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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

New Year, New Healthy Habits (I Hope)

453886289If you are anything like me, the new year comes with lots of “I’m going to do this (fill in the blank) better than I did last year,” or “I am starting a new workout plan for the year,” or maybe “My goal this year is to ________.” Then mid-February hits and all those New Year’s habits you planned to start, goals you were working toward, or things you were going to do better on have fallen off the radar.

Together, let’s make this year different than the ones in the past! There are hundreds of articles out there to help you come up with ideas if you are struggling to think of some. For example, Health.com has a list of the top ten healthiest resolutions.

Now let’s make those New Year’s resolutions and make them stick! I came up with some strategies for turning your resolutions into healthy habits.

  1. Have a plan. It is important to come up with a plan and put it in place. When you have a plan in place, it’s a lot easier to stay on track than just winging everything and putting it off. Take some time to come up with a weekly or monthly plan to stay on track.
  2. Program. Having a program in place helps you to stay focused, on track, and working toward a goal. There are lots of programs out there, or if you do not currently have one, the New Year is a great time to get started with one. NIFS offers personal program building from our Health Fitness Specialists.
  3. Commit. This is probably the one area that people struggle with most, and I think that one of the greatest ways to make your habits stick is to be committed! Once you commit to a plan or a schedule, make it a priority and always keep in the back of your mind the commitment you made. Share your goals with friends and family.
  4. Be accountable. Figure out what works for you in order to stay accountable. Maybe it’s keeping a calendar where you check off that you did your workout today; maybe it’s finding a friend to report to after your workout; or maybe you can use those wonderful smartphones that we all carry around to help remind you that you need to go to the gym! If you are struggling with getting to the gym on a regular basis, be sure to schedule in that time for yourself.
  5. Do not settle for failure. It is easy to not do your workout once or twice, and suddenly you notice it’s been several days! Don’t be okay with slacking; stay on track and be successful.
  6. Reward yourself. Who doesn’t like a reward? Don't confuse it with going crazy, but find some way to reward yourself. Maybe it’s one of those yummy sugar-free, no-calorie cookies or a new workout top. It does not matter, but find something that is a special treat for you for staying on track.

Now think of what has worked for you in past years. Use the strategies above and what already works for you to make changes that will stick for the new year to come.

Need help with a fitness plan? The best way to start is with a fitness evaluation. Schedule a free assessment with a NIFS HFS today then develop a plan that works for you!

Free Fitness Assessment

This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, Health Fitness Specialist. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.



Topics: healthy habits goal setting accountability personal training

New Year Fitness ReSOLUTIONS ReDEFINED: Stop Starting Over

ResolutionsIt’s that time of year again, the time when most are bombarded with messages of New Year’s resolutions and how to not fail in your health and fitness endeavors this time around. If you ask me, that should be the first red flag, that we have to talk about starting over, again. We will get to that in a bit, but I want to take the conversation in another direction and ask some hard-hitting questions that will hopefully provoke personal evaluation to correct miscues on the road to success.

I’m quite sure I don’t have to give the definition of “insanity” as defined by Albert Einstein, but I will for the sake of those that may need a refresher. The definition of insanity (and not the highly marketable living room workout program) is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So if we approach a new year the same way we always have, we can expect the same results.

This is one explanation for why you receive countless messages from guys like me this time of year on how to avoid this insanity from happening again. But I would like to take another swing at it, from another direction this time. I plan to get real here, and hold nothing back, not to offend anybody, but to awaken and highlight some of the mistakes we make when attempting to bring about change in our lives. SO if you are truly ready to bring about some real change in your life, stick around and answer some questions.

