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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Build a Bigger Engine with Aerobic Training (Part 1)

GettyImages-605772224For whatever reason, there seems to be this notion in the fitness industry that if the workout doesn’t leave you on the ground gasping for air, it really wasn’t a good one. Or maybe that you didn’t work hard enough because you didn’t go running to the nearest trash can by the end. This could not be further from the truth; but unfortunately this way of thinking still seems to run rampant.

Not Every Workout Has to Be a Gut-Buster

One of my favorite quotes when it comes to strength and conditioning comes from Yuri Verkhoshansky, Russian professor, coach, and author who is credited as being the father of plyometrics. He suggests that “any idiot can make another idiot tired.” Now, I’m not calling anyone out. But this brings up a fantastic and often forgotten premise: that we should not judge the quality of a training session simply by how exhausted we feel.

Yes, we should challenge ourselves. Yes, there should be times when a workout feels more difficult. But here’s the key: not every workout should feel like a gut-busting knock-down, drag-out fight to the finish. If it does, it might be time to reevaluate.

A Quick Exercise Physiology Lesson: The Aerobic System

Our bodies rely on three energy systems to get us through everything from a tough workout session to washing the dishes, as well as basic organ function around the clock. They are all operating in some capacity all of the time, just in varying degrees based on the activity we’re doing. It’s not like a light switch, just on/off. Here are our players:

  • The ATP-PCr or phosphagen system (immediate)
  • The anaerobic or lactic system (short term; remember glycolysis?)
  • The aerobic system (long term)

Now, this isn’t intended to be a full-blown Bill Nye-esque science lesson. But I do want to focus on one of those energy systems for just a moment because it plays a massive role in how we are able to recover from task to task. And that is the aerobic system. It has the capacity to produce a great deal of energy, ATP—our body’s form of energy currency. The only problem is that is takes a little while longer to do compared to the other two. As a result, the aerobic system is responsible for replenishing and producing energy during rest periods or downtime between bouts of high-intensity exercise.

Much like any facet of fitness, this system can be trained directly. It typically comes in the form of slightly lower-intensity exercise (examples to come in a future post). So, while the exercise session might not feel like a back-breaker, the benefits that arise from it can come back twofold when looking at future training sessions. Essentially, what you’re doing when you are working on bolstering your aerobic system is building a bigger, more efficient engine.

Reap the Benefits of Faster Recovery

So, those high-intensity classes you take a couple times per week? Think about being able to sustain the same power and strength from round to round because you can recover more effectively during your rest periods. Or maybe you like to hop under the bar for some strength training in the form of squat or bench press. Well imagine being able to hit more of those heavy singles because you recover more proficiently between sets. That’s when the aerobic system really kicks into high gear: during rest. Yes, it is always contributing to some degree when it comes to ATP production (remember energy currency?). But its benefits really come to light during the downtime.

Building your fitness profile really requires a 360-degree approach. Some sessions may focus on strength. Some sessions may focus on high-intensity training. And some should take the time to address the aerobic system. Not only do they provide the body some much-needed recovery time; these sessions can also allow you to get more out of those strength and high-intensity workouts as well.

Next time, I’ll cover specific examples of how you can train your aerobic system. Until then, stay strong, my friends!

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This blog was written by Lauren Zakrajsek, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer, and Internship Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: strength recovery high intensity energy aerobic

10 Emotional Wellness Insights from the Pandemic

GettyImages-1247301039It’s safe to say that 2020 has been one a heck of a year (and it’s barely half over!)—the good, the bad, the ugly. At times, it’s felt as if an entire decade has passed. No matter how you slice it, the fact that we’ve experienced something as novel as a global pandemic still feels weird to say, think about, and sometimes fully appreciate. It has been a tumultuous time outside of COVID-19 as well, and every person has had a unique experience, a unique perception, and unique challenges along the way.

