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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

The Nutritional Benefits of Eating Breakfast

GettyImages-155392951Start your day off right by nailing breakfast with a healthy, nutrient-rich meal. Breakfast helps kickstart your metabolism and burn more calories throughout the day. Eating breakfast tells your body there are plenty of calories to be had throughout the day. When you skip breakfast, the message is clear: conserve calories rather than burn them. Those who skip breakfast may eat fewer calories but still tend to have higher BMI.

Other studies have found more benefits to breakfast, including:

  • Consuming less fat.
  • Meeting fruit and veggie recommendations.
  • Higher daily calcium intake.
  • Higher daily fiber intake.
  • Better memory and improved attention span.

Skipping breakfast leads to:

  • Higher likelihood of being overweight.
  • Less likely to meet recommendations for fruit and veggie consumption.
  • More likely to consume unhealthy snacks.

So, a Pop-Tart a Day Will Mean Improved Health?

Not quite! Try to choose a breakfast that is unrefined/unprocessed and moderate in calories, high in fiber (5 grams or more), nutrient-dense, and has some protein (about 10–15 grams to help with keeping you full).

A sugary breakfast option like Pop-Tarts, donuts, or Cinnamon Toast Crunch lacks the fiber to keep you full throughout the morning and can pack a punch in terms of calories. Have you checked the serving size on the back of a cereal box? Unfortunately, people usually go way over that ¾ cup recommendation, and a bowl of cereal can sometimes max out at roughly 2,000 calories. A 16-oz. bowl holds about 6.5 times the serving size of Frosted Flakes. Add the milk and that can get you even closer to 2,800 calories! This can equate to relatively quick weight gain, especially if you find you are hungry again by 10am.

Some Good Breakfast Options

So what are some good choices for breakfast?

  • Oatmeal with fresh fruit and nuts
  • Whole-grain toast with avocado
  • Fruit smoothie with protein powder or nut butter
  • Egg scramble (or try tofu!) loaded with veggies
  • Whole-grain bagel with nut butter and slices of banana
  • Greek yogurt with fruit
  • Piece of fruit and handful of almonds
  • Apple slices with peanut butter
  • Overnight oats
  • High-fiber cereal with fruit and low-fat milk or plant milk (try Barbara’s, Nature’s Path, or Kashi)
  • KIND Bars, GoMacro bars, RXBars (high protein, low sugar)

Here are a few recipes for healthy breakfasts you can make quickly and take with you on a busy morning.

Breakfast Is on NIFS, June 25 and 27!

Check out our breakfast table in the Fitness Center hallway to sample a few of these breakfast ideas on June 25th and 27th from 11am to 1pm!

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition calories breakfast weight management fiber energy

Tips for Making Healthy Choices in the Face of Decision Fatigue

GettyImages-506139898It’s the end of the day. There was a string of meetings to attend, a pile of emails to answer, an argumentative colleague to work with, maybe even kids yelling for pizza when you had chicken planned for dinner instead. By the time you get home, you’ve already made a plethora of decisions, from how to approach a problem at work to what shoes to wear on your way out the door. You told yourself you would exercise when you got home, but now the couch looks a lot more enticing. All those decisions you made have taken a biological toll on your motivation and self-control, whether you realize it or not.

Decision fatigue, or the deteriorating quality of decisions after making numerous previous choices, happens to even the most rational and strong-willed of us. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder it is to exert self-control and make better decisions later. So no, your choice to binge-watch Game of Thrones with a pint of ice cream in hand after a particularly decision-heavy day isn’t necessarily because you lack motivation or willpower. Luckily, there are a few tips and tricks that you can employ to hack decision fatigue and help boost your willpower.

Here are four ways you can help combat decision fatigue in your day.

Make Repeated-Daily Decisions the Night Before

Some of the most draining decisions are the ones that you make again, and again, and again. Blocking off time the night before can save tons of mental energy the following day. It’s the outfit you’re wearing to work tomorrow, the lunch you will eat, and even which KCup to choose for your morning buzz (very crucial, I know). All of these take less than a few minutes to decide and even complete, so tackle them the night before to set yourself up for success tomorrow.

