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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Tony Maloney

Recent Posts by Tony Maloney:

This Is 40: Fitness Checks for Active Aging Workouts

IMG_1729I celebrated my 40th birthday almost a year ago but postponed writing the “I’m 40 now” blog until now, mainly because it is a bit played out. But more importantly, I wanted to see what this 40 thing was all about before writing about it.

My 40th year on this planet started off great, spending that 18th of August completing 40 holes of golf with the wizard Alex Soller and a few other NIFS characters. It was a very memorable day, one that helped make me feel that 40 truly is just a number and I am still very capable of fitness feats. So I leaped into my 40th year like I have so many previously, with grit and an attitude that nothing will slow me down. I love to move around and I love to challenge myself, and I looked forward to what the year had in store for me.

Do You Really Start to Fall Apart When You Hit 40?

However, Father Time soon showed up with a message that a few adjustments must be considered if I was to continue to stay as active as I like to—nay, need to—be. It was crazy how it seemed so many things were going wrong physically, or it took so much longer to recover, or my drive to train hard lessened. I was reminded of Rocky’s last conversation with Apollo before the Drago fight, where Stallone attempted to talk Apollo out of the fight, stressing that they have changed and were no longer able to do what they used to.

I had always dismissed the messages from men my senior saying, “just you wait; things will change”; but it was becoming more and more apparent that those guys were right. I am not so naive that I would run obstacle course races and hit PRs in the gym left and right and at the level I was used to; I just didn’t expect so many reminders that I am not who I once was physically.

Check Yourself: Five Steps for Adjusting Workouts as You Age

Have you ever heard the saying “Father Time is undefeated”? Sometimes it’s a pretty tough pill to swallow, but here are a few system checks that I have made, which you can use to keep moving as the years keep coming.

  • Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 11.57.34 AMCheck your expectations/mindset. Although it can be hard to handle at times (believe me), physical abilities are going to change and it is important to evaluate and adjust your expectations. This will help when you are faced with a physical challenge that you might have formerly handled pretty easily, to determine whether you should attempt it or live to fight another day. Your mindset is your story; now it’s just the next chapter. Negative self-talk about what you used to be able to do will not help in moving forward positively. I have found it helpful to manage the minimums and find that new normal. This will keep you safe both physically and mentally.
  • Check your warm-up. Maybe the days of performing a few stretches and jumping jacks and then hitting heavy back squats are gone, and that is okay. Taking a few more minutes to warm up properly, including mobility and core stability drills followed by dynamic stretching exercises, is key in avoiding big-time soreness and injury.
  • Check your focus. My focus has changed a little from conquering any fitness challenge I can get my hands on to doing things that would allow me to continue to do things. I am no longer a competitive athlete nor am I all that interested in how much I bench press. What I am most interested in is staying active and being able to move around. Because of that, my focus has shifted a bit and my training has as well to accommodate it. Check your focus to make sure your training is providing what you need. If you are still chasing a strength goal or PR in a half-marathon, go get it, but do it safely. If your focus is like me and you want to be a great mover, fit and healthy, your training should be centered around that. NIFS can help with that!
  • Check your workload. I am a staunch supporter of the ACSM’s guidelines for physical activity: getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week and 60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise; you pretty much need to move every day for at least 30 minutes. That shouldn’t change, but check your intensity and exercise selection for those training sessions to determine whether the workload matches what you checked from above. Also, you should consider the total time being active for the day and not just your training session. Training hard for 60 minutes followed by 8 hours of sitting can be just as bad as not training at all. Focus on staying active throughout the day by taking the stairs, parking farther away, or playing with the kids when you get home.
  • Check your recovery. This has been the most impactful area for me entering my fourth decade: how I am approaching my recovery. I have always been pretty solid with my recovery strategies, but I’ve really had to up my game these past few years. One game changer: ICE! I never really used ice in the past, but now I ice almost every night, especially after a back injury that put me on the couch for a week. Regular massages and other soft-tissue treatments are strategies I highly recommend for recovery. But if I were to put a thumb on what has helped me the most for recovery, I have stopped trying to pack so much into a training session or a day, period. Take time to reflect and relax from the daily stressors, whatever that looks like to you. Enjoy fitness and moving every day, rest and recover properly, and you can keep moving for a lifetime!

