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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Fresh Foods for Healthy Spring Meals

GettyImages-910874208The never-ending cold and dreary winter weather is coming to an end finally. After months of staying in and hibernating on chili, casseroles, soups, and stews, it’s time to break out the fresh and colorful foods! This is the perfect time of year to experiment with more fresh fruits and vegetables that are quick and easy and oh so good for you!

Here are some of my favorite recipes that I am excited about adding into the spring and summer rotation.

Brussels Sprouts Salad

FOR THE SALAD

4 dozen Brussels sprouts (trimmed and sliced thin)

8 oz center-cut bacon (cooked and coarsely chopped)

1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

FOR THE DRESSING

Juice of 1 lemon

¼ cup maple syrup

½ cup olive oil

1 small shallot (minced)

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a large bowl, toss together the Brussels sprouts, bacon, pecans, and grated Parmesan cheese.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, maple syrup, olive oil, shallot, and salt and pepper until thoroughly combined.
  3. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to ensure that all of the ingredients are evenly moistened.

The salad can be served immediately, or refrigerated for up to 4 hours before serving (if making further in advance, keep dressing separate until ready to serve).

Eggplant and Goat Cheese Bake

3 thin eggplants, sliced into ¼-inch-thick slices

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1–1½ cups medium tomatoes, chopped into 1-inch cubes

4 oz. goat cheese

1⁄3 cup basil, roughly chopped

½ cup olive oil for drizzling

  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
  2. In a 13 × 9 baking dish, layer the sliced eggplant, overlapping if necessary. Drizzle a little of the olive oil over the eggplant slices and gently toss them to coat.
  3. Scatter the garlic over the eggplant. Then place the tomatoes evenly over the eggplant.
  4. Crumble the goat cheese with a knife or your fingers and top the tomatoes. Then place the basil on top.
  5. Bake 35–40 minutes, or until the eggplant is softened and the cheese is slightly melted. Serve hot.

Farmers’ markets are opening soon, so take advantage of fresh and local produce to come up with your weekly meal plans! Challenge yourself each week to try a new fruit or vegetable and base a meal around that choice. Have fun!

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: healthy eating recipes spring local eating fruits and vegetables

Step Class: Step Up to a New Level of Fitness!

www.nifs.orghubfsStep-new-1

Whether you are 18 or 80, man or woman, looking to lose weight or simply maintain, step class just might be the perfect addition to your fitness program. Have you ever considered taking a step class? Perhaps you have found yourself thinking, "I'm not coordinated enough," or “that's too intense for me (or not intense enough"). Well, give me two minutes to change your mind.

Does It Burn Calories?

The bottom line is, stepping up and down off of a raised platform burns calories. In fact, it burns a lot of calories. According to Self magazine, stepping up and down off of a raised platform burns more calories than doing jumping jacks, split lunges, power squats, or speed skating for the same length of time. A great exercise for weight loss? YES! Great way to maintain weight? YOU BET!

Am I Coordinated Enough?

Maybe you’re thinking that you lack the required coordination. But the reality of it is, if you can march in place, you can do step. The basic step is just that: basic. Up, up, down, down. Of course that move would get boring pretty quickly, so we add music, rhythm, and variations on that basic move. While it helps to have a little rhythm (can you clap your hands to the beat of a song?), anyone can step. It might take a few classes to really get the hang of it, but it is quite doable, and FUN! Don't be intimidated!

There is a first time for everything. At some point, every single person in the class, including the instructor, attended their very first step class. I’m not gonna lie, you probably won't pick up every single thing in the first class you take, but let's face it: what would be the fun of mastering it in the first hour? Half the fun is seeing yourself improve, seeing your cardiovascular fitness level improve, and becoming more efficient overall (more work with less effort). Step will get you there!

STEP_2019Is It Too Intense?

You might be thinking that step would be too hard or too intense for you. While step is designed to be a challenging cardio workout, the intensity level can be adjusted in a number of ways to meet the needs of each participant.

