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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Thomas Livengood

Recent Posts by Thomas Livengood:

Meet Metabolism Head On: Burn More Calories and Speed Up Weight Loss

Have you looked at yourself in the mirror, maybe a few pounds heavier, lacking youthful energy, and just tired, and said, “What in the world happened to me?” Maybe this is all too familiar, but, unless you have found the fountain of youth, you might have been searching for answers to questions mankind has been asking forever.

A lot of how your body ages has to do with not only wear and tear, but also nutrition, wellness, sleep, and genetics. Focusing on your metabolism, which is derived from and influenced by these factors and everything from the food you eat to how much you sleep, to how active you are, could be the gateway to figuring out what you can do to reach your goals and, more importantly, happiness.

What Causes Slow Metabolism?

Your metabolism is simply a chemical process in which your body converts things you eat into energy. What causes a slow metabolism? For starters, you must understand that metabolism is different for everyone depending on size (larger people burn more calories than smaller people), gender (females tend to carry less muscle mass than men do, leading to lower metabolic rates), and age (as we age, muscle density decreases, leading to lower metabolic rates). Your metabolism will decrease when there is less muscle present in the body. A fit 180-pound person may burn 1,800 calories, while a couch-potato 180-pound person might burn only 1,400 calories in a 24-hour period (according to mayoclinic.org).

How Can You Increase Your Metabolism?

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What can you do to improve your metabolism today and in the future? The most basic answers are exercise more and eat healthier, but here are some more ideas that you might not have thought of that can help boost your metabolism.

  • Eat breakfast every day. Eating breakfast will boost your metabolism by firing up the body processes earlier in the day. Not only does your body need fuel to power through until lunchtime, while you are digesting the food, more calories are being burned than if you hadn’t eaten anything at all.
  • Get more sleep. Going to bed earlier and getting the right amount of sleep will allow your body to regenerate properly. After a taxing day at work or in the gym, your body will only fully recover if it is given the proper rest needed to regrow. The fully rested body will be able to go 100 percent at the next training session and will be able to surpass previous achievements. (Bonus: While sleeping, it is hard to eat your dessert.)
  • Drink more water. Our bodies are largely made of water to begin with, but without proper hydration, some body functions and processes do not happen as they should. It has been said that drinking ice-cold water can also help increase your metabolism because your body expends heat/energy to warm itself once the cool water is in your stomach.

As you can see, these suggestions are not groundbreaking or out of touch with reality. Many people today neglect themselves and do not get these basic needs met, which is part of the reason they are not happy with the way they look and feel. If you are one of them, assess your current situation. Are you getting enough sleep, good enough nutrition, plenty of water, and plenty of exercise? If not, you might need to refocus your goals so that you can create the balance necessary to improve your metabolism.

NIFS can help! You can meet with a Health Fitness Specialist at NIFS to talk about your goals and schedule an appointment for a BOD POD and/or Resting Metabolic Rate test. This will help you set a benchmark and also set realistic goals for yourself. Be the best you can be as you meet your metabolism head on!

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

Topics: weight loss calories metabolism goals slow metabolism

Get Fit While Helping Others: Fitness Fundraising Events

GettyImages-616006792It’s staggering how many people in the world are affected directly and indirectly by health problems. You might not have an incurable disease, but there is a chance that someone you love does. Sometimes there are medications and treatments for these conditions, but not everyone receives the attention they need. Sometimes there are no mediations. Fortunately, people have organized charitable foundations that help find cures, medicines, and other aid for those in need.

Events for Raising Awareness and Money

In the fitness and wellness realm, it’s awesome when those who are trying to help others use fitness activities to help raise awareness and funds for research. In our community alone, there are several organized events that combine fitness and wellness with helping others. You can help yourself by getting exercise while helping others with their situation.

Here are some fundraising events that you might have heard of (and some that you might not have heard of) that incorporate fitness into raising awareness.

  1. Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure: Non-competitive run/walk event dedicated to raising money and awareness for breast cancer as well as honoring those who have or have had breast cancer.
  2. Indiana Tour de Cure: This is a bicycle event centered at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Participants enjoy riding on the actual Speedway track as well as several other courses ranging from 50m to 100m in distance. The purpose is to raise money for diabetes research and help those who have it fight the burdens that come with it.
  3. Fight for Air Climb: There is nothing easy about climbing stairs, especially when you have lung disease or any number of breathing-related issues. Fight for Air Climb is hosted by the American Lung Association and is centered around a strenuous stair climb at your local skyscraper.

