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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Testing Progress Toward Your Athletic Performance Goals

GettyImages-1067160268In a world where people want results in an instant and take drastic measures to achieve those results as fast as possible, developing strength, power and athleticism in a long-term aspect is often overlooked. For any fitness-related result or outcome, improvements take time. Fat loss, overall strength and/or power in any particular lift, speed, and agility are all seeds that needed to be watered for a while before noticeable and permanent changes are evident.

In an athletic realm, this leads to the importance of the “testing” process and the use of that process over the course of months, semesters, and years. As a young athlete or athlete fresh out of high school entering the college world of sports and strength and conditioning, this is how you monitor your success and validate that the training and improvements you are making are the things that are actually working. Numbers do not lie. If your times in specific agility drills or weights have increased in certain lifts, obviously you have made improvements. If those numbers have not changed or have decreased, you need to address methods of training or overall compliance/intensity with the program.

Below are five performance tests that measure multiple aspects of your overall athletic profile.

40-Yard Dash

The 40-yard dash, or “40,” is one of the most common drills we use to measure straight-line speed. Sure, many sports are played in a multidirectional way, but overall top speed is an important puzzle piece. Setting up and performing this drill is relatively simple; however, you may need two people to help with the timing.

First, set up two cones exactly 40 yards apart. From here, go to the starting line and sprint from start to finish. The clock or stopwatch should start on your very first movement from the starting line and stop when your body crosses the finish line.

5-10-5 Shuttle

The shuttle run is one of my personal favorites. It allows you to see an athlete’s explosiveness and change-of-direction skills. With lateral movements being so important in many sports, this gives you a good idea of where an athlete stands. To set up the 5-10-5 Shuttle, you need three cones spaced out evenly at 5 yards apart. The athlete starts at the middle cone with their hand on the ground. They run to the right or left cone and touch the ground (5 yards), across the whole setup and touch the ground (10 yards), and sprint through the middle cone (5 yards). Timing of this test starts when the athlete’s hand raises up from the ground and finishes when they cross the middle cone.

Vertical/Broad Jump

Jumping ability is another “power” aspect that translates very well into success on the field or court. The vertical jump test is generally performed with a Vertec, or a piece of equipment where you stand underneath and jump to touch as many of the rings overhead as you can. Other than obtaining the Vertec, the test is fairly simple. First, you want to measure your standing reach, or simply the height that you can reach with your arm outstretched overhead. As I mentioned before, you jump and hit as many of the rings on the Vertec as you can. When the maximal height has been reached, you subtract the standing reach number to get the vertical jump height.

Another great way to measure power would be with the standing broad jump. For this, all you need is a tape measure that is on the floor with a starting line for the athlete. To perform, the athlete starts behind the starting line and jumps out as far as possible and lands under control. The length of the broad jump is measured wherever the back of the athlete’s shoe lands.

Bench/Squat/Trap Bar Deadlift

In the preceding sections we looked at sprint and jump measurements, but we can’t leave out our strength numbers. Like the great Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell said, “Weak things break.” Truer words have never been spoken. Because of this, we want to measure those strength gains with every opportunity that we have. For me, my main three strength lifts that I measure are the bench press, the squat (front squat or back squat, depending on the athlete), and trap bar deadlift. These are three main staples in my programming and I always want to see if the way that I’m implementing them in workouts is yielding the best results.

These may look a little different for you. You may choose DB Bench Press, Pull-Ups, Farmer’s Carries, or something similar. My recommendation is to be sure that whatever you are testing are things that you are continually working on. It’s tough to test a back squat if you haven’t back squatted in 8–10 weeks.

Overall, the moral of the story is testing to see whether what you are doing is helping you achieve your goals is vital. Without testing you are just guessing. Remember, numbers do not lie!

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his blog was written by Alex Soller, Athletic Performance Coach and NIFS trainer. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: strength goals speed athletic performance fitness goals fitness assessment agility testing fat loss

Get SMART This Year: Fitness Goal Setting

GettyImages-474222302Think about some top goals you have. Maybe your top goal is to lose weight. Your weight-loss journey is what I call the “Big Picture”—your target on losing weight and starting a healthier lifestyle. Sometimes the big picture can be daunting. Many might perceive this goal as too big, or virtually unattainable. But IT IS ATTAINABLE! It just takes focus and hard work.

The best way to accomplish your big-picture goal is to first make the goal SMART (more on that shortly). Then, create smaller, short-term goals that you can check off along the way. These are sometimes called action steps. Action steps will allow you to create small habits that will help you not only REACH your goal, but also ultimately maintain your success.

