NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Choosing the Best Obstacle Course Race for Your Fitness

ThinkstockPhotos-481448438.jpgThe weather is getting warmer; people are starting to take their running from the treadmill to the streets and training for upcoming spring races. With the warmer weather comes endless options for races to run and events to participate in. Maybe you are up for a new fitness challenge this year, a type of race that you have never tried before.

Obstacle course races (such as Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash) are new and exciting to a lot of runners. They bring something different from the normal concrete road races—something enticing, new, and exciting! If you are considering an obstacle race this year, here are five things to consider when picking which one is best for you.

Distance/length: A cool thing about obstacle races is that the obstacles break up the total distance of the race. You may be able to run further than you do in a typical road race because you will get intermittent short breaks from running while completing the obstacles.
Number of obstacles: Some races are full of obstacles, while others have just a few along the course. Having an idea of how many you are willing to complete will help when picking the race. Most races give you the number of obstacles before you register.
Difficulty of obstacle/option to skip: It is important before you sign up for the race to make sure you are able to accomplish the obstacles at hand; in many races you are not able to skip over them. Electric shock, crawling through mud with barbed wire overhead, monkey bars, cliff jumps… while it may be fun for some, not everyone digs this! Be sure to check out the difficulty level to make sure you are up for the challenge.
Group vs. Solo: The great thing about races is that they bring everyone together, and people are generally friendly and “suffering” through the race right there with you. Some obstacles require teamwork to accomplish, and due to the nature of the course, no doubt someone will be there to help you out. If you do it with a group, you can help each other out; otherwise plan to use your new friends to assist you.
Training: If your typical workout consists of only running, changing up your training before the race is something to consider. You want to be prepared for the obstacles that will be thrown at you. Breaking up your run with different types of strength exercises will be a great start when preparing. Stop by the NIFS track desk and an HFS can help you design a program that will help you prepare for obstacles.

Although these are just five factors to consider when deciding what obstacle race to run, hopefully they will help with your decision. Go out and pick one that is the best fit for you.

Happy running!

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This blog was written by Kaci Lierman, Personal Trainer. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS fitness running obstacle course race spring

Water Fitness: How to Get Better at Swimming

ThinkstockPhotos-103584574.jpgIn my previous blog on swimming, I talked about the vast benefits that can come from adding lap swimming into your off-season workout regimen. But maybe you are already comfortable in the pool and swim on a regular basis; wouldn’t you like to get better and become more efficient in your stroke? By taking small steps to improve the different components that make up the specific strokes, you can become a better swimmer in a decently short amount of time.

Focus on Form

As other sports, form tends to be one of the key players in overall success. Each stroke has a certain form that will allow the swimmer to be more efficient. Take some time to research the different strokes that you like to do and learn the correct form. Whatever swim stroke you happen to choose, the different pieces will consist of breathing, kicking, arm movement, location of chest and hips in the water, and what you do with your hands, feet, and ankles. I know it seems like a lot to think about, but you may really benefit by simply understanding what the stroke should look like.

Breathe More Efficiently

Breathing tends to be one of the hardest elements of a swimmer’s performance. Getting the breathing technique down right takes time, practice, and patience. Master breathing by using a kickboard or holding onto the side of the pool before combining it with the actual stroke and movement in the water. You also will need to learn your breathing cycle—for example, if I am swimming freestyle, do I need to take a breath every three or four strokes? You may need to learn to breathe on both sides and be able to turn your head to the left and right to get air.

Learn the Body Roll

This movement is used specifically in freestyle. Have you ever seen someone swimming freestyle (on their stomach) and when it’s time to take a breath, they pick their entire head up out of the water? The body roll will allow you to efficiently roll your upper body (and partially through the hips) to get air so that only part of your head is not in the water. This movement can be learned easily using different pool equipment like a pull buoy.

