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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Thomas Livengood

Recent Posts by Thomas Livengood:

Going for Gold: NIFS Winter Olympics Special Exercises

GettyImages-533291891.jpgEvery four years, the Winter Olympics shows up, and we are in awe of some of the most gifted athletes on the planet. Ice skaters gliding upon an edge like a razor blade, yet choreographed to music. Bobsledders who risk near death contently as they barrel through corners (mortals, like myself, need not apply). And the cross-country skiers boast some of the highest aerobic capacities of any athlete in the world. For the majority of us, riding down a hill on an inner tube does the trick, but that doesn’t mean we can’t infuse your workout with the tools to not only get a great workout, but dream for gold!

Looking around the fitness center, finding options to get into Olympic shape isn’t too difficult. With a little imagination, you can add these three exercises to your workout today with little or no skating, skiing, or bobsledding experience. Now get ready for the NIFS Winter Olympic Special: Going for Gold!

Helix Lateral Elliptical

If you want powerful legs, endurance, and balance, you might want to take a look at speed skating. Not unlike its summer Olympic running counterpart, speed skating requires a lot of practice. To accelerate, the skater pushes side to side, arms working to not only balance but also propel the body forward.

To simulate this motion, the Helix Lateral Elliptical allows you to safely perform the lower-body movement used in speed skating. Being able to do this exercise year round in the friendly confines of NIFS is a definite bonus. A built-in console allows you to track intensity and time. A quick Tabata (:20 on, :20 off) for 5–8 rounds can give your workout a nice lift. Be sure to try both directions!

Concept II Ski Erg

ski.jpgThe concept of cross-country skiing for sport comes from areas in which getting around is easier and more common on skis than trudging through the snow. Out of necessity and the evolution of transportation, people in the Nordic region of Europe are now famously known for producing some of the highest VO2 Max numbers in the world. Your VO2 Max is the quantification of how efficiently your body uses oxygen when you exercise.

With that being said, how can you get similar exercise without all the snow or burden of buying skis? Concept II, the company that makes rowing machines, designed a vertical rowing machine that can simulate the upper-body cross-country skiing pattern. Like the Helix, there is a console to track your progress, intensity, and time. Once you get the hang of the Ski Erg, you can see how far you can get in 60 seconds, rest, and then do it again!

Prowler Sled Push

Alex-Sled.jpgOne of the most fascinating events at the winter Olympics is the bobsled. A team of individuals, working as one, propels a bobsled down a narrow, icy chute. To get the sled going, the team relies heavily on otherworldly leg strength. The rest of the event takes skill and some luck, as this is a race to the finish line. The winning team usually has a complete balance of strength, skill, balance, and weight.

The exercise you can do at NIFS that mimics this movement most closely is the Prowler Sled Push. There are many sled options to choose from, but this one allows you to start in a standing position and requires you to physically push the weighted sled (no attachments needed). This can be done in several ways: heavy weights for short distance and lighter weights for longer duration as well as sprints. For a great partner routine, relay races are a perfect way to give you and some friends exercise and breaks. Have one person push the sled, while the other two are on the “ends.” As the sled approaches, the next person takes the sled-pushing responsibility and pushes it back to the starting point. This continues until a certain distance is reached or for time. Try to mark a 30-yard distance and continue this exercise for 2–3 minutes for one set. Be sure to enjoy your rest times!


Whether you are looking for a new routine or really are dreaming about the Olympics, these three exercises are sure to give you a great workout. If anything, we can appreciate the hard work and dedication it takes to become an Olympian. For more fun fitness ideas, check back to the NIFS blog and social media outlets (YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter). Until next time, friends, dream big! Go for gold!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: balance endurance rowing exercises winter skiing vo2 max olympics skating

Fitness Rescue 911: New Workouts for the New Year

GettyImages-668003598.jpgGreetings NIFS friends! Hopefully your New Year’s resolutions are keeping you more active at the gym and less active at the buffet line. All joking aside, getting back to the gym can be challenging, especially if you are not sure what to do when you get there or if you are burnt out on cookie-cutter workouts that are barely working anymore. With that being said, introducing new equipment, ideas, and strategies can be a daunting task. Don’t let that get you down, though, because we are here to rescue your workout!

