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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

10 Emotional Wellness Insights from the Pandemic

GettyImages-1247301039It’s safe to say that 2020 has been one a heck of a year (and it’s barely half over!)—the good, the bad, the ugly. At times, it’s felt as if an entire decade has passed. No matter how you slice it, the fact that we’ve experienced something as novel as a global pandemic still feels weird to say, think about, and sometimes fully appreciate. It has been a tumultuous time outside of COVID-19 as well, and every person has had a unique experience, a unique perception, and unique challenges along the way.

We’ve all probably learned a thing or two about ourselves. We’ve had time to reevaluate what is important to us, and maybe find a few things that aren’t. Here are just a few things I’ve left quarantine with, in no particular order:

My Quarantine Takeaways

  • I needed to uncouple productivity from self-worth. In working from home, I found that I accomplished most tasks in spurts. I’d work for 2 hours straight, then go for a walk, then jot down ideas for projects for 30 minutes, then get in a lift, then eat while watching a show, and on and on. Other days I just wouldn’t have it—no juice, no gas in the tank. Responding to emails felt like a win. And then the eventual guilt would sink in. Why didn’t I do more? How is this all that I got done today, this week? After a few weeks of this cycle, I finally told myself, “STOP.” It’s okay that there are things left on your to-do list. Its okay that you’re not motivated every second of every day. What we lived through, and are still living through, is something that we have literally never seen or experienced (at least I haven’t!). So give yourself some slack, be a little more forgiving, and start each day fresh.
  • My “best days” involved some semblance of structure. Don’t get me wrong, I love a little bit of spontaneity. But for much of quarantine, I found that my good days involved a level of consistency. When I woke up gradually with coffee and water, got a little bit of work done first thing, cleaned up the bedroom/loft, got in a workout, completed any errands like grocery shopping, blocked off time for reading, and got outside for some vitamin D, I felt energized. I felt accomplished. Obviously, there were variations. But blocking off time, working through chores and work intermittently, taking time for myself with activity and self-care—more often than not these days fell into the “good” category. On days where I had no schedule, stayed up too late and slept in too long, binged a TV show, or had little activity, I felt like garbage by the end. I can still hear my high school statistics teacher saying, “correlation does not imply causation,” but at least my chances for a good day skyrocketed with a little routine.
  • The importance of “idle time.” Full disclosure: I’m not sure that working from home always meshed with my personality or temperament. I would check my email every five seconds, even though I just cleared my queue seconds before. I would write down three sentences, hear the ping of a new email dropping into my inbox, and lose my complete train of thought. I would sometimes go for a walk and feel myself getting tempted to check in. Like many of us, I’m already addicted to my phone, feeling incomplete if I leave a room without it (unhealthy, I know; I’m working on it). But I found that literally scheduling in time to do nothing did wonders for my focus. I wasn’t scatterbrained when I returned to writing or working on a project. In fact, just sitting doing nothing, or having a casual conversation with my housemates, seemed to just calm my nerves and anxious thoughts in general. Just 5-minutes of unplugged silence was powerfully calming as well. Moral of the story? Sometimes doing nothing is more productive than trying to do 42 things at once.
  • The power of connection. I’m sure by this point, most of us have come to a conclusion similar to this, so I’ll keep it brief. You don’t need to be in close proximity to be close to those you love and appreciate. Some of my simplest joys came from FaceTimeing with family or having a quick phone call with a friend. It’s a quick recharge for the mental and emotional batteries.
  • It feels great to make your bed first thing. It’s simple. It’s quick. It sets your day in motion on the right foot. And at the very least, you have a tidy place to come home to when you’re ready to hit the sack for the night. It just feels good.
  • My mood is correlated to the amount of news and social media I consume. See #3 from above, and you’ll get the idea. A little news is okay. Knowing what is going on in the world around us is crucial in my mind. But the constant onslaught of “breaking news” hour after hour, minute to minute, is completely exhausting. When I limited my consumption to short periods, one stint in the morning (after coffee of course) and one in the evening, I found that my day’s trajectory was a lot more positive overall.
  • Whether good or bad, this too shall pass. No matter how large my to-do list was, no matter how much uncertainty and worry crept into my thoughts, and no matter how cathartic a workout I had, every day came to an end eventually. Sometimes I found myself muttering “this too shall pass” under my breath when I would be feeling a particular amount of anxiety or stress. And you know what? It actually did help put things in perspective. Take the good with the bad, because it’ll all be over eventually one way or another.
  • It's okay if you binged that show or played that video game. Hey, we’re all human. Don’t beat yourself up for indulging a little bit here and there! (Refer to #1 as well!)
  • Take advantage of the sunny days. Growing up in Michigan, the second most cloudy state in the US (for real!), I had a bit of a head start on this lesson. But the pandemic sure as heck hammered it home. When it was a beautiful, sunny day, I made sure to get outside for some amount of time, even if it was only 20 minutes on the back deck in between meetings. It boosted my mood, calmed me down, and made me take a second to just have a little gratitude for the simple things.
  • There is a feeling of zen I have when lifting. I know: this is an obvious one coming from a coach. But that’s also why I left it until the other insights had their time to shine. Everyone has their own interests, their own ways to unwind, and for me that is under a barbell or with a couple of dumbbells in hand. My brain shuts off, the music blares, and I can just get lost in it. If you haven’t found something, some activity that brings you a sense of calm, I highly encourage you to start exploring! Hobbies and interests shouldn’t be left by the wayside just because they’re not your main hustle.