GET SMART

SMART is an acronym:

  • Specific: Clearly identify the goal. Be concise.
  • Measurable: Attach a measure to the goal such as inches or blood-work measurements (%, mg/dL, etc), minutes, or percentage).
  • Attainable: Ensure that the goals are realistic and manageable. Really think deeply about this. Be honest about yourself and your lifestyle.
  • Relevant: Make sure the goal is important to you.
  • Time-bound: Define the timeframe during which you are aiming to achieve the goal.

Here are some SMART goal examples:

  • I will decrease my mile time from 8:30 to 8 minutes over the next 4 weeks.
  • I will drink 100 oz of water each day for the next 4 weeks.
  • I will decrease my HgA1c by 1% in 3 months.

Create Your Action Steps

Now that you have determined the BIG GOAL, it is time to create action steps that will help you reach that goal. Think of these as mini SMART goals.

  1. List 3-5 action steps (or habits) that pertain to your overall goal.
  2. Explain how they will help you reach the big goal.
  3. Decide how you are going to track your success with each action step you take.

Here are some examples of action steps:

Let’s use the SMART goal example from above. I will decrease my mile time from 8:30 to 8 minutes over the next 4 weeks. Here are some action steps that may help someone reach that goal:

  • Run 5 days per week for 15–30 minutes over the course of 4 weeks.
  • Run 4, 1-mile repeats 1 time per week until I retest my mile time in 4 weeks.
  • Hire a running coach immediately to assist me in programming a customized running plan.

Questions to Ask Yourself Later

Once you’ve achieved an action step, ask yourself these questions:

  • How did you do?
  • How did it make you feel?
  • Was it easy to do, or were you pretty challenged to stay on track?
  • Does it still pertain to your overall goal?
  • What worked and what didn’t?
  • What needs to change?

The answers to these questions will help you determine whether you are staying focused on your goal, whether you are ready to take on or create another SMART goal, or if you need a little more time to concentrate on the one you are trying to turn into a habit.

Once you feel that you have accomplished your goal, work on another. Make changes and adjustments as needed throughout your journey. And even though these steps seem small, they ultimately lead to a large reward.

Check out this blog for an even closer look at the goal-setting process and why it's important!

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This blog was written by Sabrina Goshen, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: goal setting resolutions new year's fitness goals smart goals

In Training, Consistency Is the Key to Your Fitness Goals

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

Build and Follow Workout Programming

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

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

Work Toward Adaptations

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

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

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

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

Create Habits

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

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

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

The Takeaway

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

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

Topics: goal setting mindset fitness goals workout programs adaptations habits consistency

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

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

Assess Your Current Fitness Level

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

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


Set Realistic Fitness Goals

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

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

The Mindset of Fitness Training

Here are some things to keep in mind.

“Progress over perfection leads to winning every workout!”

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

Proper form leads to winning longer!

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

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

Don’t forget recovery!

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

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

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

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

Your Keys to Fitness Victory: Set a Deadline and Get Help at NIFS

GettyImages-893206214-1Have you ever told yourself you are going to lose weight and get fit in time for spring, only to be frustrated when warm weather rolls around?

It's easy to hide behind heavy winter clothes, but when the mercury starts climbing, the clothes get lighter and we can't hide anymore. "Why didn't I start working out weeks ago?" we ask ourselves. "If only I had started sooner!"

Regret-proof Your Spring: Set a Deadline

The best way to protect yourself from a regret-filled spring is to set a deadline and start NOW. Deadlines are powerful motivators. Without a deadline, you really have no set-point toward which to work. You have nothing pushing you.

We need to be pushed!

Deadlines create a sense of urgency. They help you position yourself to succeed, because that final date is always staring back at you. It forces you to prioritize and strategize. Otherwise, you will let things slide...you will keep putting off the workout and insisting that tomorrow you will start eating better.

Without a deadline, tomorrow never comes!

It’s Time to Shake Things Up

If you keep doing what you have always done, you will get the results you have always gotten. It’s time to do something different. Ask yourself this question: If I keep doing what I am doing right now, will I achieve what I want to achieve? If you answered no, it’s time for a change.

Get out your calendar and decide when you want to see your first wave of results. Be realistic; make sure you give yourself time to really dig in and see changes. But challenge yourself, too—make it a little tough so you can take full advantage of the power of urgency.

Prevent Deadline Creep: Get Competitive!

But a deadline might not be enough. Why? Because you might be tempted to move it. Deadlines are not supposed to be moving targets! The best way to prevent deadline creep is to get competitive.

