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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

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

The Benefits of Physical Activity: Mind, Body, and More

GettyImages-627455550-[Converted]-newBy this point, everyone has heard that exercise is good for health. The fitness industry has been growing significantly over the past decade. As of 2017, there were more than 200,000 health and fitness clubs worldwide, which is up from nearly 130,000 clubs in 2009. Clearly, fitness is becoming a huge part of peoples’ lives. But why are we seeing this massive growth in the industry, and in what ways is it improving health?

The Physical Benefits

The physical benefits of increased activity include the following.

Increased Muscle Mass

A well-known benefit to working out is increased muscle mass. This alone has so many benefits to your health besides the visual appeal that people seek. Muscle is a huge driver for metabolism. In fact, it takes so much energy to maintain muscle mass that having more of it increases metabolism significantly, even at rest.

Improved Bone Health

Most people hit peak bone mass in early adulthood. After we hit our peak, our bone density begins to decline. Several factors go into how much we build before we hit our peak and how fast we fall once over that peak. And of course, exercise is a huge factor in this. Weight-bearing activity that forces you to challenge gravity is huge in preserving or even building bone density by breaking down the bone so it can build back even stronger.

Better Sleep

Exercise can improve sleep quality by expelling built-up energy. Another way sleep improves is the cycle of body temperature brought on by exercise. During activity the temperature increases; once activity has stopped the temperature gradually decreases, causing chemicals to be released that promote drowsiness.

Increased Energy and Stamina

In the short term, exercise increases blood flow throughout the body to improve energy. Over time, exercise causes improvements in cardiovascular health, allowing the heart to pump more oxygen-rich blood throughout the body, therefore increasing energy.

Reduced Cholesterol

When exercise, weight loss, and dietary intervention are combined, the LDL (bad) cholesterol levels decrease while HDL (good) cholesterol levels increase.

Decreased Risk of Chronic Diseases

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “exercise is medicine,” it will be no surprise that exercise actually reduces the risk of chronic diseases. Various things happen in the body to cause this, but the most important is that by getting active, the chances of developing Type 2 Diabetes, some cancers, stroke, heart disease, and more are drastically reduced.

Increased Coordination and Balance

By staying active, people learn how to be more coordinated and balanced. Motor control over movements becomes more natural the more it is practiced, and will translate to real-life scenarios. In the long run, especially through aging, this is beneficial to help prevent falls and the negative consequences, such as fractured bones, that come along with them.

The Mental Benefits

The mental benefits of increased activity include the following.

  • Stress relief
  • Positive mood
  • Improved mental alertness
  • Reduced anxiety and depression
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Increased cognitive function

Most of these improvements occur due to the increased blood flow to the brain, which acts on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. This area of the brain interacts with several other regions, including the limbic system, hippocampus, and amygdala, which are correlated with motivation, mood, and responses to stress. Other noted improvements may be explained by providing distraction, improving self-efficacy, and increasing social interaction. Research shows that exercise can improve cognitive function by promoting neuroplasticity. By staying active throughout adulthood and senior years, cognitive decline can be prevented.

Although many mechanisms go into this complicated process, one thing that is known is that the rate of neurogenesis, or the production of new neurons, is greatly increased by exercise. This may be the result of increased blood flow to the brain during exercise, with an abundance of oxygen and nutrients.

Other Benefits

A lot of benefits that come from exercise can be measured or researched. Some benefits are harder to measure but still occur. We learn how to set realistic yet challenging goals, learn the discipline needed to accomplish those goals, and learn more about ourselves. We can gain a better understanding of how much we can push ourselves and improve our mind-body connection.

How Much Should You Work Out?

The current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans outlines the recommended amount of activity for different age groups. Adults should do at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise a week. Most health benefits can start to be seen at the minimum amount; however more benefits are seen beyond 300 minutes of activity a week. Adults should also do some type of resistance-training exercise at least two days of the week.

At NIFS, we have multiple group fitness classes every day to help you reach your goals and hit the minimum requirements. Check out the group fitness schedule for 30–60-minute classes to help you achieve at least 150 minutes of exercise a week.