  • The height of the platform is not uniform; with use of individual risers at each end, the platform can be set as low as just a few inches off the floor (or as high as 8–12 inches).
  • Another easy adjustment, which your instructor will show you, is to limit your range of movement with each step. As you become more comfortable with the format, you will be able to add intensity by increasing range of motion with the steps, and by adding arm movements to further increase your heart rate. Because of this, the challenge never ends. There is no plateau.

Is It Not Intense Enough?

On the flip side, maybe you are thinking step is not intense enough. Perhaps you’re thinking that only girls take step, or that you are too fit to benefit from it. Regardless of your fitness level, step can be a very challenging cardiovascular workout. It is a well-known fact that the US military utilizes step aerobics to improve our troops' agility, coordination, and endurance. If it's tough enough for our soldiers, then it's tough enough for me! In addition to step, I also teach Insanity, total-body conditioning, and kickboxing classes. Step meets or exceeds these other formats in intensity level and calories burned per hour.

Step is the perfect group fitness format because it accommodates all fitness levels. (And if you haven't tried group fitness, well that's a whole other conversation.) But in short, try it! The camaraderie and accountability among the participants, the music, and the FUN factor will have you hooked!

So, are you ready to take your fitness regimen to the next STEP? See you in class soon, soon, soon!

Yours in fitness,
Rachel

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This blog was written by Rachel Pfeiffer, ACE and AFAA Certified Group Fitness Instructor, and proud NIFS Step instructor since 1999.

Topics: cardio group fitness step class workout plan physical fitness

Hamstrings for the Win: Avoid Common Leg Day Mistakes

GettyImages-914656088What is the most feared and most skipped gym day of the week? Nearly every person despises it, and few survive it. Yes, you guessed it. I am referring to the infamous “leg day.” However, even if you can endure training your legs, how beneficial is it if you aren’t training your hamstrings correctly, efficiently, and according to their full potential?

The hamstring is a large group of muscles (the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus) located on the posterior side of the upper leg. They have two main responsibilities: flexion at the knee (pulling the ankle toward the glutes) and extension at the hips (pulling the ankle back toward the glute while maintaining a stiff leg). Therefore, the hamstring’s main goal is to balance out the action of the large quad muscles on the front side of the leg, assisting the knee in stability.

In his blog Five Biggest Mistakes in Hamstring Development, the late Dr. Charles Poliquin, a remarkable pioneer in the field of fitness and bodybuilding, put into perspective just how important the hamstring muscles are. He recollects, “When I was a kid, hamstrings were called in bodybuilding magazines ‘leg biceps.’”

Don’t Neglect Posterior Leg Development

A standard leg day, as one could imagine, might include the leg press, back squat, leg extension, leg curl, and perhaps a lunge variation. If that’s the case, there is simply not enough emphasis on posterior leg development. We naturally experience quad dominance simply because we are human and the majority of our daily movement requires being in a squat or quad-dominant position. This includes daily functions such as sitting and standing up out of a chair or car. The issues arise when the quadriceps overpower the action of the hamstrings throughout a certain range of motion or movement pattern. This can often happen when walking or running, but it occurs mostly when it comes time to execute cutting, jumping, and landing mechanics.

Simply put, athletes across most major sports have below-average hamstring development. This goes for every individual on the planet as well. It becomes a rather large issue and argument for some injuries that these athletes typically encounter.

Common Mistakes in Exercises for Hamstring Strength

If you are looking to improve hamstring strength, there are several exercises you could add to your workout program. However, I’m here to tell you that there are also a few common mistakes that could be holding you back from reaching your full potential.

  • Wrong timing: The first mistake is that you are most likely waiting to train the hamstring until the end of your leg workout. Ultimately, you should program hamstring-specific exercises.
  • Incomplete range of motion: Secondly, it is quite possible that you might not be completing the full range of motion when targeting this muscle group.
  • Not enough time under tension: The final common mistake is that when performing the movement pattern, you are not spending enough time under tension for that muscle to respond and grow. So a tip would be to use a tempo count where you control down and explode up each rep.