Breathing life into your workout can have numerous benefits. Sometimes the benefits allow us to break through plateaus, keep us interested in what we are doing (refocusing our goals), and give us variety (aka “the spice”). Highlighted in this blog are three pieces of equipment that may be overlooked by the simple reason that we just don’t know what it is or what it can do for our body. Without a doubt, just trying these exercises will not only be challenging, but also effective as you strive to reach your fitness goals.

Tire and Sledgehammer Workouts

The tire and sledgehammer workout was derived out of simplicity, necessity, and function. There are two main exercises to consider here, tire flips and sledgehammer strikes. With an optional smaller tire, one does not have to possess the strength of Paul Bunyan to complete this task (but there are bonus points if you do). To flip the tire, first squat low and get your fingers under the edge of the tire. As you stand up, use your legs and drive your body into the tire, leveraging it up on its end. The tire should tip over easily and come to rest square on the ground.

The other exercise is called sledgehammer strikes. This is not much different than chopping wood or driving a railroad spike. Because your goals may not include having the strength of a lumberjack, there are several sledgehammer weight options to choose from, ranging from 8lb to 16lb. Strike directly in the middle of the tire to avoid a glancing strike. Try this in your next workout:

5 tire flips, 20 strikes (10 each side) for 4 sets


The slideboard was designed as a means of training lateral movements as well as developing balance and stability in the lower body and core. If done properly, this exercise can also produce a high-intensity workout all while gliding side to side. As an application, the strength and power developed from this lateral movement translates well to the world of speed skating, where athletes are known for incredible leg strength.

Because the gliding might not feel as natural to everyone, there are other exercises to consider, including Slideboard Hamstring Curls and Slideboard Mountain Climbers. For both exercises, you will need to use the booties to decrease friction (otherwise, the exercises won’t work). For Hamstring Curls, position your body toward the end of the board, with your knees bent and heels on the slick part of the board. Keeping your back flat and head down, raise your hips fully. Finally, extend your legs and return to the starting position. For beginners, this can be done with one leg at a time.

The other exercise, Mountain Climbers, is done by positioning the body at the end of the slide board in an “all-fours” position. With your toes on the slick part of the board, rise up so that your knees are off the ground. At a quick tempo, slide your legs inward, being sure to alternate legs. Additional pushups can add some variety to this movement. Try this in your next workout:

12 Hamstring Curls, 30 seconds of Mountain Climbers x 4 sets

Slosh Pipes

One thing to consider when making workouts: most of the good equipment and exercises have already been invented. The slosh pipe, a unique, homemade piece of equipment, is both odd and beautiful at the same time. It allows us to think and work so far out of the box that everyone can benefit in some way from using it. Basically, a slosh pipe is a PVC tube (3 or 4 inches in diameter and anywhere from 40 to 96 inches long) filled halfway with water and sealed on both ends. The water is meant to slosh around inside the pipe, hence the name Slosh Pipe.

Thinking outside the box, the pipes can be used to develop strength as well as core, balance, and stability. Two exercises to try here include the half-kneeling overhead hold and the walking lunges. The first exercise, the overhead hold, is pretty self-explanatory: find a slosh pipe and hold it over your head for time. The pipe needs to be moderately heavy, but if there is a question about safety, always have a spotter on overhead lifts such as this one. As you hold that weight overhead from a half-kneeling position (one knee up, one knee down), seconds turn into minutes. There is a constant rebalance happening with your core, as water tips one way or the other. Grip strength and overall upper-body strength are challenged as fatigue sets in. Lower the weight back to the floor with the help of a partner.

The other exercise is a walking lunge. This is accomplished by holding the slosh pipe in the crooks of your elbows and performing a walking lunge. The same effects as the overhead hold are prevalent. Try this in your next workout:

45–60-second half-kneeling Overhead Hold, 20 walking lunges x 4 sets


As you can see, there are several pieces of equipment at the gym that you may have overlooked. Keep looking; there are more than you think. The NIFS staff of Certified Fitness Professionals strives to give you not only a good workout, but also to introduce you to new exercises and cutting-edge equipment. If you want a new routine to save your resolution from disaster, contact NIFS’ Fitness Rescue to set up a strategy session, testing, and workout.

