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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

The Ripple Effect: Four Ways to Change Lives with a Positive Attitude

GettyImages-456518175Picture yourself on the shore of a lake or a pond, and you cast a stone into the water. You see it enter the water and disappear, leaving behind a bounty of ripples that seemingly spread out for miles. The act of tossing a small stone into the water will result in a change that can be felt much farther away than the initial entry point—proof that small actions can lead to much bigger changes, even if you can’t see how far they can reach.

The Power Word

So I practice a little technique where I repeat what I call a POWER WORD throughout your day to motivate me to keep focused and energized to take on the daily chores and tasks. I change it up every month or so, and it is the first word I say to myself when I hop out of bed in the morning. My current word: RIPPLES! What kind of ripples am I sending out in my daily interactions with the folks that I serve, my team and coworkers, and the people I don’t even know?

The word ripples reminds me that even the smallest of positive actions on my part can affect someone in a huge way, and even other people who interact with the same person. You see, if I provide a positive experience with one person, the ripple effect hopefully will be that they will do the same for the next person they interact with, and so on and so on, changing the lives of many people found in the ripples. Conversely, a negative interaction with the initial person might trigger undesirable ripples, setting off a chain of events that will detract from peoples' lives and not enrich them. You have the power to change so many lives, and even the world, with a positive attitude.

Four Ways to Create a Positive Ripple

So how can you create a positive ripple with the people you interact with every day? Here are four ways to create a positive, powerful ripple:

  • Acknowledge somebody: Lift your head up from your phone and acknowledge the existence of other people. A simple smile, or nod, and maybe even a wave to demonstrate you acknowledge that person can go a long way.
  • Appreciate somebody: We tend to hold back our appreciation for folks, and not express that we appreciate their gifts to the world or our lives. Take the time to show somebody you appreciate them, make it genuine and not forced, and you could send that person on a positive path that day.
  • Advise somebody: Help somebody become a better version of themselves, or make it through a tough time, or solidify their future with sound financial advice. When you do this, you not only create change for that individual, but it provides you with a great feeling you can’t get anywhere else. Get this feeling, and continue the positive ripples throughout your day that will reach so many!
  • Admire somebody: Show someone that you admire them for who they are and what they give to the world. Genuine admiration for someone, and demonstrating it, can make all the difference in someone feeling needed and important, leading them on a positive path emotionally, physically, and mentally. Admiration for someone equals more positive ripples, but you have to show it, and stop holding back.

For me, repeating the word “ripple” reminds me that the interactions that I have with people can cast a positive or negative ripple effect that could reach for miles, or lives in this case. Changing the world sounds extreme, but just imagine if every person approached interactions with others in this manner and tried to always provide a positive ripple. Call me sappy if you wish, but I think the world could be a better place when full of positive RIPPLES!

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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: motivation positive attitude

Back Away from the Sugar: Making Better Nutrition Choices

Screen Shot 2019-04-25 at 5.16.05 PMEaster might be over, but the candy lingers. There is no escaping the colors of the sugary candy that is around every corner. From jelly beans to chocolate bunnies and Cadbury eggs, the temptations are endless and the calories are empty.

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but it is important for you to know what you’re getting yourself into when you reach for that fluffy pink and yellow Peep. Brace yourself…this might hurt.

Sugar Is Harmful to Your Body

Sugars are caloric, sweet-tasting compounds that occur widely in nature, including in fruits, vegetables, honey, and human and dairy milk. We are born with the desire or preference for sweet taste. The presence of lactose in breast milk helps ensure that this primary source of nutrition for infants is palatable and acceptable. Chemically and with respect to food, sugars are monosaccharide or disaccharide carbohydrates, which impact sweet taste. Most foods contain some of each.

Monosaccharide is a single molecular unit that is absorbed directly into the bloodstream. The most common monosaccharides are glucose, fructose, galactose, and mannose.

Disaccharide is sugar containing two monosaccharides that are linked together, and which are broken down in the body into single sugars. The most common disaccharide is sucrose, which is also known as table sugar.

