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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Where Do “They” Come Up with These Exercise Names?

Salutations, NIFS friends. Whether you have been working out for 30 years or are brand new to fitness, one mystery that normally goes unsolved is “Where did they come up with the name for that exercise?” Sometimes it’s pretty self-explanatory (such as biceps curl), but other times it can be quite misleading (for example, Burpee). Then when you have met several different trainers, maybe they call the same thing something different (such as torso rotations versus Russian twists). It can be downright confusing.

Here we will explore a few of my favorite mystery exercises and dig a little deeper into their backstories.

Jumping Jacksjumping-jack

So, who invented the jumping jack, and where did it originate? I should preface that by saying that it is really hard to invent exercises, at least classic, iconic ones like “the pushup,” “the sit-up,” and “the jumping jack.” That being said, we really want to credit the jumping jack to the great Jack LaLanne. Although LaLanne made the exercise popular, it was already in use by the U.S. military and gets its name from a traditional toy in which a string is pulled and the arms and legs spread into a star or jumping-jack position. 

Burpees

Another exercise that carries some notoriety for name confusion is the Burpee. To a lot of people, the Burpee sounds like a made-up name for this brutal exercise. Prior to doing Burpees for the first time, you might snicker at the idea of doing some crazy Dr. Seuss-like movement, but then you do them and your opinion changes quickly. 

So, where do Burpees come from? Apparently, in the 1930s, Dr. Royal H. Burpee (sounds made up, right?) at Columbia University invented the Burpee as part of a PhD thesis. His Burpee test was meant to simplify fitness assessments and was used by the U.S. military. Nowadays, the Burpee is mostly associated with cruel and unusual personal trainers.

Turkish Getups

The Turkish Getup is in a category all by itself when it comes to mysteries. To some, it closely resembles a strongman wearing a leopardskin Onesie and handlebar mustache performing for a traveling-circus sideshow. 

As deep as that sounds, finding the exact origins of the Turkish Getup was even more challenging. It is thought to have originated in Turkey hundreds of years ago and to have been passed down from generation to generation to modern times, where it is primarily done with a kettlebell in either a kettlebell class or a during a CrossFit session. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the Turkish Getup’s reputation as one of the most intricate movements in all of fitness.

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What are some names that have perplexed you or even made you laugh out loud? Share in the comments below for an open discussion and maybe you can “stump the trainer.”

Whether you call it a squat press or a thruster, one thing we always want to make sure of is safety. Your NIFS health fitness professional will ensure you’re getting a great, safe workout regardless of what you call it. Schedule a free assessment today!

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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: exercise cardio fitness center injury prevention kettlebell personal training exercises core strength CrossFit

Big Bang Theory: Are You Getting the Most Out of Your Training?

GT-newWhen you think of the term “economy,” what is the first thing that comes to mind? Money would probably be number one, and maybe government and the idea of debt would more than likely come to mind next. There is another economy that should be as well known, and that is your training economy. Simply put, your training economy is the rate of return that you get from the methods and practices of your current training program.

How much time do you spend in the gym or working out? Are you getting the results you set out to achieve? Are you getting the best ROI (return on investment, as they say in business)? Time is one of our most valued commodities, and how you spend your time working toward your health and fitness can determine whether you are on your way to bankruptcy (injury, lack of results, etc.) or getting the most out of your biggest investment.

First and foremost, in my opinion, if you are spending more than two hours in the gym, you are making friends, not gains. If that is your thing, that’s great, but you can never say “I don’t have the time to get the results I want.” Save the Instagram photos and tweets for vacation, and WORK when you are in the gym. Most importantly, you will want to get the most out of the time (there’s that word again) you have committed to training and being the best you that you can be. There are two surefire ways to get the biggest return on your investment while in the gym: 

1. Have a plan of attack.

Needless to say, the plan (or program) is a very important step in ensuring that the time you are working toward the goals you defined is purposeful and bringing you closer and closer to that outcome. This plan should be specific to the goal you are striving to achieve, and should adhere to sound principles. This plan should be progressive. A great coach told me once that you can’t put your tie on before your shirt. Master the basics before moving on to more advanced movements. Read more about this investment step in my previous posts, Do You Even Lift Bro? Weightlifting for Beginners and Alice and Chains.

