NIFS Healthy Living Blog

NIFS Personal Trainer Takes on a Triathlon Challenge (Part 3)

IMG_9672.jpgWe have followed NIFS trainer Crystal Anne Belen throughout her triathlon training program experience (see part 1 and part 2). It’s finally time for the race, the moment the entire group has been waiting for and anticipating for the past 2½ months. Let’s hear from Crystal about her experience!

It’s the week of the race and training is complete. A lot of preparation has happened over the last 10 weeks. The hard part is over. Hydrating, breathing drills, staying healthy, visualization, staying positive, and relaxing were my areas of focus. By the end of training, I was feeling confident with my transitions and prepared for the race.

Goal: 500m Swim, 10-Mile Bike, 3-Mile Run

At the start of the race, I felt the excitement in the atmosphere! Almost 400 athletes were there to compete, and everyone had worked so hard for this moment. From my perspective, the distance didn’t look that far to swim in the open water. As I stood there waiting for my time to enter the reservoir, I was determined to conquer it, and there wasn’t anything that was going to stop me. However, the swim turned out a lot harder than I expected. I unfortunately found myself going kayak-to-kayak, needing assistance, and eventually met George, a gentleman who stuck with me as far as I could go. He encouraged me as I went along and said that he was there for me whenever I needed him. No matter how long it was going to take me, I was determined to finish the swimming portion.

I swam about halfway through the 500m, and there came a point where I was taking too long in the water and was told that I had to be picked up in the boat to catch up with the rest of the swimmers. Along with a few other ladies, sitting in the boat in tears, I was disappointed in myself. The official who picked us up offered that if we wanted to swim the last 50m, we could get back in. I wasn’t about to end the swim in total defeat, so I got back in the water and swam the rest of the way in.

The Ride

While I thought that the obstacles were over for me, the bike portion of the race brought even more roadblocks. I started off with a nice, quick transition to begin the ride. Determined to make up some time from the swim and knowing that I couldn't let the swim get to me, I came upon the first hill of the race and ended up running into a problem immediately. As I shifted gears, my chain came off my bike and I ended up having to pull off the road to put my chain back on.

After getting my chain back on, I rode for the next 6 miles, passing a few ladies, but then another unexpected mishap took place. As I shifted gears on another hill, my bike came to an abrupt stop. Emotionally done, I had had enough, and the disappointment of all the training I did for nothing was overwhelming. Another gentleman came and asked if I needed any help. He tried to see what was wrong with it, spent a few minutes looking at it, and ended up telling me that I was going to have to walk my bike the rest of the race. My derailleur flipped over and would catch in my spindle, not even allowing me to pedal. Beyond frustrated and embarrassed, I wasn’t able to keep the positive mindset I had been working toward, although I was still determined to complete the course. It had to happen.

While walking the rest of the course, an unexpected turn of events took place. I caught up to a woman who was also walking with her bike. I felt so frustrated and defeated but as we began to talk, I was grateful for this time. She said, “I’m sorry to hear about your bike, but I'm thankful that you are walking with me.” In that instant, my mindset completely changed. In the full-throttle of my stress, someone needed my help more.

The next thing I knew, the trainer in me ended up encouraging her to keep persevering. I was no longer thinking about the struggles I was going through. I walked with her the rest of the 3 miles, and she eventually rode back on her bike to complete the remainder of the race. Finishing in last place in the biking portion allowed me to put things in perspective, and I was so thankful that I had the opportunity to help another athlete. I was no longer mad at myself, and I kept telling myself that the only thing left to do was the 3-mile run, my strongest portion of this triathlon.

The Last Leg

Running indeed was my strongest event as I completed the 3 miles without any major incidents and ran the entire way. I finished my run in 28 minutes with an overall race time of 2 hours 12 minutes and 10 seconds.

With the rollercoaster of events that took place, I'm very grateful for accepting the challenge, going through the experience, and stepping outside of my comfort zone, and especially grateful for the people I've met along the way. I’ve learned that there are things that happen in life that you can’t control, things happen in which you have a decision to make, for which your attitude can instantly determine the path that you will travel on. As a trainer, I work with many individuals who go through their own challenge on a daily basis, and this has given me more appreciation and a fresh perspective on the process it takes to overcome a difficult part in your life.

