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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Triathlon Training: It’s Your Time to TRI!

Why do people fear the triathlon, or the TRI, as triathletes call it? Most of us grew up swimming, we ran around all the time, and most of us remember our first bike and the joy of having freedom. As we have grown older, we may be less active, but we surely remember these activities. A triathlon may seem intimidating, but it’s just as simple as having fun with those childhood activities.

triathlon training

NIFS Triathlon Training Program

Swim one day of the week, bike on another, and run on a third is the best way to describe the simplicity of triathlon training. Of course, there is a little bit more to training than that, but that is why NIFS offers triathlon training programs. Each program will get you ready for your first TRI!

  • The NIFS Triathlon Training program is the oldest triathlon training program in Indianapolis, and it was started to help participants prepare for the the first Go Girl Triathlon in 2007. This is an all-female, 10-week training program beginning June 28 that meets on Tuesday evenings from 5:30p-7:30p.

NIFS tri- training program is geared to new triathletes. We cover it all! All sessions are led by a USA Triathlon Certified Coach, Kris Simpson. We go over the do’s, the don’ts, and the how’s and why’s. You will get to the starting line prepared and will have the smile of great accomplishment at the finish.

Triathlon Training Equipment

Training requirements are the following:

  • A good pair of swim goggles
  • Bathing suit
  • Bike
  • Helmet
  • Good running shoes
  • Most importantly, the spirit to TRI

Be sure to join Kris and Tim for triathlon training this summer! Click here to find out more  and get registered!

This blog was written by Kris Simpson, USA Triathlon Certified Coach; ACSM Certified NIFS Personal Trainer with a B.S. in Nutrition Sciences.

Topics: NIFS running swimming triathlon cycling race

Spotlight: NIFS Member Ana Traversa on Mini Marathon Training

As the annual NIFS Mini Marathon Training Program comes to a close, the staff at NIFS have come to a conclusion: The runners who participate in this 14-week program are pretty amazing! They work hard in their short runs on their own, and then they come to each group long run ready to run and support each other to the finish. We think they all deserve a little bit of attention, which is why we decided to showcase one of our participants turned group leader in this blog post.

We are showcasing Ana Traversa, who joined NIFS just a short four months ago when she moved to Indy from New Jersey. She immediately joined the NIFS Mini Marathon Training Program and soon after volunteered to be a running group leader. We hope you enjoy reading about her experiences with the NIFS Mini Marathon Training Program and get some inspiration from this running machine!

NAME: Ana Traversa


I’m basically a diehard runner. I ran my first race at 11. I was a 100m, 200m, and relay runner from 11 to 16 (ran a mean 13-second 100m), and then at 17 my gym teacher in school switched me to the mile. It took a whole year to train for what then seemed like an impossibly long distance to run.

Then life got in the way big time most of my life. I tried to keep up jogging through college and full-time jobs, but had trouble finding the time or the energy. I recovered my running in my late 30s and this time kept up a good, steady routine that included a lot of racing for a couple of years or so. Then life got in the way an even bigger time for a very destructive five-year period. It took nearly another five years to heal. And now it’s all back with a vengeance, and this time I’m NOT letting go.


This is my only NIFS program so far (I became a member only four months ago, when I moved to Indy from Jersey). I went from participant to co-lead a couple of weeks into the program.


After a lot of 3, 4, 5, and 6-mile races and only a 10-mile race in the Bronx, I ran my first Half in Atlantic City last October. I was pretty satisfied with my performance at the time but needed to cut back on my training over the following two months in preparation for the move. In January I needed to retrace part of my training, and this time I decided to take a risk with group running—I didn’t think I could adjust to a steady, predictable pace.


The promise of the shared run has paid off. It’s also been good to be responsible for the group’s run. If I had been only a participant rather than a co-lead, some Wednesdays I would have stayed home.


The slow pace (2+ minutes/mile slower than my race pace) was also the right pace for my long runs. On my own, I’m primed for speed and wouldn’t have had the patience to sustain the much slower pace, especially early in the season. Now I can adjust my pace rather easily.


