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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Sleep and Athletes: Are You Missing Out?

Sleep can be a wonderful thing. Then again, when we oversleep, we sometimes feel more tired than we were when we went to bed. Is Mr. Sandman playing a prank on us, or is sleep even more of a mystery than we’re led to believe?

I enjoy my recommended 7 to 8-hour snoozes each and every night. For the average Joe and Jane, many studies link sleep deprivation to brain function, hunger control, and disease and illness prevention.

How Much Sleep Does an Athlete Need?

ThinkstockPhotos-78056869The question I have is, “Do athletes and individuals with higher fitness aspirations need more, less, or the same amount of sleep as everyone else?” Although not many studies have been conducted on the topic, the Gatorade Sports Science Institute published an article entitled “Sleep and the Elite Athlete” that talks about sleep deprivation in depth. 

The article is somewhat inconclusive in some areas, but it goes on to state that elite athletes can perform, but begin to decrease output at around 30 hours of deprivation. The main side effects were stated as being diminished cognitive capabilities. On a positive note, napping is encouraged for improved performance, even in sleep-deprived individuals. In summary, it’s safe to assume that athletes need and benefit from sleep and naps just like everyone else (Halson, 2014).

How Can You Get More Sleep?

You may be asking yourself, “What can I do to maximize my sleep potential?” The answers vary depending on the person. 

  • Know your body and your goals. Your goals, lifestyle, and demographic (age, gender, etc.) are the major factors of your individual needs. 
  • Set the right mood by ensuring your sleep sanctuary is nice and dark, and free from distractions. 
  • Try not to take your pre-workout supplements two hours before bedtime (the instruction/warning label will give you exact information on the subject). For that matter, any caffeinated beverages will hinder your ability to fall asleep. 
  • Start a sleep journal to chronicle your sleep behaviors. Indicate duration of sleeps and naps, moods, exercise production, and eating patterns to determine what works and what does not work for you (Halson, 2014).
One thing that we know for sure is we need sleep to live. It’s part of our everyday routines, just like eating food and blinking our eyes. Trying to make sleep a priority isn’t an easy task in this fast-paced society that encourages overtime and pushing deadlines, and puts rest, relaxation, and recovery on the back burner. In a previous post, we found that sleep, along with exercise and nutrition, is one of the pieces to our fitness puzzle. Without it, we cannot see the entire big picture. 

You can improve your fitness results with a healthy sleep schedule along with exercise and nutrition. For more about the positive impacts of sleep, contact an HFS at NIFS to discuss a sleep game plan. Lastly, take time for a nap; all the cool kids (at least those aged 0 to 5) are doing it!

Until next time, 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 mental sleep

10 Healthy Habits of Fit People

Let’s get real: getting healthy and fit (and staying that way) doesn’t happen by accident. In my seven years in the fitness industry I have seen quite a bit—enough to know what works and what doesn’t. The people who are able to reach their healthy, happy weight and maintain it end up developing very similar habits to one another. These healthy habits aren’t anything crazy or extreme, but they consistently allow individuals to lead a healthy lifestyle for years and years.

Today I’ve compiled these habits of healthy people so we can all adapt our own habits to be our healthiest selves.

ThinkstockPhotos-4713112341. Start off with a breakfast to FUEL your day.

Remember learning that breakfast was the most important meal of the day? While I believe that all meals are important, breakfast definitely is a meal you shouldn’t consider skipping. Studies show that eating breakfast helps to improve focus, satiety, and energy levels throughout the day. 

So what does that mean for you? You’ll be more productive at work, will work harder during your workouts, and you may have reduced cravings and hunger later in the day. Sounds like a win, win, win to me! 

2. Drink lots of water.

The body is made up of 60% water! Drinking plenty of water throughout the day will help maintain your body’s fluid balance so that nutrients can be transported throughout the body. That means you will more quickly reap the benefits of the healthy foods you eat!  

Drinking water throughout the day helps you feel full. It may sound crazy, but many people mistake thirst for hunger and end up overeating. 

