NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Plan a Fun Workout with a Deck of Cards

GettyImages-182243945Looking for a simple and fun way to plan your own workout? You can use a deck of playing cards to determine which exercises to do and how many reps. Here are the steps for planning this game-based workout.

Determine Your Workout Goal

What kind of workout do you want to accomplish? Is it cardio based, strength based, or a combo of both? Once you have determined this, choose exercises that coincide with your workout goal. For example, if you want to do a cardio-based workout, you will need an exercise designed to raise your heart rate, like hill sprints, sled pushes, or timed intervals on the rower. If your goal is strength-based, you need to choose resistance exercises like dumbbell bent-over rows, barbell bench presses, or bodyweight air squats. If you want to mix it up, pick exercises that are combo of strength and cardio that can do both, like dumbbell thrusters (front squat to push presses) or burpee to box jumps. 

Select four exercises. Assign each exercise to a suit in the deck of cards. For example, here’s a quick view of suits for a combo workout:

  • Spades: Dumbbell thrusters
  • Clubs: Rowing (x50m for every # on card)
  • Hearts: Barbell bench press
  • Diamonds: Air squats
  • Jokers: (Wild card or rest break) x5 flights of stair climbs followed by a 2–5-minute rest.

Know Your Numbers

The number on the card is representative of the number of reps you'll perform. For instance, a 2 represents x2 reps, an 8 represents x8 reps, and so on. However, Jacks, Queens, Kings, and Aces can get tricky. You have a couple of options. You could choose to assign each face card the equivalent of x10 reps, so no matter which face card you draw, you always perform the same number of reps. As an alternative, to make it more challenging, assign each face card a different number of repetitions: Jack x11 reps, Queen x12 reps, and King x13 reps. For the Ace card, decide whether to make it a face card, assigning it the equivalent of x10 or more reps, or you can treat it as a x1 rep, assigning a single repetition. Whichever way you decide, the number or number equivalent of the card you draw from the deck is the number of reps you'll perform. Jokers are your wild cards or rest breaks. I typically use them to designate a rest or break within the workout with a special extra exercise before taking the rest break.

# of Reps
Ace = 1 rep, 10 or 14 reps, player's choice
2 through 10 = 2 through 10 reps
Jack = 10 or 11 reps, player's choice
Queen = 10 or 12 reps, player's choice
King = 10 or 13 reps, player's choice
Joker = Rest or player’s choice

Shuffle Up and Deal

Start your workout, perform the designated exercise for the assigned number of reps, and immediately pull another card from the deck after completing each exercise. Continue drawing cards and performing exercises until you finish the amount of cards you want to do for your workout, or until you have done all 52 cards.

Sample Workouts

Here are four different workouts that I have done in the past with my athletes. 

Workout: 52-card Pickup—Upper-body Strength

Goal: Complete reps to the corresponding card. Shuffle up the deck and complete the entire 52 cards

  • Face cards = 10 reps

First Half of Deck

  • Hearts = Barbell bench press
  • Diamonds = Wide-grip pulldowns
  • Spades = E-Z bar preacher curls
  • Clubs = E-Z bar skull crushers
  • Jokers = Manual resistance x5 reps of previous card pulled followed by 2-minute rest period

Second Half of Deck

  • Hearts = DB triple press (high/low/flat) broken up and rotating between cards
  • Diamonds = Seated wide-grip rows
  • Spades = DB hammer curls
  • Clubs = Cable/rope triceps OH press-outs
  • Jokers = Manual resistance x5 reps of previous card pulled followed by x2min rest period

Workout: 52-card Pickup—Strength and Cardio

Goal: Complete reps to the corresponding card. Shuffle up the deck and complete the entire 52 cards.

  • Face cards = x:20secs
  • Jokers = Sprint the distance and rest
  • Hearts = BOSU jumps—stick and hold (alt. direction of jumps)
  • Diamonds = Box step-ups w/sandbags
  • Spades = Med-ball slams (any variations)
  • Clubs = BOSU push-ups (alt. exercises) OR plyo push-ups
  • Jokers = x200m run (x1 lap) and 2-minute water break

Workout: 52-card Pickup—Cardio and BW Strength

Goal: Complete reps to the corresponding card. Shuffle up the deck and complete the entire 52 cards.

Sprint the distance associated with the suit on the card on a soccer or football field.