Entering a competition or contest is a sure way to give you the edge you need to keep yourself on track and finish strong. There is something very motivating about competing with others. Just knowing that your effort and results are going to be measured alongside others really will give you an extra boost in motivation.

Sometimes a little peer pressure is useful! And you will find that those with whom you are in competition will also be your biggest cheerleaders: they know exactly what you are going through and will be there to encourage you to keep moving.

Here’s How to Get Started

At NIFS, we offer various activities that allow you to get out of your comfort zone, receive the support and education you need to help you on your journey, and more importantly, have the time of your life with goal-oriented individuals who will encourage and push you to become the best version of yourself.

  • Ramp Up to Weight Loss Program: This 14-week program gives you all the tools you need to reach those weight-loss goals. Not only will you be able to work with a trainer one-on-one twice a week, but you also have the option to join small-group workouts with other members. The training sessions and the small-group sessions are a great way to help keep you motivated. Commit for 14 weeks and see a brand new you at the end!
  • Small Group Training: What better way to get the competitive juices going, and have the biggest cheerleaders on your side, all while getting in a great workout with highly skilled training and support?
  • High Intensity Training (HIT): By redefining your boundaries you will discover new ways to get the most out of your workouts. HIT is designed to rev up your metabolism, burn more fat, build strength, and take your fitness to the next level!

Don’t wait until next week, next month, or even next year. Start now—you won’t regret it!

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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 weight loss high intensity fitness goals small group training

Finding the Right Workout Program (with Some Help from NIFS)

GettyImages-641793510When I discuss working out and fitness with others, one question that I normally ask is, “What are your goals?” and “What does your training look like?” Most times, there will be two responses. The first is from people who are casually exercising without a plan. If you are currently this type of person, don’t get me wrong, it’s good that you are being active, but what if I told you that there is a quicker way to achieve the results that you want?

The second response I often hear is from people who write their own programs. At times they get frustrated because they’re not seeing the results that they want. I love seeing people take the initiative to chase their fitness goals, but why leave results on the table when you have great resources at your disposal?

Three Tips for Choosing an Exercise Program

In general, here are three things I consider when I decide what programming to follow.

  • Solidify your goals. I am a big proponent of writing down your goals and posting them somewhere that will constantly remind me of them. I like to post my goals on the refrigerator and on social media; this helps hold me accountable as I have a tangible reminder of my goals and the intangible support from others.
  • Cross-reference available material. I make it a point to cross reference several sources or training methods to see whether a program will really add to my ability to achieve my goal. Always make sure you ask “why” you are doing something as well. Understanding the deeper meaning behind my programming motivates me to work harder, knowing that I have invested myself in something worthwhile.
  • Make sure it’s FUN! I am much more likely to stick to my programming if I find it enjoyable. Myriad training styles will help you accomplish your goals, so pick the one that you will enjoy and adhere to.

NIFS and Your Fitness Goal-Setting

NIFS offers several ways to help you get a jump-start on achieving your goals. The staff members and personal trainers at NIFS are degreed individuals in the exercise science field and have a variety of certifications; they use this knowledge to program workouts that are effective and fun. With an extensive knowledge of exercise physiology and biomechanics, their ever-growing toolbox is full of ways to get you closer to your fitness goals. Having an expert by your side is always an advantage!

***

Picking a program can seem daunting at first, but when you use the right resources, you will pave your pathway to success!

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This blog was written by David Martin. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS goal setting accountability nifs staff fitness goals workout plan

Boot Camp: The Workout for All Your Fitness Goals

BootcampI want powerful legs! I want to increase my endurance! I want stronger and well-toned abs! I want toned arms! I don’t want to spend endless hours in the gym! Sound familiar? Chances are you have wanted these things at some point in your fitness journey. The great news is that all these are very possible to achieve, and you get them all in one stop.

You need Boot Camp!

What Is Boot Camp?

Boot camp is an amazing style of training that has proven to help people achieve their strength and endurance goals all during one session. Based on the training that our brave men and women of the military complete before defending our country, this style of training is meant to push you toward your physical limits. The beauty of boot camp is that it is an hour-long session filled with challenging workout moves to increase heart rate, which improves cardiovascular health while also strengthening and toning multiple muscle groups at once to create maximum fitness results.

