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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Fight Back Against Back Pain: Fitness and Wellness Solutions

GettyImages-866081050With millions of people around the world suffering from back pain, is there any hope for relief outside of traditional methods? Low back pain can be excruciating and immobilizing, but there is still hope. When dealing with any pain or injury, exercising might be the last thing that crosses your mind, especially if it’s chronic low back pain (CLBP). However, that’s exactly what is recommended and what can help.

Research is revealing that people who exercise and stay flexible are better able to manage pain than those who are sedentary. So my charge to anyone reading this, whether or not you are living with low back pain, stay proactive and make health and fitness a priority. Rather than be forced into reacting to an injury that might have you sidelined for months, take a step toward low back pain relief.

The Impact of Lower Back Pain

Alarming statistics reveal that the single leading cause of disability globally is none other than low back pain. According to the American Chiropractic Association, “Back pain is experienced by 31 million people at any given moment.” After all, it is the third most common complaint during doctor visits and accounts for more than 264 million lost work days annually.

What Causes Low Back Pain?

Low back pain can flare up and subside in the blink of an eye. Often there is no warning and there are no other accompanying symptoms. Pain can occur in varying intensities and pain levels. It is important to take back pain seriously because it is your body trying to tell you that there is something wrong and that you need to make a change. Common causes include the following:

  • Muscle strain/sprain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Bulging discs
  • Arthritis
  • Skeletal irregularities

What You Can Do: Fitness and Wellness Ideas

Fortunately, there are several precautionary steps that you can take to prevent low back pain episodes as well as further injury. Keep in mind that humans are complex beings and it is important to address overall health.

  • Start and maintain an exercise program. Our NIFS staff can work individually with members to develop a proper strength-training program that addresses cardiovascular fitness as well as flexibility and mobility.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. According to the National Arthritis Foundation, “Every pound of excess weight exerts about 4 pounds of extra pressure on the knees.” Therefore losing a few pounds can take pressure off the back and knee joints.
  • Limit and manage stress levels. Paying attention to stress levels can help you avoid behaviors that lead to obesity such as overeating and a sedentary lifestyle. If stress levels stay low, it can help improve overall health.

Always keep in mind that we are complex beings and it is important to address our overall health needs. It might take multiple methods to address back issues, but why not jump ahead and try to prevent them through proper health and wellness strategies? Visit www.nifs.org to find out more information, see the up-to-date Group Fitness Schedule, and start your fitness journey now.

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This blog was written by Cara Hartman, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: low back pain lower back pain fitness and wellness pain group fitness muscles arthritis stress weight management

Tricks of the Trade: Exercise Coaching Cues to Avoid Injury and Pain

IMG_7980Coaching cues can really make a big difference in the outcome of your workouts. Sometimes it means the difference in whether you get injured during an exercise. Or are you even working the muscles you originally intended to use? Without cues, it would be foolish to have a client jeopardize their health because they saw someone else do a movement incorrectly or think they read it in a magazine or online. This is not to say that there are not many ways one can do to their exercises, or modifications to spice up their workout plan, but you need to make sure you aren’t compromising yourself and goals in the process.

I aim to clarify several cues you might have heard a trainer speak to their client, or have read about in a magazine or online. With this knowledge, hopefully you will have an opportunity to make more informed and educated decisions about the exercises you are doing in the fitness center.

Wall Sit Knee Pain

A great exercise to utilize on leg day is the tried-and-true wall sit. Due to the nature of the exercise and positioning of the body, it can cause a real strain on the knees.

Dissecting the exercise shows which muscles are active during a wall sit. This includes the gluteus, hamstrings, quads, and calves. The movement is basically a static squat while pressed against a wall, utilizing the principles of isometrics. Lowering the body to a position in which the knee is bent at 90 degrees and the back and head are flat against the wall is ideal.

Knee pain can be a side effect; if so, using caution is always rule #1. To help alleviate some discomfort, some cues to consider include the following:

  • Make sure your feet are flat on the floor.
  • Move your feet away from the wall.
  • Widen your stance a little.
  • Slightly point your toes outward at an angle.

You will still be using the same muscles, but the emphasis will shift away from the knees and more into your powerful glutei muscles. I also cannot stress it enough: keep your head back against the wall and your cervical spine in a neutral position. For an added challenge, you can try being in a wall-sit position, then add in a bicep curl to accentuate the movement.

