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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

The Social Benefits of Running with a Group

DSC_4644Running with others is one of the most effective strategies for creating a running habit and continuing it. The social benefits of running are among the biggest reasons why runners start and stick with running. Whether you’re running with one friend or a running group, here are some ways you can benefit from group running.

  • You’ll have group role models. People naturally start to adopt the habits of those around them. Spending time with other runners will help you form a running habit because you’ll start to mirror your running friends’ habits.
  • You’ll motivate each other. With a running group, you get regular encouragement. Members encourage each other at races and during long runs. You’ll be more motivated to stick to your training because you’ll hold each other accountable. It’s harder to skip a workout when you know others are waiting for you.
  • You’ll feel a sense of belonging. Being part of a cohesive team can you give a sense of purpose and help you make new and meaningful connections.
  • You’ll get creative stimulation. It’s fun to share ideas when running with a group. You can bounce ideas off your running friends and ask them for advice.
  • Your performance will improve. Everyone flourishes with a little healthy competition. When you’re running with others who are pushing you to run faster and harder, it’s easier to take it to the next level. When running alone, you may be tempted to cut your workout short; when others are depending on you, however, you’ll want to do the entire workout, and maybe even a little extra.
  • You can network. Running with people you know is a great way to network and build your professional relationships in an informal way. You’ll develop a camaraderie with other runners that’s difficult to replicate in an office or other work setting. Building and strengthening relationships through running may lead to a new job or other opportunities. Many runners have found new jobs or made important professional connections through running.

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This blog was written by David Behrmann, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor.To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here

Topics: motivation running group training accountability athletic performance habits social aspects networking

Finding the Motivation to Work Out

GettyImages-1164633763Let’s be real. We aren’t always motivated to work out, and sometimes it’s hard to find that motivation. It’s even harder to find motivation when you don’t even enjoy exercise. It’s important to learn why getting active is so important, and it all starts with changing your mindset about it.

So Why Exercise in the First Place?

There are hundreds of good reasons why it’s important to stay active, but here are a few reasons that you might not know of.

  • Exercise charges you up. Thirty minutes or more of vigorous exercise releases endorphins to the brain, giving you energy and an intense natural high. This can help you have more energy for your everyday activities and keeps you going.
  • Exercise can help your positivity. Studies show that exercise is a great way to help manage depression. It not only releases endorphins, but it also helps clear your mind of stress, confusion, and worry
  • Exercise can help with your social life. Exercising with others who are going to the gym for Group Fitness classes can be a great way to meet new people and help each other stay motivated.
  • Exercise helps you sleep. Working the body and clearing the brain ensures a good night’s sleep. It can help regulate problematic sleeping patterns.

Switch Your Mindset

The biggest key to staying motivated with exercise is trying to switch your mindset. If you really dislike the idea of exercise, you need to switch the way that you’re thinking, or you’ll never get up and get active. Start to think of exercise as “being active” or “feeling healthy.” A great way to start is to increase the overall amount of movement and activity in your day. For example, you can start by walking 10,000 steps per day. You also don’t have to work out in a gym. Of course, gyms are useful and have a lot of equipment, but some days you can go outdoors or ride a bike. You can also try yoga or dancing as another method to stay active. At NIFS, we offer a variety of different Group Fitness classes to fit your needs and wants, so you are never bored or tied down to one form of exercise.

Small Steps

Sometimes you just have to take small steps to keep motivated. For instance, laying out your workout clothes or packing your gym bag the night before can remove several barriers in the number of decisions you need to make the next day. Or you can even have your gym bag in your car ready for the next day! You can also give yourself achievement awards, such as your favorite drink or new workout shoes. Use it as your motivation to get your workout done so that you can reward yourself with something you enjoy. Maybe you can even try a lunchtime workout. This will allow you to mix it up with some outside lunchtime training, and it can be an awesome way to experience natural light in your workout. Consider taking a brisk walk around the block or doing a quick HIIT workout before you go back to work.