Attack the Most Important Task First

Willpower is somewhat like any muscle in your body: it fatigues with use. The brain will start to look for shortcuts if decisions pile up. Namely, it will either a) become reckless and impulsive (hello bag of chips for lunch), or it will b) become the energy saver and do nothing (where my fellow procrastinators at?). If you have something that you are trying to prioritize and work on, put your best foot forward and attack it first while you have ample attention and energy to do so. Maybe it’s improving your body composition, maybe it’s starting a side business, maybe it’s beginning a daily mindfulness habit. Whatever it may be, start your day by working on the most important thing in your life.

Schedule Your Success: Don’t Leave It to Chance

We all have great intentions when we start the day. But its not enough to hope that you’ll have the energy to go to the gym after work. Or that you’ll be disciplined enough to choose a serving of vegetables over that nighttime Nutella binge (can you tell I’m a bit hungry writing this?). Making ourselves a schedule takes out the decision-making process and eliminates another opportunity for our brain to check out and give in to impulses. If making exercise a habit is a priority for you, physically put it on your calendar and weekly agenda. Now hoping that you’ll have the willpower when you leave work won’t be the problem; you’ll just know that NIFS is where you’ll be heading on Tuesdays at 5:30pm.

Eat Something First if You Have to Make Good Decisions Later

In a study by Danziger et al. (2011) published by the National Academy of Sciences, researchers analyzed over 1,100 judicial rulings for parole hearings over a 10-month period. Judges had a favorable ruling to start the day 65% of the time. As the day progressed, and more decisions were made, that percentage gradually dropped to nearly zero. The only exception? When the judges returned from lunch break, a ruling’s favorability jumped back up to the same 65%. Moral of the story? If you have an important decision to be made, but you realize that it won’t be approached until later, try eating a small snack beforehand. Being hangry can make it easier to be impulsive. So while you should try to tackle the most important tasks and decisions first, it might not always be realistic or possible to do so. Have that healthy snack at the ready (or packed the night before) if you know that your day calls for willpower later.

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The average person makes more than 30,000 decisions daily. And the more decisions that we make, the more difficult subsequent choices become. Try a few of these techniques to help streamline your day and keep your willpower intact and refreshed going forward.

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This blog was written by Lauren Zakrajsek, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy habits healthy eating healthy lifestyle healthy living decision-making

Get Moving with Improved Hip-Mobility Warmups

Whether or not you exercise, hip mobility plays a factor in your everyday life. Within the exercise realm, good hip mobility can be the difference between being “in the game” and just watching from the sidelines. In day-to-day life, hip mobility factors into nearly all movements, including climbing stairs, sitting and standing, and walking. If you find yourself wondering whether you could benefit from improved hip mobility, the answer is a resounding “Yes”! While understanding the importance of hip mobility is key, designing a routine that is appropriate for your needs and goals takes precedence.

Benefits of Improved Hip Mobility

If I were to pinpoint a few benefits of improved hip mobility, I would first look at the basic elements and emphasize the benefits of improved balance. Although you do not stand on one foot on a regular basis, you do, however, get in and out of your car, which requires a degree of balance. As hip mobility deteriorates, you may find it harder and harder to get out of your car.

A second area to look at is hip-strength imbalances in the body. This can become a more advanced quickly, so lack of hip mobility can lead to an abnormal strain on other muscle groups. An example of this is that an individual who sits all day may develop weak hip muscles (like the psoas, iliacus, and rectus femoris), which in turn could lead to the hamstring getting overworked.

Lastly better hip mobility can lead to fewer injuries and decreased overall pain due to hip tightness. Those who are running a marathon might discover tightness in their hips that could be remedied through a well-thought-out hip-mobility warmup.

Improving Your Hip-Mobility Warmups

IMG_4979Most workout formulas include a warmup process. If hip mobility is a focus, your workout would benefit from a few additions to the routine. Foam rolling, which has been around for a while, is a great way to get blood circulating to the muscles and decrease soreness (if you worked them out prior). Spending a few minutes to roll out the trigger spots (areas of higher tenderness) will help you feel better, and you will be able to exercise on a more consistent basis.

IMG_4983Second, I would suggest a dynamic movement stretch (rather than traditional static stretching) to help not only stretch the muscle, but also warm up the body for more movement. “The World’s Greatest Stretch” (yes, that’s really its name) takes the exerciser into a lunge position, rotating and opening up the torso to the ceiling. Why is this called the “World’s Greatest Stretch?” For starters, you are able to stretch not only your hip flexors, but also your hamstrings and torso. As you do the stretch, both sides back to back, you notice that the stretch allows you to flow, dynamically, which is a great way to get your body ready for movement.

