NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Crucial Conversations: I Have 99 Problems, But My (NIFS) Gym Isn’t One

karen8.29.16.jpgFor the next installment of Crucial Conversations, a series where I have a chat with some very inspirational individuals and share it with all of you, I speak with a woman who needs no elaborate introduction. That’s because not only is she pretty well known around these parts, but also because she wouldn’t have it.

She is about the business of being fit and staying fit, no frills or fancy Instagram posts, just the business, and business is good. I am referring to longtime NIFS member Karen. I had the opportunity to ask Karen a few questions about being an “ageless warrior,” what keeps her motivated, and why she continues to make NIFS her fitness home. Join me as we uncover some of the things that make this amazing individual tick!

Tony: Tell me a little about yourself.

Karen: I was born in Indianapolis in 1958 and attended Arlington High School. During my time at Arlington I ran track and field and played volleyball. I got married in 1983, and my son was born in 1984.

Tony: Besides being a high school athlete, have you always been generally healthy, fit, and active?

Karen: I used to do workout videos, when they were popular, with my young son. At the young age of 25 I was diagnosed with high blood pressure [hypertension] after the birth of my son. This was hard for me to process due to my healthy lifestyle and healthy nature. It was something that I would have to deal with for the rest of my life. I began to feel restless and my life was becoming too mundane. I hated only being able to go to work and go home every day. At this point in my life I began to become depressed. I felt that I was not accomplishing anything in my life.

Tony: How did you make the change to pull yourself out of the rut you were in?

Karen: My son was in school and doing after-school activities, and my husband was heavily involved in church, and as a firefighter he was gone from home at least two days a week. I wanted to have something of my own; I wanted a place to go to meet and talk to people, a place where I could better myself every time I was there. I felt that the only place it could be was the gym. During this time I had fallen even deeper into depression, but by April of 1994 that would all change. My husband began working out at NIFS, and I would ask him where he was going to work out and he stated NIFS. He eventually purchased a membership for me, and it was the greatest gift he ever gave me. I joined NIFS and I have been a member for 22 years.

Tony: So how did you get started?

Karen: I began to look into going to group fitness classes. Every time I became stronger and the classes became easier for me, so I would begin going to more advanced classes. I started with step, spinning, and boxing, but my true transformation began when I began taking HIT class and group training. I was in the first Slim It to Win It competition, and to compete with other members was very exciting. Each time I would look for the next challenge to accomplish. I felt my body getting stronger and my endurance was increasing; I was feeling better about myself and my life, and I was looking forward to each limit I could cross.

Tony: What has created the most change for you?

Karen: I would have to say that my change came with the challenges I faced to make myself better in the gym. I began noticing these changes when I was able to go farther and longer than I could before. I felt this process could never end; if I worked at it, I would be able to surpass all of my limits, and with each and every class I knew there would be a new challenge for me to defeat. I’ve been able to make new friends, and for me exercising is a way of life. I am the result of hard work, I am in great shape for someone who is 57 years old, and I feel that my medical issues are very minor due to the effort and time that I have put in at NIFS. It has also allowed me to deal with stress, and it gives me a generally positive outlook on life. I would like to thank all of the trainers who have helped me along the way with my transformation, especially Tony Maloney.

***

I had the pleasure of meeting this amazing lady the first day I arrived here at NIFS eight years ago, and have had the continued honor to work with her in so many different capacities. From BOSU class, HIT, Slim It to Win It, and group training, Karen has seen and done it all, and has not just done it but done it well! She took on a nickname I gave her a few years back: “Grumpy”; but those who know her know that she is far from it. But she is focused, and when there is work to be done, she is all business.

Yes! I want to try a HIT class!

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

Topics: NIFS exercise depression fitness center motivation member group training HIT Slim It to Win It Crucial Conversations student athletes hypertension making changes

Three Summer Training Lessons for Athletes

ThinkstockPhotos-491816300.jpgSummertime is in full swing, and whether you are a competitive or recreational athlete, changes are definitely happening to your normal schedule. For high school and collegiate athletes, more time is spent at home and for general fitness enthusiasts, more options are available to you to fulfill your exercise quota (in other words, doing more things outside). These are both extremely important changes that can be used to alter a routine that has lasted for the past 8 or 9 months of your life.

Student-athletes have been juggling class, competition, and training. Amateur athletes have been working (real jobs), training, and competing as well. When early spring hits, most individuals are sick of that stagnant routine and are looking to switch it up, which is why summer is welcomed by most with open arms.

Summer can also be a time when many physical aspects (such as power, strength, and speed) can decline if adequate “maintenance” of those aspects is not applied. The increase in other opportunities during summer can sometimes lead to a leniency of training that might do more harm than good.

Here are 3 things that I have learned over recent years as a strength coach, trainer, and collegiate athlete to hopefully help minimize this detraining effect.

1. Don’t focus on too much at one time.

Every summer when I would go home from school, I had a list of 5 or 6 things that I felt like I had to get better at. Each training session, I would have a ton of thoughts about how I could make those things better. Of course, I had a training packet from the football team, but felt like I had to do even more. I had to get faster, more agile, stronger, more flexible, and in better shape. At some point, I was doing more thinking about what I had to do to get better than just working hard with what I had.