Find What Works for You

The key is to really find what works for you. What might work for someone else might not be the right fit for you. Your health is your journey, and sometimes you must personalize it to make it worth it. Continue to try new things until you make your workout routine a habit. Remember that it’s okay to take rest days. But always get back up and fight the next day.

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This blog was written by Emily Lesich, NIFS Health Fitness Specialist. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: staying active healthy habits motivation group fitness accountability HIIT outdoor exercise

Movement Pattern Variations: The Pull

GettyImages-1339637365In this blog series, I have discussed four movement patterns that training should fit into. I then went on to talk about scheduling a training plan using the four movement patterns, as well as going over the pushing movement pattern. In this blog I will discuss the next upper-body movement pattern on the list, the pulling movement pattern.

Pulling Movement Pattern

This movement pattern works the muscles of the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, posterior deltoid, and biceps. These muscles are all responsible for pulling objects toward our upper body. These muscle groups are essential for those of you who sit at a desk for the majority of your day job. Strengthening the muscles of your back will aid in maintaining an upright posture. 

Similar to the push pattern, the pulling movement pattern can be broken up further into a horizontal and vertical pull. A horizontal pull is one in which you are pulling the weight toward your torso (for example, rows); whereas a vertical pull is one in which you are pulling the weight down from overhead (for example, pulldowns).

Pulling Movements

Lats—Horizontal

  • Seated Cable Row
  • One-arm Cable Row
  • Bent-over Barbell Row
  • One-arm DB Bent-over Row
  • Chest-supported Row
  • TRX or Ring Rows
  • Upright Rows

Lats—Vertical

  • Pullup
  • Chin-up
  • Lat Pulldown
  • One-arm Kneeling Lat Pulldown

Trap/Posterior Deltoid

  • Facepulls
  • Pullaparts
  • Rear Deltoid Flys

Biceps

  • Barbell Curl
  • DB Curl
  • Cable Curl
  • Preacher Curl
  • Overhand Curl

Structure Your Training Program

For more information on how to properly progress and structure a training program, visit our staff at the track desk to schedule a private session. We are more than happy to help at any time, and as part of your membership here at NIFS, you receive complimentary workout programs. Our health fitness professionals tailor all programs to your fitness goals.

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This blog was written by Evan James, NIFS Exercise Physiologist EP-C, Health Fitness Instructor, and Personal Trainer. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: workouts muscles upper body movement movement patterns pull training program pulling

Are All Carbohydrates Bad?

GettyImages-1401847188You’ve probably heard the saying that “not all carbohydrates are bad,” but how do you differentiate between good and not-so-good for you? When it comes to carbohydrates, in order to identify which type is best, it’s important to first understand the three different types of carbohydrates: sugar, fiber, and starch.

Sugar

Sugar is one of the most well-known types of carbohydrates, and more often than not, it gets a bad rap. But did you know that not all sugars are unhealthy? There are two main types of sugars: naturally occurring sugars and added sugars. Naturally occurring sugars are those found in milk or fruit, whereas added sugars are sugars and sweeteners added during processing to enhance the flavor or quality of the food. These sugars typically offer no nutritional benefit (vitamins, minerals, etc.), but they do provide calories, which is why most health professionals suggest consuming them in moderation.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend no more than 10% of your daily calories come from added sugars. For perspective, if you consume around 2,000 calories per day, you should shoot for less than 50 grams of added sugars each day. Unlike added sugars, there is no set recommendation for how many grams of naturally occurring sugars one should consume.

You can find out the number of total and added grams of sugar by looking at the Nutrition Facts label on the product. As an example, if a food has 10 grams of total sugars and 1 gram of added sugars, you can assume that 9 of those grams of sugars are naturally occurring.