  • Hearts = x1 width of field sprint
  • Diamonds = x1 down and back width of field sprint
  • Spades = x1 length of field sprint
  • Clubs = x1 down and back length of field sprint
  • Jokers = Rest
  • Red cards = Push-ups
  • Black cards = Sit-ups

Workout: 52-card Pickup—Full-Body and Cardio Combo

Goal: Complete reps to the corresponding card. Shuffle up the deck and complete the entire 52 cards.

  • Face cards = 10 reps

Part I: Full-Body

  • Hearts = MB burpee slams
  • Diamonds = BOSU GUGDs
  • Spades = Push-ups plank shoulder taps (R/L)
  • Clubs = Plate halos R/L
  • Jokers = 200m (red lanes) sprint followed by 2-minute rest

Part II: Cardio

  • Hearts = Sled drive (10m for every card #)
  • Diamonds = Jump rope (x20 skips for every card #)
  • Spades = Rowing (x50m for every card #)
  • Clubs = Airdyne bike springs (x:10s for every card #)
  • Jokers = Stair climb to top of NIFS (hallway) followed by 2-minute rest

Part III

  • Hearts = Sledgehammer strikes
  • Diamonds = Sandbag clean and press
  • Spades = BOSU hand release push-ups
  • Clubs = KB swings

FINISHED!

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This blog was written by Michael Blume, MS, SCCC; Athletic Performance Coach. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: cardio workouts total-body workouts strength workout

High-Intensity Circuit Training: Time-Efficient Results

Triple Threat with Jessie_poster newWith the world now instantly accessible through technology, it’s easy to understand why a growing number of people expect things to be done in a shorter amount of time. Like many others, I’m a big fan of things that are fast and effective, and that includes my workouts. High-intensity circuit training does just that by providing an effective and convenient way to increase exercise results in less time.

Whether you’re a career-driven adult or hardworking student, you’re probably a time-conscious person, so it may not be realistic to devote half of your week to aerobic and strength training separately. To really hammer this home, let’s do the math:

ACSM’s standard guidelines for aerobic training recommend 75–150 minutes a week of exercise, depending on the intensity. Let’s say you do 30 minutes of moderately intense cardio 4 days per week. That’s 120 minutes. Now let’s add strength training. Typically done 2–3 days each week, strength training should hit each major muscle group in 2–4 sets with 8–12 repetitions per set. Depending on the muscle group, this could take you 45–90 minutes. Average that out to about 60 minutes, 3 days a week. That’s 180 minutes. 180 + 120 = 300 minutes of time spent in the gym. 300! That’s as impractical as it is exhausting. Honestly, I’m tired just from doing the math on that.

With HICT, you’re combining both traditional training methods into one complete, high-energy workout that you’ll leave with a muscle and endorphin pump. Plus, you’ll be in and out of the door in less than an hour. What more could you ask for?

Benefits of High-Intensity Circuit Training

The concept of high-intensity circuit training is simple. By increasing the intensity of exercises that elevate the heart rate and limiting rest time, HICT can prompt greater gains in a shorter amount of time. In several studies, it’s been proven that the benefits of this type of training surpass those of the traditional protocols of aerobic and strength training. Let’s start with fat loss.

If you’re looking to lose excess body fat, tone up, or lean out, this type of training is the ticket. The strength training component accelerates the amount of fat burned during the workout. When this is paired with little rest between sets, the aerobic and metabolic benefits skyrocket, with results lasting up to 72 hours after the session. Even more interesting, the combination of high-intensity aerobic activity and resistance training may have a greater impact on subcutaneous fat loss. This is the type of fat that is troublesome for some people around their waistline, hips, and other areas.

Another significant benefit is the fact that HICT elicits the same if not greater gains in VO2 max, or peak oxygen uptake, when compared to traditional steady-state cardiovascular exercise. With the exercise volume substantially lower, high-intensity circuit training easily stands up to its traditional counterpart in improving cardiopulmonary health.

Other benefits of HICT include

  • Improved strength across all major muscle groups
  • Increased stability and movement efficiency
  • Lowered stress levels
  • Improved mental health
  • Increased adaptability to regressions and progressions of exercises
  • Saving time during the week that would have otherwise been spent on traditional programs

Sample HICT Program

Strength exercises for this type of program should be in an order of opposing muscle groups. For example, an upper-body station would be followed by a lower-body station. This allows the individual to have alternating rest and work throughout the circuit. On the same note, a highly intense aerobic exercise should be followed by an exercise with a low to moderate intensity. An example of this would be burpees followed by a stationary plank. If this is executed correctly, you should successfully complete these exercises at fast and intense pace with minimal rest. A typical format for a HICT session is as follows:

  • 9–12 exercise stations
  • 15–20 repetitions or 30 seconds of work
  • 30 seconds or less of rest time
  • 2–3 sets/rounds

What’s Next?

