<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=424649934352787&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Accidental Workouts: Burning Calories by Doing Things Around the House

GettyImages-1205255316When you hear about fitness and wellness, one of the first things that comes to mind is getting a workout, usually at a gym, fitness center, or club. Some people can get exercise in other ways, such as outdoor activities and sports, while many others receive plenty of fitness at the workplace (think lumberjacks, steel workers, and factory workers). If none of these sounds like you or if you and you feel as though the fitness route is a tough road to travel, there is hope. There are things you do in your everyday life that give you an opportunity to burn calories.

Believe it or not, we all are burning calories all day, everyday. This is your metabolism, and without it you would not be alive. You burn calories when you are watching TV, riding in the car, and even sleeping (albeit a small amount). Many daily activities that you might not think about help you burn more calories throughout the day. Do you consider walking the dog, raking the yard, or cooking a meal as calorie-burning opportunities? Well, again, it’s not equivalent to taking a HITT class or aerobics class, but you are going to burn more calories with increased activity.

How Many Calories Do These Activities Burn?

How many calories can you expect to burn with these day-to-day chores and tasks, you may wonder? In the sedentary state, people usually burn a couple calories per minute. If you were asleep, you could guess that you are burning fewer calories, and if you were sprinting up a hill, the calorie burn would increase. CalorieLab provides some of the following data that might come as a surprise as it pertains to tasks that you might deem as mundane.

Chores

  • Sweeping the floor: 39 calories/15 minutes
  • Doing the dishes: 22 calories/15 minutes
  • Cooking, with food prep: 26 calories/15 minutes
  • Scrubbing the floor: 48 calories/15 minutes

Playing with children or pets

  • Light play: 31 calories/15 minutes
  • Moderate play: 51 calories/15 minutes
  • Vigorous play: 68 calories/15 minutes

Get Motivated to Do More and Move More

Using this as a motivation, the work you do around your home is meaningful in many ways. Making sure that you have a nice, clean living environment ensures that you are taking proper steps to a healthy lifestyle, while pride and self-confidence get a boost as well. On top of all of this, your activity burns calories! Finding ways to burn the amount of calories you want might be a difficult task, whether you can’t find time or don’t like to do it, although keeping moving and staying motivated to do better at home is a great start. Good luck, and as always, muscleheads rejoice and evolve!

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

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

Topics: staying active exercise at home Thomas' Corner motivation calories metabolism

Kids Confined: A Parent’s Survival Kit

GettyImages-1216458718(1)In one way or another I think it’s safe to say that the spread of this virus has affected all of us in the last few weeks. And for some, it has become life-changing! As parents of a school-aged kid, my husband and I have had some tough conversations with our kindergartener explaining why he won’t be seeing his friends or teacher at school for a while, if at all. Not only have we had to have tough talks, we’ve had to become pretty creative in how we keep him active and engaged.

Our son, Isaiah, is the definition of energy. In his words, “I’m 100%!” And he means it! He only knows one speed and that is fast. Not only does Isaiah’s energy require creativity, his appetite is comparable to a bottomless pit.

How Are We Thriving Through a Global Pandemic? Two Words: Consistent Creativity!

For a child that is used to having so much structure at school and thriving in that environment, how can you replicate that at home and maintain your “cool parent” status? Here are some tips.

Keep Them Engaged

Finding fun, creative, and engaging educational opportunities for the kiddos to remain sharp is only half the battle. Timing is also critical. Making sure that each day is a little more exciting than the day before is a great way to keep them engaged in learning and being active. 

Let Kids Help Choose Activities

Allowing involvement in the decision making of what we do has been a key as well. This is a great test to see what interests your kids have and what type of learners they are. Are they hands-on? Do they need to see the activity performed first a few times? Or maybe just once? I am learning each day just as he is. 

Build Structure and Choice into Snacks

Our son can eat. If we were to let him choose when and what to eat, he would eat us completely out of the house. Each day he has the choice of three or four snacks (such as fruits, vegetables, yogurts, jello cups, an occasional homemade cookie, a snack-size bag of chips, crackers, fruit popsicles, etc.) along with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We’ve provided that structure and have allowed him the freedom to choose. We are, however, still trying to figure out exactly where he puts all the food.

