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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Thomas Livengood

Recent Posts by Thomas Livengood:

Balancing Act: How to Improve Your Balance—and Quality of Life

Screen Shot 2019-04-11 at 12.19.41 PMImagine a tightrope walker, gracefully walking their path across their suspended highwire. An incredible amount of balance is required, along with stability and strength, to ensure that the performer maintains their position on the rope. Now think about balance as it applies to you and your profession or daily life. You might not even think about it, but you use balance every day. Things that you take for granted, such as walking down stairs, putting on a pair of pants, and getting out of your car require some level of balance, or else we would most likely take a tumble. Thankfully, there are exercises and routines designed to improve and train balance that transfer nicely to daily life.

As with any limitation or injuries, be careful and mindful of the doctor’s recommendations. Loss of balance could be a sign that you need to be checked out by your physician. That being said, we know that exercise can be great, but we would regard and yield to the utmost safety when approaching anyone who may be at risk or falling due to balance issues.

If you have come to the conclusion that your balance needs help, there is good news for you! Like most facets of life, balance can be improved. The answer to a question as simple as, “If you want to run a 5K in 20 minutes, what would you do?” is RUN! So, if you want to get better balance, what should you do? Practice balancing. You do not have to walk a tightrope on day one, but there are many exercises and fitness tools designed to help your balance improve.

Balance Exercises

Try the following exercises and activities, and see how you do with balance, then incorporate them into your routine. Assess your balance from time to time to see how you have improved.

  • Stand on an unstable surface. Using an AirEx Pad, time yourself standing on one foot. Other exercises can be done while standing on the pad such as lunges, squats, and dumbbell overhead press, utilizing the unstable surface to challenge your balancing ability. Other unstable surfaces you may use as you advance include the BOSU ball, half foam roller, and sand.
  • Try unilateral exercises. Improving your leg strength through unilateral exercise is another great way to improve your balance. Some examples of these exercises include lunges, split squats, and my personal favorite, the single-leg sit and stand on a box. For this exercise, you will want to find a box that is the appropriate height (around chair height). Start from a seated position, then come to a complete stand using only one leg. Try to sit back down onto the box under complete control. This can be progressed with weights and movement patterns such as the overhead press.
  • Join a group fitness class. Another way to improve balance is through group fitness classes. NIFS offers several classes that emphasize balance, such as BOSU conditioning and some that help you develop balance such as yoga and BODYCOMBAT. As stated above, the more you practice your balance, the better chance you have to improve it. In BOSU conditioning, we can progress and regress any exercise to fit your needs. The exercise doesn’t have to be impossible, but it should be challenging. Check out this NIFS blog by our own Tony Maloney for more about BOSU balance.

Improve Your Quality of Life

With the improvement of balance comes an overall improvement in your quality of life. Being able to trust your steps as you walk is important, as is being able to do things in life you love to do. Getting better is just a process and takes time. You must take that step forward; otherwise, you might be on shaky ground. For tips and exercises to promote balance, contact a Fitness Specialist at NIFS or join one of our many group fitness classes.

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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: yoga group fitness balance exercises BODYCOMBAT BOSU quality of life ADLs

How to Superset Like a Boss: Speedy Workouts with Big Results

GettyImages-878254216Have you ever tried working out in a time crunch or just wanted to get more exercise in a shorter period of time? Maybe you would like to speed through, but would rather have a plan of action to make your path a little easier. You are in luck because there is a fitness concept that does all of this while making sure you get a great workout. The idea is called supersetting, but it’s not as simple as you might think. To develop a great superset workout, you need to understand how a few concepts really work.

What Is a Superset?

A superset is more than just a two-exercise “mini circuit.” First of all, for these to work the way they are intended, you will have to reconstruct your fitness plan to allow for two exercises, back to back, that complement each other. Basically, the superset exercises need to work different muscle groups all together. For example, I could do a set of pushups (which primarily work the chest and secondarily the shoulders and triceps) and then follow that with a set of pull-ups (which primarily work the Latissimus Dorsi and secondarily the biceps and other back muscles). Another example would be bicep curls and triceps extensions. These are usually a great superset, especially for a time crunch.