We’ve all probably learned a thing or two about ourselves. We’ve had time to reevaluate what is important to us, and maybe find a few things that aren’t. Here are just a few things I’ve left quarantine with, in no particular order:

My Quarantine Takeaways

  • I needed to uncouple productivity from self-worth. In working from home, I found that I accomplished most tasks in spurts. I’d work for 2 hours straight, then go for a walk, then jot down ideas for projects for 30 minutes, then get in a lift, then eat while watching a show, and on and on. Other days I just wouldn’t have it—no juice, no gas in the tank. Responding to emails felt like a win. And then the eventual guilt would sink in. Why didn’t I do more? How is this all that I got done today, this week? After a few weeks of this cycle, I finally told myself, “STOP.” It’s okay that there are things left on your to-do list. Its okay that you’re not motivated every second of every day. What we lived through, and are still living through, is something that we have literally never seen or experienced (at least I haven’t!). So give yourself some slack, be a little more forgiving, and start each day fresh.
  • My “best days” involved some semblance of structure. Don’t get me wrong, I love a little bit of spontaneity. But for much of quarantine, I found that my good days involved a level of consistency. When I woke up gradually with coffee and water, got a little bit of work done first thing, cleaned up the bedroom/loft, got in a workout, completed any errands like grocery shopping, blocked off time for reading, and got outside for some vitamin D, I felt energized. I felt accomplished. Obviously, there were variations. But blocking off time, working through chores and work intermittently, taking time for myself with activity and self-care—more often than not these days fell into the “good” category. On days where I had no schedule, stayed up too late and slept in too long, binged a TV show, or had little activity, I felt like garbage by the end. I can still hear my high school statistics teacher saying, “correlation does not imply causation,” but at least my chances for a good day skyrocketed with a little routine.
  • The importance of “idle time.” Full disclosure: I’m not sure that working from home always meshed with my personality or temperament. I would check my email every five seconds, even though I just cleared my queue seconds before. I would write down three sentences, hear the ping of a new email dropping into my inbox, and lose my complete train of thought. I would sometimes go for a walk and feel myself getting tempted to check in. Like many of us, I’m already addicted to my phone, feeling incomplete if I leave a room without it (unhealthy, I know; I’m working on it). But I found that literally scheduling in time to do nothing did wonders for my focus. I wasn’t scatterbrained when I returned to writing or working on a project. In fact, just sitting doing nothing, or having a casual conversation with my housemates, seemed to just calm my nerves and anxious thoughts in general. Just 5-minutes of unplugged silence was powerfully calming as well. Moral of the story? Sometimes doing nothing is more productive than trying to do 42 things at once.
  • The power of connection. I’m sure by this point, most of us have come to a conclusion similar to this, so I’ll keep it brief. You don’t need to be in close proximity to be close to those you love and appreciate. Some of my simplest joys came from FaceTimeing with family or having a quick phone call with a friend. It’s a quick recharge for the mental and emotional batteries.
  • It feels great to make your bed first thing. It’s simple. It’s quick. It sets your day in motion on the right foot. And at the very least, you have a tidy place to come home to when you’re ready to hit the sack for the night. It just feels good.
  • My mood is correlated to the amount of news and social media I consume. See #3 from above, and you’ll get the idea. A little news is okay. Knowing what is going on in the world around us is crucial in my mind. But the constant onslaught of “breaking news” hour after hour, minute to minute, is completely exhausting. When I limited my consumption to short periods, one stint in the morning (after coffee of course) and one in the evening, I found that my day’s trajectory was a lot more positive overall.
  • Whether good or bad, this too shall pass. No matter how large my to-do list was, no matter how much uncertainty and worry crept into my thoughts, and no matter how cathartic a workout I had, every day came to an end eventually. Sometimes I found myself muttering “this too shall pass” under my breath when I would be feeling a particular amount of anxiety or stress. And you know what? It actually did help put things in perspective. Take the good with the bad, because it’ll all be over eventually one way or another.
  • It's okay if you binged that show or played that video game. Hey, we’re all human. Don’t beat yourself up for indulging a little bit here and there! (Refer to #1 as well!)
  • Take advantage of the sunny days. Growing up in Michigan, the second most cloudy state in the US (for real!), I had a bit of a head start on this lesson. But the pandemic sure as heck hammered it home. When it was a beautiful, sunny day, I made sure to get outside for some amount of time, even if it was only 20 minutes on the back deck in between meetings. It boosted my mood, calmed me down, and made me take a second to just have a little gratitude for the simple things.
  • There is a feeling of zen I have when lifting. I know: this is an obvious one coming from a coach. But that’s also why I left it until the other insights had their time to shine. Everyone has their own interests, their own ways to unwind, and for me that is under a barbell or with a couple of dumbbells in hand. My brain shuts off, the music blares, and I can just get lost in it. If you haven’t found something, some activity that brings you a sense of calm, I highly encourage you to start exploring! Hobbies and interests shouldn’t be left by the wayside just because they’re not your main hustle.