Do Those Leg Curls!

If you’ve learned anything from the last five minutes of reading this article, I hope it is the importance of training the posterior chain, especially the hamstring. Not only is it aesthetically appealing, but the with strong hamstrings, functionality and safety of young athletes should be at an all-time high. So jump in and do those leg curls!

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This blog was written by Cara Hartman, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: injury prevention muscles strength training hamstring leg day

Warming Up with Back Pain

GettyImages-936117924How many times have you had every intention of heading to the gym either before or after work, only to be deterred by nagging back pain? Maybe you woke up feeling stiff and sore, or maybe you had a long day at work and had a flare-up of pain. Either way, you’re far less motivated to be active when in pain, which quickly turns into a slippery slope. Pain is often a signal that something is not right, and your body will likely encourage behaviors that relieve your pain or prevent it from worsening. If your pain increases with movement, the likelihood of you working out becomes very low. The less you move, the better you feel, and voila, your back pain “magically” goes away!

How long will that last, though, until yet another flare-up digs its claws painfully into your spine? Unfortunately, we have yet to discover a sensor for detecting such episodes, but in the meantime we can do everything possible to prevent it from happening. The first step has to incorporate some semblance of movement. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a client come to me with a flare-up of pain. Virtually every single time, there is a significant reduction in pain after simply taking some really good breaths and/or actively moving through a safe range of motion. “My back was really achy/stiff/tight/sore/etc. when I came in, but now it feels great!” Some version of this is music to my ears, because now that individual is likely to be far more motivated to complete the workout.

The How

To know exactly what movements or warm-up activities you should be doing, the first step should be to determine whether your pain is something that is chronic (more than a week or two), or extremely severe. In either case, you might need to seek a trusted physical therapist or other healthcare professional to dig a bit deeper into your pain. However, if you’re simply in need of a consistent routine to optimize your warm-up, there are three main activities that can benefit virtually any generally healthy gym-goer.

1. 90/90 Hip Lift (adapted from the Postural Restoration Institute)

  1. Lie on your back and place your feet flat on a wall, or place your heels on a box of appropriate height. Your knees and hips should be bent to 90 degrees, as pictured.
  2. Lift only your tailbone, keeping your back flat against the surface on which you’re laying. Visualize tucking your tail between your legs, as though you are a dog that just got in trouble. You should feel your glutes and hamstrings engage.
  3. Holding this position, fully exhale through your mouth so as to push your ribs down into your back. You might place your hands on your ribs to better feel them lowering as you exhale. You should feel a very strong contraction in your abdominals, especially on your sides.
  4. After a full exhale, lightly inhale through your nose, keeping your ribs in the “down” position that you achieved after your exhale. Your goal is to maintain the engagement in your abdominals as you breathe in through your nose.
  5. Repeat this for 4 to 5 full exhales, and do 2 to 3 sets overall.

KEY POINT: The first priority here is to be in the correct position. If the body parts aren’t aligned properly, the muscles you want to be working won’t have any leverage to work. Feeling your hamstrings and glutes engage along with your abdominals, particularly on your sides, is a good sign you’re in the right position. It’s also entirely possible that you could be in the correct position, but not “feel” either of those areas working. That’s okay, just keep practicing and you’ll start to feel it soon. It never hurts to take a video of yourself just to double-check.

2. Hands and Knees Rib Lift

  1. Start on your hands and knees, with your palms directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.
  2. Tuck your tailbone between your legs, as though you are a dog that just got into trouble.
  3. Push your palms through the floor or table to spread your shoulder blades, opening up some “space” in your upper back. Your spine will have a moderate curve to it, as pictured, and you should feel your abs around your ribs engage.
  4. Holding this position, exhale fully out of your mouth as though you are fogging up a mirror.
  5. Pause for a moment after you finish exhaling, note the activity in your abdominals, and inhale through your nose, keeping your abdominals engaged by pulling your ribs up into your spine.
  6. Repeat this for 4 to 5 full exhales, and do 2 to 3 sets overall.