If you missed these events, don’t worry; they will be around again soon. There are other events you can participate in that will help you and other people in need. Check out the Around Indy site for more information.

Try a NIFS Training Program

So, as you can see, being fitness minded doesn’t have to end with your third set of 10 on bench press. There are people out there who need support and help to overcome daily strife. NIFS’s staff is knowledgeable about events and can help you train for any event you are planning to take on. Help yourself and help everyone else by participating in one of these fitness events.

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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: cardio Thomas' Corner running NIFS programs small group training fundraising

Taking a Break from Good Nutrition and Fitness: The “Cheat Day”

GettyImages-84629295Can you really win by cheating? Well, the obvious answer is no. Morally, we know that cheaters aren’t supposed to win. If that is the case, why do we cheat ourselves through self-destructive behavior, known as cheat days, throughout the week?

After a long, hard week of work, with the addition of a strict training protocol and nutrition plan, sometimes we feel we need to take a day off, or even just a meal where there are no rules or responsibilities holding us down. These are called “cheat days” or “cheat meals.” They can be as simple as staying up late and having drinks with friends, or going to an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet on a Sunday afternoon. Are cheat days bad for you, or are they a good way to bridge the gap between unrealistic ideals and natural human behavior? This blog will look more closely at this question.

Indulging Often Defeats the Purpose

This day, for starters, is meant to be a built-in rewards program and motivation for those who have done well throughout the week (or weeks) leading up to the act of cheating. There are a few rules, though. Cheating multiple times per week (or everyday, for that matter) is no longer cheating; it is considered your normal routine. This probably means there are other issues that you might need to resolve.

For the cheat day to work, an established routine of exercise and nutrition has to be in place already. Several days of flawless nutrition coupled with workout plans help you earn that day, experience, or meal you want. This can be done at a maximum of once per week. We tend to devalue the indulgence after a few weeks, and it becomes less of an all-out binge and more of a planned day or meal (we want to feel good after a meal and not like garbage). In this case, the plan works and makes perfect sense.

Why We Need to Take a Break Sometimes

There’re only so many broccoli florets you can eat before you go mad, and only so many burpees you can do before your body gives out completely. Spicing up your life with cheat days eventually has restorative properties that help both mentally and physically. From socializing with friends to taking time to relax to giving yourself a pat on the back, it can help each of us differently and at the same time bring us all together by humanizing wellness and fitness.

Remember, though: you can’t cheat everyday or every other day. Consistency is your ticket to a splurge. Further, it doesn’t have to be about food. You can always reward yourself by going on vacations, buying yourself an outfit, or going to the spa.

Get Goal-Setting Help

NIFS can help. NIFS staffers are here to help you set realistic, measurable goals. Set up a time to meet and talk about goals, testing (before and after), and personal training.

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

Topics: nutrition motivation goal setting attitude wellness cheat days

Short Sleeps, Big Benefits: What a Power Nap Can Do for You

GettyImages-172211394Can you remember preschool when the teacher would turn down the lights and break out the cots? Nap time! You might not have had that exact experience, but as humans we are prone to napping. In our go-go-go life, time is money. To society, napping is seen as a luxury that we cannot provide ourselves and is usually seen as a sign of laziness.

Unfortunately, napping doesn’t pay the bills. Even so, many physicians as well as wellness-oriented CEOs have championed the idea that a little afternoon snooze is actually beneficial, and can not only provide enough rest to fight off fatigue, but improves your alertness, improves motor learning skills, boosts memory, and enhances creativity (Soong, 2010). Can napping actually make you a better employee at work, give you better results in the gym, or enable you to have a better social life with your family and friends? Yes, in fact, it can! Here is a closer look at napping and its benefits.

What Is the Optimal Nap Length?