Fiber

Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate that moves through the gastrointestinal tract mostly intact, speeding up gastrointestinal transit and providing bulk to the stool. Not only does fiber keep you regular, but it also makes you feel satisfied for longer after eating and is known to aid in healthy cholesterol levels. Fiber is found in fruits and vegetables, especially those with skins and seeds; beans and legumes; nuts and seeds; and whole grains, like whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain bread, and whole-grain cereal. It is estimated that more than 90% of women and 97% of men do not meet their recommended daily fiber intake, which is around 14 grams for every 1,000 calories consumed each day (for example, 28 grams for a 2,000-calorie/day diet).

Eating too much or too little of fiber can have unwanted side effects, primarily related to the gastrointestinal tract, such as constipation, gas and/or bloating. When increasing your fiber intake, it is important to do so slowly and to drink plenty of fluids to avoid gastrointestinal discomfort.

Starch

Starches are complex carbohydrates that, like sugars, are broken down and turned into glucose, the body’s primary source of energy. Starches are present in most carbohydrate-containing foods, but foods with an especially high starch content include wheat, corn, beans, peas, and potatoes. When looking at a Nutrition Facts label, you may notice that the number of grams of carbohydrates and fiber don’t add up to the number of total carbohydrates listed. For example, a food item may contain 30 grams of carbohydrates, but only 2 grams of fiber and 5 grams of sugar. This means that 23 grams of carbohydrates come from starches. Similar to added sugars, there is currently no specific recommendation for how many grams of starch to eat each day, rather, how many grams of total carbohydrates you should aim for daily.

Final Notes

Overall, it is important to obtain a healthy balance of each type of carbohydrate, while focusing on limiting highly processed starches, like white breads and pastas, and added sugars. The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest obtaining 45% to 65% of your daily calories from all carbohydrates. One gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories, so if you follow a 2,000-calorie/day diet, you should aim for anywhere between 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates daily, with less than 50 grams of added sugars and at least 28 grams of fiber. However, a 2,000-calorie diet is not for everyone, so speak with a Registered Dietitian nutritionist to obtain your individualized recommendations.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition weight loss digestion fiber carbs sugar dietitian carbohydrates starch

Two Workouts You Can Do Anywhere

GettyImages-1367691686The holiday season is here. That means a lot of us will be traveling to see family and friends. You might be worried about not being able to keep up with your fitness routine while on the road. I am here to show you workouts that do not require a gym.

A Strength Workout and a Cardio Workout

I’ve listed two workouts below. One is a strength workout, and the other is a cardio workout that doesn’t involve going outside for a run. Both workouts take only 20 minutes, giving you plenty of time to enjoy time with your family and friends. The strength workout is an AMRAP style. This means you will set a timer for 20 minutes and get through as many rounds as you can in that time (take breaks as needed). The cardio workout is a circuit-style workout. You will perform each move for 45 seconds, then take a 15-second rest before going on to the next move.

To make things easier for you, I recommend downloading an app on your phone that allows you to set interval times. This way you don’t have to worry about continually watching the timer. I personally like to use the app called Interval Timer—HIIT workouts.

The Workouts

Here are the two workouts.

Bodyweight Strength Workout

20-minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible)

  • Squats (x10)
  • Dips (x10)
  • Push-ups (x10)
  • Curtsy lunge with side kick (x10 each side)
  • Plank (30 seconds)
  • Marching Glute Bridge (x10 each leg)

Bodyweight Cardio Workout

Perform each move for 45 seconds, then rest 15 seconds. Repeat the circuit 4 times.

  • Skaters
  • Single-leg reach and knee drive
  • 123 high knees
  • Side shuffles
  • 6 mountain climbers to a push-up

Remember, workouts don’t have to be an hour long to be “good” workouts. Getting any kind of movement for your body is great! Don’t be discouraged during this time if you miss a workout or two. Get movement in when you can, and enjoy the season!

