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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Training the Aging Active Adult (Part 4 of 4)

ThinkstockPhotos-179075741.jpgThis is the final installment in my series on training for people 40 and over. Previously I’ve discussed training needs and health concerns for older adults, the importance of strength training, and the role of the glutes. Now let’s talk about the old-school way to reach your fitness goals while aging gracefully.

Someone on Facebook said she wanted to train her back harder than her grip would allow and asked which would be better, lifting straps or Versa Gripps. The answers bounced back and forth between the two options (usually bodybuilders doing the commenting), but I just had to offer a third option: neither.

“Old school–develop your grip strength so it’s not the weak link.”

Some of the clueless responses from a few bodybuilders about grip work interfering with arm and back day and how you couldn’t develop your back if you had to wait for your grip were sadly amusing.

Shortcuts Don’t Pay

If she did use the straps or Versa Gripps to allow for heavier loading of the back for the sake of back development (aesthetics), the grip would continue to be weaker than the muscles up the movement chain and would therefore be a rate limiter in the upper body’s functional strength. This imbalance could be a source of future injuries as well. And of course, this begs the question: why is there an imbalance in the first place?

When the focus of fitness is to look better in front of a mirror, concepts like correcting movement deficiencies, addressing strength weaknesses, and the effects of rate limiters on functional strength have as much interest as broccoli does to a 3-year-old.

It’s easy to pick on bodybuilding because to those on the outside, bodybuilding seems to be the extreme example of narcissistic frivolousness. But alas, all exercise and fitness pursuits have a huge egocentric component, whether it’s picking up more weight, running faster/further, or killing Fran or Fight Gone Bad.

Sometimes You Just Have to Eat Your Broccoli

The point is that we are all results-driven regardless of whether our fitness interests are functional training or just looking better. We want improvements to arrive quicker and the process to be easier, even if the shortcuts we take for short-term gains have a high price on the back end. Seemingly innocent lifting straps are at one end of the shortcut continuum, and PEDs at the other; but they all are attempts to circumvent the body’s natural processes. All the things you chose to ignore, neglect, and ill-advised shortcuts will eventually show up during your fitness “come to Jesus meeting” sometime in your 40s and 50s. And just know that the accompanying injuries that come during that meeting are served in a broccoli casserole, heavily seasoned with “I Told You So.”

Take shortcuts and ignore weakness at your own peril. There, I just told you so. Go eat your broccoli!

Learn more about your current fitness status with NIFS’s Functional Movement Screening or Personal Fitness Evaluation.

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This blog was written by Rick Huse, CSCS, WKC Competition Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: functional training injury prevention muscles senior fitness strength goals

Endurance or Speed? Two Common Goals for Running

For years people have been running in marathons and half marathons, 10Ks and 5Ks. And most recently the wide world of racing has taken a turn for themed runs, which is quite exciting if you have ever been to one! But no matter how many years go by, two goals continue to come up: running farther, and running faster.

We often hear someone say, “I want to be able to run farther than I did before.” We see it all the time: “I am going from the couch to running a 5K,” or “Last year I completed the 10K, so this year I really want to try the half marathon!” The other thing we hear is, “I like the distance that I am running, but next time I want to cut off 10 minutes.” The goal is to keep going faster and breaking a personal record. But which one is better—which goal should we strive to accomplish?

There are hundreds of programs out there that help you with one of the two goals: programs that are designed to help you increase your distance over time, or programs that are designed to keep your distance but increase your pace. And the good news is that both types work for different people.

Kris Berg, an exercise physiologist and professor at the University of Nebraska Omaha, says that after several decades of studying how an athlete can increase their endurance, he continues to lean on the profound answer of “The person needs to do what feels right for them.” Every person is made up differently genetically, and every method works differently for each person. It’s important to listen to what your body says, and if you can’t go farther, work on going faster, and if you can’t go faster, work on going farther!

Let’s take a look at each of the two common goals more in depth. 