With how I completed the race, I've been asked if I'd do another one. Surprisingly, yes, I would do another one. Knowing what it takes and where I currently stand, I can work to improve. So the journey continues, I am tentatively planning on completing another triathlon on September 30, in Illinois, to write a new chapter in this book.

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This blog was written by Crystal Anne Belen, personal trainer and health fitness instructor at NIFS. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: running swimming nifs staff race challenge biking triathlon training program

NIFS Personal Trainer Takes on a Triathlon Challenge (Part 2)

IMG_5313.jpgTriathlon training is past the halfway point (see part 1 of my blog) and has been quite the journey! With long days of juggling my work schedule, the training plan, a dog, a home life, and trying to find time in there to rest, training for this triathlon has been quite challenging! In addition to the training plan that I am following, I have analyzed areas where I need to improve, especially in the swim portion of the race. I have noticed that not only the physical aspect of the triathlon training needs work, but my attitude does as well.

Back to the Basics

How do I tackle this without being overwhelmed with the other 50 things running through my mind that need to be done, and then keeping a positive mindset about my energy to top it off? I have decided to break it down and take each segment one step at a time, in order to not become so stressed out. I have taken the mindset of going back to the basics of training and mastering those first.

Mastering Swimming Basics

On our first swim training, one immediate thing I noticed was how my heart rate skyrockets when I’m in the water. My quads are on fire from kicking incorrectly, my breathing and head are uncontrolled, and I tend to hold onto the edge of the pool in order to not drown. Even worse, this all seems to happen within a 50-meter stretch in the pool! While I wanted to quickly bail, I was reminded to take it one step at a time.

Something that really helped to reassure me was that our coach mentioned to our group, “The hardest part is getting in the water; once you’re in, you’ve accomplished half of the battle. The key is not swimming faster, but it is to concentrate on your form and technique.” Needless to say, I’ve been focusing on those basic tips and am beginning to feel more comfortable in the water and see my swimming improve!

Biking: Getting to Know the Bike

I ride my bike for recreational commuting purposes but have never raced competitively. One of our first rides as a group was focused around getting to know your bike. We had to check our seat height and the air in our tires (and know how to fill them up), learn the gearshifts, and learn a few other tricks about knowing our own bikes. This was a huge help for me.

Another training day we were working on mounting and dismounting our bikes in order to learn to be efficient with our transitions between the swim-to-bike and bike-to-run. A few seconds in your time makes a difference. I ended up having a nice bruise on my leg as my pedal caught my knee on my first try. On the plus side, the convenience of working at NIFS and being downtown has enabled me to run errands and train with my bike, accumulating cycling miles over the course of the week. This has helped me to be more comfortable on my bike and learn how to get on and off quickly.

Improving My Running

Running is probably my strongest event in the triathlon. Last year I ran competitively in the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon, although I have not kept up with a consistent cardio program until now. My goal is to increase my pace in hopes of making up for where I am challenged in swimming and biking, but without running out of energy before I cross the finish line. Getting back into a running program is hard! I’ve battled plantar fasciitis in my left foot and a mild case of low back pain. I’ve mixed my workouts with weight training prior to running, sprints, and longer-distance runs in hopes of mimicking the fatigue that I will feel from swimming and biking on race day.

My Top Triathlon Tips

I have learned through this triathlon training program so much about myself and the importance of not stressing over the big picture, but instead focusing on each segment of the training and race. As a trainer and a first-time triathlete in training, here are a few tips I’d like to share:  

  • Use a coach to help you. It’s hard to see your technique when you are swimming, biking, and running, and a few simple tips will make a big difference. You can always improve.
  • Warming up is essential. Techniques such as foam rolling, tension release, dynamic stretching, and letting your body adjust to the environment have made such a big difference in my workouts.
  • Bring on the food. Don’t get me wrong; eating healthy, meal prepping, and portion control are all essential to my daily way of living. However, what I’ve noticed is that I’m hungrier and my body has been leaning out and getting toned from the additional training. I’ve had to increase my food/calorie intake so that I can stay energized throughout the whole day.

