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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Thomas's Corner - Stability Ball Warm Up Series

Greeting NIFS Friends!  Warm ups are a vital part of your workout as we have found that a good warm up can lead to a better workout performance, decreased chances for injury, and relief from soreness post-exercise (ultimately getting you back the gym sooner than later).  Your warm ups can become quite ritualistic and routine, which is fine, but sometimes spicing things up a little can benefit more than just your workout regiment.  Adding new movements and patterns, new equipment and tools, and having your body adjust to these challenges could help you overcome stagnation and rejuvenate your program.  

The stability ball adds a plethora of movements that directly impact target areas such as the torso, hips, and shoulder. For beginners to exercise, these patterns begin to train the body for more complex movements as well as injury prevention caused by a potential deconditioned starting point.

Give these stability ball warm up exercises a try!


Stability Ball Warm Up Series


This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.
Topics: injury prevention warmup stability stability ball

Testing Progress Toward Your Athletic Performance Goals

GettyImages-1067160268In a world where people want results in an instant and take drastic measures to achieve those results as fast as possible, developing strength, power and athleticism in a long-term aspect is often overlooked. For any fitness-related result or outcome, improvements take time. Fat loss, overall strength and/or power in any particular lift, speed, and agility are all seeds that needed to be watered for a while before noticeable and permanent changes are evident.

In an athletic realm, this leads to the importance of the “testing” process and the use of that process over the course of months, semesters, and years. As a young athlete or athlete fresh out of high school entering the college world of sports and strength and conditioning, this is how you monitor your success and validate that the training and improvements you are making are the things that are actually working. Numbers do not lie. If your times in specific agility drills or weights have increased in certain lifts, obviously you have made improvements. If those numbers have not changed or have decreased, you need to address methods of training or overall compliance/intensity with the program.

Below are five performance tests that measure multiple aspects of your overall athletic profile.

40-Yard Dash

The 40-yard dash, or “40,” is one of the most common drills we use to measure straight-line speed. Sure, many sports are played in a multidirectional way, but overall top speed is an important puzzle piece. Setting up and performing this drill is relatively simple; however, you may need two people to help with the timing.

First, set up two cones exactly 40 yards apart. From here, go to the starting line and sprint from start to finish. The clock or stopwatch should start on your very first movement from the starting line and stop when your body crosses the finish line.

5-10-5 Shuttle

The shuttle run is one of my personal favorites. It allows you to see an athlete’s explosiveness and change-of-direction skills. With lateral movements being so important in many sports, this gives you a good idea of where an athlete stands. To set up the 5-10-5 Shuttle, you need three cones spaced out evenly at 5 yards apart. The athlete starts at the middle cone with their hand on the ground. They run to the right or left cone and touch the ground (5 yards), across the whole setup and touch the ground (10 yards), and sprint through the middle cone (5 yards). Timing of this test starts when the athlete’s hand raises up from the ground and finishes when they cross the middle cone.

Vertical/Broad Jump

Jumping ability is another “power” aspect that translates very well into success on the field or court. The vertical jump test is generally performed with a Vertec, or a piece of equipment where you stand underneath and jump to touch as many of the rings overhead as you can. Other than obtaining the Vertec, the test is fairly simple. First, you want to measure your standing reach, or simply the height that you can reach with your arm outstretched overhead. As I mentioned before, you jump and hit as many of the rings on the Vertec as you can. When the maximal height has been reached, you subtract the standing reach number to get the vertical jump height.

Another great way to measure power would be with the standing broad jump. For this, all you need is a tape measure that is on the floor with a starting line for the athlete. To perform, the athlete starts behind the starting line and jumps out as far as possible and lands under control. The length of the broad jump is measured wherever the back of the athlete’s shoe lands.

Bench/Squat/Trap Bar Deadlift

In the preceding sections we looked at sprint and jump measurements, but we can’t leave out our strength numbers. Like the great Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell said, “Weak things break.” Truer words have never been spoken. Because of this, we want to measure those strength gains with every opportunity that we have. For me, my main three strength lifts that I measure are the bench press, the squat (front squat or back squat, depending on the athlete), and trap bar deadlift. These are three main staples in my programming and I always want to see if the way that I’m implementing them in workouts is yielding the best results.

These may look a little different for you. You may choose DB Bench Press, Pull-Ups, Farmer’s Carries, or something similar. My recommendation is to be sure that whatever you are testing are things that you are continually working on. It’s tough to test a back squat if you haven’t back squatted in 8–10 weeks.

Overall, the moral of the story is testing to see whether what you are doing is helping you achieve your goals is vital. Without testing you are just guessing. Remember, numbers do not lie!

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

Topics: strength goals speed athletic performance fitness goals fitness assessment agility testing fat loss

Gambling with Sports Injury: Warning Signs and Recovery

GettyImages-512753571Sports careers, whether you are junior varsity or a hall of fame professional, all come to an end at some point. Often, these endeavors are marred with setbacks due to injuries ranging far and wide and sometimes spanning years. During competition and in the spirit of the moment, athletes sometimes push their bodies and minds beyond what was thought possible, resulting in amazing feats—but also potential injuries.

Don’t Play Through Your Injuries

Injuries that occur when we push our bodies to the limit can become more pronounced when an athlete decides to continue activities instead of receiving timely treatment. Once commonplace, playing through injuries was more accepted in the past. However, with modern sports medicine and advanced technology, sports enthusiasts can enjoy longer, more productive careers than ever before due to increased injury awareness and preventative maintenance.