Common goal #1: Being able to build endurance and go farther over time. 

The first and most important thing to keep in mind with any sort of training (and not just endurance running) is that adaptation and change are gradual. You will not be able to run 3 miles today and 16 miles tomorrow. Building gradually is vital to grasp before you set an overall goal, which must be realistic. Gradual adaptation means gradual, patient, and consistent. 

Another trick to being able to run long distances is to not start off too fast. Many people don’t make the distance they want because they are running at a pace that they cannot sustain. Find a pace that works for you! 

One other vital point to make when working on building your endurance: don’t overtrain. In most marathon training programs and endurance building programs out there, you will not see more than three days worth of running per week. You need to allow your body time to rest between runs.

Common goal #2: Working on speed to shave off some time from your last race. 

Disclaimer: working on speed is hard; be prepared to be mentally tough and stick to the workouts. When working on speed you will want to focus on some interval workouts. These are workouts that you are pushing at a fast pace for a certain period of time, then slowing down to recover before the next interval starts. 

And a final tip: If you want to run faster, you need to make your legs stronger. By doing some strength training and building up muscle mass, your speed will increase.


So whatever your goal may be for your next race, keep these things in mind. A great way to help train to meet your goal is with our Mini-Marathon & 5K Training Program offered at NIFS. REGISTER NOW and take advantage of Early bird pricing until 11/22/15.

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



Topics: NIFS running marathon training mini marathon half marathon endurance overtraining goals speed

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable: Powerful Ways to Reach Your Goals

I have recently been given the opportunity to participate in some very cool opportunities professionally and personally. And although these two opportunities are things that I have had goals of achieving for quite some time, it did not take away from me being pretty terrified to take them on. I had to get comfortable being uncomfortable—and fast!

Two Great Opportunities—And Some Doubts

The first opportunity was to speak with some of the nation’s greatest minds in health and fitness at the Indy Women Fitness 2015 event held here at NIFS this past month. Being on the same program as Mike Robertson, Molly Galbraith, and Bill Hartman was a dream come true, but it came with the following questions to myself:

  • “Am I good enough to be next to these guys?”
  • “How will the attendees respond to my content and approach?”
  • “Am I in over my head?”
The next chance to fulfill a goal of mine will be coming up in the near future, where I will train our city’s heroes when the Indianapolis Fire Department’s new recruit class will be using our facility to train to be the best firefighters in the country. I was asked to oversee their programming and training, an offer I could not pass up! Having two brothers that serve their communities as firefighters, I have been around this group of professionals for quite some time and carry an extra sense of pride and responsibility when asked to elevate their fitness and job capabilities. But soon after accepting this role, here came those same questions:
  • “Am I good enough to be next to these guys?”
  • “How will the attendees respond to my content and approach?”
  • “Am I in over my head?”
First of all, these questions and feelings are completely normal, but failing to overcome doubt and anxiety is a recipe for not stepping up to new opportunities or quitting before you achieve that BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal—more on these in a later post). I have adopted some very powerful ways to get comfortable being uncomfortable from individuals I consider mentors such as Martin Rooney and Todd Durkin, and from reading as much as I can from authors such as Dan and Chip Heath, Zig Ziglar, and Ken Blanchard. 

How to Succeed in Anything

I would like to share some of the best ways I have learned to succeed in anything you want to achieve.