Creative Ways of Getting Exercise

For an active kid such as him, we’ve had to get even more creative with how he gets his exercise (same goes for us). Some days it consists of timing him to see how fast he can run up the stairs to get a diaper for his sister. Days that the weather isn't cooperating with us, we’re firing up GO Noodle on the Apple TV and dancing to some Zumba. And when the weather is nice enough to be outside, we’re taking walks, running, playing basketball in the driveway, doing sidewalk chalk, or whatever else we can come up with to burn that energy.

We’re All in This Together

We’re all trying to navigate through this crazy time, and the most important thing we can hold onto is that we’re all in this together. I read an Instagram post from Reformed Sports Parent the other day that allowed me to cut myself some slack:

Don’t worry about them regressing in school. Every single kid is in this boat and they all will be okay. When we are back in the classroom, we will all course-correct and meet them where they are. Teachers are experts at this! Don’t pick fights with your kids because they don’t want to do math. Don't scream at your kids for not following the schedule. Don’t mandate 2 hours of learning time if they are resisting it. If I can leave you with one thing, it’s this: at the end of all of this, your kids’ mental health will be more important than their academic skills. And how they felt during this time will stay with them long after the memory of what they did during those 4 or more weeks is long gone. So keep that in mind, every single day.

Stay Healthy!

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

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

Topics: exercise at home snacks kids fitness for kids quarantine home learning

The Stay-at-Home Athlete: Build Your Home-Based Athletic Performance Program

GettyImages-868064764nIn a world where situations are ever-changing and a new “normal” is developing, athletes around the world are scrambling to adapt to their new training environments. For most, this new environment is where you are probably reading this now, your home. For the time being and for many people, traditional training methods of using barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, etc. have morphed into substitutions of paint cans, backpacks, gallon jugs, or just about anything that can act as the “resistance” that your body has become accustomed to using.

Am I Going to Lose Everything I Gained in the Gym?

The first thought you probably had when this situation came about was, “I’m going to lose everything I’ve worked so hard to gain in the gym.” I guess that because it was one of the first things that passed through my mind, and now I believe that a well-equipped gym is one of the most taken-for-granted things I had in my life. It was always there. I could do just about anything I wanted or needed to do there. If the work I needed to do didn’t get done, it wasn’t the gym’s fault; it was my own.

If the work I needed to do didn’t get done, it wasn’t the gym’s fault; it was my own.

So now what? You are at home, you have a minuscule amount of equipment compared to what you had before (here’s another blog with some basics to consider), and your motivation may be low. The easiest thing to do would be the bare minimum and hope for the best when you can get back to the gym. The right thing would be to figure out a way to adapt your program to your environment and change the “maintain” mindset to the “gain” mindset. And I’m here to help you do that. The following are the essentials I believe can help you construct your home-based workout and continue to build on the progress you have made in the gym.

The Four Home-Training Building Blocks

As a coach, there are four main training blocks that can be completed at a very high level from home: mobility, power, strength, and conditioning. Follow along as I break them down!

Mobility

For many athletes (yes, me included), mobility is an area where we can always improve. This part of training is often overlooked or not taken as seriously as it should be. I’m here to tell you, being at home gives you the perfect reason to make this a focal point of your training. I say this because for many mobility exercises (shoulder/t-spine, hip, and ankle exercises), a big array of equipment is not needed. A couch or chair can serve as a perfect platform for you to improve mobility with very little time or effort setting up.

Power

No matter what sport you participate in, power development surely plays an integral part in your performance. In the gym we use medballs, boxes, and barbells to help foster this development. But at home, you can simply use an open space in your home/garage/outside to do this as well. Many “ground-based” plyometrics can be performed with minimal, if any, equipment. You can use vertical and broad jumps (both one- and two-legged) and various plyometric push-up variations, which should provide your body that same “explosive” feeling you have learned to produce. For the jumping exercises, this is a great time to work on the most important part of the movement, the landing.

Strength

This section might pose the biggest challenge to you simply because the heavy weights you are used to using are no longer accessible. I’m here to tell you that with a little creativity, you can still make improvements. One of the easiest ways to make simple bodyweight exercises more challenging is to elevate one of your points of contact, i.e. elevating your feet for push-ups or putting your back leg up on a couch or chair during split squats. Using a backpack full of books can serve as the extra resistance during these exercises, so dust off your old heavy college books and repurpose them.