Lessons We Will Take with Us

I’m sure that everyone will leave quarantine changed in some way, shape, or form. And the lessons you’ll leave with will be completely unique to your experience. Whether positive or negative, try to carry these into your life post-pandemic. Because more often than not, they’ll help you in the long run moving forward.

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This blog was written by Lauren Zakrajsek, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer, and Internship Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: attitude outdoors wellness vitamin D emotional self-care quarantine covid-19

Summertime Safety: Protect Your Skin During Outdoor Workouts

GettyImages-828979918The glorious return to summer is upon us, and if you are like me, you will be spending as much time as possible soaking up sunshine as you take your leisure outdoors, take up hobbies in the yard and garden, and engage in group fitness bootcamp classes in the park. The sunshine feels good and has many benefits, including mood enhancement, vitamin D production, and even treatment for a number of skin conditions such as psoriasis and acne. There are, however, some dangers associated with extended sun exposure that can be limited with the use of sunscreen, most notably skin cancer.

Finding the Balance Between Healthy Sun Exposure and Overdoing It

After a long winter or even a rainy spring, predictably, we will want to get out and about on the very first day possible. The first exposures to the summer sun usually leave us with a surprisingly red glow, the first sunburn of the year. For some people, this sunburn is a rite of passage for the season. As I noted before, there are some dangers with overexposure to the sun that have more serious consequences than a simple sunburn. According to the Cleveland Clinic, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, and the number of cases is on the rise. This cancer forms when prolonged exposure to the sun is accumulated over time.

The old saying “too much of a good thing” really resounds as we try to find the balance between healthy sun exposure and overdoing it. For many people, using sunscreen is a way to find a happy medium so that they can enjoy the outdoors. Scientists at Harvard have some healthy tips for those who may have reservations using sunscreen (such as developing acne and exposure to chemicals) and warn that the alternative to sunscreen usage is much, much worse. The biggest takeaway, though, is that sunscreen, by itself, will not be enough if limited prolonged overexposure to the sun is not your priority.

Tips for Staying Safe in the Sun

Here are some pointers that will take your sun safety to the next level.

  1. Be aware of the dangers of overexposure. There are many sources to help educate yourself about these dangers and the ways you can limit and prevent serious damage to your body.
  2. Sunscreen is good, but it’s not the only tool in the toolbox. You will also need sun-protective gear and clothing to stay safe.
  3. Use sunscreen correctly. When using sunscreen, make sure you know the specific rating and reapply regularly.
  4. Watch for skin changes. See your doctor if you develop any abnormal skin (always be safe, not sorry).

Prepare for Sun Exposure

Take time to treat your skin, your body, and your mind. We need sunlight to live, but we need to respect it. As we move into summer, more and more fitness classes are held outdoors. Make sure you are preparing for the sun. Ask your facility whether they provide sunscreen; NIFS provides stations at the entrances for your convenience.

If you have questions regarding health and wellness, NIFS staff members are available for consultation and can provide information regarding workout planning, fitness testing, and nutrition consultation with a registered dietitian. As always, muscleheads rejoice and evolve!

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

Topics: Thomas' Corner summer cancer sunscreen vitamin D outdoor exercise

How Technology Can Promote Exercise for Today’s Youth

GettyImages-867856148We all know that physical fitness and wellness are prerequisites for a productive and healthy life. Exercise is good not only for the body, but for the mind as well. We want to ensure a future full of great experiences. For one population, our children, participating in physical activity may be becoming more and more challenging, whether it be from lack of interest, lack of support, or lack of funding for programs in their community. One area in which this population excels, however, is technology. Without a doubt, smartphone technology is a part of our current culture and most likely will be for a long time. For some older people, this might be a newer concept. At the moment, though, ensuring the future of physical fitness for the next generation will need to coexist with technology.

Can Exercise and Technology Coexist?

Being somewhat skeptical of the coexistence of exercise and technology, I, like some people, associate the latter with inactivity and laziness. In the past, this might have been the case; however, a new generation of technology is now capable of training children to be more active while using technology. This was evident with the evolution of video game technology such as Wii Sports and Microsoft Kinect games.