Overhead Shoulder Press Pain

Yet another staple exercise you will see in the gym is the overhead press. There are many variations to consider, some with free weights and some with selectorized machines. Both ways, potentially, will get the job done, if done properly. The shoulder press is performed by pressing one or two dumbbells or a barbell overhead (if using free weights), or with a designated overhead press machine from your favorite selectorized machine line.

A typical issue that arises during a shoulder press is general overall pain in the shoulder itself, and sometimes discomfort in the upper middle back. If there are no underlying issues with the shoulder, this might only be a technique issue that could be resolved with proper cueing. You can discover whether you do have an underlying shoulder problem by completing a Functional Movement Screening (FMS) at NIFS.

Cues to consider here include the following:

  • Never allow the bar to travel behind your head or neck.
  • Try to keep your elbows forward of your shoulders as you press overhead.
  • Lower the weight until your hands are about at eye level, then press.
  • Use dumbbells only when your skill and experience level allows for it.

Lifting really heavy weight, such as during Olympic lifting, can also be hazardous and warrant special consideration. Sometimes an injury occurs during an overhead Olympic movement, but often injuries happen when a weight is being lowered to the starting position, safely to the ground.

Dropping weights from overhead is permissible when the weight being used gets to a range that cannot be safely managed on the descent. At this point, it is advisable to drop the weight, but there is a right and wrong way to drop. Consulting with an Olympic lifting coach or professional along with experience is the best way to learn how to drop the weights in a controlled and safe manner. Ideally, you are going to be safe, and the equipment maintenance guy appreciates your courteous and safe lifting efforts.

Screen Shot 2019-01-29 at 10.30.09 AM

Lat Pulldowns, the Safe Way

Our final cue is for the Lat Pulldown, which is a variation of a pull-up, using a selectorized machine. Although the motion and muscles are the same, the lat pulldown is an easier way to get good repetitions at an otherwise challenging movement. This doesn’t mean you can flub the exercise at the expense of your health.

Ever since the beginning of strength training, an iconic image in the gym is the “behind the neck or head” lat pulldown. A trainer who cares about you will tell you not to do this movement because it’s bad. “But why not?” you may ask. Without a doubt this is a high-risk exercise, but not for the reason you might be thinking. The equipment you are using is checked, double-checked, and deemed safe, but there is always a chance that the cable will give way, causing the bar or handle to come at your noggin at a high rate of speed. We can all agree that a behind the neck lat pull down is not worth a concussion (or worse).

Here are some cues for a safer lat pulldown:

  • Grab the bar or handle with hands evenly spaced,
  • Pull the bar or handle down to around eye level in front of the body and control the motion both on the way up and back down.

Many people may have other perceptions, but safety is the number-one priority when you are a personal trainer.

***

Do you have a trainer who has given you cues for exercise? Cues can really make a big difference. If you are interested in safer, more effective exercise, and learning about how your body works in exercise, contact a NIFS personal trainer or health fitness specialist to schedule a meeting to discuss your goals, questions, and next steps to a better workout. Getting the most out of your time at the gym also makes sense. Now get back to work!

Muscleheads rejoice and evolve!

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

Topics: Thomas' Corner exercises pain injury prevention personal training functional movement screen coaching cues

Flu Fighting Foods: Boost Your Immunity This Winter

GettyImages-928034704The 2017–2018 flu season was one of the worst on record. It was the first time that flu had been classified as high severity across all age groups and led to more than 80,000 deaths. If you are like most people, the dreaded winter flu season can be scary. However, certain foods can help you fight off the flu or lower your chances of catching that nasty bug.

Immunity-Boosting Foods

Here are some foods (and drinks) to fill up on to help fight the flu:

  • Green tea: Green tea is packed with antioxidants; sip it hot or cold throughout the day to help keep the flu away.
  • Sweet potatoes: This bright orange food is packed with Vitamin A to help keep those free radicals at bay that can threaten to weaken your immune system. Pop a sweet potato in the microwave for 7 minutes for a quick and easy addition to lunch or dinner.
  • Yogurt: Yogurt naturally contains probiotics that help keep your immune system healthy and strong. It's such an easy and filling snack to grab or use as a substitute for sour cream, mayonnaise, or cream in high-fat recipes.
  • Tuna: Tuna is an excellent source of selenium and Vitamin D, which helps protect cells from free radicals and improve your immune system. Try mixing a pouch of tuna with some plain Greek yogurt and serve it atop a bed of leafy greens.
  • Mushrooms: Mushrooms are rich in selenium, low body levels of which have been found to increase your chance of getting the flu. Chop them up and add them to a pasta dish, salad, or soup.
  • Peanuts: This tasty snack is full of zinc, which helps keep your immune system working properly. A handful is the perfect amount to grab for an afternoon snack or to throw in a stir-fry at dinner.
  • Water: This essential nutrient keeps the body running efficiently. Getting fluids in various forms is vital. Tea, 100% juice, coffee (preferably decaffeinated), and water-filled foods such as fruits and vegetables all count toward your hydration needs.