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS Thomas' Corner workouts challenge new year personal trainer hammer workouts fitness rescue slideboard

Core Exercises to Take You from Snore to ROAR!

GettyImages-514734718.jpgSome of the number-one fitness goals are to strengthen the core, lose belly fat, and get six-pack abs. These are all pretty good goals that can be addressed by a fitness professional and a dietitian, but everyone might not have that luxury. From a traditional perspective, we have mainly used a few ab exercises such as crunches, sit-ups, and variations of them. For the most part, these are better than the alternative—nothing at all.

But what if there is a way to get more out of your workouts that allows you to get core exercise without doing sit-ups and crunches? If you are tired of the same old ab routine, or if you are finding it hard to get to the floor to do exercise, this may be exactly what you need to know to break plateaus and possibly change your life.

How You Use Your Core

Out of the many instances in which you use your core (basically your torso, minus your arms and legs), you could find occasions where you use sit-up movements, but not to the extent that we train them (hello 300 sit-ups, yes we are looking at you!). Overall, normal functions include standing; walking (sometimes up and down stairs); sitting at a desk, in the car, or in a recliner; and standing some more. The core really doesn’t move that much; however, it does stabilize all the time. Therefore, it would make sense to train for stability rather than movement, at least some of the time. This is true for everyone from beginners to seasoned athletes, and from young to elderly. Core stability is a part of your life and you use it all the time.

Before I talk about these exercises, know that good form and good posture is the backbone that makes this all work. This goes for every exercise, but also includes standing, walking, and sitting. People tend to slouch, mainly because it’s easier to do than sitting up or standing tall with good posture. Unfortunately, slouching does not activate the core at all. Good posture, however, allows the core to engage (which also helps in the calorie-burning process throughout the day). Focusing on this daily will help strengthen the core, even when you are not at the gym.

Core Exercises and Techniques

In addition to focusing on posture, you can easily add several other exercises and techniques to any routine.

  1. Plank: Create a plank with your body. Your back must be flat; if not, you can go to your knees or introduce an incline. Proper form is imperative. To increase the difficulty, I suggest adding a leg-lift motion, alternating legs.
  2. IMG_2617.jpgAnti-rotational holds: Using either a cable machine or bands, stand perpendicular to the anchor point while holding your handle directly in front of your midpoint. To increase the intensity, I suggest introducing a kneeling or half-kneeling position, making the core work even harder.
  3. Suitcase carry: This is an adaptation to the farmer’s carry. Instead of using two balanced weights, I suggest using only one weight on one side (think about carrying a heavy suitcase through the airport). Try to keep the top of your shoulders parallel to the ground. To increase the intensity, I suggest trying the same walking pattern, but on a narrow line. This will enhance the balance difficulty. You can also go in reverse!
  4. Single-arm dumbbell press: This is a spin on a traditional exercise, the chest press. Using a flat bench and only a single dumbbell, proceed to doing a normal press pattern. If you place your other hand on your stomach, you should feel muscles in there working to keep you from rolling off the bench. You will have to engage your core to maintain posture, though. Be sure to keep your head, back, and feet in contact with the bench and floor respectively.
  5. Overhead sit and stand: What is more functional than sitting and standing? In order for you to sit and stand, your core is engaging constantly. To increase the intensity, begin by sitting and standing without using your hands. Once that is easy, try holding a weight plate or medicine ball overhead while you sit to the box and stand. Notice how much more your core is working?

As you can see, several exercises and techniques are available to assist your core training regimen. Adding one or more of these will add some much-needed diversity that will not only keep you interested in exercise but also able to break through plateaus that may have been giving you trouble for years.

If you want more information, contact a fitness professional or personal trainer at NIFS to develop a strategy to build your own core exercise knowledge library.

Knowledge is power.