Remember this as well: it’s not always about using heavy weight with low reps. If you are used to training in this fashion, doing more repetitions will help with your strength-endurance.

Conditioning

I believe that cardiovascular or conditioning work should be the easiest for you to adapt to while at home. With the exception of some of the specialized equipment you use in the gym (sleds, bikes, etc.), a lot of the training you do during this block requires only bodyweight resistance. Circuits (wall sits, mountain climbers, burpees), running (long-slow distance, interval training), and core work (plank and side plank variations, glute bridge variations) can all be performed with minimal equipment.

Take into account your “work-to-rest” ratio, which is how long you work versus how long you rest. Depending on what intensity you are working at, how long you are working for, or what activity you are doing, these numbers can be adjusted to fit your current fitness level. Generally, the longer your rest periods are compared to your work periods, the easier it will be. If you are unsure, start with 1-minute work to 1-minute rest and adjust for each subsequent workout as the days pass.

Which Will You Choose: Continued Progress or a Downhill Slide?

I leave you with this: the duration of the new normal can go one of two ways, the continuation of progress and improvements of athletic areas you need to work on OR a downhill slide of progress that leaves you fighting to get back to your current athletic state for the following months or years. Which one will you choose? If the work you need to do doesn’t get done, it wasn’t the home gym’s fault.

If the work you need to do doesn’t get done, it wasn’t the home gym’s fault.

This is a new challenge that you should accept and meet head-on with the attitude that nothing can derail your progress and a drive to continue to improve. In a few months, let’s look back on these days with pride knowing that you did everything in your power to get better.

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

This blog was written by Alex Soller, Athletic Performance Coach and NIFS trainer. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercise at home equipment endurance strength quarantine

“We’re Not in Kansas Anymore”: Take a Breath to Relieve Stress

GettyImages-544661136In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy woke up after a terrible storm in a world she didn’t recognize. The normal that she had known no longer existed. We are “not in Kansas” (or Indiana, for that matter) anymore after COVID-19 erupted around the world. Normal is gone for the time being. Some people have lost jobs and incomes, or are forced to work from home. Some have had or are fighting the disease, and some unfortunately have lost their lives.

We Are All Experiencing Stress

We have one thing in common. We are all experiencing stress. The level of that stress can vary greatly from one individual to another, but it is chronic “fight or flight” that takes a serious toll on mental and physical health. It distorts your moment-to-moment perceptions and experiences and your relationships, and clouds the bright light of hope. But we have tools to reground ourselves and loosen the constricting pressure of the stress anaconda.

Formal exercise and physical exertion (such as gardening and dog walking) release endorphins, your body’s own pain reliever and mood elevator. With the gym currently closed, we have posted workout ideas (blogs and videos). Knowing that the refrigerator is just too inviting, we have nutritional support as well. But now I want to focus on a different strategy for reducing stress: breathwork.

Breathwork

Your breathing is both automatic and self-regulated. But it is the controlling of your breath that can have an amazing impact on your quality of life. Yes, I know you have been breathing all your life, but that doesn’t mean you have been doing it correctly, especially when we live in a culture that worships flat stomachs and six-pack abs. Most people don’t use the diaphragm properly in breathing, and they don’t get incoming air deep into the largest area of the lungs. Let’s fix that.

The Complete Breath, Part 1

Try this breathing exercise for a few minutes with your focus on two places: the air passing in through the tip of your nose and the upward movement of your abdomen as air fills the lower lungs, slow and gentle as the air moves in and out.

  • Lie on the floor face up.
  • Bend your knees upward with the soles of your feet flat on the ground.
  • Place your right hand on your lower abdominals about 2 inches below your navel and put your left hand on the center of your chest.
  • Breathe out (don’t strain) and slowly breathe in through your nose.
  • Keep your attention on your hands. Which moved first, the right hand on your lower abdomen or your left hand on your chest? If you’re using your diaphragm correctly, your right hand should have moved first.
  • Key: Slow breaths, this slow movement calms the sympathetic nervous system and allows the parasympathetic nerve system to relax the body and mind. Stress can affect organs and tissue adversely, so calming the mind by slowing and controlling the breath can positively affect your body as well.

