either fixed or dynamic. Fixed is thinking what you see is the absolute truth; this mindset is usually negative. A dynamic mindset is “rewriting” the unconscious and seeing yourself in other ways. Another great example Brian provided to drive home this point was this: when you purchased your new iPod, you didn’t find your favorite music on it when you pulled it from the box. You had to download the songs you wanted. Your unconscious, so to speak, works the same way; if you don’t like the song that is replaying in your head, CHANGE THE SONG!

Perceptions that we carry don’t have to be our story. Brian said something that really spoke to me: “We talk to ourselves like we would not let anyone in the world talk to us.” Simply, our negative self-talk is so, well, negative, and that it can be so hurtful that we couldn’t imagine anyone talking to someone like that. But we do it to ourselves every day. This negative self-talk stems from the perceptions we carry about ourselves, others, and life in general. These perceptions can hold us back from making real change. Brian described the story of circus elephants and how they are tethered to a post by a rope tied around one of their four legs. At a very young age, a much smaller rope is used to tie them, which is strong enough to keep them there. As the elephant ages, trainers would use the same size rope, even though the elephant could easily break through it. But they don’t…why? Because the elephant is conditioned to believe that the tiny little rope is strong enough to hold him back. Do you see how strong perceptions of ourselves can be, and how mindset is the key to unlocking potential? 

Conscious vs. unconscious. So the unconscious mind is considered the driver and where behavior is created through impulse. It is believed that the unconscious mind already knows the right answer, and the only job of the conscious mind is to make the unconscious story true. Conscious choices create behavior through action, and this is where most of today’s self-help strategies engage, at the conscious level. But if most decisions are already made, and the story of YOU happens in the unconscious mind, these strategies will be unsuccessful. “We concentrate on amending physical behaviors without recognition of the drivers behind them,” Brian said. I equate this idea with something I feel I know a great deal about, movement. If you have a bad movement pattern (negative mindset), and you load that movement pattern (self-help at the conscious level), you will simply reinforce that bad movement pattern (negative mindset). On this point, Brian shared a quote from Clinical Psychologist Dr. Sophie Henschaw; she states, “The reason positive affirmations don’t work is that they target the conscious level of your mind, but not the unconscious. If what you are trying to affirm is incongruent with a deeply held negative belief, then all that results is an inner struggle.” Pretty powerful statement considering we as a society have become so reliant on the development of goals and daily affirmations as strategies for success. But if we take time to consider that the deeper portion of our mind is what is really driving our behavior, it only makes sense that, for sustainable change, the focus is on the unconscious and strategies that deal directly with that level of the mind.

“Our negative self-talk is so, well, negative, and it can be so hurtful that we couldn’t imagine anyone talking to someone like that.”

It’s a story, plain and simple: Mindset, as stated above, is understanding YOU and your story. Your story is developed through that sequence of the unconscious (influences-perceptions-belief system-expectation), and awareness of that sequence is a powerful first step. Because here is the thing: you can change your story. It doesn’t have to be fixed! You don’t have to respond to influences with negative actions or thoughts. You do not have to carry those influences that do not lead you down a positive path. And if your belief system is based on principles and not personality and environment, it will be more apt to deal with the changing world around you.

Bottom line is, if you want to change your life, update your software and change your story. I leave you with another impactful quote that Brian shared with the group:

“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
—Carl Jung

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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 bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS fitness fitness center motivation attitude functional movement mindfulness mindset