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: muscles core strength functional movement posture personal trainer stability core exercises core exercise core stability plank plateaus

Physical Education: Overcoming Bad Gym Class Experiences

GettyImages-471671668.jpgFor many adults, memories of physical education class are usually one of two greatly different experiences. For me, physical education was the highlight of my day and was never a burden or stressor in my life. For others, gym class was a constant struggle invoking fear and hatred for exercise, and making us despise anything that could make us sweaty.

As we age and move into adulthood and later life, people sometimes wish for the vigor of being a young person, but the memories of a poor PE experience can stay with us and influence our decisions when it comes to everything from taking the stairs to getting a membership at a health club. This blog will help you see whether you have some underlying issues that you dealt with that have impacted your attitude negatively, and how children today are hopefully learning from our experiences.

PE Trauma #1: Associating Exercise with Punishment

Bottom line: exercise is work, and normally work is not fun (don’t kid yourself; there has to be at least one other place on earth that you’d rather be than work). For a physical educator, creating an atmosphere that gets maximum effort and positive attitude from all students can be difficult. A good teacher will make sure all students are safe and working toward their potential. Problems arise when a teacher creates a negative vibe for their students. An example of this is the classic using exercise for punishment routine. For example: Tony did not turn in this assignment; therefore, Tony is assigned 100 push-ups, or a mile run, or whatever punishment would help Tony remember his assignment. Tony would remember, alright. He was never late to turn in his assignment, but he would forever link exercise to punishment in his mind.

Fast-forward twenty years. Tony now hasn’t exercised seriously since high school because of his thought that exercise is punishment. Tony is in trouble. To reiterate, exercise is work and can’t be used as punishment, or else it will be impossible to find the motivation to exercise voluntarily.

PE Trauma #2: Teaching Exclusion Instead of Fun Lifetime Sports

Some activities in gym class challenged our mettle. There were winners and losers. Some people lost more than others (which you can argue is good or bad). The problem arises when games incorporate exclusion, such as dodgeball, which forced you out of the game, banished to the bench or sidelines to work on your sitting skills. This is definitely not productive or fun. Further, while many skills learned in PE could be used in day-to-day life, it would have been nice to have focused on games, sports, and skills that could be done for the rest of your life. Let’s face it: not many people play the games or use the skills they learned in physical education class.

When we apply our current knowledge and experience to this topic, it becomes apparent that there should be some change to the system. For schools that are fortunate enough to have physical education, providing students with exercises that promote lifetime activities and exercises that they can enjoy and get maximum benefit is ideal. We may not expect everyone to love every activity, but there has to be something that gives the students a spark to continue to move and to move often. Exercise is work, but it can’t feel like going to work (especially for an 8-year-old)—or even worse, going to the principal’s office.

Overcoming Traumatic PE Experiences

Finding the courage to overcome the fears associated with a traumatic physical education experience can be difficult. The first steps are the hardest. Realize that others with similar experiences are going through the same anguish as you are. Having a good support network of family, friends, and trusting fitness professionals is a great start. Understanding that there are obstacles and limits for everyone will help you as you tear down walls that are keeping you from reaching your fitness goals.

As a start on your path, write down some of your goals for your health and wellness. Also, answer the question, “Why are these goals important to me?” There is no wrong answer, and you can be as confidential or as open as you like about your goals. From your goals and assessments, your trainer can better program workouts tailored to you.

NIFS Can Help!

For more information regarding strategy sessions and assessments, contact a NIFS fitness professional. We are here to help you and make exercise FUN again (even if it is for the first time!).

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS exercise motivation attitude school physical education fitness goals lifetime activities

How Does TRX Help Your Workout? Try It at NIFS!

TRX-3.jpgStarting from the ground up might sound like a daunting task, but with TRX it is possible. The TRX, which can be done as a group or individual, allows its user to perform various movement patterns with varying degrees of difficulty, all while using only body weight as resistance and a routine of exercises assigned to help you reach your goals.