It’s also important to drink water because when you stress and work your muscles in the gym, they are losing water. If you aren’t drinking enough water, your muscles will get tired faster and you may not be able to work as hard. So drink up, buttercup!

3. Set a deadline.

People are more efficient and more likely to reach their goals with a deadline in the picture. Having a deadline helps to eliminate procrastination and makes the goal seem more tangible and realistic. Having a deadline doesn’t mean you can start being “unhealthy” after you reach your goal, but it simply allows you to have a checkpoint to work toward. Once you reach your goal and deadline, reevaluate and set a new goal! It’s all about progress, not perfection, and there is always something we can improve on when it comes to health and fitness.

4. Don’t leave your healthy-eating goals to chance. 

I rarely say NEVER or ALWAYS, but this is an exception to that rule. Never assume that there will be a healthy option when you eat away from home. Always be prepared. Check out the restaurant menu ahead of time, pack healthy snacks, bring a lunch, bring a healthy dish to share, or eat something small before so you aren’t starving. You are in control of your health. It’s not anyone else’s responsibility to make sure there is something nutritious for you to nosh on.

5. Remain consistent.

Consistency is key. We all have days where we skip a workout or overindulge, but as long as healthy is your default, there is no need to sweat it! What matters most is what you do most of the time, not what you do sometimes. So, if choosing healthy (moving your body, eating whole foods, and drinking lots of water) is your sometimes, you may want to switch your mindset.

6. Eat whole, real foods.

Make it your goal to have most of your nourishment come from unprocessed, real foods that are as close to the source as possible. What does that mean? Check out the ingredients. If you are eating a handful of almonds for a snack, the only ingredient should be just that: almonds! Whole foods fill your body with more vitamins and minerals, the nutrition we need to stay healthy on the inside.

7. Fill your home with healthy, nourishing foods.

This tip piggybacks onto the previous piece of advice. If you fill your home with whole foods, they suddenly become a more convenient option than the processed stuff, and less healthy options are eliminated from the picture. If you surround yourself with healthy, delicious food choices, you are more likely to pick those foods when preparing a meal or eating a snack.

8. Take your workout with you.

 Many people travel frequently for work, to visit family, or for vacation. While traveling can make it less easy to fit in your workout, it’s definitely not an excuse to slack off in the fitness department. Talk with your trainer about a travel workout option, pack a resistance band or TRX strap, or pack a workout DVD that doesn’t require any equipment at all! There are endless resources for fitness on the go; it just takes a little planning ahead of time.

9. Learn to be politely picky when eating out.

I have learned that I can find something healthy to eat at almost any restaurant. Many times, the option I choose is not listed on the menu. It can be intimidating to ask for special options at a restaurant, but you will be surprised at how accommodating your server and the restaurant want to be. Be polite when you make requests, and your tummy will be happy with the healthy and delicious outcome!

10. Dedicate time to mental health.

Whether you practice yoga, write a journal, meditate, see a therapist, or have another way of dedicating time to your mental health, it is just as important to make time for this type of exercise as it is to make time to go to the gym. Having a healthy mental state will help you stay on track with your fitness goals and will allow you to balance your busy and crazy life with ease. Find the method that works best for you and stick to it!

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This blog was written by Tara Deal Rochford, contributing writer, group fitness instructor, and author of healthy living blog Treble in the Kitchen. Meet our other NIFS bloggers.

Topics: nutrition healthy habits goal setting snacks breakfast mental weight management water

Sports and Character: 5 Life Lessons I’ve Learned Playing Football

152141547The fall season is probably my favorite time of year. The weather is just how I like it, crisp and comfortable during the day and cool at night. The colors that arrive with the turning of the leaves are a demonstration of how creative Mother Nature can be. There is another phenomenon that takes place during this time of year that I anticipate all summer long, and that is FOOTBALL!

This is the time of year that all levels, from peewee to the pros, are padding up and participating in a game that I have loved and played my entire life. I took my first snap when I was 5, and the game has been a part of my life ever since. From the time I was an undersized defensive lineman, a coach, and now as a super fan, football has provided so many fond memories and learning opportunities.