A Yummy Flu-Fighting Recipe

Try this recipe that incorporates a couple of these flu-fighting foods:

Sweet Potato Tuna Melt

1 large sweet potato (halved)
¾ cup canned tuna
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
½ tsp garlic seasoning
½ tsp onion seasoning
Lemon pepper to taste
½ cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place potatoes, cut side down, on a baking sheet and roast until tender, about 30 minutes.
  2. Remove potatoes and allow to cool. Meanwhile, combine tuna, Greek yogurt, and spices in a bowl.
  3. Top potatoes with tuna and sprinkle with cheese. Place under the broiler for 1 minute or until the cheese has melted.

Enjoy with a glass of green tea!

Nutritional Balance Is the Key

As with most things, a balanced diet is the key. A diet high in a variety of produce, lean meats, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, along with moderate exercise, adequate sleep, and minimal stress, contributes the most to a well-functioning immune system and faster healing if the flu does strike. Incorporate these foods, but also continue to work on overall balance to your life.

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: winter immunity flu whole foods fruits and vegetables nutrition wellness

Improve Your Weakness: Train Your Fitness Flaws

FMS-NewWouldn’t it be satisfying to not be weak at something? We’re all born with differing personality traits and those exist as either our strength or our weakness. We are generally aware of these traits, which fall on either side of the line. It is normal to single out our strengths to share and use publicly because we are proud of them. However, it makes sense that we downplay our weaknesses and hide them as much as possible. It is also our human nature to speculate how we stack up in comparison to other individuals. Whether applying for a new job, competing in a sporting event, or even scrolling through social media, we are looking to see how others are doing and comparing ourselves to them.

Here, I will explore the benefits of training your flaw—in other words, making your weaknesses your strengths.

Individual Goals and Beliefs

Everyone has their own goals and beliefs, but if it were up to me, I would rather be decent at several things than great at only one. When it comes to health and fitness, I urge you to be a well-rounded individual. Whereas the nutrition aspect is difficult for some, others might have the self-control and discipline to succeed at it. Some people might enjoy a good sweat session when others despise even setting foot in a fitness center for various reasons.

We gravitate toward what comes easy or what we enjoy more, leaving behind what we dislike, and that which needs the most work. My goal is to be the best version of myself no matter how long it takes. To accomplish this, I must first identify my weaknesses and dislikes. Once I complete this, the next step is to set new goals and come up with a plan of attack. This typically means starting with the weakest links.

Pinpoint Your Weaknesses

You may or may not have specific goals, so I will explain by sharing examples. The first example is CrossFit. I personally do not participate in CrossFit; however, the concept is quite clever. Their quest to attain the title of “Fittest on Earth” stems from being the ultimate athlete. CrossFit has identified 10 measurable fitness categories, such as stamina, strength, power, speed, flexibility, balance, coordination, agility, accuracy, and cardiovascular fitness. If every exercise that ever existed were written on slips of paper and you had to draw one out of the hat and complete it, could you do it and do it efficiently?

Another example would be the use of the Functional Movement Screen (FMS). It scores me based on what I am proficient at and where I fall short within seven distinct movement patterns seen not only in exercise, but also in day-to-day life. The strategic plan of attack is to start with the lowest scores to make them better so that all the other movement patterns can improve as well. Basically, the test pinpoints your weakest link (movement pattern), and the goal is to improve the movement and restore function by reducing the risk of injury.

NIFS staff members are certified to not only complete the FMS testing, but also to design corrective exercises and workout plans tailored to individual needs. Contact one of our Health Fitness Instructors, who can assist you in testing what may be a weak point for you (such as the bench press, squat, deadlift, pull-ups, stamina, mobility, and so on).