2. Emphasize “big bang” movements in your program.

Performing what are widely known as “big bang” movements is the second way to get the biggest return on your investment of time. Big bang movements are categorized by including multiple joints, including multiple planes of motion, and incorporating variable loads during the movement. Here are five of my favorite biggest “bang for your buck” movements.

  • Squat and press: Combining both upper and lower body, squat and pressing patterns, and loading the anterior core; the Squat and Press exercise provides a whole lot of BANG! 
  • Ultimate Sandbag Rotational Lunge: As your body moves in one plane of motion, the load of the sandbag will be moving in another. This awesome big bang movement will not only challenge your stability, but it also hits both the lunge and hinge patterns at one time. What a bargain! 
  • Turkish Get-ups: One of the most all-encompassing movements on the planet. The Get-up combines mobility, stability, and strength all in one package. This movement takes some practice before loading it, so take the time to master it to get the most out of it.
  • Crawling patterns: You have to crawl before you can run, right? Crawling patterns are a great way to target the entire system while performing something that is innate to us humans. Try out different variations to continue to stress the body in different ways.
  • Dead lift: Considered by some to be the “beast” of all movements, the dead lift is a huge, multi-joint-pulling motion of awesomeness. We all at one time in our day must bend over to pick something up. The dead lift prepares us for that. 

Getting the most out of your most precious gift, TIME, should be a priority in your fitness programming. Utilizing big bang movements can help you get the results you are looking for without burning the clock.

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

 

Topics: fitness center training weightlifting strength exercises

An October Workout with 6 Spooky Exercises

Can you believe that Halloween is just around the corner? Last week in the grocery store checkout line, I was gently reminded that it is that time of year again by the hoards of chocolate bars and candy corn on the counter. I thought back to what I did last year, besides the typical handing out candy and trick or treating at some friends’ homes, and remembered something I could share with you: A SPOOKY WORKOUT that I made up for a group of ladies I was training in Chicago.

Here are the six “Halloween exercises” for your spooky workout!

Scary Black Cat:

  • This is an exercise for the lumbar region of the back. Go down on all fours, being sure that your elbows and wrists are directly under your shoulders and your knees are under your hips. Arch your back upwards, hold for three seconds, then let the lower back sag and hold for three seconds as well. Do five in each direction.
IMG_0970     IMG_0971
Creepy Crawler:
  • Starting on all fours in a high plank position, you will bring your right knee up and out toward your right elbow as your left hand extends forward. Try to stay low to the ground as you alternate sides.

IMG_0976       IMG_0974

Witch Ride:

  • Start with your feet staggered and your back toe on the ground. Hold a resistance band (attached to something higher than the level you are standing at) with both hands. Descend straight down, bringing the “broom” (band) by your side. Repeat ten times on each side.
     
IMG_0978       

Full Moon:

  • Take a medicine ball and slam the ball on your right side. Then you will lift the ball overhead and slam it straight down, and finish by slamming the medicine ball above your head down on your left side.
IMG_0987       IMG_0985


Pumpkin Swing:

  • Hold the pumpkin (kettlebell) with both hands in proper swing form. At the bottom of the swing, your forearms should touch the quads, allowing the bell to almost hit you in the glutes. Keeping the core tight, thrust the hips forward and tighten the glutes at the end of the swing.
IMG_0992       IMG_0993
BOOty Lift:
  • Lay on your back with your hands by your side and your feet flat on the floor close to your butt. Squeeze the BOOty to lift your hips off the ground, making your body flat like a tabletop. Return to the starting position and repeat.

IMG_0995       IMG_0998

I hope that you are able to enjoy this SPOOKY Halloween workout! DO NOT BE AFRAID! ENTER THE HALLOWEEN WORKOUT ZONE IF YOU DARE! After a good warm-up, try going through each round three times, and finish with a cool-down.