What Happens When You Eat Sugary Candy

When you consume Easter candy, you are getting a large dose of sugar. Whether it’s in the form of high-fructose corn syrup or cane sugar, it slams into your system like a bowling ball, and the effects are disastrous. Within the first 20 minutes or so, your blood-sugar level spikes as the sugar enters your bloodstream. It arrives there in the form of glucose, which is your body’s main source of energy. This sudden rise in blood glucose stimulates your pancreas to start pumping out large amounts of insulin, which is the hormone that helps your cells take in the available glucose. Some of this glucose is used instantly for energy, but the rest is stored as fat by insulin, to be used later.

I know what you’re thinking, “But it’s Easter and it only happens once every year!” No it doesn’t! There are always going to be excuses to eat poorly. Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve also “only happen once a year!”

The holidays alone aren’t the only times that we allow the excuses to take over. Daily your efforts to eat well are sidetracked by busy schedules, which include business diners, birthday parties, evenings out with your friends, fundraising banquets, breakfast meetings, church dinners… the list goes on.

Alternatives for Healthy Eating and Celebrating

At some point, you have to stop making excuses and start making better decisions to put your health first. Here are some healthier alternatives. Don’t forget that you also have the option to meet with our Registered Dietitians on staff to help you get on the right path.

Let’s look at ways to enjoy Easter and not feel like you have to munch on carrots and lettuce the whole day. Alternatives to candy:

  • Dried fruit (eat with protein such as nuts)
  • Very dark chocolate (choose some with very little sugar)
  • Nuts
  • Fresh fruit
  • Whole-grain crackers and pretzels
  • Cheeses
  • Popcorn

And start thinking about next Easter with these non-food ideas for kids’ Easter baskets:

  • Play dough
  • Balls
  • Jump ropes
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Crayons
  • Garden starter set
  • Butterfly habitat
  • Beading supplies
  • Swimming toys
  • Card games

The possibilities are honestly endless. It’s just a matter of taking the time to think healthier and smarter next Easter!

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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: nutrition weight loss snacks holidays diabetes sugar blood sugar

Are You Joining the NIFS Triathlon Training Program This Year?

The Go Girl Triathlon at Eagle Creek Park is now in its 11th year. NIFS’ Go Girl Tri-training Program is the city's longest-running training program for that race. Will you join us for this year’s training? Here are some good reasons for you to tri.

Tri-group-2018


Running, Biking, and Swimming Coaches

The coaches for our program have experience in each discipline of the race:

  • Our run coaches train you to be faster and injury-resilient.
  • Bike coaches teach the techniques to ride fast and strong.
  • Swim coaches build confidence and determination to tackle any body of water.

A Different Discipline Each Week

The training sessions are broken down into a specific discipline each week. Some weeks we will be doing “bricks," which are two disciplines back to back. These are great for building fitness and confidence going into race day. The work is challenging, which pushes your fitness to another level.

More Open-water Swimming Practice

There are extra open-water swim opportunities on the weekends and occasional weekdays. These prepare you for the challenge of the open water, which is often difficult to get in the pool. The dark and irregular water is a different test than the clear pool with a line at the bottom. The sighting drills in the open water make the race day swim easier to manage for a nervous race-day mind.

More Hills

The training at Eagle Creek will prepare you for all the race-day hills and undulations. You will be changing gears and cruising by your fellow racers because you will know every section of the course in the park, including in the demanding first hill you will climb as you get on your bike. You will have traversed this hill many times in training. On race day, the final run-up will be a piece of cake.

Help with TransitionsIMG_1799

Did you ever consider the fourth discipline: transitions? We will hammer home many fine details to make that part of your race a strength, and you can chuckle at your fellow racers who can’t find the rack where their bike was placed.

The Hidden Details

The little details of each discipline may be the most valuable piece to our training program. Did you know you will have to pin your race number on your brand-new tri top? Well, in our program we will show you how a race belt keeps you from putting holes in your nice top.

