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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Why Mindset Matters: The Power of Positive Thinking

GettyImages-506910700I had a friend call me the other day in a complete panic. She was getting ready to go back to work full time and she felt like she was going to be losing time with her kids by doing so. While listening to her pour her heart out to me about all the second-guessing she was doing, it became clear that everything she was saying was everything I had been thinking. All the thoughts I play over and over in my mind were actually being said out loud.

As the conversation came to an end and we hung up the phone, I sat and began to really evaluate my own thoughts and feelings. The mind is a powerful tool, and if we aren’t careful it can take complete control over our lives.

Your mind’s power lies within your focus. What I mean by that is that if you are faced with major challenges, it’s easy to grab ahold of thoughts telling you that the challenges can’t be overcome. Because it is so easy for our minds to go there, we have a tendency to fall into the trap of mistaking those thoughts for truth.

Turning Your CAN’TS into CANS

If you are someone whose mind goes to reasons why you can’t do something, it’s time to refocus and retrain your mind to find the reasons why you can do something.

  • Replace negative beliefs with the truth about yourself. Obstacles will disappear and you can step into positivity.
  • We can change our brains and create new pathways, new modes of living, and new experiences.
  • The greatest work we do is on the inside.
  • We too often underestimate the power of community in facing new tasks.
  • Blame never produces fruitful results, especially when you blame yourself.
  • We live with the things that aren’t working until pain or possibility inspires us to overhaul our lives.

Life Is a Roller-coaster

I’m not writing this to tell you that you need to have it all together. It’s totally okay not to; I know I don’t. As a matter of fact, go ask someone who seemingly has it all together and I guarantee you they will either give you a list of what they struggle to manage or they will lie to you.

What I am telling you is that life is a roller-coaster by nature. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose; sometimes it can be picture-perfect, and other times it can be blemished. We must navigate the ups and downs with the mindset that we will fail, we will triumph, we will have down moments, and we will have moments we’re on top of the world. Change begins to happen when you transform your mind from where you are to where you want to be, whether this means changing your fitness or changing in other areas of your life.

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

Concrete Core: Les Mills CXWORX at NIFS

Screen Shot 2019-08-20 at 10.59.55 AMThe “core” is a fitness buzzword that has rung in people’s ears for some time now. If you have been in the gym in the past 10–15 years, you have heard about the importance of a strong core in performance and for activities of daily living. And it’s so true: a weak center can lead to many issues throughout the entire body, mainly low-back pain and tight hips. I am not reporting anything new here; a strong trunk is super, super important!

Core Defined

Gray Cook of FMS posed a question once:

“While driving in your car, what would you rather fail, the engine or the brakes?”

Your core is the brakes for your body. Being able to stop movement as opposed to creating movement is the important function of the musculature of the trunk.

Let’s back up for a second and define the core. The definition has been argued for years on message boards, social media, and countless blogs, but I define the core as pretty much everything minus your extremities—chin to knees. The abs, glutes, obliques, and lats are all major assets of the core system. The trunk serves as your stability, your brakes, the glue that holds everything together and keeps you strong.

Group Fitness for Your Core

In recent posts, we have demonstrated core strategies such as marching, crawling, and dead bugs as great ways to get the job done on your own; but what if you love exercising in a group and want to target your core?

CXWORX is a 30-minute Les Mills group fitness class that is centered around your center. It is a challenging core workout that utilizes resistance tubing and plate weight in an array of different ways. Exercises are performed standing and on the ground, adding many dimensions to your training. Each class begins with a warmup and can consist of up to five different core segments all choreographed to music.

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How to Get the Most Out of Your CXWORX Class

Here are 5 tips for getting started and getting the most from your class:

  • Get there early and check in with the instructor to get the lowdown on what you can expect.
  • Grab a lighter resistance tube to start and really focus on the technique and tempo.
  • Pay attention to your instructor and the teaching cues they give for each of the movements.
  • Try a few classes to really get a good feel for the movements—don’t stop after one.
  • Be receptive to technique cues. You joined a class led by an expert, so utilize their knowledge.

Developing and maintaining a strong, durable core will improve all areas of fitness and movement. Everything really derives from the center, and a stronger center equals a stronger whole.