As I said before, and it’s worth mentioning again, for me it has been about finding a new normal and managing the minimums. It’s so important that you wrap your mind around what your normal is and what makes you happy. It might not come with blue ribbons anymore, but every day is an event. Go out there and win the day!

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: workouts recovery mindset warmup active aging over 40

Bar Crawl: Specialty Bar Training for Powerlifting at NIFS

Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 10.42.59 AMAs a fitness professional I approach training and helping people from the direction that principles guide methods. The reason for this is that methods and fads will always change, but principles never do. It’s beneficial that the methods and variations of movements change from time to time, as long as the decision to change them is based on solid principles and reasoning. Variations are great, such as a change in foot position in a squat, adding load to a plank position, or varying the implement you are using during the exercise. One implement change that can pay heavy dividends (pun very much intended) is using a specialty lifting bar.

Specialty bars are not new by any means, but due to new waves of “strongman” training and the resurgence of powerlifting, the popularity of the specialty bar is constantly growing. Each different bar is designed to elicit a specific stimulus that will result in an increase in strength, stability, or performance. In fact, many bars were originally designed for the specificity of training certain sports. And although most are still widely used specifically for generating a particular training response for sports, the everyday fitness enthusiast can enjoy the benefits without having to be a pro athlete.

Bars with Benefits

Come with me as we journey through NIFS’s Bar Crawl and check out all the specialty bars that are at your disposal and some or our favorite exercises associated with each. Before we do, here’s a reminder that you need to master the basics with basic equipment before moving on to an advanced movement or piece of equipment.

Fat bar: A barbell that is thicker than a general-use bar. The typical bar has a thickness of approximately one inch, whereas a thick bar can be twice that or even more.

Benefits:

  • More muscle activation in the hands, forearms, and upper arms.
  • Harder contraction (experiment: flex your bicep without making a fist, then flex with a fist; notice the difference).
  • Grip training no matter what.
  • Greater focus on the lift/exercise.

 

 

  • Bench Press
  • Overhead Press
  • Deadlift

Safety bar: Also referred to as a “yoke” bar, it looks like what they put on oxen back in the day. There is a three-way pad that rests on your shoulders with handles, with a curved bar shape at both ends.

Benefits:

  • Great for lower-body and low-back strength and transfers nicely to the straight-bar variations.
  • Loads the anterior core.
  • Minimizes stress on the wrists and elbows.
  • Helps in maintaining proper spinal alignment.

 

 

  • Front Squat
  • Back Squat
  • Lunges

Log bar: Straight from the strongmen themselves, this bar simulates using a log for different movements. It looks like a log with bars on the end to add plate weight load.

Benefits:

  • Cumbersome and unusual shape increases the stability need in the trunk and entire body.
  • Neutral grip is safer on the wrists and shoulders and allows for a more natural movement.
  • Abbreviated range of motion due to its size is safer for the joints and allows for greater load.

 

 

  • Clean and Press
  • Overhead Press
  • Bent-over Row

Trap bar: Hexagonal in shape, this is a bar you stand in, and it is used mainly for deadlifts or floor-loaded squat motions. Top coaches like Mike Robertson and Mike Boyle almost exclusively use the trap bar for athletes for these benefits.

Benefits:

  • Combines the benefits of the deadlift and the squat.
  • Loaded closer to your center of gravity, making it great for beginners as well as seasoned athletes.
  • More natural body position for the deadlift.
  • High handles decrease the range of motion, minimizing the chance for lumbar flexion typically seen in the traditional deadlift due to the weight being out in front of the body.

 

  • Deadlift
  • Bent-over Rows
  • Farmer Carry

Swiss bar: A multi-grip bar ranging from neutral to wide-grip and mixed-grip options.

Benefits:

  • Lighter than a typical bar; great for beginners.
  • Easy on the shoulders.
  • Specific training for sports such as football.
  • Range of motion similar to using dumbbells but with more load capabilities.

 

 

  • Bench Press
  • Overhead Press
  • Bicep Curls
  • Makeshift pull-up bar

Get Help from NIFS

Be sure to stop by the track desk and ask one of your highly trained instructors how a specialty bar can be used in your programming. Train smart, and train safe!

