NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Crucial Conversations: PRs Falling in NIFS Powerlifting Competition

PLM_2015.jpgThe NIFS 3rd Annual Powerlifting Competition is less than a month away, and the expectations for this year are high. From its modest beginnings, the powerlifting event at NIFS has doubled in the number of athletes registered, and the audience tripled from the first event to the second event. With big attendance and even bigger lifts, the outlook for this year’s event is very promising.

For me personally, the very cool part of this growth is that although we are currently a non-sanctioned event, the competition rises year after year. It’s about a community coming together to celebrate strength, competition, and sportsmanship. There is no shortage of high-fives and attaboys and attagirls on this fall Saturday morning. It is a great thing to witness previous strangers become warriors fighting the same war together; it’s quite moving, and impossible not to join in and feed off the energy.

A Conversation with Lifter Aaron Sparks

I had the opportunity to speak with a two-time (soon to be three-time) participant in this great event about what it takes to compete and what struggles he had to overcome to be at his best on event day. Aaron Sparks is a longtime lifter and athlete, and also works for us here at NIFS, so he is constantly around the barbell and plates. Aaron was gracious enough to take time out of his schedule to answer some questions and to share his experiences with you. Join me as we learn what it takes to take down personal records and compete at this level.

Tony: Tell the readers a little about yourself.

Aaron: My name is Aaron Sparks. I am 25 years old and currently a student in the DPT program at Indiana University. I love fitness and everything involved with it, including bodybuilding, nutrition, and powerlifting.

Tony: How long have you been lifting for strength and big numbers?

Aaron: I started lifting recreationally about 10 years ago while playing high school football, but I didn’t start taking it seriously until about 4 years ago when I started actually watching what I eat. I have been powerlifting and really trying to get stronger for the last 3 years.

Tony: Have you competed in any other fitness competitions?

Aaron: The only other fitness competitions I have been in are the two previous NIFS powerlifting competitions.

Tony: What made you take the risk and compete in the NIFS Powerlifting Competition?

Aaron: I have always loved competition and really miss it since my high school football days are over. This was an opportunity for me to show off how hard I have been working in the weight room. For the most part, not many people see all the hours you put in, so it is nice to have the chance to show people how much it has paid off.

Tony: What did it mean to you to compete in the first two NIFS Powerlifting Competitions?

Aaron: Competing was an overall great experience and the atmosphere was amazing. Everyone was there rooting for the person next to them to hit a PR, but at the same time, everyone wanted to lift more than the next guy or gal. It is always great to get a group of people together a common goal and see what they are made of. It gives everyone an opportunity to show off what they have been working for.

Tony: What struggles have you endured to lift and train the way you do?

Aaron: I’ll admit the hardest part for me with working out has always been the nutrition aspect. I love food and pig out every chance I get. On a more powerlifting related note, the hardest part is approaching each week to beat the numbers you hit the week before. Sometimes you have good days, sometimes you have bad days, but you never want to regress from the week before. It’s mentally exhausting to have to push yourself over and over again on such heavy reps so that you can continue making progress toward your goal.

“It is always great to get a group of people together with a common goal and see what they are made of.”

Tony: As a three-time competitor in this event, what brings you back year after year?

Aaron: For me, the main motivation is trying to beat my numbers from the year before, but I also absolutely love the atmosphere of the competition. Everyone is rooting for each other, but at the same time they are trying to beat the person next to them. It’s great seeing people new to the sport make progress and hit PRs. It is also a low-stress competition since it isn’t sanctioned, but it also gives people the opportunity to get exposed to the sport.

How Far Can You Go?

Aaron has placed in the top 2 of his weight class each year he has competed in this event. I know what he is after this year: VICTORY. And with his dedication to improvement, through countless workouts and nagging injuries, he is determined to be better. Aaron took a risk a few years ago in signing up to represent himself among a strong group of competitors and has reaped the rewards. T.S. Elliot once said, "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." Are you ready to see how far you can go?