  • Think BIG and tackle the BIG things first. When it comes to goals, if it doesn’t scare you, it’s not big enough. Set the bar high and do what it takes to reach it. Try to tackle the big things of your day first, and don’t multitask; focus all of your energy on one thing at a time. Set time limits if you have to, but do only one thing at a time.
  • Practice, practice, practice. I don’t think it comes as any surprise that more practice on anything will make you better at that thing. But just as important is what practice can do to your anxiety level. Practice goes up, and anxiety will go down; and practice can include learning more, rehearsing, or simply visualizing your performance. I think it’s a good thing to be a bit anxious before a major event, but practicing will keep that anxiety from becoming paralyzing.
  • Act awesome, be awesome. Martin Rooney told me once that it is okay to be tired, but it is not okay to act tired. It seems crass, but he makes a great point. If you act tired or anxious, you are more likely to succumb to the symptoms of being tired or anxious. But if you act confident and full of energy, you will eventually be that way, not tired or anxious. 
  • Talk with successful people. One of the best ways to be great at something is to learn from someone who is great at that thing. Obviously they have done something right to be considered a “go-to” in the subject; they have been there, done that, and continue to do it because it breeds success. Find those people and learn as much as you can from them. Get a mentor, and learn everything you can.
  • Do the right thing, at the right time, all the time, no matter what. For example, let’s say you are faced with the internal question of “should I go to the gym today?” Your immediate response may be, “hell yeah,” or it may be, “hell no.” No matter the response, go to the gym because it is the right thing to do. You will find that once you get started on the “right thing,” it gets easier and easier to complete. You know what the right thing is; be like NIKE and just do it, no matter what, all the time!

I still get anxious when new opportunities come knocking at the doors that are sure to take me out of my comfort zone, and I should. But utilizing the preceding strategies has made me more comfortable being uncomfortable!

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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: attitude challenge goals anxiety

Defining Fitness Goals Is Like Wrestling with Jell-O (Part 2 of 2)

carrotIn my earlier post, I talked about asking questions to get at true motivations behind wanting to be more fit. 

The answers to those questions will fall into four broad categories: appearance, performance, feel or move better, and major health issues.

Goal: Looking Better

Appearance is the most common and strongest of all of the motivators. One of my Russian coaches thought of it as frivolous. He referred to it as “wanting to look better naked in front of a mirror,” but yet its power can never be underestimated. Bodybuilding strategies are the most common route, but the newer athletic-inspired approaches to training will also produce that desired appearance—with the added benefit of a more functional strength for daily life activities.

Goal: Performance

Performance means strength and conditioning for a purpose. That purpose may be for sports, military, police, fire, etc. However, in the general public, Special Ops–inspired training and functional training have become very popular in the belief that this type of training will help them reach higher levels of both strength and conditioning, and can be found in various programs like Boot Camps, CrossFit, and so on. Sport Performance gyms have also grown exponentially across the country in the last decade as parents invest in whatever it takes to improve their children’s athletic careers.

Goal: Feeling Better

Feeling better becomes the primary goal when the barnacles of aging reach critical mass. The idea of chasing body beautiful and seriously improving athletic performance fade as the need to “just keep moving comfortably in one’s body” dominates awareness. Wear and tear of the joints (arthritis), loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia), and serious body fat increases (caused by the great American diet combined with little activity) lead to a whole host of life-quality issues that exercise and diet can greatly improve.

Goal: Alleviating Major Health Issues

Major health issues require their own individual approaches to strength and conditioning. Experienced and well-educated experts know the correct approaches for their area of expertise, and the uninformed should not guess at them. Heart disease, MS, COPD, cancer, diabetes, stroke, and brain damage, for example, are very serious issues but life quality can be improved with the right guidance and proper effort.

When There Is More Than One Issue

As complex as individuals can be, you may find their situation to be a combination of the above categories, and therefore they must be ranked in order of importance. Training is also a process along a timeline, so there must be flexibility and the willingness to adjust the program as training progresses.

The “how” to train will be born within the answer to “why” someone is seeking fitness. For any real success, the “why” question must be answered honestly. As stated above (and worth repeating), a technically correct workout could be a total waste of time, money, effort, and perhaps could even be dangerous if the training program doesn’t match the individual’s needs and motivation.

One last comment regarding this issue. There have been many attempts throughout the years to create a universal definition of fitness, design workout programs to address each fitness component of that definition, and then sell the concept that if one truly wanted to be fit (by their definition), one would have to train according to their program. I am sure these attempts started out to be sincere efforts to make Jell-O solid, but morphed into profit-producing ventures with corresponding business agendas (see this post with more philosophy on separating good fitness and nutrition advice from bad).

