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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Tony Maloney

Recent Posts by Tony Maloney:

The Ripple Effect: Four Ways to Change Lives with a Positive Attitude

GettyImages-456518175Picture yourself on the shore of a lake or a pond, and you cast a stone into the water. You see it enter the water and disappear, leaving behind a bounty of ripples that seemingly spread out for miles. The act of tossing a small stone into the water will result in a change that can be felt much farther away than the initial entry point—proof that small actions can lead to much bigger changes, even if you can’t see how far they can reach.

The Power Word

So I practice a little technique where I repeat what I call a POWER WORD throughout your day to motivate me to keep focused and energized to take on the daily chores and tasks. I change it up every month or so, and it is the first word I say to myself when I hop out of bed in the morning. My current word: RIPPLES! What kind of ripples am I sending out in my daily interactions with the folks that I serve, my team and coworkers, and the people I don’t even know?

The word ripples reminds me that even the smallest of positive actions on my part can affect someone in a huge way, and even other people who interact with the same person. You see, if I provide a positive experience with one person, the ripple effect hopefully will be that they will do the same for the next person they interact with, and so on and so on, changing the lives of many people found in the ripples. Conversely, a negative interaction with the initial person might trigger undesirable ripples, setting off a chain of events that will detract from peoples' lives and not enrich them. You have the power to change so many lives, and even the world, with a positive attitude.

Four Ways to Create a Positive Ripple

So how can you create a positive ripple with the people you interact with every day? Here are four ways to create a positive, powerful ripple:

  • Acknowledge somebody: Lift your head up from your phone and acknowledge the existence of other people. A simple smile, or nod, and maybe even a wave to demonstrate you acknowledge that person can go a long way.
  • Appreciate somebody: We tend to hold back our appreciation for folks, and not express that we appreciate their gifts to the world or our lives. Take the time to show somebody you appreciate them, make it genuine and not forced, and you could send that person on a positive path that day.
  • Advise somebody: Help somebody become a better version of themselves, or make it through a tough time, or solidify their future with sound financial advice. When you do this, you not only create change for that individual, but it provides you with a great feeling you can’t get anywhere else. Get this feeling, and continue the positive ripples throughout your day that will reach so many!
  • Admire somebody: Show someone that you admire them for who they are and what they give to the world. Genuine admiration for someone, and demonstrating it, can make all the difference in someone feeling needed and important, leading them on a positive path emotionally, physically, and mentally. Admiration for someone equals more positive ripples, but you have to show it, and stop holding back.

For me, repeating the word “ripple” reminds me that the interactions that I have with people can cast a positive or negative ripple effect that could reach for miles, or lives in this case. Changing the world sounds extreme, but just imagine if every person approached interactions with others in this manner and tried to always provide a positive ripple. Call me sappy if you wish, but I think the world could be a better place when full of positive RIPPLES!

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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: motivation positive attitude

Marching Orders: Creating Stability Using Marching Exercises

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 11.38.50 AMHumans have the ability to become and remain stable throughout any movement, from walking, to lunges, to power cleans. Increased stability typically correlates with increased performance.

There are countless methods, tools, and tricks of the trade to find and keep stability, and one that I think provides so many benefits at any level of fitness is the marching pattern. No, that is not a typo; marching is exactly what I mean. You know, that movement you see members of the band doing at halftime. Marching, at its core (I meant to do that), creates stability just when you get into the marching position. Then you can increase the results by changing your body position and adding load to make it a hugely effective exercise for increasing stability.

Why March?

There are many reasons why you should try marching:

  • It’s a fundamental movement that can be done at any age.
  • Marching can serve as a lead-up to so many more advanced movements.
  • It creates stability on both sides of the body (hip flexors and glutes).
  • Marching develops balance while increasing core stability.
  • The exercise helps the aging athlete avoid shuffling when walking, which can lead to falls.
  • It helps increase performance in single-leg movements.

Videos of Exercises

Here are videos of some marching-based exercises you can do:

  • Bridge marching
  • Resisted bridge marching
  • Sandbag bridge marching
  • Airex pad marching
  • KB Standing marching suitcase, racked, overhead
  • Miniband resisted marching
  • Sandbag rotation marching

Stability equals strength, and we can all stand to be stronger in the movement patterns that are huge parts of our lives outside of the gym. Add marching to your program to be "life strong,” and enjoy moving for a lifetime.