Slow Down

We all have the tendency, when getting into the pool to do some laps, to go a million miles an hour. Whether or not you mean to do it, you will quickly be made aware that you need to slow down because your breathing will remind you! Take your time, be patient, and learn the proper technique in every stroke by putting your foot on the break. You will be amazed, when you slow down the pace a little bit, at how long you can actually swim!

Develop an Efficient Kick

Another great way to improve your overall swimming skills is to learn the different kicks that go along with the various strokes. Each kick has specifics in how far to pull your heel back, how big of a splash you should be making, how far below the surface you want your hips and legs to be, etc. Utilize a kickboard or the wall, as you do in learning to breathe right, to master the different kicks.

Utilize Equipment

There are so many great tools out there to help you learn to swim better. Utilize things like kickboards to improve your breathing and kicking, pull buoys to work on your stroke, and fins to work through power kicks and master the body roll. At most pools you will usually see hand paddles to work on power in the pulling motion to propel you through the water faster, and maybe even gloves that have webbed fingers. All of these things will allow you to work on certain pieces of form one at a time.

Learn the Turns

When I was younger, I spent hours in the pool trying to learn how to do the flip turn. And while many think it’s simply “cool,” the flip turn happens to make your swim efficiency shoot through the roof. This move will also take some time to learn, but if you are patient and work on the timing of the flip turn, your lap swimming will soon be quicker.

Watch and Evaluate

Do not be afraid to have someone watch you and evaluate the different strokes you are working on. Often someone outside the water can easily tell if you are kicking too hard, slapping the water during your stroke, or not efficiently breathing. Take some time to have someone watch and give you tips to work on.

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While this can seem like an overwhelmingly large list of things to work on, just choose one thing at a time. Each small tweak will make a huge impact on your overall swimming performance.

Remember Natatorium lap swimming is now free with your NIFS Membership! Learn More.

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

Topics: fitness equipment swimming workout sports

Let NIFS Help You Achieve Your Fitness New Year's Resolutions

ThinkstockPhotos-579401104.jpgA New Year is a great time to reset goals, start over, or accomplish something new. Maybe this is the first time you are getting serious about your health and you are ready to begin your fitness journey. I love the thrill of new goals being set, seeing unfamiliar faces in the gym, and fitness becoming a priority for the first time in people’s lives.

Being well into March already, the question arises: are you still on track to accomplish your goals and resolutions for 2017? Allow me to suggest some tips to help keep you on track so that when December 31st comes around again this year, you won’t be making the same fitness goal for 2018 that you made for this year.

Tips for Accomplishing Your Fitness Goals

Many people set unrealistic goals or expect instant results. Once life gets back to the “normal” routine after the holiday season, the fitness goals once again fall on the back burner. Not this year! Here are some tips to help keep you on track all year long:

  • Set weekly or monthly goals—with your end goal in sight. Write them down, hang them up where you can see them every day, and cross each off after you have accomplished it. Leave the list up with the items crossed off so that you can continue to track your progress and see your success.
  • Allow for life to happen on your journey to meet your fitness goals. Some weeks are crazier than others; kids get sick or work is insanely busy. Plan that into your week and do not let it knock you completely out of your fitness routine. Find ways to get yourself to the gym during the crazy cycle of life.
  • Set realistic expectations. Don’t expect to go to the gym 7 days a week. Take baby steps and make your goal to get there 2–4 days a week to start. Getting there a few times is better than not at all.
  • Lack of time should not be an excuse. Everyone has 24 hours in the day, so don’t let time become a factor in not being able to make it to the gym. A 20–30-minute workout is sometimes sufficient for working toward your goal. Be efficient with the time that you do have and make the most of even 20 minutes.
  • Don’t let one bad day ruin your week. Healthy fitness and nutrition choices are sometimes hard during the busy days. Tomorrow is always a new start for eating well and getting your workout in. Pick up where you know you should be and keep moving forward.
  • Don't make excuses. Excuses usually start to build up toward the end of January and beginning of February for how you are unable to make it to the gym. Don’t get caught up in falling for them! Keep that New Year’s excitement going into February and March with new weekly or monthly goals to accomplish.