Even today, I send workout packets home with each of my athletic teams. The goal, obviously, is to continue to improve their physical and mental toughness. But for some, I just want to make sure that they don’t totally fall off of the bus with all of their training. I aim to keep workouts short, sweet, but challenging. They usually focus on sport-specific training aspects for each individual team (for example, single-leg strength for runners, and rotational power for softball players). I want to make sure that the “bread and butter” of the sport remains at the forefront.

2. Get creative.

Being creative in the gym during the summer months may be due to two things:

  1. Your gym doesn’t have the equipment you want (or need) to do specific exercises, or
  2. You are looking for alternatives to exercises you already do.

If your gym doesn’t have specific pieces of equipment for exercises that you are looking to do, think about what that exercise is trying to accomplish. For instance, your workout program might call for a kettlebell swing, but your gym has no kettlebells. Think about what the target muscle is for that exercise and plan an alternative. The main muscles in the KB swing are the glutes, so doing a weighted hip bridge or a Romanian Deadlift might suffice as an alternative. Sure, it’s not a perfect match, but it’s better than not doing it at all!

If you are simply looking to get out of the monotony of your 4-day split routine, you have a ton of options. Say Tuesday is considered your “squat” day, but you want to take a break from the barbell work you have been doing. Good news: You can squat with just about anything in the gym. Kettlebells, sandbags, slosh pipes, medballs, and weighted vests are just a few options that can give you that much-needed break from your regular program. Also, try switching up the reps. If you are used to doing 5 sets of 5 reps, try a workout where you do 5 sets of 20 or 3 sets of 50. It will definitely give a little shock to your system.

3. Don’t forget what summer is for!

Every competitive athlete, young or old, constantly thinks about their sport and how they can improve their performance. For most, there is no such thing as an off season anymore. There is never a chance to truly take their mind off of what they compete in, which can lead to burnout after a couple of seasons. Summer is meant for unwinding from heavy workloads, in class or with jobs. Mental and emotional recovery are just as important as physical recovery. If your mind has not recovered from the past year of training and competing, it will be very hard to devote the same amount of time and effort to the next season.

You still need to train for your sport, but post-training activities are a good way to unwind after a hard workout. Go to the lake, go fishing, go golfing: do something that allows you to enjoy the summer. You will only have a few months of opportunities like this. Work hard, play hard!

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

Topics: summer training strength power speed off-season athletes student athletes

The Importance of Post-Season Active Rest

ThinkstockPhotos-78322425.jpgOver the past six to eights weeks, I have been creating summer workout manuals for the teams that I work with during the school year. These manuals are meant to bridge the strength and conditioning gap between the time they leave for summer break and when they return for the fall semester. There is much to be gained, or lost, through a summer of hard work (or lack thereof). Although summer break is a true “break” for most athletes academically, there never really is a true break for training.

Many of the teams I work with are spring sports. Their seasons begin a couple months after the turn of the year and may not finish until after school is out. They go from the playing field, track, course, or court, back home where family, friends, and summer jobs await. Being spring sports, their summer usually begins with a recovery period that occurs when their competitive season comes to a close. The components of this recovery process include mental, emotional, and physical aspects that need to be met in order to fully prepare for the next bout of training and the following season.

For the sports that I work with, the first portion of the training calendar for the post-season is called active rest. Active rest is an approximately two-week period where the athlete performs light physical activity at least two to three days per week. These physical activities should have nothing to do with the sport that they participate in. Think about it: after spending six to seven days per week over the past four months participating or thinking about their specific sport, the last thing many individuals want to do is continue to do just that. Although this is the sport that you may love, getting away from it for a short period of time can do wonders.

Taking a Break from Training

Active rest can mean a lot of things, and the best part is the fact that you basically have free reign over what you choose to do, as long as you are staying active. This gives you the opportunity to choose something totally unrelated to your sport and do it for the next few weeks.

I would recommend that the intensity of the activity you choose not climb above “moderate.” The low to moderate style will allow adequate blood flow to working muscles, which will help promote physical recovery of the muscles that were taxed so much during your competitive season. Another recommendation I would make would be to limit the amount of impact (foot strikes) you have during this period, especially if your sport requires a large amount of impact. This will allow your body to recover from the constant “ground and pound” that you might have during track, tennis, or softball season.

Active rest is also a good time to incorporate corrective exercises from the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) that your coach or trainer gave you. These exercises focus mainly on mobility and require very few pieces of equipment for the most part. Spending two to three weeks working on any muscular imbalances that may have developed during the season will give you a leg up when you begin your intense off-season training program in a month or so.

Active Rest Recommendations

Following are my top 5 recommendations for the rest period of your training:

  • FMS corrective exercises
  • Swimming
  • Hiking
  • Bike/elliptical/arc trainer/rower
  • DO SOMETHING FUN!

Physical recovery is definitely important during this time, but recovery of your mental and emotional well-being may be just as or possibly more important. Let’s face it—any competitive season has a multitude of ups and downs, which creates an emotional rollercoaster that could send anyone through a loop. You have spent 48 out of the past 52 weeks preparing or playing your sport. You owe it to yourself to do something a little different and come back refreshed for the preparation for the next season.

If you have any questions about how to set up active rest for your post-season training, or need help constructing an off-season training program for your sport, contact me at asoller@nifs.org. To read more about setting up training programs for athletes, see my blog series that begins here.

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

Topics: training sports recovery functional movement post-season rest student athletes