Lessons We Will Take with Us

I’m sure that everyone will leave quarantine changed in some way, shape, or form. And the lessons you’ll leave with will be completely unique to your experience. Whether positive or negative, try to carry these into your life post-pandemic. Because more often than not, they’ll help you in the long run moving forward.

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

Topics: attitude outdoors wellness vitamin D emotional self-care quarantine covid-19

Lockdown Lessons: Learning from a Crisis

GettyImages-823912910Daily, life provides countless learning opportunities that, if processed properly, can make us strong individuals capable of accomplishing extraordinary things. Some lessons stem from positive experiences in our lives, but I think the strongest lessons are derived from strife, hardship, and even failure. These lessons can hurt, and you can either live in the pain or learn from it. We are currently living a life full of learning opportunities that have and will continue to test our ability to grow.

I have learned so much during this time of crisis—about facets of daily life and of my profession, about myself and about people. In one of my recent posts outlining ways to “pivot” during stressful times, I encouraged you to write down and define a list of things you are grateful for. That same activity can be applied to lessons you learn each day. Take a moment daily, or weekly, to write down a few lessons that challenged you and how you learned from them. If you think about it, you should ink it for self-processing and to refer to later.

Here is a brief list of some of the greater lockdown lessons I have learned and have grown from.

I Don’t Hate Working from Home

In the past, I have always thought I would hate having a home office and not going to a physical place of work. Being in the people business and with the multitude of distractions that home life can add to your workday, I didn’t think I could be as productive, or that I would enjoy it. Now don’t get me wrong, I am counting the minutes until I can be back with people; that’s who I am. But I really don’t hate working from home right now. There is freedom in it, and it has provided ample time to really focus and get things done. It has helped harness my self-discipline, creativity, and a balance of work and life duties. I found some key behaviors to get the most out of your day working from home:

  • Keep a schedule: The early bird gets the worm. This goes for eating, too.
  • Dress up to show up: Get cleaned up and put on some proper attire.
  • Designate a work area: That is where you put in work.
  • Get up and move around often: I rotate work and chores to stay fresh.
  • Work out: Duh, exercise is crucial no matter where you are working from.
  • Don’t eat and work: Enjoy the quick break.
  • Log what you do: Some people are required to do this, but I think it’s a great reflection tool as well.
  • Shut it down: When your day is over, shut it down.