Tri Training Starts June 11tri training header_no date-1

All in all, it’s a great group of ladies who will sweat, work, and cheer each other on during the race day—from the early-morning jitters to the finish, with medals proudly displayed around your neck. June 11 is our start, mark your calendar and get registered!

This blog was written by Kris Simpson, BS, ACSM-PT, HFS, personal trainer at NIFS. To read more about Kris and the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: running swimming NIFS programs Indianapolis biking women triathlon training program

The Benefits of Physical Activity: Mind, Body, and More

GettyImages-627455550-[Converted]-newBy this point, everyone has heard that exercise is good for health. The fitness industry has been growing significantly over the past decade. As of 2017, there were more than 200,000 health and fitness clubs worldwide, which is up from nearly 130,000 clubs in 2009. Clearly, fitness is becoming a huge part of peoples’ lives. But why are we seeing this massive growth in the industry, and in what ways is it improving health?

The Physical Benefits

The physical benefits of increased activity include the following.

Increased Muscle Mass

A well-known benefit to working out is increased muscle mass. This alone has so many benefits to your health besides the visual appeal that people seek. Muscle is a huge driver for metabolism. In fact, it takes so much energy to maintain muscle mass that having more of it increases metabolism significantly, even at rest.

Improved Bone Health

Most people hit peak bone mass in early adulthood. After we hit our peak, our bone density begins to decline. Several factors go into how much we build before we hit our peak and how fast we fall once over that peak. And of course, exercise is a huge factor in this. Weight-bearing activity that forces you to challenge gravity is huge in preserving or even building bone density by breaking down the bone so it can build back even stronger.

Better Sleep

Exercise can improve sleep quality by expelling built-up energy. Another way sleep improves is the cycle of body temperature brought on by exercise. During activity the temperature increases; once activity has stopped the temperature gradually decreases, causing chemicals to be released that promote drowsiness.

Increased Energy and Stamina

In the short term, exercise increases blood flow throughout the body to improve energy. Over time, exercise causes improvements in cardiovascular health, allowing the heart to pump more oxygen-rich blood throughout the body, therefore increasing energy.

Reduced Cholesterol

When exercise, weight loss, and dietary intervention are combined, the LDL (bad) cholesterol levels decrease while HDL (good) cholesterol levels increase.

Decreased Risk of Chronic Diseases

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “exercise is medicine,” it will be no surprise that exercise actually reduces the risk of chronic diseases. Various things happen in the body to cause this, but the most important is that by getting active, the chances of developing Type 2 Diabetes, some cancers, stroke, heart disease, and more are drastically reduced.

Increased Coordination and Balance

By staying active, people learn how to be more coordinated and balanced. Motor control over movements becomes more natural the more it is practiced, and will translate to real-life scenarios. In the long run, especially through aging, this is beneficial to help prevent falls and the negative consequences, such as fractured bones, that come along with them.

The Mental Benefits

The mental benefits of increased activity include the following.

  • Stress relief
  • Positive mood
  • Improved mental alertness
  • Reduced anxiety and depression
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Increased cognitive function

Most of these improvements occur due to the increased blood flow to the brain, which acts on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. This area of the brain interacts with several other regions, including the limbic system, hippocampus, and amygdala, which are correlated with motivation, mood, and responses to stress. Other noted improvements may be explained by providing distraction, improving self-efficacy, and increasing social interaction. Research shows that exercise can improve cognitive function by promoting neuroplasticity. By staying active throughout adulthood and senior years, cognitive decline can be prevented.

Although many mechanisms go into this complicated process, one thing that is known is that the rate of neurogenesis, or the production of new neurons, is greatly increased by exercise. This may be the result of increased blood flow to the brain during exercise, with an abundance of oxygen and nutrients.

Other Benefits

A lot of benefits that come from exercise can be measured or researched. Some benefits are harder to measure but still occur. We learn how to set realistic yet challenging goals, learn the discipline needed to accomplish those goals, and learn more about ourselves. We can gain a better understanding of how much we can push ourselves and improve our mind-body connection.