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This blog was written by Crystal Anne Belen, personal trainer and health fitness instructor at NIFS. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS running swimming triathlon cycling nifs staff triathlon training program personal trainer

You’ll Never Do a Marathon? Five Reasons to Join Group Training

Some people really love to run; some don’t. For those who do, running is so much more than just getting in a few miles to check “workout” off the list. It can be a social hour and a stress reliever; it can be therapeutic, present a challenge to take on, and help people step away from the mundane routine of waking up, going to work, coming home, and repeat!

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Now for those who do not enjoy it, when you see all the promotions to sign-up to race you think, “Why on earth would I want to pay to run 13.1 or 26.2 miles? I don’t even want to bike or drive that far; why would I run that far?” Let me share with you five motivations to consider giving it a shot.

  1. Raise money for a charity: This has grown in popularity over the last five years or so and is a great reason to sign up for a half or full marathon. If for no other reason at all, find your favorite charity, get some people to sponsor each mile you run, and when you finish you can joyfully donate that money to the charity of choice. I can’t think of any better reason to put in time than to do it for a cause or in memory of someone.
  2. Inspire others: Others are always watching each of us, whether or not we realize it. Maybe it’s your kids, your spouse, or your best friend, but someone out there admires you. By turning your focus from yourself outward, you may inspire someone to do something that they thought was virtually impossible.
  3. Stretch your limits: When is that last time you really pushed to see just how much you could do? If you have not experienced a full or half marathon, trust me when I say it can really stretch your limits. Maybe running this distance is something you have never imagined yourself doing. I assure you, you will run all the way to the point that you thought you could go, and then you’ll run right past it! Training for a distance race will absolutely push your limits, but it will also leave you feeling a huge sense of accomplishment afterward.
  4. Meet new people: It’s really fun to be part of the running community. Training for an event like this takes a great deal of time and effort, and I can assure you that you will make some lifelong friends in a running group. Seriously, try it; next thing you know you will be traveling to other states to run together!
  5. Learn your body’s capabilities: Sometimes we think we have hit the peak of what we can do, and we really understand what our bodies can physically handle. I challenge you to try running a half or full marathon. You will define new boundaries of what you are capable of. It’s truly amazing to think about what the body can sustain through training when done properly.

I hope that something on this list has hit home for you. Take a step past what you always thought was impossible or maybe just not very smart, and get yourself signed up for a race this fall. We would love to have you come and train with us, too!

Check out the NIFS Fall Half and Full Marathon Training Program. This 16-week group training program will get you ready for a half or a full and help you find that running community to get you across the finish line. Training begins July 19, so register now!

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

Topics: NIFS motivation running marathon training group training half marathon marathon fall

Glute Exercises for Runners

ThinkstockPhotos-517225814.jpgHaving strong glutes is essential for reducing your risk of injury and preventing lower back pain. Those muscles help protect your knees while walking and running, they help you with your speed, and they stabilize the entire leg. Without strong glutes, the entire lower body may fall out of balance causing other injuries

I could talk all day about this group of muscles, but instead I’m going to show you three simple exercises you can do anywhere to help strengthen them.

These exercises are just general recommendations, and you should never feel any pain. If you are experiencing pain, recovering from an injury, or need a modification make sure to talk with a NIFS Fitness Specialist in the fitness center downstairs.

3 Glute Strengthening exercises for runnersFor all of these exercises, complete 10-20 reps 2-3 times 3 times a week.

Exercise 1) Curtsey Lunge—Begin standing with your feet under your hips and hands on your waist. Cross your left leg behind your right, bending your knee and lowering down into a lunge position. Drive through your front heel as you stand and bring your back foot to starting position. Repeat on the other side and continue to alternate.

Exercise 2) Glute Bridge—Lie flat on your back, feet flat and hip distance apart, knees bent and arms down at your sides. Position your feet as close to your bottom as possible. Drive through the heels to lift your hips up to the ceiling. Hold for a count of 2, then slowly lower down to starting position.

Exercise 3) Side Lying Diamond Leg Lifts—Lie on your side with your body in a straight line.
Bring your feet together and your knees together, your knees should be slightly in front of your body. Rest your head on your hand or lie down. Gently open your legs like a clam then close them for one rep. Repeat on the other side.

