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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Going for Gold: NIFS Winter Olympics Special Exercises

GettyImages-533291891.jpgEvery four years, the Winter Olympics shows up, and we are in awe of some of the most gifted athletes on the planet. Ice skaters gliding upon an edge like a razor blade, yet choreographed to music. Bobsledders who risk near death contently as they barrel through corners (mortals, like myself, need not apply). And the cross-country skiers boast some of the highest aerobic capacities of any athlete in the world. For the majority of us, riding down a hill on an inner tube does the trick, but that doesn’t mean we can’t infuse your workout with the tools to not only get a great workout, but dream for gold!

Looking around the fitness center, finding options to get into Olympic shape isn’t too difficult. With a little imagination, you can add these three exercises to your workout today with little or no skating, skiing, or bobsledding experience. Now get ready for the NIFS Winter Olympic Special: Going for Gold!

Helix Lateral Elliptical

If you want powerful legs, endurance, and balance, you might want to take a look at speed skating. Not unlike its summer Olympic running counterpart, speed skating requires a lot of practice. To accelerate, the skater pushes side to side, arms working to not only balance but also propel the body forward.

To simulate this motion, the Helix Lateral Elliptical allows you to safely perform the lower-body movement used in speed skating. Being able to do this exercise year round in the friendly confines of NIFS is a definite bonus. A built-in console allows you to track intensity and time. A quick Tabata (:20 on, :20 off) for 5–8 rounds can give your workout a nice lift. Be sure to try both directions!

Concept II Ski Erg

ski.jpgThe concept of cross-country skiing for sport comes from areas in which getting around is easier and more common on skis than trudging through the snow. Out of necessity and the evolution of transportation, people in the Nordic region of Europe are now famously known for producing some of the highest VO2 Max numbers in the world. Your VO2 Max is the quantification of how efficiently your body uses oxygen when you exercise.

With that being said, how can you get similar exercise without all the snow or burden of buying skis? Concept II, the company that makes rowing machines, designed a vertical rowing machine that can simulate the upper-body cross-country skiing pattern. Like the Helix, there is a console to track your progress, intensity, and time. Once you get the hang of the Ski Erg, you can see how far you can get in 60 seconds, rest, and then do it again!

Prowler Sled Push

Alex-Sled.jpgOne of the most fascinating events at the winter Olympics is the bobsled. A team of individuals, working as one, propels a bobsled down a narrow, icy chute. To get the sled going, the team relies heavily on otherworldly leg strength. The rest of the event takes skill and some luck, as this is a race to the finish line. The winning team usually has a complete balance of strength, skill, balance, and weight.

The exercise you can do at NIFS that mimics this movement most closely is the Prowler Sled Push. There are many sled options to choose from, but this one allows you to start in a standing position and requires you to physically push the weighted sled (no attachments needed). This can be done in several ways: heavy weights for short distance and lighter weights for longer duration as well as sprints. For a great partner routine, relay races are a perfect way to give you and some friends exercise and breaks. Have one person push the sled, while the other two are on the “ends.” As the sled approaches, the next person takes the sled-pushing responsibility and pushes it back to the starting point. This continues until a certain distance is reached or for time. Try to mark a 30-yard distance and continue this exercise for 2–3 minutes for one set. Be sure to enjoy your rest times!


Whether you are looking for a new routine or really are dreaming about the Olympics, these three exercises are sure to give you a great workout. If anything, we can appreciate the hard work and dedication it takes to become an Olympian. For more fun fitness ideas, check back to the NIFS blog and social media outlets (YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter). Until next time, friends, dream big! Go for gold!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: balance endurance rowing exercises winter skiing vo2 max olympics skating

Incorporating the Erg Rowing Machine into Your Exercise Routine

Thomas_Rowing_Blog_3Tired of running, stair climbing, and cycling? If you are looking for a cardio workout that promises plenty of calorie burning, upper- and lower-body conditioning, all while being low impact, look no further than getting in some indoor rowing exercise.

This exercise is not necessarily new (its origins date back nearly 2,000 years to ancient Greece) and not exclusive to outdoor rowing enthusiasts. For the average individual, rowing provides an excellent warm-up source, while the seasoned CrossFitter may use the rower as a cardio component in an elaborate superset. Regardless of your fitness level, the erg rowing machine is designed to give a low-impact, smooth exercise movement that provides training for outdoor rowers as well as an uncomplicated total-body exercise for the average Joe or Jane.

Steps for Learning Indoor Rowing

Indoor rowing technique can easily be taught in four convenient steps:

  1. The Catch: The starting point; legs are bent at the knees, arms are straight, and the back is flat.
  2. The Drive: The legs are extending and the handle is pulled toward the chest.
  3. The Finish: Legs are extended and the handle is at the chest.
  4. The Recovery: The sliding motion in which the body moves back to “the catch” position and performs another rep.

Like most exercise patterns, rowing requires practice and sometimes coaching to fully and safely get the most out of the movement.

For more detail, check out these instructional videos from the manufacturer of our rowing machines, Concept2.