IMG_4990Finally, another great stretch to do is simply called a Hip Internal Rotation Stretch. While lying on your back, cross one leg over the other, allowing the hips to lean to one side and getting a decent stretch.

 

Address Your Hip Problems Now

Some hip problems are not from a lack of trying. Physiologically, there are many reasons your hips might hurt. If you feel as though you are having excessive pain in your hips, you might need to consult with someone who can help you. Overall balance issues, unnecessary pain, and muscle imbalances can all become bigger, life-altering issues down the road, so take care of them before they become bigger issues.

We want you to feel good! Come see a NIFS staff member at the track desk to schedule a complimentary FMS Screen to determine ways we can best help you with your exercises. Remember to warm up properly and stretch when appropriate, strengthen your weaknesses to see real improvement, and consult a professional to help you develop your plan.

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

 

Topics: staying active workouts injury prevention balance pain warmups mobility stretch hips hip mobility

In Training, Consistency Is the Key to Your Fitness Goals

GettyImages-1134374639Consistency is arguably the most important component when working to accomplish goals, in or out of the gym. Without consistency, programs are unorganized, the body has a harder time adapting, and forming habits may be more challenging.

Build and Follow Workout Programming

Whatever your goals may be, they require a consistent level of training for you to reach them. One way to ensure consistency within the scope of your goals is to build a program. Programs make it much easier to stay on track because you won’t have to think about what you’re going to do at the gym today—it’s already written out. Most programs are designed to be followed for a set amount of time, typically about 4 weeks. Depending on the desired goal, the program will have a different focus—hypertrophy, endurance, strength, and so on. Each day is designed with the goal in mind, while ensuring that you are training in a way that minimizes imbalances within the body. If you aren’t following the program consistently, the chance of it working is reduced.

Theoretically, if you have a program and you don’t follow it, the body is not going to be able to adapt to the program because there isn’t an opportunity for progressive overload, which is when the amount of stress on the body is gradually increased over time, leading to increased strength and performance.

Work Toward Adaptations

Biologically, a lot of things happen in the body during exercise. Over time these reactions change the body to become stronger, grow, or run more efficiently. Different factors affect adaptations in everyone, so it’s impossible to predict when these changes will occur. But being consistent with training will increase the likelihood of seeing adaptations sooner.

Different modes of exercise elicit different adaptations. Endurance training will produce different changes than resistance training. While there are far too many adaptations to discuss in this blog, a few examples reported by the CDC include the following:

  • Improved ability of muscles to use fat as energy
  • Stronger ligaments and tendons
  • Increased VO2 max and lactate threshold
  • Increased number of capillaries in muscles
  • Cardiac muscle hypertrophy
  • Increased force production

Each of these changes is beneficial for different scenarios. The body is either becoming more efficient or stronger, or performance is enhanced. However, these long-term benefits are seen only after consistent training over a period of time.

Create Habits

We are creatures of habit. The more we practice something, the more natural it becomes. We experience this when we learn to walk as babies, when we learn to drive, and when we exercise. It’s normal to feel out of your element when you try something new, but the more you do it, the more comfortable you feel.

Current research suggests that to make a habit stick it must be performed for 68 consecutive days. The idea of sticking with something brand new for 68 days may feel overwhelming for some people. When taking on a new challenge, focusing on taking it day by day might be a helpful mindset. Yes, we might be aiming to create a lifelong habit; however, thinking about just starting a habit to last for years could seem daunting. Start by doing it for one day, and then two, and then three, and so on.

Once you feel comfortable with one small change, add another small change, and so on. Small changes are more sustainable over the long term and add up to form new habits. There will likely be days that your plan doesn’t work out how it was supposed to, but that doesn’t mean all progress is lost.

The Takeaway

Our bodies adapt gradually to exercise. In the end, consistency will help you reach your goals. Without it, you might not have enough structure to allow for growth. Work first on figuring out your goals, determine the best route to achieve them, and get started with one step. If you’re not sure how to get started, the trainers at NIFS can help you set goals and develop programs tailored to those goals.

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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: goal setting mindset fitness goals workout programs adaptations habits consistency

Upper-body Workouts: Try the UBE Equipment in the Fitness Center

IMG_4820Ergometers have been a mainstay in the fitness world for a long time. You might not realize it, but many of the cardio pieces in your fitness center that you use regularly are ergometers. The arm ergometer comes from two Greek words: ergo, which means work, and metro or meter, which means measurement. In essence, any cardio equipment you have been using that has the capability to measure your workload can be considered an ergometer.