While you're getting in the Halloween spirit, check out these other posts:

Plan for a Safe Halloween
Fitness Tricks and Treats

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

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Topics: workouts kettlebell exercises

What Elephant? Getting Past Bad Fitness and Nutrition Advice

My version of a famous Indian parable.

elephantThree blind men, who had been blind for life and who had never experienced an elephant, were brought into an area where an elephant was standing. They were placed within arm’s reach of the animal and were allowed to explore the elephant by just touching what was within their reach. They were not allowed to step closer or move side to side.

One subject was placed at the tail, the second along the side, and the third subject at the front. From what they were able to touch, their task was to describe what kind of an animal they were experiencing.

The parable has been used to show with humor how humans are quite willing to reach conclusions based on very limited information, and this is where my version takes a fitness twist.

The subject at the rear of the elephant reached out into the space in front of him. His arms moved cautiously like someone entering a dark room, groping for a light switch. Then it happened: the back of his hand bumped into what seemed to be a heavy, flesh-covered rope. He was able to grab this rope and realized it was hanging down from somewhere above his head. His head snapped back and he quickly jerked his hands away as if he had just touched a hot stove.

Excitedly, he blurted out, “This is a big snake! I just touched the tail! He must be resting on a tree limb. Big snake. Big snake.” His nostrils flared as a very strong odor raced into his head. Something had just pooped, and he hoped that he wasn’t responsible.

The subject along the elephant’s side reached forward as directed and found a massive flesh wall, and from where he stood, it seemed endless. And when he pushed against it with all of his might, it didn’t move.

He pulled his hands away, and with a confused look on his face he pronounced, “I don’t know what this is. All I know is that it’s big, and from where I stand I don’t know how big. Without knowing the height and length and the structure of the head and tail, I would be just guessing. I’m sorry, I can’t help you.”

The last subject standing at the front of the elephant had a similar experience. His searching hands found a large tube that was too big to be a tail. What could it be? As his hand moved sideways from his new find, he hit a very hard object that had a soft point and seemed to recede backward toward the animal. He cocked his head like a dog searching for meaning in his master’s words as he reached out again to touch the tube and then the soft-pointed hard bone.

He dropped his head in deep thought. After several seconds he calmly stated, “I have no idea. The large tube and pointy bone are certainly very interesting, but I need a lot more information before I can even guess.” He, too, apologized for not being of more help.

What’s the Point?

The subjects at the front and side of the elephant would have made good scientists. They clearly understood that from their very limited data, there was no basis for them to predict the totality of the animal before them, and any attempt to do so would be irresponsible.

However, the subject at the tail of the elephant represents bad science and those willing to use bad science to promote their own agenda. With more investigation, the large snake’s tail hanging from a tree limb becomes something quite different: an elephant.

Much of what we in the fitness and nutrition world think we know today is a result of bad science. Ideas are promoted as truth with the intent to profit from a motivated and yet ill-informed public. So question the diet or workout program you’re about to embark upon. Is it a real elephant or just an imaginary snake? Hint: until proven otherwise, it is closer to snake than elephant.

Research Your Workouts and Diets Before Starting

It is appropriate that the subject at the rear of the elephant is standing in elephant poop. What they are promoting is worth just that. By doing a little more research regarding the workout or diet you’re considering, asking probing questions and reading opposing views, you can avoid missing the elephant and finding yourself holding just an imaginary snake tail while standing in the smelly outcome of following bad science.

No one wants to waste time, set themselves up for injury, or follow a diet that is detrimental to their health, but in the fitness world it happens all the time, albeit with good intentions. Scientific research is slowly chipping away at the knowledge of what we are and how we function. We have come a long way in the last 50 years and we’ll certainly discover more of the elephant as time goes by.

So I advise my clients that the value of any fitness/nutrition idea depends on who you are, the nature of your goals, and the strength of the research behind the ideas that are attracting them. I also want them to be open-minded to and aware of opposing views so that their fitness/health knowledge continues to grow. Why? Because in the end, they are truly responsible for their own health and fitness, and quality information will determine the outcome.