Not all programs are created equal, and traditional workouts are still the most effective methods if you want to specifically improve your strength and power or aerobic endurance. However, if you are looking for a new and exciting type of workout that helps you burn fat and build muscle in a short amount of time, HICT is worth a try! Our newest class at NIFS, Triple Threat, uses this type of format across three different areas of fitness: cardio, strength, and power. Join in on the class and start your journey to better health!

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This blog was written by Jessica Phelps, BS, ACE CPT, Health Coach. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Sources: https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/files-for-resource-library/high-intensity-interval-training.pdf
https://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/fulltext/2013/05000/high_intensity_circuit_training_using_body_weight_.5.aspx

Topics: cardio group fitness workouts muscles strength power high intensity circuit training high-intensity circuit training

What Is Your Target Maximal Heart Rate for Training?

GettyImages-1310475310While training your cardiovascular system, it is important to understand how much you are stressing and overloading the system. Just like with your musculoskeletal system, there is a maximum rate your heart can achieve. The best way to discover this number is to undergo a maximal aerobic capacity test, but it isn’t necessarily practical or safe for all populations.

Calculating Your Maximal Heart Rate

A much easier way to determine your personal maximal heart rate is to use a predicted value. For the general population you can simply subtract your age from 220 and that would equal your age-predicted heart rate.

220 – (Age) = Age-predicted maximal heart rate (APMHR)

Now that you know your predicted maximal heart rate, you can figure out where your heart rate should be when exercising aerobically. The ranges are as follows:

  • Very light: <30%
  • Light: 30–39%
  • Moderate: 40–59%
  • Vigorous: 60–89%
  • Near maximal: >90%
  • APMHR x (desired percentage lower end) = Lower target heart rate

APMHR x (desired percentage upper end) = Upper target heart rate

Choosing the Right Range

So what do these ranges mean?

  • If you are new to the gym, you probably want to start more in the very light to light range. This can prevent burnout and reduce the risk of injury. Starting lower and progressing the duration of the workout, the number of times you exercise per week, or the intensity is a great way to ease yourself into exercise.
  • If you are looking to gain some cardiovascular fitness and reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease, you want to shoot for the moderate range. This will stress your system enough to see the benefits associated with cardiovascular training such as a lower resting heart rate.
  • Finally, if you are looking to set a new personal best mile time or are training for the Mini-Marathon, having a few training days in the vigorous range to near maximal can really help overload your cardiovascular and reap the benefits.

Ask Your NIFS HFS

If you want to learn more about heart rate ranges, come to the Track Desk and ask one of our Health Fitness Specialists.

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This blog was written by Grant Lamkin, NIFS Health Fitness Specialist. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: cardio injury prevention cardiovascular heart rate aerobic Mini-Marathon Training Program

12 Days of Christmas: A HIIT Workout You Can Do Anywhere

GettyImages-1267513535We’re in the midst of the holidays. You probably have family commitments or events pulling you away from the gym or time with your favorite trainers at NIFS. You never want to feel as if you are missing out on something during this festive period when you have to work out from home or on the road away from the gym. But with this super-setted HIIT workout, fittingly named for the holidays, you can be sure to improve both your muscle strength and overall fitness while torching some holiday cookie calories over this break.

All you need is yourself and a bench, chair, or step to complete this intense superset HIIT session. This workout includes 12 supersets in total, each designed to get your heart rate up as well as challenge your various different muscle groups.

The Workout

Get ready to tackle 20 to 40 minutes of different HIIT cardio exercises in today's sweat fest! No equipment is needed, so you can work out at home or the gym. Focus on challenging yourself and doing YOUR best!