How Much Should You Work Out?

The current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans outlines the recommended amount of activity for different age groups. Adults should do at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise a week. Most health benefits can start to be seen at the minimum amount; however more benefits are seen beyond 300 minutes of activity a week. Adults should also do some type of resistance-training exercise at least two days of the week.

At NIFS, we have multiple group fitness classes every day to help you reach your goals and hit the minimum requirements. Check out the group fitness schedule for 30–60-minute classes to help you achieve at least 150 minutes of exercise a week.

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This blog was written by Hannah Peters, BS, CPT, Health Fitness Instructor. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS staying active group fitness balance mental disease prevention sleep staying fit active aging physical activity

Throw Out Your Exercise Excuses with Fitness Spring Cleaning

GettyImages-957942458After the New Year, springtime is another time that motivates us to make a fresh start. When the weather finally starts to warm up and the breeze is blowing, we want to throw open the windows and let the rebirth all around us revitalize our homes and our spirits.

Because it’s only natural to clean out the old during this time of the year, it’s also a great time to come to terms with your excuses for not getting fit and healthy. Excuses pile up just like the clutter that people accumulate in their houses, but it’s time to come clean.

What Is Your Excuse for Not Putting Your Health First?

Maybe it’s one of these?

I don’t have time to exercise.

This is probably the most common excuse that we hear. You are too busy. You have work all day or all night; you have to take the kids to school, pick them up from school, and take them to sporting events; dinner needs to be cooked; who’s going to go to the grocery store; and so on.

Seriously though?

One of those excuses, if not all of them, is something even fitness professionals deal with on a regular basis. However, if you do not exercise, you will almost certainly begin experiencing the illness and disease that come from an inactive lifestyle. When the symptoms start to present themselves, you will have to schedule a doctor’s appointment, drive to the appointment, wait to be seen, schedule possible additional tests at the hospital, and wait for your prescriptions to be filled at the pharmacy. With chronic illness, this scenarios will be played out month after month after month, into a vicious cycle. And that, my friends, can take even more time than exercising.

There’s no doubt we find time in our busy lives to attend to our medical issues. Will you make time for them? Well, of course! It’s easy to make sure to adjust your schedule and your life to accommodate illnesses. So why not just adjust your schedule now to accommodate the prevention of these illnesses through exercise and lifestyle change?

The truth of the matter is that if you do not make time for exercise, you will have to make time for illness. And let’s be honest, exercising takes a lot less time out of your life than sickness. Do the math: there are 24 hours in a day = 8 hours of work and 8 hours of sleep, and there are still 8 hours left. You can do a great deal in 8 hours.

I don’t like to exercise.

Do you like feeling tired? Do you like having no energy? Do you like being overweight or not healthy? Do you like visiting the doctor? Or undergoing medical tests to figure out what is wrong? You will feel tired, be overweight or unhealthy, visit the doctor more often, and undergo medical tests if you continue to let your lifestyle decline by not exercising.

I don’t have any energy to exercise.

The more unfit you are, the less energy you have. When you don’t have much energy, the last thing you can imagine yourself doing is exercising. Until you become more active, you will not have the energy you are longing for. As you begin exercising, you will start to see a difference in your energy levels. Until you start moving, you won’t start feeling better.

It’s just not the right time to start working out, I will start when…

  • I get some better clothes.
  • Summer vacation starts.
  • The kids are back in school.
  • The house is organized.
  • My work schedule calms down.
  • I have more time.
  • Life calms down.
  • The kids get older.
  • The weather changes.
  • Someday… just not today!

The list can go on and on, but in all honestly, it will never be the right time to start a new routine. Start now and make it right!

You just have to start!