What elephant? It's what you are seeking.

You can get started researching healthy eating here on the NIFS blog. Learn more about fitness and workouts here.

This blog was written by Rick Huse, NIFS Health Fitness Specialist. To find out more about Rick and the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

Ready to get started the right way? Start with a free fitness assessment by a NIFS Fitness Specialist.

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Topics: fitness nutrition injury prevention exercises fitness trends

10 Better Ways to Do 10 Exercises (Part 3)

Salutations NIFS blog followers! Today’s blog is part 3 of our blog series, “10 Better Ways to Do 10 Exercises.” In the preceding two installments, we took a look at bettering your pushups, helping your squats, and building better pull-downs, in an attempt to help you understand that there may be a better, safer way to exercise and that NIFS is happy to facilitate your fitness experience with these injury-prevention tips.

Now, here are the final three improved exercises.

8. Weighted Sit-ups on an Incline Board

We’ve all seen the famous boxing workout montage and its famous weighted sit-up scene. It must be legit, right? Well, to be honest, the sit-up isn’t exactly the best exercise for your spine. Again, like the torso rotation machine in part 2, we find flexion on a loaded spine to be a loaded gun that could spark any number of injuries.

A good, challenging alternative would be a dead bug on a BOSU balance ball. With your body positioned on the BOSU ball so that you are completely balanced on your back, hold your position (like a plank) without arms or feet touching the ground. To modify the exercise, tap one heel to the ground to regain balance. Start with a 30-second period and progress in time as you become more proficient.

WEIGHTED-BENCHBOSU

9. Rotating Shoulder Shrugs

The shoulder typically gets a lot of workload, especially when you think about its role in so many exercises. Shrugs, though, are a classic bodybuilding movement and have their place among those who are trying to sculpt their bodies. The main problem lies with the impingement in the shoulder while performing a rotating shoulder shrug.

You can alleviate the need for a shoulder shrug by taking it out of your routine altogether and focusing more on overhead dumbbell press (which works the shoulders as well as the traps). For those who still want to do a shrug, I suggest making the movement simpler by shrugging only up and down.

SHRUGOVERHEAD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. Kip Pull-ups

Kip pull-ups can be considered an exercise that teeters on the edge of dangerous. The exercise itself, if done properly, can be seen as a tool for individuals seeking to increase stamina in the upper body when there is a lack of strength to perform standard pull-ups. By using momentum, an individual is able to “swing” themselves into a pull-up; creating substantial stress on the shoulders and connective tissue that holds it all together. What makes the exercise most dangerous is when underqualified individuals teach inexperienced, deconditioned individuals the exercise improperly (which can be said about all exercises).

To get an idea of where you should start, begin training with an assisted pull-up machine, gradually decreasing weight until you are able to do multiple sets and reps without extra weight. Perform the exercise fairly deliberately, counting a three-count on the way up and down and making sure to breathe. Force yourself to have good posture from the very first repetition. If done properly, lats, biceps, grip strength, as well as core should all improve in strength. If an assisted pull-up machine is not available, another option is to use a superband on your foot or knee to simulate the same move.

MACHINE-PULLUPband-pullup

I hope you have been inspired to branch out and try new exercises that we feel will give you the safest workout with the best results. If you have any questions regarding program design, do not hesitate to contact the NIFS track desk to schedule an appointment with a degreed, certified staff member.

Muscleheads, rejoice and evolve!

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

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Topics: fitness center injury prevention strength exercises core strength

10 Better Ways to Do 10 Exercises (Part 2)

Salutations NIFS blog followers! Welcome back! In part 1, I discussed how to perform effective pushups, improved treadmill walking efficiency, and a more challenging way to do the classic bicep curl, making these more effective exercises. Understandably, we all have our own idea of what a workout should look like, which exercises work best, and which exercises make us almost want to quit. Here I continue our mission to take your fitness knowledge library to the next level.