Get Goal-Setting Help from NIFS

If you feel like you are in a goal-setting slump, ask a NIFS health fitness instructor for ideas or tips to help you get out. Remember to keep your end goal in sight. You do not need to wait for the New Year to start a new fitness journey. Don’t be the person telling yourself, “There’s always next year”; be the person who says “I am so proud that I stuck with my routine and accomplished my goal this year!”

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This blog was written by NIFS Personal Trainer Kaci Lierman. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS fitness goal setting resolutions new year's

Thomas' Corner: More Moving, Less Sitting for Better Fitness

Hello NIFS friends! Have you noticed that your metabolism is slowing, weight is harder to keep off, or that your strength is fleeting? Well, you are not alone; many people like you struggle with these issues. Although there are quite a few reasons for people to fall behind on their goals and feel dissatisfied with their health and wellness, this blog is dedicated to simply standing up (literally) and taking on the day with the mindset that all movements matter, no matter how small.

ThinkstockPhotos-525728274.jpgThe More You Move, the Healthier You Can Be

As kids, play and exercise were more active for many of us in the olden days. Some of us couldn’t sit still for five minutes and were constantly moving. It was part of the job! With that being said, there were some kids who ate food as if they had a hollow leg and never gained as much as an ounce of fat. It’s not challenging to correlate the links between activity, metabolism, and wellness; the more daily exercise you have in your life, the more control you can have of your overall health (and excessive sitting has many risks).

Furthermore and along the same lines, the decline of activity in our lives can almost always parallel the decline of not only health, but also muscular development, body composition and resting metabolic rate numbers, and increased chances for injury. Without a doubt, nutrition is key to improving overall body composition, but without exercise, often we see many consequences that can leave us dissatisfied with our well-being.

How to Sit Less

My challenge to you: SIT LESS. During your daily routine, try to move more and be idle less. At the gym, if you have an exercise that includes sitting, find a way to work the same muscle group standing up. An example of this would be a standing chest press on one of the dual cable cross machines. Not only are you working chest, shoulders, and triceps, but you are also developing core and balance, which might not be achieved using conventional chest press machines. This is just one example out of hundreds of exercises that can change and challenge your fitness game plan.

If you are interested in learning more about these types of exercises that can get you up and moving, contact a Health Fitness Specialist or personal trainer at NIFS. While an HFS can make your personalized workout exciting and safe, personal training can take your fitness experience to the next level with motivation and accountability. Whatever the case may be, TAKE A STAND, for your health.

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 fitness Thomas' Corner accountability balance personal training sitting

Acting Out: Make Changes for Health and Fitness (Not Excuses)

ThinkstockPhotos-589558764.jpegOf the many lessons that the recent events have provided, one that stands out to me is that anybody can be anything if they take action and pursue it. Establishing goals and setting your mind to accomplishing certain outcomes is important, don’t get me wrong, but action is what ultimately will create change in any aspect of your life.

A rather large pet peeve of mine (I know I have a few) is the behavior of being the first and loudest to complain about something and being the last to do something about it. That is not inspirational, and is a weak character trait, in my opinion. More importantly, individuals who exhibit this approach to life are usually the unhappiest. In my experiences on this planet, the happiest and most successful people are those who take action and make changes, and not excuses.

Questions for Health and Happiness

So here are some questions I feel you should ask yourself if you are currently not as happy and healthy as you hope to be, followed by actions that you can take to help right the ship and have the life you have always dreamed of having.

Question: Are you tired most days?

ACTION: Get more sleep! Turn off the TV and tablets and aim for 7 to 8 hours of good sleep every night (including the weekends).

Question: Are you hungry?