Questions to Ask

It’s time to ask yourself some important questions. These questions may sting a bit, but they need to be answered. Here are some examples:

  • Do you wait until January to make a change instead of acting right now?
  • Do you neglect evaluating last year’s failures instead of airing your grievances like you do when celebrating Festivus, and determining a course of action from there?
  • Do you set a weight-loss/fat-loss goal without knowing the actual cost of being that lean?
  • When working toward a weight-loss goal, do you dive into caloric restriction, eliminating entire food groups (such as carbohydrates) instead of adding better choices of that food group?
  • Do you have the mindset of giving something up instead of gaining a better behavior?
  • Do you keep your goals to yourself, making it easier to give up on them?
  • Do you think the harder you work in the gym (with your new membership as of January 1), the more you deserve a “treat” when you get home?
  • Are you blind to known hurdles and fail to plan for them?

How to Say Goodbye to Resolutions Forever

Now, if you would like to be able to ignore New Year’s resolution messages for the rest of your life, follow these steps:

  • Define the triggers that lead to poor choices: Get your mind right and the rest will follow. If you don’t, you will be right back where you started because you focused on the symptoms and not the problem.
  • Focus on behavior changes: For example, it’s behaviors that cause weight gain, not Milky Ways.
  • Stay positive: There are going to be bumps in the road, but remain positive about the path. Here’s a take-home strategy for you to try. When you find yourself rehashing your day (with someone or yourself), start by listing at least two positives from the day before listing the flaws of the day. You will find that the conversation and your attitude will take a much different and more positive direction.
  • Have a timeline and sense of urgency: Have you heard the saying “a goal is a dream with a deadline”? If there is no deadline, there is no urgency, making it easier to give up on the end result. Have a timeline and work every day to reach that deadline.
  • Make the goal scary: Your goal should scare you. If it doesn’t, it’s not big enough! Don’t be afraid to reach further than you can imagine while keeping a level head about what is achievable.
  • Ink It: If you think it, you need to ink it. I learned that from Martin Rooney at Training for Warriors. It’s one of the best pieces of advice I have received from him. Write down where you want to be—it’s powerful!
  • Look at them daily: After you took the step of writing your goals (I also like to call them “promises”), post them where you will see them on a daily basis. This will keep your daily intentions toward achieving those things you have set out to accomplish.
  • Make it public: Tell somebody, anybody, what you want to accomplish. You not only created an accountability partner, you made the goal real by sharing it. Make it real, and then make it happen!

I am a firm believer that one succeeds from failure because they don't make the same mistake twice. If you are tired of starting over, stop making the same mistakes that will inevitably allow you to stumble again. Take this chance to make a fresh start with the process of making a new ending.

Start right with a free fitness assessment of where you currently are and build from there.

Free Fitness Assessment

This blog was written by Tony Maloney, Health Fitness Specialist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness goal setting resolutions weight loss accountability

5 Reasons to Wear a Fitness Tracker

526115883Wearable fitness technology is definitely the latest thing in the health, fitness, and wellness industry. With several recent studies focusing on the negative effects of sitting and a sedentary lifestyle, it seems as if these wearable fitness gadgets are getting even more hype than ever. These gadgets can track the number of calories you burn, how many steps you take, every single move you make, and even the quality of sleep you get each night. Are these super-fit tech toys really the key to getting fit? Or is it best to stick to the advice of a trusted health and fitness professional?

While it’s always best to work with a certified health and fitness professional and your doctor when making changes to your activity level, wearing fitness tech gadgets definitely has a lot of benefits. Because I LOVE to be in the know with just about anything on trends, I had to get a fitness tracker of my own to see for myself. Here is what I learned.

1. Users become aware of their ACTUAL current activity level.

These fitness trackers give users a great picture of where they are with their current activity level. I will admit that when I started to wear mine, I was pretty shocked to find out that even though I exercise or try to move my body in some way every day, there are days where I still struggle to reach the recommended 10,000 steps per day.

2. Goal setting is key.

While I was surprised to learn that I needed to step up my game (literally) in the number of steps per day I was taking, my fitness tracker made it easy for me to set realistic goals and track my progress. I know what my numerical goals are, and it’s easy for me to check my progress throughout the day.