The Complete Breath, Part 2

  • Now place your hands on your bottom two ribs at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions and repeat the preceding exercise.
  • Instead of just feeling your abdomen raise straight up, with your hands more toward your sides, you should now feel the abdomen movement moving outward as well.
  • The entire area should be relaxing, and more air should be moving in and out with each inhalation and exhalation.
  • The next step is to gently inhale more to the point where the upper rib cage starts to fill and the ribs start to rise. As you exhale, the upper ribs will sink before the air is released from the lower abdomen.
  • Do not force the volume of the inhalation. This can do more harm than good and introduces stress into the breathing process, which is what you’re trying to release.

Graduate-level Breath

  • Consider the low back/mid-abdomen as a clock face. The navel is 12 o’clock and the lumbar spine is 6 o’clock. Left side is 9 o’clock and the right side is 3 o’clock.
  • The challenge now is to see if you can breathe just into each part of the clock face.
  • Stomach up and down first then hold the stomach flat and breathe by moving the low back up and down.
  • Next hold the stomach and low back in place and breathe by allowing just the sides to move in and out.
  • Now sit up with your back straight and breathe into all sections at the same time.
  • Key: It is not easy, but it is certainly an interesting challenge and you will learn how much of your body can be involved in the act of moving air in and out.

Another Benefit: Stronger Lungs

COVID-19 is the elephant in the room. Whatever you can do to maintain your physical and emotional/mental health will help you get through this. Besides the stress-reduction benefits of breathwork, remember that COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, highjacking cells and through protein synthesis spreading through surrounding tissue. Deep-breathing exercises can wake up lung tissue that has had little use and bring more flexibility into the lungs. Healthier lungs support a healthier you.

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

This blog was written by Rick Huse, CSCS, WKC Competition Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: stress relief illness prevention covid-19 coronavirus breathwork breathing exercises

Perfect Posture: Why It’s Important and How to Get It

GettyImages-501787264Whether you are sitting, standing, walking, running, or exercising, having good posture plays an immense role in not only how you physically present yourself, but how your body develops over time. Just like most habits, posture has both good and bad sides, each with distinct effects on your body. Focusing on ways to get the most out of your posture can ultimately give you not only a better workout, but also improved health for many years to come.

Benefits of Good Posture

When we talk about the benefits of improved posture, you might first think about how you look in a mirror or in front of a camera (which is also important). But there are many other physical attributes that can be affected which might not come to mind at first. This includes immediate impact areas such as low back pain relief and less tension in the shoulders and upper back. Further, long exposure issues such as joint wear and tear and poor blood circulation can be linked to bad posture. Other than physical effects, there are quite a few emotional health issues that come to light and are associated with bad posture, including self image and depression as well as relaxation and rest.

An Easy Posture Test

Getting back to the fitness aspect of good posture, I can present a simple demonstration. First I would like for you to sit in a chair, slouching as if no one was watching. Now, sit up tall with good posture. Obviously it takes more effort to sit with good posture, including core muscles. If you apply this concept to your exercises, you might find that not only will your form improve (along with your overall safety), but you will be recruiting more muscle (and albeit small and more calorie burning).

Develop Your Posture

There are things you can do in your day-to-day life that will help you develop better posture habits. Personal habits such as sitting taller, standing taller, and exercising with good form make having good posture much easier. Other things to consider include talking to an ergonomic specialist who can help you set up your workstation to better suit your body’s needs, and talking to a fitness specialist to help with exercise form and technique.

Even though it’s a lot easier to be lazy and not care about your posture, like other aspects of your physical wellness, caring for yourself and developing good posture habits will have long-lasting benefits for your body at a very low cost, so just do it! You will be making your grandma happy in the process.

If you feel as though your posture is getting in the way of your goals and possibly worse, your health, please take time to address the issue today. Talk to a fitness professional about safer, more effective exercises at the gym focusing on form and posture. At work, you can contact your HR rep to see whether an ergonomic specialist is available to help set up your workstation. You are not alone. Let NIFS help you.

Until next time, muscleheads rejoice and evolve!

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

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

Topics: exercises workplace wellness core strength posture ergonomic health and fitness

Staying on Track with Your Healthy Routine During Quarantine

GettyImages-1215666910Take these next few weeks or so and use them to your advantage. We know this is an extremely challenging time, and we want to make sure you feel like you are taken care of. Circumstances are tricky right now, so even if you adopt one new technique, consider that a win! Don’t expect yourself to “eat the rainbow” every day, feel like you fall asleep easily at night from a relaxing day working at home in your pajamas, or get in a 10-mile run each morning. While you shelter at home and stay healthy, keep these tips in mind.