The next evolution, naturally, moved to smartphones. Nearly every person has a smartphone and spends hours and hours per week staring at their screens. Then apps were developed, and have built a new outlet for fitness that not only utilizes the strengths (technology) but the interests (fun and leisure) that really entice children to exercise without even thinking about it.

Smartphone Technology That Gets People Moving

Here are some examples where smartphone technology is positively impacting people’s lives with exercise (source: Wezift.com).

  • Pokémon GO: Users use an interactive app to walk to Pokémon sites. At that point, a virtual battle ensues. Afterward, the user tries to find the next real-world location for the next battle. Sometimes these sites are common areas where likeminded individuals can meet up and battle with friends. It encourages walking, a proven method of burning calories and promoting a healthy lifestyle.
  • NFL Play 60: The National Football League’s app, geared toward fighting childhood obesity through activity, specifically 60 minutes per day. NFL players get involved and help inspire the youth to be physically fit.
  • Kids Fitness—Daily Yoga: This app is geared toward the benefits of yoga, teaching children 10 basic poses and movements. This free app helps kids understand the foundational concepts of yoga.

Find the Exercise That Keeps You Engaged

Getting involved with exercise can come in many forms. There are thousands of ways to exercise with thousands of plans. The best one, however, depends on you. What will you do to exercise and keep exercising for a lifetime? That, my friends, is the best exercise in the world. Keep your eyes open for new ideas and concepts as the fitness world is ever-changing. At NIFS, we are dedicated to making sure you are connected with our staff through all forms of social media. Connect with a NIFS Health Fitness Professional to get started on your fitness journey today! Until next time, muscleheads rejoice and evolve!

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

Topics: staying active Thomas' Corner kids technology apps fitness for kids

Self-Care for Women: Six Elements of Well-Being

GettyImages-1159495308There seems to be an expectation that women are supposed to do it all and not complain. That women are supposed to be wives and mothers, work full time, juggle friendships, have a social life, have time for themselves, so on. Society is ever changing, and we are supposed to keep up with it. Let’s rewind some years ago where most women stayed at home with their children, and taking care of their household was their only responsibility.

I will be the first to tell you that I have lived through both scenarios. I have been a stay-at-home mom and I have been a working-full-time mom. Neither comes without difficulties, but both come with such reward.

As women, the biggest and most important healthy relationship we can have is with ourselves. If we are not taking care of ourselves, it becomes incredibly difficult for us to take care of others. Can we do it? Of course! But at some point, we have to stop and ask ourselves, “At what price is it worth sacrificing our mental and physical health?”

The goal of this blog isn’t to sit here and say that you shouldn’t be a stay-at-home mom, you shouldn’t be a full-time working mom, or you shouldn’t be the only one to do everything. I understand that every woman’s situation and life is different and there is no one-size-fits-all. The goal of this blog is to encourage, uplift, and provide some new tools for you.

The Six Elements of Well-Being

While studying my recent certification with Girls Gone Strong, I came across the Six Elements of Well-Being, which inspired me to write this blog. I am a firm believer that taking care of your mental health serves a higher purpose than anything else.

Let’s dive into these elements as well as a call to action!

Positive Emotions

Emotions are “action blueprints” that tell us how to react and behave in situations. It’s important to understand that although our emotions might be good and bad, all emotions we feel are essential. As women we tend to focus more on what is “wrong” with our lives and even our bodies instead of focusing on what is right. Positive emotions don’t stick around as long as negative emotions. It’s important for us to fill our bank with positive affirmations by practicing them often.

Action: Record one thing you are grateful for each day.

Engagement (Flow)

Being “in the zone” is a term that a lot of us can relate to. You become fully engaged in the task at hand. Time slows down or comes to a stop, and nothing can pull you away from the flow of what you’re doing. Staying engaged is what keeps us going. Think about what you are naturally good at; what you do to build a routine around that is going to be fulfilling. “Health is about abundance—seeking out things that make us feel ‘fuller’ as human beings.”

Action: Find your favorite hobby or hobbies and carve out time to do them.

Relationships

Remember earlier when I stated that the most important healthy relationship we can be in is the one with ourselves? Well, let’s dive into that a little more.

As humans we are social beings and we rely on relationships. As women we give care or reach out to others as a way of lowering our stress levels. By being in strong, safe, and secure relationships, we allow ourselves to be healthier in all ways, which provides us the confidence we need to meet life challenges.

Action: Write a positive letter to yourself.