While getting in the miles is very important when training for a half marathon, it’s essential to balance your running routine with adequate stretching and strength training exercises to keep your body in good running condition. This will help prevent injuries and you will feel strong as you cross that Mini Marathon Finish line!

Fore more glute exercises see our blog,  Are You Glute-n Free.

Comment in the comment section below with some of the exercises you incorporate into your running routine!

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This blog was written by Tara Deal Rochford, nutirition specialist. Follow Tara on her blog, Treble in the Kitchen. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: running mini marathon injury prevention exercises glutes Mini-Marathon Training Program

How to Hydrate During Half Marathon Training

ThinkstockPhotos-650727070.jpgHydration is just as important, or maybe even more important, than proper nutrition and a balanced training plan. Dehydration is the largest contributor to fatigue when training or running. Our body sweats to regulate body temperature and complete many other functions that keep us healthy. When our body loses fluid and electrolytes through these processes, it needs to be replaced.

In order to be hydrated enough to enjoy your race, it’s important to think about consuming fuids before, during, and after the run.

Before: The days leading up to the race or a long run, it is important to really focus on constantly drinking water throughout the day so that on the day of the long run or race you are just topping off your tank. A general recommendation is to drink half of your body weight in oz. Example – a 150lb person would consume 75 oz of water.   It’s recommended to stop drinking about 30 minutes before a long run or race so you have time to use the facilities.

During: Drinking while running a half marathon may sound like a challenge, but actually taking a second to drink the water provided along the race course will make you feel SO much better at the finish line. Try to drink 16-20 oz an hour. This will vary depending on how much you sweat, how hot it is and the intensity of your exercise.

After: Proper hydration helps with recovery, so it’s essential to replenish when you complete your race. It’s typically recommended to drink about 24 oz for every pound of body weight lost during the race.

Now, you may be wondering about sports drinks. Sports drinks are higher in calories and sugar than water and they also contain electrolytes like potassium and sodium that your body lost through sweat. The purpose of sports drinks is to help replenish your body of the nutrients it lost. If you are running for more than an hour, sports drinks may be a better option to help you recover.Now that you understand WHEN to hydrate, let’s talk about HOW to hydrate:

How to Hydrate for a half marathon

Water Bottle:

I carry this water bottle with me throughout the day. I love that it has the measurements on the side, so I can monitor how much water I consume. Because I carry it with me, I am more inclined to drink throughout the day rather than all at once when I think about it.

Hydrating Fruits and Vegetables:

Foods such as lettuce, grapefruit, watermelon and broccoli have a high water content. Consuming foods like this throughout the day will help your hydration levels stay balanced.

Homemade Sports Drink:

This homemade sports drink is the perfect balance of carbohydrates and electrolytes to help you refuel AND it’s made with real ingredients. The citrus are thirst quenching and provide simple carbohydrates that are easily digested. Pure maple syrup is lower on the glycemic index, which means that these carbohydrates are digested at a slower rate for longer lasting energy. Water and the coconut water are both fluid, and the coconut water is also a source of electrolytes to help your body maintain balance.

It’s very simple to make at home, and I’ll include the link in the comments below!

The takeaway here is to make sure to drink water throughout the day, and when you are completing your longer runs or the actual race make sure to consume water or a sports drink every hour and immediately following the race to help maintain energy levels and aid in the recovery process.

Comment below with your favorite ways to hydrate and I’ll see you next time with more half marathon training tips!

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This blog was written by Tara Deal Rochford, nutirition specialist. Follow Tara on her blog, Treble in the Kitchen. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition running mini marathon hydration Mini-Marathon Training Program

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

Mini-Marathon Training: 3 BIG Things for Running

mini.jpgNIFS' Mini-Marathon Training Program has started, with most individuals’ goals revolving around one thing: to run a new personal best. Come May 6, months and months of training will be put to the test against a tough 13.1-mile journey.

What are you doing to get ready? Many veteran runners of this race have programs that they have used year after year with repeated success. Some newcomers (or maybe even veterans) may still be searching for that training program that will allow them to reach their fastest potential. But where do you start? Obviously when preparing for a race (5K, half marathon, marathon, etc.), running will take up the majority of your training time. My only tip for the running aspect of your training is to be sure to utilize a running progression that fits your current training age (or level of fitness/training you are currently at). This will help ease your body’s adjustment into the longer distances as they build up over the next few months.