Create balanced meals with shelf-stable products.

Use fresh produce first, and if you feel like you won’t finish your fresh produce before it spoils, freeze it. Try to make half of your plate produce such as spinach, tomatoes, green beans, peppers, or cauliflower. Add some protein like beans (canned or dried) or tofu, and quality carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, butternut squash, potatoes, or quinoa. Remember, beans and grains will get you all of the essential amino acids you need, so don’t shy away from trying shelf-stable beans in place of your usual fresh meat. (Here are some meatless meal staples to look for.)

Have a plan for your meals.

Think “first-in, first-out” and make sure to use your fresh produce and proteins first in order to prevent spoilage. Create a meal plan list for the week and utilize one meal’s leftovers to create the next night’s meal to avoid wasting food. For example, if you had plain white rice to add to a veggie-stir-fry on Monday, consider keeping some white rice on the side to make rice and bean burritos for dinner the next night!

Keep food fun!

Get the family together and have fun experimenting during the week to see who can come up with the most creative meals. It’s like an episode of “Chopped” in your kitchen! You never know what some instant mashed potato flakes mixed with some flour and spices could turn into—potato pancakes perhaps. And make sure to not only keep healthy snacks in the house like nuts, carrot sticks, or apples for nourishment, but some of your favorite comfort foods will go a long way in lifting everyone’s spirits. We have had a lot of fun making popcorn in a pan and homemade bread this week.

Line up activities to do.

Plan a play date for the kids via FaceTime or Zoom. Schedule a remote “girls’ night out” and chat in the basement while watching the same TV show. Don’t go more than a few days without checking in on your friends.

Try meditation and stress-reducing activities.

There are several apps on the market that aim to help you meditate and fall asleep at night. It’s worth a try just to download one and listen while you are in bed at night. Coloring, doing puzzles, going for walks, and virtual therapy sessions with a counselor are other ways to put your mind at ease.

Stay healthy, stay calm—we’ve got this!

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

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

Topics: nutrition stress attitude wellness meditation illness prevention meal planning quarantine covid-19

What’s in Your Bunker?: Fitness Survival Gear

GettyImages-1210720125The saying often goes, “success breeds success,” but I’m a big believer that failure leads to just as much and even more success. Being reactive in nature to a situation (as most of our population is) can delay a successful outcome, but often does lead to one. Obviously being proactive, anticipating and avoiding rather than catching and correcting, is a more successful model of living; but we find ourselves in situation we really couldn’t anticipate. There are some lessons to be learned and success that can come from this desperate situation we are all in.

How Can You Exercise When You Can’t Leave Home?

When the lockdown was put in place, many diehard exercisers and movers of all kinds were left clambering for ways to stay fit and active while under quarantine. Then came the barrage of social media posts from people like me offering up super-helpful fitness solutions to not having your favorite gym to go to and the ample equipment to use. The information and help that fitness pros around the world have offered has been inspiring, and I encourage you to continue to implement the strategies and techniques you are learning from real fitness pros (but be a smart consumer of content).

But a great lesson we can learn from this situation is that it is a good thing to have some fitness gear available to you in your home. After the pandemic, there will be many more reasons you might not be able make it to your gym or studio. Just life may alter your ability to get to where all your favorite equipment lies. What is your plan then?

Equipment for Exercising at Home

There are many cost- and space-efficient pieces of fitness survival gear you can have in your home that can keep the momentum going if you are unable to meet with your favorite people at your favorite gym. I’ve created a fitness survival list that you can use immediately or accumulate over time so that you will always have strategies in place to keep moving in a small space.

Cheap and Effective

Here’s some equipment that you can get now.

  • Foam rollers: You can do recovery and mobility work anywhere, and you can do it well with the proper tools. But did you know that you can use the foam roller for more than myofascial release? See this video!
  • Mini-bands: These are 2 to 3 bucks a pop—easy to use and very effective. And here’s a NIFS video showing you how to use them for a big sweat.
  • Super bands: There is so much you can do with these bigger bands, and they are still very inexpensive. Here’s a NIFS video using super bands for resistance.
  • Sliders: There are many things you can use for sliders, such as furniture movers, towels, and paper plates. Sliders can used for lunges, hinging, and core work. Here’s a NIFS video of slider exercises.
  • Tubing: Continuing with the band resistance, tubing with handles is a great tool to perform countless exercises.
  • Stability ball: This ball can be used for core work, and upper and lower body strength work, and you can sit on it while you work from home! Here’s a video using the stability ball.