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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: fitness center core exercises videos stability hips marching

Wood Chipper: How to Be More Efficient, Productive, and Successful

GettyImages-455422071I was recently chatting with my brother Tim about work stuff in a conversation filled with multiple shop-talk topics. You see, he is an assistant chief of a pretty large fire department, and we share common goals and challenges when it comes to managing a crew. Needless to say, our conversations can get quite lively and the ideas are always abundant.

Enter the Wood Chipper: Getting Things Done Fast

During this particular conversation he used a phrase that I absolutely loved (and actually told him I will be stealing): he referred to someone he works with as a “Wood Chipper.” If you are like me, you immediately imagine a large piece of wood being thrown into a box filled with super sharp blades and being spit out the other end in a different form—in this case, a million pieces of shredded wood.

Mind you, Tim was using “wood chipper” as a compliment about this person’s ability to get things done, and quickly. The analogy of taking on a task (feeding the wood chipper) and spitting out a completed product quickly, and to the specs that you are given, is a great strategy in being successful in anything that you do. Working at a task with the voracity of a well-oiled wood chipper means that you don’t delay and you take the necessary steps to complete the task using the resources (blades) you have available to you.

5 Strategies to Help Earn the Nickname “The Wood Chipper”

Do you want to be known for speed and efficiency in your life? Here are five strategies for tearing through tasks like a machine.

  • Focus on the most important thing and the most important time: Not all tasks are created equal, and some carry more weight than others. The best first step is focusing on the most important thing that will lead to success in all other steps, or even eliminate them as unnecessary. This prioritization takes some skill to harness, but just like any skill you can train it by making it a habit. Start by asking yourself often “what is the most important thing I can do right now?” Laser focus on the most important thing and the most important time!
  • Tackle the big stuff first: The stuff that scares you should be done first. Don’t get bogged down by the small, tedious tasks that make you feel busy. Being busy is not the same as being productive. Put most of your energy into the big-ticket items right away and you might find that many of those smaller tasks get completed as well, or don’t even matter.
  • Say “No” more: In their best-selling book and popular website, The One Thing, authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan discuss the power of the ability to say no and how it leads to greater success. Do you say “yes” to not feel bad? Does saying “yes” take away from family and friends, personal wellness, and rest? We must break the habit of saying “yes” to everything and only saying “yes” to the most important thing. Trust me, it’s okay. Because the bottom line is that not creating boundaries will only lead to more obstacles.
  • Stop trying to multitask: If you agree with the first of these five strategies (not all things are created equal), the idea of multitasking should seem goofy. I believe the old saying goes, “A man who chases two rabbits (it could be bunnies) catches neither.” Simply put, if you attempt to put in equal amounts of effort for all of your “things” at the same time, the result will be equally insufficient. Give all your focus to one thing at a time, complete it, then move on. This is science, people. Research has shown that humans can’t focus on more than one thing at a time, and those who multitask are shown to be less productive. What is the most important thing? Focus on that one thing, and then move on.
  • Get some sleep: This seems a bit out of place considering the other four strategies listed here, but it plays, I think, just as big a role. Create a habit of getting at least 7 to 8 hours a night so that you are fresh to make that decision about what is the most important thing to be focusing on. We have covered the importance of sleep in previous posts, so simply put, IT’S SUPER IMPORTANT! Sleep can effect so many functions we rely on, so create the habit of getting more sleep. Here is one strategy to help create a successful sleep habit: turn off the electronics early and go lie down!

Put a few of these strategies into place and start “wood chipping” your way to success. Focus on one thing, the most important thing, at one time and see how productive you become.

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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: sleep productivity goals prioritization

Back to Exercise Basics: The Split Squat

As we continue down the road of improving our basic movement patterns (which is always under construction, by the way), we take a look at the squat pattern and its variations a bit further. Many fitness pros, including myself, argue that we spend more time on one leg than we do on two. Think about it: walking, running, traveling up stairs—for varying amounts of time, you can find yourself on one leg a lot.