First, I’d like to break down naps into two parts. The duration of nap that you are taking will be specific to you, but there is information that gives a good indication that for optimal power naps, 10 to 20 minutes of sleep will provide the best results. Longer naps can make you groggy; this is known as sleep inertia (Dvorsky, 2013). The longer naps, such as a 60- to 90-minute siesta, can put you in a state of REM (otherwise known as our dream state). There are some links to cognitive function associated with longer naps, but the time frame doesn’t always work with our hectic schedules.

When Is the Best Time to Nap?

The second part deals with necessity. Our naps can be planned, in which you know you are going to need extra rest for a long night, so you take a nap. Another would be an emergency nap, where you take a nap because you otherwise would have put yourself in a dangerous situation (think about getting sleepy behind the wheel and then deciding it’s best to pull over at a rest stop for a nap). Then there is the always popular appetitive napping—in other words, taking a nap for the sheer enjoyment of it (Dvorsky, 2013).

What Are the Benefits?

Your health and wellness can benefit from a simple, short nap. At the right length, your nap can provide much-needed alertness, mental capacity, creativity, energy, reduced stress (in turn reducing the risks of heart-related disease), and more effective learning abilities for children. With all these positives attached to something that can be done quite simply, it’s hard to understand why anyone would not take more naps. For businesses, your employees would be better workers; for teachers, your students would have a better chance of learning; and for you, your overall well-being would be improved. Don’t wait; take a nap TODAY!

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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.

There’s an App for That! Using Technology to Advance Wellness

GettyImages-822366038nTechnology can be incredibly good and bad for your health. It can be said that we, as a society, are much lazier now than the previous generations due to modern conveniences. These modern conveniences, some of which we might not be able to live without, allow us to circumvent exercise and work.

Knowing that physical fitness and technology are not always on the same page, there are some enlightened and engaging computer programs, phone apps, and personal devices that enable you to better monitor your health and track your progress. Here I will look a little more closely at these products are they pertain to your personal fitness.

Personal Health Monitoring

Taking a step beyond tracking your reps and sets, being able to monitor everything from calories in/out to diabetes management can be easier with software and activity tracking devices. For those with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, uploaded data can provide information to doctors to better serve you and adjust the medications you require to live. Future technology might make it possible to adjust medication doses remotely, without having to see a doctor, or help in an emergency.

Weight Management and Social Media

If used as a weight-management tool, tracking nutrition with a cell phone (whether you are entering the calories manually or scanning barcodes) is much faster and easier than ever. Writing down every single item you eat can be a challenging task, so this tool gives you more time to spend doing other things you love doing (hint: exercise). Many social apps are available that help link you to other likeminded individuals; so, finding a workout buddy or getting ideas for your next WOD (workout of the day) is at your fingertips.

The NIFS App

We are proud to offer a NIFS app that enables you to manage your own fitness center experience. App users can sign in with their cell phone (so there’s one less thing to have to carry on your keychain). This can be nice on days you are running late or are trying to maximize your time at the gym.

Secondly, you can use the app as a tool to set personal goals and track progress. Recording your workout on your favorite cardio equipment is as easy as taking a photograph of the machine and submitting it. The rest of the work is on us!

Thirdly, app users have access to the NIFS Group Fitness Calendar. The calendar can be useful when trying to decide between classes because there are descriptions of each class on the site. Finally, there are monthly challenges posted on the app that give you incentives to come and exercise. The app is free to download and is geared toward enhancing the member experience.

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Technology definitely gets a bad reputation when it comes to fitness, but there are many ways it can be helpful. If you are new to apps or fitness tools such as these, please ask a staff member to help you access this useful asset. As technology advances, we can only hope that there are positive links toward a healthier and more active society. Take a new approach to fitness; download the NIFS app today! See what we can do for you!

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

Topics: NIFS nutrition Thomas' Corner group fitness weight management diabetes technology apps activity trackers health monitoring

You Can Do It! NIFS Training Helps You Meet Your Goals (Part 2 of 2)

IMG_9434Following on from part 1 of this blog, where I talked about goals, there are few fitness achievements that are more impressive than completing a triathlon. The combination of running, swimming, and biking along with power, endurance, perseverance, and attitude are imposing, especially for those who have never completed one before. The traditional Ironman races are comprised of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run for a grand total of 140.6 miles.