A New Appreciation for the Breadth of Social Media and Technology as an Educational and Behavioral Tool

I still consider myself quite the caveman when it comes to social media and all the technology that connects us as a community. But I have learned so much in a short time about so many ways I can affect others’ lives using many technological and media applications. From Zoom workout sessions to the many ways to post on all social media channels, there are countless ways to funnel information and great content to the masses. And although nothing can replace the feeling of connecting with someone in person, these tools provide a close second to reaching people. The strategies I have learned during this time using technology and social media will be used far after the lockdown is over and have made me a better fitness professional to serve people.

Great People Show Up in a Crisis

A crisis can bring out the best or the worst in people, but great people show up no matter the situation. Health care workers, first responders, and officials on the front line of the pandemic are owed our deepest gratitude for the work that they do. But I am also referring to coworkers, family members, and friends. Great people relish challenges and step up to provide solutions and take action to complete tasks and help others. I’ve learned a lot about many folks during this time, and that most people want to help as much as they can and find ways to do so. Your instructors and professionals at NIFS have answered the call and are proof that great people show up.

Fitness Matters

Once the stay-at-home order was set, it was amazing to see how many people were clamoring for ways to get their fitness fix. Fitness continues to be a huge part of so many lives, and as a fitness professional it was awesome to witness how important fitness and our industry are to people. Physical activity and exercise are still, and will always be, the best medicines to prevent and treat serious illnesses. I have seen so many stories of people who are healthy because of regular physical activity beat COVID-19 into submission.

Not only that, the response of so many people who wanted—nay, needed—to work out either virtually with others or family time fitness had been huge. Countless posts of people being active flooded social media, and folks flocked to virtual training sessions. It is not a new lesson to me that physical activity is the answer for so many things in our lives. It was great to learn that so many have heard the message and will do anything to get and remain active.

Adapt and Adjust

Don’t be that person who is the first to complain about a situation and the last to do something about it. We are going to encounter so many more challenges in our lives, both big and small, and the ability to adapt and adjust will be a lesson we use forever. Having the strength and grit to pivot and find ways to thrive during adversity are attributes that I believe are fortified during a crisis or negative situation.

The strategies and positive approaches you learn to implement during strife will pay huge dividends further down the road, whereas allowing the situation to consume you coupled with a negative mindset will lead to greater hardships even from smaller issues. Staying positive and taking time to think about how to adapt is how you learn to take on anything that may stand in your way. Taking action right away and not sitting on your hands waiting for something or someone to bail you out can be hard at times, but will be the only sure way to make it through and be a better version of yourself.    

School Is Always in Session

Last lesson: school is always in session, kids. Lessons can be found in any situation, and it will be those lessons that will serve you the rest of your life in great times and crisis. We will get through this; but “will you be new and improved because of it?” is the question. We will all need to learn a new way of living, at least for a little while. Find those lessons that are waiting for you and be a lifelong learner.

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

Topics: exercise at home attitude technology mindset social media quarantine covid-19 lockdown work at home personal growth

Staying on Track with Your Healthy Routine During Quarantine

GettyImages-1215666910Take these next few weeks or so and use them to your advantage. We know this is an extremely challenging time, and we want to make sure you feel like you are taken care of. Circumstances are tricky right now, so even if you adopt one new technique, consider that a win! Don’t expect yourself to “eat the rainbow” every day, feel like you fall asleep easily at night from a relaxing day working at home in your pajamas, or get in a 10-mile run each morning. While you shelter at home and stay healthy, keep these tips in mind.

Create balanced meals with shelf-stable products.

Use fresh produce first, and if you feel like you won’t finish your fresh produce before it spoils, freeze it. Try to make half of your plate produce such as spinach, tomatoes, green beans, peppers, or cauliflower. Add some protein like beans (canned or dried) or tofu, and quality carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, butternut squash, potatoes, or quinoa. Remember, beans and grains will get you all of the essential amino acids you need, so don’t shy away from trying shelf-stable beans in place of your usual fresh meat. (Here are some meatless meal staples to look for.)

Have a plan for your meals.

Think “first-in, first-out” and make sure to use your fresh produce and proteins first in order to prevent spoilage. Create a meal plan list for the week and utilize one meal’s leftovers to create the next night’s meal to avoid wasting food. For example, if you had plain white rice to add to a veggie-stir-fry on Monday, consider keeping some white rice on the side to make rice and bean burritos for dinner the next night!