Where many people get into a snag is when they try to superset two exercises where both movements incorporate the same muscle and movement pattern. Although it might be a great workout, a traditional superset wouldn’t ask you to do a lat pull-down followed by a pull-up (this would be a basic “burnout” style of exercise that works, but for other reasons).

How to Have a Successful Workout

Now that we have defined the superset, here are a few tips to help make sure your workout is successful.

  • Keep it simple. First, try to keep the movement patterns simple and basic. I wouldn’t superset a complex exercise, such as a clean and jerk or a Turkish get-up. These exercises have many elements, which makes them unique and requires more attention to details.
  • Choose proximal exercises. Second, I suggest picking exercises in your fitness center that are relatively near to each other, so you don’t have to track all over the gym and waste time. This is why a bicep curl and triceps extension work well together. You can use the dumbbell area in your gym and have the weights right there ready to go.
  • Pick exercises that require less recovery time. Finally, bigger lifts usually take longer time periods to recover from. I suggest that if you are taking several minutes to recover from your first superset exercise before you do the next, you might need to consider a different exercise. I suggest that your rest be between 30 seconds to a minute maximum.

Developing workout plans that are appropriate and goal-oriented has always been the hallmark of the NIFS health fitness specialists. Being able to superset properly might not come as easy as you may think, but a staff member can help you make wise choices. You can set up a time to meet and evaluate your goals, do one of our numerous fitness-related tests and screens, or talk about workouts that you are doing. We are more than happy to assist with your programming. Followups are also important, so if you haven’t met with a trainer in a while, please stop by and set up an appointment and keep moving forward.

Until next time, muscleheads evolve and rejoice!

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

Topics: fitness center Thomas' Corner workouts speed superset

Tricks of the Trade: Exercise Coaching Cues to Avoid Injury and Pain

IMG_7980Coaching cues can really make a big difference in the outcome of your workouts. Sometimes it means the difference in whether you get injured during an exercise. Or are you even working the muscles you originally intended to use? Without cues, it would be foolish to have a client jeopardize their health because they saw someone else do a movement incorrectly or think they read it in a magazine or online. This is not to say that there are not many ways one can do to their exercises, or modifications to spice up their workout plan, but you need to make sure you aren’t compromising yourself and goals in the process.

I aim to clarify several cues you might have heard a trainer speak to their client, or have read about in a magazine or online. With this knowledge, hopefully you will have an opportunity to make more informed and educated decisions about the exercises you are doing in the fitness center.

Wall Sit Knee Pain

A great exercise to utilize on leg day is the tried-and-true wall sit. Due to the nature of the exercise and positioning of the body, it can cause a real strain on the knees.

Dissecting the exercise shows which muscles are active during a wall sit. This includes the gluteus, hamstrings, quads, and calves. The movement is basically a static squat while pressed against a wall, utilizing the principles of isometrics. Lowering the body to a position in which the knee is bent at 90 degrees and the back and head are flat against the wall is ideal.

Knee pain can be a side effect; if so, using caution is always rule #1. To help alleviate some discomfort, some cues to consider include the following:

  • Make sure your feet are flat on the floor.
  • Move your feet away from the wall.
  • Widen your stance a little.
  • Slightly point your toes outward at an angle.

You will still be using the same muscles, but the emphasis will shift away from the knees and more into your powerful glutei muscles. I also cannot stress it enough: keep your head back against the wall and your cervical spine in a neutral position. For an added challenge, you can try being in a wall-sit position, then add in a bicep curl to accentuate the movement.