ACTION: Eat real food! Enjoy food that is close to its source and is nutrient dense, not calorie dense.

Question: Are you stressed out?

ACTION: Plan better, implement strong time-management strategies, and devote 80% of your energy toward the top 20% of what is most important to you.

Question: Are you unhappy with your current body composition?

ACTION: See the second ACTION and exercise! Eat the majority of your calories from lean protein foods and vegetables, eat slowly, and remove processed items from your menu. Move every day for at least 30 minutes at moderate intensity, lift heavy things, and sprint once in a while. Keep it simple, and keep it consistent!

Question: Do you say to yourself “I don’t have enough time to be happy and healthy”?

ACTION: Get up early! Stop hitting the snooze button and hit the floor running! There are 24 hours in a day; subtract 8 hours of sleep and 8 hours of work and you have 8 hours remaining. That is a lot of time to prep food, work out, read, spend time with your family, improve your home, and improve yourself. You can get a lot done in 8 hours if you take ACTION and not find ways to waste it.

Question: Are you unhappy in your relationships?

ACTION: First of all, change your circle and remove those who are toxic to you and your life. Second, make more deposits in the emotional bank accounts of those strong and positive relationships and stop withdrawing from them. Examples of withdrawals from these accounts are being untruthful, being late, insults, being undependable, and being hateful. Deposits are going out of your way to show someone you care, sharing, inspiring, and spending time with them. Building powerful relationships in your life is very important, so keep a surplus in those emotional bank accounts.

Question: Do you have a negative attitude about most things?

ACTION: Develop a positive and dynamic mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset. In a recent blog, I stressed the importance of mindset as it relates to change. If your unconscious story is a negative one, filled with self-pity and excuses for things being the way that they are, your conscious mind will simply carry out that negative story. Dive deep and analyze your story through journaling, counseling, and other strategies to write a more positive story of yourself and rid yourself of self-imposed perceptions that are holding you back.

Question: Are you ready for a change?

ACTION: Stop talking about it, and take ACTION!

Time to Do Something for Your Health and Fitness

So here’s the bottom line: To create change, you have to get up and take ACTION to get it done! No more talking about it; it’s time to do something about it. If health and fitness is an item on your action list, contact one of our outstanding instructors here at NIFS to help guide your way with an assessment and a personal fitness program and take ACTION toward a healthier, more fulfilling life.

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

Topics: NIFS fitness goal setting health assessments mindset lifestyle happiness making changes

Fitness Training Types: Find Your Method

bands-1.jpgIf you take a few minutes to google the various types of fitness training out there, you will come up with a list of about 10 different ones, and then 10 more different variations of each of those. And each year more and more “fitness trends” come out, making it quite confusing for the consumer as to what to choose and where to start. It can be confusing and even frustrating choosing what is right for you and your body.

And to take it a step further, maybe the results you want that you aren’t getting are because you need to try something different. Maybe that different thing does not have to be some crazy, drastic change in gyms, your diet, or everything in your life. In fact, maybe it’s just a workout style that suits you better. Each product you see today—like CrossFit, Orangetheory, and Dailey Method to name a few—all follow a specific training method. And what works for one person doesn’t always work for the next.

I have narrowed it down to five categories of training methods, so let’s take a look at what each one is, and I’ll help you narrow down your focus.

Circuit Training

High intensity–style workouts that incorporate both aerobic exercise and strength training. These circuit workouts can be done with or without equipment.

    • Target: Building strength and muscular endurance. These workouts tend to keep you on the higher end of your heart rate zones and are usually designed in stations for time, with little to no rest in-between.
    • Goals: The circuit training method of exercise is good for those people who are looking for weight loss, are in a time crunch, or are looking for overall general fitness, a total-body workout, and toning. Many say this is where you get the most bang for your buck because you can get the results you are looking for in less time.

Aerobic Training

This type of training is generally summarized as meaning “with oxygen” or cardio training.