Equipment for Leveling Up

The following equipment items cost a little more, but they have a lot more capabilities.

  • TRX Suspension Trainer: Fitness anywhere is their name for a reason. You can use the TRX anywhere and can perform thousands of movements in a small space. Enhance strength, stability, cardio, core strength—TRX can do it all. Here’s our video using the TRX outside.
  • Sandbag: Providing a dynamic load in a multitude of movements makes the sandbag a nice addition to your fitness survival gear. Here’s a video using the sandbag in a squat and press.
  • Kettlebell: Add some load to your movements. You can perform so many movements with just one kettlebell. Here’s a video of the kettlebell triplet.
  • Weighted vest: Add load to bodyweight movements and go for a nice long walk, or Ruck!

As another saying goes, success favors the prepared. There are some quick, easy, and relatively inexpensive means to keep moving at home—right now and in the future, no matter the reason you are not able to get out of the house.

We will be getting back to the gym really soon, and I can’t wait for that day to come to see you all getting after it in the place you call your fitness home. Until then, make your home a place for fitness!

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

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: exercise at home equipment kettlebell TRX videos core exercises core stability exercise bands

7 Things You Can Do to Avoid Cabin Fever

GettyImages-1185186125It goes without saying; we’re living through some pretty odd times. With the onset of COVID-19, many of our lives have been flipped on their heads. For some, there has been less structure, and maybe a little more downtime, and that has the potential to make even the sanest of them all go a little stir-crazy.

Here are a few things that you can do today to help break the monotony (or break that Netflix binge) and add some flavor to your day.

Learn to play a new card or board game.

Remember that time your friends from Michigan asked if you wanted to play Euchre, and you responded with a shrug and said, “I’ve never played, can you teach me?” But they were too competitive to have the patience to do so? Is this oddly specific? Yes. But now is a perfect time to pick up a new game to play around the kitchen table. Whether its Euchre (I’m still working on it), Catan, or even perfecting your Poker face, take a break from professional development and instead work on learning a new game.

Play a round of Chopped: Home Pantry Edition.

For those of you who don’t frequent the Food Network, Chopped is a show in which four chefs compete against each other. In each round there are four “basket ingredients.” These basket ingredients must be used in some way, shape, or form, and typically end up being some off-the-wall, unexpected item that must then be used to create an appetizer, entrée, or dessert. After you’ve reorganized your pantry (because goodness knows there’s time now), take that flavored olive oil, an overly ripe banana, a packet of oatmeal, and a can of tuna and see what you come up with! Okay, maybe use some more tasty items, but you get the idea. Now, grab that apron and get cooking!

Reorganize your living room furniture.

This has the built-in benefit of killing two birds with one stone. Not only do you try your hand at being Joanna Gaines (you know, from Fixer Upper), but you also engineer a little extra movement into your day. Sometimes just a quick rearrangement can make that space you’ve been spending a lot more time in feel brand new. Just make sure you don’t take it a step too far and channel your inner Chip Gaines for a demo-day. (Jokes!)

Make a scrapbook of that awesome vacation from 3 years ago.

We all know you probably took a bajillion pictures when you were out West on that road trip, many of which didn’t make the Instagram cut. So break out the scissors, cardboard, stickers from all the places you explored, and of course all the goofy photos you snapped, and get down to business!

Finally finish that book that’s been sitting on your bedside table.

We’ve all seen those articles, right? Something along the lines of “How CEOs Read 247 Books a Week.” Well now’s a great chance to pick up that half-read book and finish the darn thing! Even if you’re not a bonafide bookworm, maybe check out something like a history of your favorite sports team, a biography from a standup comedian you love, or the book version of one of your favorite movies or shows to see how they compare.

Call a loved one or a friend you want to reconnect with.

While we’re adjusting to this new normal and practicing social distancing, that doesn’t mean that social isolation has to be part of the equation. As humans, we are social creatures by nature. So, that quick phone call to check in on your mom or dad, your good friend from college, or that coworker you really miss can go a long way in lifting your spirits, as well as theirs.