Overhead Shoulder Press Pain

Yet another staple exercise you will see in the gym is the overhead press. There are many variations to consider, some with free weights and some with selectorized machines. Both ways, potentially, will get the job done, if done properly. The shoulder press is performed by pressing one or two dumbbells or a barbell overhead (if using free weights), or with a designated overhead press machine from your favorite selectorized machine line.

A typical issue that arises during a shoulder press is general overall pain in the shoulder itself, and sometimes discomfort in the upper middle back. If there are no underlying issues with the shoulder, this might only be a technique issue that could be resolved with proper cueing. You can discover whether you do have an underlying shoulder problem by completing a Functional Movement Screening (FMS) at NIFS.

Cues to consider here include the following:

  • Never allow the bar to travel behind your head or neck.
  • Try to keep your elbows forward of your shoulders as you press overhead.
  • Lower the weight until your hands are about at eye level, then press.
  • Use dumbbells only when your skill and experience level allows for it.

Lifting really heavy weight, such as during Olympic lifting, can also be hazardous and warrant special consideration. Sometimes an injury occurs during an overhead Olympic movement, but often injuries happen when a weight is being lowered to the starting position, safely to the ground.

Dropping weights from overhead is permissible when the weight being used gets to a range that cannot be safely managed on the descent. At this point, it is advisable to drop the weight, but there is a right and wrong way to drop. Consulting with an Olympic lifting coach or professional along with experience is the best way to learn how to drop the weights in a controlled and safe manner. Ideally, you are going to be safe, and the equipment maintenance guy appreciates your courteous and safe lifting efforts.

Screen Shot 2019-01-29 at 10.30.09 AM

Lat Pulldowns, the Safe Way

Our final cue is for the Lat Pulldown, which is a variation of a pull-up, using a selectorized machine. Although the motion and muscles are the same, the lat pulldown is an easier way to get good repetitions at an otherwise challenging movement. This doesn’t mean you can flub the exercise at the expense of your health.

Ever since the beginning of strength training, an iconic image in the gym is the “behind the neck or head” lat pulldown. A trainer who cares about you will tell you not to do this movement because it’s bad. “But why not?” you may ask. Without a doubt this is a high-risk exercise, but not for the reason you might be thinking. The equipment you are using is checked, double-checked, and deemed safe, but there is always a chance that the cable will give way, causing the bar or handle to come at your noggin at a high rate of speed. We can all agree that a behind the neck lat pull down is not worth a concussion (or worse).

Here are some cues for a safer lat pulldown:

  • Grab the bar or handle with hands evenly spaced,
  • Pull the bar or handle down to around eye level in front of the body and control the motion both on the way up and back down.

Many people may have other perceptions, but safety is the number-one priority when you are a personal trainer.

***

Do you have a trainer who has given you cues for exercise? Cues can really make a big difference. If you are interested in safer, more effective exercise, and learning about how your body works in exercise, contact a NIFS personal trainer or health fitness specialist to schedule a meeting to discuss your goals, questions, and next steps to a better workout. Getting the most out of your time at the gym also makes sense. Now get back to work!

Muscleheads rejoice and evolve!

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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: Thomas' Corner injury prevention pain personal training exercises coaching functional movement screen cues

Leg Day Workouts for Non-Squat Enthusiasts

GettyImages-622809280For some people, leg day at the gym is the greatest single day of the week. For others, however, there couldn’t be a more grueling and loathsome experience. We all know that leg workouts are essential to our total-body fitness plans and that there are consequences to not doing leg day, like becoming internet memes.

Reasons People Skip Their Leg Workouts

Some of the reasons people do not do leg day include knee pain, hip pain, after-workout soreness, poor technique, and sometimes mechanical reasons (your body just can’t do squats due to anatomy). Whatever the reason may be, you still need to address your lower body and quit skipping leg day.

I, for one, have been guilty of skipping leg day from time to time, but I know that there are important benefits to doing the workouts. The main reasons I do not like doing the exercises began with just being tired of standing at work all day after a great leg day. It made the rest of my day brutal. You might feel the same way, but it’s just part of the process that your body needs to go through to get stronger and better.