What Makes a Split Squat a Split Squat?

So if you are on one leg a bunch, it only makes sense that you build that position to be strong and stable, and in many different planes of motion. Let’s take a look at what makes a split squat a split squat, which is very different from the lunge but often is called by the same name (kind of a pet peeve of mine).

Tony_split-squat

  1. Base of support—Forward Foot – Weight on heel
  2. Base of support—Rear Foot – Weight on toes, heel up
  3. Base of support—Split distance is 3-4’ 
  4. Shin angle—moving forward
  5. Front Knee – Tracking over but not beyond toes
  6. Trail knee – path towards ground, suspended
  7. Glute “stacked” above knee
  8. Neutral Spine
  9. Shoulders back and down
  10. Eyes up

Many of the aspects of the regular squat are found in the split. You are simply in a single-leg-supported position.

Options to Get More Out of the Split Squat

Now that you have the foundation, here are a few options you can use to get more out of this movement pattern.

  1. TRX Split Squat
  2. 2KB Split Squat—Farmer position
  3. 1KB RFEE Split Squat—Down position
  4. 2KB Split Squat-Racked position

 

Exercise Variations in the Frontal and Transverse Planes

Human beings need to travel in 3D. It’s important to all of us, from the athlete to the accountant. Often we train in one plane of motion, typically the sagittal plane (in the regular squat, for example, or the overhead press). But in the real world we move in more ways than straight ahead. Here are some variations that will get you in the frontal (side-to-side) and the transverse (rotational) planes.

  1. 3D Body Weight
  2. Offset KB Spit Squat
  3. SaB Lateral Split Squat
  4. SaB + KB Rot. Split Squat

 

The split squat is a super-important movement pattern that I feel we need to train more. As single-leg beings, mastering this pattern in multiple planes will transfer big time to the real world and allow us to move better, more often, with fewer injuries.

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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: fitness center injury prevention functional movement movement squat stability leg day exercise basics

BOSU Returns: 4 Reasons to Come to a Class at NIFS

COM_BOSUWhen I first came to NIFS more than a decade ago (I know, right?), I brought BOSU Conditioning with me, and the NIFS community welcomed it with open arms (and legs, and core…you get the idea). I was fresh out of a training opportunity with the inventor of the BOSU, David Weck, while working at another gym. I took to the BOSU very quickly and loved the many training dimensions it provided and wanted to share it with as many folks as I could.

In its debut here at NIFS, BOSU was a hit and saw eight great years on the class schedule with many great instructors and class designs. But it needed a break. Finally that break is over, and BOSU has returned to the class schedule and is getting a lot of hype again!

What Makes BOSU So Awesome?

Here are few things you need to know about this powerful, multi-use fitness tool:

  • BOSU stands for BOth Sides Utilized. This refers to the ball itself. You can use the dome side as well as the platform (flat side) for so many different movements. Both sides utilized also pertains to using both sides of the body in harmony.
  • You can train all aspects of fitness utilizing the BOSU, including mobility, stability, core strength, power, strength, and cardio.
  • Movement options are endless and can be adapted to the fitness level of the user.
  • Movements can become three-dimensional, which is how we move in the real world.
  • Provides an unstable surface, forcing the user to use important stabilizer muscles of the entire body.

Here are some videos that show some of those movements:

Screen Shot 2018-12-11 at 2.02.00 PM


Screen Shot 2018-12-11 at 12.52.56 PM


Five Reasons to Try BOSU

Now that we all agree that the BOSU is pretty awesome, here are some reasons to stop waiting and just take a class already. You won’t regret it!

  • Be different: There is no other tool like the BOSU, so a class session designed around this one-of-a-kind piece of equipment will be very different from any class you might have experienced. We use different body positions and equipment differently than most training disciplines, making each class different than the last.
  • Options for movement: There are countless options for different movement patterns that can be adjusted to suit any fitness level. No matter whether it is your first time on the ball or your 50th, the BOSU finds a way to challenge you.
  • Specific adaptations: As mentioned before, the BOSU is an unstable surface that will increase the usage of small stabilizing muscles that are found all over the body globally, and locally to the area directly in contact with the BOSU. An unstable surface elicits a specific adaption of stability. “Use more, burn more" is a direct effect from a class; the more muscle you have to use, the more energy you will burn. If the goal is to increase your stability, balance, and core strength, the BOSU will provide that specific adaptation.
  • Unique experience: There are exercises that are done on the BOSU ball, and then there are BOSU movements, both providing a unique exercise experience. There are also unique training effects that can only come from working with the BOSU. Effects such as the increased usage of the foot for grip and stability, which aids in all movement on a stable or unstable surface.