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS equipment training powerlifting programs

Back to Exercise Basics: The Strong Squat

We here at NIFS are what you can call “pattern people”; meaning our team of instructors focuses on fundamental movement patterns and how we can enhance them to allow for better function and goal achievement. Of course we start this process by having our members complete a Functional Movement Screen (FMS). The first assessment takes a look at the Squat pattern. Second in our series focusing on exercise basics, the squat will be the topic here, including how you can build a better one.

The Keys to a Great Squat

As we continue our focus on movement competency prior to attempting the most challenging exercise known to man (I still see this happening every day, in the gym and all over Facebook), we begin by taking a look at the major keys to a great squat. Much like the push-up described in a previous post, the squat is a super-versatile movement with so many real-life and performance applications in which it plays a role. From sitting into a chair (and standing up from that chair) to setting a PR in the back squat in your next powerlifting competition, the squat is a very powerful and functional movement we should all be training. Quite a few things are going on in a great squat; it employs core joint mobility in the ankles and hips, core stability, and motor control. These far-reaching aspects of movement are challenged and improved when incorporating a properly performed squat into your routine.

Cara_squat

Squat Pattern Checklist

Refer to the following checklist to ensure that you get the most out of your squat pattern by performing it correctly. Just as you learned to squat, check it off from the ground up:

  1. Feet 1: Just beyond shoulder-width apart
  2. Feet 2: Slightly angle outward
  3. Feet 3: Weight over the heels and spread the floor
  4. Knees: Tracking over toes
  5. Hips 1: Hips push back to begin movement
  6. Hips 2: At or below parallel
  7. Hips 3: Hips and knees flexing at same time
  8. Spine 1: Angle of spine and tibia are the same
  9. Chest: Keep up, proud chest
  10. Arms: (top of press) Push-up to straight-arm position
  11. Head: Keep gaze straight ahead

Squat Variations

Here are just a few variations you can try after mastering the pattern. Remember, do the basic stuff really well before moving on to the really hard stuff.

Overhead w. Dowel IMG_1201

2KB Front Squat

IMG_1211

BB Back Squat

IMG_1217

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercises powerlifting squat pattern functional movement joints assessment squat functional movement screen

Get with the Program: 5 Benefits of Having an Exercise Plan

IMG_0653-1“Success favors the prepared” is one of my favorite quotes highlighting what it takes to be successful in life and any pursuit that interests you. Without preparation and planning, effort and action really have no direction, which can result in you being lost. I would also offer that a misguided workout plan, although it’s a plan you didn’t have before, can be just as detrimental to your success. So having an exercise plan is really important, but having a solid and well-thought-out plan is super important!

Don’t confuse movement with progress when it comes to your weekly and daily training. Getting to the gym is step one, but what you do with your time there will be the difference between achievement and disappointment. We don’t usually argue the benefits of writing down your goals; it’s important and can usually lead to reaching those goals. You have heard me say many times “if you think it, ink it.” Why don’t we do that with our exercise programs? Goals give you your destination; your training program is the roadmap that can get you there. A well-designed map can get you there more quickly and safely.

So get with the program! Or should I say, get with a professional about your program. A well-trained and educated coach’s eye can be a game changer when working toward your fitness goals. The guidance they can provide is crucial to your development and ability to reach new heights. Named number 6 on the ACSM 2018 fitness trends list, educated and experienced fitness professionals remain an important commodity to you and the rest of the public. Utilize them!

And here are five more benefits of following an exercise program that is designed specifically for you by a fitness pro.

No More Guessing

Having a plan of attack takes the guesswork out of your workout. Fitness centers can be overwhelming at times; and with the amount of information and opinions that are out there, without a plan you could find yourself kind of meandering around not getting a lot of work done. I also think that not having a clear direction can lead to low confidence, resulting in an increased rate of giving up. Getting a program is not just a list of great exercises to do; it can act as your ticket to an “I CAN DO IT” mindset instead of “I don’t know what to do, so I’ll skip it today.” Which mindset do you think is the more successful one?