4. Behind-the-Head Lat Pull-Downs


In most gyms, a good trainer will tell you not to perform a behind-the-head pull-down, but we must ask ourselves, “why not?” If you have the luxury of having a good trainer, they will tell you it is because it is bad for your rotator cuffs, which is mostly true. I feel that even if you are doing this exercise and not experiencing pain, it’s still not a natural movement for your body to perform.

I recommend doing a standard lat pull-down, in which the bar comes to about eye level (or the bottoms of the arms are parallel to the floor) in front of the face. Not only will this be a safer movement, it is more akin to what your end goal could be: standard pull-ups.

back-lateral

    front-lateral

5. Weighted Torso Rotation Machine

The idea here is simple: Train your core like any other muscle group with the ease of a machine. The bad news is that your spine and disks in your back aren’t meant to be under that kind of stress, which can be a big problem for individuals with weaker cores. I would avoid this machine if possible and replace the exercise with some modern gym science.

One option is a side plank reach. While performing a side plank, reach through the space between your body and the floor. Our core can respond to mobility training, but this requires stability as well, making for one tough exercise. No weights are required, and you can modify by going to one knee on the bottom side.

torso-rotation side-plank

6. Stability Ball Bench Press

Of all the exercises we will discuss, the stability ball bench press may be considered one of the most dangerous. The idea of using a stability ball is appealing for individuals who want to get the most out of their training and improve core strength and balance, but what they do not realize is that there is a stability ball weight capacity. The ball is intended to support your body weight, not your body weight plus 75-pound dumbbells. If you are a 200-pound person using 150 pounds of weight on a stability ball with a capacity of 350 pounds, you can easily see where the danger arises. In a worst-case scenario, the ball bursts, you end up with a broken back, and life won’t be the same again.

If you are interested in a good core challenge while doing bench press, try single-arm dumbbell press on a normal flat bench. It’s the same as traditional dumbbell bench press, except with only one dumbbell. To counteract the imbalance on the bench, your core has to work just that much more to stay on the bench. Be sure to do both sides.

stability-ball-press bench-press

7. Knees-over-the-Toes Squat

The idea that squatting over the toes is bad dates back many years, almost so long ago that a lot of people have no idea why it’s bad. A common misconception is that it causes way too much stress on the knee and could cause injury. This can’t be 100 percent true because in day-to-day life as well as athletic performances, we track our knees over our toes, and many times it will be in a higher-stress event such as doing heavy yard work or scrimmaging in volleyball. The underlying problem with knees-over-the-toes squats is the tendency to lean forward as we squat, which shifts our hips out of position and in turn our back out of alignment.

For starters, I would start over, developing a new squat pattern from the ground up, known as a primitive squat. A primitive squat, not unlike what our ancestors used for day-to-day tasks, is a good place to begin reprogramming your lower body. Use a TRX for assistance and squat as low as possible without weight, pausing at the bottom for a brief moment. Stay back on your heels as though you are sitting in a chair. If you are experiencing tightness, hang out at the bottom of the squat to stretch and loosen up the muscles. As unnatural as it feels, primitive squats are one of the most natural exercise positions your body will ever be in and will also help if you are invited to have a cultural dinner experience in Tokyo.

Squat-new TRX-squat

This concludes part 2 of “10 Better Ways to Do 10 Exercises.” As you can see, there are many topics to discuss. Skip to Part 3 for exercises 8 through 10: the dangers of rotating shoulder shrugs, are weighted sit-ups worthwhile, and what can a kip pull-up do for me? Until next time, muscle heads rejoice and evolve!

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

 

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Topics: fitness center equipment shoulders injury prevention muscles core dumbbell exercises

Training to Improve Barefoot Running Strength and Function

453099757Over the past decade, there has been an increase in the popularity of barefoot training or training in a minimalist shoe such as a Vibram Five Fingers, especially with running barefoot. Along with this has come a lot of controversy about whether barefoot training is detrimental or beneficial. No matter which stance you agree with or practice currently, I think anyone would agree that it is important to have functional and strong feet and ankles.