A very plausible reason some people skip leg day could be that they decided to start a workout “split” (each day of the week dedicated to a body part—Monday is chest day, Tuesday is bicep day, etc.). With the split, you would have to spend a lot of time at the gym to ensure each body part is worked each week—a minimum of 5-6 days per week to do the job. If you have a life event come up, such as a work meeting, a kid’s birthday party, or an illness, you will need to skip a day this week to deal with that situation. What happens is that people will skip the day they like the least, leg day. When next week rolls around, it will have been two weeks since your last leg day. That’s not good.

Leg Workout Ideas

Here are some ideas for leg workouts that are set up for beginners and people who are not fans of squats. You will see a lot of familiar exercises that will give you benefits. Hopefully, with the right motivation, you will become better at leg day.

  1. Deadlift: This can be done with a barbell, dumbbells, or even kettlebells. This link shows a variation of a deadlift called a trap bar deadlift. As you can see, the legs are definitely getting a lot of attention, while good form can be easily distinguished.
  2. Lunge: Although this exercise is about as popular as squats, the benefits are equally impressive. Not all lunges are the same. Check out this example of a lunge variation that you can easily add to your workout.
  3. Hip press machine: We don’t always want to use machines, but in this case, the hip press machine is a great way to get your legs and hips stronger and more ready for squats. Check out this video that highlights a hip press machine.

Leg day doesn’t have to be the most dreaded day of the week. You do not have to hide from your leg workouts any longer. Start off small and smart. Talk to a Health Fitness Specialist at NIFS. They will not only help you set up a workout tailored to your needs, but also monitor your progress through benchmarks you can set at your free strategy session. Words of wisdom: Do not become an internet meme because you skipped leg day!

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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: Thomas' Corner workouts videos squat leg day

Foam Rolling: The Next Big Thing in Pain Relief and Injury Prevention

GettyImages-686409390For the majority of my athletic and fitness career, getting sore from activities, workouts, practices, or games has not only been a sign that work has been done, but also a rite of passage. The saying, “no pain, no gain” came about as a result, and the world would judge successful workouts on soreness.

Those days have come and gone, and fitness professionals have come to the understanding that the old saying definitely needs updating. While getting a great workout and being sore is fine, being able to prevent injury, decrease soreness, improve mobility, and increase blood circulation are things we would like to incorporate into our wellness on a daily basis. One thing that I have found in my fitness journey is that you can get a great workout today, and with proper foam rolling (also known as self-myofascial release), you can get back after it tomorrow.

A Brief History of Foam Rolling

Foam rolling might seem like it’s a fairly new concept, but the idea has been around quite a while within manual physical therapy circles and with nontraditional medicine practitioners. In the late 19th century, physicians were using manual therapy to improve blood circulation and lymph flow. Although there are almost no studies that show that foam rolling had any benefits, the people that these techniques were being implemented on seemed to see the benefit.

Fast-forwarding to modern times, we have seen a boom in various industries associated with massage and related therapies. Individuals are seeing great results from meeting with these professionals and become interested not only in the tools they are using, but also in figuring out ways to implement similar techniques and experiences as a way to a quick-fix home remedy. Thus was born the foam roller, which now comes in many sizes, lengths, and shapes, and can be supplemented with everything from heat and ice to vibration discs.

How to Start Foam Rolling

Here are some quick tips and ideas to get you on your way.