There are a few spots remaining, so don’t wait to get registered for the NIFS 3rd Annual Powerliting Competition. Sign up today to be a part of a very special event hosted only once a year!

get registered for Powerlifting

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 weightlifting powerlifting competition Crucial Conversations

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

NIFS Crucial Conversations: Stephanie Whittaker Conquers Cancer

Stephwarriorhighlight12.13new.jpgWorking with phenomenal people is one of my favorite perks as a fitness professional. I often share that I have the best job on the planet because I get to spend time with just fantastic people. Witnessing the successes, the defeats, the comebacks, and the emotional victories is why I do what I do.

I began working with one of these remarkable individuals about six years ago, and knew right away that she was going to accomplish great things, and make me a better person along the way. Stephanie Whittaker, among so many other warrior-like attributes, has slain the big C, packed on a bunch of muscle, and been a leader in so many programs at NIFS. I had the honor to sit down with this amazing lady and ask her how she has come so far, what are some of her accomplishments, and what is the mindset needed to do it all.

Tony: What, if anything, motivated you toward fitness and wellness?

Stephanie: Seven years ago, NIFS was the starting point for regaining my health. I had recovered from surgical procedures and finished treatments for thyroid cancer and melanoma. Grateful for all that modern medicine had accomplished, it was now my turn to do whatever I could to restore my health and well-being.

Tony: Tell me about some of the struggles you faced at the beginning and throughout your journey, and what helped you overcome them.

Stephanie: One of the biggest struggles was accepting how deconditioned I was (overweight with zero stamina) and not getting overwhelmed by my goal of returning to my former state of health and activity. I remember my first spin class so vividly. I couldn’t keep up with the workout; my only goal was to stay on the bike that day. I was gasping for air and seeing stars, but I stayed on the bike! One of the reasons I could stay on the bike was the welcoming encouragement and energetic support of the instructor (Steven Kass).

Tony: What do you think has had the biggest impact on your transformation?

Stephanie: My ladder of progress over the next year included regular spin classes, participation in Slim It to Win It, and the Mini-Marathon Training Program. I then mustered the courage to challenge myself and try a series of Small Group Training (SGT) classes with Tony. This was my “game changer.” Prior to starting SGT, I went through a battery of physical testing, mobility assessment, and the BOD POD® calculation of my lean-to-fat ratio (oh, great!). The results were sobering; although I was not pleased with my starting metrics, Tony put that information into perspective and provided guidance to help me set achievable goals. If you don’t know the starting point, how can you measure success?

“The group training environment is one of support, encouragement, and celebrating the fun of completing a 60-minute workout that you never would have done left to your own devices.”

Now to the fun part: Group Training has been part of my life for six years. Twice a week I am one of Tony’s “Warriors,” and every Saturday I am one of Mike Bloom’s “Crew.” This is my fitness family. The group training environment is one of support, encouragement, and celebrating the fun of completing a 60-minute workout that you never would have done left to your own devices.

Over the past year I have incorporated personal training sessions focusing on Olympic lifting techniques with Aaron Combs and am making good progress. These skills translate to my group training workouts and overall improved fitness. I also continue with spin class twice a week.

“I have become comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Tony: Brag time! Tell me about some of your achievements during this time.

Stephanie: First of all, a regularly scheduled fitness evaluation (yes, more BOD POD®) and continued goal setting keeps me on track and moving in the right direction. The numbers don’t lie.

*Starting metrics: 32.8% body fat; Functional Mobility Screening results = 9. I could not do a pull-up; my flexed-arm hang with chin above the bar was 10 seconds.

*Metrics as of December 2015: 20.7% body fat; Functional Mobility Screening results = 19. Pull-ups = 6 consecutive.

*Weight loss claims and/or individual results vary and are not guaranteed.

Tony: What message would you like to pass along to all those out there working to be the best version of themselves?

Stephanie: I am personally accountable for how I live, choices I make, and how hard I work to fulfill my goals and expectations. I approach each of my workouts with a mindset of getting to my “edge” and working that edge. Over time that edge advances. I have become comfortable with being uncomfortable—not injured, but going beyond my comfort level to push my mental and physical boundaries. This is how I have transformed into a more confident, vibrant individual who celebrates life each day.

