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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

TRI a New Challenge This Summer—NIFS Triathlon Training Can Help!

tri-1.jpgThere are so many different types of races out there to challenge yourself with this summer. Maybe you are signed up for a Spartan Race, a trail run, or a half marathon; but have you ever considered giving a triathlon a shot? If you haven’t done one before, I can say from first-hand experience: they are challenging, but very fun!

Triathlon is the combination of swimming, biking, and running. Now most of us would say, “Okay the last two don’t sound too bad…but no way, I am not a good swimmer.” One of the biggest deterrents keeping people from going out for a tri is the swim aspect. It is true that for most this is the most intimidating part, but just like the other two events, you just have to practice and get comfortable with it! Let’s take a quick look at the three events.

Swim

The length of the tri you sign up for will determine the distance you have to swim. The swim portion is done in open water (Tri Indy does theirs in the downtown canal, and Go Girl has their swim at Eagle Creek Park). Most people are not able to train in open water, but get into the pool as much as you can before the race. Find a training plan to follow, making sure that you are getting both distance and speed work, as well as drills, in your swimming sessions. Also, if you do not have any experience in swimming, I would suggest getting a lesson or two to learn proper breathing, strokes, and efficiency in the water.

Bike

The bike portion of the triathlon is done on the road. And like the swim, the distance will depend on what race you sign up for. A common misconception is that you have to go out and spend $2,000 on a great road bike. When race day comes, you will see every shape and size of bikes! The important thing to remember is, before getting out on your bike, to make sure it’s tuned up and in good shape to ride. Then practice running with it for the transitions, ride different distances and speeds, practice shifting gears, and just get comfortable using it.

Run

For many, next to swimming this may be one of the most challenging elements of the race. Just think you have already swum and biked, and now you have to get off and run! In the beginning your legs feel like jello and your body is telling you that you can’t possibly put one foot in front of the other and keep going. But you can do it! During your training, get in some longer runs and be sure to practice some bike-then-run days as well.

***

Seems like it could be a lot, but thousands of people finish triathlons every year around the world. Make 2018 your year to scratch that off the list. There are training programs out there: get one, follow it, and finish that race!

Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 2.55.53 PM-1ATTENTION WOMEN: If you are interested in completing the 2018 Go Girl Triathlon at Eagle Creek, we have a triathlon training program at NIFS!

Early Bird Registration is happening now! Sign up before May 31st and save $10 off training!

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

Topics: NIFS running group training swimming triathlon NIFS programs summer training biking women

Back to Exercise Basics: The Strong Squat

We here at NIFS are what you can call “pattern people”; meaning our team of instructors focuses on fundamental movement patterns and how we can enhance them to allow for better function and goal achievement. Of course we start this process by having our members complete a Functional Movement Screen (FMS). The first assessment takes a look at the Squat pattern. Second in our series focusing on exercise basics, the squat will be the topic here, including how you can build a better one.

The Keys to a Great Squat

As we continue our focus on movement competency prior to attempting the most challenging exercise known to man (I still see this happening every day, in the gym and all over Facebook), we begin by taking a look at the major keys to a great squat. Much like the push-up described in a previous post, the squat is a super-versatile movement with so many real-life and performance applications in which it plays a role. From sitting into a chair (and standing up from that chair) to setting a PR in the back squat in your next powerlifting competition, the squat is a very powerful and functional movement we should all be training. Quite a few things are going on in a great squat; it employs core joint mobility in the ankles and hips, core stability, and motor control. These far-reaching aspects of movement are challenged and improved when incorporating a properly performed squat into your routine.

Cara_squat

Squat Pattern Checklist

Refer to the following checklist to ensure that you get the most out of your squat pattern by performing it correctly. Just as you learned to squat, check it off from the ground up:

  1. Feet 1: Just beyond shoulder-width apart
  2. Feet 2: Slightly angle outward
  3. Feet 3: Weight over the heels and spread the floor
  4. Knees: Tracking over toes
  5. Hips 1: Hips push back to begin movement
  6. Hips 2: At or below parallel
  7. Hips 3: Hips and knees flexing at same time
  8. Spine 1: Angle of spine and tibia are the same
  9. Chest: Keep up, proud chest
  10. Arms: (top of press) Push-up to straight-arm position
  11. Head: Keep gaze straight ahead

Squat Variations

Here are just a few variations you can try after mastering the pattern. Remember, do the basic stuff really well before moving on to the really hard stuff.