  • Choosing a density: Pick a foam roller density that matches your comfort level. The softer foam rollers are geared more for beginners who might be sensitive and unable to cope with the discomfort a denser foam roller brings. As you become more accustomed to foam rolling, you may increase the foam roller density to your desired comfort level. As with getting a deep-tissue massage, it might feel uncomfortable at the time, but you may feel great right away, and tomorrow you will feel like a million dollars!
  • Rolling before and after bed: NIFS Personal Trainer Kris Simpson, a huge proponent and practitioner of foam rolling, says, “Foam rolling before bed is a great way to relieve muscle tension and stress from a long day. You will sleep better while being better rested, in turn giving you a head start on the following day. Again foam rolling in the morning would help get the blood flowing after a long, unrestful sleep.”
  • Finding a pattern: Another NIFS Trainer, Cara Hartman, uses foam rollers with her athletes. She has all of her clients and athletes follow a pattern that makes sense. “We like to start lower posterior (calves) and work our way up (hamstrings, glutes, back, etc). Smaller muscles can be rolled with a little creativity. If you find yourself unable to perform a movement, try putting the foam roller against the wall and rolling vertically as opposed to horizontally.”
  • Watch our video on how to properly foam roll.

As you work to get better at foam rolling, understand that it is very similar to everything you do in life. It will be most difficult the very first time you do it, but it will get a little easier each time you try it. I have a personal philosophy regarding foam rolling:

“If you want to maintain current mobility and flexibility, foam roll one time per day. If you want to increase mobility and flexibility, foam roll more than one time per day (the only limit is how much time you have to devote to your wellness). And if you want to get worse, do nothing!”

Foam Rolling at NIFS

NIFS has multiple foam-rolling stations designated to give you as many opportunities to roll as you need. There are multiple lengths and densities as well as a specialty roller made by Rollga. If you would like a quick tutorial and to talk about foam rolling with staff, please stop by the track desk and see one of the Health Fitness Specialists on staff. Get on a roller today, feel great tomorrow!

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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: fitness center Thomas' Corner injury prevention pain mobility foam rolling circulation

Get a Handle on Fitness with TRX at NIFS

GettyImages-501890636Have you tried TRX class at NIFS? For starters, you may be asking yourself, “What is a trx?” TRX is a body-weight suspension training system designed to give you a total-body workout, while playing to your skill set and allowing for nearly limitless body-weight–oriented exercise. TRX can provide a fitness beginner with an opportunity to learn movement patterns properly as well as challenge the most seasoned veterans in the gym with more advanced progressions.

The TRX concept is fairly simple: it’s basically two handles and straps that attach at an anchor point. Some exercises require various strap heights, but really, you can do most basic movement patterns (squat, row, and press) with one of three lengths. Intensity of exercise is determined by angles of your body as opposed to the anchor point, stability and balances, and progressions. The TRX was designed in the mid ’90s by Randy Hetrick, a former Navy Seal, as a way to develop total-body strength through body-weight–resisted exercise.

Getting Started

The first thing you notice when you see a TRX on the fitness center floor is that there are not many instructions on how to use it, although there are actually quite a few. A great way to become acclimated to some of the exercises is to take a TRX class, which is complimentary with your membership. A typical class consists of a warm-up or acclimation to TRX. We spend time every session practicing strap adjustment and proper form. Then we get down to business. Every exercise has a progression and a regression to ensure you are getting a workout appropriate to your abilities.

It is not uncommon to see a college student working out side-by-side with a grandmother. Although the variation changes slightly, the overall goal is to work to get better each and every time we train. At the end of each session there is time to stretch. Stretches are many people’s favorite, not only because you know you are finished, but also because it really feels good and works.

Exercises You Can Do on Your Own

TRX-3As you await your next TRX class opportunity, here are some exercises that you can add to your own workout in the meantime.