Going barefoot compared to wearing shoes will force your feet and ankle muscles to work harder initially, therefore making them stronger. It will also improve the mobility of the foot and ankle. Wearing a shoe takes a lot of the work away from the foot, which leads to dysfunction, imbalance, and weakness over time. This is all-important because your feet are what connect your body to the ground and ultimately play a contributing factor in your stability, posture, and balance.

For those who have not adopted a barefoot or minimalist shoe lifestyle, it is important to incorporate barefoot exercises into your workout routine to improve foot and ankle function and mobility for these reasons. Here are a few exercises to perform barefoot that you can incorporate into your exercise routine and see quick improvements!

Beginner: Work on single-leg balancing. Press your big toe, small toe, and heel into the ground equally and try to hold your balance on one foot for 20 to 30 seconds.

Intermediate: Once you are comfortable balancing on one foot,try catching and passing a ball to a partner or against a wall in the same position. This will further challenge your balance by adding in the element of movement in the upper body.

Advanced: Incorporate barefoot plyometric exercises. Be sure to reinforce activating the muscles in the foot by landing on the three points of your foot discussed in balancing. One example of a plyometric exercise is to jump over a cone on one foot and land on the same foot on the opposite side.

If you are ready to make exercise a priority in your life NIFS is here to help. Membership at NIFS includes a personal assessment and training programs designed for you by a Health Fitness Specialist. Try NIFS free for 14-days and see how we can help you make exercise a priority.

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

Topics: running injury prevention muscles exercises plyometric

5 Core Exercises to Make You a Better Runner

Runners are generally good at doing the same thing over and over again, day in and day out: RUNNING! Oftentimes they will neglect doing some of the components of what runners refer to as “the little things” that pay huge dividends in overall performance and how you feel while running. The little things include sleeping enough, eating right, staying hydrated, maintaining flexibility, and core strength, and the list goes on. When there is limited time in the day to get in a quality run, the thought of cutting a run one or two miles short to do core and flexibility work is often quickly neglected.

Core strength and endurance is a critical component that should not be neglected by anyone, especially runners. Since running is a repetitive movement, the muscles in the body can become imbalanced when cross training, strength training, and core conditioning are not included in the training plan, which can lead to injury.

Here are 5 simple exercises that you can incorporate into your daily training plan with no additional equipment. All you need is 5 minutes!

  • Planks: plank-2Lay flat on your stomach and tuck your toes underneath. Raise yourself up onto your elbows and toes. Hold this position, maintaining a straight line between the top of your head and your tailbone. Do not let your hips sag down too low or press up too high.

 

  • Bird Dogs: Start in a tabletop position with your wrists beneath your shoulders, knees below the hips, and a flat back. At the same time, extend one arm out in front of you as you extend the opposite side leg behind you. Bring the elbow and knee together in the middle to complete the movement. Complete sets on both sides of the body.

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Bridges: Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Bring your heels as close to your hips as you can without pain. Press your hips up as high as you can while keeping your feet in contact with the ground. Hold for a 2-count and return to the start position.

bridge-2







 

  • Hip Hikes: Standing tall in a neutral position with one foot flat on the ground on an elevated surface, drop the opposite side of the body below your pelvis on the side of your grounded foot. Activate the grounded leg’s glute to return back to the start position. Complete sets on both sides of the body.

Foot-dips

foot-dips-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Try these 5 exercises before you go out for your next run. Start out completing just one set of each exercise. Hold the plank with good form as long as you can and build up to 1 minute. For the rest of the exercises, gradually build up to 3 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions. Once you get the hang of this, it will not take you any longer than five minutes to complete. This method will give you a great start to adding core exercises to your running routine.

Here's another core workout you can try.

If you are looking for a marathon training program consider joining the NIFS Fall Half and Full Marathon Training Program. It is geared toward preparing individuals to complete the Monumental Marathon. Training starts July 22nd!

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

Topics: running injury prevention training flexibility strength core exercises