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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

3 Simple Rules to Train When You Have Pain

GettyImages-1017760106How many people do you know who suffer from a form of back pain? I’d be willing to wager it’s at least one person, and perhaps that person is you. The prevalence of nonspecific lower-back pain alone is estimated at 60-70% throughout the lifespan of a citizen of the United States and other industrialized countries. If you fall into this category or know somebody who does, first direct them to my previous blog about warming up with back pain to get started. Once you’ve made your way through that, keep reading to find out how to design a great workout even if you’re in pain.

For some, the idea of working out with pain is strictly off limits for fear of further injury. For others, the workout must be completed as planned, no matter how intense the pain might be. As usual, the solution will likely require a balanced approach between these two ideals. Unless your pain is an emergency (and this article might give you an idea of whether or not it is), there is likely something productive you can achieve by not skipping your scheduled workout. For one, if one of your goals is to establish a new habit or routine, making it to the gym for some self-love might just keep you on track. Self-love can mean foam rolling or other soft-tissue work, properly prescribed corrective-based activities or stretching, walking, or virtually ANYTHING that helps you feel better. The bottom line is that it must provide a feeling of relief.

Great, so you’ve made it to the gym and you’re feeling better than when you walked in thanks to some well-thought-out pain-relief techniques, or maybe just 10 minutes in the sauna. In any case, you’re ready to sweat and help that heart of yours pump some blood. Before you get too carried away, there are some general rules I like to follow if I know somebody has a history of, or is presently experiencing, back pain symptoms.

1. If It Hurts, Don’t Do It

This one sounds too simple to be genuine advice, and I’ll admit I stole it straight from my own father’s dad-joke arsenal. I’d say, “Dad, it hurts when I do this,” and he’d invariably respond, “Then don’t do that.” Of course, the older I get, the more I realize how wise much of his advice was, especially that nugget. If there is a particular movement or activity that you know for a fact will reproduce your pain symptoms, simply avoid it, at least until your symptoms go away. You can almost always find an alternative exercise to accomplish what you wanted, especially with the staff here at NIFS ready to provide you with such options. Regardless, no exercise is worth potentially worsening your symptoms, causing an even greater setback, or worse, leading to yet another injury.

2. Keep the Weight Off Your Back

The last thing you want to do while experiencing back pain symptoms is to make it any worse, and I see the risk as far outweighing the reward in having a barbell or any other load compressing your spine directly. You’d also be wise to approach higher-impact activities such as running and jumping with a fair amount of caution. Although not directly loading the spine, the landing portion of these high-impact activities requires a fair amount of compression throughout the body, particularly through the spinal segments. If a contributing factor to your flare-up of pain was a lack of integrity in your core strength and control, these higher-impact activities become even more risky.

3. Use Perfect Form

This should be a no-brainer, even when you’re not in pain. However, it becomes vital when the fear of pain is on your mind. Use this time to make sure every aspect of your movement is as close to perfect quality as you can get it. When in doubt, refer back to Rule #1. A great way to monitor your form closely is by either performing each repetition with an extremely slow tempo, or doing some static holds (unless you have high blood pressure or higher risk for aneurysm), meaning holding still during the repetition. Performing your repetitions in this manner will also require you to use significantly less weight, therefore limiting another risk factor. Many of our members take advantage of completing a Functional Movement Screen, which allows one of our trained fitness professionals to analyze your movement on a fundamental level. This is included as part of your membership at no extra cost, and it can provide essential strategies for you to make sure you’re moving to the best of your body’s abilities.

You may have noticed this post is largely about what not to do instead what you should be doing. That’s because each presentation of pain is completely different from another, and should be approached individually, and with care. No two humans are the same, which is what makes us fascinating creatures, but it also provides a challenge of finding the proper activities for each unique case. This is true no matter what your current physical condition is, but requires special attention when you’re limited by increased symptoms of pain. Whatever the case, movement will almost always be the answer to returning to your “normal” self; it’s just a matter of what type and how much.

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This blog was written by David Schoch, CSCS, FMS, and Healthy Lifestyle Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: injury prevention pain lower back pain back pain

Are You Eating Enough Fruits, Vegetables, and Other Whole Plant Foods?