Because this is a wide spectrum of possibilities, we will focus on some pieces of equipment that fall into a subcategory, Upper-body Arm Ergometers (or UBE for short). I will give some professional tips and workout ideas to incorporate some great exercise into your program well into the new year.

NIFS has several options for UBE-minded people. For starters, the Marpo Rope Climb Machine, the Concept II SkiErg, and the Schwinn Air Bikes can each provide a nice, challenging upper-body cardio exercise. Because each machine specializes in its own fitness discipline (climbing, skiing, and biking), exercisers have an opportunity to not only do the exercises they love to do, but also try new pieces of equipment.

Rope Climbing Machine

Rope climbing is hard work, but quite beneficial. The main movers here are the Latissimus Dorsi, also known as the Lats; however, you can easily notice other muscles that work to support the movement, such as core and grip strength. Sometimes, though, this exercise is a little aggressive and you might not be ready to attempt a rope ascent. In this case, we can introduce you to the Marpo Rope Climbing Machine. This device can simulate various rope activities ranging from climbing the rope to a tug-of-war. Further, accessibility and versatility are both pluses. I like to use the rope machine for cardio on days that my legs are too sore to go, or if I am recovering from a lower-body injury.

Workout: I would suggest doing an interval of 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off for 4 to 5 rounds at the end of your workout. During the “go” time, be ready to work!

Concept II Ski Erg

skiAnother piece of UBE equipment you can find is the Concept II Ski Erg. The machine is designed to replicate cross-country skiing, but can also be used for upper-body only. For years, cross-country skiing has been associated with some of the most beneficial exercises in our industry. When snow is not in the forecast or if we lived far away from winter weather, it might be hard to come by a set of skis. The Ski Erg takes up a relatively small space and still gives a great workout. The Concept II machines are designed to take a lot of intensity while providing a good, safe workout.

Workout: A quick workout could be as easy as measuring your quickest 1,000 meters and then trying to beat that time the next time you are at NIFS.

Air Bike

Screen Shot 2019-05-30 at 11.35.49 AMThe final piece of equipment is the air bike. Bikes have been around for quite a while, but not all bikes are created equal. The air bike is fan driven, which means that the intensity you feel is based on your exercise output. Because it uses both your arms and legs, you get a full-body effect from the exercise. When muscles contract, not only are calories being burnt, but blood has to pump out to all those muscles, hence your heart rate increases. Ask anyone who has used the air bike and they will tell you that it could be one of the best challengers in the gym.

Workout: Use the bike as a warmup or a final finisher. I like to use the bike as a cool-down to keep the blood flowing and ease out of a hard workout. Try an 8–10-minute ride at moderate intensity at the end of your session.

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For people who are injured or just want a great workout, the UBE equipment has something for everyone. NIFS provides support and will help you find the equipment and workouts that are appropriate for your goals and level of training. Train hard with equipment designed to push you to the limits.

If you are unsure about the UBE equipment, please stop and see a NIFS staff member to assist you with your needs. As always, keep working hard to achieve your goals, and don’t be afraid to try something a little different at the gym—you might end up loving it!

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

Topics: fitness center equipment workouts skiing biking upper body climbing ergonomic

How to Get in the Flow with Your Workouts

When was the last time you were so immersed in an activity or project that you completely lost your sense of time and surroundings, and nothing else seemed to matter? Hopefully it was fairly recently, because these types of experiences are among the most enjoyable a person can have. You might have heard this described as being in “the flow” or “the zone.” The event that came to mind was likely one in which you are highly trained, or at least felt a healthy amount of challenge. Those are often the strongest sources of “flow states,” as psychological researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has reported in his book Finding Flow: The Psychology Of Engagement With Everyday Life. My goal is to provide you with some tools to help bring about that state of mind in your workouts, and even in your daily life.

GettyImages-1149614540The Rules of Being in the Flow

In order to fully understand the rules of being in the flow, it is helpful to use a tennis match as an analogy. Imagine Roger Federer, arguably the best tennis player of all time, playing against a ten-year-old tennis player who’s only taken a handful of lessons. Assuming Federer isn’t taking it easy, the outcome of the match is going to be completely lopsided. The ten-year-old beginner will almost instantly become anxious and discouraged, while Roger Federer will quickly grow extremely bored.