    • Target: These workouts tend to target the cardiovascular system, mainly the heart and lungs. In most cases it’s associated with running, biking, swimming, jumprope, step class, and other cardio-based exercises. This style of training helps to increase your cardiovascular endurance and open the gap in your heart rate zones.
    • Goals: The aerobic training style is good for those looking to lose weight, for specific training programs like marathons, for athletes looking to increase performance and endurance as well as recover appropriately, and for those trying to reduce the risk of chronic illness like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

Heart Rate Training

ThinkstockPhotos-520046406.jpegThis type of training is specific to each individual and their personal zones. You can read more here about HR training, but this training method is focused in on zones like fat burn, cardiovascular endurance, peak performance, and recovery. In many cases, HR training is viewed as the all-around best training method there is.

    • Target: Heart rate training helps to increase endurance and sustainability in workouts by allowing you to peak and recover in a way that is specific to your body. Training zones are identified by doing a VO2 test.
    • Goals: For anyone and everyone! Typically people training for endurance races like Spartans or marathons, or athletes honing in on max results and recovery, for the person who is totally burnt out after each workout, and all the way to people who are on medications that affect their heart rate.

Flexibility Training

Contrary to what I know everyone is thinking, it’s not just yoga! Forget the general stereotype of moms walking into the gym with lattes, flip-flops, and their yoga mat; this training style is probably the most important, yet the most neglected. It incorporates corrective exercises, stretching (both static and dynamic), and movements from head to toe.

    • Target: To improve flexibility, mobility, range of motion, balance, and better posture.
    • Goals: Another method of training that is for everyone! If you are not a yoga person, it’s time to start! Yoga folks, dancers, runners, meatheads: this is for you, too! Flexibility training is for every single person who wants to enhance their training in any way.

Strength Training

deadlift-3.jpgStrength training typically is done with heavy weight but can be done with lighter ones as well. This style of training is directly associated with Newton’s law: mass x acceleration = force.

    • Target: To increase muscle strength.
    • Goals: Perfect for those looking to put on mass; can be good for those who don’t have a bunch of time to train; also good if you desire to move heavy things.

What should you do from here? If you are stuck in a rut or want to find the method that is going to be most effective for you, take some time to define your goals, figure out what is realistic for you, and take into consideration your past exercise experience. All these things play into what will work as well as what you like to do while in the gym.

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

Topics: NIFS fitness yoga circuit workout training flexibility strength core strength goals heart rate strength training methods aerobic

NIFS Member Profile: Cody Hunter Crushes His Fitness Goals

Cody_ today.jpgCody Hunter_Before.jpgAs the new year is here, we start forming new goals for the next. I would like to share a story of a member who has worked incredibly hard through 2015 and 2016, has crushed all of the weight loss and fitness goals that he set and then some, and who has transformed himself completely in front of everyone who has seen him.

Cody Hunter joined NIFS two years ago in 2014, with overall goals of losing some weight, being healthier, looking more fit, and feeling better about himself. When Cody started working out at NIFS, he weighed close to 290 pounds. His current weight is in the 190s, and his most recent BOD POD has shown him down to 7% body fat*! Cody has proven to all of us how goal-setting and turning fitness into a lifestyle, rather than a chore, can be not only attainable, but also rewarding! Read below for Cody’s thoughts on his own journey, as well as tips if you are just starting out or need some motivation for your own.
 *individual results vary, and are not guaranteed.

How did you get started on your fitness journey?

When I was in high school and during my youth I was always on the bigger side. I played offensive and defensive line in football and that meant that I was a bigger player as well. Throughout the first part of my college career I ballooned to my biggest point. I just got to a point where enough was enough and decided to start my journey. I knew that I could be a better person if I was happier with myself in my own body.

What was your exercise regimen when you first started out?

When I started I was working out 5–7 days a week, working on my cardio and lifting. I would play a lot of basketball and then lift afterwards.