Up and down the canal. I really like it downtown. And I’m not bored by any repetitive running or exercise routine (except the treadmill), so if I had to run a full marathon just by running up and down the canal, I would. Heck, if I had to run a full marathon around the NIFS track, I think I would too. In fact, in the middle of the summer heat I probably will…

mini trophies


I PR’ed in Carmel, and then again at the Mini last Saturday. I went from 2:14 in Atlantic City last October to 2:09 in Carmel to 2:05 at the Mini. And that’s not all—I just PR’ed in the 5K, the 10K, and the 15K as well. And I’ve just turned 50. AND my application to run the New York marathon next November has just been accepted, so I’m literally walking (read running) on air.

I believe it’s the combined result of (1) consistency, (2) the slower long runs on Wednesdays that built my endurance over time, and (3) the personalized runner-specific strength training routine that Adam Heavrin set up for me a couple of months ago. Adam will say it’s my accomplishment and he just does his job like anyone else would, but I could write a whole page on how this component (his expert guidance AND his support) has made a huge difference in every possible way—physically and psychologically.


I can’t overemphasize the value of learning as much as possible about physiology, about running, and about nutrition. I haven’t encountered struggles this year—I’ve been on this path for over two years now. But one of the greatest struggles is fighting peer pressure. The non-runner has lots of difficulty understanding the passion for the activity, especially if it comes from a woman, especially if she is middle-age, especially if it means you need to keep a diet and a discipline that interferes with typically socializing behavior, etc., etc. Again, I could write volumes about how one needs to build strong arguments to fight the many stereotypes that surround this kind of activity. Indy is not that unfriendly in that regard—hey, over 1,100 of the Mini runners were women between 50 and 54. But in Jersey I had more trouble.


Ongoing fun and consistent progress at the physical activity that I’m most passionate about have provided all the motivation I need, and more.

I can say the same about my diet, which consists of only healthy foods with little to no cooking and next to no “dressing”—no empty calories there. My body doesn’t need any offending stuff anymore, and certainly no sugar for sugar’s sake. Even the healthy Wednesday Mini training snacks were sometimes a no-no. All the motivation I need to stay away from my old habits (three years ago I was 50 pounds heavier and couldn’t go up a flight of steps without panting) is the knowledge that my current diet is what allows me to continue running. And the mood, attitude, and confidence boost that I get from it all is golden.


  • Kudos to Steph and Angi as organizers!
  • Now we need a full marathon training program!

Now is the time to sign up for next years Mini Marathon Training program at NIFS! Take advantage of our Early Bird special and save $ on this program by registering before June 30th! Learn More.

Topics: NIFS nutrition motivation marathon training group training mini marathon half marathon

Stress: It All Depends on How Long You Hold It

stress and fitness

Stress is something we all deal with daily. It can come at you in many different forms and intensities, times of the day or year, and places. Stress can be positive or negative. But any way you shake it, it still is stress and it still affects the body.

When my wife had to undergo a major medical procedure, it was a huge stressor  I was sleep deprived, which resulted in even more stress. Cue the dominoes falling! Now that was a pretty substantial, but what about the smaller things that can lead to being “stressed out”?

The Weight of Stress

A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half-empty or half-full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired, “How heavy is this glass of water?”

Answers called out ranged from 8 ounces to 20 ounces.

She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed―incapable of doing anything.”

The moral of this story: Remember to let go of your stresses and put the glass down!

Identify the Stressor

This concept hits home with me personally because I do tend to carry stress with me well after the stressor is gone. Think of a time when someone cut you off on the highway. Did you rage out? And if so, did you carry that throughout the morning or even the entire day? Who really “won” in that situation? The person who cut you off probably didn’t give it any more thought, whereas you are steamed and remain steamed. This more than likely resulted in a less than enjoyable day.

Through our mental-toughness training, we learn to deal with stress in different ways. I am not here today to give you a comprehensive list of strategies to fill your toolbox to overcome stress. We’ll save that for another time. What I would like to do is encourage you to identify the stressor immediately, and when you do, put the glass down so you can face your day like a Warrior, like a CHAMPION!