The Equipment

The setup, designed by former US Navy Seal Randy Hetrick in 1995, is comprised of two straps, two handles, two cam buckles for adjustments, and a locking loop for safety. The equipment can be set up nearly anywhere, including but not limited to a TRX frame, a tree branch, or a sturdy piece of furniture. The unit is rather transportable and easy to set up. With that being said, it would seem to be the most ideal piece of equipment for home exercise and gym use. Although this is true, there still is a small learning curve, which you can easily overcome with some practice.

Adjusting Intensity and Difficulty Level

When you examine the exercises, you discover that the majority of them utilize angles to both increase and decrease intensity and level of difficulty. Furthermore, relying on the handles more and more can make things much easier. When it’s time to up the workload, you can grip the handles less (which requires you to utilize more body strength to get through the exercise).

When we program a TRX exercise into your routine or in a class, we would expect that at any time someone might need a regression or a progression, so there isn’t really a reason to stop or quit—just readjustments to help you keep moving!

How to Get the Most from this Equipment

Like all equipment, there are ways to best utilize this tool to get the most out of your time. When you understand that the difficulty level is determined by balance, stability, and angles, making just a few adjustments can really help you get a better workout.

Here are some tips that may also enhance your workout.

  • Do not allow any slack in the straps. The constant tension will force you to be in control while working through your movements.
  • Practice good form by having the straps as an aid. If you are having trouble with proper form at the bottom end of your squats due to ankle mobility or posterior chain flexibility, use it to help you move into and out of precarious instances where typically you would be uncomfortable. Once you are able to do the movements proficiently, try them again without the TRX and then eventually with a weight load.
  • Add an exercise to a workout circuit. To mix it up and give you a great workout, the versatility and multitude of exercises allows you to change exercises, sets, reps, and intensity at a moment’s notice.

Most floor exercises with a TRX are more challenging due to the idea that you are using more energy to keep good form (including core muscles).

Try It in Group Fitness Classes at NIFS

What exercises have you tried? The group fitness classes offered at NIFS are for everybody. Your Fitness Specialist can modify an exercise if you aren’t ready for it or if you need a little more of a challenge. The classes also offer variety to help enhance your own “exercise library,” which will ultimately lead to more confidence. Remember that your exercises can vary from person to person, but as long as you can continue to challenge yourself, your body will continue to develop and become stronger.

Whether you are trying to improve form or get a total-body, no-nonsense workout, the TRX is an adaptable and highly useful tool you can use along the way. NIFS offers free classes weekly to help guide your workouts. If you still aren’t convinced, contact a NIFS Fitness Specialist to discuss ways we can help you reach your goals.

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS Thomas' Corner equipment group fitness resistance workout TRX body weight

Fall Fitness in Indiana: The Perfect Weather for Outdoor Exercise

ThinkstockPhotos-514312120.jpgIn Indiana, we experience all four seasons (sometimes all in the same day!). Your outdoor training and exercise regimen can be effected significantly by the season. While summer can be a fun, exciting time, exercising outdoors can be daunting and somewhat risky. While making sure you have plenty of water and sunscreen is important, a workout could just as easily be sabotaged by a trip for ice cream. Conversely, winter has its own set of challenges, including bundling up and having the proper footwear, as well as thinking about running out of daylight.

Luckily, for us Hoosiers, there is a happy medium: fall. Fall in Indiana provides us not only the ideal temperatures for outdoor exercise, but also the right atmosphere to get a jump on the busy holiday seasons. Here we discuss what you can do to make your autumn fitness lifestyle as productive as possible.

Family Exercise

Enjoying time with your dear ones can be challenging in the summer as well as winter. The kids are going to the pool in the summer, and there are so many family get-togethers in the winter, so it’s hard to relax for one weekend. There are many weeks in fall that allow for family time and exercise. Getting out in the cooler weather helps everyone become more comfortable with the environment. In turn, exercise comes more easily.

If you want your family to be more productive, raking leaves and yard work not only helps get your yard looking nice, but also gives you exercise and the self satisfaction of a job well done. Branching out from there, neighborhood cleanups tend to happen this time of year as well. You may reach out to your local neighborhood leaders to see when the next opportunity comes up.