3. Getting in an hour workout isn’t enough.

Okay, so I’m not advocating over-exercising here, but I am promoting getting up and moving around throughout the day. It can be so easy to get sucked into e-mail, a project at work, or whatever else you have going on in your day. When we get sucked into these projects, hours can go by without us taking a single step.

After using my fitness tracker to assess where my daily movement was and setting some personal goals, I know that I need to take movement breaks each hour in order to reach my goal. Not only are these movement breaks necessary to achieve 10,000 steps a day, but I have found that I’m more productive in the 50 to 60 minutes that I spend working on a task, and I am more focused after I come back from my movement break.

4. Community helps keep users accountable.

While this may not appeal to everyone, with many of the fitness trackers there is a community element involved. You can share your successes through social media and you can follow along with other people using the devices. Personally, I like to keep my information private, but I think this aspect can be great for some people!

5. Fitness trackers provide extra motivation.

Constant sight of the wristband is like a constant reminder of the goals that you set for yourself. For me, it’s motivating when I see the wristband and a reminder to follow through with the commitment that I made to myself.

While there are so many benefits to using these wearable fitness trackers, there are a couple of things to remember before you rush out to the store to purchase a tracker for yourself.

  • These trackers are not exact. While companies have done their best to ensure accuracy, nothing is perfect and you have to keep that in mind and leave a little room for error.
  • It’s also important to remember that simply wearing the device will not make you fitter or healthier. You must act on the goals that you set in order to see changes.
  • It’s also important to remember not to let the numbers take control of your life. If you find you are putting your fitness and workouts before your personal relationships or you are getting injuries from your workouts, you may want to step back a bit. It’s important to listen to your body and do what is truly making you happy.

I have loved wearing my fitness tracker, as it has helped me to gain activity throughout my day, which was my main goal. While I meet the required amount of exercise each day, I still do quite a bit of sitting, which is now being called the new smoking. Reaching my goal each day makes me feel good and motivates me to continue to work hard to stay healthy while enjoying life.

Be Active Stay Healthy!

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This blog was written by Tara Deal Rochford, contributing writer, group fitness instructor, and author of healthy living blog Treble in the Kitchen. Meet our other NIFS bloggers.



Topics: fitness healthy habits motivation goal setting walking equipment calories fitness trends

8 Essential Winter Clothing Pieces for Runners and Walkers

GettyImages-1083658770_low res
Winter can be brutal when it comes to getting out the door for a run or walk, however having the right apparel can leave you barely noticing how cold it is outside. With the improvements in the quality of winter gear that popular runningapparel companies such as Craft and Pearl Izumi have made, you will hardly notice the cold once you get going!

I visited Runners Forum to take a look at some of the new apparel that they have in stock this year and was very impressed with all they have to offer for this winter. After speaking with the store manager, we came up with 8 essential items you must have before you hit the streets on those cold days:

1)     Running Shoes- No matter what the season it is critical that you are running in a shoe that is right for you. Not having a proper shoe specific to your body mechanics can lead to injuries or discomfort during the run or walk.

2)     Wicking Base Layer- A long sleeve shirt that is efficient in wicking the moisture away from your body is important for both function and comfort. This piece is responsible for moving your sweat away from your body and out to the additional layers to keep you dry and warm.

3)     Insulating Layer- This layer is generally fleece lined and continues moving moisture away from your body. It has the added responsibility of trapping body heat you are producing to keep you even warmer.image001-2

4)     Wind and Water Resistant Jacket- For the most dreary days that involve sleet, rain and snow, a high-tech jacket can make a huge difference in your comfort level. Not only does it protect you from these elements, but it too will continue to wick away moisture from your body and trap your body heat.