Topics: NIFS fitness center stress

NIFS May Class of the Month: Boot Camp

Bootcamp-1Boot Camp. Immediately thoughts of drill sergeants, whistles, and large combat boots come to mind. This, however, is a different kind of boot camp.

NIFS Boot Camp group fitness class is nothing short of challenging and exhausting. This total body workout will improve overall fitness and push participants to the next level.

Depending on the weather, Boot Camp meets outdoors on the NIFS back patio, or inside NIFS on the sprint lanes. Each session begins with a dynamic (or active) warm-up full of exercises that could be used as exercises on their own. When completing the class outdoors, expect to do tricep dips on park benches, do pullups on support bars, run up and down sets of stairs, and blast through plyometric jumps onto tall steps. If the class is indoors, a circuit-style workout using free weights and traditional callisthenic exercises makes up the routine.

bootcampBoot Camp is suitable for participants of a moderate to intermediate fitness level, and is great conditioning for adventure and obstacle-course–style races. Prepare to be challenged during this 60-minute workout.

Make sure to bring a water bottle, towel, and that “never-give-up” attitude when attending this class.

Join Steven on Mondays and Wednesdays at 6-7pm for Boot Camp. If the weather is nice, head out to the NIFS back patio to find the rest of the Boot Camp crew!

Try NIFS Bootcamp class for FREE! Click here to request a pass!

Written by Tara Deal, NIFS Membership Manager, Group Fitness Instructor, and author of Treble in the Kitchen.

Topics: NIFS fitness group fitness workouts boot camp summer circuit workout

How to Make Group Fitness Classes Work for You

If you want to increase your fitness level, lose weight, become healthier, or say good-bye to any unwanted fat on your body, you have to work out with a plan. You have already done the hard part: you committed to becoming more fit and you got your butt to the gym, so make the most of your time and work out with a purpose.

les Mills Bodycombat

Try Group Fitness Classes

This may be overwhelming to you. No worries! It is very simple and affordable. Try group fitness classes! They are highly energetic, effective, and motivating. All of NIFS’s classes are designed by fitness professionals, so you can trust they are safe and effective. Les Mills classes are backed by ongoing scientific research and are always being tested and proven to bring results—and bring results quickly. Let me say that again in case you missed it: scientifically based and proven to work!

Creating an Effective Group Fitness Workout Plan

Okay, so all that info is great, but how can you apply it? Easy! To create an effective workout plan for all-around fitness, you need to combine strength, cardio, and flexibility. Try one of the following plans:

Les mills bodypump

Working out three days per week:

  • Two strength classes (BODYPUMP™, Boot Camp)
  • One cardio class (Tabata, Cycle/RPM™, Step)

Working out four to five days per week:

  • Two to three strength classes (BODYPUMP™, Boot Camp)
  • One to two cardio classes (Dance Fitness, Cycle/RPM™, Step)
  • One mind-body class (Yoga, Pilates)

RPM Les Mills

By smartly combining the different varieties of group fitness classes, you can create an effective workout plan that will get you the results you want without adding extra cost to your gym membership. Remember, each class will feature some strength, cardio, and flexibility, so use the class descriptions to get a feel for whether it will fall into a strength-based or cardio-based category.

Make sure to check out the NIFS Group Fitness Schedule to see which classes will fit your schedule and help you reach your goals.

Sign up for a free class pass today!

This blog was written by Tasha Nichols, former Les Mills US National Trainer.

Topics: NIFS cardio fitness center group fitness group training flexibility strength Les Mills

Quick and Easy Ways to Improve Performance: Core Training

GettyImages-832702436Every day I work with about 90 athletes, and almost half of them ask if they can do more “abs.” Most athletes don’t understand how much core to do, what exercises to perform, when to do it, or how to program for it. They just want to “feel the burn.” In this blog I explain a smarter approach to training the core and where to put it into your program so that you can begin to train the core correctly and perform better at your respective sport.