Overhead w. Dowel IMG_1201

2KB Front Squat

IMG_1211

BB Back Squat

IMG_1217

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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: exercises powerlifting squat pattern functional movement joints assessment squat functional movement screen

Fabulous Farmers’ Markets Make Summer Healthy Eating Easy and Fun

GettyImages-497835938One of my favorite things to do once it’s summer in Indiana is visit the various farmers’ markets around town. As a dietitian, I’m a sucker for the fresh fruits and veggies, but I also love the homemade desserts, candles, pasta, kettle corn, fresh flowers, and other wonderful items you can find. Here are my top five reasons why visiting your local farmer’s market is a must.

  1. Support for the local community. Because the produce is grown and purchased locally, the money remains in the community and stimulates the local economy. Also, when you shop at the farmers’ market, you are cutting out the middle man and the product is generally less expensive than if you purchased it in the grocery store.
  2. Eating foods that are in season. Farmers’ market produce is picked ripe and sold soon after picking. Supermarket produce, on the other hand, can take up to two weeks to travel from the farm to the store, even when it is in season. The produce tastes richer and more flavorful and the nutrients are better retained. This Indiana Fruits and Vegetable Harvest Calendar handout shows which produce is in season so that you can plan ahead for meals and shopping on your next outing. If you don’t live in Indiana, check with your local government sites to see whether they have a similar calendar.
  3. It’s good for you. The average American eats 4.4 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. The current recommendation is 9 servings per day. Picking up multiple servings of fruits and veggies and incorporating them into recipes, meals, and snacks is a great way to get closer to the 9-serving-per-day goal. This will guarantee you are getting good nutrition and meeting your recommended vitamin and mineral requirements, increasing your daily fiber intake, and acquiring cancer-fighting antioxidants, too. Locally grown produce is also lower in pesticides and chemicals.
  4. You can talk to the farmers who grew the food you are about to eat. You can meet the farmers who grew your food, and ask when it was picked, how it was grown, and ways to prepare it. When else do you get the opportunity to learn so much about what you are putting in your mouth?
  5. There is certain to be one that fits your location and schedule. I love being able to go to the local farmers’ market close to work on my lunch break on Wednesday afternoons to grab items to get me through the rest of the week. Saturday mornings, it’s off to the farmers’ market closer to my house to purchase goodies for the weekend and first part of the week. To find a farmers’ market close to you check out the FDA’s National Farmers Market Directory.

Whether you are picking up items for dinner or for the whole week, the local farmers’ market is an inexpensive, healthy-eating alternative to the grocery store. Try to get there early to get the best variety and options. Not all vendors accept credit cards, so be sure to have cash on hand. Finally, bring along your own reusable grocery bag to put all of your goodies in so it is easier to carry home your fresh, delicious finds.

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

Topics: nutrition healthy eating summer clean eating organic foods fruits and vegetables

Don't Skip the Warm-up: Injury Prevention and Workout Performance

GettyImages-658858192You might think that skipping the warm-up when you work out isn’t that serious. You only have so much time to get your work out in, so you think, “My warm-up was walking in here,” and “I don’t have enough time!”

Warming up is a significant component of your fitness routine, and skipping it could result in unpleasant and dangerous results. Muscle strains, muscle injury, and pain are just a few of them. In all honesty, a proper warm-up will actually advance your workout performance!

The Warm-up: Basics

A warm-up is a short workout time at the beginning of your exercise session. Warming up is generally low intensity and gets your body ready for the upcoming exertion.

The point of executing a warm-up is to increase your heart rate, raise your core body temperature, and increase the blood flow to your muscles. Cold muscles and other connective tissues do not stretch very easily. Adding in a warm-up can literally warm up those muscles and allow for them to relax, giving them a better chance to work better.

When you skip the warm-up, it makes you body more susceptible to sprained muscles, cramps, and other injuries. These injuries could actually prevent you from exercising altogether until you recover, and this is the opposite of the healthy lifestyle you are trying to live.

It can take the body about three minutes to realize that it needs to move more blood to your muscles. The ideal warm-up time is anywhere between five and ten minutes.

The Warm-up: Strategy

Now that I have explained the importance of warming up, let me share with you how I personally prepare myself, as well as each of the members I work with.

A proper warm-up is about more than just “warming up the body”; it is about preparing the body for an all-out training attack that is going to enhance your metabolism. I like to look at the warm-up as a preparation phase for what is to come. The three key components I like to focus on are the following:

  • Tissue quality
  • Corrective exercise
  • Mobility and activation

Tissue Quality

The majority of chronic joint pain or overuse injuries are caused by tightness and restrictions in the muscles above or below the area in question. In other words, it’s not about the victim…it’s about the culprit!