Strive for Progress

Lastly, it’s no secret that we tend to shy away from what we aren’t good at, even when it comes to our health and fitness. With some courage and the help of others, we can begin to expose our downfalls and identify weaknesses we may be blind to and start finding ways to make improvements. We should always be striving for progress rather than perfection. Find a program that improves on your weaknesses. Growth and change are not easy, but the benefits you gain are well worth it! 

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This blog was written by Cara Hartman, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS CrossFit fitness assessment nifs staff fitness center personal training goals

Healthy Lifestyle: Three Key Ways to Prevent Disease and Illness

GettyImages-926422030What’s your motivation for working out? Eat healthy? What’s your motivation to get enough sleep or practice de-stressing with yoga or foam rolling? What’s your motive to get your friends and family to go on a walk or to the gym with you?

What’s YOUR Motivation?

In a matter of minutes you can change your mindset. In a matter of minutes, you can be inspired to want to live a healthy lifestyle and to prevent disease and illness. But it involves commitment and no excuses.

“I have cancer.” Those are the three tragic words that no one wants to hear. But I’ve heard my mom tell me this three times. These words changed my mind in three seconds. They are the three words that motivate me to motivate you.

Did You Know?

Some statistics about illness in America:

  • Did you know that about 38.4% of Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year? 
  • Did you know that about 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes each year?
  • Did you know that about 735,000 Americans die from a heart attack each year?
  • Did you know that about 32.3% of males and 35.5% of female adults are obese in America?

These statistics are not meant to scare you; they are meant to bring awareness. And these are the conclusions of just a few of the studies relating to health issues in the US.

Did you know... you have the power, through your choices, to not become one of these statistics?

Where to Begin

Mapping out goals to create healthier habits for different areas of your life can be a great first step in preventing deadly diseases. So what are some things that doctors recommend you do on a daily and weekly basis to help prevent becoming one of these statistics?

  1. Movement is Medicine: A study showed that Americans are sitting an average of 13 hours a day and sleeping an average of 8, which means they are sedentary 21 out of the 24 hours of the day. This is a leading factor for disease in America. Get up and incorporate movement into your day to get your heart beating and blood flowing. Incorporating movement for blood flow helps carry oxygen and nutrients to cells and organs for nourishment. If cells are not activated, it can lead to their mutations, which leads to cancer or other diseases.
  2. Proper fuel: The average American eats way too much added sugar and processed foods because they are convenient. But as important as nourishment is to the cells, you want to nourish them properly with fuel. What we put into our bodies effects what nourishment and vitamins our bodies receive. Eating fruits, vegetables, healthy carbs, and lean meats gives you key nutrients to fuel properly. Eating in a caloric range that is appropriate for the body and practicing portion control is just as important. One way to figure out what your body needs is to get a BodPod or RMR assessment test to find the range best for your body’s needs. In addition to food, our bodies need water to flush out toxins constantly and properly hydrate the control systems. Drink lots of water every day.
  3. Relaxation: Stress is arguably one of the leading causes of disease. When someone is stressed, it often leads to the other healthy habits going out the window. Learning to clear the mind and de-stress can be so beneficial in the long run. There are many ways to do this, but a few cheap methods that you can incorporate daily are meditation, yoga/stretching, and foam rolling. Releasing built-up toxins in the body can aid in natural detoxification and preventing cell and organ mutations.

There are many other methods of prevention to incorporate into your lifestyle, but these are the three key factors. Make it a goal to start incorporating these and then slowly add more disease and cancer-prevention modalities. 

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This blog was written by Brittany Ignas, BS in Kinesiology, 200 Hour Yoga Alliance Certified, Stott Pilates Certified, and Fitness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: motivation disease prevention cancer movement nutrition sitting stress relaxation assessment

Back to Exercise Basics: The Split Squat

As we continue down the road of improving our basic movement patterns (which is always under construction, by the way), we take a look at the squat pattern and its variations a bit further. Many fitness pros, including myself, argue that we spend more time on one leg than we do on two. Think about it: walking, running, traveling up stairs—for varying amounts of time, you can find yourself on one leg a lot.

What Makes a Split Squat a Split Squat?

So if you are on one leg a bunch, it only makes sense that you build that position to be strong and stable, and in many different planes of motion. Let’s take a look at what makes a split squat a split squat, which is very different from the lunge but often is called by the same name (kind of a pet peeve of mine).