Meaning and Purpose

I’m sorry to tell you, but I don’t have the answer to the meaning of life. But I can say that having meaning in life means being connected to something greater than ourselves. Meaning and purpose can come from anywhere, and having meaning is crucial for our health and well-being.

Action: Write a list of what makes you happy and fulfilled.

Achievement

We need goals!

Let me say that louder.

WE NEED GOALS!!

Having long and short-term goals helps us stay connected to what we are pursuing in our lives. Having goals is an important aspect for our well-being and what helps bring satisfaction to our lives.

Action: Write a self-care goal and do it!

Resilience

Psychological resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, or other sources of stress. Some people are naturally resilient, and others are not and that’s okay. Positivity and resilience are skills that you can learn over time by cultivating them.

Action: Write what you feel grateful/hopeful for.

Set Yourself Up for Success

These six elements aren’t the answer to the world’s problems. But they are tools that can help you concentrate on your own well-being so that you can set yourself up for success in all areas of your life.

Take care and appreciate yourself, ladies!

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, CPT, Weight Loss Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: goals women emotional mental health well-being self-care relationships resilience physical health

Using Peppermint Oil for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

GettyImages-1030882342Peppermint oil is a commonly used nutrition remedy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), other digestive problems (abdominal pain), the common cold, and headaches. We will focus on gut health in this blog. This remedy has been mentioned in records from ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt and is becoming more popular in the modern age.

It is suggested that peppermint oil in enteric-coated capsules may improve IBS-related symptoms, such as abdominal pain. A meta-analysis evaluated 726 patients across nine studies, all of which were assessing the use of peppermint oil for treatment of IBS. All the studies showed a significant improvement in IBS symptoms and abdominal pain. The only adverse effect commonly noted was heartburn. Furthermore, another study was done where 65 IBS patients completed the study. There was a placebo group and a group treated with peppermint oil. Over the course of six weeks, those taking peppermint oil said abdominal pain (upset stomach, bloating, and gas) markedly improved, whereas the placebo group saw no significant changes. No other IBS symptoms improved. Two weeks after trials ended, the pain score increased back to the normal (same report as prior to treatment).

Drug Interactions and Additive Effects

According to the literature, the most common drug interaction is enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules taken at the same time as antacids. It is suggested that the two not be taken together, because the enteric coating will be broken down too quickly, which can result in heartburn.

Side Effects

Peppermint oil has been recognized as safe. Possible side effects associated with peppermint oil include allergic reaction and heartburn. The most common side effect associated with peppermint oil supplementation is heartburn, especially among those with IBS.

The Clinical Bottom Line

A significant amount of research shows that peppermint oil supplementation in those with IBS helps reduce abdominal pain. Additionally, it is safe. I would suggest someone struggling with IBS take peppermint oil. However, if they begin to experience excessive heartburn, I would suggest not taking peppermint oil or making sure they are not taking it with an antacid. Furthermore, it is important to remember that peppermint leaf is NOT the same thing as peppermint oil. Peppermint oil is going to be more concentrated and has the research to back up the benefits. On the contrary, peppermint leaf will be less toxic and does not have the research to support usage. 

Further Research

Much of the research done to prove peppermint oil helps with IBS was short term. Not many studies have looked into the long-term effects and safety of supplementing peppermint oil. Thus, I believe future research should look into that.

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This blog was written by Sabrina Goshen, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: digestion supplements illness prevention dietary supplements IBS irritable bowel syndrome

5 Tips for a Safe Return to Fitness After Quarantine

GettyImages-1134331738Do you remember the last time you went on an extended vacation, came back home, jumped into the gym and your favorite class and thought you could pick right back up where you left off? You might remember feeling like you were not going to make it through the class and were so sore for days on end. And that was just after a vacation consisting of a long rest, relaxation, and food freedom. Just think what you may encounter once you return to your favorite class or training group after two to three months of quarantine.

Now if you have been able to keep up your training intensity during this time, that’s awesome, and what I’m talking about might not apply to you. But I would argue that most of us, even with the best intentions, might not have been exercising at the same intensity in which we left our favorite facility. And if you jump back in too fast, at too furious of an intensity, you could find yourself with far worse than a case of sore muscles—and maybe even losing your lunch during class.

As you make your way back into your gym and classes, here are five helpful tips that will aid in keeping you safe and free from injury so you don’t get knocked out for another couple of months.