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

Topics: NIFS staying active group fitness balance mental disease prevention sleep staying fit active aging physical activity

Balancing Act: How to Improve Your Balance—and Quality of Life

Screen Shot 2019-04-11 at 12.19.41 PMImagine a tightrope walker, gracefully walking their path across their suspended highwire. An incredible amount of balance is required, along with stability and strength, to ensure that the performer maintains their position on the rope. Now think about balance as it applies to you and your profession or daily life. You might not even think about it, but you use balance every day. Things that you take for granted, such as walking down stairs, putting on a pair of pants, and getting out of your car require some level of balance, or else we would most likely take a tumble. Thankfully, there are exercises and routines designed to improve and train balance that transfer nicely to daily life.

As with any limitation or injuries, be careful and mindful of the doctor’s recommendations. Loss of balance could be a sign that you need to be checked out by your physician. That being said, we know that exercise can be great, but we would regard and yield to the utmost safety when approaching anyone who may be at risk or falling due to balance issues.

If you have come to the conclusion that your balance needs help, there is good news for you! Like most facets of life, balance can be improved. The answer to a question as simple as, “If you want to run a 5K in 20 minutes, what would you do?” is RUN! So, if you want to get better balance, what should you do? Practice balancing. You do not have to walk a tightrope on day one, but there are many exercises and fitness tools designed to help your balance improve.

Balance Exercises

Try the following exercises and activities, and see how you do with balance, then incorporate them into your routine. Assess your balance from time to time to see how you have improved.

  • Stand on an unstable surface. Using an AirEx Pad, time yourself standing on one foot. Other exercises can be done while standing on the pad such as lunges, squats, and dumbbell overhead press, utilizing the unstable surface to challenge your balancing ability. Other unstable surfaces you may use as you advance include the BOSU ball, half foam roller, and sand.
  • Try unilateral exercises. Improving your leg strength through unilateral exercise is another great way to improve your balance. Some examples of these exercises include lunges, split squats, and my personal favorite, the single-leg sit and stand on a box. For this exercise, you will want to find a box that is the appropriate height (around chair height). Start from a seated position, then come to a complete stand using only one leg. Try to sit back down onto the box under complete control. This can be progressed with weights and movement patterns such as the overhead press.
  • Join a group fitness class. Another way to improve balance is through group fitness classes. NIFS offers several classes that emphasize balance, such as BOSU conditioning and some that help you develop balance such as yoga and BODYCOMBAT. As stated above, the more you practice your balance, the better chance you have to improve it. In BOSU conditioning, we can progress and regress any exercise to fit your needs. The exercise doesn’t have to be impossible, but it should be challenging. Check out this NIFS blog by our own Tony Maloney for more about BOSU balance.

Improve Your Quality of Life

With the improvement of balance comes an overall improvement in your quality of life. Being able to trust your steps as you walk is important, as is being able to do things in life you love to do. Getting better is just a process and takes time. You must take that step forward; otherwise, you might be on shaky ground. For tips and exercises to promote balance, contact a Fitness Specialist at NIFS or join one of our many group fitness classes.

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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: yoga group fitness balance exercises BODYCOMBAT BOSU quality of life ADLs

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

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

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

What Makes BOSU So Awesome?

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

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

Here are some videos that show some of those movements:

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Five Reasons to Try BOSU

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

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

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

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

Topics: NIFS cardio group fitness balance strength core strength mobility stability core exercises BOSU

CXWORX: A Group Fitness Class for Core Strength

September_cxworxCXWORX is all about building core strength, which is important for living a more functional life. CXWORX targets the trunk, which is the area from the mid-thigh to the shoulders, and includes both the front and back sides of the body.

CXWORX is a 30-minute choreographed group fitness class created by Les Mills. It begins with a warmup and breaks off into working different sections of the core with movements both on the mat and standing. Participants use a resistance tube to add load to the muscles to increase muscle strength.

The Importance of a Strong Core

Most people think about a strong core as six-pack abs and doing sit-ups. The core is made up of more than just abs, but exactly as it sounds, it’s the core of your body. Building strength in those muscles will benefit you for the rest of your life. All movements stem from your core and provide support for everyday tasks you perform.