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This blog was written by Kaitlyn Pando, NIFS Group Fitness Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: cardio workouts holidays traveling strength workout cardio workout

The Dos and Don’ts of Dieting During December

GettyImages-1439973604Did you know studies have shown that the average adult gains 0.88 to 1.98 pounds during the holiday season, starting the last week of November and through the first or second week of January? For many, this doesn’t come as a surprise, especially as we tend to become more sedentary due to the weather changes and often experience an increase in temptation due to frequent holiday gatherings that focus on food, limited edition “holiday” menu items, and more. This holiday season, set yourself up for success by following these dieting “dos” and “donts” during the month of December.

DON’T: Expect your diet to be perfect during the holidays.
DO: Plan and prepare for temptation and offsets.

Let’s be realistic. There are very few, if any, people who have a perfect diet, let alone during the holidays. The holidays are a time of celebration, with food and alcohol often taking center stage at these events. It’s important to expect and prepare for temptation and to have a plan of action for practicing moderation throughout the month. Check out these 10 Simple Ways to Stay Healthy While Celebrating the Holidays for guidance on doing so.

DON’T: Skip meals to make room for your holiday meal (or alcohol).
DO: Eat a balanced diet, no matter the day, and practice portion control.

Many people attempt to skip meals to “save up” calories for heavier meals, desserts, and alcohol; however, this approach often leads to binge eating. Instead of cutting out certain foods or practically starving yourself to make up for a big meal, stick to your normal healthy eating habits or regimen and practice moderation and portion control when consuming foods rich in calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar.

DON’T: Overdo it with the high-calorie, high-sugar “seasonal” beverages.
DO: Opt for a smaller size or customize your drink to make it healthier for you.

Did you know a grande (16 oz) Peppermint Mocha from Starbucks® contains 440 calories, 54 grams of sugar, and 16 grams of fat? Practice moderation by ordering a tall (8 oz) with only 240 calories, 28 grams of sugar, and 10 grams of fat. Or, try customizing your drink to make it healthier by asking that your drink be made with nonfat or plant-based milk, fewer pumps of sweetener/syrup, or without toppings (such as whipped cream or chocolate shavings), all of which can save up to hundreds of extra calories!

DON’T: Skip out on exercise because it’s cold or snowy.
DO: Opt for indoor exercise!

Don’t have a gym membership? Try a free online exercise video (there are TONS on YouTube) or head to a large indoor space that allows for 10 to 15 minutes of walking, such as a mall or large department store.

DON’T: Give up after one bad day.
DO: Wake up the next day, forgive yourself, and start over.

One bad day doesn’t undo all of the progress you’ve made and won’t prevent you from having success in the future. After a poor day (or two) of eating, don’t give up or put off your goals until the next week. Instead, wake up the next day, show yourself some forgiveness, and make a plan for getting back on track.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: winter fitness healthy eating calories holidays attitude coffee mindset alcohol skipping meals

The Best Foods to Help You Fight Off Cold and Flu Season

GettyImages-1186344506As the weather turns colder and we spend more time indoors, viruses will become more active among the population. Healthy eating can help you boost your immunity. Here are five of the top choices for fighting colds and flu with food.

Citrus Fruits

Oranges, clementines, lemons, and grapefruits are all excellent sources of vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps protect immune cells from oxidative stress during the early stages of an immune response. Research has shown that a deficiency of vitamin C can result in impaired immunity and a greater susceptibility to infection.

Fatty Fish

Fatty fish, such as sockeye salmon and rainbow trout, are often great sources of Vitamin D, a nutrient that plays a role in innate and adaptive immune responses. One study found that vitamin D supplementation resulted in a 42% decrease in the incidence of influenza infection, while another study revealed individuals with lower serum vitamin D levels were more likely to self-report recent upper respiratory tract infections when compared to individuals with sufficient vitamin D levels.

Nuts, Seeds, and Plant-based Oils

Nuts, seeds, and plant-based oils are high in vitamin E, an antioxidant that has been shown to enhance immune response and confer protection against several infectious diseases. These foods are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which may help strengthen your immune cells, although more research is still needed to fully support these claims.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes and other red or orange fruits and vegetables are typically high in vitamin A, which plays a crucial role in the maintenance of the human immune system. Vitamin A supplementation has been shown to have a therapeutic effect on diseases transmitted through the respiratory tract, such as pneumonia. For reference, one sweet potato contains 156% of your daily vitamin A requirements.