There are plenty more reasons why should try a BOSU class right away, but there are only four letters in the word. So what are you waiting for? Come see me on Sundays at 10am and realize what the BOSU can do for you!

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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 cardio group fitness balance strength core strength mobility stability core exercises BOSU

Five Great Things About the 5th Annual NIFS Powerlifting Competition

IMG_0151Almost five years ago, the team and I hosted the first ever powerlifting event here at NIFS. Also known as the Iron Triathlon (shirt slogan spoiler alert), the first year was a modest one with 25 athletes competing. This year, the competition registration sold out in just under three days! From our humble beginnings to this year’s event, it’s been a ride. There has been so much hard work, resulting in so many smiles and victories for both the athletes and the crew. We have learned a lot from year one to now, and we have developed from our challenges and gotten better each year.

As we near this year’s NIFS Powerlifting Competition coming up on November 10, I found myself wondering what were some of the best things that have happened in the five years of this event. Here are the five best results to come from the past five years.

Growth

As mentioned before, our first event consisted of 25 athletes who put on a great show and set the tone for years to come. The next year we doubled our registration. Obviously the word got out that the athletes, event staff, and environment were second to none. We increased again the third year and sold out the 4th and 5th annual competitions. The team and I couldn’t be prouder to provide such a great event that athletes and spectators are flocking to Indianapolis to compete in and witness.

“The competition was amazing and it was extremely smooth from setup to setup. I will definitely recommend NIFS to anyone, and the crew you had there was stellar. I’ve volunteered for a few powerlifting meets myself and I understand how exhausting just setting everything up can be. The atmosphere was great.”
—Damon Bryant

Competition

As the number of registrations rose, so did the level of competition. Athletes were coming from other states to compete, and they all brought their talents to Indy to win. We have seen Squats and Deadlifts over 700 pounds and Bench numbers surpassing the 300 and even 400-pound mark. Our first event had five female athletes competing; this year there are 22! It’s awesome to see so many strong women competing.

"I would say that this is a great first meet for any beginner powerlifter or anyone interested in pushing their body to their weightlifting limits. It gives you the chance to compete against people around your body type and ultimately see what you're made of."   
—Tyler Mullen

Comradery

IMG_0363One thing we hear a lot is how inclusive and supportive the environment is on event day. Even though athletes arrive to be victorious over one another, they all support and cheer on each other to do their best. I think the sport of powerlifting is just this way, but I also think the NIFS event intensifies the comradery among these athletes. It sounds corny, but there is something in the air that day, something that reinforces that it’s “WE” and not just “I.”

"I loved how encouraging everyone was. Even though it was a competition, people were constantly saying ‘you can do it’ or ‘great job’. High-fives were everywhere and it was awesome. PLUS all the free goodies—what college kid doesn’t love free stuff?"  
Madison Stewart

Victories

One of the coolest aspects of our event is that, for many, it’s their first competition. As a non-sanctioned meet, it’s a great first step to see whether the sport of powerlifting is for you. So many first-time lifters, those who maybe once thought they couldn’t succeed in this kind of competition, have not only competed, but have taken home some hardware. There’s nothing like witnessing someone take on their fears and conquer them; it is so powerful!

"This was my first powerlifting meet, and I was a little nervous coming in not really knowing what to expect. However, EVERYONE was very nice, including the staff running the event and the competitors that were competing. After doing several powerlifting meets after this one, this one ran the smoothest and fastest by far. It was an amazing atmosphere with lots of spectators and everyone cheering you on every single lift.”
—Bailey Schober

Athletes

The amazing staff and crew are responsible for providing an energetic and smooth event, and so many thanks go out to each team over the past four years. But it’s the athletes who put on the show. I have had the great pleasure to meet and work with some pretty outstanding individuals during the past four years of this competition. These athletes work so hard for so long to put it all on the line that day, and they do such a phenomenal job. Of all the enjoyable aspects of this event, being around all these amazing athletes is by far my favorite. Having the opportunity to learn about them, maybe meet their families that day, and be able to give them that last word of encouragement before their last attempt at a PR—it lights me up! I know I speak for the entire crew that we cannot wait to get underway on November 10!