The Event Takes Many Forms

You can’t wake up today, without training, and begin to dream of the goal of finishing such an event. Most people will never complete a true Ironman triathlon in this form, but there is hope. Through the vision of great-minded individuals, we have a multitude of triathlon options that tinker with the original chemistry to create some equally impressive challenges for all levels. There are indoor versions that are held in the friendly confines of a gym (usually with a pool); there are sprint triathlons that modify the distances to a 5,000-meter run, 250-meter swim, and 14-mile bike ride. Notably, NIFS has been involved with a women-only triathlon called the Go Girl, the Indianapolis event of which is held at Eagle Creek Park. With so many options available (more will surely surface), there is hope for our triathlon aspirations after all!

Why Would Anyone Want to Do a Triathlon?

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Why would you ever want to do a triathlon in the first place? Kris Simpson, a personal trainer and triathlon coach at NIFS believes, “It is great cross-training” and “it can test your mental toughness by getting out of your comfort zone, especially if you have been traditionally a single-sport athlete.” With that being said, getting into a structured training regimen with focused end goals might be just what you need to awaken your inner athlete and competitive drive.

According to another triathlon finisher, Kaci Lierman, competing the tri event is a monumental occasion. Hours of hard work cumulate in that moment when you step across the finish line and take a deep sigh of relief. A sense of accomplishment, wholeness, and pride overtake you. You can stop there if you like, but the endorphins from the actual high are so great, you might want to do it again and again.

NIFS Training for Triathlons 

How does one train for a triathlon event? You could train on your own, but with so many small details (think transition training, bike maintenance, and clothing management), it’s beneficial to seek guidance from a seasoned professional. NIFS offers such training, catering to beginners who are new to the event, as well as triathlon veterans trying to get personal bests.

NIFS group training currently includes the Go Girl Triathlon Training Program. Women who are interested in the training program can contact Kris Simpson at ksimpson@nifs.org for more details regarding times, dates, and signup deadlines. Don’t limit yourself to traditional triathlons; you can find an event that best suits your abilities, needs, and training module length. The commitment to greatness is huge, but the rewards are even bigger. Dream BIG!

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

Topics: Thomas' Corner running group training swimming triathlon biking triathlon training program Go Girl

You Can Do It! NIFS Training Helps You Meet Your Goals (Part 1 of 2)

Greetings! With spring right around the corner, it would seem appropriate to check in on some of your personal goals or resolutions you might have made over the last few months. How are you doing? I would imagine some are doing better than others, but you still have time to make significant change from here on out.

What keeps us from continuing our programs or “falling off the wagon?” Do the results not come fast enough? Do you not have the drive to finish the tough workout after a long day? Do you feel like you are all alone at the gym? If you are second-guessing yourself after those questions, you might need a reboot at the gym, a refocus on yourself. But also think about how group training can benefit your wellness both physically and mentally.

Small Group Training: All the Benefits of a Personal Trainer at a Lower Price

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Small Group Training at NIFS is a service for individuals who want the personal touch, accountability, and flair associated with working with a personal trainer, minus one big thing—the elephant in the room—the price tag. Being able to work directly with a trainer has its benefits, but also comes with a sticker price. One of the appeals of group training is that it makes a premium service affordable. Could you use the extra motivation? Does having set appointments offer accountability and help you keep commitments? Although you are sharing your trainer, there is plenty of opportunity for knowledge, technique, and personalization of your workout experience.

Work Out with Your Friends!

When you participate, you immediately will notice that there are others just like you (same goals, struggles, likes, and dislikes). Completing workouts becomes more doable with the backing of others. You get to know these people and they become your second family and support system at the gym. After a long, hard day at work, going to the gym might not seem appealing until you remember that all your friends are there!

Customized Workouts That Make Use of the Whole Gym

Finally, your group trainer will have the workouts ready for you when you get to the gym. Forget about coming to the gym and doing the elliptical for 30 minutes and calling it a day. Your workouts will enable you to experience your fitness center fully, so that you get the most out of your time, effort, and money. Expanding your own personal exercise library can have its benefits, too, especially when you are on your own and want to get creative with your routine.

Ultimately, we want you to succeed with your fitness goals. Being able to utilize group training is an asset at your doorstep; all you have to do is open the door! NIFS Small Group Training can be purchased at the NIFS Service Desk. Before you take that step, contact the NIFS Track Desk to set up a strategy session and fitness testing (both complementary with your membership) to ensure that your goals and health are in line with group training. Now is your time! Take control of your fitness and see the change.