5)     Gloves and Socks- Also preferably in moisture wicking, these are crucial for keeping your fingers and toes warm and dry playing a huge factor in trapping your body heat. Additionally your fingers and toes are at a high risk of becoming frostbit on the coldest days so this is a piece that you can not afford to go without.

6)     Running Tights- Since your legs are doing a majority of the work, you are producing a lot of heat in this area. Tights will be most efficient in holding in heat, but if tights are not your style, than a light insulated running pant will be your best bet.image002

7)     Winter Hat or Headband- Similar to your toes and fingers, your ears are at a high risk for frostbite. Cover your ears and head to avoid this as well as add warmth to the area for comfort.

8)     Reflective Gear- In the winter, the days are shorter which means many of your runs may start or finish in the dark. To be safe, wear as much reflective clothing as you can so that you can be visible to cars and others. Many winter clothing pieces are indeed reflective but a reflective vest is a good substitute.

This blog was written by Stephanie Kaiser, Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: winter fitness running walking marathon training mini marathon workout reflective gear weather layers 5k

Flu-Fighting Foods

469103861If you are like most people, as soon as the fall season arrives, it’s time to get your annual flu shot. This is definitely recommended; however, can you also choose certain foods to help fight off influenza? What you eat can help lower your chances of catching that nasty bug.

Here are some foods and drinks to fill up on:

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

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

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

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Topics: nutrition healthy eating disease prevention

NIFS Personal Training Client Robert Banta

PT-trainingHave you ever considered what working with a personal trainer could do for you? Among many things, working with a personal trainer can help you to reach your goals, stay motivated, and provide you with accountability. Whether you are looking to lose weight, improve fitness, or use exercise as a way to improve your lifestyle, a personal trainer can be a great resource on your journey. We at NIFS believe that we house some of the best personal trainers around, and many of our training clients feel the same.

Read about what Bob Banta has to say about his training experiences with Kris Simpson, ACSM-CPT, here at NIFS.

Why did you decide to start personal training?

I lacked personal engagement in past efforts to get fit. Working with a personal trainer overcame that personal engagement resistance. Plus, compensating a personal trainer motivates you not to waste your time or your investment.

Something you have enjoyed:

The whole education side to learning about fitness. Kris is a great fitness educator!

Something you have learned or something that surprised you:

Over the years, once I had integrated exercise into my schedule, when I missed an exercise session, I didn’t feel right. Your body after some time begins to expect the benefits of exercise and when you don’t meet that expectation your body lets you know you are missing something.

Favorite workout from one of the training sessions?

The landmine exercise (weights on barbell that you move side-to-side with). The motion of this exercise uses lots of muscles at the same time.

What accomplishments have you achieved during your training?

I have lost over 120 pounds since I started working out with Kris several years ago*. This summer I visited Crater Lake in Oregon. It is an Alpine lake in the Cascade mountain range that formed in a volcanic caldera. I had to hike up at about 7,500 feet above sea level from the lake’s edge to the top of the caldera rim at a pretty steep ascent. My training with Kris enabled me to do the 1.2-mile vertical hike up through all the switchbacks in under 30 minutes. I passed a lot of people who underestimated how strenuous the climb is at elevation.

Tips you have learned along the way from your trainer?

Correct form matters when exercising. Exercising isn’t a quantity activity; exercising is a quality activity.

How do you stay motivated?

Regular exercise drives up your energy levels. The quality and quantity of my professional work has improved as I have gotten healthier. Bottom line: Regular exercise helps keep you happy. So staying happy is a big motivator.

Any other thoughts you wish to share:

Just want to say working with Kris as a personal trainer was, for me, a critical success factor in turning away from being unhealthy and adopting a healthier life where exercise is one of the main contributors to staying healthy. Thanks, Kris!

*Weight loss claims and/or individual results vary and are not guaranteed.

Looking to lose weight, get stronger or just feel better? Choose NIFS personal training as a way to get started with a new fitness routine, help you target a fitness achievement or simply because you love to work hard and get the best experience. Contact a trainer today about getting started. For more information on Personal Training packages visit our website.