This blog focuses on the less obvious pieces of your running puzzle. Check out my “3 Big Things” to consider when preparing to race.

1. Have Your Functional Movement Screen (FMS) Done

FMS-5.jpgThis sits at #1 on the list for good reason. The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) can help identify different types of mobility issues and muscular imbalances. In my experience with runners, these issues are prevalent. These are also issues that can lead to a less efficient running stride, or potentially even injuries.

Think about it this way: do you get better, worse, or the same gas mileage when you drive your car with uneven tire air pressure? The answer is worse. Now think about it in terms of your body. If you have an ankle that is immobile, you will be spending your training time and the 13.1-mile race fighting that issue. If you identify that problem and improve its mobility (i.e. airing up the low tire pressure), the workload will be more evenly distributed between both sides of the body. This should allow you to run more efficiently and expend fewer calories per stride.

Did I mention that NIFS members can have this done at our facility, FOR FREE?

Learn More

2. Practice Self-Care/Recovery

It’s not uncommon to see a runner’s performance struggle not for the lack of an adequate training program, but because of what happens after training has concluded. What do you have planned for your off days or light training days? Do you even have off, light training, or recovery days? These are definitely factors that need to be addressed as soon as your training commences. Depending on your training age, these variables may be adjusted.

Training for any type of race is definitely going to be stressful on the body, so finding ways to optimize your recovery throughout your training program is paramount. Three main areas that I recommend that you focus on include the following:

  • Sleep: At least 6–7 hours.
  • Soft-tissue work (for example, foam rolling): Hips, calves, shins.
  • Low-impact/low-intensity movements: Cycling or swimming.

The ultimate goal throughout these areas will be to allow your body to prepare itself for the next intense training bout. Training at 60, 70, or 80% of your absolute best probably won’t yield the greatest return on your training sessions. Being closer to that top level will allow you to push yourself each training session and get the best results.

Did I mention that you can talk to a trainer about how to optimize your rest and recovery at NIFS’ fitness center, FOR FREE?

3. Do Strength Training

Some of you are probably looking at this with a “yeah, right” thought in your mind. If strength training is not currently in your running preparation program, I challenge you to add it. I’m not saying you have to be lifting weights 6 days a week. I’m not saying that you need to look like Arnold. I’m saying that a couple days a week of resistance training might be the key to take you to the next level. And no, you are not going to get big or bulky. Training frequency and the exercise selection associated with a strength program for runners will not yield those results. Bodybuilders train to get bigger. Athletes (runners included) train to prepare their body for their sport.

After mobility issues are improved from the FMS, I usually focus on a few main areas with runners that I strength train. Those areas include unilateral (single-side) exercises, lateral movements, and core strength.

  • Unilateral exercises allow the strength training to mimic stressors that are similar to running, which is also essentially a unilateral movement.
  • Variations of lateral exercises allow a runner (who normally only goes in a straight line) to develop strength in different planes of movement. This can be good for running efficiency as well as potentially reducing the risk for injury.
  • Lastly, and certainly not least, is core strength. Strength of the hips and abdominal area is key to maintaining your form throughout a race as well as reducing impact on the joints. Form and posture are vital to your performance while running, which will be enhanced by training these muscles.

Also, did I mention that you can have a strength-training program like this made at our facility—you guessed it, FOR FREE?

Free Fitness Assessment

Conclusion

There are a lot of ways to approach how you train and a lot of ways that can make you successful when competing for your running goals. Make small changes with your current program to start, and slowly add in more as you see yourself improve!

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This blog was written by Alex Soller, Athletic Performance Coach and NIFS Trainer. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS running core strength recovery strength training functional movement Mini-Marathon Training Program foam rolling

NIFS Member Kelly Dodds, 50 and Fierce, Hits a Marathon Goal

Kelly-Doddsnew.jpgHave you ever thought of doing something big for those special birthday milestones? I can easily recall all the excitement that came with my 16th birthday, for behind-the-wheel freedom, being able to call myself an adult at 18, and we all know the free feeling of legality when turning 21. Then there are those later-year birthdays, such as 30, 40, and 50, that tend to be looked upon as a negative thing with the “it’s all downhill from here,” mentality.