Having a strong core is of huge importance when it comes to balance and stability. Strong core muscles will also help improve your posture. Having good posture is better for your spine, prevents lower back pain or injuries, and allows you to breathe easier. Having a strong core helps you stand taller and straighter.

Working the Core

Working the core is more than just doing sit-ups. CXWORX is beneficial because it incorporates many movement patterns and exercises to strengthen and tone all muscle groups associated with the core. Trunk flexion and extension, trunk rotation, lateral trunk flexion, abdominal compression, and spinal stability are all movement patterns that you will perform in a CXWORX class to help build a balanced, strong core.

Check NIFS’s Group Fitness Schedule to find a class time that’s convenient for you!

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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: group fitness muscles balance Les Mills core strength posture CXWORX stability core stability

Going for Gold: NIFS Winter Olympics Special Exercises

GettyImages-533291891.jpgEvery four years, the Winter Olympics shows up, and we are in awe of some of the most gifted athletes on the planet. Ice skaters gliding upon an edge like a razor blade, yet choreographed to music. Bobsledders who risk near death contently as they barrel through corners (mortals, like myself, need not apply). And the cross-country skiers boast some of the highest aerobic capacities of any athlete in the world. For the majority of us, riding down a hill on an inner tube does the trick, but that doesn’t mean we can’t infuse your workout with the tools to not only get a great workout, but dream for gold!

Looking around the fitness center, finding options to get into Olympic shape isn’t too difficult. With a little imagination, you can add these three exercises to your workout today with little or no skating, skiing, or bobsledding experience. Now get ready for the NIFS Winter Olympic Special: Going for Gold!

Helix Lateral Elliptical

If you want powerful legs, endurance, and balance, you might want to take a look at speed skating. Not unlike its summer Olympic running counterpart, speed skating requires a lot of practice. To accelerate, the skater pushes side to side, arms working to not only balance but also propel the body forward.

To simulate this motion, the Helix Lateral Elliptical allows you to safely perform the lower-body movement used in speed skating. Being able to do this exercise year round in the friendly confines of NIFS is a definite bonus. A built-in console allows you to track intensity and time. A quick Tabata (:20 on, :20 off) for 5–8 rounds can give your workout a nice lift. Be sure to try both directions!

Concept II Ski Erg

ski.jpgThe concept of cross-country skiing for sport comes from areas in which getting around is easier and more common on skis than trudging through the snow. Out of necessity and the evolution of transportation, people in the Nordic region of Europe are now famously known for producing some of the highest VO2 Max numbers in the world. Your VO2 Max is the quantification of how efficiently your body uses oxygen when you exercise.

With that being said, how can you get similar exercise without all the snow or burden of buying skis? Concept II, the company that makes rowing machines, designed a vertical rowing machine that can simulate the upper-body cross-country skiing pattern. Like the Helix, there is a console to track your progress, intensity, and time. Once you get the hang of the Ski Erg, you can see how far you can get in 60 seconds, rest, and then do it again!

Prowler Sled Push

Alex-Sled.jpgOne of the most fascinating events at the winter Olympics is the bobsled. A team of individuals, working as one, propels a bobsled down a narrow, icy chute. To get the sled going, the team relies heavily on otherworldly leg strength. The rest of the event takes skill and some luck, as this is a race to the finish line. The winning team usually has a complete balance of strength, skill, balance, and weight.

The exercise you can do at NIFS that mimics this movement most closely is the Prowler Sled Push. There are many sled options to choose from, but this one allows you to start in a standing position and requires you to physically push the weighted sled (no attachments needed). This can be done in several ways: heavy weights for short distance and lighter weights for longer duration as well as sprints. For a great partner routine, relay races are a perfect way to give you and some friends exercise and breaks. Have one person push the sled, while the other two are on the “ends.” As the sled approaches, the next person takes the sled-pushing responsibility and pushes it back to the starting point. This continues until a certain distance is reached or for time. Try to mark a 30-yard distance and continue this exercise for 2–3 minutes for one set. Be sure to enjoy your rest times!