“NIFS is one of my favorite competitions each year because of the great people that make it all possible. Thank you for hosting such a great event that I look forward to returning to each year!”
—Ben Poore

So if you are interested in seeing why this event is so awesome, put it on your calendar for November 10, and witness the spectacle and a bunch of bars bending. Lifting begins at 9am, and it’s a measly $5 per person. Kids 12 and under get in free. We hope to see you all there!

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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 staff NIFS programs weightlifting Indianapolis competition NIFS Powerlifting Competition

Back to Exercise Basics: The Hip Hinge

In my previous “Back to Exercise Basics” posts, I broke down the push-up and then the squat, focusing on the individual aspects that form a properly performed fundamental movement. Now it’s time to take a look at the movement pattern that is considered by many to be the granddaddy of all movement patterns: the hip hinge.

Most movement in athletics (and in life) stems from a hip hinge. It is a base position that is the ultimate power generator. The hinge can be found in most movements and is a super important position and pattern no matter who you are and what your athletic event is, sports or life. Quite often, many individuals confuse the hinge with the squat; and although they are both lower-body movements, they couldn’t be more different. This confusion between the two generally leads to “squat-heavy” kettle swings, poor positioning for a deadlift, and lackluster power expression.

How the Hip Hinge and Squat Differ

So if you can live with my stick-figure drawings, take a look at how these movements are different:

Cara_hinge

HIP HINGE

  • Max hip flexion with minimum knee flexion
  • Hip dominant
  • Hips go back and forward
  • Vertical shin

Cara_squat_kb

SQUAT

  • Max knee flexion with minimum hip flexion
  • Quad dominant
  • Hips go up and down
  • Shin moves forward

The differences between the two should be pretty clear when looking at them side by side, even with these crude drawings.

Videos: How to Master the Pattern

But the hip hinge can be one of the toughest things for a coach to teach, and a tough pattern for a new mover to perfect. Of course, using an FMS to evaluate your ability to perform a hinge pattern is a key first step. But after that, how can you master this pattern? Here are a few drills that can set you up for success, as well as some variations of a hip hinge that you can add into your current program.

VIDEO #1: Set It Up

  • Karate-chop hips—Rock and lock—Charlie
  • Short-stop hand slide
  • Broad jump freeze

 

 

VIDEO #2: Grease the Pattern

  • Wall butt touch
  • Band distracted hinge
  • KB front-loaded hinge
  • Foam roller single-leg hinge

 

VIDEO #3: Variations

  • KB deadlift
  • Hip thruster
  • SaB deadlift
  • Landmine single-leg/straight leg/Deadlift

 

Just as with the push-up and the squat, we are merely scratching the surface here of both the position and the breakdown of the hinge pattern and the many ways to use and improve this ever-important fundamental pattern. But I feel good that the information covered here can at minimum get you underway toward being a hero for the hip hinge.

Get More Help from NIFS

Want more tips and information? Schedule a personal workout plan appointment with a NIFS instructor and cover cutting-edge drills and techniques to make you the best mover you can be.

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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 functional movement functional movement screen exercise basics hips

Rest for the Wicked: Recovery from High-Intensity Training

GettyImages-701140898The peripheral pollution surrounding what fitness and wellness should look like and how you get there is near epidemic status. The topic of high-intensity training receives the majority of the attention, with using Olympic lifts for conditioning a close second. And oh, what is “Insta-worthy” is atop the pollution charts as well. Okay, so that last one was a personal gripe more than based on empirical data. No matter; there are so many messages out there, many of them incorrect and downright unsafe, that it is hard to wade through the muck to get to the clear and beneficial information.

The peripheral pollution surrounding what fitness and wellness should look like and how you get there is near epidemic status."