Make the Decision to Stop the Excuses

Making the decision to stop hiding behind your excuses is something only you can do. But by making a clean sweep and tossing out those excuses, you are setting yourself up for a better and healthier lifestyle. The fit and healthy people around you choose to give up the excuses and just do it. I’m not saying it’s easy for them, that it’s easy for me as a fitness professional, or that it will be easy for you. But what it does mean is that you will love the feeling of having energy, feeling strong and healthy, going to fewer doctor’s visits, not to mention feeling motivated and empowered to continue to push and get it done.

You Can Do This!

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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: exercise fitness motivation illness wellness spring positive attitude excuses

Balancing Act: How to Improve Your Balance—and Quality of Life

Screen Shot 2019-04-11 at 12.19.41 PMImagine a tightrope walker, gracefully walking their path across their suspended highwire. An incredible amount of balance is required, along with stability and strength, to ensure that the performer maintains their position on the rope. Now think about balance as it applies to you and your profession or daily life. You might not even think about it, but you use balance every day. Things that you take for granted, such as walking down stairs, putting on a pair of pants, and getting out of your car require some level of balance, or else we would most likely take a tumble. Thankfully, there are exercises and routines designed to improve and train balance that transfer nicely to daily life.

As with any limitation or injuries, be careful and mindful of the doctor’s recommendations. Loss of balance could be a sign that you need to be checked out by your physician. That being said, we know that exercise can be great, but we would regard and yield to the utmost safety when approaching anyone who may be at risk or falling due to balance issues.

If you have come to the conclusion that your balance needs help, there is good news for you! Like most facets of life, balance can be improved. The answer to a question as simple as, “If you want to run a 5K in 20 minutes, what would you do?” is RUN! So, if you want to get better balance, what should you do? Practice balancing. You do not have to walk a tightrope on day one, but there are many exercises and fitness tools designed to help your balance improve.

Balance Exercises

Try the following exercises and activities, and see how you do with balance, then incorporate them into your routine. Assess your balance from time to time to see how you have improved.

  • Stand on an unstable surface. Using an AirEx Pad, time yourself standing on one foot. Other exercises can be done while standing on the pad such as lunges, squats, and dumbbell overhead press, utilizing the unstable surface to challenge your balancing ability. Other unstable surfaces you may use as you advance include the BOSU ball, half foam roller, and sand.
  • Try unilateral exercises. Improving your leg strength through unilateral exercise is another great way to improve your balance. Some examples of these exercises include lunges, split squats, and my personal favorite, the single-leg sit and stand on a box. For this exercise, you will want to find a box that is the appropriate height (around chair height). Start from a seated position, then come to a complete stand using only one leg. Try to sit back down onto the box under complete control. This can be progressed with weights and movement patterns such as the overhead press.
  • Join a group fitness class. Another way to improve balance is through group fitness classes. NIFS offers several classes that emphasize balance, such as BOSU conditioning and some that help you develop balance such as yoga and BODYCOMBAT. As stated above, the more you practice your balance, the better chance you have to improve it. In BOSU conditioning, we can progress and regress any exercise to fit your needs. The exercise doesn’t have to be impossible, but it should be challenging. Check out this NIFS blog by our own Tony Maloney for more about BOSU balance.

Improve Your Quality of Life

With the improvement of balance comes an overall improvement in your quality of life. Being able to trust your steps as you walk is important, as is being able to do things in life you love to do. Getting better is just a process and takes time. You must take that step forward; otherwise, you might be on shaky ground. For tips and exercises to promote balance, contact a Fitness Specialist at NIFS or join one of our many group fitness classes.

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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.

Topics: yoga group fitness balance exercises BODYCOMBAT BOSU quality of life ADLs

Fresh Foods for Healthy Spring Meals

GettyImages-910874208The never-ending cold and dreary winter weather is coming to an end finally. After months of staying in and hibernating on chili, casseroles, soups, and stews, it’s time to break out the fresh and colorful foods! This is the perfect time of year to experiment with more fresh fruits and vegetables that are quick and easy and oh so good for you!

Here are some of my favorite recipes that I am excited about adding into the spring and summer rotation.