KEY POINT: Avoid shrugging your shoulders toward your ears as you push your palms through the floor. You also want to make sure you’re not using those 6-pack abs (rectus abdominus) in this activity. You want to be focused more on the abs attached directly to the ribs, on the sides of your belly. There’s a time and a place for the 6-pack abs, but this is not one.

3. Spiderman Stretch with Rotation

  1. Start on hands and knees as in the Hands and Knees Rib Lift.
  2. Bring one foot forward and to the outside of your hand on the same side.
  3. Keep your forward foot flat, and take your hand on that same side up to the ceiling, reaching long through your fingertips.
  4. Fully exhale through your mouth as you reach up to the ceiling, inhale through your nose while reaching, then return to start.
  5. Repeat 8 to 10 times with each arm and leg.

KEY POINTS: Make sure you’re reaching straight up to the ceiling. Don’t rotate for the sake of rotation. Reach long through your fingertips as high as you can while you’re pushing away from the floor with your support arm.

Ask a Trainer

Try these out the next time you have some soreness or stiffness coming into the gym. Even if you don’t, these three activities will very much set the tone for your entire workout if performed properly. As always, if you’re unsure, just ask! Any one of our trainers will be happy to help you out, or find the person who can.

Happy moving!

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This blog was written by David Schoch, CSCS, FMS, and Healthy Lifestyle Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: stretching pain warmups back pain

Win the Day, Not the Lottery: Daily Success in Fitness Training

GettyImages-1083000206So often in life people like to look at things as win or lose. But what if you switched your perspective to thinking of making progress by winning each day? With this simple shift, your days can be filled with more positivity and success instead of the typical mindset of losing or not being good enough.

Assess Your Current Fitness Level

So how can you take this approach into your fitness training? It starts with acceptance. Where are you at today? Maybe start by doing a simple fitness test:            

EXERCISE DURATION  # of Reps Completed
Pushups 1 minute  
Situps 1 minute  
Box step-ups 1 minute  
Squats 1 minute  
TRX Row 1 minute  
Burpees 1 minute  


Set Realistic Fitness Goals

After you complete the test and track your results, set attainable goals in your mind. Maybe you want to increase each number by 3 to 5 reps a month from now. That doesn’t sound too bad, right? We often set ourselves up for “losing” or “failure” by creating goals that aren’t realistic.

The chance of winning the lottery in your lifetime is expected to be 1 in 175,000,000. If you set up your goal to win, how much money would you lose trying to buy all the lottery tickets just to achieve this goal? You might argue that the lose outweighs the win. The same is true in fitness training. People often think that doing more will get them to their overall desired results, but often this approach burns them out quickly, making the overall goal not attainable, and they give up on it after a short period of time.

The Mindset of Fitness Training

Here are some things to keep in mind.

“Progress over perfection leads to winning every workout!”

If you set yourself up to start at the bottom and slowly add each time you work out, you will notice progress at each session. With new growth comes new excitement. Aim for progressing in your workouts for a daily feeling of winning, instead of an overall outcome of burnout and losing.

Proper form leads to winning longer!

Practicing proper form can be a huge challenge for many people. Slowing down in general can get uncomfortable, but breaking out of your comfort zone can reduce injuries and lead to success in your fitness progress for a longer duration.

When you practice quality in addition to your quantity goals, you are making double the progress. Have you ever asked a trainer to take a look at some of your basic movements, like a pushup or squat? A lot of details go into these exercises without weight that you might not even realize, let alone the additional details you need to think about when adding weight. A Functional Movement Screen might be a great way to receive feedback about your form to help give you additional knowledge and tools for personal fitness growth.

Don’t forget recovery!

People often forget about the importance of recovery and how it actually allows us to win. Without allowing the body time to heal, you are putting negative strain on the body and brain, leading to not just physical injuries but also a lot of stress and anxiety, which also spirals into even more problems such as future disease.

Being mindful of how much stress you put your body under and balancing it out with how well you recover with days off, diet, and foam rolling and stretching is a huge fitness bonus!