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This blog was written by Stephanie Kaiser, NIFS Health Fitness Specialist and co-coordinator of the NIFS Mini-Marathon Training Program. Meet our bloggers.



Topics: NIFS weight loss personal training

3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Setting Your 2015 Race Goals

Race-goalsIf you’re like me, cabin fever is already starting to set in, and we are barely into the winter season. This is the time of year that I start to think about what races I want to focus in on for the upcoming year. I find it a great way to stay motivated and focused on my training when it’s not my favorite time of year to train.

I always consider three main questions before I pull the trigger and sign up for my first “big” race, and plan out my training program accordingly. Evaluating these things has helped me to create realistic and attainable race goals for the upcoming season, and I hope that it can do the same for you.

1. How is my year looking?

There are years where training for races can be a top priority, and others where it may be secondary or on down the line depending on what else is going on. I try to think forward and determine how much time I can and want to realistically dedicate to race training with everything else that is going on in my life. Some things to consider when thinking about this include your work schedule, vacation schedules, interest in other hobbies, taking classes, and family obligations, among many other things. Knowing these things and thinking about them as they relate to training can help you get a grasp on what you can fully commit to. Obviously, sometimes other things come up, so always know it is okay to deviate from the plan when life happens.

2. Where is my fitness today?

A late fall or holiday race can be a great reality check for how you are doing with your training currently. Even if you are a little rusty, doing a race around this time of year will really tell you where you are at (whether you like it or not). If you have stayed in stride and had a great fall season, maybe it is time to consider pushing yourself a bit harder this spring by trying to go faster in your next 5K or racing a longer distance. Knowing where you are at in your training today will help you make a realistic goal for next year.

3. Was I healthy this year?

This may be the best question you ask yourself. Racing is a great way to accomplish a personal goal or get in touch with your competitive side. It is easy to get so caught up in a race goal that you neglect to take care of yourself and your health suffers. Looking back over the last year and thinking about any injuries or other health issues that may have been an effect of your training can help you to make an educated goal for the next year. Maybe you were injured because you did not have time to train correctly for that marathon, or you had a terrible diet because you spent so much time training that you ate anything that was convenient and easy to get your hands on. Maybe you are currently injured and will have to start back into racing a bit more slowly than normal. These are just a few examples of how training can negatively impact your health, but I suggest considering these things when planning for your upcoming race season.


Setting a goal now is a great way to get your year started off right and help get you through the winter training months with a realistic focus and plan. Whether you are thinking of completing your first race, training for the same race you run each year, or looking for new racing opportunities, setting a realistic and attainable race goal with an appropriate training plan is the key to success.



Cross the finish line with us this Spring! The 25th Annual Mini Marathon & 5K Training Program starts January 21–May 6, 2015. Training is at 6pm at NIFS downtown. Register today online!

This blog was written by Stephanie Kaiser, Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: winter fitness motivation goal setting running

’Tis the Season for Healthy Holiday Baking

78464944One of my favorite holiday traditions is making fabulous treats and snacks for friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors. Entire days are spent baking in the kitchen, and the best part (after sampling the treats first hand) is hearing how great everything tastes. Little do they know that with just a few simple tweaks, those cookies and candies can be dramatically lower in fat and calories. Here are a few easy ways to tweak your recipes for healthy eating.


Many recipes call for an amount of sugar or fat well above the amount needed for taste and texture. Try reducing these ingredients by one-third or one-half when making your recipe. Also, by using nonstick pans and cooking spray, you can reduce the oil or butter on baking sheets and pans.


There are healthier alternatives to use without compromising taste. Give the following substitutions a try.