In part 2 of this blog, you’ll see how NIFS training can help you with the huge goal of doing a triathlon.

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

Topics: NIFS Thomas' Corner motivation resolutions group training accountability personal trainer

Going for Gold: NIFS Winter Olympics Special Exercises

GettyImages-533291891.jpgEvery four years, the Winter Olympics shows up, and we are in awe of some of the most gifted athletes on the planet. Ice skaters gliding upon an edge like a razor blade, yet choreographed to music. Bobsledders who risk near death contently as they barrel through corners (mortals, like myself, need not apply). And the cross-country skiers boast some of the highest aerobic capacities of any athlete in the world. For the majority of us, riding down a hill on an inner tube does the trick, but that doesn’t mean we can’t infuse your workout with the tools to not only get a great workout, but dream for gold!

Looking around the fitness center, finding options to get into Olympic shape isn’t too difficult. With a little imagination, you can add these three exercises to your workout today with little or no skating, skiing, or bobsledding experience. Now get ready for the NIFS Winter Olympic Special: Going for Gold!

Helix Lateral Elliptical

If you want powerful legs, endurance, and balance, you might want to take a look at speed skating. Not unlike its summer Olympic running counterpart, speed skating requires a lot of practice. To accelerate, the skater pushes side to side, arms working to not only balance but also propel the body forward.

To simulate this motion, the Helix Lateral Elliptical allows you to safely perform the lower-body movement used in speed skating. Being able to do this exercise year round in the friendly confines of NIFS is a definite bonus. A built-in console allows you to track intensity and time. A quick Tabata (:20 on, :20 off) for 5–8 rounds can give your workout a nice lift. Be sure to try both directions!

Concept II Ski Erg

ski.jpgThe concept of cross-country skiing for sport comes from areas in which getting around is easier and more common on skis than trudging through the snow. Out of necessity and the evolution of transportation, people in the Nordic region of Europe are now famously known for producing some of the highest VO2 Max numbers in the world. Your VO2 Max is the quantification of how efficiently your body uses oxygen when you exercise.

With that being said, how can you get similar exercise without all the snow or burden of buying skis? Concept II, the company that makes rowing machines, designed a vertical rowing machine that can simulate the upper-body cross-country skiing pattern. Like the Helix, there is a console to track your progress, intensity, and time. Once you get the hang of the Ski Erg, you can see how far you can get in 60 seconds, rest, and then do it again!

Prowler Sled Push

Alex-Sled.jpgOne of the most fascinating events at the winter Olympics is the bobsled. A team of individuals, working as one, propels a bobsled down a narrow, icy chute. To get the sled going, the team relies heavily on otherworldly leg strength. The rest of the event takes skill and some luck, as this is a race to the finish line. The winning team usually has a complete balance of strength, skill, balance, and weight.

The exercise you can do at NIFS that mimics this movement most closely is the Prowler Sled Push. There are many sled options to choose from, but this one allows you to start in a standing position and requires you to physically push the weighted sled (no attachments needed). This can be done in several ways: heavy weights for short distance and lighter weights for longer duration as well as sprints. For a great partner routine, relay races are a perfect way to give you and some friends exercise and breaks. Have one person push the sled, while the other two are on the “ends.” As the sled approaches, the next person takes the sled-pushing responsibility and pushes it back to the starting point. This continues until a certain distance is reached or for time. Try to mark a 30-yard distance and continue this exercise for 2–3 minutes for one set. Be sure to enjoy your rest times!

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Whether you are looking for a new routine or really are dreaming about the Olympics, these three exercises are sure to give you a great workout. If anything, we can appreciate the hard work and dedication it takes to become an Olympian. For more fun fitness ideas, check back to the NIFS blog and social media outlets (YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter). Until next time, friends, dream big! Go for gold!