I struggle with knee pain that is often caused by restrictions in the tissues of my front/inner/outer thighs. Back pain can often be caused by restrictions in your glutes and hamstrings, along with shoulder pain associated with thoracic spine (T-Spine), chest, and lats.

Over time, we can develop scar tissue, adhesions, and knots and trigger points due to high-intensity training, overuse, and/or extended periods of sitting. My personal struggle is all the years I played high school, college, and professional basketball. The best way I know how to address my areas of pain is to self-massage the areas that may be sore and tight using good strategies I have learned from one of our massage therapists here at NIFS.

Corrective Exercise

We all experience “issues” with body mechanics and functional movement capabilities. For some the issues could be lack of flexibility, while others may experience balance and mobility issues. There could even be a difference between sides, with the right side being “stronger” than the left side.

The FMS (Functional Movement Screen) is a ranking and grading system that documents movement patterns that are key to normal function. By screening these patterns, FMS readily identifies functional limitations and asymmetries. These issues can reduce the effects of functional training and physical conditioning and distort awareness.

The FMS scoring system is directly linked to the most beneficial corrective exercise to restore mechanically sound movement patterns. Exercise professionals monitor the FMS score to track progress and identify those exercises that will be most effective in restoring proper movement as well as building strength in each individual.

To recap the importance of the FMS:

  • Identify functional limitations and asymmetries that have been linked to increased injury risk.
  • Provide exercises to restore proper movement and build stability, mobility, and strength to each individual.

Mobility and Activation

A mobility and activation circuit truly prepares your body for a maximum-performance workout. Mobility describes the ability of a joint, or a series of joints, to move through an ideal range of motion. Mobility requires an additional strength, stability, and neuromuscular control component to allow for proper movement. Activation is often paired with mobility because many mobility exercises activate key, and often dormant, pillar stabilizers in your hips, core, and shoulders.

Not JUST a Warm-Up

So, the next time you decide to skip your warm-up or think you don’t have enough time, remember that a warm-up is imperative for injury prevention and your long-term health, fitness, and weight-loss goals. Don’t do yourself an injustice by not warming up.

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

 

Topics: weight loss workouts injury prevention warming up functional movement screen

Taking a Break from Good Nutrition and Fitness: The “Cheat Day”

GettyImages-84629295Can you really win by cheating? Well, the obvious answer is no. Morally, we know that cheaters aren’t supposed to win. If that is the case, why do we cheat ourselves through self-destructive behavior, known as cheat days, throughout the week?

After a long, hard week of work, with the addition of a strict training protocol and nutrition plan, sometimes we feel we need to take a day off, or even just a meal where there are no rules or responsibilities holding us down. These are called “cheat days” or “cheat meals.” They can be as simple as staying up late and having drinks with friends, or going to an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet on a Sunday afternoon. Are cheat days bad for you, or are they a good way to bridge the gap between unrealistic ideals and natural human behavior? This blog will look more closely at this question.

Indulging Often Defeats the Purpose

This day, for starters, is meant to be a built-in rewards program and motivation for those who have done well throughout the week (or weeks) leading up to the act of cheating. There are a few rules, though. Cheating multiple times per week (or everyday, for that matter) is no longer cheating; it is considered your normal routine. This probably means there are other issues that you might need to resolve.

For the cheat day to work, an established routine of exercise and nutrition has to be in place already. Several days of flawless nutrition coupled with workout plans help you earn that day, experience, or meal you want. This can be done at a maximum of once per week. We tend to devalue the indulgence after a few weeks, and it becomes less of an all-out binge and more of a planned day or meal (we want to feel good after a meal and not like garbage). In this case, the plan works and makes perfect sense.

Why We Need to Take a Break Sometimes

There’re only so many broccoli florets you can eat before you go mad, and only so many burpees you can do before your body gives out completely. Spicing up your life with cheat days eventually has restorative properties that help both mentally and physically. From socializing with friends to taking time to relax to giving yourself a pat on the back, it can help each of us differently and at the same time bring us all together by humanizing wellness and fitness.

Remember, though: you can’t cheat everyday or every other day. Consistency is your ticket to a splurge. Further, it doesn’t have to be about food. You can always reward yourself by going on vacations, buying yourself an outfit, or going to the spa.

Get Goal-Setting Help

NIFS can help. NIFS staffers are here to help you set realistic, measurable goals. Set up a time to meet and talk about goals, testing (before and after), and personal training.