For the Children

During the summer months, children have a lot of time to get outdoors and play. This form of exercise is a great way to develop physically and socially. With fall comes the return of school. Although many schools have recess and physical education classes, there seems to be a lack of lifetime physical fitness activities. There also seems to be an abundance of sitting. To counteract childhood obesity, getting your children the physical fitness they deserve could help keep their bodies strong and reduce the risk of diabetes.

What Can You Do?

Easy enough: GO OUTSIDE! Enjoy the foliage. Fall in Indiana produces postcard-quality beauty and charm. Although the weather isn’t bad, make sure to layer your clothing so that you can be more comfortable.

When it comes to nutrition, make sure to discipline your sweet tooth (for example, against Halloween candy) and tame your urges to try the Pumpkin Spice Everything. Boot camps are also a popular class in this season. Any group activities are a bonus because you will not only get great fitness but also meet new, like-minded individuals who can help you find a support network.

Your Challenge

I encourage you to step out this season. Get some exercise with your family and venture to a part of the state you might have never visited. There are dozens of state parks and recreational areas waiting to be explored. You can get a head start on the holiday season, and hopefully when your New Year’s resolution is on the front burner, you will be ready to go!

For more ideas for training this time of year, see a NIFS Health Fitness Specialist, who can design workout plans and discuss goals so that you are getting the right exercises to reach your personal bests. Let’s go!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS fitness nutrition new year's fall Indiana outdoor exercise

Balancing Academics and Fitness in College

ThinkstockPhotos-650623468.jpgWelcome back to school! Or, if you are new to the college experience, welcome to your first adventure in time management and balancing your life. This not only includes your academics and social life, but other areas that go under the radar as less important. I’m talking about fitness and wellness. College and university fitness centers are usually well populated with individuals with a wide variety of goals ranging from stress reduction to spring break abs, to meeting people.

Many of the students that I have met at NIFS are likeminded, health conscious, and body-image-positive, which makes coming to a campus-centered fitness center more enjoyable. In retrospect, when I was in school I found myself using the campus fitness and recreational center as a way to not only hone my training skills, but also to get away from the stress caused by deadlines and grades.

Beyond the obvious benefits, studies have been conducted that actually link exercise to getting better grades. Here is what I have found, along with some constructive ideas to help you benefit from fitness.

Set Goals

Breaking through your fitness barriers is the first step to getting what you want out of your fitness experience. In previous blogs, I have talked about setting realistic goals and expectations; because of all the time allotted to school and social life, you may find yourself in a crunch to dedicate any extra time to your goals. Choose goals that can be measured, such as coming to the gym four days per week for the entire semester or wanting to complete a 5K in less than 25 minutes. This will allow you to focus while you are at the gym and not tune out what you are trying to accomplish.

Find Motivation

Also, finding something you love to do for exercise helps. If you love swimming or plan to have swimming as part of your training goal, you should practice swimming often. Finding a support network can also help bridge the gap between your student life and fitness life. These people do not have to have the same goals as you, but it helps when training for an event. NIFS offers group fitness classes daily that are included in the membership; this is a great way to meet people and commiserate about how much fun burpees are!

See How Exercise Helps You Get Better Grades

The benefits go beyond looking good for spring break. Studies conducted at Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana, have shown that if a student works out as little as once per week, they have a better chance of having a higher grade-point average than their classmate who doesn’t work out. The findings supported not only improved grades, but also better time-management skills and mental wellness. As these studies become more and more prevalent, there is a noticeable trend for better, more suitable campus fitness centers to fulfill the needs of the students.

A worrisome trend in schools today is the deemphasis on physical education classes. From a young age, I remember having physical education class and never thought twice about how much exercise I was getting because I was having fun playing games and interacting with others. Based on the researchers’ data from Purdue, the trend of discontinuing physical education, which is leading American children down the road toward obesity and lack of knowledge regarding wellness, could affect their ability to get better grades. With anything in life, balance is the key. The right amount of study, exercise, nutrition, and recovery can benefit anyone.