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

Topics: balance endurance rowing exercises winter skiing vo2 max olympics skating

Fitness Rescue 911: New Workouts for the New Year

GettyImages-668003598.jpgGreetings NIFS friends! Hopefully your New Year’s resolutions are keeping you more active at the gym and less active at the buffet line. All joking aside, getting back to the gym can be challenging, especially if you are not sure what to do when you get there or if you are burnt out on cookie-cutter workouts that are barely working anymore. With that being said, introducing new equipment, ideas, and strategies can be a daunting task. Don’t let that get you down, though, because we are here to rescue your workout!

Breathing life into your workout can have numerous benefits. Sometimes the benefits allow us to break through plateaus, keep us interested in what we are doing (refocusing our goals), and give us variety (aka “the spice”). Highlighted in this blog are three pieces of equipment that may be overlooked by the simple reason that we just don’t know what it is or what it can do for our body. Without a doubt, just trying these exercises will not only be challenging, but also effective as you strive to reach your fitness goals.

Tire and Sledgehammer Workouts

The tire and sledgehammer workout was derived out of simplicity, necessity, and function. There are two main exercises to consider here, tire flips and sledgehammer strikes. With an optional smaller tire, one does not have to possess the strength of Paul Bunyan to complete this task (but there are bonus points if you do). To flip the tire, first squat low and get your fingers under the edge of the tire. As you stand up, use your legs and drive your body into the tire, leveraging it up on its end. The tire should tip over easily and come to rest square on the ground.

The other exercise is called sledgehammer strikes. This is not much different than chopping wood or driving a railroad spike. Because your goals may not include having the strength of a lumberjack, there are several sledgehammer weight options to choose from, ranging from 8lb to 16lb. Strike directly in the middle of the tire to avoid a glancing strike. Try this in your next workout:

5 tire flips, 20 strikes (10 each side) for 4 sets

Slideboard

The slideboard was designed as a means of training lateral movements as well as developing balance and stability in the lower body and core. If done properly, this exercise can also produce a high-intensity workout all while gliding side to side. As an application, the strength and power developed from this lateral movement translates well to the world of speed skating, where athletes are known for incredible leg strength.

Because the gliding might not feel as natural to everyone, there are other exercises to consider, including Slideboard Hamstring Curls and Slideboard Mountain Climbers. For both exercises, you will need to use the booties to decrease friction (otherwise, the exercises won’t work). For Hamstring Curls, position your body toward the end of the board, with your knees bent and heels on the slick part of the board. Keeping your back flat and head down, raise your hips fully. Finally, extend your legs and return to the starting position. For beginners, this can be done with one leg at a time.

The other exercise, Mountain Climbers, is done by positioning the body at the end of the slide board in an “all-fours” position. With your toes on the slick part of the board, rise up so that your knees are off the ground. At a quick tempo, slide your legs inward, being sure to alternate legs. Additional pushups can add some variety to this movement. Try this in your next workout:

12 Hamstring Curls, 30 seconds of Mountain Climbers x 4 sets

Slosh Pipes

One thing to consider when making workouts: most of the good equipment and exercises have already been invented. The slosh pipe, a unique, homemade piece of equipment, is both odd and beautiful at the same time. It allows us to think and work so far out of the box that everyone can benefit in some way from using it. Basically, a slosh pipe is a PVC tube (3 or 4 inches in diameter and anywhere from 40 to 96 inches long) filled halfway with water and sealed on both ends. The water is meant to slosh around inside the pipe, hence the name Slosh Pipe.

Thinking outside the box, the pipes can be used to develop strength as well as core, balance, and stability. Two exercises to try here include the half-kneeling overhead hold and the walking lunges. The first exercise, the overhead hold, is pretty self-explanatory: find a slosh pipe and hold it over your head for time. The pipe needs to be moderately heavy, but if there is a question about safety, always have a spotter on overhead lifts such as this one. As you hold that weight overhead from a half-kneeling position (one knee up, one knee down), seconds turn into minutes. There is a constant rebalance happening with your core, as water tips one way or the other. Grip strength and overall upper-body strength are challenged as fatigue sets in. Lower the weight back to the floor with the help of a partner.