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Whether you are looking for a new routine or really are dreaming about the Olympics, these three exercises are sure to give you a great workout. If anything, we can appreciate the hard work and dedication it takes to become an Olympian. For more fun fitness ideas, check back to the NIFS blog and social media outlets (YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter). Until next time, friends, dream big! Go for gold!

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

Topics: balance endurance rowing exercises winter skiing vo2 max olympics skating

NIFS August Group Fitness Class of the Month: Yoga

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Yoga is good for all types of people who have all types of fitness goals. No matter what your age, size, shape, or training regimen, you can reap the benefits of doing it on a regular basis. In fact, there are different types of yoga, and some of them are quite challenging regarding strength and balance.

Yoga is NIFS Group Fitness Class of the Month. Let’s take a look at some specific groups of people and why yoga can be beneficial to them.

Athletes

For many athletes, the idea of getting a good, solid workout means needing a wheelchair to get out of the gym. However, a good 60-minute yoga session could really help far more than the mind tells you it can. In fact, one of these sessions may be, at times, even more beneficial than that 60-minute lift you were just about to do. Yoga helps to improve strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, mental control, and mobility; increases power; and works as a perfect active-recovery exercise.

Seniors

For senior fitness, yoga is great to help gain better stability and balance. As people age, their balance, stability, and proprioception diminish. But with the help of yoga, you can slow down the process. On top of improved stability and balance, yoga helps to improve flexibility and overall joint health, reduces high blood pressure, improves breathing, and helps to reduce anxiety or depression.

The General Population

For the everyday exerciser who is simply trying to fit exercise into their regular, busy life schedule, yoga is great, too! Yoga is actually a form of physical fitness and has several benefits for those looking for a relaxing yet challenging workout. Yoga helps boost emotional health, reduce back pain, reduce heart disease, put asthma at ease, boost memory, improve flexibility… and the list goes on.

Youth

Yes, yoga is good for kids as well. Yoga is good for the youth population because it gives them time to step away from technology, inwardly connect with themselves, and listen to their own feelings and ideas. For this age range of people, it has been found that yoga can help improve self-esteem, attention span, empowerment, and self-regulation.

August_Yoga.jpgPowerlifters

Believe it or not, powerlifting and yoga are a match made in heaven! Yoga for those who like to lift heavy helps improve grip strength and endurance, improve breathing, relieve knee and lower-back pain, aid in flexibility (specifically in the back for power lifters), and increase strength. While you might not be the first one in class to touch your toes, make that your next goal, then lift the car above your head!

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Check out NIFS’ group fitness schedule and join us for a class in Indianapolis. Namaste, friends and fellow soon-to-be yogis!

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This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS yoga group fitness balance senior fitness kids powerlifting athletes Group Fitness Class of the Month

Stand-up Paddleboarding: a Watersport for Fitness

ThinkstockPhotos-175923466.jpgThis is a great time of year to get out and do some fitness activities that you do not get to do year round, living in an Indiana climate. As the weather turns, the opportunity for some watersports becomes more realistic. While there are many different things you can do for exercise on the water like kayaking, canoeing, and swimming, my all-time favorite outdoor activity is paddleboarding. The benefits of stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) are vast, and this activity has gained some serious traction over the past 5 years.