***

The proof is in the pudding. It takes hard work to accomplish the things you hope to achieve, not just in fitness, but in anything in life. I would never sugar-coat that to anyone; it does take work to do things the right way, and there is no magic pill. Stephanie is a reminder of what hard work looks like, and is an inspiration to those who have or are battling cancer and other powerful diseases. Never give up, never give in, and never take a day for granted are just a few mantras Stephanie lives by. I am honored to have had the opportunity to spend time with her all these years and look forward to witnessing not only her physical accomplishments but her leadership success as well!

Want to get started on your own path to success? Try a small group training class on us

Yes! I want to try small group training

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 center weight loss cycling mini marathon Slim It to Win It weight training Crucial Conversations cancer

NIFS Crucial Conversations: I Took My Life Back (Part I)

Katie_Before_2.jpgThere comes a time when a story of struggle, strife, and success must be shared to remind others that you are never alone in your battle, and that achievement and happiness are closer than you may think. Katie Feltman has such a story.

I have had the privilege to work with Katie for many years now, and I can remember the first conversation we had out in the fitness center about where she was at the time, where she wanted to go, and how we could work together to get there. I felt her struggle instantly, but I also felt a great deal of determination, evident from the progress she had made before coming to see me. She wasn’t going to take this battle lying down anymore!

I asked Katie to talk about her journey with me so that I could share it with those who may be looking for that spark, that notion that nothing is impossible, but I’Mpossible! Join me in walking in Katie’s shoes as she shares some of her journey with us.

Conversation with Katie, Part I:

Tony: So, take me back about four years and tell me what was going on with you at that time.

Katie: I was living a very different life. A recent doctor’s visit had revealed I weighed 286 pounds, I was pre-diabetic, I had high blood pressure, my LDL cholesterol was high, and I had just found out I had to wear a Holter monitor to diagnose heart arrhythmias I was having. I had lower back pain from herniated discs that required an unhealthy amount of daily Advil to keep at bay (and along with my poor eating habits had created a wicked case of acid reflux that ultimately became an ulcer) and I slept poorly. For 37 years of age, I wasn’t doing okay. I was unhappy.

Tony: What were some of the major struggles you were dealing with?

Katie: Like most people, I had my share of stress sources; nothing extreme or unusual, but I had an ill mother, and a job that looking back now I realized had reached a point that made me miserable. But generally I had nothing going on outside of me that should have triggered the kind of profound lack of self-care I was engaging in on a regular basis.

“I coped with my stress by pushing my feelings inward and washing it all down with sugary processed foods and wine. I made no time to take care of myself.”

Katie_Before_4.jpgYou’d think with the scary words the doctor was saying I would have walked out of there that day and taken charge of things right then. But change isn’t like that—not for me, at least. I was frustrated with how I felt, and I know this will sound superficial but it is true: I hated how I looked, which I didn’t realize then but now know was key to my struggle. Self-hate = no self care, and that was how I was living my life. I was living life in a muted capacity, and I lacked the motivation to do something about it—any of it.

Tony: Can you describe some of what you were feeling at that time?

Katie: I was demoralized and frustrated at what seemed like an impossible and insurmountable task—it was so daunting. Getting healthy, changing how I lived, and peeling pounds off. I wanted instant results from modest change. I’m an extrovert, and my social life at the time revolved heavily around eating out, going to bars, and generally going places where food and booze were the main reasons for being there multiple times per week. But there was a nagging voice in there that knew there was more out there for me—I just wanted to feel better, feel happy most of the time, cope better with the smaller, mundane stresses as well as major things, and sleep better.

Tony: How did these struggles and frustrations affect your life? What did you feel like before you decided to take your life back?

Katie: I felt unhappy, ashamed, and not in control of my own life, and generally was in a terrible place emotionally and physically. And if it hasn’t been stated clearly enough before, I felt like crap pretty much all the time and it wasn’t just physical—it was mental, too. I was in a fog much of the time. I didn’t handle even small stresses well, much less bigger things. I was just floating along with life rather than living the life I really wanted to live.

“I was just floating along with life rather than living the life I really wanted to live.”

READ PART 2 of this amazing story and learn what it took for Katie to make the critical changes that resulted in her being able to take her life back and overcome obesity and a lack of healthy habits and see measurable weight loss.*

*Weight loss claims and/or individual results vary and are not guaranteed.