Keep food fun!

Get the family together and have fun experimenting during the week to see who can come up with the most creative meals. It’s like an episode of “Chopped” in your kitchen! You never know what some instant mashed potato flakes mixed with some flour and spices could turn into—potato pancakes perhaps. And make sure to not only keep healthy snacks in the house like nuts, carrot sticks, or apples for nourishment, but some of your favorite comfort foods will go a long way in lifting everyone’s spirits. We have had a lot of fun making popcorn in a pan and homemade bread this week.

Line up activities to do.

Plan a play date for the kids via FaceTime or Zoom. Schedule a remote “girls’ night out” and chat in the basement while watching the same TV show. Don’t go more than a few days without checking in on your friends.

Try meditation and stress-reducing activities.

There are several apps on the market that aim to help you meditate and fall asleep at night. It’s worth a try just to download one and listen while you are in bed at night. Coloring, doing puzzles, going for walks, and virtual therapy sessions with a counselor are other ways to put your mind at ease.

Stay healthy, stay calm—we’ve got this!

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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 stress attitude wellness meditation illness prevention meal planning quarantine covid-19

7 Things You Can Do to Avoid Cabin Fever

GettyImages-1185186125It goes without saying; we’re living through some pretty odd times. With the onset of COVID-19, many of our lives have been flipped on their heads. For some, there has been less structure, and maybe a little more downtime, and that has the potential to make even the sanest of them all go a little stir-crazy.

Here are a few things that you can do today to help break the monotony (or break that Netflix binge) and add some flavor to your day.

Learn to play a new card or board game.

Remember that time your friends from Michigan asked if you wanted to play Euchre, and you responded with a shrug and said, “I’ve never played, can you teach me?” But they were too competitive to have the patience to do so? Is this oddly specific? Yes. But now is a perfect time to pick up a new game to play around the kitchen table. Whether its Euchre (I’m still working on it), Catan, or even perfecting your Poker face, take a break from professional development and instead work on learning a new game.

Play a round of Chopped: Home Pantry Edition.

For those of you who don’t frequent the Food Network, Chopped is a show in which four chefs compete against each other. In each round there are four “basket ingredients.” These basket ingredients must be used in some way, shape, or form, and typically end up being some off-the-wall, unexpected item that must then be used to create an appetizer, entrée, or dessert. After you’ve reorganized your pantry (because goodness knows there’s time now), take that flavored olive oil, an overly ripe banana, a packet of oatmeal, and a can of tuna and see what you come up with! Okay, maybe use some more tasty items, but you get the idea. Now, grab that apron and get cooking!

Reorganize your living room furniture.

This has the built-in benefit of killing two birds with one stone. Not only do you try your hand at being Joanna Gaines (you know, from Fixer Upper), but you also engineer a little extra movement into your day. Sometimes just a quick rearrangement can make that space you’ve been spending a lot more time in feel brand new. Just make sure you don’t take it a step too far and channel your inner Chip Gaines for a demo-day. (Jokes!)

Make a scrapbook of that awesome vacation from 3 years ago.

We all know you probably took a bajillion pictures when you were out West on that road trip, many of which didn’t make the Instagram cut. So break out the scissors, cardboard, stickers from all the places you explored, and of course all the goofy photos you snapped, and get down to business!

Finally finish that book that’s been sitting on your bedside table.

We’ve all seen those articles, right? Something along the lines of “How CEOs Read 247 Books a Week.” Well now’s a great chance to pick up that half-read book and finish the darn thing! Even if you’re not a bonafide bookworm, maybe check out something like a history of your favorite sports team, a biography from a standup comedian you love, or the book version of one of your favorite movies or shows to see how they compare.

Call a loved one or a friend you want to reconnect with.

While we’re adjusting to this new normal and practicing social distancing, that doesn’t mean that social isolation has to be part of the equation. As humans, we are social creatures by nature. So, that quick phone call to check in on your mom or dad, your good friend from college, or that coworker you really miss can go a long way in lifting your spirits, as well as theirs.