Proper Techniques and Principles: Injury Prevention

GT3“Move well then move often” is a great quote from the folks over at FMS and one that we carry as our motto around here. Performing exercises correctly that are based on safe and proper movement principles will be the difference between reaching your goals and being laid up for weeks because of an injury due to improper technique or progression. You can’t work if you are injured, and no one should be injured in fitness. But people get hurt all the time due to improper exercise technique and poor guidance. And if you don’t get hurt, you will definitely not receive all the great benefits of an exercise if you are performing it poorly. A great coach can design a program and provide the technical support you need to execute it well. Move well, move often! You get only one body; don’t you want to keep it running for a long time?

Progress Tracking

With a personal program design, you have your record-keeping right in front of you. Whether you are a paper-and-pencil person or a tech-savvy individual, logging your exercises, loads, intensity levels, and rate of perceived exertion is the best way to keep an eye on your progress. And believe me, when you see the weights go up, so does your confidence level and positive mindset.

Just as you wrote out your goals and the benefits of that process, logging your efforts is the next step. How do you know you are heading in the right direction if you don’t document the journey? Seeing is believing, and what better way to see the progress than to log the important variables that make up your program?

Keeping It Fresh

A great fitness pro will be able to design programming for you that is always progressing as you do, and will include different exercises and intensities to continually add new challenges. New stimulus equals new results; that’s just how the body works. After a certain amount of time, your body will no longer have to adapt to the previous stimulus, and with no adaption, there are no results. Also, keeping your program evolving will increase the enjoyment factor, leading to greater adherence to the exercise program. Nobody wants to do the same old thing over and over again. If variety is the spice of life, let a new fitness program be the chili powder!

Challenge Preconceived Limits

One of the main jobs of a great coach is to demonstrate to an individual that they are far more capable than their mindset tells them. A personal fitness program that includes all of the above, designed specifically for you, will take you out of that box you have been living in and prove to you that you are stronger than anyone (including yourself) gave you credit for. I have worked with so many who believed that they were supposed to reside on an elliptical machine for their workout and prove to themselves that they are an athlete and love to move. Working with a fitness pro to develop your specific program can unlock the physical potential that has been waiting to be shown the world!

Most of us have heard the ageless quote from Ben Franklin: “Failure to plan is planning to fail.” Without a proper fitness program that fits your needs and works toward your specific goals, failure is a very real outcome. Like most aspects of our lives, a solid plan of attack usually leads to success. Why should we treat our health and fitness differently? Get with the program and be ready for the results!

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: injury prevention goals tracking fitness exercise plan workout plan fitness professional fitness program coach

I Don’t Always Use a Machine: The Athletic Training Platform (ATP)

In the great pursuit to build a strong body, push through preconceived physical boundaries, and feel great, we are in a time when the training options are close to limitless and at our fingertips. The world of strength and conditioning is full of pros who develop new ways everyday to challenge the human body and create systems and tools designed to push athletes and fitness enthusiasts to new heights. Many of these tools and training systems should stay in those late-night infomercials, but every now and again someone gets it right.

Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell (WSB) nailed it with the development of the Athletic Training Platform (ATP). Premiering about a year ago, the ATP was designed as a universal training machine suited for all fitness levels and many applications for anyone working to get fit, build strength, lose weight, and build a powerful body. We here at NIFS were fortunate enough to acquire one of these great machines recently, and we feel it definitely lives up to the hype.

Setting Up the ATP

So how do you get started using this piece, you ask? Here is a quick tutorial on proper setup of the ATP.

 

 

When working with folks, it’s my belief that first you need to master your body with body-weight movements and functional movement patterns; move on to loading those patterns with dynamic equipment such as kettlebells and sandbags; and finally progress to more advanced and multi-joint movements. I typically do not use many machines in my personal or professional training other than a cable system. The ATP is a machine I can get behind and use frequently. The ATP is used for so much more than just belt-squats; it can challenge anyone in any plane of motion. It can also help with lower-back ailments due to its “traction” effect with the load coming from below.

Favorite Exercises

There are too many exercises to list in one post, so here are a few of our favorites:

 

 

You intrigued? You should be! The ATP is a versatile and effective piece that can help you achieve the fitness goals you have set for yourself. If you are interested in adding the ATP to your exercise program, I highly recommend that you see one of your highly trained and motivated instructors here at NIFS to show you more about the ATP. Stay tuned for more ATP exercises coming soon in future posts!