In the last few years, however more men and women have taken it upon themselves to look at these latter milestones as a time to accomplish a longtime goal or to cross off an item from their bucket list. Personally, I am enjoying this new outlook and challenge! I would like to share with you an experience from one of our own NIFS members, Kelly, who decided to take up the Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World as she turns 50 this month.

The Dopey Challenge is a four-day event in Orlando, Florida, that consists of four races within four days: a 5K on Thursday, 10K on Friday, a half marathon (13.1 miles) on Saturday, and a full marathon (26.2 miles) on Sunday. Sounds pretty crazy, right? Well let me be the first to tell you, Kelly not only completed it but also did far better than she expected. She crushed her goals and was able to complete all four races injury free. And throughout the different races, she felt stronger than she had ever anticipated. But don’t just hear it from me; read on below for her personal account of this crazy experience.

Could you give us a little background about yourself?

“This past year has been a year of milestones for me. My husband, Kevin, and I celebrated 25 years of marriage last July. We also celebrated 10 years as Kristen’s parents (same day). In addition to being a wife and mother, I have worked at the NCAA for 16 years. I am also active in my church, teaching Sunday school and helping with our youth group. Exercise is something I definitely need for balance. I started running about 20 years ago. I had just turned 30, and although I was not overweight, could still visibly see a need for exercise. To start out, I was mainly doing cardio on a stair-stepper we had in our garage, but one Saturday I decided to go for a run to mix it up a little. I was hooked. Before I knew it, I completed the Mini-Marathon (the first of many half marathons) and eventually completed my first marathon at age 40.”

What made you decide to sign up for the Dopey Challenge?

“I had heard about the Dopey Challenge soon after it began in 2013. I had done two marathons, so with my 50th birthday on the horizon, I thought it would be the perfect challenge. There was only one person that I mentioned it to who did not think it was a crazy idea: my husband. (I guess you start to think alike when you have been married for so long.) That made the idea of doing it even more enticing—something that we would do together. I could hardly wait.”

What did you do in order to prepare for the series of races?

“I signed up for the Dopey in April and knew that I wanted to lose some weight and gain some strength. At the time, I did do strength training twice a week on my own in my home, but felt I wasn’t getting much benefit out of it. I decided to see what NIFS had to offer and came across the Ramp Up to Weight Loss program. That is where I met Masie. She came up with a great program that helped me reach my goal. Rebecca and Angie were also instrumental in my journey. I learned so much and they were always my biggest cheerleaders. After that, I continued with a maintenance program at NIFS and followed a running schedule developed by Hal Higdon specifically for the Dopey Challenge. Masie tailored my workouts so that I would be a stronger runner. It worked, as I was running faster and finishing stronger. I could not believe the difference since April.”

Were there any setbacks during training or doubts about achieving your goals? If so, how did you deal with them?

“The training was harder than I anticipated. Getting the back-to-back runs completed is the biggest part of the training, so there really is not much flexibility. By mid-November I was so tired of running all the time. The weather was turning colder and the holiday season didn’t help. Physically I was fine, but mentally I was exhausted. For my last long run it was cold, rainy, and windy. I was soaked and my legs burned. I just reminded myself that it is not supposed to be easy and it would be over soon. It really is such a mental thing.”

How was the trip? What happened during your weekend there?

“The trip began perfectly. I hit my personal goal times for the 5K and 10K and was feeling great. We enjoyed the parks after both races, basking in the sunny, 70-degree weather. However, the weather was looking threatening for Saturday with storms. Sure enough, on Friday night we got an e-mail stating the half marathon would be canceled as it would be too dangerous. They would give us our medals for the half after the marathon. I could have cried. I worked so hard and was so excited about doing all four races. But there was nothing I could do about it. I knew I had to get those miles in.

The storms were supposed to move through by 9 a.m., so my husband and I decided that we would run the 13.1 miles on the running trail at our resort. The distance is marked and I also had a GPS on my watch, so I knew I could feel confident about the miles. We got up the next day and headed out in the rain to do our half. I wore exactly what I had planned to wear, including my Dopey Challenge bib.