The other exercise is a walking lunge. This is accomplished by holding the slosh pipe in the crooks of your elbows and performing a walking lunge. The same effects as the overhead hold are prevalent. Try this in your next workout:

45–60-second half-kneeling Overhead Hold, 20 walking lunges x 4 sets

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As you can see, there are several pieces of equipment at the gym that you may have overlooked. Keep looking; there are more than you think. The NIFS staff of Certified Fitness Professionals strives to give you not only a good workout, but also to introduce you to new exercises and cutting-edge equipment. If you want a new routine to save your resolution from disaster, contact NIFS’ Fitness Rescue to set up a strategy session, testing, and workout.

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

Topics: NIFS Thomas' Corner workouts challenge new year personal trainer hammer workouts fitness rescue slideboard

Core Exercises to Take You from Snore to ROAR!

GettyImages-514734718.jpgSome of the number-one fitness goals are to strengthen the core, lose belly fat, and get six-pack abs. These are all pretty good goals that can be addressed by a fitness professional and a dietitian, but everyone might not have that luxury. From a traditional perspective, we have mainly used a few ab exercises such as crunches, sit-ups, and variations of them. For the most part, these are better than the alternative—nothing at all.

But what if there is a way to get more out of your workouts that allows you to get core exercise without doing sit-ups and crunches? If you are tired of the same old ab routine, or if you are finding it hard to get to the floor to do exercise, this may be exactly what you need to know to break plateaus and possibly change your life.

How You Use Your Core

Out of the many instances in which you use your core (basically your torso, minus your arms and legs), you could find occasions where you use sit-up movements, but not to the extent that we train them (hello 300 sit-ups, yes we are looking at you!). Overall, normal functions include standing; walking (sometimes up and down stairs); sitting at a desk, in the car, or in a recliner; and standing some more. The core really doesn’t move that much; however, it does stabilize all the time. Therefore, it would make sense to train for stability rather than movement, at least some of the time. This is true for everyone from beginners to seasoned athletes, and from young to elderly. Core stability is a part of your life and you use it all the time.

Before I talk about these exercises, know that good form and good posture is the backbone that makes this all work. This goes for every exercise, but also includes standing, walking, and sitting. People tend to slouch, mainly because it’s easier to do than sitting up or standing tall with good posture. Unfortunately, slouching does not activate the core at all. Good posture, however, allows the core to engage (which also helps in the calorie-burning process throughout the day). Focusing on this daily will help strengthen the core, even when you are not at the gym.

Core Exercises and Techniques

In addition to focusing on posture, you can easily add several other exercises and techniques to any routine.

  1. Plank: Create a plank with your body. Your back must be flat; if not, you can go to your knees or introduce an incline. Proper form is imperative. To increase the difficulty, I suggest adding a leg-lift motion, alternating legs.
  2. IMG_2617.jpgAnti-rotational holds: Using either a cable machine or bands, stand perpendicular to the anchor point while holding your handle directly in front of your midpoint. To increase the intensity, I suggest introducing a kneeling or half-kneeling position, making the core work even harder.
  3. Suitcase carry: This is an adaptation to the farmer’s carry. Instead of using two balanced weights, I suggest using only one weight on one side (think about carrying a heavy suitcase through the airport). Try to keep the top of your shoulders parallel to the ground. To increase the intensity, I suggest trying the same walking pattern, but on a narrow line. This will enhance the balance difficulty. You can also go in reverse!
  4. Single-arm dumbbell press: This is a spin on a traditional exercise, the chest press. Using a flat bench and only a single dumbbell, proceed to doing a normal press pattern. If you place your other hand on your stomach, you should feel muscles in there working to keep you from rolling off the bench. You will have to engage your core to maintain posture, though. Be sure to keep your head, back, and feet in contact with the bench and floor respectively.
  5. Overhead sit and stand: What is more functional than sitting and standing? In order for you to sit and stand, your core is engaging constantly. To increase the intensity, begin by sitting and standing without using your hands. Once that is easy, try holding a weight plate or medicine ball overhead while you sit to the box and stand. Notice how much more your core is working?

As you can see, several exercises and techniques are available to assist your core training regimen. Adding one or more of these will add some much-needed diversity that will not only keep you interested in exercise but also able to break through plateaus that may have been giving you trouble for years.

If you want more information, contact a fitness professional or personal trainer at NIFS to develop a strategy to build your own core exercise knowledge library.

Knowledge is power.

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

Topics: muscles core strength functional movement posture personal trainer stability core exercises core exercise core stability plank plateaus