The adage “listen to your body” still rings true. Although you might not know what you are listening for, you can assess your situation and make smart decisions to help prevent more serious injury.

How Do You Know When You’ve Overdone It?

Symptoms of sports injuries and illness can vary, and anytime you have a serious concern about your health, refer to your primary care physician. Because every person experiences pain differently, resulting in a wide threshold, you may need to seek advice and consult a professional to help assess your situation. Here are some of the most common symptoms of injuries, according to Harvard Health.

  • Chest pain: Although this goes without saying, your heart is the most vital muscle in the body. Although coronary artery disease is not curable, treatments make it possible to decrease the chances for heart attacks (which may occur when a deconditioned individual is subjected to extreme strenuous exertion).
  • Difficulty breathing: Similar to chest pain, difficulty breathing can be a sign of more serious underlying issues with not only the lungs but also the heart and blood pressure. With high blood pressure, exercises such as sprinting and powerlifting typically put a lot of strain on the heart.
  • Joint swelling and pain: The swelling of a joint can range from tendon, ligament, or muscle injury to arthritis in the joint. It is good to know whether you are experiencing injury or arthritis because this will determine your level of treatment.

How to Recover and Get Back in the Game

These symptoms are common and can happen to almost anyone who exercises. Many other factors such as genetics, age, and medical history all play a role—not only in your injury, but also your healing process. “Getting back on the horse” is something we eventually want to do (once we are healed).

Here are a few tips that can get you back on the road to recovery without jeopardizing your health.

  • Before beginning a new workout program, meet with a fitness professional who can assess your physical fitness levels. Many tests are available, the Functional Movement Screen (or FMS) is designed to not only pinpoint potential red flags, but also to prescribe routines intended to better your movement patterns and decrease your chances for injury.
  • Beginning a proactive fitness program that targets your weaknesses and strengths can also help decrease your chances for injury. A program that identifies your strengths and uses them is good, but you also need to make sure your weaknesses are addressed. As these weaknesses become stronger, as a whole, you will become stronger.
  • Moving your workout to a more low-impact setting might also help. The pool adds a great opportunity to create exercise but not put stress on the joints. We know that swimming takes some skill, but just treading water can be a great way to burn calories. Depending on availability, zero-gravity treadmills and water treadmills are often used in the professional athlete world to get athletes moving (technology never ceases to amaze me).

Not sure about swimming? Check out these blogs by NIFS staff regarding the impact of swimming and some great ideas to help you get started.

Muscleheads rejoice and evolve!

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

Topics: Thomas' Corner swimming injury prevention injuries sports recovery illness athletes student athletes joints low-impact

Staying Hydrated When Exercising This Summer

GettyImages-868150638Did you know the human body is composed of about 50 to 60 percent water? Throughout the day, your body uses and loses fluid by way of natural body processes such as sweating, breathing, creating saliva, making and excreting urine, and having bowel movements. Losing more water than you consume can quickly lead to dehydration, which typically presents as excess thirst, headache, dizziness, weakness, digestion problems, and/or nausea. These symptoms typically resolve once you rehydrate your body.

How Much Water Do I Need Each Day?

The amount of water needed each day is different for everyone and varies depending on your age, gender, weight and height, activity level, and health status. For example, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding or those with chronic diarrhea often have increased fluid needs, while some individuals, such as those with kidney disease or congestive heart failure, may need less. Consuming alcohol and caffeine may also increase fluid excretion, thus requiring an increase in fluid intake.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to hydration because you can achieve normal hydration status with a wide range of total water intake. Total water intake includes plain drinking water, water in beverages, and water that is found in food sources, such as in watermelon or cucumbers. On average, close to 20 percent of total fluid intake comes from food sources.

Instead of an established recommended intake level for water consumption, an Adequate Intake level for total water was set to prevent dehydration and its side effects. The Adequate Intake for total water for adult men and women is 3.7 liters and 2.7 liters each day, respectively. However, water consumption below the adequate intake doesn’t automatically put you at risk for dehydration. A good rule of thumb is to consume HALF of your body weight in OUNCES of water. For example, an individual who weighs 150 pounds should aim to consume 75 ounces of water each day (150 pounds / 2 = 75 ounces).

For more individualized fluid recommendations, please speak to your physician or a registered dietitian (RD/RDN).

How Do I Know If I’m Drinking Enough?

The simplest way to determine your hydration status is by looking at the color of your urine. Pale urine is typically indicative of proper hydration and gets darker the less hydrated you become. It is possible to consume too much water, so if you’re urinating frequently or your urine is clear, you may be drinking too much.

Suggestions for Staying Hydrated

Here are some tips for increasing your fluid intake.

  • Purchase a reusable water bottle.
  • Opt for water rather than soda and/or sugary drinks.
  • Wear clothing that is made of moisture-wicking material and fits loosely, to help you keep cool.
  • Bored of water? Add fruit to still or sparkling water. Try out some of these suggestions: Mint, lemon, and strawberry slices; cucumber and melon slices; orange and lime slices; apple slices and cinnamon sticks; cranberry and orange slices; orange slices and cloves; pineapple slices and raspberries.
  • Consume foods with a high water content such as watermelon and cantaloupe; strawberries; grapes; lettuce, cabbage and spinach; celery and carrots.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition summer hydration water outdoor exercise