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This blog was written by Brittany Ignas, BS in Kinesiology, 200 Hour Yoga Alliance Certified, Stott Pilates Certified, and Fitness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: goal setting recovery mindset assessment fitness goals functional movement screen

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

Spring Forward with Quick, Healthy Breakfasts

GettyImages-901234842Daylight Saving Time is coming, and with that we lose an hour of sleep. Studies have shown that the week following springing forward, car accidents increase by 20 percent. Cardiovascular events also increase, with a 24 percent higher incidence of heart attacks the Monday following Daylight Saving Time. In addition to an increase in accidents and heart attacks, people are also suffering from not only losing that one hour of sleep from Saturday into Sunday morning, but for up to a week Americans can lose 40 to 50 minutes of sleep per night due to their sleep/wake cycle being thrown off.

One of the main excuses people give for skipping breakfast is time. Now add in almost an hour of lost sleep, and that week following Daylight Saving could be a week of running late and missing breakfast, or the temptation to stop at the drive-through lane. Instead, here are some quick and easy breakfasts that can be useful for Daylight Saving or anytime throughout the year.

Egg Muffins

Ingredients:

12 eggs
½ tsp seasoned salt
2 to 3 TB diced onion
1 cup cooked diced or crumbled ham, bacon, or sausage
Pepper to taste
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ cup diced red bell pepper
¼ cup sautéed and diced mushrooms
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup shredded baby spinach

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs. Add remaining ingredients and mix together.
  4. Scoop ⅓ cup of mixture into each muffin cup. Bake 20–25 minutes or until the center of the muffin is completely cooked.

Baked Apple Cinnamon Steel-Cut Oats

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp butter 
2 cups steel-cut oats 
4 cups boiling water 
2 tsp cinnamon 
3 apples, peeled and diced 
¼ cup brown sugar 
1 tsp salt 
2½ cups milk 

Brown sugar, maple syrup, fruit, nuts (optional toppings)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 9 x 13-inch pan.
  2. Melt butter in skillet and add oats. Stir until lightly toasted.
  3. Put oats in a large mixing bowl and pour boiling water over them. Add apples, cinnamon, brown sugar, and salt and stir until combined. Add milk and stir.
  4. Pour into prepared dish and bake 50–60 minutes or until browned and set.
  5. Stir oatmeal before serving and then add toppings as desired.

Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothie

Ingredients:

2 overripe, frozen large bananas
4–6 TB peanut butter or Pb2 (powdered peanut butter)
1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
1 cup milk
optional ⅓ cup quick oats or rolled oats

Instructions:

  1. Blend the oats until a fine powder forms, then add all remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
  2. Drink immediately, or store in a covered container in the refrigerator if you make the smoothie the night before.

Makes 2 servings.

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy eating recipes breakfast sleep protein

Update Your Fitness Routine: Add Variety to Enhance Your Health

GettyImages-1026603090How do you define fitness? Whatever your answer is, it will shape the way you work out, influence the goals you set, and impact your long-term health. Although everyone might have different perceptions of what “fitness” means, the American College of Sports Medicine has defined what Health-Related Physical Fitness is and has broken it down into five measurable components.

Whether you know it or not, you use every single component in everyday life, so incorporating all of these factors is vital to maintaining high quality of life. As people age, their ability to carry out certain tasks may become compromised if they don’t regularly challenge their bodies to perform them. So, one key to aging well is to incorporate all of the components of health-related physical fitness.