Did you make any nutritional changes? If so, what was your game plan?

When I first started working out I was stricter with my diet than in the past, but not as much as I should have been. I decided that I would drop all sweets, soda, and junk food. After making these changes and really focusing on fueling my body with the correct food and nutrients, my weight started to fall off.

How did you maintain these habits? Did you have any struggles along the way?

After going as long as I did without sweets, it was fairly easy for me to keep on a fairly regimented diet. I saw the results and knew that if I kept doing what I had been doing, I would only get better. I definitely had struggles. Everyone has the cravings for sweets, but I just knew that if I stayed strong and made the right choices, good things would happen.

Did you have any help with accountability (family, friends, etc.)?

My family, friends, and coworkers were all very helpful with keeping me in line with my regimen. At family get-togethers my mom would always make sure that the sweet was something that I didn’t really care for, so there was no temptation for me to have any. My friends and coworkers would do their best not to eat anything bad around me, to not make me feel left out or tempted to break my diet.

Have you conquered any specific goals since you started your fitness journey?

My first goal was to run a 5K. I accomplished that, and then I was talked into signing up for the Mini-Marathon. I trained a lot for that and was able to complete that as well. Over time I have done three half marathons in total and I have dropped about a half an hour on my time since my first one.

What are your current goals to help stay motivated?

I have been doing CrossFit training for about 4 months now and it has been really great. I wanted to have something that would present me with constant new goals and challenges; something that would really get me into the best shape of my life.

What advice do you have for anyone out there who might feel like they are ready to make that change?

My advice would be to just do it! I had many days where I felt that I just couldn’t keep going or that I wasn’t really seeing any real results. I just kept going and kept moving forward, trusting that hard work and sacrifice would pay off. My life has never been better and I have never felt healthier than I do now.

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Ramp-up-logo-finalNO-SPACE.jpg

If you are looking to just do it and begin making that change in your life, make an appointment with a NIFS trainer for a free fitness assessment to help guide you in making your goals. Or, check out NIFS Ramp Up to Weight Loss Program to help you get started!

This blog was written by Rebecca Heck, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: NIFS exercise fitness nutrition fitness center weight loss member mini marathon accountability CrossFit goals 5k BODPOD new year

It’s Not Too Late: Put Your Fitness Goals into Action!

ThinkstockPhotos-520041601.jpegHopefully you are off to a solid start on your 2017 goals. I would venture to say that many are as we are still in the first month. But if you haven’t started to put those goals into action yet, it’s not too late! Setting the goals is the easy part; starting them and following through with what you want to achieve is the challenge, or mountain, in front of you.

Goal-Setting Questions to Ask Yourself

Before you begin looking at some steps to take to put your goals into action, you first must ask yourself some important questions. Take a few moments to ask yourself these:

  • What are my long-term goals and are they realistic?
  • What short-term goals do I need to put in place in order to achieve those?
  • And hopefully you have already started, but if not, what are my action steps to get started?

Maybe after answering these questions you realize that you need to tweak your goals a little bit or potentially the path to get there. Take time to do that and set yourself up for success!

Steps for Reaching Your Goals

Now that you have answered some defining questions, let’s take a look at some steps that will help you take those goals and make them successful.

  1. Set your eyes on the target and keep them there! It’s easy to get distracted or thrown off track if you begin to slip up and become unfocused from your goals. By keeping your eyes at the center of the target, the goals are much more achievable from there.
  2. Figure out what steps are needed to hit the bull’s-eye! You may need to break down the larger steps into daily goals, or action steps. When the larger goal is broken down into smaller ones, it makes it easier to get to the top. Imagine trying to climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower. If you skipped every other step, it would be a lot harder to get to the top than if you took each step one by one!
  3. Follow through with those action steps. Make sure you find out what helps you to be accountable and follow through with the steps that are in place. If you have a blockade in the way, go around and find what the next action steps to take are.