If you’re restless, get up and move!

As a blog writer for a fitness center, this one may seem like “duh, Lauren, we get it.” And I know most of us have probably had our Facebook page, Instagram timeline, and Twitter feed bombarded with versions of at-home workouts. But I think there is a lot of truth behind the notion that movement is medicine. If you’re restless, do a one-minute workout. If the weather’s nice where you are, get outside for a breath of literal fresh air. If you have a makeshift garage gym, blast some “Eye of the Tiger” and duplicate a Rocky training montage. However you choose to move, chances are you’ll come out in a better mood on the other side.

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

Topics: attitude mindset illness prevention mental health quarantine covid-19 coronavirus

Pivot: Ways to Adjust Your Mindset and Grow During Quarantine

GettyImages-637192394During these unprecedented times of self- and mandated quarantines and stay-at-home orders, it can be easy to slip into a negative mindset accompanied by fear of the unknown and worry about how you are going to get through this. Self-quarantine does not have to be void of self-improvement. Social media is drenched with ideas and strategies to keep up your physical fitness at home with a million bodyweight workouts and DIY fitness equipment ideas. I’m partial to the elite content that the NIFS pros are providing daily, obviously, but there is no shortage of methods out there to keep moving at home. But what about emotional and mental fitness, and how to continue the work on YOU that makes us strong individuals inside and out?

A motto that I live by daily is to focus on how you choose to react to an unavoidable situation and not let the situation itself dictate your response. Many things are out of our control, but we can control the way we react. I’m sure you’ve seen that poster sometime in your life, and I think it is the only way you can actually control a situation you find yourself in. This fight against COVID-19 is no different; the situation itself is out of our control, but the way we choose to react and manage the situation is.

Strategies for Mindset Pivot

So how can we PIVOT our mindset and continue our self-growth through this crazy situation? I have a few strategies that you can put in place right away, starting with the mindset PIVOT.

Be Grateful

List and define the things that you are grateful for right now. Obviously, this is not an ideal situation we are all going through, but what are the things that you have or that are going on in your life that you are so thankful for? Here are a few of mine:

  • I’m healthy.
  • My loved ones are healthy.
  • I’m still able to remain employed and help others.
  • I have a safe and comfortable home.
  • I have ample food.

I’ll bet as soon as you put pen to paper and write out those things you are grateful for, you will begin to pivot to a more positive mindset.

Laugh

Find ways to laugh daily. Maybe it’s listening to your favorite comedian or catching a comedy on Netflix. Laughter can change a mindset pretty quickly and will focus attention away from the troubling news we face these days.

Connect

Spend time with your family that is with you and reach out to those who are not. You have some time now to really connect with the people you care about the most. Play a game with the kids, call someone you haven’t talked to in a while, send an email, or Skype. There are so many ways you can connect with others. Stay connected; you have the time now.

Move

There are a number of ways you can remain active at home. As I stated before, there is no shortage of drills and workouts you can do with little and no equipment online and on social media. Follow your NIFS Pros on IG and Facebook and be sure to check out our blogs for a ton of fitness strategies you can do at home:

Be sure to PLAY as well, an aspect of fitness that often gets overlooked. Play and smile!

Strategies for Self-Growth

Even though you may be a homebody these days, it doesn’t mean you have to stop the growth of who you are as an individual, professional, parent, sibling, and other identities that you carry with you. The list of things you can do to grow and not slow down during this time is long. Here are just a few to wet your whistle:

  • Read a book(or books) covering a topic you want to learn more about.
  • Listen to a podcast.
  • Watch a documentary, take a break from the world of fiction to gain knowledge of an interesting topic.
  • Help the kids with their e-learning.
  • Evaluate and adjust those New Year’s goals you wrote down a few months ago.
  • Plan a future vacation and determine the steps needed to get you there.
  • Journal daily thoughts, kind of like a “captain’s log” type of thing.
  • Take a nap.
  • Keep moving (see above).
  • Hop on a webinar.
  • Declutter the house and give it a deep clean.