What I have come to appreciate more and more these days both professionally and personally is the concept of rest and recovery both during a training session and on subsequent days of the week. In my previous post, “This is 40”, I touched on how recovery is so important to get right as we age, but it is just as important for any age and fitness level. Rest and recovery do so much to help you reach your results, but they so often get forgotten due to the misguided messages out there saying that it has to be hard all the time no matter what. Here’s the thing: your immune system does not know the difference between disease and overtraining, which could leave you susceptible to a whole slew of infections. Not only are rest and recovery good for you physiologically, they can do wonders for your emotional self.

Here are three Rs to live by that will allow for the greatest training effect from the high-intensity work you are putting in at the gym, decrease the chance for injury and or illness, and hopefully increase the amount of SMILES you give to the world each day because you feel great!

Your immune system does not know the difference between disease and overtraining.”

Recover

Let’s look at recovery both during a training session as well as outside of a training day, shall we?

Training session: For higher-intensity training sessions, mind your work-to-rest ratio and aim for 1:2 or 1:1. Be wary about a laundry list of exercises to be performed for :45 work and :15 rest for multiple sets. There is not sufficient recovery time at the higher intensity loads, and before long most movements are not executed well, leading to poor results and maybe even injury. Physiologically, not allowing the system to return to a more normal state (or closer to it) can play havoc on the systems needed for the results you are seeking as well as keeping you alive. If you are not using time, heart rates or a simple talk test can be used to determine when it is appropriate to take on the next bout. A good rule of thumb is 110 to 120 beats per minute for your heart rate, or you can complete a couple of sentences in a row. Hard work pays off, but you have to be able to work hard each round and set. Ample time to recover will allow for that.

Off day: What do I do on my days off for recovery? See below. But, let us talk training schedule for maximum recovery results. As always, fitness IQ and fitness level will determine both the training schedule and loads; and there are many very thick books on that topic, which I am not trying to cover here. My hope is to provide a few basic, typical, rules of thumb. Again, for higher-intensity training sessions, here are a few sample weekly schedules:

  • Beginner: 1 On, 1 Off
  • Intermediate: 2 On, 1 Off
  • Advanced: 3 On, 1 Off

These are very general ideas of what a training schedule could look like, and I would highly suggest that you let your body be your guide. Resting heart rate can be a key indicator of proper recovery and being training ready. If you wake up and you’re at 80bpm, you might want to recover that day. Build in those recovery days to help maximize your results.

“Hard work pays off, but you have to be able to work hard each round or set.”

Regenerate

Once again, let’s look at both training days and off days and what regeneration looks like for each.

Training session: Regeneration for a training session is made up of some drills that aid in elasticity of the soft tissues and prep the body for movement. This is typically completed before a training session but should also be done afterward as well to help aid in recovery and be ready for the next session. Elements found in regeneration are the following:

  • Breathing techniques
  • Foam rolling and trigger point drills
  • Active mobility and range-of-motion drills
  • Stability drills

Off day: Here is where we step away from the training stimulus and dig deeply into the regeneration of tissues and resetting energy levels through activities that encourage rehabilitation from training and focus on recentering yourself. The place to start is to get ample SLEEP! Enough said! If you are not getting 7 to 8 hours of restful sleep a night, consistently, reaching your goals will be an even tougher road.

Some other activities that will promote regeneration include the following:

  • Massage
  • Ice (my product of choice is HyperIce)
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Hot tubs
  • Cryo-bath

Reflect

The third R should be reserved for reflecting on the week of training and life as a whole and should be an enjoyable training session. The session should emphasize play and nature. It should be an active session, but not nearly as intense as a training session (unless, of course, you play a sport for leisure). Mainly, take the time to be happy to be alive, spend time with the people you love, and do something you enjoy doing. Just as important to your health and well-being as the other two Rs, treat it as a mental-health day where you are being active. I don’t have a list here for you because you should do what moves you; but I highly recommend that it emphasize play, and that you connect with nature somehow.

I say again, hard work pays off, but you have to be able to work hard, and treat recovery as a training priority if you hope to get the most results from that hard work. These activities and days should be built into your training schedule, because it is still training, and a super-important aspect to the overall training plan. So there is rest for the wicked!

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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 training recovery high intensity results

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