Make sure the challenge of the task at hand is appropriate for your skill level.

These two extreme emotional states lie on opposite ends of the flow state continuum. In essence, the most entertaining tennis match to both play in and watch is one in which the players are fairly equally matched. The point at which the two skill levels meet provides the highest possible level of challenge for each player. This is the underlying concept of being in a flow state, or being in “the zone.” The challenge at hand must equal the skill level of the participant. Otherwise, the task might be too easy and become boring, or the challenge is too much to overcome and you’ll be discouraged.

This might sound like common sense, but it can often be difficult to put into practice. The art of maintaining this balance comes from properly increasing the difficulty level at the correct time, otherwise you risk either boredom if the task becomes too easy or frustration if it’s too difficult.

Steps for Getting in the Flow

GettyImages-9280883901. Have a plan, and don’t cheat.

Your workout plan will, and should, be different from anyone else’s. This is because, as Dr. Seuss said, “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.” As correct as these words are, the worst possible plan followed religiously will always be better than the best plan that you quit after one week. Having a plan takes away the anxiety of not knowing what you’ll be doing for each workout. The cognitive effort it takes to develop a workout every time you hit the gym can be overwhelming enough to discourage even the most disciplined folks. Developing a plan can be challenging in itself, however, so you should always seek the guidance of a skilled professional if you’re unsure. In any case, any plan that is followed consistently will still be better than no plan at all.

2. Start slow, and progress intelligently.

Typically I will start a client on a level at which it’s virtually impossible to fail, even bordering on too easy at times. As soon as I notice it’s too easy, it’s time to quickly advance to the next step. If you’re following along, you might notice that this is breaking the rule of the challenge meeting the skill level. However, it’s far more beneficial to start simply and build the confidence to move on quickly than it is to start with something far too advanced and completely discourage the individual with whom I’m working, or worse, cause an injury. If you’re unsure what your starting point is, check out one of our many fitness assessments we offer here at NIFS. I always recommend establishing a baseline dependent upon your goal(s). After all, you can’t get where you’re going if you don’t know where you are.

3. Diligently track your progress.

This means recording your workouts consistently. Just as you need your starting point, you’ll benefit greatly from tracking your week-to-week, or even day-to-day progress. What you are recording is less important than staying consistent with your tracking. Some items I highly recommend tracking are the following:

  • Volume (sets x reps)
  • Load/Intensity (resistance, weight, speed, etc.)
  • Rate of Perceived Exertion (how difficult was a particular set, exercise, or workout?)

Try to implement one or all three of these strategies into your exercise routine and see if it helps you find a groove in your workouts!

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

Topics: workouts attitude mindset assessment flow

The Inside Scoop on Group Fitness from NIFS Instructor Tasha Nichols

Tasha Bodypump 3Group Fitness is one of the most popular attractions here at NIFS, with more than 60 different classes a month taught by highly qualified instructors. If you’ve never tried group fitness or you’re not sure what it’s all about, this blog is for you.

There’s a ton of variety in our classes, which range from calming yoga to fast-paced Cardio Hip Hop—and everything in between. Group Fitness instructor Tasha Nichols has experience with multiple classes and is here to help you get the inside scoop on Group Fitness and how to get involved.

Q&A with Tasha

Tasha has been involved with NIFS for 10 years as an instructor, and previously was the Group Fitness Coordinator. She has spent much of her career expanding LES MILLS nationally when she’s not instructing classes. Not only is she an incredible instructor, but she has also claimed the title of World Kettlebell Champion.

Q: What classes do you teach? Describe your favorite.

A: I typically teach LES MILLS BODYPUMP, BODYCOMBAT, and BODYJAM. I can’t possibly pick a favorite! I love each format for a different reason. I choose to teach the LES MILLS formats because they are my favorite class styles of any group workout I’ve done. The combination of music and movement is addicting, and the science behind them as well as the preparation involved in each release makes me trust the quality of the program I’m delivering. This trust allows me to focus on delivering the best experience to the participants, whether it’s lifting, punching and kicking, or dancing.

Q: How long have you been teaching group fitness?

A: I just passed my 10-year mark in November! I actually taught my very first class at NIFS back in the day. It was ironically the 6am BODYPUMP class that I teach now. Even after leaving Indy for a few years, it still has some of the same people!

Q: How did you get involved with group fitness?