We are going to get through this and return to our lives outside of the house. A challenge to you is to be a better YOU than you were at the beginning of this pandemic. Taking action during this time to maintain a positive mindset and to continue to grow mentally and emotionally will set you up for success when you reenter the world. Control your reaction, take action, and we will come out of this situation better than ever!

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

Topics: exercise at home resolutions attitude mental videos mindset illness prevention positive attitude viruses COVID-10 quarantine

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

Strength in Numbers: Benefits of Group Training

Bootcamp-1You either love them or you hate them… group workouts! In a world where technology is seemingly taking over the human connection and interaction, working out with a group can offer the opportunity to meet real friends instead of virtual ones online.

Whether you join a small group or just get a group of your friends to work out together, here are a few reasons why more is merrier for working toward your fitness goals.

Motivation

Group workouts give you motivation that you might not get by doing a solo workout. Unless you’re that rare person who can jump out of bed at the sound of an alarm and hit the ground running, odds are motivation will go away as quick as you pressing the snooze button. We all battle the everyday ups and downs of life, but once you get together with your group, the energy levels go up and worries go out the door. You will find that you are motivated by the people around you and that’ll make the workout much more fun and enjoyable.

Accountability

Remember when you were a high schooler and your parents would wake you up in the mornings? How nice of them to hold us accountable. A workout group can do the same thing for your health and fitness goals. There’s something about knowing you won’t be the only one getting your butt kicked that day. Not only will you have your group members to help hold you accountable, you will have a coach who is checking in on you. The effectiveness of a team member can influence the whole team. Therefore, don’t let your coach and classmates down by not showing up.

Support System

One day a month, all the members of the Ramp Up to Weight Loss program come together for a group workout followed by a post-workout snack. Not only do they get a chance to meet one another, work out, breathe hard, and sweat; but they also get a chance to see that they aren’t in this alone. They see that they have the support of all the other members who might be in a situation similar to theirs. Having a support system can give you a new sense of hope and encouragement because you know you aren’t in this alone.

Fun

Some people like working out by themselves while others need a group around them. Being part of a group workout can really make exercising fun and enjoyable. You’ll benefit from the energy and hard work you can feel being created by you and the people in your group. The motivation you receive and the people you surround yourself with will make exercise fun, not a chore you feel you have to do.

Mental Health

Group workouts offer you the advantage of getting to meet people who have similar interests to yours. You will feel part of something by being surrounded by likeminded people. You might be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and make new friends; group workouts give you that opportunity to stay within your comfort zone while making new friends.

Although group workouts might not be for everybody, you should try it at least once. You might find that a group atmosphere is exactly what you need to push you past your health and fitness goals. There are so many ways here at NIFS to get involved with a community of supporters: Small Group Training, Group Fitness classes, the Ramp Up to Weight Loss Program, and many of the other programs we provide throughout the year.

“When we try to exercise alone, we can feel isolated and uninspired; together we can achieve our fitness goals.”

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, Weight Loss Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS motivation weight loss group fitness group training accountability NIFS programs attitude

Overcoming Life Challenges with Fitness: You Don’t Forget the Hills

IMG_2506Fitness is a great tool to use to train the mind. Yes, often people work out for physical health, but exercise is also getting a lot of hype from psychologists. Many studies are proving that exercise and movement increase brain function, memory, and thinking skills. Not just that; the motivation, positivity, and strength learned and gained from an exercise session can all be used in daily life situations. 

I began doing yoga and running in 2009 as a way to de-stress when my mother was ill with cancer. At the time, I never knew that the real-world challenges I was going through would turn into my passion and lead me to my full-time career. I can honestly say that the motivational lesson of learning through sweat sessions helped me overcome daily life challenges and inspired to me share that with others.

From Yoga to Real Life

Yoga taught me to breathe. Breathing is a necessary human function, but one of the hardest things to do in a challenging situation. Learning breathing and mindfulness on my yoga mat taught me how to take it into my daily life. If I’m facing a challenge, it probably means I need to slow down, breathe, and evaluate what needs to be done.