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS fitness center equipment videos Athletic Training Platform

My NIFS Slim It to Win It 2018 Team: The Resistance

Tonys slim it.jpgThe NIFS 2018 Slim It to Win It is in full swing with the energy high and the gym packed with like-minded people working so hard to reach their desired health and wellness outcomes, which include weight loss. All 11 coaches are firing up their teams and leading the way to behavioral changes, good nutrition habits, and of course, cutting-edge and fun training sessions. I have been so inspired by both the participants and the coaches for this year’s program that it takes me a bit to wind down following an action-packed day here at NIFS!

What’s in a Name?

At the beginning of the program, each team is tasked with giving themselves a name—usually something that embraces a motto for the group, or pays homage to the team’s coach by cleverly using their name somehow. It is a very important step that not only gives the team a chance to show off their creativity, but also helps build unity in the group and solidifies a purpose that all in the group embrace and work toward. And when a group of people is working toward a common goal, the question is no longer “if” but “when” they will succeed. The name of the team I am honored to coach is “The Resistance!”

Our name is inspired by a message I learned some time ago from Martin Rooney of Training for Warriors at one of the many conferences where I have seen him speak. He spoke about how we as fitness professionals have to be the Resistance in the battle fighting obesity and inactivity. I heard the message loud and clear, and as a good soldier I work very hard to carry out those steps to help people avoid debilitating diseases and conditions.

But here’s the thing: you don’t have to be a fitness pro to be a part of the Resistance in this battle that the fast food, digital entertainment, and booze industries are currently winning. We can help each other battle against habits and behaviors that lead us down the road to a hospital or worse.

Four Ways to Join the Resistance Against Inactivity and Poor Nutrition

Are you up to the challenge of being a part of the Resistance? Here are four powerful ways you can join the fight:

  • Take action. Nothing is ever accomplished without taking action. Choose to be an agent of change and do something about it! TALK is cheap; ACTION pays the bills, so to speak. To be a part of the Resistance requires all of us to stop holding back, for whatever reason, and take the steps necessary to help.
  • Lead by example. I am from the old school when it comes to this concept, and believe that you have to walk the walk to truly inspire people to be the best version of themselves. I don’t think the “do as I say, not as I do” approach is very effective in this situation. Think of it this way: you probably wouldn’t have a bankrupt accountant do your taxes, right? When others see and witness that you practice what you preach, they are more apt to follow.
  • Recruit others. This battle will be a long and difficult one; we are going to need more soldiers to spread the message and reach more individuals. We have an awesome tool to help recruit others; feeling great and high energy is contagious! When you start to make positive changes and begin to feel great, your energy will spread like a wildfire, and you will want to tell more and more people how things can be if they join the Resistance and make those healthy lifestyle choices. Every person who dumps the fast food for whole foods, is a win for the Resistance. Every person who chooses to go for a walk with their family instead of binge-watching another season of The Office on Netflix is a win for the Resistance and you can help make that happen for others and with others.
  • Share your story. One of the most powerful ways to be a part of the Resistance is to share your story of battling against the forces that consume so many. We all have a unique story and perspective that can possibly resonate with someone and create change. When those who are struggling hear your story and realize that change can happen because it happened for you, that can inspire them to take that first step in creating change. And then, they begin the cycle again by taking action, leading by example, recruiting others, and sharing their story!

We can win the battle and take everybody to the promised land of feeling better and living longer, happier lives. Join these 10 teams as part of the Resistance and be an agent of change in someone’s life. If we band together, we can help so many in the battle against disease, unhappiness, and feeling lousy. Join the fight TODAY!

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: NIFS nutrition staying active healthy habits weight loss Slim It to Win It whole foods obesity wellness

Culture Club: How to Be a Strong Member of a Fitness Community

IMG_8261-1.jpgI have been in a gym environment of some kind for the majority of my life, first as a student athlete through adulthood and now as my profession. There really hasn’t been a time in my life when I haven’t been a part of the gym culture. There is a reason for that: I LOVE IT! I love to move, push myself beyond perceived limits, see successes, be around likeminded people, and witness amazing transformations and feats of strength. There is nothing like it, and I have done a great deal of growing up in a gym, and now it is my livelihood, literally.