Please remember, the Fitness Holy Grail is a myth. There is no one perfect workout and the definition of fitness is relative to who is asking and why. I suppose that in some situations that wrestling in Jell-O could be fun, but wrestling with Jell-O is not. First establish your goals and then clearly understand your motives. The proper training program will evolve as a natural result of that process.

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

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Topics: motivation goal setting functional training personal training fitness trends goals

Defining Fitness Goals Is Like Wrestling with Jell-O (Part 1 of 2)

jelloThe concept of defining fitness seems simple at first glance, but like Jell-O®, the definition of fitness appears solid on the surface until you grab at it and realize that impression was wrong. Both will get messy while they ooze in all directions.

Fitness is truly in the eye of the beholder—or more correctly, in the vision of the motivating ego. Something about one’s current status is unacceptable and the ego wants it changed. This fitness change generally becomes a quest to be bigger, faster, stronger, or prettier. Basic movement problems and health issues are other major driving forces to seek improved fitness.

What Is Your Goal?

Many times, when I ask clients about what they expect to get from their investment of time, money, and sweat in exercise, I usually get, “I want to be more fit, of course,” which to them is the universal hall pass for answering all fitness questions. They’re thinking, “After all, everyone knows what it means to be fit. Don’t they?” Well, they don’t and that’s the problem. Are we talking about serious weight loss, bodybuilding and shaping for esthetics, training for athletic and job performance, correcting serious medical issues or movement deficiencies, etc.?

Strategies for each goal are very different. A “good” technical workout may very well be the “wrong” workout for a particular goal because of individual needs. Therefore, before any program can be developed, everyone must agree on what exactly it means to be more fit and what goals they are try to reach. Without a target, it is easy to wander around aimlessly in the forest of fitness options with a bloody forehead from banging into the many workout trees.

All-You-Can-Eat Fitness Can Lead to Gluttony

A trainer is also responsible for providing a more expansive view of exercise and fitness, which is generally beyond the fitness education and experience of most of their clients. This task is much like a waiter explaining a menu to a new restaurant patron. Although this step is necessary to arrive at the best program design, this additional client education can create another problem called the all-you-can-eat fitness syndrome.

As in the famous scene of the enormous man in the restaurant in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, when presented with the menu, he reads it very carefully, hands it back to the waiter, and says, “Yes.” When people become more aware of what fitness can provide, they want it all. But the body cannot do it all, at least not equally as well and certainly not all at once. If you remember the scene, the patron did eat the entire menu worth of food, but when offered a small after-dinner wafer, he exploded. Fitness gluttony has a price, as well, which usually comes in the form of poor results and, of course, the higher risk of dreaded injuries.

What Do You Really Want?

Whether you are a trainer responsible for the health, fitness, and safety of your client or an individual fitness enthusiast who has taken on the arduous task of training yourself, the meaning of fitness for that individual and for that moment in time must be clearly defined before an appropriate fitness program can be developed. The fastest shortcut to this meaningful foundation is by going directly to what is truly motivating the desire for change, the ego.

It is a rather simple process. Keep asking the following question until you arrive at the real answer: “What do you really want to get out of your investment of time, money, and sweat in exercise?

However, there are two rules: The answer cannot be, “I want to be more fit,” and each answer is followed by the question “why?” until a satisfactory answer is reached. This “why” will reveal what is actually motivating the fitness quest and will also serve as the motor to keep driving the quest when progress slows or when there are setbacks. The combination of “what” and “why” forms a strong foundation for developing an effective exercise program.

In my next post, I'll talk about the categories that the answers fall into, and how to start thinking about the right training program for each goal.

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

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Topics: motivation goal setting functional training personal training fitness trends goals

5 Thanksgiving Day Hacks

5 Thanksgiving Day Hacks [Infographic]


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

Topics: exercise calories holidays weight management workout goals Thanksgiving