Running taught me that there are days you are tired, sore, and don’t want to do something, but showing up and doing it will always feel better. My mom’s motivation to wake up every day on her weakest, saddest, and scariest days helped inspire me along my fitness journey to be fearless and “Just Do It™.”

As I began doing yoga and running, I fell so in love and developed such a deep passion for these things that I wanted to continue to learn about them. I got my 200 Hour yoga certification in 2014. I never knew that it would turn into a full-time career in NYC where I was inspiring packed rooms and training celebrities. That sounds great and glamorous, and honestly it was, but again yoga really just taught me to breathe and open my mind. I realized that going to New York was running away from dealing with my past. I was ready to face it again. New York is a stressful environment. I was keeping up just fine, but was pushing out family because I was “too busy training Victoria’s Secret models,” although I knew the real reason was fear and not fully living out what I was learning.

Letting go of ego is another lesson I learned on my yoga mat, and I knew that I could find balance between family and doing what I loved if I took some deep breaths, tuned in, and followed my head and heart at the same time. After three years in the Big Apple, I decided to live out my fitness and move back home to build my family bond and let go of anything from my past that challenged me, just as I had been doing for years in the gym.

From Running Away to Running Home

Along with my personal training success came my “glory days” of running. I was a runner because I loved how it felt. I had no clue I would one weekend wake up and call a friend asking whether I could run a marathon in her city the following weekend, and then show up and actually complete it. Well I did. And I don’t remember much about that race except a few things—the times I was challenged the most. My first challenge came at mile 6, my first hill. I remember that thing looking like a mountain. The second thing I remember was turning to my family in my time of need. At mile 13.1, I called my dad, crying:

“What am I doing? Should I just run a half marathon today?”

He responded with, “Just take a deep breath.” Well, at that moment my heart might have felt like it was going to burst out of my chest, and my mind was in a negative state underestimating my strength, but that connection and reminder to take a deep breath and tune in to my ultimate goal helped me complete 26.2 miles that day, and with the biggest smile on my face. I now coach others in running, and in the challenging times I bring out some of the lessons I learned to teach and inspire them, letting them know that I get it and understand because I’ve been in that headspace too. But I also remind them that this is no challenge you can’t overcome if you just take a deep breath and tune in. I also like reminding people that if 30-second fitness challenges or hills are the hardest struggles in their day, week, or life, they are pretty lucky!

At-Home Exercise Your Mind

So, here’s your chance to exercise your mind:

  • What has challenged you in the gym?
  • What did you do about it?
  • What words of encouragement helped you overcome it?
  • What was the feeling of overcoming challenge?

Now take that into your daily life. What is challenging you, and can you breathe and stay positive through that situation?

“JUST DO IT ™” —Gary Gilmore

Just Do It is a trademark of shoe company Nike.

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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: fitness stress yoga running attitude marathon emotional

Commonsense Weight Loss: Diet Personalities Gone Wrong

GettyImages-971392106There are many diet personalities out there. If you are one of these, it could be the reason you are having trouble losing weight or maintaining weight loss.

Starvin’ Marvin: Always Hungry

Starvin’ Marvin follows strict calorie guidelines. He doesn't get the calories and fuel his body needs to accomplish the routine tasks of his day. He is often tired and always hungry. When he works out, Marvin's body does not have sufficient fuel, so he isn’t able to put in as much effort as he would like.

Solution: Losing weight requires either eating fewer calories or burning off excess calories through physical activity. So one good first step for Starvin’ Marvin is to find out how many calories his body requires for weight loss. Choose My Plate is an excellent resource to help determine the correct calories for your height, weight, and activity factor. No one should ever consume less than 1,200 calories per day.

Negative Nancy: The Wrong Attitude for Weight Loss

Restriction, starvation, elimination, bland, boring…all of these are words that Nancy uses to describe her diet, yet she is constantly starting a new one. Anything that has this much dread attached to it is not something that she can or should be doing for the long haul.