  • Eggs: For every egg, use two egg whites or 1⁄4 cup egg substitute. Egg Beaters and other substitutes can be found in the dairy/egg section of the grocery store. You can also make your own version of egg substitute: 6 egg whites, 1⁄4 cup nonfat dry milk, 1 tsp. oil, and 6 drops of yellow food coloring. Refrigerate for up to one week.
  • Whipped cream: Make your own! Beat together 1⁄4 cup ice water and 1⁄4 cup nonfat milk powder until thick. Add 1⁄4 tsp. vanilla, 2 tsp. lemon juice, and 1⁄4 cup sugar. Another option is vanilla nonfat yogurt.
  • Baking chocolate: Use 3 Tbsp. cocoa powder for every ounce of baking chocolate.
  • Applesauce: Rather than using all of the oil, margarine, or butter in baked goods, substitute a portion with applesauce. For example, instead of 1⁄4 cup oil, use 2 Tbsp. of oil and 2 Tbsp. of applesauce. The applesauce provides moisture, but you still have the benefits of the fat in the oil and save 230 calories and 28 grams of fat.
  • Prunes: For your best baked chocolate recipes, try baby food prunes as a fat replacement. They retain moisture and add to the color. Substitute the same amount as in the recipe, or try replacing with a portion of the prunes.

For some ideas of healthier cocktails to go with your baked treats at holiday parties, see this post.

Whatever you decide to bake or eat this holiday season, just remember moderation. Enjoy one or two cookies, not the whole batch! Happy holidays and happy baking!

Learn more about Nutrition and Wellness services at NIFS.

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

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Topics: nutrition healthy eating recipes snacks calories holidays

Group Training Participant: Maura Kenny

IMG_3723There are many benefits that come with working out in a group setting, ranging from social to helping you push through the tough parts of workouts. NIFS Group Training not only promotes this but also gives you the individualized workouts and attention that you need to reach your specific goals. Read why Maura, a longtime group training participant, chooses to participate in group training month after month.


I used to say I worked out so I could eat whatever I wanted, but somewhere along the way that changed. Now I work out because I truly enjoy it and I feel better mentally and physically when I am consistently working out. I like a variety of workouts—strength training, running, yoga, and HIT, etc., and I love that I have so many options at NIFS.



I liked the idea of having a personal trainer, but still wanted a group setting. I attended other group fitness classes but felt like I needed a more structured program so that I’d see improvement in my overall strength and fitness.


I love the accountability of group training. Alex is always expecting me to be there, so I can’t skip. I’ve also turned into a morning workout person. I love starting my day with my workout, as opposed to doing it after work or during lunch.


I’ve learned not to worry about a workout or the challenges it may bring because I’m stronger than I realize. I’m constantly surprised by what I’m capable of and how I improve week to week and month to month.


It’s hard to pick a favorite workout; I love all of it. I’d have to say as long as it doesn’t involve rowing, the Airdyne bike, or rear foot elevated squats, I’m happy.


I‘ve lost 5% body fat, from 23% to 18%, and I can finally do a few unassisted pull-ups. Overall, I’m a lot stronger*.

*Weight loss claims and/or individual results vary and are not guaranteed.


  1. Make sure to eat enough protein—after your workout and all day.
  2. Correct form is more important than heavier weights or getting it done fast.
  3. Your trainer always has a way to make something harder and more exciting.
  4. Beware of the sneaky smile on your trainer’s face…you’re about to do something you never would have thought of yourself.


Seeing results motivates me! The challenge of the workout is motivating too, physically and mentally—knowing that I did it.


Group Training has been a key factor in helping me achieve my fitness goals. I feel confident that it will continue to help me progress and reach new goals in the future.

Regardless of fitness level or goals, almost every member at NIFS could benefit from Group Training or enrolling in a NIFS program. If you are interested in trying a small group training or  HIT session contact us to get started!

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This blog was written by Stephanie Kaiser, NIFS Health Fitness Specialist and co-coordinator of the NIFS Mini-Marathon Training Program. Meet our bloggers.

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

Topics: NIFS group fitness group training