Tony_split-squat

  1. Base of support—Forward Foot – Weight on heel
  2. Base of support—Rear Foot – Weight on toes, heel up
  3. Base of support—Split distance is 3-4’ 
  4. Shin angle—moving forward
  5. Front Knee – Tracking over but not beyond toes
  6. Trail knee – path towards ground, suspended
  7. Glute “stacked” above knee
  8. Neutral Spine
  9. Shoulders back and down
  10. Eyes up

Many of the aspects of the regular squat are found in the split. You are simply in a single-leg-supported position.

Options to Get More Out of the Split Squat

Now that you have the foundation, here are a few options you can use to get more out of this movement pattern.

  1. TRX Split Squat
  2. 2KB Split Squat—Farmer position
  3. 1KB RFEE Split Squat—Down position
  4. 2KB Split Squat-Racked position

 

Exercise Variations in the Frontal and Transverse Planes

Human beings need to travel in 3D. It’s important to all of us, from the athlete to the accountant. Often we train in one plane of motion, typically the sagittal plane (in the regular squat, for example, or the overhead press). But in the real world we move in more ways than straight ahead. Here are some variations that will get you in the frontal (side-to-side) and the transverse (rotational) planes.

  1. 3D Body Weight
  2. Offset KB Spit Squat
  3. SaB Lateral Split Squat
  4. SaB + KB Rot. Split Squat

 

The split squat is a super-important movement pattern that I feel we need to train more. As single-leg beings, mastering this pattern in multiple planes will transfer big time to the real world and allow us to move better, more often, with fewer injuries.

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

Topics: exercise basics injury prevention leg day squat fitness center movement stability functional movement

Which Is Healthiest: Fresh, Frozen, or Canned Produce?

GettyImages-626119746Since you were young you probably have been told to eat your fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are the nutritional powerhouses of your diet. They offer essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals that not only keep your body healthy, but also protect against cancer, heart disease, stroke, and other health conditions. During the winter months, fresh fruits and vegetables are more limited and generally more expensive. As a result, many of us turn to canned or frozen options. So are canned and frozen options just as healthy as the fresh produce we consume?

Frozen Versus Fresh

Gene Lester, Ph.D., a plant physiologist at the USDA Agricultural Research Center states, “Frozen vegetables may be even more healthful than some of the fresh produce sold in supermarkets.” Frozen fruits and vegetables are generally picked at their peak ripeness—a time when they are most nutrient-packed. After they are picked, they are blanched in hot water or steamed to kill bacteria and stop the action of food-degrading enzymes. Then they are frozen, locking nutrients in place.

Conversely, fresh fruits and vegetables are shipped across the country to reach our fresh-produce aisles. These produce items are typically picked before they are ripe. As a result, they have less time to develop the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals. Although signs of ripening may still occur, these foods never have the same nutritive value as if they had been allowed to fully ripen on the vine, plant, or tree.

In addition, fresh fruits and vegetables may spend as much as seven to fourteen days in transit. From the time they are picked to the time they are in your refrigerator, they are exposed to light, heat, and air, which degrade some nutrients. If you have the option to purchase fresh produce from locally grown farmers’ markets, this is your best choice. At local farmers’ markets, fruits and vegetables are grown, picked, and sold when their quality is best (and they are usually cheaper). Check out these fall options. Although they are limited during the winter months, seek out markets that remain available with produce grown in greenhouses.

Canned Versus Frozen

What about canned fruits and vegetables? Similar to frozen produce, canned fruits and vegetables are picked at their peak ripeness and canned soon after. So the produce is nutrient packed. With vegetables, however, excess sodium is generally added to each serving. If you choose to eat canned vegetables, be sure to buy cans marked “No Salt Added” or drain and rinse the vegetables in water prior to serving. Canned fruits are also saturated in excess sugar and syrups. Again, if you choose to eat canned fruits, be sure to buy cans marked “No Sugar Added” or drain and rinse the fruit prior to serving.

The Bottom Line

When fruits and vegetables are in-season, buy them fresh and ripe from your local farmers’ market. In the off-season, frozen fruits and vegetables may be your best choice because they are the most nutrient-concentrated. However, if you are in a bind, produce in any form is better than none at all.