If you’re restless, get up and move!

As a blog writer for a fitness center, this one may seem like “duh, Lauren, we get it.” And I know most of us have probably had our Facebook page, Instagram timeline, and Twitter feed bombarded with versions of at-home workouts. But I think there is a lot of truth behind the notion that movement is medicine. If you’re restless, do a one-minute workout. If the weather’s nice where you are, get outside for a breath of literal fresh air. If you have a makeshift garage gym, blast some “Eye of the Tiger” and duplicate a Rocky training montage. However you choose to move, chances are you’ll come out in a better mood on the other side.

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

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

Topics: attitude mindset illness prevention mental health quarantine covid-19 coronavirus

Planning Your 4 Week Meal Plan

GettyImages-980276548(1)The Coronavirus can’t stop Spring from coming, but it can be detrimental to our health and prevent us from enjoying the beauty Spring has to offer. It is important to stay on-top of your health and take care of your immune system.

WEEK 1: Planning Your 4 Week Meal Plan

It is important to have a 4-6 week plan for you and your family, in the event of being quarantined and practicing social distancing. Creating a nutritious, yet minimally perishable menu can be a daunting task. It is important to meet nutrient needs but ensure the foods are either shelf-stable, can be frozen, and/or last longer periods in the fridge.

Step 1: Determine the caloric needs of the people in your household. To determine caloric needs, see the Dietary Guidelines. That will be important when you start planning the meals, because this will drive the portion sizes and ensure you are buying enough to meet the needs of all members.

Step 2: Consider budget. Knowing your budget will guide your decisions.

Step 3: Consider your storage space. Storage space is important to consider, because one with a lack of freezer space wouldn’t want to plan a ton of meals with frozen goods and opt for more low-sodium canned vegetables and canned fruits in water. On the contrary, one with a deep freezer can capitalize on some of the convenience, healthy frozen meals along with the frozen fruit and vegetable options.

Step 4: Start by planning breakfasts for 4-6 weeks. Consider having 2-3 breakfast options and rotate those options daily throughout the 4-6 weeks. Ideas include protein pancakes made from shelf-stable mixes or NIFS recipe below, oats topped with nut butter and frozen or canned fruit, or omelet with frozen or canned veggies (eggs can keep in the fridge for 4-6 weeks).

Step 5: Do the same thing for lunch and dinner. This is a good time to check out canned meats or freeze fresh meats and seafood (depending on storage space). Bread and cheeses can also be frozen and used for later times. Shelf stable foods include brown rice, chickpea pasta (has extra protein), sauces, whole grain pizza crusts, beans, legumes, canned vegetables (get low-sodium and rinse prior to use), canned fruits in water, tuna, canned chicken, jelly and nut butters.

Step 6: Plan 4-6 snack options, and buy enough for family members to have 1-2 snacks daily for the 4-6 weeks. Check out protein bars, granola bars, nuts, and fruits (canned, frozen, and dried)

Step 7: Reflect. Do all your days include each food group? Are there enough whole grains, vegetables, fruits, protein, and dairy or dairy-alternatives planned into each day? If not, go back and find a place to add the lacking nutrients. Having all food groups helps to reach vitamin, mineral, and fiber needs.

Step 8: Reach out to your Registered Dietitian if you need help!

RECIPE FOR THE WEEK: Protein Pancakes

Enjoy these protein-packed pancakes. They are easy to prepare, made with no refined grains and use ingredients that have a long shelf- and fridge-life.

GettyImages-1179137591Ingredients

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 banana (ripened)
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup egg whites
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 2 tbsp flax meal

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients until no clumps exist
  2. Heat skillet or griddle on medium-high heat.
  3. Pour ¼ cup mix on skillet per pancake. Once the edges start to look dry and bubble, flip the pancake to cook for another minute.
  4. Serve warm with toppings of choice.

Pro tips: *Instead of syrup, try pan-searing frozen berries over medium-high heat and pour them over the pancakes!

*Once your bananas ripen, freeze them to use them for future recipes.

If you want more convenience, check out Kodiak pancake mix, Krusteaz pancake mix, or Kroger brand protein pancake mix. All have whole grains and packed with protein!

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

If you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to contact our Registered Dietitian, Sabrina Goshen by e-mail at SGoshen@nifs.org.

Topics: nutrition healthy habits calories meals meal planning