  1. TRX Row: With two handles set to the short length (one tick mark), start with arms long and body in a plank position, being mindful that you do not let your hips sag. While under control, pull yourself up to your hands. Lower back down under control. PRO TIP: You can pull with your hands parallel to the floor to engage the lats more, whereas pulling with your hands horizontal to the floor works the rear deltoids and trapezius. (See video here.)
  2. TRX Superman: With two handles set to the longest length, start facing away from the TRX. Your arms will start out by being fully straightened. By simply leaning forward and moving your hands toward the ceiling, the core control will be emphasized. PRO TIP: Being under control is always key, but you also what to start from a position in which the exercise is doable. Try moving your feet farther away from the TRX to make this exercise harder, or closer to the anchor point to decrease the difficulty. (See video here.)
  3. TRX Assisted Pull-ups: Start with two handles set to the shortest position (if you need assistance with adjustments, please see staff at the track desk) and body positioned directly below the anchor point and sitting in a cross-legged position. Use the TRX handles to slowly pull your body upward, not unlike a real pull-up motion. The assistance comes from the lower body and the resistance and difficulty can be determined by tempo and number of repetitions. (See video here.)

Try This Workout

5 Minutes AMRAP (as many reps as possible)

  • 12 TRX Rows
  • 12 TRX Superman Extensions
  • 6 TRX Assisted Pull-ups
  • Repeat

TRX at NIFS

Although class space is limited to eight individuals, there are no sign-ups. Just show up and enjoy a great, challenging workout. If you are having reservations about joining the class, but still want to try TRX, one of our certified fitness professionals can prescribe exercises. Classes meet Monday at 6am, Thursday at 5:30pm, and Friday at 6 and 11am. Check out the NIFS Group Fitness page to see up-to-date times and days for your favorite classes. Get a handle on fitness with TRX 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.

Topics: NIFS fitness center Thomas' Corner group fitness TRX body weight total-body workouts

A Spoonful of Fitness: Should You Work Out When You’re Sick?

GettyImages-674772578-1Have you ever woken up feeling like a truck ran you over? This might be due to an underlying illness; whether it be a cold, flu, bronchitis, or some other bug, it seems to happen to everyone at least once per year. When it comes to fitness, we sometimes have to make a choice: “Should I work out or should I rest?” The answer to this is not as cut and dried as it might seem. We’ll look at when it’s a good idea to stay home and chill and when you can just “sweat it out.”

Making the Call: Should I Cancel My Workout?

Sometimes just keeping up with your daily routines can help you feel better, especially as you move through the day. You might even pick up energy from exercise and activity instead of staying idle at home. A few guidelines dictate whether you should green-light a workout. According to experts, a major factor to consider is body temperature. Having any kind of fever is an immediate red flag, especially at more than 101 degrees. Another obvious red flag is if you are unable to keep fluids down. Anytime you are dehydrated, your body does not function at peak capacity. Here are some additional ideas to help make the decision.

Going Back to Working Out After Being Sick

When you feel like you are ready to go back to the gym, try to ease into your workout. Your body (namely your T-cells) has been fighting a battle. A quick assessment of your symptoms should give you a good indication of whether you are good to go. Temperature, fluids, and blood pressure are all surefire ways to draw that line in the sand.

How to Keep from Getting Sick Again

Finally, you should hopefully, at this point in your life, understand the importance of illness prevention—not only for you, but also for those around you. The routine of washing hands wasn’t widely practiced until about 150 years ago when a Hungarian doctor named Ignaz Semmelweis discovered that when his crew washed their hands between patients, the number of diseased and dying patients dropped off immediately. The long forgotten disease, puerperal fever (sometimes known as childbed fever) was nearly eradicated by simply implementing a hand-washing regimen. Today’s world allows almost endless opportunities to not only transmit illness, but also prevent them. Enough history lessons, though. You get the point: wash your hands often, please.

Ask for Help from the NIFS Staff

NIFS staff can help you in a number of ways, especially when deciding whether exercise is right for you when you are not feeling well. Blood pressure monitors, both electronic and manual, as well as an oxygen sensor are available to all members. A well-stocked first aid kit and a staff well versed in first aid and safety are also on your side. Always remember, your workout is important, but your health is priceless.