The 5 Components of Health-Related Physical Fitness

  • Body composition is the comparison between fat mass and fat-free mass, where fat-free mass is everything that isn’t fat, including muscle, organs, bones, and so on. This proportion can be used to assess risk for potential health issues, or used as a baseline measure to be retested after you have started a program to track progress. There are several ways to measure body composition; the most accurate methods are water displacement or the BodPod. (See the complete list of NIFS assessments here.)
  • Muscular strength is the amount of force a muscle can produce in a single maximal effort. Muscular strength is relative to a specific muscle group, so a few different tests may need to be conducted to get an overall picture of your strength. A grip strength test is popular and has been utilized frequently in the fitness world. Another is the Repetition Maximum test that can be conducted by the NIFS Health and Fitness Instructors. It is important to gain or maintain muscular strength as you age for many reasons, but we use our strength every day.
  • Muscular endurance, by definition, is the ability of a muscle group to execute repeated contractions over a period of time sufficient to cause fatigue. Like muscular strength, it varies depending on the muscle group, so multiple tests are required for a proper assessment. A common muscular endurance test is the pushup test (you’re probably familiar with this test from grade school). Another is the plank test, which is relatively new, and is a way to get a baseline value for core endurance and use it as a reference for retesting to measure improvements.
  • Flexibility is having the ability to move a joint through its full range of motion. Having sufficient flexibility can help prevent injuries and ensure that you’re capable of performing movements that you may need in daily life. While having enough flexibility is necessary, too much can be risky.
  • Cardiovascular endurance is the ability of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems to deliver oxygen to the rest of the body during continuous exercise. It’s directly correlated to our ability to perform exercise that involves large muscles, dynamic movements, and moderate- to high-intensity workouts over a period of time. Having adequate cardiovascular endurance is vital to keep up with daily activities.

Start with Things You Like to Do and Then Branch Out

If your main goal is to achieve good health, you’ll want to make sure you distribute your training so you can hit all of the categories. Start by doing things you like to do and then branch out by trying new things. It’s common for people to tailor their training to one particular component for whatever goal they are trying to achieve, but to be lacking in most of the other areas. For example, a marathon runner might excel in cardiovascular endurance but be less than average in muscular strength or flexibility.

On the other hand, someone who only lifts heavy weights may lack cardiovascular endurance. However, the runner may start to notice running is easier after incorporating resistance training into their routine, or their muscles might feel great after adding stretching and mobility work. This doesn’t just apply to marathon runners or heavy lifters; almost everyone can benefit from including all 5 components into their routines.

To sum it up, you should practice different forms of exercise to achieve a holistic fitness regimen. It’s perfectly fine to include running, resistance training, or group fitness such as yoga or BODYPUMP, and that’s just a few examples. There are so many different activities and classes to try to help get you to your goals. When you blend different types of training, you can discover your talents, weak links, and things you just enjoy doing.

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This blog was written by Hannah Peters, BS, CPT, Health Fitness Instructor. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: NIFS group fitness endurance flexibility strength exercises BODPOD variety fitness assessment physical fitness

Cycling at NIFS: The Low-Impact, Calorie-burning Group Fitness Workout

Cycle-2Cycling is becoming one of the most popular trends in group fitness. Not only is it a great class to take for the cardio benefits and calorie burn, cycling is a great resistance-based workout that can also increase strength. Many cycling classes are tracked in two ways, by RPM or BPM. RPM stands for “repetitions per minute,” and BPM stands for “beats per Minute.” Each form is usually cued by an instructor to ride to a particular beat. Both are great options; which one to choose just depends on personal preference. If you like music, you might enjoy a beat-driven class more. If you enjoy competition, you might enjoy an RPM-style class more.

Not only can a cycling class burn up to 600 or 700 calories a session, cycling classes are also fun to participate in due to the motivation to push and work hard from the instructor and the fun music played in class. With each person being on their own bike, participants control their own resistance with guided cues from the instructor on approximately how much resistance to add. This makes the class a great option for all levels, since each individual is in control of their own resistance. Resistance is recommended based on the kind of track an instructor is teaching. For example, if the instructor is cuing sprints, they might also cue for lighter resistance so you can move as quickly as possible. If you are simulating a hill, you might be cued to add a lot of resistance to make you have to use more strength and power to “get up the hill.”