Benefits of SUP

  • Great total-body workout: I remember the first time I saw someone paddleboarding. I thought, “Well that looks nice, relaxing, easy, and not intense!” It wasn’t too long afterward that I realized it was the opposite of that! It is relaxing; however, it is also work, depending on your total time, distance covered, and pace. SUP works your entire body from your toes gripping the board, your legs and core keeping you balanced, your arms and back from paddling, all the way to the tips of your fingers as they grip the paddle.
  • Improves balance: SUP requires core stability and leg strength to keep you balanced on the board and able to stand. Balance is one thing that you will notice you need immediately; otherwise you will be in the water in a matter of seconds. While I wouldn’t say that it’s particularly hard to balance on a paddleboard, you do need to keep your center of gravity low and your body needs to be positioned in the right spot on the board.
  • Low impact: If you are looking for a great alternative to give the joints a rest from running or other high-impact training, SUP may be just the thing to try. This is definitely a low-impact activity with many of the same benefits as others like swimming and biking.
  • Improves overall strength: After spending a few hours out on the lake on a paddleboard, you might feel pretty good. But the typical muscle soreness that you feel after a workout becomes very real the next morning. When paddleboarding, you are using a lot of the smaller muscles that you don’t typically use, causing them to be sore the next few days. Some of these things include sore toes or feet from gripping the board, sore glutes because you are in the bent-knee position for quite some time, and sore muscles in the shoulder and back from paddling (not a frequent motion).
  • Cardio workout: SUP can be a cardio workout depending on the intensity of your time out on the water. You can make SUP pretty fun by incorporating some races into your plan, which will get your heart rate up.
  • Reduces stress: There is something peaceful about being out on the water, and I am not really a big nature person. Being on the water and looking at the sights around you helps you relax and reduce stress. And for those who really want to take this to the next level, you can try paddleboard yoga at Eagle Creek!
  • Great social activity: If you can get a group of people together to go out on an afternoon trip, it makes paddleboarding all the more fun. Find a small island or shoreline you can paddle to and spend some time swimming and just relaxing in the sun.

Where to Try SUP in Indianapolis and Elsewhere

If you haven’t had the opportunity to give SUP a try, I would encourage you to find some time to do so. You can rent paddleboards at Eagle Creek, or if you are on vacation near some water, look up a few places. SUP is and activity that you can try once to get the hang of it, and then go out again and really enjoy it!

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This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, Fitness Center Manger. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness cardio balance strength total-body workouts paddleboarding watersport low-impact

NIFS June Group Fitness Class of the Month: Mat Pilates

mat-pilates-2.jpgWhen it comes to working out, I have always been the “faster, harder, stronger, better” type. If I’m not going to sweat and feel like I’ve accomplished something, what’s the use? As such, I never put much stock in mind/body classes. What could that type of exercise possibly offer that I wasn’t getting through my intense cardio and/or strength training sessions?

Fellow cardio lovers, weightlifters, and HIIT people, does this sound like you? If so, you can imagine my surprise when I discovered Pilates to be one of the most challenging workouts—physically and mentally—that I have ever done. Adding it to my weekly regimen has pushed my limits, helped me break through plateaus, changed my body composition, and ultimately made me “harder, faster, stronger, better.”

How does Pilates do this, you ask? The short answer: by building a strong core, creating overall muscle strength and balance in the torso and limbs, and improving posture. Please allow me to elaborate.

A Little Background

Joseph Pilates, a performer and boxer who, through years of self-study and practice, developed a method of exercise that would not only prove to last, but gain immense popularity, developed Pilates in the 1920s. The original exercises of Pilates in their purest forms were performed slowly in either the seated or lying position. They were carefully designed to train the body to be conscious of movement control, and thus move more efficiently. Joseph’s wife, Clara, learned her husband’s techniques and developed modifications to train those with injuries. Springs and pulleys were incorporated with the exercises to add resistance, and many could even be adapted to benefit bedridden clients.

Mr. Pilates died having never trademarked his method. His pupils went on to train numerous others, maintaining many of the original concepts but adding their own personal styles. Thus, since its creation nearly 100 years ago, many schools of practice have emerged. In 2000, a federal judge declared “Pilates” to be a generic term. As such, it is impossible to know exactly what to expect from a class simply titled “Mat Pilates.”

The Constant: The Core

Despite the plethora of styles, this remains constant: while the core remains at the “core” of the exercise, Pilates evenly conditions the entire body, thereby creating muscle balance and improving posture. No one muscle group is overtrained or undertrained. While the core musculature is the focus, the extremities are utilized to add load to the core, and thus the entire body reaps the benefits.

Take one of the basic exercises, the Plank. Think of all the muscles that must fire to correctly hold, simply hold, a high plank: rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis, glutes, latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, trapezii, paraspinals, BUT ALSO deltoids, triceps, hip flexors, quadriceps, anterior tibialis, and more. Then add a movement such as a pushup or a leg extension, and engage even more muscles.