Reset Your Mindset

I think the most important step in getting back to your previous fitness level is being okay with not being at your previous fitness level. There is no room for negative self-talk because your deadlift isn’t Instagram-worthy right now, or running a mile is now incredibly challenging when it was once a warm-up. Think short-term adjustment at the beginning as you get your legs back underneath you. Find the little victories and be proud of them as you continue to ramp back up to previous intensities.

Start Slow and Add Gradually

Stave off injuries or worse by starting slow and adding intensity progressively throughout the first 8–10 sessions back. Starting off too heavy or too fast can lead to physical injuries as well as emotional setbacks. Build some confidence every session, and you will be back to your prime self in no time, safely! 

Do an RPE System Check

Do a frequent body system check using Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale. The Borg Scale is a rating chart from 6–20 of how hard you feel yourself working at any one given task. There is a modified version that is a simple 0–10 rating system. Either one correlates well with your heart rate and can provide a quick and reliable audit of how your body is reacting to exercise. If you feel like you are barely moving, you may be at a 6 or 7 (1,2); or if you feel like if you keep up the current intensity you may lose that lunch I mentioned earlier, you may be at an 18–20 (8–10). It’s quick and easy, does not require equipment, and can provide an accurate intensity level check. Do frequent system checks throughout your workout, and if you feel you are pushing to the higher numbers of that scale, you may want to back it down and gradually work up to that intensity level.

Warm Up/Prep for Movement

Take the time to properly warm up and prepare yourself for the work at hand. This message is not new, and should always be practiced, but even more so now that you may have had a lengthy layoff. Consider this as part of your workout and you are more likely to complete it every time; don’t treat it as an option that is nice to do if you have the time. Make time! Foam rolling and soft tissue techniques, dynamic warm-up drills, and stability work should all be completed before jumping into a training session or your favorite class. Five to seven minutes can save you months in rehabbing an injury that could have been avoided.

Hydrate and Recover

Same as above, not a new message but a super-important one these days! Start hydrating now if you have been lacking in that area. Don’t wait until midway through a training session to start fluid intake. If you are following the rule of thumb and ingesting half your body weight in ounces of water daily, you are in a great position. Just like your warm-up, take the time to cool down and perform recovery drills post workout. These will help with soreness and increase mobility while slowing down your mind to focus on the victories you just grabbed in the workout. Slow down the systems and reward yourself for a job well done!

***

We were confident that this day would come when we could get back to our gyms, groups, and classes and get moving like we did before everything changed. Now that it is here, please take the proper steps in protecting yourself against injury or even worse. It may take some time to get back to where you once were, but it will be well worth it!

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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: injury prevention hydration recovery warming up mindset quarantine

Dear Soon-to-Be and New Mommies: You Can Do This!

GettyImages-1060547970Today, the realities of the human body immediately after giving birth are less mysterious than ever, a development some attribute to a changing climate around motherhood. In the past women felt like they couldn’t talk about the after-effects of having a baby, let alone caring for other children at the same time.

Everything Is Different and There Is Pressure from All Directions

People don’t talk about the messy postpartum “situations” that take place, the frustrating and sometimes painful process of figuring out breastfeeding, the wound care necessary for the area the baby came out from, oh and let’s not forget waddling around the house wearing whatever undergarments can hold everything together. And how about the best-kept secret of icepacks!

And how can we forget the added stressors of life in general. Maybe you’re hearing and feeling things like this:

  • Make sure you work out during your pregnancy.
  • Be sure to only gain 25–30 pounds throughout this whole 9 months.
  • Don’t forget to take care of the other kid/kids you have.
  • Please make sure that report is on my desk by 9am tomorrow.
  • Clean the house.
  • Work 40+ hours a week.
  • Make dinner.
  • Drive the older ones to school and sports.

And on and on and on…

DON’T PANIC! It’s natural to feel exhausted and unfamiliar in your new body and new life. From the time you become pregnant to the time that you give birth, each is a new beginning and an exciting chapter in your life.

The mental difficulties of pregnancy and the first few months after giving birth can be more challenging than the physical effects. Your body will begin to change from its previous state back to its new normal: shedding water weight, frequent trips to the bathroom (again), after-birth contractions as the uterus shrinks back down. If you are breastfeeding or not, there will be pain involved. Let’s not forget the hormonal change that will take place. All of this can lead you to having “baby blues” or feelings of postpartum depression. You are trying to adjust to a new life and a new baby, and these stressors can cause low self-esteem and doubt.