CXWORX at NIFS

CXWORX is the class of the month at NIFS in September, so stop in and feel the effects for yourself. Find a class on the schedule that works for you, bring a pal, and become unstoppable.

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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: group fitness core Les Mills Group Fitness Class of the Month CXWORX

Using Battling Ropes for Training

_68R5895When you begin your fitness quest and are getting started on a new program, finding exercises that are appropriate for you is key to your success. Your fitness staff at NIFS has your back! Training methods and training tools developed from years of research and practice have shown that sometimes a simple exercise done well can be quite effective.

In this case, we will be looking at training with battling ropes (also known as battle ropes). I was lucky to have been in attendance at one of the top fitness summits recently and was humbled by the overall amount of work that can be accomplished with the ropes. (Taking some learning cues from renowned fitness professionals has given me the opportunity to deliver some great, purposeful workouts to NIFS members and clients.)

You may have seen the battle ropes in your gym, but did not know exactly what exercises could be done with them. For the most part, the movement patterns are simple, yet effective. Slamming the ropes utilizes multiple muscle groups and also gets your heart rate to rise. Taking the training one step further, your rope slams can be broken down into many movement patterns including small movement patterns, large movement patterns, and several other fun, specialized movement patterns (which we will look at in this blog).

What Are Battle Ropes?

Before we get started on the exercises, it would be helpful to have a better anatomical understanding of these ropes. For starters, ropes come in many lengths and thicknesses. The longer the rope or the thicker the rope, the more challenging the exercises become. Also, using a poly rope with shrinkwrapped endcaps has advantages over the less-expensive manila gym ropes traditionally used for climbing. The poly rope material tends to be softer on the hands and more durable than the manila rope. The manila rope, however, can work fine and be more cost-effective.

Small-Movement Pattern

The first movement pattern we will discuss is called the small-movement pattern. This pattern is the easiest to learn and progress from. Once you have selected your rope and have attached it to its anchor point, simply get your body into an athletic position (not unlike getting ready to hit a volleyball or pick up a groundball in softball). You will slam the rope quickly, yet rhythmically in cadence so that the small slams create a ripple that flows all the way down to the anchor point. This pattern can also have several small variations including single-arm slams. Typically, this exercise can be done for time (i.e., 20 seconds per set) or with your interval training (i.e., :20 on, :20 off for 3 minutes).

Large-Movement Pattern

The second movement pattern is the large-movement pattern. With this movement pattern, the goal is to create big slams with the rope. This movement is similar to the one seen with medicine ball slams, where you take your body from a small movement position to a fully extended position with the ropes overhead and on your toes, and then end by slamming the rope with maximum force into the ground. This movement can be rhythmic, but sometimes seems a little more aggressive in nature than the small-movement pattern. The benefits here, though, are definitely more athletic in nature, as many sports require movement patterning based on this exact exercise. Because this exercise makes it easier to count reps, being able to do sets such as 4 x 10–12 reps, makes sense (but do not limit yourself; intervals here are also appropriate).

Other Ways to Use Rope Training

Outside of these two movements, you can explore rope training in many ways. Thinking back to grade-school times, we used the rope often during physical education class as the true tests of strength with tug-of-war and the rope climb, but we can make ropes fun and challenging when we put them back into our workout plans and add a little competition. With tug-of-war, you need several people to compete, but other exercises can replicate this movement solo. The Marpo Rope Trainer machine can convert to a standing tug-of-war rope pull, just you versus the machine! The rope climb, which is a daunting challenge for most, can be replicated on the rope machine as well. But if you don’t have the rope machine, starting with rope descends is an excellent way to get more comfortable and definitely stronger.

BONUS: Here is a great Friday Finisher series using the Ropes!

 

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These rope challenges are great additions to most workouts because they are simple and they can be done with individual maximum efforts or in groups where a cardiovascular challenge is needed. If you are interested in adding ropes to your workouts and want more information, NIFS staffers are more than happy to help you begin your new rope training workout. As always, muscleheads evolve and rejoice!