Be sure to evaluate as you go. If you need to make changes, do it! Things will come up and alter your course. Just take some time to evaluate as you go and make sure that you are headed straight for that bull’s-eye and don’t get off the path!

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Mini-logo-2016-final-1.jpgMaybe one of your goals was to complete your first 5K or spring half-marathon. Now is the time to put those goals into action. Join us for our NIFS Mini-Marathon and 5K Training Program that starts the last Wednesday of this month.

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

Topics: fitness goal setting goals 5k Mini-Marathon Training Program

Sprint into the New Year: Do’s and Don’ts of Sprinting for Fitness

ThinkstockPhotos-610859290.jpgThe New Year is just around the corner and many will be out to improve themselves on many levels in 2017, with health and fitness usually being number one on the list. If losing weight, increasing lean muscle tissue, and sculpting a lower half that will certainly turn heads, while all at the same time improving your heart health is what you are looking for, I have one answer. The use of sprints in the world of fitness and sport performance is nothing exceptionally new, but can be new to you. Actually, sprinting (fast, short bouts of running) was used to stay alive long before we used it as a mode of training.

Author Mark Sisson has spent a great deal of time spreading the message of the importance of sprinting to overall health, and that it was a huge part of daily life for our early ancestors. He believes, and I like his theory, that primal humans (represented by a caveman known as Grok) owed their fitness to three important concepts:

  • They walked great distances during their hunting and gathering trips.
  • They lifted heavy things such as building materials and large animals.
  • They sprinted for their lives from time to time from wild animals, and chased down game for their paleo dinner.

So Mark says, walk a bunch, lift heavy things (and set them back down, of course), and sprint once in a while, and fitness will find you. I think he nailed it. There isn’t much difference between a sound fitness program and what I just described. So why is sprinting so important and beneficial?

The Benefits of Sprinting

There are easily a hundred benefits of sprinting. This acute stressor can have many positive effects on your body. Here are just a few benefits of adding sprint work into your training:

  • Sprinting can be used across all fitness levels.
  • Sprinting doesn’t take a lot of time to do.
  • Sprinting burns fat.
  • Sprinting improves endurance.
  • Sprinting improves insulin sensitivity.
  • Sprinting is a fun and easy way to get and stay lean.

When implementing sprinting into your training, there are some pretty important steps to follow. To help you get started, here are a few tips that will get you on your way to sprinting more in 2017.

Step 1: Prepare Your Feet and Mobilize Major Joints

Feet: https://nifs.wistia.com/medias/7w84n4t9px

Mobilize: https://nifs.wistia.com/medias/l6m3ft8v72

Step 2: Perform a Proper Warmup

Warmups: https://nifs.wistia.com/medias/x6i393bxk3

Step 3: Ease into Sprinting

When starting your sprinter program, follow a progressive level of intensity and volume. You do not want to start out with all-out sprints for 100 meters for sets of 5 to 10. That is a surefire recipe for an injury at worst, and failure to perform the movement properly at best.

A great tip I picked up from Eric Cressey is to start by sprinting uphill first before moving to the track or any flat surface. This will help with proper mechanics and decrease the chances of injury because you are less likely to overextend. Your timed intervals should start at a 1:2 work-to-rest ratio and gradually ramp up to a 1:1, and even a 2:1 ratio. For example, do :20 of max work followed by :40 of rest, then repeat for the desired number of sets.

The recovery from the sprint is just as important, and I would recommend using your heart rate to tell you when it is time to go again. Waiting until your heart rate is 110bpm or lower before starting your next bout is a good general rule. I am also a huge fan of using your heart rate both as a measure of intensity and for determining your rest. You would rest until your heart rate recovered to 110–120bpm before starting your next set. The bottom line is that there will be no first-place ribbon waiting for you at the end of your sprint, so know your limits and use a progressive program when implementing sprinting.