In my opinion, a solid and enjoyable fitness community can rival any support environment out there. Fitness can bring people together and give feelings of belonging, help each other through life struggles, and provide smiles on days when smiles are hard to come by.

Ten Ways to Be a Great Gym Member

So how do we, as individuals, be strong members of a fitness community that allows for acceptance, belonging, safety, and fun? Like most places you visit, there are customs and rules of etiquette that help provide the culture that brought you there in the first place. Whether you are a lifelong gym-goer like me, or are just joining a facility for the first time to tackle your new year’s resolutions, follow these customs to be a strong member of your fitness community and provide an example for others to follow.

  • Lower the noise. I’m referring to the grunts and heavy breathing. Now, I am not advocating lowering the effort level of whatever it is you may be doing, but lowering how loudly you express your effort level. Your headphone noise can also be a negative distraction, especially if you enjoy songs with more colorful language.
  • Detach the phone from your hand. Okay, so I know that we are pretty dependent on technology these days, for good reason. And I am not here to argue the pros and cons of the mobile phone in society. But I would offer that real-life connection is far better than the virtual kind. With that said, put the phone away and connect with the people who are there for the same reason you are, to get better. Warning: Mobile Phone Head and Neck Pain Syndrome is a thing! Put the phone down and look up.
  • Put your stuff away. If you respect your fitness community, you should respect the idea that others would like to use the equipment as well and should be able access it from where it belongs. Help your gym brothers and sisters by putting your equipment back where it came from so someone else can use it, while at the same time keeping your community safe by removing trip hazards.
  • Wipe down your stuff after use. Another way to keep your community safe is to wipe down your equipment with the disinfectant and towel provided to you. It really only takes a second, and then be sure to show consideration and put the towel in the dirty towel bin.
  • Share your stuff. When you have completed a set, it’s just good manners to allow someone to work in on the same piece if they are waiting to use it. Sitting and looking at your phone (see #2) during your rest period while occupying the equipment just isn’t cool. Hop up and let someone in; you never know, you could meet a best friend!
  • Cover your stuff. Have you ever heard the phrase “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” (I’m going to go ahead and include pants here as well)? This goes doubly in your fitness community. More exposed skin equals more bio-fluids finding their way onto surfaces of equipment, mats, and floors. This can cause the spread of an array of communicable diseases. Also, in a fitness community, strong members appreciate modesty and acceptance of all body types. It is fantastic that you love the way you look; now wear your workout gear proudly and respectfully.
  • Mind the time. Be mindful and respectful of the hours of operation for your fitness community and plan your workout accordingly to stay within its working framework. Show up to group fitness classes on time, and if you are more than 10 to 15 minutes late, hit another class or ask for some help from an instructor on some exercise options.
  • Mind the advice. Be certain that someone new to the fitness community is looking for exercise advice from you. It’s great that you have a great deal of experience or read the latest article on BodyBuilding.com, but unsolicited advice can be annoying to some and can hurt the positive experience they are there to have. Trust me, in my experience, most people will ask if they are looking for advice.
  • Use the resources. Instructors and trainers are there for a reason: to help you and provide a great experience for the members of the fitness community. If you have questions regarding the equipment or exercises, don’t be afraid to ask. At NIFS, our instructors are here solely to help you and be the best part of your day. Let them help guide you in all aspects of the gym environment. You’ll learn a bunch of new stuff while you are at it.
  • Be friendly and considerate. A gym should be fun and a happy place to go to! That is guaranteed when people are being friendly and considerate of the needs of the entire environment and not just their landscape. Simple things like sharing your equipment, opening the door, and saying hi all add a positive vibe to the environment.

The Gym Is Like a Lot of Other Great Communities

If you notice, most of the actions on this list are the customs you will find pretty much anywhere you consider a great community such as neighborhoods, churches, restaurants, and fun gathering places. The gym shares so many similarities to those pillars of our lives, and it should be treated with as much respect and effort to keep it a place people want to belong to and visit daily. A gym can be a special place, where goals are sought after and obtained and friendships spawned and nourished; a place where everybody knows your name (cue the song).

So follow these customs to be a fitness community leader and work together to make your gym special!