GettyImages-1142790917“Aim to consume a diet that is high in fruits and vegetables.”

“Make half of your plate a fruit and vegetable.”

“Consume 5 to 6 servings of vegetables and fruits every day.”

This nutrition advice has been the standard from physicians, food and nutrition scientists, and even dietitians. However recent research is revealing that just as important as quantity may be the diversity of your diet. What fruits and vegetables do you pick up from the store on a weekly basis? Do you spend a significant amount of time in the produce section and fill your cart with plant foods? Or do you end up lingering for half an hour in the center aisles and packing your cart with processed food products?

The SAD Truth About the Standard American Diet

Check out these scary statistics… The standard American diet (termed the “SAD diet”) is often very high in animal protein, saturated fats, added sugar, and refined/processed foods. In fact, it is estimated that the average American consumes 32% of their calories from animal foods, 57% from processed foods, and only 11% from whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, and nuts (Source: USDA). Three out of four Americans don’t eat a single piece of fruit in a given day, and nearly 9 out of 10 don’t reach the minimum recommended daily intake of vegetables (Source: National Cancer Institute)!

Promote Gut Health with Whole Plant Foods

To create a healthy gut microbiome (meaning the trillions of bacteria that live in your digestive tract), increase the variety of whole, plant foods in your diet. The American Gut Project found that individuals who ate 30 or more different types of plant foods every week had gut microbiomes that were more diverse than those who ate 10 or fewer types of plant foods every week. A healthful plant-based diet improves the health and diversity of your gut microbes and may help prevent conditions like obesity, heart disease, inflammation, and diabetes by turning the genes on and off that affect these conditions.

How to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

I often find myself picking out the same fruits and veggies every week, and this has made me stop and think about what’s in my shopping cart—if I bring it home, I will usually eat it! Freezing fruit and veggies is also a great way to make sure nothing goes to waste before it’s used. Below I offer some advice on how to add more plant foods into your weekly routine. I would also like to challenge you to see how many different fruits and vegetables you can eat this week—anything that is a whole plant food and that you eat a decent portion of counts. The goal is to not only increase plant foods in your diet, but also the diversity.

  • Aim to include a piece of fruit and one vegetable at every meal—including breakfast! Instead of a fried egg on a piece of bread, scramble the egg with spinach, mushrooms, or onions. For an even bigger impact, replace your egg with soy and make a tofu scramble.
  • Eat two meatless meals during the week. Replace your animal protein with beans or lentils, or try making your own veggie burger.
  • Make snack time a chance to shine. Skip the vending machine and bring carrot sticks with hummus, a piece of fruit, dehydrated fruit, or mixed nuts.
  • Try smoothies. Smoothies are a great way to disguise vegetables if you have trouble hitting your goals. Add spinach, kale, avocado, or celery to a smoothie. The strong flavor of the fruit hides most of the flavor of these greens and eliminates issues with texture many people face with avocado.
  • Ditch refined grain products like noodles, white bread, and white rice. Try spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles in place of spaghetti noodles, or try cauliflower “rice” in place of white rice. Instead of crackers or bread, use sliced cucumbers for crackers or Portobello mushrooms, peppers, apples, or lettuce for wraps/bread.

What I’m Eating

Here’s peek at my list of plant foods consumed over the course of three days. You’ll notice a lot of repetition, so by midweek I am still only at about 15 different types of plant foods. I have 15 more to go by the end of the week!

Sunday

  • Breakfast: Apple
  • Lunch: Lettuce, veggie sushi (asparagus, cucumber, avocado rolls)
  • Dinner: N/A (no veggies! Even dietitians sometimes eat just a bowl of cereal—oops!)

Monday

  • Breakfast: Rolled oats, banana, ground flax
  • Lunch: Roasted asparagus, grapes, avocado (on toast), roasted chickpeas
  • Dinner: Kale, red bell pepper, cherry tomato, carrots, roasted chickpeas (all combined as salad and topped with olive oil and lemon juice)

Tuesday

  • Breakfast: Rolled oats, strawberries, ground flaxseed
  • Lunch: Apple, kale, red bell pepper, cherry tomato, carrots
  • Dinner: Roasted asparagus, grapes

Stay tuned for updates on the “30 Plant Foods Challenge” here at NIFS—can we find a member who eats more than 30 plant foods weekly? Do you think you can do it?