Step 4: Mix It Up with Different Types of Sprinting

Treadmill: https://nifs.wistia.com/medias/bsjs720s4a

One of the best things about sprinting is that there are several ways to sprint, and sprinting is relative to you. If you give everything you’ve got into a sprint, that is where the work is done, but it doesn’t mean you will be breaking any land speed records (unless your last name is Bolt). Your sprints don’t have to be rep after rep of 100m dashes; it just has to be a near max effort for a few reps or a short period of time. Those who claim they just got done completing 20 sprints were probably not maximally sprinting. If you intersperse a couple periods of higher effort levels with periods of lower effort levels, you will be in good shape (pun intended).

Here are some other sprinting options:

Sprinting can be a fun and very effective training tool in both fat burning and performance. I can’t stress enough the importance of a proper warmup and easing into higher-intensity sprints. Stay healthy so you can stay moving! (And if you have injuries, see this blog for tips on working through it.)

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

Topics: fitness injuries sprinting paleo heart rate warmups new year joints

Posture and Fitness (Part 2): Anterior Pelvic Tilt

ThinkstockPhotos-611184084.jpgIn part 1 of this series covered kyphosis (rounded shoulders). Now we move on to another posture issue, anterior pelvic tilt.

What Is It?

Anterior pelvic tilt (APT) is a postural deficiency that results in an excessive forward tilt of the pelvic region. Essentially, it protrudes the abdominal region while creating an excessive lower-back curvature. This postural deficiency can cause one to have lower back pain, more abnormal movement mechanics, and muscle accommodation throughout the body, which we refer to as reciprocal inhibition.

What Causes It?

APT is commonly caused by excessive sitting. While in the seated position, your hip flexor muscles become very tight from being in their shortened position. When the hip flexors become tight, they pull down on the pelvis, which causes a forward tilt. Tight hip flexors also keep the gluteus muscles from firing efficiently, which causes the hamstrings to compensate for the lack of use, which in return causes them to become overworked. (The root cause for tight hamstrings may be anterior pelvic tilt.) APT is also a cause of weak abdominal muscles. The abs become loose and overstretched, which allows the pelvis to tilt forward even more. This may lead to a false conclusion of having too much fat around the abdominal region because your belly tends to stick out farther than what is natural.

Why Is It Bad for Fitness?

APT causes an overextension of the lumbar spine, lack of glute activation, and quad dominance, which leads to compensation patterns and poor exercise technique.

How to Fix It

There is a solution! In order to fix this problem, you must attack the root cause. Most commonly you will need to improve your hip flexibility, which can be done with a variety of hip stretches and proper warmup and movement patterns that I will list below. Once the hips have regained flexibility through stretching, the gluteus and hamstring muscles should be allowed to fire more efficiently. This will allow the pelvic region to rotate back into proper alignment, which will make movement patterns such as the squat and deadlift more comfortable, especially for the lower back. It is also a good idea to strengthen up the abdominal region as this will pull up on the quadriceps muscles, also allowing the pelvis to be pulled back into place.

Muscles to Stretch

  • PSOAS
    Hip stretches: Butterfly stretch, pigeon pose, kneeling hip flexor stretch, etc.
  • Quads
    Quad stretches: Standing quad stretch, kneeling quad stretch, etc.

Muscles to Strengthen

  • Glutes (Gluteus Maximus and Minimus)
    Glute exercises: Hip thrust, squats, etc.
  • Hamstrings
    Hamstring exercises: Straight-leg deadlifts, Swiss ball leg curls, lying hamstring curls
    Anti-extension abdominal: Planks, hallow holds, hanging leg raises, reverse crunches, lying pelvic tilt 

See a NIFS Health Fitness Specialist today if you believe APT may be keeping you from proper exercise mechanics.

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

Topics: NIFS fitness muscles stretching strength training glutes functional movement assessments posture glute abs hamstring APT anterior pelvic tilt