A: Teaching group fitness was something I always wanted to do. My grandma was a group fitness instructor when aerobics was just becoming a thing, so I grew up hearing lots of stories about her classes. My sister started teaching BODYPUMP when I was in college and I loved her class, so I decided to start by becoming certified in that.

Q: What’s your favorite thing (and least favorite thing) about group fitness?

A: Favorite thing: the energy of a group is very powerful, and the combination of music and movement. There’s a unique ability to get lost in the music that feels incredible.

Least favorite thing: I wish we’d get a little more of a chance to work one on one with everyone, to be able to tweak movements and coach corrective exercises. But, that’s what the awesome trainer team is for at NIFS.

Q: In what ways have your participants benefitted from class?

A: 1: Results 2: I like to think they find a little more joy, fun, and freedom in movement and in life.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who has never taken a group fitness class but wants to get involved?

A: Be brave and talk to the instructor and the people around you. Let them know you are new and don’t be afraid to take options! It’s totally okay (and sometimes necessary) to stay for just part of the class, especially when you’re new. We call it the Smart Start option in LES MILLS classes. We’ve all been new once; we get it! As mentioned above, I’ve been doing this for over 10 years, and after recently having two kids in two years, I’ve found myself taking the Smart Start option quite a bit. It’s all part of the journey, and there are no judgments in my class; I’ve got your back.

Q: Is there a certain skill set or prerequisite to get started in a class?

A: Nope! Just get there a little early (particularly for BODYPUMP) so I can help you get set up.

Q: How do you stay current with your education?

A: Three main ways:

I carry Personal Training and Group Fitness certifications from ACE and AFAA, so I stay up-to-date on their research as well as LES MILLS.

I follow many of the classic strength and conditioning coaches (Mike Boyle, Dan John, etc.) and a few physical therapists who work in the strength and conditioning field.

I also work to gain personal experience in my fields—I trained Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for 2+ years for BODYCOMBAT and have competed (and won) internationally for the kettlebell sport. (#worldchamp #nobigdeal)

Q: Do you teach anywhere other than NIFS? Can you compare them?

A: I don’t teach anywhere else, but I do work for LES MILLS on the business side, which gives me a unique perspective. I run trainings for BODYPUMP and BODYCOMBAT nationally and oversee the development of the assessment criteria for new instructors across all programs globally, so I get to see instructors in all types of gyms. But at the end of the day, NIFS is still my favorite place to train, and I think the participants who come to my classes are the best in the world. You all are my favorites.

Group Fitness at NIFS

Our Group Fitness Instructors at NIFS are dedicated to helping clients reach their fullest potential by ensuring they have all the tools necessary to succeed. Tasha is just one out of several amazing instructors who is here to help you reach your goals. Their drive to help our clients is what has made Group Fitness the most popular program at NIFS.

Try a Class for Free!

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 Les Mills kettlebell BODYPUMP BODYCOMBAT BodyJam

3 Simple Rules to Train When You Have Pain

GettyImages-1017760106How many people do you know who suffer from a form of back pain? I’d be willing to wager it’s at least one person, and perhaps that person is you. The prevalence of nonspecific lower-back pain alone is estimated at 60-70% throughout the lifespan of a citizen of the United States and other industrialized countries. If you fall into this category or know somebody who does, first direct them to my previous blog about warming up with back pain to get started. Once you’ve made your way through that, keep reading to find out how to design a great workout even if you’re in pain.

For some, the idea of working out with pain is strictly off limits for fear of further injury. For others, the workout must be completed as planned, no matter how intense the pain might be. As usual, the solution will likely require a balanced approach between these two ideals. Unless your pain is an emergency (and this article might give you an idea of whether or not it is), there is likely something productive you can achieve by not skipping your scheduled workout. For one, if one of your goals is to establish a new habit or routine, making it to the gym for some self-love might just keep you on track. Self-love can mean foam rolling or other soft-tissue work, properly prescribed corrective-based activities or stretching, walking, or virtually ANYTHING that helps you feel better. The bottom line is that it must provide a feeling of relief.

Great, so you’ve made it to the gym and you’re feeling better than when you walked in thanks to some well-thought-out pain-relief techniques, or maybe just 10 minutes in the sauna. In any case, you’re ready to sweat and help that heart of yours pump some blood. Before you get too carried away, there are some general rules I like to follow if I know somebody has a history of, or is presently experiencing, back pain symptoms.