  • 1x Jump Rope x 30 seconds
  • 2x Spider Push-Up (alt. R/L)
  • 3x Switch Lunge Kicks (alt. R/L)
  • 4x Dip + Knee Pull (alt. R/L)
  • 5x Squat Toe Taps (alt. R/L)
  • 6x Dead Bugs (alt. R/L)
  • 7x Reverse Lunge to Half Burpee (alt. R/L)
  • 8x Elevated Reverse Plank Alternating Knee Pull (alt. R/L)
  • 9x Bird Dogs (alt. R/L)
  • 10x Rear Foot Elv. Split Squats (alt. R/L)
  • 11x 4x Mountain Climbers + Launcher
  • 12x 2x Reverse Lunge to 2x Jump Squats = x1 Rep
  • BONUS Rd13x Push Up + Hyperextension + Knee Tucks
  • BONUS Rd14x 3x Plank Jack + Pike-up Hop
  • BONUS Rd15x Elevated Plank Hip Drop + Knee Pull

Sub/swap exercises as needed. Follow order, accumulating rounds/reps

  • Rd 1 - x1 rep (in this case, Time: 30 seconds)
  • Rd 2 - x1 + x2 reps
  • Rd 3 - x1 + x2 + x3 reps
  • Rd 4 - x1 + x2 + x3 + x4 reps

... And so on until you're finished with round 12

  • Rd 12 - x1 + x2 + x3 + x4... x10 + x11 + x12 reps

(You will do round 1 x12 times, whereas round 12 only once)

  • **Bonus**… Rd 13, 14, 15 (x3 more additional rounds)
  •   - x1 + x2 + x3 + x4... x10 + x11 + x12 + x13 + x14 + x15 reps

Increase the Intensity

If you want to increase the intensity of this particular workout, I suggest two options. First, add another round with the bonuses. Second, repeat this routine for another series depending on your fitness level.

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This blog was written by Michael Blume, MS, SCCC; Athletic Performance Coach. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: cardio exercise at home workouts calories holidays high intensity HIIT strength workout superset

Meet You at the Barre! A Total-body Group Fitness Workout

Screen Shot 2020-12-08 at 3.29.43 PMAre you looking for a workout to strengthen and tone muscles without increasing bulk, but have not found anything that you like doing? Have you always wanted to increase your cardiovascular endurance and metabolism but hate doing regular old boring cardio? Well I might have an answer for you…

Barre is a workout that you can do every day. That’s right, a workout that you will want to do because it challenges you, but is low-impact enough that your joints will not be screaming at you the following day. Actually, studies have shown that Barre has various positive health effects! This fun and relatively new workout can help increase bone density while tightening skin and reducing cellulite.

What Is Barre Above?

Alright, well now you’re interested… so what is Barre, anyway? NIFS offers two Barre-based classes (Barre Above and Barre Fusion) (see the Group Fitness class schedule here). Today I dive a little bit deeper into what Barre Above is.

Barre Above is a fusion of yoga, Pilates, strength training, and ballet. Barre classes incorporate specific sequencing patterns and isometric movements that target specific muscle groups. This pattern of exercise helps improve strength, balance, flexibility, and posture. Barre exercise movements are low-impact and are made for all fitness levels. In Barre, the movements consist of plie squats, leg kicks, lifts, and holds as well as an array of core exercises.

At a Barre class, you can expect your whole body to be challenged in a way other group fitness workouts do not. Expect a great playlist to motivate you throughout the exercises because barre is a beat-based format. What does this mean? Beat-based formats are taught to the beat of the music. For example, you will squat to the main beat of the music up and down and eventually pulse it out until the beat changes. This type of workout is a blast because the music is the focal point of class. Expect playlists of popular and fun songs to move your body to at Barre every week.

A Total-body Workout

Do you know the shaking feeling you get in your core when you hold a plank position or when you hold a weight in your hand in an outstretched arm for an extended period of time? This is the type of challenge you will feel throughout your entire body at Barre. Barre offers an effective total-body workout focused on low-impact, high-intensity movements that lift and tone muscles to improve strength and flexibility made for every body.

If you are ready for a workout you enjoy coming to and feel accomplished afterwards, join us for Barre at NIFS.

See you at the Barre!

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This blog was written by Payton Gross, Group Fitness Coordinator and Barre Above Instructor. Learn more about the NIFS bloggers here.

Topics: NIFS cardio group fitness endurance metabolism core music strength training total-body workouts low-impact barre

How to Beat the Winter Blues

GettyImages-1087128992The temperatures are still frigid, and there are days when it seems as if the sun doesn’t shine. This is the time of year when we can start to feel down and less motivated, and maybe start to develop a case of the winter blues. It's easy for these negative thoughts to start creeping into our heads, but it is just as easy to kick these thoughts to the curb with these five simple steps.
 