Oysters

Three ounces of raw oysters provides 291% of your daily zinc needs. Zinc helps the immune system function properly and also has wound-healing properties. Studies have shown that a zinc deficiency is associated with severe immune dysfunction.

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Eating the preceding types of foods can help you strengthen your immune system against the annual winter onslaught of colds and flu. If you’d like more help planning a healthy diet, schedule a NIFS nutrition coaching session.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy eating immunity fruits and vegetables cold weather plant-based flu viruses

Five Tips for Maintaining Your Health and Fitness over the Holidays

GettyImages-1406790902With the holidays coming up, it can be easy to get caught up in the busyness of it all. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, we are bombarded with festive meals, holiday parties, sweet treats, and family gatherings that simply interrupt our normal routine. The holiday season is one of the most difficult times to stay motivated to be healthy. Not to mention the fact that it is several degrees cooler and I would rather hibernate than go out to the gym. Plus, many of us travel to visit family and friends and we are just not close to our gym.

I know that I personally struggle with all of these things, especially because the food around the holiday time is absolutely my favorite. To really get myself into the right mindset, I follow these five tips to make sure I can keep my health and fitness at the level I want it to be at.

1. Maintain the right mindset.

Staying motivated won’t be possible unless you start out with the right mindset. Go into the holiday season determined and dedicated. Do not make excuses when it comes to working out. Make sure that it is really a priority for you and something that is attainable.

2. Make a schedule.

Making a plan and workout schedule ahead of time will make it a lot more difficult to make excuses when the time comes. If you are prepared, you are more likely to get it done. Take a look at your schedule and write down the times that you will be able to get in your workout session.

3. Make it a family activity.

If you are struggling to find the time to balance working out and also spending time with your family, make getting exercise a family activity. For example, my family goes out and walks together, takes fun exercise classes together, and even runs fun holiday-themed 5Ks together. Not only are we working out, but we are making memories as well.

4. Switch up your normal workout.

You can add new exercises to keep it new and exciting. You are less likely to get bored with something that you are working on improving. You can also include more HIIT workouts that will help you achieve a lot in a short amount of time.

5. Know that you don’t always need a gym.

During the holidays, you are more than likely going to be traveling a lot and may not be by a gym. Doing body-weight exercises or using at-home items to lift can be a useful temporary solution when you are away. Try some of these exercises and workouts.

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Even though it's the season of giving, be sure to not give yourself a hard time. Some days a workout just won’t happen, and you may find yourself consuming more calories. We have to remember to be gracious to our minds and our bodies. Being too strict on yourself can cause you to burn out and even create unhealthy habits. Make sure you understand your balance so that you can live your best life.

Happy Holidays and Happy Fitness!

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This blog was written by Emily Lesich, NIFS Health Fitness Specialist. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: motivation holidays Thanksgiving traveling new year's mindset christmas workout plan health and fitness family

Saving Money on Groceries While Eating Well

GettyImages-517974394With inflation at a 40-year high and grocery costs up close to 11% compared to 2021, saving money at the store has become a priority for many. However, when trying to save money at the store, many individuals cut back on the pricier yet healthier items, such as fruits, vegetables, and lean protein sources. But you don’t have to do that! Here are some tips and tricks for maintaining a healthy diet while shopping smart and saving money at the store.