Brussels Sprouts Salad

FOR THE SALAD

4 dozen Brussels sprouts (trimmed and sliced thin)

8 oz center-cut bacon (cooked and coarsely chopped)

1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

FOR THE DRESSING

Juice of 1 lemon

¼ cup maple syrup

½ cup olive oil

1 small shallot (minced)

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a large bowl, toss together the Brussels sprouts, bacon, pecans, and grated Parmesan cheese.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, maple syrup, olive oil, shallot, and salt and pepper until thoroughly combined.
  3. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to ensure that all of the ingredients are evenly moistened.

The salad can be served immediately, or refrigerated for up to 4 hours before serving (if making further in advance, keep dressing separate until ready to serve).

Eggplant and Goat Cheese Bake

3 thin eggplants, sliced into ¼-inch-thick slices

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1–1½ cups medium tomatoes, chopped into 1-inch cubes

4 oz. goat cheese

1⁄3 cup basil, roughly chopped

½ cup olive oil for drizzling

  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
  2. In a 13 × 9 baking dish, layer the sliced eggplant, overlapping if necessary. Drizzle a little of the olive oil over the eggplant slices and gently toss them to coat.
  3. Scatter the garlic over the eggplant. Then place the tomatoes evenly over the eggplant.
  4. Crumble the goat cheese with a knife or your fingers and top the tomatoes. Then place the basil on top.
  5. Bake 35–40 minutes, or until the eggplant is softened and the cheese is slightly melted. Serve hot.

Farmers’ markets are opening soon, so take advantage of fresh and local produce to come up with your weekly meal plans! Challenge yourself each week to try a new fruit or vegetable and base a meal around that choice. Have fun!

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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: healthy eating recipes spring local eating fruits and vegetables

Step Class: Step Up to a New Level of Fitness!

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Whether you are 18 or 80, man or woman, looking to lose weight or simply maintain, step class just might be the perfect addition to your fitness program. Have you ever considered taking a step class? Perhaps you have found yourself thinking, "I'm not coordinated enough," or “that's too intense for me (or not intense enough"). Well, give me two minutes to change your mind.

Does It Burn Calories?

The bottom line is, stepping up and down off of a raised platform burns calories. In fact, it burns a lot of calories. According to Self magazine, stepping up and down off of a raised platform burns more calories than doing jumping jacks, split lunges, power squats, or speed skating for the same length of time. A great exercise for weight loss? YES! Great way to maintain weight? YOU BET!

Am I Coordinated Enough?

Maybe you’re thinking that you lack the required coordination. But the reality of it is, if you can march in place, you can do step. The basic step is just that: basic. Up, up, down, down. Of course that move would get boring pretty quickly, so we add music, rhythm, and variations on that basic move. While it helps to have a little rhythm (can you clap your hands to the beat of a song?), anyone can step. It might take a few classes to really get the hang of it, but it is quite doable, and FUN! Don't be intimidated!

There is a first time for everything. At some point, every single person in the class, including the instructor, attended their very first step class. I’m not gonna lie, you probably won't pick up every single thing in the first class you take, but let's face it: what would be the fun of mastering it in the first hour? Half the fun is seeing yourself improve, seeing your cardiovascular fitness level improve, and becoming more efficient overall (more work with less effort). Step will get you there!

STEP_2019Is It Too Intense?

You might be thinking that step would be too hard or too intense for you. While step is designed to be a challenging cardio workout, the intensity level can be adjusted in a number of ways to meet the needs of each participant.

  • The height of the platform is not uniform; with use of individual risers at each end, the platform can be set as low as just a few inches off the floor (or as high as 8–12 inches).
  • Another easy adjustment, which your instructor will show you, is to limit your range of movement with each step. As you become more comfortable with the format, you will be able to add intensity by increasing range of motion with the steps, and by adding arm movements to further increase your heart rate. Because of this, the challenge never ends. There is no plateau.

Is It Not Intense Enough?