Tools for Confidence in the Postpartum Time

Do not give up! You are the same strong woman who just grew a child and gave birth, and you are who you have always been, but now you have someone else to share your strength with. The more you start to believe in yourself, the happier you will feel and be. Some stress relievers that helped me during my “baby blues” moments are the following.

Get Some Fresh Air

Getting outside for fresh air can help lift your mood. There are also many benefits of walking that include stress reducers. Take a walk by yourself, or take that precious new baby out for some fresh air.

Communicate

Having a new baby can make you feel as though you are alone. Making an effort to connect with friends, join a mommy and me group, or reach out to other moms can help you indulge in adult conversation and not feel isolated.

Take Time for Yourself

Ask for help. Making time for yourself will not only allow you a minute to breathe, it will also help you become a better mom by taking care of yourself.

Feel More Secure

Body confidence is typically the first issue that woman deal with after giving birth. Your body has spent the last 9 months stretching to make room for a growing baby. As long as that took, your body needs time to recover. Most of us do not bounce back as quickly as we would like and that’s okay. After having my first child, I felt like I bounced back better than I had anticipated, but the second one made me feel otherwise (and still does!). My body changed so much after having my second child. One of the hardest things for me was not feeling confident and realizing that this is my new body.

Love the Skin You’re In

Even if you don’t have anywhere to go, try to get up and make an effort every morning. Wear your favorite outfit, put on a little bit of makeup. Find a way to feel good about the day at the very beginning.

Make Time for Healthy Eating and Exercise

Probably the hardest of them all are these two! Without a doubt, eating healthy and exercising tend to be the last things on our minds after having given birth. The best advice I can give you is to plan ahead. During those months where nesting sets in and you have energy to get things done like the nursery and shopping, throw meal prepping in there as well so that you’ll have some healthy options ready to eat after the baby comes.

When it comes to exercising, once you are cleared after 6 weeks, start slow and build from there. Try bodyweight exercises, or walks working into a jog/run. When stay-at-home restrictions are lifted, find a friend to join you at the gym, find a class that you can ease intensity into, or join a program geared toward weight loss/strength. Find what fits you and your schedule.

The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love

Well soon-to-be, new, and veteran moms, I am here to tell you that the world is unfair, the jobs we have as mothers will continue to be the hardest jobs we’ll ever have. We will have good days, we will have bad days; we will have days that we want to run, and days when we have conquered the world. There will be days where we ask ourselves why we decided to do this, and days where we doubt every decision we made. It will be a constant cycle, of good, bad, bad, good, and so on.

Whatever situation you are in currently, I can say with confidence that YOU WERE MADE FOR THIS and YOU CAN DO THIS! There is no greater creation than that of a woman. LOVE YOURSELF! TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF! and ASK FOR HELP!

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, Weight Loss Coordinator. To Learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: depression stress walking anxiety bodyweight pregnancy self-care self-esteem postpartum self-confidence

How a Hoosier Went Vegan: A Dietitian’s Experience

GettyImages-1147252758A few years ago, I made it my New Year’s Resolution to completely cut out animal products from my diet. I had played around with a couple variations of diets for a few years in college while competing in a Division 1 rowing program—cutting out all red meat, processed meats, and chicken, and only eating fish. Essentially the only things left were the eggs, milk, and cheese. I had been hesitant because cheese was my absolute favorite thing to add to every meal. I dreamed about doing a cheese and wine tour of Europe one day—I was really in love with cheese.

Why and How I Did It

My motivation to go completely animal product–free stemmed from the obvious health benefits that I was learning about so quickly as I finished up my degree to become a dietitian. But it also was influenced heavily by my love for the planet (plant-based diets have an extremely low carbon footprint) and all animals (even the ones that most people consider to be food and not pets).

As you already know, the transition was very slow… over several years. I didn’t go from steak, cheesy potatoes, and a side of green beans with bacon to a full-on Buddha Bowl tofu smoothie overnight! I also researched and talked to fellow dietitians as I made the switch to make sure I was taking the appropriate steps to ensure a healthy transition as well (please don’t hesitate to reach out).

My Top Tips for Transitioning to a Plant-Based Diet

For those who are considering going plant-based, here are my tips that I’ve learned throughout the years.