With football in full swing, I find myself thinking of the times I spent in two-a-day practices, Friday night games, and early Saturday film sessions. Flash forward to my time as a coach of some very talented young men as they got started on their football journey as I did so long ago. Through all of these experiences and all of these years being around the game of football, I have learned so much about so many aspects of life that I have carried with me, and which has had tremendous impact on my life. Lessons of character, hard work, and being part of something bigger than yourself are ones that I would have never learned in a classroom. I would like to share with you the top 5 lessons I have learned from being around this great sport of football.

Setting Goals

Preseason was a time to set goals for what we wanted to accomplish as a team for that season. We would usually post these in some fashion that acted as reminder of what we were working so hard for. This was a very important step toward our success and I was lucky enough to have coaches who held the standard of knowing what you want to accomplish, writing it down, and keeping it visible. Of course my goals are much different these days, but the process is still the same. Write down your goals and make them visible as a daily reminder of where you want to go.

Be On Time

This should go without saying: punctuality says a great deal about you as an individual. A huge lesson I learned is that you don’t let coach beat you to the practice field. You were to be strapped up and ready to go at the start of practice, or you were given a choice of “up/downs” (you know these as burpees) or “gassers.” Either one was not very fun in full gear. To this day, I get pretty anxious if I feel I may be late for whatever it may be. I learned long ago that it is always better to be waiting on whoever I am meeting with—not the other way around. Burpees still are not very fun!

The Bigger the Dream, the Better the Team

During my last season as player, our team was nicknamed “The Dirty 30,” and it was a name we embraced fully. This name had nothing to do with us playing “dirty”; it illustrated our small team of 30 varsity players doing what it took as a team to reach our pinnacle. We all played a role in any successes—or failures, for that matter. We embraced that responsibility as a team, and we worked together to make us better. What I learned then is something that is apparent to me every day: you can’t do it alone. I talk a great deal about forming your “Power Circle” and using those like-minded individuals to help you succeed in life in any capacity. Making the others around you better and being more excited about their successes than your own will always pay huge dividends.

Don’t Be Afraid to Make a Mistake

“Fly around and don’t be afraid to make a mistake” was a phrase I heard a lot during my days as a player. Being in your head too much and holding back for fear of missing an assignment or failing usually led to missing that assignment and failing. More importantly, it would rob you of the opportunity to learn. I learned a huge lesson in those days, that success is a result of failing. In his book Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn, John Maxwell defines adversity as the catalyst of learning, and problems are opportunities of learning. If you blow an assignment on one play, in a matter of seconds you get the opportunity to learn from that mistake and not commit it again on the next play. That’s learning, and it’s that learning that leads to success. Mistakes are inevitable in life, but growth is optional. Don’t shy away from risk; embrace it.

Being Yelled at Is a Good Thing

One of the biggest lessons I learned playing the sport I love so much is that when coach is yelling at you, it’s a good thing. I remember being told a few times that when coach stops yelling at you, that’s when you should be worried. At the time, I thought my coach was crazy for saying that, because it was never fun when coach got inside your facemask and ripped your head off.

But soon after leaving the game and moving on with my life, I realized what my coaches meant. They believed that I was better than I was performing at that particular moment, and they were not going to let me quit or be satisfied with mediocrity. So when coaches would stop yelling at you, it meant that you might have peaked and their help would more than likely not make you better. I know it may sound weird, but I think it’s okay to be told “you suck” (not actually, of course) from time to time. It gives you a little knot in your stomach, and it’s that knot that makes you want to be better. I think it’s when we lose that knot in our stomachs that we have, at some level, given up. If you have lost that knot in your stomach, reevaluate some things and find a coach to call you out now and again.

There are countless other lessons I gained from playing the great game of football. These are the top five that, without learning them, I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what I have thus far. Nor would I understand that learning and growing are no way near over. I hope you were able to gather some takeaways from the lessons I have described. If nothing else, please leave with this: Never Be Satisfied!

To see how NIFS can help you train for any competitive sport, click here to learn more.