Just Get to the Gym

In closing, all signs point to fitness as being undeniably great for people. We find that having a goal in mind is good, but really just getting to the gym can be beneficial. NIFS, located at the south end of IUPUI’s campus, is staffed with individuals looking to help you on your fitness journey. Along with the staff are thousands of everyday people just like you who are trying to do the same thing you are. You can do a different class every day of the week or have a trainer design a specific plan tailored to meet your needs. Welcome back and have a great school year!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Instructor and personal trainer. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS fitness fitness center Thomas' Corner motivation goals college time management

Would Metabolic Testing for Fitness Benefit You?

Hello NIFS friends! Today’s fitness world is ever evolving with new equipment, exercises, and technology. Our society, generally speaking, is one that feeds and thrives off information and numbers. That being said, how can we make something that is as simple and stripped down as running on a treadmill, basic nutrition, and the ever-so-popular “lift things up and put them down” more informative so that the exercising individual has the opportunity to quantify their progress and results?

We know the BOD POD and Fit3D are great assessments for this, but metabolic testing can take it one step further. Metabolic testing can really be a game changer for many. Two tests that stand out: one that tests your VO2 Max (the efficiency of your heart and lungs to use oxygen as you exercise), and the other being the Resting Metabolic Rate Test (RMR—how many calories your body burns in a day at complete rest and prior to exercise).

VO2 Max Testing

Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 1.51.09 PM.pngVO2 Max testing is a test to quantify the efficiency of your heart and lungs during exercise. Why is this important? An athlete who wants not only to improve times, but also to see if their training is effective, can find training zones (based on their testing) and progress based on specific training over time.

The test is usually done on a treadmill or bike and takes roughly 20 to 30 minutes. It isn’t for the faint of heart. To get optimal results, we need for you to be able to “max out” your abilities and do so without any other limiting factors (previous injuries, medications, and so on). For people who are unable to do a VO2 Max test, we highly recommend the alternative Sub Max VO2 test, which can accommodate a wider range of people looking for similar results.

RMR Testing

Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 1.51.52 PM.pngFor individuals who want to know how many calories they burn in a day (their metabolism), the RMR test is your main tool to finally take off the blindfold and know exactly how to budget your calories to match your goals, whether it is weight loss or weight gain.

Most likely, if I were to ask someone on the street how many calories they burned today, they would not be able to give an accurate answer. If this were the case, how would you know how many calories to eat to see the results you desire? Activity trackers do a decent job, but they still use plenty of estimations, which leaves even more guesswork. A doctor’s advice can be useful, but they still are limited in what they know about your body. The RMR test, again, takes away the guesswork and gives you a real number to base your nutrition from. Unlike the VO2 Max test, anyone can benefit from the RMR testing.


To recap, you are serious about your health but want more information that can make you better, right? You want to get the most out of your time in the gym, correct? You want to feel good and look even better? We have the information you need with the VO2 Max test and RMR test. You may ask, “Are these tests right for me?” The answer can be found by simply talking to one of the Health Fitness Specialists in the NIFS Fitness Center, NIFS’s Registered Dietician, to discuss what is right for you. VO2 Max testing and RMR testing are by appointment only; we hope to see you soon.

Muscleheads rejoice and evolve!

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

NIFS VO₂ Max Test and RMR are products by KORR™. Images provided by Korr™.

Topics: fitness center Thomas' Corner metabolism assessments fit3d vo2 max

Short Sleeps, Big Benefits: What a Power Nap Can Do for You

ThinkstockPhotos-530249969.jpgCan you remember preschool when the teacher would turn down the lights and break out the cots? Nap time! You might not have had that exact experience, but as humans we are prone to napping. In our go-go-go life, time is money. To society, sleeping during the day is seen as a luxury that we cannot provide ourselves, and is usually thought of as a sign of laziness.

Unfortunately, napping doesn’t pay the bills. Even so, many physicians as well as wellness-oriented CEOs have championed the idea that a little afternoon snooze is actually beneficial, and can not only provide enough rest to fight off fatigue, but improves your alertness, improves motor learning skills, boosts memory, and enhances creativity (Soong, 2010). Can napping actually make you a better employee at work, give you better results in the gym, or enable you to have a better social life with your family and friends? Yes, in fact, it can! Here is a closer look at napping and its benefits.