1. Stay Active

When the snow is blowing outside, the temperatures are below freezing, and the sun is not yet shining, it is easy to make excuses as to why you shouldn’t go to the gym. The thing is, you don’t have to go to the gym to be and stay active. You can complete a NIFS workout at home, throw in a fitness DVD, or embrace the cold weather and participate in a cold-weather sport such as skiing or snowboarding. Being active helps to relieve stress, elevate your mood, and increase your energy and metabolism throughout the day. All you have to do is get moving!

2. Eat a Healthy Diet

The foods that we put into our body have a huge effect on our mood and energy levels. Refined and processed foods are not full of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that our bodies crave. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins will give your body nutrients to give you the energy that you want and need to move through the day with ease.

3. Plan Something for the Future

Now this won’t provide you with instant satisfaction, but it will give you something to look forward to when the warmer months come. You can plan a trip, sign up for a race, or just plan a weekend with your friends. Having that “thing” in the near future to look forward to will be like the carrot dangling in front of you to keep you pushing through these dreary winter months and looking forward to something brighter.

4. Treat Yourself Now!

Planning something for the future is great to keep you going, but you should also reward yourself for your hard work, healthy eating habits, trying that new workout, acing the test, or whatever you have accomplished right now! Treat yourself to a manicure or pedicure, a new clothing item, time with your friends, a special event, or anything else that makes you happy. Winter can seem endless, but with little treats to look forward to, the dark and cold days will go by more quickly.

5. Soak Up the Sun

Even though the temperatures may be chilly, the sun still shines! Many people know that the sun is a great source of Vitamin D, but the sun also lifts your mood. The colder and shorter days during the winter months cause many people to spend more time indoors. A lack of sunlight can cause people to feel depressed or sad. Sunlight effects our mood by releasing neurotransmitters in the brain that effect mood (very similar to exercise!). Instead of cozying up in front of the TV, embrace the cold weather, bundle up, and spend some time outside. You can also soak up the sun simply by sitting near the window!

Using these five ideas, your winter will fly by and spring will be here before you know it!

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Written by Tara Deal, NIFS Group Fitness Instructor and author of Tara Rochford Nutrition.

Topics: NIFS exercise fitness winter fitness depression cardio nutrition staying active healthy habits exercise at home

Five Reasons to Try the Turkish Get-up Movement

You might have seen people in the gym lying on the ground and standing up with a weight. Don’t let them fool you; this is not as easy as it looks. This is a movement that has been around since the strongman days, and there is a reason it hasn’t left. The Turkish get-up (TGU) is a total-body workout that everyone should try. Here are five reasons I think you should try it.

 

  • Stability. The TGU promotes shoulder stability along with core stability. If you cannot maintain either, you will not be successful when increasing weight. Before you even add weight to the TGU, you should be able to do the exercise while balancing your shoe (or something similar) on your fist when completing the get-up without it falling off. Once you can be stable enough to balance the shoe throughout, keeping your arm straight, you are stable enough to add weight.
  • Hits every movement plane. During your workouts, your goal should always be to train in every plane. When doing the TGU, you can hit every plane. You are in frontal, sagittal, and transverse—there aren’t many moves that enable you to hit all three at once.
  • Works your core. The TGU effectively trains the core in more than one area. Your entire trunk has to fire in order to maintain stability throughout the movement.
  • Cardio. Once you start to lift a heavier kettlebell, the TGU can become taxing on your cardiovascular system. Even though you are making small, controlled movements, your heart rate increases.
  • Everything is working! The TGU is a total-body movement. You work your shoulders, legs, and core—strength and mobility/flexibility. If you are short on time and can get in only a few strength exercises, this is one you should do.

Don’t knock the TGU until you try it. This is a challenging and effective exercise that everyone should add to their routines. If you need any help on form, stop by the track desk and have a NIFS HFS help you out!

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This blog was written by Kaci Lierman, NSCA-CPT, CFSC, NASM-CES,CAFS, personal trainer. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: cardio core exercises total-body workouts movement stability

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

Step

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

Does It Burn Calories?

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

Am I Coordinated Enough?

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

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

Is It Too Intense?

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

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

Is It Not Intense Enough?

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

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

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

Yours in fitness,
Rachel

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

Topics: cardio group fitness step class workout plan physical fitness

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

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

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

Benefits of Group Fitness Cycling Classes

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

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

What to Know Before Your First Class

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

Cycling at NIFS

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

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

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

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

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

Does It Burn Calories?

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

Am I Coordinated Enough?

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

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

Is It Too Intense?Step

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

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

Is It Not Intense Enough?

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

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

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

Yours in fitness,
Rachel

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

Topics: cardio weight loss group fitness calories aerobic step class