The Core Exercises That Athletes Usually Do

Before I go into what athletes need to be doing, here is a look at what most athletes do on a regular basis. Following is a list of movements and exercises that coincide with each other. If you notice, in each of these, the core acts as a primary mover. Is this really a smart way to train?

  • Trunk flexion–sit-up variations, crunch variations
  • Trunk extension–back extensions
  • Trunk lateral flexion–side bends
  • Trunk rotation–medicine ball (MB) twists and throws

When athletes compete in the field of play, do you ever see them hunch over similar to a sit-up? I don’t. Do you ever see an athlete do side bends? I don’t. I do think that MB rotational tosses do have their place in programming, but I think a greater emphasis needs to be on preventing movement from occurring rather than using the core as a primary mover.

A Smarter Approach to Training the Core

Here is a smarter approach to training the core. I believe that enhancing core stability is a much smarter way to train. The five branches of core stability include anti-extension, anti-lateral flexion, anti-rotation, hip flexion with a neutral spine, and anti-flexion. Let’s break down each component and give you practical examples for the next time you’re in the gym.

core work on balance ball

Anti-extension: The goal of anti-extension exercises is to resist extension through the lumbar spine. This is probably the most poorly executed out of the five categories. Most would improve by simply completing push-ups and planks with a neutral spine. As you develop strength in this area, you can progress to rollout variations. The most important thing is to keep the spine neutral and not allow it to hyperextend.

Anti-lateral flexion: Whenever you walk into the gym, you are bound to see someone with one dumbbell or kettlebell in their hand and doing side bends. This is one of those exercises where you are sore for days and you think that it’s a great ecore work with kettlebellxercise. Am I right? But the goal here is to actually resist lateral flexion or side bending. So if we can’t do side bends, what do we do? Try holding a dumbbell in one hand for an extended period of time without allowing side bending. You can progress to a walking suitcase carry or waiter’s carry, holding the weight in one hand while extended overhead. You can also try suitcase deadlifts. Lock your spine into place and don’t let it move!


Anti-rotation: As I have already mentioned, I still believe in medicine ball rotational exercises, especially for rotational sports, but I have put a greater emphasis on resisting rotation through the core and lumbar spine. The exercise that I use most often for this category is the Pallof Press. The most important coaching cue here is to lock the core down and not allow any rotation through your spine.

Hip flexion with a neutral spine: This is exactly what it sounds like. While keeping your back straight, you flex the hips. Examples here include stability ball jack knife, TRX Crunch, Valslide Hip Flexion (mountain climber), and even hanging leg raises.

Anti-flexion: Finally, anti-flexion is the last component to core training. This component is used a lot of times without even programming for it. Any time you do any type of deadlift variation or squat variation, you are training anti-flexion. The goal here is to just resist flexion, or bending, through the spine.

mountain climbers core workout


Programming Core Training into Your Workout

Now that you know and understand the different types of exercises that can improve your performance the most, let’s talk about where to put it into your program. Some people think core training should be done at the beginning and others think it should be completed at the end of your workout. Here is my response. I think you should do it at the beginning and use it as a branch-off of your mobility/corrective or activation work. After all, it would be smart to activate your core before you work out since you will be using it for a lot of your different movements.

Lastly, how much core should you do each day? The way that I program our workouts is simply taking one to three of those categories and picking one exercise for each. Make sure that you do each one the same amount to ensure a balanced program. If you choose only one exercise, you could do three sets or so. But if you choose to do more than one exercise, anywhere from one to three sets would be sufficient.

Hopefully you have a better understanding of why core stability is important. Give this a try and you will soon find out that preventing movement from occurring will improve your overall athletic performance.

Need more help with Core training? Try one of these great group fitness classes designed specifically to target the core. Core and More, Extreme Core, and Les Mills Core®.

This blog was written by trainer Josh Jones, MS, CSCS, USAW, NIFS Center for Athletic Performance.

Topics: NIFS fitness strength core