What Is the Optimal Nap Length?

First, I’d like to break down naps into two parts. The duration of nap that you are taking will be specific to you, but there is information that gives a good indication that for optimal power naps, 10 to 20 minutes of sleep will provide the best results. Longer naps can make you groggy; this is known as sleep inertia (Dvorsky, 2013). The longer naps, such as a 60- to 90-minute siesta, can put you in a state of REM (otherwise known as our dream state). There are some links to cognitive function associated with longer naps, but the time frame doesn’t always work with our hectic schedules.

When Is the Best Time to Nap?

The second part deals with necessity. Our naps can be planned, in which you know you are going to need extra rest for a long night, so you take a nap. Another would be an emergency nap, where you take a nap because you otherwise would have put yourself in a dangerous situation (think about getting sleepy behind the wheel and then deciding it’s best to pull over at a rest stop for a nap). Then there is the always popular appetitive napping—in other words, taking a nap for the sheer enjoyment of it (Dvorsky, 2013).

What Are the Benefits?

Your health and wellness can benefit from a simple, short nap. At the right length, your nap can provide much-needed alertness, mental capacity, creativity, energy, reduced stress (in turn reducing the risks of heart disease), and more effective learning abilities for children. With all these positives attached to something that can be done quite simply, it’s hard to understand why anyone would not take more naps. For businesses, your employees would be better workers with higher productivity; for teachers, your students would have a better chance of learning; and for you, your overall well-being would be improved. Don’t wait; take a nap TODAY!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: stress Thomas' Corner employee health sleep productivity heart disease wellness naps memory

Sink or Swim: Get More from Your Swimming Access

ThinkstockPhotos-95099348.jpgSalutations NIFS friends! Recently, our facility has begun a partnership that allows members access to lap swimming at the IU Natatorium. This amenity is something that has been on many bucket lists for some time, and now that we can say we have a pool, it’s time to get in there and take advantage of it. While the benefits of swimming are undeniable, there are some great points we can discuss for people (like me) who have found it a little more challenging to float. This blog will bring to light some interesting facts and some general ideas that can make your next swim (or float) more efficient, effective, and fun.

The Effects of Body Fat on Swimming

A big question that many new swimmers have is, “Why do I sink and you float?” The answer can be correlated to your body density and body fat percentage. Because fat is less dense than water, it floats. If you are an individual who carries a higher percentage of body fat, you are more likely to stay above the water surface. Competitive swimmers, therefore, would have an advantage to having both strong muscles as well as low body fat.

Using Aerodynamics to Your Advantage

Something else that you may notice is that some people who swim wear drag suits. The idea behind this is to increase resistance, therefore making the exercise more difficult. When a person competes, they wear normal swimming gear (making the exercise easier). There are advantages to this technique, but because most of us are recreational exercise swimmers and not in competition, this may be a moot point.

Along the same lines, you will see Olympians who not only use the drag suits, but also shave all body hair in the hope that they can shave :01 seconds off their personal best. NIFS personal trainer Kris Simpson suggests, “If you just want to swim, and do not care how fast, the extra resistance [of body hair] will get you a better workout and calorie burn.”

Treading Water for Fitness

As a total beginner, I find swimming can be quite challenging. Inefficient movements and lack of knowledge make long-distance routines almost too hard to bear and definitely less enjoyable. What I have found to be a great exercise, without using a lot of space or thought, is treading water. Basically, find a deep enough place in the pool where you can stay stationary in the water (no touching bottom or the sides) for a time. Then tread water for time, starting off with a minute and working upward. Add drag for more calorie-burning fun.

Get Started in the Pool

Whether you are swimming toward an Olympic dream or just trying to keep your head above water, swimming is undeniably a great exercise that cannot be overlooked. For NIFS members who are eligible, stop by the NIFS service desk to get your Natatorium pass. Kris is ready to help you get started as she plans to take HIT classes over to the “Nat” for training and drills.

As always muscleheads, 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 exercise Thomas' Corner swimming calories