As I approached the running trail I could hear shouting. I then saw the most incredible sight. There were dozens of people out there running. Most had their Dopey Challenge bibs on, some even had costumes. One lady was carrying her American flag. Runners that were finished stood on the side to cheer on those of us still running. As we ran and passed each other (over and over again—we had to do 11 laps) we were high fiving and congratulating one another. There was more buzz and excitement than I have ever experienced at a half marathon—ever. (We later learned that this phenomenon was happening at all the Disney resorts, and actually started on Friday night after the announcement.) As I ran that morning, the miles flew by. I had a ball. Most importantly, I could now look forward to the marathon—including the celebration—knowing I got all 48.6 miles done. The marathon went as expected, although it was pretty chilly—40 degrees the entire time. But I finished strong and missed my personal goal time by only 3½ minutes. It was an extraordinary feeling to cross that finish line.”

What are your exercise plans for the future?

“I am continuing my program here at NIFS. Now that the races are over, my strength training will change so that I can focus more on getting my body-fat percentage down. I am back to running regularly and am looking forward to the Mini-Marathon this spring. I would like to do another marathon soon. My husband and I are already talking about another one we could do together. Although I don’t see any more Dopeys in my future, I have not ruled out doing a 50K someday. Maybe for my 60th? We shall see…”

***

We are so proud of Kelly and all of her accomplishments! We had the pleasure of working with her during most of her training before her big race weekend and developed so much admiration for her continuous dedication to her running program. Kelly displays that go-getter attitude that is contagious! I hope this experience can be that motivational nudge you need to make one of your goals a reality this year. Don’t wait any longer; this year can be that year, and NIFS has so many programs that can help get you there! Click here to find out what we offer.

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This blog was written by Rebecca Heck, Group Fitness Coordinator and NIFS Trainer. To find out more about our bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS running weight loss mini marathon half marathon 5k marathon

From Mini-Marathon Participant to Ironman: NIFS Leader Nick Iaria

Nick-Before.jpgnick-after.jpgLongtime NIFS Mini-Marathon Program leader Nick Iaria shares his personal story about the NIFS Mini-Marathon Training Program, his fitness changes, and his path to completing an Ironman triathlon.

How long have you been involved in the NIFS Mini-Marathon Program, and what made you decide to join?

I joined in 2009 as a participant, not a leader. I was a part of the run/walk group, and up to that point in my life had never completed a distance over 5 miles. Since 2010 I have been a group leader in the run/walk group and have transitioned to different time-specific groups over the years (11-minute, 10-minute, etc.).

I found out about the program from my then girlfriend, now wife, who was an intern at NIFS, and she was joining as a run/walk leader. I think I joined not just because of her, but because I was interested in finding out if I could do it. I don’t think I would have just gone out of my way to train for it on my own. I needed the knowledge and experience that NIFS gave in the training program format to get me started.

Since being a part of the program you have gone from the run/walk group to, in 2017, leading the 8:30 pace group. How did you manage to increase your speed?

I would like to say I did X and then Y and that led me to Z, but that isn’t how it worked. I am not sure what path got me here, but I think I just had a desire to improve and to continue just for the purpose of continuing. I do think that a large improvement came in the form of my mental training over the years that became a critical step in enhancing my physical development, which led to an increase in speed. It was never really my goal to get to a certain pace or speed; it just kind of happened.

Another key ingredient is core body strength. By improving the strength of my midsection and upper legs over the past two years, it has helped in pushing through the “I want to slow down” or “full-out quit” moments. The mental/physiological improvements I have made within myself—where I believe more in myself and I learn to listen to my body and learn from past mistakes during runs or events where I didn’t do the right things along the way—has been a key part of my success. I don’t take anything as a failure, just a learning opportunity for the next time.

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EARLY BIRD PRICING THROUGH NOVEMBER 29, 2016!

 

 

Why do you enjoy running?

Until recently I have never considered myself a runner; I always considered myself a jogger. However, the stronger and longer I go, the more I feel like a runner. I enjoy it because I can do it whenever (early morning, evening, etc.) and wherever (outside in the elements or inside on a treadmill, etc.). I don’t need anything besides a good pair of shoes and sometimes some good music to get me started or keep me going. It is something I can do alone or with other people. It is versatile as I can go different speeds or distances, and it is easy to track both with different forms of technology so I can track my results as I go.