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: equipment safety technology gym fitness community consideration etiquette

The Challenge with Challenges: NIFS Slim It to Win It 2018

Slim-It-logo2.jpgIt’s that time of year when millions of people around the world start looking for that next “best” thing to give them the body they have always dreamed of. Aggressive physical challenges, cleanses, elaborate diets that usually involve the removal of a food source (and result in you craving it even more); people will take some drastic steps to help erase the past year of poor nutrition and lifestyle decisions.

Unfortunately, the successes of these different “new year, new you” initiatives are short-lived, and many people will be looking again for another fix a year from now. Why is this so? I can list many reasons why weight-loss challenges don’t work and do not provide long-term, sustainable results. In a previous post I explained why mindset is crucial to fitness success, so it truly starts there. But what are some other reasons why New Year challenges don’t deliver? Most are…

  • Too much
  • Too fast
  • Too easy to quit

Many contests or challenges demand that you take too much out of your diet or exercise way too much. They also usually want to see these changes made and results achieved too fast. Lastly, many fail to provide ample accountability, encouragement, and motivation, making it too easy to quit. So does this mean that all contests, challenges, or programs are doomed to fail? Not if they are done right!

Slim It to Win It is one of NIFS’ longest-running programs, and has been helping so many people for just shy of a decade. We here at NIFS are super proud of the life-changing results that SITWI has been able to provide hundreds of individuals here in the Indianapolis area. So how do we do it?

Not Too Much

NIFS coaches focus on small behavioral changes piled onto one another during an 8–10-week period. We don’t want anyone changing too much too fast; that is proven to be an unsuccessful practice. Focusing on one or maybe two changes at a time is a proven method that we teach our teams. Slow and steady wins the race, and we want to provide our people with the tools to continue building a healthy lifestyle long after they have completed the program.

Too much exercise, especially from the get-go (and with those who might have been less than active leading up to the program), is another mistake our coaches do not make. With two training sessions a week to start, with supplemental workouts provided, our teams get the right dose of exercise at the right time.

Not Too Fast

Once again we focus on sustainable changes and results over the course of eight weeks and beyond. The journey is not over on March 11; it’s really just beginning. NIFS coaches work toward the individual’s specific goals over many weeks—not pushing to see drastic changes in a very short amount of time. It’s just not safe, and it just doesn’t last!

When the focus is more on speed, retention of critical lifestyle practices and education will suffer, leading to the “cramming effect.” Do you remember cramming for that chemistry exam in high school? If you are anything like me and most people, you probably didn’t retain a great deal of that information. We want our team members to keep the life-changing information so they can continue to use these best practices to maintain their success.

Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 9.39.17 AM.pngNot Too Easy to Quit

Positive accountability truly is a key ingredient in a successful lifestyle-change process. A strong support group will provide the needed accountability and motivation to keep at it, even when you want to hang it up and return to old behaviors that got you in the situation you are in. During SITWI, you have a whole team cheering you on and providing support, because everybody is going through a similar battle.

A group of motivated, like-minded individuals can be unstoppable in the pursuit of its goals. Not only will you be relying on your team to pick you up at times, they are going to need you right back. And speaking from experience, there is no better feeling than when you make a difference in someone’s life, or help them see their true capabilities. You can be that to someone!

The idea of a New Year, starting over, or making some improvements can be very exciting. This excitement can lead to creating real change or a repeat of the past, keeping you in the cycle of thinking it will be better next year. Remember, mindset matters most, but a strong call to make changes followed by taking action to create that change are the next best steps. Let Slim It to Win It help you take action.

Learn More about Slim It to Win It

This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS motivation weight loss accountability challenge Slim It to Win It behavior lifestyle change

Readiness and Durability: Better Movement Warmups for Fitness Training

I used to work at a golf course during my time as a teacher. It was a great way to spend my summers and be close to a game I truly enjoy playing. I mainly mowed greens and tees and dug a bunch of holes. I really enjoyed that time of my life very much. On all of the mowers there was a sign that read, “If this equipment can’t work, nor can you.” I think the message is self-explanatory: if the equipment is not properly cared for, it is a very good possibility it will stop working, leading to loss of productivity and failure to complete the job.

I believe the same can be said for our approach to preparing the body for training so that the body (equipment) can work when you need it to accomplish the job at hand. The most critical step in this process is changing the perception of the “warmup” as a secondary or unnecessary part of a training program—something you can skip if you are short on time. In actuality, warmups should be a major part of your training program (if you are truly looking for results, that is).