On the flip side, maybe you are thinking step is not intense enough. Perhaps you’re thinking that only girls take step, or that you are too fit to benefit from it. Regardless of your fitness level, step can be a very challenging cardiovascular workout. It is a well-known fact that the US military utilizes step aerobics to improve our troops' agility, coordination, and endurance. If it's tough enough for our soldiers, then it's tough enough for me! In addition to step, I also teach Insanity, total-body conditioning, and kickboxing classes. Step meets or exceeds these other formats in intensity level and calories burned per hour.

Step is the perfect group fitness format because it accommodates all fitness levels. (And if you haven't tried group fitness, well that's a whole other conversation.) But in short, try it! The camaraderie and accountability among the participants, the music, and the FUN factor will have you hooked!

So, are you ready to take your fitness regimen to the next STEP? See you in class soon, soon, soon!

Yours in fitness,
Rachel

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This blog was written by Rachel Pfeiffer, ACE and AFAA Certified Group Fitness Instructor, and proud NIFS Step instructor since 1999.

Topics: cardio group fitness step class workout plan physical fitness

Hamstrings for the Win: Avoid Common Leg Day Mistakes

GettyImages-914656088What is the most feared and most skipped gym day of the week? Nearly every person despises it, and few survive it. Yes, you guessed it. I am referring to the infamous “leg day.” However, even if you can endure training your legs, how beneficial is it if you aren’t training your hamstrings correctly, efficiently, and according to their full potential?

The hamstring is a large group of muscles (the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus) located on the posterior side of the upper leg. They have two main responsibilities: flexion at the knee (pulling the ankle toward the glutes) and extension at the hips (pulling the ankle back toward the glute while maintaining a stiff leg). Therefore, the hamstring’s main goal is to balance out the action of the large quad muscles on the front side of the leg, assisting the knee in stability.

In his blog Five Biggest Mistakes in Hamstring Development, the late Dr. Charles Poliquin, a remarkable pioneer in the field of fitness and bodybuilding, put into perspective just how important the hamstring muscles are. He recollects, “When I was a kid, hamstrings were called in bodybuilding magazines ‘leg biceps.’”

Don’t Neglect Posterior Leg Development

A standard leg day, as one could imagine, might include the leg press, back squat, leg extension, leg curl, and perhaps a lunge variation. If that’s the case, there is simply not enough emphasis on posterior leg development. We naturally experience quad dominance simply because we are human and the majority of our daily movement requires being in a squat or quad-dominant position. This includes daily functions such as sitting and standing up out of a chair or car. The issues arise when the quadriceps overpower the action of the hamstrings throughout a certain range of motion or movement pattern. This can often happen when walking or running, but it occurs mostly when it comes time to execute cutting, jumping, and landing mechanics.

Simply put, athletes across most major sports have below-average hamstring development. This goes for every individual on the planet as well. It becomes a rather large issue and argument for some injuries that these athletes typically encounter.

Common Mistakes in Exercises for Hamstring Strength

If you are looking to improve hamstring strength, there are several exercises you could add to your workout program. However, I’m here to tell you that there are also a few common mistakes that could be holding you back from reaching your full potential.

  • Wrong timing: The first mistake is that you are most likely waiting to train the hamstring until the end of your leg workout. Ultimately, you should program hamstring-specific exercises.
  • Incomplete range of motion: Secondly, it is quite possible that you might not be completing the full range of motion when targeting this muscle group.
  • Not enough time under tension: The final common mistake is that when performing the movement pattern, you are not spending enough time under tension for that muscle to respond and grow. So a tip would be to use a tempo count where you control down and explode up each rep.

Do Those Leg Curls!

If you’ve learned anything from the last five minutes of reading this article, I hope it is the importance of training the posterior chain, especially the hamstring. Not only is it aesthetically appealing, but the with strong hamstrings, functionality and safety of young athletes should be at an all-time high. So jump in and do those leg curls!

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This blog was written by Cara Hartman, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: injury prevention muscles strength training hamstring leg day