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

Topics: nutrition motivation goal setting attitude wellness cheat days

Tabata at NIFS: A High-Intensity Group Fitness Workout

Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 12.43.56 PMTabata is currently one of the trendiest workouts, due to the amazing results people are attaining. It's a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) format that consists of 8 rounds of an exercise performed for 20 seconds with a 10-second rest period.

High-intensity workouts bring the heart rate up and down through intervals. During the 20 seconds of a Tabata set, an exercise is performed at all-out effort, bringing the heart rate up to a peak followed by a 10-second recovery. The total time to complete one round is 4 minutes, but those 4 minutes will push your body to the max if done properly, leading to an increase in metabolism and fat burn while maintaining lean muscle tissue.

What Exercises Are Performed During the 20-second Push?

Body weight or light resistance training exercises are performed during the 20 seconds of work. This could include high knees, jumping jacks, plank variations, or exercises that use free-weight equipment like medicine balls, resistance bands, dumbbells, kettlebells, and more. The more variety and muscle groups engaged during a Tabata, the more benefits you will gain.

When Does NIFS Offer Tabata?

Tabata can be found on the group fitness schedule multiple times through the week both indoors and outdoors. Through the summer months (May–August), Tabata is outside on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12–12:30. These classes are open and free to the public, but are also offered as a way to raise funds for Paws & Think, so a donation is suggested. You can also get in your workout indoors on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4:30pm.

The Benefits of Outdoor Exercise

When taking Tabata outdoors, you will not just benefit from the HIIT-format class, but also will experience the amazing benefits of working out outside. In a study done by ACE Fitness, those who exercised outdoors experienced more energy, decreased anxiety and depression, and a harder workout due to surface difference and wind resistance. Not only that, working out in groups outdoors is a great way to engage with your community and have accountability buddies to support you.

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

Topics: NIFS group fitness workouts accountability high intensity HIIT outdoor exercise tabata

Low-Calorie Cinco de Mayo Recipes

GettyImages-507532058A lot of Americans see Cinco de Mayo as a reason to celebrate with all-you-can-eat chips and salsa, margaritas as big as your head, and lots of calorie-laden Mexican foods. Instead of the high calorie, high price route try these recipes and tortilla chip alternatives.

100-Calorie Super-Skinny Margarita

3 oz. Sparkling ICE Lemon Lime flavor (or any calorie-free sparkling lemon-lime water)
1½ oz. tequila
Juice from 1 orange
Juice from 1 lime
Shake all ingredients and pour over ice. Serve with a lime wedge.

Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
¾ tsp salt
1 large red bell pepper, sliced
1 large yellow bell pepper, sliced
2 cups sliced onion (about 1 large)
1 Tbsp lime juice
8 corn tortillas, warmed
Lime wedges, cilantro, sour cream, avocado and/or pico de gallo for serving

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Cut chicken breasts in half horizontally, then slice crosswise into strips.
  3. Combine oil, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add the chicken and stir to coat with the spice mixture. Add bell peppers and onion and stir to combine.
  4. Transfer the chicken and vegetables to the prepared baking sheet and spread in an even layer.
  5. Roast on the middle rack for 15 minutes. Leave the pan there and turn the broiler to high. Broil until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are browning in spots, about 5 minutes more.
  6. Remove from oven.
  7. Stir in lime juice.
  8. Serve the chicken and vegetables in warmed tortillas accompanied by lime wedges and topped with cilantro, sour cream, avocado, and/or pico de gallo, if desired. One serving equals two fajitas.

Tortilla chip alternatives for salsa and guacamole dipping:

  • Cucumbers
  • Cocktail shrimp
  • Zucchini sticks
  • Sliced bell peppers
  • Carrot sticks
  • Rice crackers
  • Lentil chips

If you choose tortilla chips, stick to a serving, which is 12 chips!

If you want to celebrate the Mexican army’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla on May 5 this year, throw together these improved-nutrition recipes with fewer calories, see these other tips for healthy eating at parties, and enjoy!

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

Topics: nutrition healthy eating recipes calories holidays

Healthy Habits: Swap the Bar for the Barre!

GettyImages-680250948Creating healthy habits is a challenge for most people. Doesn't sitting at a bar with a glass of wine sound much easier than going to the gym and taking a barre class after work? In the moment, YES; but which is more beneficial for your health and longevity?

NIFS is passionate about educating gym-goers to create healthy habits, and our staff is here to help members achieve that. As NIFS’ new Group Fitness Coordinator, I am excited to bring Barre Fusion to the NIFS group fitness schedule, and love motivating others to take this class to feel all the benefits. 