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

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Topics: motivation goal setting attitude mental team training sports

10 Ways to Survive Your Long Run During Half Marathon Training

It’s Mini-Marathon training time, which means thousands of people are logging miles to prepare for the big day. The NIFS Mini-Marathon Training Program is holding strong as we meet together each Wednesday night to complete the long run scheduled for the week.

If you have trained for a half marathon, you know that sometimes simply logging the miles can bemarathon training a hefty task. If this is your first time training for a half marathon, and the thought of running 10-plus miles seems a bit daunting, you are not alone.

Distance running is difficult, but it is not impossible. I have compiled a list of 10 things that keep me going when I am logging the miles, which will hopefully make your long run successful, too.

  1. Plan. Put this long run into your schedule and set yourself up for success. If you know that your long run is tomorrow, do what you need to do to enjoy the run the following day. Things like going to bed early and drinking lots of water may be helpful, while going out and partying with your friends may not be quite as helpful.
  2. Run somewhere you LIKE to run. I get it, running 10 miles can seem a bit monotonous at times. Some days I prefer to do my long runs through town so I can look in all the shop windows and be around a lot of people. But other times I choose to run in areas with much more beautiful, natural scenery. It doesn’t matter where, just pick a place that you will enjoy for a couple of hours at a time.
  3. Recruit a friend or have a friend meet you midway for a few miles.mini marathon training Sometimes when I am running by myself, a little voice inside my head starts to doubt that I can finish the long run I set out to complete. When I bring a friend along with me, she encourages me the entire way…even if she doesn't know it! Sometimes, just knowing someone else is running with me really helps me push through.
  4. Imagine your post-race or post-run reward. Is it a massage? A manicure? A shopping trip? Frozen yogurt? (Frozen yogurt is often a favorite reward of mine!) A really yummy dinner? Whatever it is, imagine that reward and I promise it will make your feet and legs push to the distance you set out to complete.
  5. Create a special running playlist. Music moves and motivates me, and it always seems that the perfect song starts blaring into my headphones as I reach a really steep hill at mile seven, or when I feel like giving up. It also helps me get lost and kind of forget what I am doing, which takes some of the pain away from my legs and feet! I am so serious about my music that I created a special running playlist and listen to it only while running. That way, the songs stay special and never get old.
  6. Think of a motivational mantra to keep you going. When the going gets tough, I always tell myself that this is all mental. Another mantra that keeps me going is, “You are stronger than you think you are.” Find something that works for you to keep in mind while training for your race.
  7. Mentally break up the run. If I am running 12 miles, I think of it as three 4-mile runs to make the distance seem much more achievable. Another trick I do is plan an out and back. If I am running a 10-mile run, breaking it down to 5 miles out and then 5 miles home really helps me push through.
  8. Compare the time you are running to something else you do for that same amount of time. This is probably one of my favorite things to do to help me get through a long run. I absolutely love group fitness, so I think of an hour-and-a-half run as a BODYPUMP class and a CXWORX class. It really helps me realize that the running time is totally doable.
  9. Imagine yourself on race day. Racing is emotional, at least for me it is. There is nothing that beats the feeling of exhilaration and accomplishment that I feel when I cross the finish line. For me, simply imagining that feeling is enough motivation to keep pushing through, even when the running gets tough.
  10. Think about something different each mile. This one takes a little preparation, but it can really do the trick and totally take your mind off of the distance of the run. Before you run, simply decide on the number of miles you are running, and on a piece of paper make a list of things to think about. For instance, you could write down five people you are thankful for if you are running five miles, all the things that are currently on your mind if you are running 26 miles, and the options are endless. Then place the piece of paper in a pocket or easily accessible area (maybe even in a plastic bag if you get sweaty!) and you have something to pull out if you need to take your mind off the run.

I hope you are able to use at least one of these tactics to log those miles as you train for the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon, or any other race you have in the future. Good luck with your training!

Written by Tara Deal Rochford, NIFS Membership Manager, Group Fitness Instructor, and author of Treble in the Kitchen. Meet our NIFS Bloggers.

Topics: NIFS exercise fitness running mini marathon half marathon NIFS programs race endurance training mental focus