This format of working out is constantly varied, so you never get used to a certain physical stimulus, making this type of training session even more beneficial for constant growth and improvement. Often, when we stick to the same workout routine for an extended period of time, our bodies adapt to that form of exercise and will stay in a constant state with no change. To avoid plateaus and boredom, all fitness pros believe that changing the modes and methods of exercise is a must. Bootcamp drills are also a lot of fun, using a wide variety of equipment, including partner work drills, and mixing up the setting of where the training takes place. All these aspects allow for a fun and challenging workout that will lead to great results.

Come check it out on the NIFS Group Fitness Schedule: Mondays and Wednesdays at 6pm with Steven! If you need a quick fix while at home, try his mini bootcamp workout below.

At-Home Mini Boot Camp by Steven Kass

  • 25 Deep Squats
  • 25 Push-ups
  • 25 Mountain Climbers
  • 25 Bicycles
  • 100 Jump Ropes

“Start with 1 set and work your way up to 4” says Kass. “That’s all you need for a good whole-body workout.”

Tabata and Boot Camp in the Park promo

NIFS is partnering with White River State Park to provide two of our Group Fitness Classes Free to the public, so bring a friend! Available in White River State Park, behind NCAA, from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

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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 group fitness boot camp endurance muscle building toning fitness goals

Physical Education: Overcoming Bad Gym Class Experiences

GettyImages-471671668.jpgFor many adults, memories of physical education class are usually one of two greatly different experiences. For me, physical education was the highlight of my day and was never a burden or stressor in my life. For others, gym class was a constant struggle invoking fear and hatred for exercise, and making us despise anything that could make us sweaty.

As we age and move into adulthood and later life, people sometimes wish for the vigor of being a young person, but the memories of a poor PE experience can stay with us and influence our decisions when it comes to everything from taking the stairs to getting a membership at a health club. This blog will help you see whether you have some underlying issues that you dealt with that have impacted your attitude negatively, and how children today are hopefully learning from our experiences.

PE Trauma #1: Associating Exercise with Punishment

Bottom line: exercise is work, and normally work is not fun (don’t kid yourself; there has to be at least one other place on earth that you’d rather be than work). For a physical educator, creating an atmosphere that gets maximum effort and positive attitude from all students can be difficult. A good teacher will make sure all students are safe and working toward their potential. Problems arise when a teacher creates a negative vibe for their students. An example of this is the classic using exercise for punishment routine. For example: Tony did not turn in this assignment; therefore, Tony is assigned 100 push-ups, or a mile run, or whatever punishment would help Tony remember his assignment. Tony would remember, alright. He was never late to turn in his assignment, but he would forever link exercise to punishment in his mind.

Fast-forward twenty years. Tony now hasn’t exercised seriously since high school because of his thought that exercise is punishment. Tony is in trouble. To reiterate, exercise is work and can’t be used as punishment, or else it will be impossible to find the motivation to exercise voluntarily.

PE Trauma #2: Teaching Exclusion Instead of Fun Lifetime Sports

Some activities in gym class challenged our mettle. There were winners and losers. Some people lost more than others (which you can argue is good or bad). The problem arises when games incorporate exclusion, such as dodgeball, which forced you out of the game, banished to the bench or sidelines to work on your sitting skills. This is definitely not productive or fun. Further, while many skills learned in PE could be used in day-to-day life, it would have been nice to have focused on games, sports, and skills that could be done for the rest of your life. Let’s face it: not many people play the games or use the skills they learned in physical education class.

When we apply our current knowledge and experience to this topic, it becomes apparent that there should be some change to the system. For schools that are fortunate enough to have physical education, providing students with exercises that promote lifetime activities and exercises that they can enjoy and get maximum benefit is ideal. We may not expect everyone to love every activity, but there has to be something that gives the students a spark to continue to move and to move often. Exercise is work, but it can’t feel like going to work (especially for an 8-year-old)—or even worse, going to the principal’s office.

Overcoming Traumatic PE Experiences

Finding the courage to overcome the fears associated with a traumatic physical education experience can be difficult. The first steps are the hardest. Realize that others with similar experiences are going through the same anguish as you are. Having a good support network of family, friends, and trusting fitness professionals is a great start. Understanding that there are obstacles and limits for everyone will help you as you tear down walls that are keeping you from reaching your fitness goals.

As a start on your path, write down some of your goals for your health and wellness. Also, answer the question, “Why are these goals important to me?” There is no wrong answer, and you can be as confidential or as open as you like about your goals. From your goals and assessments, your trainer can better program workouts tailored to you.

NIFS Can Help!

For more information regarding strategy sessions and assessments, contact a NIFS fitness professional. We are here to help you and make exercise FUN again (even if it is for the first time!).

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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: NIFS exercise motivation attitude school physical education fitness goals lifetime activities