Benefits of Group Fitness Cycling Classes

Among the benefits of this group fitness class are the following:

  1. Low-impact cardio option
  2. Stress release
  3. Cardiovascular
  4. Muscular endurance

What to Know Before Your First Class

If you have not been to a cycling class before, have no fear! If you are on your way to a class, try to get there 10–15 minutes early. This gives you time to meet your instructor and learn how to set up your bike appropriately for your height. Usually a studio will have shoe rentals or bike cages to be worn with normal shoes. If you would like to purchase cycling shoes, you can find many different options online.

Cycling at NIFS

Cycling is offered daily at NIFS at a variety of times. Check out the Group Fitness Schedule to find a class that works with your schedule!

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This blog was written by Brittany Ignas, BS in Kinesiology, 200 Hour Yoga Alliance Certified, Stott Pilates Certified, and Fitness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS cardio group fitness cycling calories endurance indoor cycling low-impact strength workout

Step Class: Step Up to a New Level of Fitness!

Step-new.jpgWhether you are 18 or 80, man or woman, looking to lose weight or simply maintain, step class just might be the perfect addition to your fitness program. Have you ever considered taking a step class? Perhaps you have found yourself thinking, "I'm not coordinated enough," or “that's too intense for me (or not intense enough"). Well, give me two minutes to change your mind.

Does It Burn Calories?

The bottom line is, stepping up and down off of a raised platform burns calories. In fact, it burns a lot of calories. According to Self magazine, stepping up and down off of a raised platform burns more calories than doing jumping jacks, split lunges, power squats, or speed skating for the same length of time. A great exercise for weight loss? YES! Great way to maintain weight? YOU BET!

Am I Coordinated Enough?

Maybe you’re thinking that you lack the required coordination. But the reality of it is, if you can march in place, you can do step. The basic step is just that: basic. Up, up, down, down. Of course that move would get boring pretty quickly, so we add music, rhythm, and variations on that basic move. While it helps to have a little rhythm (can you clap your hands to the beat of a song?), anyone can step. It might take a few classes to really get the hang of it, but it is quite doable, and FUN! Don't be intimidated!

There is a first time for everything. At some point, every single person in the class, including the instructor, attended their very first step class. I’m not gonna lie, you probably won't pick up every single thing in the first class you take, but let's face it: what would be the fun of mastering it in the first hour? Half the fun is seeing yourself improve, seeing your cardiovascular fitness level improve, and becoming more efficient overall (more work with less effort). Step will get you there!

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Is It Too Intense?

You might be thinking that step would be too hard or too intense for you. While step is designed to be a challenging cardio workout, the intensity level can be adjusted in a number of ways to meet the needs of each participant.

  • The height of the platform is not uniform; with use of individual risers at each end, the platform can be set as low as just a few inches off the floor (or as high as 8–12 inches).
  • Another easy adjustment, which your instructor will show you, is to limit your range of movement with each step. As you become more comfortable with the format, you will be able to add intensity by increasing range of motion with the steps, and by adding arm movements to further increase your heart rate. Because of this, the challenge never ends. There is no plateau.

Is It Not Intense Enough?

On the flip side, maybe you are thinking step is not intense enough. Perhaps you’re thinking that only girls take step, or that you are too fit to benefit from it. Regardless of your fitness level, step can be a very challenging cardiovascular workout. It is a well-known fact that the US military utilizes step aerobics to improve our troops' agility, coordination, and endurance. If it's tough enough for our soldiers, then it's tough enough for me! In addition to step, I also teach Insanity, total-body conditioning, and kickboxing classes. Step meets or exceeds these other formats in intensity level and calories burned per hour.

Step is the perfect group fitness format because it accommodates all fitness levels. (And if you haven't tried group fitness, well that's a whole other conversation.) But in short, try it! The camaraderie and accountability among the participants, the music, and the FUN factor will have you hooked!

So, are you ready to take your fitness regimen to the next STEP? See you in class soon, soon, soon!

Yours in fitness,
Rachel

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This blog was written by Rachel Pfeiffer, ACE and AFAA Certified Group Fitness Instructor, and proud NIFS Step instructor since 1999. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: cardio weight loss group fitness calories aerobic step class