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fruits and vegetables seasonal eating winter nutrition healthy eating

Bulletproof Your Health and Fitness New Year’s Resolutions

GettyImages-901324170Where did 2018 go? Whether it was the best year of your life, or you’re looking forward to a fresh start in 2019, you may likely have some health and fitness goals at the top of your list of resolutions. How do you make sure they aren’t just a pipe dream? Let’s find out!

Set (the Right Type of) Goals

Goals should be an obvious part of any resolution, but setting the right types of goals isn’t always so clear. To ensure that your goals are fulfilled, they need to be SMART:

  • Specific: You must have a specific attribute for improvement in mind.
  • Measurable: There must be some way to measure your progress.
  • Achievable: Setting realistic goals is crucial to motivate short-term success.
  • Relevant: Goals need to be relevant to what you want, not what you think other people want.
  • Time-sensitive: You must have a timeline for your goals in order to measure success.

There are many alternatives to this acronym, but following these simple guidelines will force you to consider goals that are actually meaningful to you. Your aspirations should be just that—yours. Otherwise, the motivation to succeed becomes increasingly external, which leads to only skin-deep rewards. Successfully achieved internally motivated goals are much more rewarding in the long run.

Get a Starting Point

A huge mistake that is easy to make when goal-setting is not knowing where you’re starting. Without an accurate baseline value, you have no reference point for comparison to where you end. Don’t wait until you “get in shape” to test yourself. As painful as it can be, testing yourself at your “worst” will only make your accomplishments that much more rewarding.

We offer access to a wide variety of assessments to our members here at NIFS, and we take pride in providing feedback on your progress throughout your fitness journey. Whether you’re looking to track your body composition (body fat percentage), cardiorespiratory fitness level, movement quality, or even just your measurements, we encourage all of our members to take advantage of the complimentary assessments that we offer. After all, you can’t get where you’re going if you don’t know where you’re starting.

Retest!

After you’ve set your bulletproof SMART goals and established exactly where your starting point is, it’s time to get to work. Once you’ve reached your pre-established timeline for your goals, however, it’s time to retest! Just the same as establishing a baseline, it is absolutely vital to retest your initial measurements. Ideally your testing will be completed under similar conditions as your baseline tests, preferably at a similar time of the day with a similar state of digestion.

What is most important, though, is simply that you retest the same attributes you tested initially. There is nothing wrong with testing something new, but make sure that you’re at least measuring a value that has already been measured. Otherwise, you’ll have no feedback as to whether you were successful in achieving your goals. There truly is no more rewarding feeling than seeing black-and-white proof that you have improved from where you started. It just might be the motivation you need to stick to it in the long run.

As I said earlier, we take pride in assisting you in the goal-setting process from start to finish. You shouldn’t have to take on any goal, but especially a health-minded one, all on your own. Let us be part of your guidance toward being the best you possible in 2019—and beyond!

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The BOD POD® is the gold standard in body composition tracking and NIFS has it. This device accurately measures the percentage of body fat and lean body mass, enabling you to track your body composition more effectively over time.

 Schedule a Bod Pod Assessment

This blog was written by David Schoch, CSCS, FMS, and Healthy Lifestyle Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: new year's resolutions goal setting motivation fitness assessment assessment smart goals

Leg Day Workouts for Non-Squat Enthusiasts

GettyImages-622809280For some people, leg day at the gym is the greatest single day of the week. For others, however, there couldn’t be a more grueling and loathsome experience. We all know that leg workouts are essential to our total-body fitness plans and that there are consequences to not doing leg day, like becoming internet memes.

Reasons People Skip Their Leg Workouts

Some of the reasons people do not do leg day include knee pain, hip pain, after-workout soreness, poor technique, and sometimes mechanical reasons (your body just can’t do squats due to anatomy). Whatever the reason may be, you still need to address your lower body and quit skipping leg day.

I, for one, have been guilty of skipping leg day from time to time, but I know that there are important benefits to doing the workouts. The main reasons I do not like doing the exercises began with just being tired of standing at work all day after a great leg day. It made the rest of my day brutal. You might feel the same way, but it’s just part of the process that your body needs to go through to get stronger and better.

A very plausible reason some people skip leg day could be that they decided to start a workout “split” (each day of the week dedicated to a body part—Monday is chest day, Tuesday is bicep day, etc.). With the split, you would have to spend a lot of time at the gym to ensure each body part is worked each week—a minimum of 5-6 days per week to do the job. If you have a life event come up, such as a work meeting, a kid’s birthday party, or an illness, you will need to skip a day this week to deal with that situation. What happens is that people will skip the day they like the least, leg day. When next week rolls around, it will have been two weeks since your last leg day. That’s not good.