Start with One Meal at a Time

Pick just one meal a day to make mostly plant-based—don’t worry about the rest of your meals and snacks yet. Instead of a fried egg and bacon breakfast sandwich, replace your bacon and egg with your favorite greens, caramelized onion, sautéed peppers, etc.

Make Your Favorite Meal Plant-based

Do you love spaghetti and meatballs and eat it multiple times a week or a couple of times a month? This is the meal to focus on! Spaghetti and the red sauce are fine as is. Now you just need to find a delicious “meatball” recipe that uses things like beans and lentils and spices and freeze some to save time for the next meal. Pizza can be delicious on its own without cheese, but you can consider adding dairy-free cheese.

Find Your Favorite Brand of Store-bought Dairy-free Cheese

My favorites… and I’ve tried them all!

  • VioLife Feta Cheese (delicious on a cheese board with apple slices)
  • SoDelicious Cheddar (good for pizzas)
  • Miyokos (Whole Foods carries wheels of this delicious brand)
  • TreeLine (small tubs of herbed cheeses that are delicious on crackers)
  • Daiya Pepper Jack cheese block

There are dozens more, and many folks try making their own cheese, but if you can find just one, this makes the transition 100 times easier.

Be Prepared for Restaurants

This might mean expanding your palate and trying new places. Indian, Thai, and Ethiopian are prime examples of cuisines that highlight plant foods over animal foods. But even our favorite fast-food chains have vegan options:

  • Chipotle offers sofritas (tofu).
  • Burger King and White Castle offer Impossible Meat Burgers (remember, moderation is still key).
  • Noble Roman’s offers vegan cheese on pizzas.

As “vegan” continues to be rather trendy, the options are endless. Don’t be afraid to create your own dish and ask for substitutions or leave things off the dish. The Happy Cow app lists vegan options all over the city.

Be Open-minded

Change is hard, especially when it comes to food. Food is something we have a strong connection to. We associate different meals with happiness, sadness, a certain holiday, or a family favorite that has been a go-to every Monday night. My family did our first entirely vegan Thanksgiving two years ago. Despite the fact that the entire immediate family had gone vegan a few years ago, many of our extended family members were not on board with this move. Expose friends, family, and new acquaintances to some of your new favorite dishes at various gatherings and you just might end up with another buddy to swap recipes with!

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition weight loss vegan dietitian plant-based

Speaks to the Soul: Music for Better Emotional and Physical Health

GettyImages-1146590025Picture this: You’re sitting in the car, in stop-and-go traffic. Your mood is just shot and all you want to do is get home. Now try this: Turn up the volume on your radio and let the music take over your soul!

According to Harvard Health, music is a fundamental attribute of the human species. All cultures, from the most primitive to the most advanced, make music. And thank goodness they do! As humans we sing, hum, make music with our hands by clapping; we sway our bodies or bob our heads back and forth when a catchy beat comes on; and we even dance to celebrate. Music is essentially wired into us by the sound of our heartbeats.

Music for Happiness

As obvious as it sounds, if you are ever in need of an emotional boost, let it be known that it only takes 15 minutes of listening to your favorite tunes to get a natural high. Your brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that leads to increased feelings of happiness, excitement, and joy.

Improved Performance

Scientists have found that when people listen to motivational music, they run faster than those who do not listen to music. The key to enhancing your performance lies in the choice of music that motivates and inspires you to move forward and faster.

Decrease Stress; Increase Health

Sixty percent of illnesses and diseases are caused by stress. To lower your levels of stress means increasing your uptake in music (and other things, but we’re focusing on music right now). Listening to music decreases the levels of cortisol in your body, which counteracts the effects of chronic stress.

During those much-needed breaks from work or even while you are working, play some inspiring, motivating music to help boost your mood and your health.

Sounds of Sleep

Hearing or singing lullabies is known to help children go to sleep. Over 30% of Americans suffer from insomnia. A study showed that listening to classical or relaxing music within an hour of going to bed significantly improves sleep, compared to listening to an audiobook or doing something else before bed.

Motivation Playlist

See how music motivates your fitness professionals at NIFS. We asked Tony, Thomas, Ashley, Lauren, and Tinisi to each name songs that help change their moods, motivate, and help them relax and enjoy the sounds:

Can you guess the songs chosen by each fitness pro?

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, Weight Loss Coordinator. To Learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: stress motivation sleep music happiness emotional performance