Last year you were a Mini-Marathon Ambassador. What did that mean, and why do you love the Mini-Marathon so much?

I felt really honored to be a part of the program’s first year. There was an amazing group of 32 other people from all walks of life with different Mini experiences. Getting to interact with them and being able to help others who had questions or needed advice on the Mini made this year’s race that much better when I rang the PR bell at the finish.

My love for it came with my first time back in 2009. I was in a car accident (not my fault) 2.5 weeks before the race and had 5 stitches put in my knee. They were taken out the Monday of race week. I went back and forth all week about whether I should even do it, and that went all the way up to the morning of the race. For some reason I thought I could deal with the pain and still go out and run/walk the full 13.1 miles, but only made it through 4 miles. I knew I had to walk in order to finish and I WAS GOING TO FINISH. Walking the next 9 miles was really fun (and a bit painful) to be walking and interacting with all the different walkers and groups on the side of the road/track cheering us all on. My experience would have been different if I wasn’t walking and taking it all in. Plus, I ended up posing for one of the photographers on the track and ended up on one of the 2010 Mini advertisement posters, so that was an unintended perk, too.

What advice do you have for individuals just starting out or thinking about training for a half marathon?

If it is something that interests you or if you are looking to see how far you can push yourself, I know that feeling. I went way outside my comfort zone recently when I signed up for a full Ironman triathlon (that’s 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, and 26.2 miles of running). It was way outside my comfort zone since I had never swum that far, never biked that far, and had only completed 26.2 miles twice previously at an average completion time of around 6 hours, and it was a struggle just completing the 26.2 miles, so combining all those into one day seemed unattainable. But I told myself there is only one way to find out, and with the support of my friends and family, I signed up, got a triathlon training program, and on October 9 I reached my goal and crossed the finish line.

So, that is my advice: If you are thinking about it, then you probably already want to do it, but just need that confidence or something that helps you to convince yourself that you can reach that goal. I know that you can do it, no matter your level of experience or age. I would say join a program like I did when I joined the NIFS program back in 2009. It will help in learning what to do and when to do it, plus it will help provide that accountability from start to finish for you. The finish line doesn’t care if you run, jog, walk, or roll across it; it only cares that you cross it.

***

Congratulations, Nick, on a wonderful accomplishment! And thank you for your continued dedication to the NIFS Mini-Marathon and 5K Training Program. If you have been thinking about competing in the Mini-Marathon or any other spring half-marathon, or training for a 5K, registration is now open for these NIFS programs. Sign up here!

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

Topics: NIFS running triathlon mini marathon NIFS programs 5k Mini-Marathon Training Program Ironman

Thomas’s Corner: Functional Training Series (Part 1)

ThinkstockPhotos-523032469-2.jpgWhat Is Functional Training?

The term functional training is a mainstay in the current fitness/wellness vernacular, but what is it? In lay terms, it is training that supports movements that are performed in everyday life outside the gym, or that are naturally occurring movement patterns (whether or not you use them).

Where You See Functional Training

You encounter functional training anytime you are walking, running, pushing, pulling, twisting, or bending (almost every movement!). As Mike Blume, Athletic Performance Trainer at NIFS, puts it, “Functional training improves our activities of daily living (ADLs), which will then help us get through each day easier.” This improved quality of life could affect something as simple as tying your shoes, to playing with your children on the floor, to carrying your groceries to your second-floor apartment.

Choosing the Right Functional Training Movements

Not all functional training exercises are created equal. We find that exercises that are more specific or have a greater “transfer effect” can have a greater overall impact on the participant going as far as increased brain/muscle motor control). Exercises that are on the other end of the spectrum have a lower overall impact, however.

Preventing Functional Training Injury

We find the difficulty and complexity of an exercise must be taken into consideration and may be detrimental to a person’s health and wellness if they are not physically capable of performing the movement correctly. We all know that there is nothing functional about injury due to inexperience or physical limitation. See a NIFS fitness instructor or personal trainer to discuss functional training and how it applies to your workout level.

In part 2 of this two-part series, I'll look at lifting techniques for functional training.

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood. For more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: Thomas' Corner running walking functional training muscles range of motion flexibility