  • Have a grocery store game plan. Make a list of the meals and snacks you plan to eat throughout the week and the foods you will need to make them. Sticking to this list will help prevent you from buying things you do not need, which often results in wasted food and money.
  • Join your store's loyalty or rewards program. Often these programs are free and automatically apply savings at checkout, requiring minimal effort from you.
  • Buy “in-season” and “local” fruits and vegetables when possible. Fruits and vegetables that are local or in season are typically cheaper to produce and ship, resulting in a lower price for the consumer compared to hard-to-find or out-of-season produce. See what produce is currently in season at the USDA website.
  • Buy frozen. If you have freezer space available, purchase frozen fruits and vegetables without added salt or sauces. Typically frozen fruits and vegetables are just as healthy as fresh and are a fraction of the cost.
  • Buy canned fruits and vegetables. When purchasing fruits, try to buy those that are packaged in 100% fruit juice. When purchasing vegetables, look for those that have “no salt added” listed on the label, or simply rinse prior to preparing/cooking to help wash off some of the salt added for preservation.
  • Grow your own! Grow your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs to cut back on packaging costs.
  • Buy fresh. Check the “sell by” or “best by” date to ensure you are buying the freshest items.
  • Compare your options. Compare and contrast different sizes and brands to find the most cost-effective option. Looking at the “price per unit” can help you find the best deal.
  • Buy in bulk. When you know a certain food or drink will get used, buy in bulk or purchase value- or family-sized items. For produce and meat, anything that isn’t used can be frozen for later use.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy eating whole foods fruits and vegetables grocery shopping saving money frozen food

What’s Old Is New: Change Up Your Workouts with the Same Exercises

GettyImages-505776960We’ve all heard that using the same workout program for a long duration is not the most effective way to train. At some point in everyone’s training life, they get into a program or workout routine that just seems to be perfect. It may be time-efficient and enjoyable, and you may see all of the improvements you set out to achieve when you started. These workout programs may last 4, 8, or 12 weeks, but they are always the hardest to switch up even if your improvements (or “gainz”) have stalled.

Balancing the Need for Variety with Favorite Exercises

Exercise variety is great. I recommend switching up different variations of exercises from training cycle to training cycle; I do realize, however, that some of those foundational exercises that you like to perform might always be present.

Most of us have our favorite exercises that are staples in any program that we use. Those favorite exercises also tend to be coupled with rep schemes (sets, reps, rest periods) that we feel like help us get the most out of our time in the gym. It’s almost like we have our default setting on what we are going to do and run with it. But what if you didn’t want to switch up any of the exercises? How could you build an entirely new workout with the exercises you have been doing from the previous block or training cycle?

A Sample Workout with Variations

The answer is actually pretty simple. You can alter the variables of the program to drastically change the look, feel, and performance of any workout. How do you do it? Take a look at the sample full-body workout below and the following two blocks with the same exercises.

Weeks 1–4

  • Front Squat 4x6 (2-minute rest between sets)
  • TRX Row 4x15 (1-minute rest)
  • Dumbbell Bench Press 4x12 (2-minute rest)
  • Kettlebell Lateral Lunge 3x8/leg (1-minute rest)
  • Lat Pulldown 3x15 (1-minute rest)

Weeks 4–8

  • Front Squat 3x12 (30-second rest between sets)
  • TRX Row 3x25 (30-second rest)
  • Dumbbell Bench Press 3x20 (30-second rest)
  • Kettlebell Lateral Lunge 3x15/leg (30-second rest)
  • Lat Pulldown 3x15 (30-second rest)

Weeks 9–12

  • Front Squat 5x3 (3-minute rest between sets)
  • TRX Row 5x8 (1.5-minute rest)
  • Dumbbell Bench Press 4x6 (2-minute rest)
  • Kettlebell Lateral Lunge 4x3/leg (1.5-minute rest)
  • Lat Pulldown 4x10 (1.5-minute rest)

For each four-week block, I made small adjustments to each of the exercise “variables.” Each of these blocks will give you an entirely different feel than the preceding block. By changing sets, reps, and rest periods, you are altering the stressors on the body. You are also changing what the goal for your cycle may be. Want to work on pure strength? Use low reps, lots of sets, and big rest periods. Muscular endurance? Try lots of reps and little rest.

Small Changes Equal Big Progress

Little adjustments can make big changes in your progress in the gym. The same “old” can now be the same “new.”

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

Topics: gainz total-body workouts variety structuring workouts training program