Muscleheads evolve (and rejoice)

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

Topics: fitness center Thomas' Corner nifs staff workout illness oxygen illness prevention handwashing

Stress Relief with Physical Activity: Sweat Therapy

GettyImages-896274520Throughout your life, you will come across times and situations that are tough, making you feel as though getting through it all is inconceivable and hopeless. There are more traditional ways to deal with these ups and downs of life, such as therapy, but there are other ways to overcome stress in life that can be as easy as taking a walk, shooting some basketball, or even lifting weights.

Forget Your Worries: Emotional Benefits of Exercise

There seems to be something about exercise that allows us to forget our worries and deal with our stresses while also improving our lives through wellness and fitness. With as much stress as we see in people's lives today, it would seem as though fitness would stand out as a blessing to anyone who wants to make their life better. Because this isn’t always the case, you can start as slow and as basic as needed to make sure you are getting the right exercise at the right amount at the right time.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has determined that exercise is essential for good mental well-being and that the benefits go beyond just reducing stress. Improved mood, increased energy, better sleep, reduced anxiety, and improved self-esteem all are payoffs too.

Get Your Endorphins Going

You might have heard of endorphins. They are the hormones that are released from the brain and nervous system and into your body. We feel good when endorphins are released into our bodies. This can happen as a result of almost anything that stimulates your brain, ranging from riding a rollercoaster to seeing your favorite band perform. With fitness, the same endorphins can be released through exercise, giving you similar feelings. We call this the “runner’s high.” You don’t have to be a runner to achieve this feeling, but exercise is the key ingredient, however you decide to score those endorphins.

Thomas’ Tips for Getting More Active

  • Start small, start smart. Take a walk around the neighborhood or with friends after work at the mall. Walking is definitely exercise and has many benefits. .
  • Do activities you like to do. If you are trying to keep this fitness and wellness going for a long time, you’d better like what you are doing (at least some of the time).
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Not only are there fitness professionals who can help you, there are other individuals who are in the same boat as you. Make time to commiserate and help each other overcome obstacles together.

Getting started in fitness can be a daunting task. Even knowing the benefits associated with exercise might not be enough to light your spark. NIFS has certified and degreed individuals ready, willing, and able to assist with every aspect of wellness and fitness, ranging from fitness programming to nutrition and wellness. Let us know how we can help you reach your goals and hopefully reduce stress along the way. Make a choice to be a better you 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.

Topics: NIFS Thomas' Corner stress relief fitness and wellness endorphins emotional physical activity

Get a Grip: Exercises to Increase Your Grip Strength

GettyImages-505776960How long have you been stuck on your max for bench press or unable to become efficient at
pull-ups or even able to do a good pull-up? More often than not, people have many areas of concern; upper-body strength, stamina, and technique come to mind. Outside these main aspects of lifting weights, what else is there that you can focus on to help improve your personal bests without making it too complicated? One area you can focus on that gets relatively little attention is grip strength. You already use it a lot, right? The answer might surprise you when you take a look at how it can improve your overall fitness experience.

For the most part, most upper-body lifts require some grip strength. The exercises that require the most tend to be the ones for which you have to hold dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, or chin-up bars. Whereas other exercises on machines can provide safety and ease of use, they sometimes lack the grip strength aspect that is required with the free-weight exercises. In the fitness world, there’s a saying that goes, “If you want to get good at push-ups, do push-ups.” You can focus some of your exercise time on developing these muscles.

Exercises That Increase the Strength of Your Grip

Here are some easy ideas to implement into your own workouts next time you are at the gym.

  • Farmer’s carry: This exercise can be a little deceptive to the beginner, but as you will find out, there's more than just legs at work. Other than legs, core, shoulders, and back, you will notice that it is imperative that you have some grip strength to be able to complete the exercise, or else you won’t get too far. Remember the saying above.
  • Weightlifting: When you are lifting weights, be sure to grip the bar tightly. Always practice squeezing against the bar when you lift. Conversely, try to incorporate a grip aspect into other exercises as well. Tools to help you work on grip include Fat Grips, the Axle Bar (aka the Fat Bar), and Grippers. Grippers have been around for a long time, with the “Captains of Crush” being known as the toughest around.
  • Stress ball: The stress ball, which is extremely cheap and easily available, can act as an on-the-go tool. There actually may be more stress balls available in the US than there are people, so if you do not have one, I’m sure someone you know does. Simply put one in your car and while you’re stuck in traffic or at a red light, grab that ball and squeeze out 50 reps on each hand. Not only will your grip strength improve, but you may experience actual stress relief.