Solution: Negative Nancy needs to start incorporating positive words into her healthy new eating plan: Balanced plate, Moderation with sweets and high-fat foods, Flavorful spices to jazz up vegetables, Variety with food groups, and Satisfying meals.

Rigid Ricky: Doesn’t Believe He Can Be Flexible and Still Lose Weight

Nobody’s perfect. This simple phrase is exactly why diets don’t work.

Solution: Ricky would be much happier and healthier if he took a simple approach to his eating. He should spend 80 percent of his time eating right—consuming multiple servings of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy—and following a safe and healthy workout plan. The other 20 percent of Rigid Ricky’s life can be filled with “extras” such as a cookie or piece of cake, a day off from exercising, and maybe even an alcoholic beverage of his choice. If he allows himself to not be as rigid with his plan, his chances of succeeding will increase dramatically.

Unsupported Ulysses: Hasn’t Discovered the Value of Accountability

Losing weight can be difficult, and making lifestyle changes is all the more difficult when those around you are not there to support and help you make changes.

Solution: Ulysses needs a support system that can help him stick to his goals and hold him accountable to them. He needs a "buddy" to give him a push when he is feeling low and to keep him from feeling alone in his journey. A support system should encourage and praise Ulysses for the hard work he is putting in and the changes he is making. Try healthy new foods and recipes and physical activities with your buddy, or even train for an event together. Having a Supportive Sally around can make his weight-loss mission much more enjoyable.

Resentful Rita: Deprives Herself and Is Unhappy About It

When we think of “diets,” we think of giving up our favorite foods. This only leads to feeling deprived and carrying negative feelings toward “healthy foods” and feeling guilty about eating “unhealthy foods.” Rita will become angry that she “can’t” have the foods she wants, which then leads to resentment. Deprivation of her favorite foods may lead to overeating or yo-yo dieting.

Solution: Rita needs to RELAX! No food is off limits; all foods can fit.

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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: NIFS weight loss attitude weight management wellness diets

The Power of Positivity for Fitness Motivation

GettyImages-897892972“You've got this!” "Keep it up!” “So strong!”

Ever come to your fitness class and hear those positive, motivating words? How do you feel in that moment? 

Motivation and positivity have been proven to help lead healthier, happier lives. We often come into a gym and feel strong, motivated, and positive in that moment; but are you taking what you learn into your daily life? Here are some tips and examples of leading a happier life not just during your gym time, but out of the gym!

Be mindful about positive thoughts.

When you hear words that make you smile and feel happy, are you listening to them, or are you letting them come in one ear and go out the other? When we mindfully hold onto positive thoughts and let go of the negative, we lead a more positive life. Can you replace three hurtful or negative thoughts with three new, positive thoughts? Try it! It's like spring cleaning for your brain!

Surround yourself with positive people.

It has been studied and seen that you are who you hang out with. During your daily life, are you surrounded by negative or stressful people? Can you engage in more activities with people who make you feel amazing and happy? Maybe that's replacing an hour of sitting on the couch watching negative news stations or judgmental reality television shows with a yoga class that encourages you to breathe and relax. List people, places, or things that often make you feel down or negative, and make a list of people and activities to engage in that make you feel good and positive. Simply replace the negative activity with the positive one. Most importantly, be honest and fearless.

Are you being negative?

Just as you'd want to be around positive people, don't you think others want to as well? If you are always talking about being stressed or tired, evaluate what in your personal life is making you stressed and tired. What do you need to do to turn into a positive, full-of-energy person? Finding balance in life is a challenge, but it’s possible if you dedicate time to making little changes. Set your mind on your goals and follow through.

Just do it.

What's holding you back? Studies show that changing habits can be challenging, but is not impossible. It takes a little work. Try to adopt a new positive habit each week. Your options are endless. Maybe that's giving your coworkers a high-five, writing down an inspirational motivational quote every morning as a reminder of your goal, starting your day in a workout class that promotes positivity, volunteering and helping others, or so much more. DO YOU—just do it! Letting go of others’ judgments and figuring out what makes you feel best and happiest and doing those things will lead to a happier life.

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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: fitness motivation attitude mindfulness mindset positivity