Leg Workout Ideas

Here are some ideas for leg workouts that are set up for beginners and people who are not fans of squats. You will see a lot of familiar exercises that will give you benefits. Hopefully, with the right motivation, you will become better at leg day.

  1. Deadlift: This can be done with a barbell, dumbbells, or even kettlebells. This link shows a variation of a deadlift called a trap bar deadlift. As you can see, the legs are definitely getting a lot of attention, while good form can be easily distinguished.
  2. Lunge: Although this exercise is about as popular as squats, the benefits are equally impressive. Not all lunges are the same. Check out this example of a lunge variation that you can easily add to your workout.
  3. Hip press machine: We don’t always want to use machines, but in this case, the hip press machine is a great way to get your legs and hips stronger and more ready for squats. Check out this video that highlights a hip press machine.

Leg day doesn’t have to be the most dreaded day of the week. You do not have to hide from your leg workouts any longer. Start off small and smart. Talk to a Health Fitness Specialist at NIFS. They will not only help you set up a workout tailored to your needs, but also monitor your progress through benchmarks you can set at your free strategy session. Words of wisdom: Do not become an internet meme because you skipped leg day!

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

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Healthier Recipes for New Year’s Day Food Traditions

GettyImages-651123318Every year on New Year’s Day my husband’s grandma makes cabbage. She says it’s good luck. I had never heard of this tradition, and then someone else told me they eat black-eyed peas for luck, also. I decided to look into it and there are actually quite a few foods that people eat every year on New Year’s Day hoping that the next year will be prosperous and lucky for them—all because of a meal they consumed on the holiday!

Lucky Foods

Here are some whole foods that are considered lucky in various cultural traditions.

  • Black-eyed peas: During the Civil War era, black-eyed peas (also known as field peas) were grown to feed cattle. During a siege in Mississippi, the town was cut off from all food supplies for two months. People were close to starvation and had to resort to eating the crops typically reserved for livestock. If it wasn’t for the lowly “cowpeas,” as they are also known, many people would have died, so this started the tradition of black-eyed peas bringing luck.
  • Pork: Ever hear the expression “high on the hog”? This saying originated because pork was seen as a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Particularly in Pennsylvania Dutch areas, slow-cooked pork is a traditional dish for bringing luck on the first day of the year.
  • Cabbage: This tradition started in Germany and Eastern Europe. It is typically harvested in late fall and then requires a six- to eight-week fermentation process, which means sauerkraut is ready around January 1. Cabbage has lots of symbolism because the strands of cabbage can symbolize a long life, while cabbage itself can symbolize money.
  • Lentils: Italians started this tradition because they believed the flat legumes resembled a Roman coin. They would typically serve it with pork so they could be doubly lucky!

And even after the holiday, you can continue eating whole foods with these recipes for seasonal winter vegetables.

Recipes for Good Luck in 2019

Here are a couple of recipes for you to try this New Year’s Day to bring luck all year!

GettyImages-499394216Slow Cooker Pork and Sauerkraut with Apples

6 thick-cut pork chops
4 tart apples, peeled and sliced
1 large onion, sliced
1 quart sauerkraut
½ tsp fennel seed, or to taste

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown pork chops in hot skillet, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Drain.
  2. Arrange apples and onion in the bottom of a slow cooker; top with browned pork chops. Pour in enough water to cover the bottom of the slow cooker.
  3. Cook on High for 3 hours (or on Low for 6 hours). Add sauerkraut and fennel seed to pork chop mixture. Cook for 1 more hour.

Makes 6 servings.

Slow Cooker Spicy Black-Eyed Peas

6 cups water
1 cube chicken bouillon
1-pound dried black-eyed peas, sorted and rinsed
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
8 ounces diced ham
4 slices bacon, chopped
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1½ tsp cumin
salt, to taste
1 tsp ground black pepper

  1. Pour the water into a slow cooker, add the bouillon cube, and stir to dissolve.
  2. Combine the black-eyed peas, onion, garlic, bell pepper, jalapeño pepper, ham, bacon, cayenne pepper, cumin, salt, and pepper; stir to blend.
  3. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours until the beans are tender.

Makes 10 servings.

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: new year's holidays whole foods winter vegetables protein