Let a NIFS Health Fitness Specialist Help Increase Your Strength

As you can see, there are many ways to help your grip strength. The most important thing to remember is that if you want to improve, you will have to use it and use it often. When you think about all the muscles you use for exercise and how they work together, you must understand that you are only as strong as your weakest link. If your grip is the weakest link, every exercise that requires you to hold weights, or yourself, will be subpar. With increased strength, those plateaus will fall.

NIFS has several options in the fitness center to help aid your quest for improved grip strength, including hand grip dynamometer testing (yes, we can test your grip strength). See a health fitness specialist to schedule an appointment to talk about your goals and fitness assessment options. Take control of your workouts, and get a GRIP on your life.

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

Topics: NIFS weightlifting exercises grip strength grip carries fitness assessment

Finding Your Lifetime Activity: Staying Active Should Be Fun

GettyImages-184973240We exercise many ways every day, many times unknowingly. Sometimes this is because we actually enjoy doing it and it doesn’t seem like work to us. As the old saying goes, “time flies when you’re having fun.” One requirement for a lifetime activity, though, is that it most often needs to be something you can do from the time you stop wearing diapers until the time you start wearing diapers again. The ideas I like to explore can include fitness, but also non-exercise–based activities.

Is Tackle Football a Lifetime Sport?

Rarely, if ever, do you hear about a 60-plus person excelling at tackle football, yet it is still one of the most celebrated and promoted sports in the world. That sport in particular has plenty of fitness-related benefits, ranging from strength training to teamwork; but on the flip side, not many people play tackle football outside of peewee football after they graduate from high school.

You might argue that there are people who play in college and professionally, or that there are adult flag football leagues. But the reality is that the percentage of participation is relatively low. This poses an issue, so you need to strive for activities that provide exercise for the long haul.

Some Appropriate Sports and Activities

Many sports can be considered lifetime activities. These include tennis (or any variation: badminton, table tennis, racquetball, and so on), golf, and swimming. 5K races and mini-marathons are also in this category and are well attended by all age groups, with many older competitors able to complete and compete among others in their age group.

The question may arise, “What if I don’t care for sports? What am I going to do?” You might already have it covered if you participate in any of these activities:

  • Gardening (bending, squatting, etc.)
  • Walking pets (both can get benefits)
  • Playing with the kids or grandkids (bike riding or sharing a nice afternoon playing toss)

There are many ways to track the estimated calories burned for these types of exercises through the www.myfitnesspal.com website. Take one weekend and track every step you take with a pedometer and note all activity. You might surprise yourself with how much you actually do.

Help Kids Get More Active

Circling back to the original idea of pushing lifetime activities, it only makes sense to start early with children. Educate youth about health and fitness and why it’s important to give attention to lifetime activities and planning for a healthy and full life of fitness.

There Is No Age Limit on Healthy Living

Beyond the kids, you’re never too old to aspire to being healthier. Meeting with a fitness coach can provide a spark: they can help you assess where you are starting, what your strengths are, and possible avenues for participation you might never have known existed.

Finally, if you are looking outside of fitness and sports, don’t search too hard because you might have already found something that you can benefit from without realizing it. As personal trainer, author, and entrepreneur Martin Rooney says, “Doing something is better than doing nothing.” You can take it one day at a time and tell yourself that doing something is better than nothing at all. If you believe you can become a better you every day, one day you will.

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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: staying active Thomas' Corner calories sports technology lifetime activities lifetime sports