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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: NIFS exercise fitness center Thomas' Corner equipment workouts strength sports movement

Is Butter Really Better for You?

GettyImages-1078201394There is good reason for confusion surrounding what might arguably be one of America’s favorite spreads, topping everything from toast to popcorn to potatoes. The butter-versus-margarine debate has been a hot topic for the last several decades and is still a slippery subject. We have begun to understand the possible dangers of our high saturated fat consumption to our health. However, at the same time we are told that margarines are “artificial,” while butter is the all-natural choice. Which do we choose?

So Tell Me: Is Butter Actually Healthy?

In short, no. Saturated fat (found in high concentrations in butter) has been shown to raise “bad” cholesterol and increase risk of heart disease. Saturated fat content may not be helpful in judging healthfulness of foods (coconut oil presents conflicting research), so we need to prioritize foods that we know improve health—and butter is not one of them.

We have enough evidence to know that high saturated fat content in foods definitely doesn’t help us—especially when we get it from the food sources that we do (a high intake of processed meats, cheese, and butter followed by too few fruits and veggies). The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that we aim to keep our saturated fat intake to less than 5–6% of our total calorie intake—meaning if you follow a 2,000-calorie diet, you should be consuming 13 grams or less of saturated fat daily. Foods higher in unsaturated fat lead to lower risk of heart disease, so placing most of our focus on these foods like nuts, avocados, fatty fish such as salmon, nuts/nut butters, and olive oil is extremely important.

Note: The saturated fat content in just 1 serving of butter (1 tablespoon) puts the saturated fat intake at 7 grams. The AHA recommends 13 grams or less on a 2,000 calorie diet.

What About Margarine/Vegetable Oil–based Spreads?

While these options may have less saturated fat and more unsaturated fat (making them slightly more “healthy”), they are still very high in calories and we need to be extremely mindful of how much we are using. Excessive energy consumption will lead to weight gain and chronic health conditions. However, replacement of saturated fat in butter with more unsaturated fat does lower your risk of heart disease.

Try using a little olive oil, canola oil, avocado, hummus, or nut butters in place of your usual butter. Check your ingredients list for “partially hydrogenated” oils on any butter alternatives that you are using. If you see anything that is partially hydrogenated, it means that it contains what is called trans fat—a definite avoid-at-all-costs ingredient. Most food manufacturers have transitioned all of their products away from trans fat.

Note: 1 tablespoon (Earth Balance Original Vegetable Oil Spread) has 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, and 7.5 grams of unsaturated fats.

Saturated fat is found not only in butter but also in meat, milk, yogurt, cheese, nuts, and vegetable oils. Each food has a unique nutrient profile that has a different effect on heart disease. The deeper issue, beyond news headlines and the ever-changing results of various studies, comes down to an obsession with nutrients instead of focusing on foods. We become convinced that we need more fish oil supplements, vitamin C, or collagen. When we try to decrease our “bad” fat/saturated fat intake, we need to make sure we are replacing that high-saturated-fat-content food with something healthy.

Your goal should be to focus on ways to minimize packaged foods and maximize whole foods. Currently, our diets are high in processed meats, sides of fries, loaves of white bread, cereal, chips, cookies, and crackers along with soda and a daily dessert, which has made the US one of the least healthy countries in the world with one of the leading rates of obesity. We do know that large amounts of plant-based foods such as fruits, veggies, whole grains, and nuts in the diet are beneficial despite the seemingly endless supply of perplexing research in other areas, and so the focus is to try and shift the plate toward an eating pattern that emphasizes these plant foods.

We fall back on the idea that more fruits and vegetables can only help us, and this is an area that even dietitians have to remind themselves to work on every single day. Butter is just an addition to a diet that is generally already very calorically dense and high in saturated fat—something we get too much of in our day-to-day diets. Does half of your plate consist of fruits and veggies at every meal? When we create variety in the diet, we minimize the risk of “doing it wrong.” We can be certain that if we are filling our bellies with exactly what Mother Nature provided us, we can avoid falling into an eating pattern that sets us up for an unhealthy life and be even closer to getting nutrition “right”—setting us up for a lifetime of good health and happiness.

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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 healthy eating calories fat plant-based