1. If It Hurts, Don’t Do It

This one sounds too simple to be genuine advice, and I’ll admit I stole it straight from my own father’s dad-joke arsenal. I’d say, “Dad, it hurts when I do this,” and he’d invariably respond, “Then don’t do that.” Of course, the older I get, the more I realize how wise much of his advice was, especially that nugget. If there is a particular movement or activity that you know for a fact will reproduce your pain symptoms, simply avoid it, at least until your symptoms go away. You can almost always find an alternative exercise to accomplish what you wanted, especially with the staff here at NIFS ready to provide you with such options. Regardless, no exercise is worth potentially worsening your symptoms, causing an even greater setback, or worse, leading to yet another injury.

2. Keep the Weight Off Your Back

The last thing you want to do while experiencing back pain symptoms is to make it any worse, and I see the risk as far outweighing the reward in having a barbell or any other load compressing your spine directly. You’d also be wise to approach higher-impact activities such as running and jumping with a fair amount of caution. Although not directly loading the spine, the landing portion of these high-impact activities requires a fair amount of compression throughout the body, particularly through the spinal segments. If a contributing factor to your flare-up of pain was a lack of integrity in your core strength and control, these higher-impact activities become even more risky.

3. Use Perfect Form

This should be a no-brainer, even when you’re not in pain. However, it becomes vital when the fear of pain is on your mind. Use this time to make sure every aspect of your movement is as close to perfect quality as you can get it. When in doubt, refer back to Rule #1. A great way to monitor your form closely is by either performing each repetition with an extremely slow tempo, or doing some static holds (unless you have high blood pressure or higher risk for aneurysm), meaning holding still during the repetition. Performing your repetitions in this manner will also require you to use significantly less weight, therefore limiting another risk factor. Many of our members take advantage of completing a Functional Movement Screen, which allows one of our trained fitness professionals to analyze your movement on a fundamental level. This is included as part of your membership at no extra cost, and it can provide essential strategies for you to make sure you’re moving to the best of your body’s abilities.

You may have noticed this post is largely about what not to do instead what you should be doing. That’s because each presentation of pain is completely different from another, and should be approached individually, and with care. No two humans are the same, which is what makes us fascinating creatures, but it also provides a challenge of finding the proper activities for each unique case. This is true no matter what your current physical condition is, but requires special attention when you’re limited by increased symptoms of pain. Whatever the case, movement will almost always be the answer to returning to your “normal” self; it’s just a matter of what type and how much.

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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: injury prevention pain lower back pain back pain

Are You Eating Enough Fruits, Vegetables, and Other Whole Plant Foods?

GettyImages-1142790917“Aim to consume a diet that is high in fruits and vegetables.”

“Make half of your plate a fruit and vegetable.”

“Consume 5 to 6 servings of vegetables and fruits every day.”

This nutrition advice has been the standard from physicians, food and nutrition scientists, and even dietitians. However recent research is revealing that just as important as quantity may be the diversity of your diet. What fruits and vegetables do you pick up from the store on a weekly basis? Do you spend a significant amount of time in the produce section and fill your cart with plant foods? Or do you end up lingering for half an hour in the center aisles and packing your cart with processed food products?

The SAD Truth About the Standard American Diet

Check out these scary statistics… The standard American diet (termed the “SAD diet”) is often very high in animal protein, saturated fats, added sugar, and refined/processed foods. In fact, it is estimated that the average American consumes 32% of their calories from animal foods, 57% from processed foods, and only 11% from whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, and nuts (Source: USDA). Three out of four Americans don’t eat a single piece of fruit in a given day, and nearly 9 out of 10 don’t reach the minimum recommended daily intake of vegetables (Source: National Cancer Institute)!

Promote Gut Health with Whole Plant Foods

To create a healthy gut microbiome (meaning the trillions of bacteria that live in your digestive tract), increase the variety of whole, plant foods in your diet. The American Gut Project found that individuals who ate 30 or more different types of plant foods every week had gut microbiomes that were more diverse than those who ate 10 or fewer types of plant foods every week. A healthful plant-based diet improves the health and diversity of your gut microbes and may help prevent conditions like obesity, heart disease, inflammation, and diabetes by turning the genes on and off that affect these conditions.