So What Is This Workout? 

Barre Fusion classes are getting a lot of hype these days for providing amazing results—not just physically, but also mentally. This workout is designed to strengthen and tone all areas of the body while also providing length in a balanced format through breath. The class aids in small movements to target the stabilizing muscles in the body, which are often untrained in a standard workout. Strengthening these muscles is proven to benefit with core strength and balance as well as prevent injury.

The pace of the class is quicker than a yoga class, creating a cardiovascular aspect through quick transitions but still focusing on the elements of flexibility and breathing that you'd find in a yoga class. By training the body in this format, you are also improving your mindfulness, which will lead to wanting to live a life filled with more healthy habits.

Lisa Williams, avid Group Fitness attendee, says, "This is one of my new favorite all-over workouts! I absolutely love it! With the small movements we do, you can feel a burn in your muscles that you know are getting stronger each class. It also helps tone, as I have already noticed a change in my outfits from it! I also like the variety of the class. Although the flow is the same, you don’t continually do the same exercises. I never leave the class feeling like I didn’t get an amazing workout! I suggest all to try it!"

What Is a Habit?

A habit is a routine or pattern you adapt to. Some habits have negative effects; and some have positive effects. It's often easy to read about what we should be doing, but actually getting out of our comfort zone to create a new habit is a challenge. 

So How Do You Change Habits? 

Create new ones, but ease into it. Stopping anything cold turkey can often just lead to reverting back to that habit. Finding a healthy habit you enjoy and slowly incorporating it into your life is key. For example, do you enjoy going to a bar after work for the atmosphere of the music and people? Maybe start by swapping "the bar" one day a week for "barre." Coming to a group Barre Fusion class will create an atmosphere of music and people, but in a healthy format. Not only that, the calories and sugar often found in drinking are proven to cause health problems, while working out is proven to lead to healthy results.

So the choice is yours! Join NIFS for a healthy option, and try a group fitness class for free! To check out the Group Fitness schedule and all NIFS has to offer, click here.

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

Topics: cardio healthy habits yoga group fitness workouts nifs staff music mindfulness barre

Short Sleeps, Big Benefits: What a Power Nap Can Do for You

GettyImages-172211394Can you remember preschool when the teacher would turn down the lights and break out the cots? Nap time! You might not have had that exact experience, but as humans we are prone to napping. In our go-go-go life, time is money. To society, napping is seen as a luxury that we cannot provide ourselves and is usually seen as a sign of laziness.

Unfortunately, napping doesn’t pay the bills. Even so, many physicians as well as wellness-oriented CEOs have championed the idea that a little afternoon snooze is actually beneficial, and can not only provide enough rest to fight off fatigue, but improves your alertness, improves motor learning skills, boosts memory, and enhances creativity (Soong, 2010). Can napping actually make you a better employee at work, give you better results in the gym, or enable you to have a better social life with your family and friends? Yes, in fact, it can! Here is a closer look at napping and its benefits.

What Is the Optimal Nap Length?

First, I’d like to break down naps into two parts. The duration of nap that you are taking will be specific to you, but there is information that gives a good indication that for optimal power naps, 10 to 20 minutes of sleep will provide the best results. Longer naps can make you groggy; this is known as sleep inertia (Dvorsky, 2013). The longer naps, such as a 60- to 90-minute siesta, can put you in a state of REM (otherwise known as our dream state). There are some links to cognitive function associated with longer naps, but the time frame doesn’t always work with our hectic schedules.

When Is the Best Time to Nap?

The second part deals with necessity. Our naps can be planned, in which you know you are going to need extra rest for a long night, so you take a nap. Another would be an emergency nap, where you take a nap because you otherwise would have put yourself in a dangerous situation (think about getting sleepy behind the wheel and then deciding it’s best to pull over at a rest stop for a nap). Then there is the always popular appetitive napping—in other words, taking a nap for the sheer enjoyment of it (Dvorsky, 2013).

What Are the Benefits?

Your health and wellness can benefit from a simple, short nap. At the right length, your nap can provide much-needed alertness, mental capacity, creativity, energy, reduced stress (in turn reducing the risks of heart-related disease), and more effective learning abilities for children. With all these positives attached to something that can be done quite simply, it’s hard to understand why anyone would not take more naps. For businesses, your employees would be better workers; for teachers, your students would have a better chance of learning; and for you, your overall well-being would be improved. Don’t wait; take a nap TODAY!

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