NIFS staff is here to help and encourage you all the way! Please contact a NIFS Health Fitness Specialist with help on improving your rowing technique or incorporating the rowing machine into your current exercise program.

To get started or develope a new workout routine, contact us for a free fitness assessment!

Free Fitness Assessment

Evolve and rejoice,

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 calories rowing

Thomas’ Corner: Slim-lympics Decathlon of Fitness

Good Morning, NIFS! Welcome to Slim It to Win It 2014. We are very excited to bring you another Slim It season, with tons of new workouts and fresh ideas.

Today’s workout is inspired by one of the most celebrated events of the Olympics, the decathlon. In today’s workout, we have 10 exercises in which we will do one set each for a 2-minute AMRAP(as many reps as you can). Between exercises, take 2 minutes to rest. When your rest time is up, be ready to immediately start the next exercise.

For a benchmark, make note of total reps you complete on each event. At any time, complete the event again to see progress, challenge a friend, or change up the exercises with some of your own. Total workout time is around 40 to 45 minutes.

  1. TRX squatThe Dawn Patrol Thomas Team
  2. Dynamax slammers
  3. Box step-ups
  4. Crunches
  5. TRX rows
  6. Lunges
  7. Push-ups
  8. Kettlebell swings
  9. Overhead press
  10. Jumping jacks

Team Thomas completed this workout on February 13 at 6am, just our second class. All 15 team members completed the workout and left nothing on the table. Eighteen-year NIFS member Harrison Royce had this to say immediately following the workout:

“This was definitely an excellent HIT routine. There was amped-up cardio, high-intensity exercise while maintaining friendly competition amongst others in the team and with yourself.”

Others echoed Harrison’s sentiment. Angela Dixon stated, “The partner’s exercises were good and the workout was a good hurt” and Bridget Harter exclaimed, “This workout makes me feel like I’ll be fit in no time!”

Warning: This workout has been linked to profuse sweating, increased heart rate, calorie burning, team-building camaraderie, increased self-confidence, and sense of accomplishment. Participate at your own risk. (Just kidding… GET BUSY AND HAVE FUN!)

Want to try a HIT class for free? Free class sessions are offered each month. Click here to see the HIT schedule and dates and times for fress sessions.

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

Topics: NIFS cardio Thomas' Corner NIFS programs circuit workout HIT rowing kettlebell Slim It to Win It

Ready, Set, Row! The NIFS Staff Rowing Challenge Is Back

Get ready for the 2013 Annual Staff Rowing Challenge here at NIFS! If you are looking for a little bit of friendly competition as the winter rolls in, be sure to sign up with a team this year! The competition is pretty straightforward. All you need to do is sign up for a team; row, row, row; record your meters; and watch the boats on the string-line in front of the rower to see if your team is winning the race!

WARNING: This competition can be pretty intense (all in fun), so bring your “A” game!

For those of you who participated last year, you probably remember how it all turned out in the end. For those of you who didn’t, here are the results from last year:

2012 Team Total Meters Rowed

  1. Tony: 730,336
  2. Rick: 483,377
  3. Adam: 413,370
  4. Ben: 325,370
  5. Mike: 242,032rowing NIFS
  6. Cara: 213,230
  7. Tasha: 206,304
  8. Brad: 199,438
  9. Josh: 90,726
  10. Alex: 84,505
  11. Christy: 83,793
  12. Steph: 77,543
  13. Thomas: 59,297

             Do you know the right way to row?
             Watch our video with Tony and Alex!
             They will show you the proper form before
             you get started!

2012 Team Average Meters Rowed

  1. Ben: 46,481
  2. Adam: 45, 930
  3. Rick: 30,212
  4. Tony: 26,083
  5. Cara: 21,323
  6. Brad: 16,620
  7. Tasha: 12,894
  8. Alex: 12,072
  9. Thomas: 11,859
  10. Christy: 9,310
  11. Mike: 9,309
  12. Steph: 7,754
  13. Josh: 7,560
This year we are adding a little bit of a twist to the program that will be sure to make the race even more exciting and competitive than it has been in the past. Here are the ground rules for the program this year:
  • Choose your team and sign up with a Health Fitness
    Specialist at the track desk for your team starting November 18.
  • Between November 25 at 6am and December 24 at 2pm, row!
  • There are two ways to utilize your meters rowed this year. In the tracking binder located at the track desk, record your meters rowed immediately following your rowing session, either for your team or against another team. Your meters rowed can only count for one or the other.
  • All rowing must take place at NIFS to count toward your team total.
  • Your HFS will move your team boat along the line to show how well your team is doing against the others.
  • There will be two winning teams that will have bragging rights as champions for the year: the team with the most total meters rowed and the team with the highest individual average.

Sign up before Monday 11/25! We are looking forward to another exciting race this year! If you have any questions about the program, contact Stephanie Kaiser at sgreer@nifs.org or 274-2432, ext. 226.

This blog was written by Stephanie Kaiser. Click here to learn more about the NIFS bloggers.

Topics: NIFS winter fitness fitness center nifs staff rowing