How to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

I often find myself picking out the same fruits and veggies every week, and this has made me stop and think about what’s in my shopping cart—if I bring it home, I will usually eat it! Freezing fruit and veggies is also a great way to make sure nothing goes to waste before it’s used. Below I offer some advice on how to add more plant foods into your weekly routine. I would also like to challenge you to see how many different fruits and vegetables you can eat this week—anything that is a whole plant food and that you eat a decent portion of counts. The goal is to not only increase plant foods in your diet, but also the diversity.

  • Aim to include a piece of fruit and one vegetable at every meal—including breakfast! Instead of a fried egg on a piece of bread, scramble the egg with spinach, mushrooms, or onions. For an even bigger impact, replace your egg with soy and make a tofu scramble.
  • Eat two meatless meals during the week. Replace your animal protein with beans or lentils, or try making your own veggie burger.
  • Make snack time a chance to shine. Skip the vending machine and bring carrot sticks with hummus, a piece of fruit, dehydrated fruit, or mixed nuts.
  • Try smoothies. Smoothies are a great way to disguise vegetables if you have trouble hitting your goals. Add spinach, kale, avocado, or celery to a smoothie. The strong flavor of the fruit hides most of the flavor of these greens and eliminates issues with texture many people face with avocado.
  • Ditch refined grain products like noodles, white bread, and white rice. Try spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles in place of spaghetti noodles, or try cauliflower “rice” in place of white rice. Instead of crackers or bread, use sliced cucumbers for crackers or Portobello mushrooms, peppers, apples, or lettuce for wraps/bread.

What I’m Eating

Here’s peek at my list of plant foods consumed over the course of three days. You’ll notice a lot of repetition, so by midweek I am still only at about 15 different types of plant foods. I have 15 more to go by the end of the week!

Sunday

  • Breakfast: Apple
  • Lunch: Lettuce, veggie sushi (asparagus, cucumber, avocado rolls)
  • Dinner: N/A (no veggies! Even dietitians sometimes eat just a bowl of cereal—oops!)

Monday

  • Breakfast: Rolled oats, banana, ground flax
  • Lunch: Roasted asparagus, grapes, avocado (on toast), roasted chickpeas
  • Dinner: Kale, red bell pepper, cherry tomato, carrots, roasted chickpeas (all combined as salad and topped with olive oil and lemon juice)

Tuesday

  • Breakfast: Rolled oats, strawberries, ground flaxseed
  • Lunch: Apple, kale, red bell pepper, cherry tomato, carrots
  • Dinner: Roasted asparagus, grapes

Stay tuned for updates on the “30 Plant Foods Challenge” here at NIFS—can we find a member who eats more than 30 plant foods weekly? Do you think you can do it?

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition gut health whole foods fruits and vegetables plant-based

More Than Just Crunches: A 360-degree Approach to Core Training

Whether it’s the New Year or finally approaching the summer beach-going season, you’re almost guaranteed to see someone doing sit-ups, side-bends, or leg lifts in the gym. And I get it; who doesn’t want core strength with that little added aesthetic bonus too? But training the core is so much more than just crunches!

The two primary functions of the core are to transmit force to and from the lower and upper body and to resist motion. Throughout our day, we move in three dimensions, in all planes of motion, and not just in a straight line. In order to move our hips or shoulders without compensating at the spine, it’s our core that steps up to the plate to help stabilize the system. Whether it’s carrying all the groceries inside in one trip (a future Olympic sport in my opinion), reaching down at our side to pick up our bag off the floor, or carrying our child in one arm, our core stabilizes us through these movements and myriad others. In short, we don’t go through life in isolation, so the way we train our core should reflect that.

Videos of Exercises

Here are a few videos of some exercises you can add to your 360-degree core-training repertoire to help address core movements while adding a little variety to your workout routine:

  • Tall Kneel Cable Antiextension Hold
  • Half Kneel Rope Chop
  • Sandbag Contralateral Deadbug
  • Bird Dog Row
  • Uneven Farmer Carry
  • Copenhagen Side Plank

 

Why Add These Exercises?

There are several reasons to add these kinds of exercises to your workout programs:

  • We live our lives in three dimensions; our training should be three-dimensional, too.
  • Increasing core stability can improve performance in other lifts and movements.
  • A stronger core helps reduce injury risk in real-world situations (such as lifting from the floor, or going from a sit to a stand).
  • You get a bigger bang for your buck by addressing multiple joints and muscle groups (shoulder position, hip stability, glutes, adductors).

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This blog was written by Lauren Zakrajsek, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercises videos core strength movement core exercises core stability core trainings