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition gut health whole foods fruits and vegetables plant-based

More Than Just Crunches: A 360-degree Approach to Core Training

Whether it’s the New Year or finally approaching the summer beach-going season, you’re almost guaranteed to see someone doing sit-ups, side-bends, or leg lifts in the gym. And I get it; who doesn’t want core strength with that little added aesthetic bonus too? But training the core is so much more than just crunches!

The two primary functions of the core are to transmit force to and from the lower and upper body and to resist motion. Throughout our day, we move in three dimensions, in all planes of motion, and not just in a straight line. In order to move our hips or shoulders without compensating at the spine, it’s our core that steps up to the plate to help stabilize the system. Whether it’s carrying all the groceries inside in one trip (a future Olympic sport in my opinion), reaching down at our side to pick up our bag off the floor, or carrying our child in one arm, our core stabilizes us through these movements and myriad others. In short, we don’t go through life in isolation, so the way we train our core should reflect that.

Videos of Exercises

Here are a few videos of some exercises you can add to your 360-degree core-training repertoire to help address core movements while adding a little variety to your workout routine:

  • Tall Kneel Cable Antiextension Hold
  • Half Kneel Rope Chop
  • Sandbag Contralateral Deadbug
  • Bird Dog Row
  • Uneven Farmer Carry
  • Copenhagen Side Plank

 

Why Add These Exercises?

There are several reasons to add these kinds of exercises to your workout programs:

  • We live our lives in three dimensions; our training should be three-dimensional, too.
  • Increasing core stability can improve performance in other lifts and movements.
  • A stronger core helps reduce injury risk in real-world situations (such as lifting from the floor, or going from a sit to a stand).
  • You get a bigger bang for your buck by addressing multiple joints and muscle groups (shoulder position, hip stability, glutes, adductors).

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This blog was written by Lauren Zakrajsek, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercises videos core strength movement core exercises core stability core trainings

Swim, Bike, Run: Get Ready for Triathlon Fun

IMG_9430Does the idea of swimming in the nice early-morning summer sun excite you? Does riding along the hilly but beautiful road at Eagle Creek get you smiling? Does doing a challenging run through Eagle Creek Park drive up your endorphins? Then you need to think about doing a triathlon this year.

“Why this year,” you ask? I say “Why not?” No one is getting any younger, and IT’S OUT THERE. This is a real comfort zone buster! Life is about challenges big and small, so here’s a great way to get out of your comfort zone. Here’s all ya gotta do.

Get into the Water

Get in the pool or a lake; stop by Eagle Creek, Morse Reservoir, or any body of water you can get into. Go for a swim. If you are awful, keep working, and read blogs about swim drills. Plan for at least 4 to 12 weeks of prep. The longer the race distances, the longer the training.

Get a Bike

IMG_9582

Next, find yourself a bike. If you have a really nice bike, this should not be a problem. If you don’t even have one, go to one of our fine bike shops (we have some really good ones here in Indy) and get a bike. Get your tires aired up, oil the chain, and PLEASE check the brakes (and get those tuned up again). Then get on those wheels and ride, enjoying the sun and the spring breeze on your face.

Put on Your Running Shoes

After that, put on your running shoes and hit the road, trail, or track and start jogging. Again, start slow and then go.

Prepare and Have a Plan

AAHH… it seems so simple as you read this, and it can be, but to have a ton of fun on race day you need to prepare. Try to follow a plan to get you to the finish line with a smile. Work backward from your race day. You need to be able to swim 500 meters, ride your bike 10 miles, and then run 3 miles. Plan your workouts for distance or time, the latter of which is often easier to calculate.

This is the 11th year of our NIFS Go Girl TRI-training Program that prepares you for the Go Girl race at Eagle Creek in August. Our training program is the city's longest-running training program for the race. Are you jumping on board this year? Get registered today!

tri training header 2019 LOGO-01-1This 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 triathlon training program