Long ago I adopted, both for the people I work with and for my personal workouts, a process from a great coach on preparing the body for work. It involves four exercises in four major categories of movement preparation: mobility, stability, core engagement, and loco-motor (dynamic stretches and small plyometrics). For obvious reasons, this is referred to as a 4x4 approach to physical readiness and preparation.

Mobility Drills

Mobility drills refers to the exercises aimed at gaining and enhancing the range of motion in a particular joint. With a joint-by-joint, ground-up approach, these drills typically work to tackle mobility of the ankle, hip, thoracic and cervical spine, and shoulder. Here at NIFS, we work to mobilize movement patterns that involve these joints, and others, which we evaluate in a Functional Movement Screen.

Here are just two of my favorite mobility drills:

i. 1/2K—Abducted T-Spine Rotation
ii. Dynamic Pigeon—Knee & Foot

 
 
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Stability Drills

These drills work to help stabilize the mobility you just gained with the preceding drills. A mobile joint is a great start, but then you must stabilize it with exercises that will aid in alignment and strength of the joint. These exercises are generally used immediately after the mobility work to help in the retention of the alignment and position we are hoping to obtain. Check out a couple of these drills that you can add to your 4x4 warmup.

i. Band Lat. Walks
ii. Split Squat w/ Band Pull-apart

 
 
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Core Drills

Exercises in this phase of our preparation are to “fire up” the core to stabilize the trunk before loading the body with all the great tools we use in strength training and conditioning. A common practice is to save the “ab work” for last during your training session, which is all fine and good, but adding these to your 4x4 work before a weight is lifted can help your performance. A strong, “awake” center will keep you safe during your exercises and allow you to get the most out of them at the same time.

i. Foam Roller Dead Bug with Ext.
ii. Side plank and row

 
 
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Loco-motor Drills

After mobilizing and stabilizing the system, now it’s time to energize it! These drills are used to increase the body and tissue temperature that will prepare your body for the strength and conditioning work that lies ahead. These drills are typically fast and fun, and can combine some dynamic stretching with basic calisthenics. These can be as simple as a jumping jack or lateral lunges, or these two gems:

i. Snowboarders
ii. Sprinter Lunge

 
 
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***

To prepare your body for work and to limit the chances of injury, you must perform a proper warmup. No more skipping a major part of your training session! As soon as you begin to look at the 4x4 warmup as a must-do, the harder it will be to work without it.

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: functional training core videos warmups mobility movement stability loco-motor drills

How the Half-Kneeling Workout Position Helps with Movement

For many years now, the half-kneeling position has been a favorite of mine and a workout program staple for the individuals I work with. As a “pattern–first” coach, the half-kneeling position not only provides another dimension to many exercises; it also helps in enhancing a few movement patterns at the same time.


Why It’s a Great Position

One of the reasons it’s such a great position is that it teaches us how we learned to move in the first place, from the ground up. Becoming proficient in the basic functional movement patterns carries over immensely into higher-order movements and exercises, as well as develops strength and stability in the trunk and core, which will be a benefit in many aspects of fitness and while we travel around this earth.

Getting the Most from the Movement

But the half-kneeling position is more than just putting one knee on the ground. There are a few intricacies you want to pay attention to in order to get the most out of the movement you’re performing in this position.

Let’s break down the half-kneeling position, shall we?

 
 
 
 
 
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As you can see, there is more to this position than simply placing one knee on the ground and performing a movement.

The Best Half-Kneeling Exercises

Now that we know the best way to set-up this position, here are a few of my favorite half-kneeling exercises for you to add into your workout program.

 
 
 
 
 
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  • Hip flexor stretch
  • Windmills
  • Cable chop
  • Cable lift
  • AR press
  • Sandbag halo
  • MB hip toss
  • SA land mine OH press
  • SA chest press
  • KB seesaw press
  • Lat pulls

Getting the most out of every movement in exercise should be a priority when designing a program or individual workout session. Concepts like combination exercises, multi-joint movements, and pattern-specific exercises provide maximal benefits to your fitness and routine. Take a knee and improve multiple facets of your fitness at the same time.

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercise workouts core functional movement programs movement knee