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.

***

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Topics: NIFS healthy habits fitness center weight loss attitude diabetes personal training heart disease Crucial Conversations obesity making changes

Crucial Conversations: Working with a Coach or Personal Trainer

buffy5years.jpgI recently received a lesson on the origin and true meaning of the word coach. A coach can be defined as something that takes you somewhere, such as a stage coach or coach seat on an airliner. But a COACH is someone who takes you where you want to go. One of the many powers of a coach is the ability to make memories and lessons that stick with you forever, that take you places every day. I have been coached for the majority of my life before ultimately becoming one because knowing the effect these special people had on me, I wanted to be that for someone else.

But that’s me, that’s the way I am wired. But I wanted to find out from people like you why a COACH is so important. I had a great conversation with longtime NIFS member Buffy Linville and I posed the question: Why did you want to work with a coach? She had plenty so say, and I am honored and excited to share her thoughts with you.

Why did you want to work with a coach, Buffy? 

My own experience with a personal trainer came after many years of unsuccessfully trying to lose weight. I finally accepted the fact that I didn’t know how to do it on my own. With great apprehension, I approached a coach at my gym and inquired about personal training. I had to fight off the desire to “get in better shape” first (kind of the same mindset that tells you to clean your house before the housekeeper comes)! For some reason, we’re embarrassed to admit that we need help. That’s sad. In the beginning, it was scary. I didn’t know what to expect and I was afraid of looking foolish. I had never been an athlete or done sports of any kind, so I didn’t know what it felt like to challenge my body—to feel fatigue in my muscles or get my heart rate up. But I also didn’t know what it felt like to feel strong or to be able to run, jump, or climb. I didn’t know what good movement was, or how good it felt to conquer mental and physical challenges*.

“I had to fight off the desire to ‘get in better shape’ first (kind of the same mindset that tells you to clean your house before the housekeeper comes)! For some reason, we’re embarrassed to admit that we need help.

Fast-forward 6+ years… After several years of personal training and group training to various degrees and with various coaches, and after a sprint triathlon, two bodybuilding shows, and three powerlifting meets, I myself am now a personal trainer—a personal trainer who still seeks out personal training and coaching. This is partly because I want to keep learning from people who know more than I do, but also because in spite of all the knowledge I have about how to train and eat well and recover, I still need help. And I still fight the embarrassment of not being where I think I need to be fitness-wise. But this is why a coach is so important—you quickly find out that you’re not the only one. Everyone ebbs and flows in their journey to become better (be it with fitness, career, finances…coaching is valuable in any walk of life that’s important to you).

“Having someone help you establish realistic goals, create a plan, and then push, encourage, and support you along the way makes all the difference whether you’re brand new or a seasoned veteran.”

What are your major reasons to work with a coach?

  • Time and energy: Let someone else make the game plan. All you have to do is show up.
  • Expertise: No matter how much you know, someone else will know, if not more, at least something different than you know.
  • Education: It’s a professional’s job to stay current and always be learning. If you hire a reputable coach, you will likely always be learning something new—new exercises or a new/better way of doing something.
  • Accountability: You may already know what to do, but it’s easy to let things slide when there’s no consequence, no accountability. If someone is paying attention to and following up with you on your progress, you’re more likely to stay on track.
  • Assessments: A professional can take regular quality assessments to determine your progress and help you establish new goals.
  • Motivation: In addition to accountability, a coach will be your number-1 cheerleader. They know how hard you’re working and will celebrate your successes with you and encourage you through rough patches.
  • Efficiency: More than likely, you will work harder with a coach than you will on your own, which will help you achieve your goals faster.
    *Weight loss claims and/or individual results vary and are not guaranteed.

***

I would not be where I am today if not for the coaches in my life, or people like Buffy who have coached me just as much as I have coached her. Working with someone who can get the most out of you, even when you think there is nothing left, is a powerful relationship. Find a COACH, and watch them take you somewhere.

GT-logo-revised.jpgInterested in trying Small Group Training? Contact Tony today to attend a free session!

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 motivation group training accountability personal training Crucial Conversations coaching