The plank is just one example; all of the exercises and progressions performed in a Pilates class work multiple muscle groups in a very controlled manner, so as to promote muscle and movement awareness and fine-tune strength. Pilates is intense, but low-impact. It is challenging, but modifiable. It will push your limits, but it is sustainable. And it is extremely effective. When performed correctly, it will create an evenly conditioned body, improve sports performance (your golf swing will be considerably more impressive when it’s backed by a strong core and balanced muscles), and prevent injuries.

What Can I Expect in a Mat Pilates Class at NIFS?

mat-4.jpgSo the ultimate question is, what specifically can you expect when you walk into the NIFS Group Fitness Studio shortly before 5pm on Wednesdays? You can expect a low-impact entire-body workout that flows nonstop for 50 minutes to upbeat, current, familiar music. You can expect careful instruction on form. You can expect an occasional self-assessment on strength and flexibility. And, even though this is not a cardio class, you can expect to sweat! Mats will always be used, and often you will be instructed to grab a small piece of equipment (small weighted balls, light dumbbells, springloaded rings, small towels, and exercise bands are commonly used). Shoes are optional. Let the instructor know if you have any injuries.

As the music comes on (which, did I mention, is always familiar with a driving beat and all original artists?), realize that the next 50 minutes is all yours. It’s yours to discover how strong you are, and build on that strength. It’s yours to get lost in the flow of the moves, or the flow of the music. It’s yours to take breaks or stretch when you need and to modify the moves as necessary or desired. It’s yours to build joint stability, improve your balance, and become more flexible.

Pilates has something to offer everyone, from the beginner to the elite athlete. So grab a towel and your water, and I’ll see you at 5pm on Wednesdays!

To access the full group fitness schedule at NIFS, click here. Not a member? No problem! Click here to get a free class pass and try Mat Pilates or any group fitness class on us!

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This blog was written by Rachel Pfeiffer, ACE and AFAA certified Group Fitness Instructor and Board Certified Neurologist. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here. Photos by John Bragg.

Topics: group fitness workouts group training balance core stretching Pila

Thomas' Corner: More Moving, Less Sitting for Better Fitness

Hello NIFS friends! Have you noticed that your metabolism is slowing, weight is harder to keep off, or that your strength is fleeting? Well, you are not alone; many people like you struggle with these issues. Although there are quite a few reasons for people to fall behind on their goals and feel dissatisfied with their health and wellness, this blog is dedicated to simply standing up (literally) and taking on the day with the mindset that all movements matter, no matter how small.

ThinkstockPhotos-525728274.jpgThe More You Move, the Healthier You Can Be

As kids, play and exercise were more active for many of us in the olden days. Some of us couldn’t sit still for five minutes and were constantly moving. It was part of the job! With that being said, there were some kids who ate food as if they had a hollow leg and never gained as much as an ounce of fat. It’s not challenging to correlate the links between activity, metabolism, and wellness; the more daily exercise you have in your life, the more control you can have of your overall health (and excessive sitting has many risks).

Furthermore and along the same lines, the decline of activity in our lives can almost always parallel the decline of not only health, but also muscular development, body composition and resting metabolic rate numbers, and increased chances for injury. Without a doubt, nutrition is key to improving overall body composition, but without exercise, often we see many consequences that can leave us dissatisfied with our well-being.

How to Sit Less

My challenge to you: SIT LESS. During your daily routine, try to move more and be idle less. At the gym, if you have an exercise that includes sitting, find a way to work the same muscle group standing up. An example of this would be a standing chest press on one of the dual cable cross machines. Not only are you working chest, shoulders, and triceps, but you are also developing core and balance, which might not be achieved using conventional chest press machines. This is just one example out of hundreds of exercises that can change and challenge your fitness game plan.

If you are interested in learning more about these types of exercises that can get you up and moving, contact a Health Fitness Specialist or personal trainer at NIFS. While an HFS can make your personalized workout exciting and safe, personal training can take your fitness experience to the next level with motivation and accountability. Whatever the case may be, TAKE A STAND, for your health.

Muscleheads, rejoice and evolve!

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

Topics: NIFS fitness Thomas' Corner accountability balance personal training sitting