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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

The Benefits of Logging Workouts into a Fitness App

For years, people have been setting goals and logging their workouts to help them stay on track with their health and fitness aspirations. Back in the good old days, people would bring their workout notebook and pen to the gym and write down the exercises they completed, the weather, the lift of the day, tracking personal bests, etc. Tracking workouts has never been easier with the growth in technology and wearables in the fitness industry.

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6 Advantages of Using a Fitness App

While some may still enjoy the old-school notebook method, allow me to share the benefits of using an app, like the NIFS app, to help you do the very same thing.

  • Automatic synching: Wearables directly sync with apps, so you don’t have to do anything manually. Whatever the app may be, you can usually sync your Fitbit, Garmin, or other wearable device directly to it. Then when you are in range, your workouts will automatically upload into your phone and onto the app. This makes for very simple tracking of your workouts—in fact, it’s effortless!
  • Personal accountability: No matter how committed you are to your fitness, everyone needs some personal accountability to themselves and their plan/goals. Having an app allows you to set goals and keep yourself on track to meet them in a realistic amount of time.
  • Progress: It’s no secret that as you keep yourself on track and set smaller achievable goals, you will see progress. Utilizing an app will allow you to tangibly see those progress gains as you log your new personal best.
  • Motivation: There’s nothing more motivating for the exercise logger than to write down your new heaviest lift, fastest mile, highest caloric burn, or longest workout. Logging workouts in an app and being able to look back on how far you have come and what goals you have met will keep you motivated and on track.
  • Free: We cannot forget to mention that there is no cost for an app like ours at NIFS! No purchasing an app, notebooks, or losing a box of pens a week at the gym! Simply download the app and you are ready to roll!
  • Easy: With a feature like X-capture, all you have to do is snap a photo of the console of the machine you are on or the workout you just completed on paper, and within 24 hours it will be logged into your workouts. And if you forgot to add in your workout when you were at the gym, you can always go back and add it after.

Try the NIFS App

app-button.jpgMaybe you have found your favorite app to log your workouts, whatever that may be; using a phone makes it so much easier than logging it into a notebook. If you haven’t taken time, download the NIFS app and enjoy many benefits aside from the ones that are listed above. Some of those include: using your phone to scan in at the desk, monthly challenges with great prizes, setting goals, logging workouts, utilizing deals and finding out extra things that may be going on at NIFS, and receive push notifications for important updates!

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Download the NIFS app now at the app store or Google Play!

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

Topics: NIFS fitness motivation accountability technology apps wearables

Five Tips for Staying Fit in College

ThinkstockPhotos-stk162012rke.jpgWith busy class schedules, homework, exams to study for and papers to write, not to mention wanting to have something of a social life, trying to stay fit in college can really be a challenge. On top of this, many students hold some form of a job where they work between 10 and 25 hours on any given week. Whether you are an undergrad or graduate student, the same thing applies. When all this stuff is on your plate and the schedule continues to fill up, one of the first things that tends to get pushed to the side is getting to the gym!

Here are five tips that will help you stay fit during your education.

1. Schedule Your Workout

Just like you schedule a time to write a paper or study for an upcoming exam, do the same for a time to work out. If you use an agenda or a mobile calendar, set aside at least 30 minutes to be active during your day. Many studies show that those who exercise on a regular basis actually get better grades and have more concrete, focused study habits.

2. Bike or Walk to Class

Whether your campus is small or large, simply biking or walking to class can help to keep you fit. Plan your day to leave enough time so that you can make the bike ride or walk to class and still get there on time. If you do happen to commute far enough that you must drive to campus, try to leave your car parked further away so you can bike or walk the rest of the way to class. Additionally, you can take some time to walk or ride after lunch, before the next class begins or at the end of your busy school day.

3. Watch Your Diet

Healthy eating on campus can be one of the biggest challenges for students. Due to the demanding schedule and often being on a “time crunch,” it’s easy to simply just grab and go, with thoughts of nutrition going out the window. But by simply watching your diet and walking, you can keep yourself more fit without much effort. Try to pack your lunch choosing healthy foods to eliminate the fast food stops and be certain to carry around a water bottle to drink as much water as you can throughout the day for proper hydration.

4. Find a Workout Buddy to Help Get You to the Gym

There are many benefits to working out with others. Having a workout buddy or small group that plans to meet at the gym on certain days will help you to stay on track. If you have the accountability as well as someone banking on you being at the gym, you are far more likely to actually get there and get the work done. Find someone with similar workout goals and interests and start planning to go together.

5. Use the Gym as a Study Break

Everyone needs to take a break from studying. Set a schedule where you use one of those breaks to get over to the gym for a workout. It will allow you to focus better, clear your mind, and be ready to get back to it once you are done. Study for a few hours, take an hour to get your workout in, and then get back to it!

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Regardless of your level of education or area of study, adding in a workout will benefit you in more ways than just staying fit. If you are having some trouble trying to fit in exercise with the busy demands of school, try to implement these five tips!

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

Topics: fitness nutrition walking accountability hydration college staying fit

I Want a New Drug: Using Exercise as Medicine

ThinkstockPhotos-481324622.jpgWhat if I told you that I had a drug that could help cure the majority of your ailments, make your workday and life more productive, and help you sleep better? How much would you pay for this drug? But wait, there’s more! This drug can also

  • Increase blood flow to the brain, creating new blood vessels.
  • Help you withstand fatigue.
  • Decrease depression.
  • Improve memory.
  • Quicken learning time.
  • Increase bone density.
  • Help wounds heal faster.
  • Improve eye health.
  • Produce weight loss and fat cell shrinkage.
  • Slow the aging process.
  • Extend your life span by as many as 5 years.
  • Decrease the risk for heart disease, type-2 diabetes, COPD, CHF, and Alzheimer’s disease (that’s right, it’s currently the only known medicine to delay and even combat this disease).
  • Elicit feelings of joy and victory.

If I told you I had a drug that could do all that and more, would you consider it a wonder drug? I know I would! How much would you pay for that drug? Also, the most serious side effects of this drug are an increase in appetite and some muscle soreness from time to time. Now how much would you pay? What if I told you most forms of this drug are FREE? That’s right, EXERCISE is the drug I am referring to, but you figured that out already, didn’t you?

You may also be saying to yourself, that’s easy for a fitness professional to proclaim all those benefits of exercise, but it’s science, not my personal feelings about exercise. And if only the medical community and our society would listen to the science, Americans might not spend $3.35 trillion this year in health care, an all-time high! The U.S. spends more on health care than all other high-income nations, yet we are still the most unhealthy and diseased country. I’m not a scientist, but something doesn’t seem right about that equation.

But back to this drug that can do all the above and won’t even come close to touching that $3 trillion mark—EXERCISE! Here’s a quick rundown of what we know about exercise and its disease prevention impact.

The Science

In a 2016 special edition of TIME magazine, you can read about the science of exercise. It also tackles the idea of exercise as medicine, looking at the notion from several angles and different vantage points. Here is just a little of the science surrounding exercise and how it truly is a super drug.

  • In 2011 a team led by Mark Tarnopolsky studied genetically diseased mice that caused them to age prematurely. Half the mice were sedentary and the other half ran on a treadmill for 5 months. At the study’s end, the sedentary mice were barely hanging on, and the active mice were “nearly indistinguishable” from healthy mice, even though they were suffering from this genetic disease.
  • According to a 2006 University of Georgia review of 70 studies, it was found that regular exercise increases energy and reduces fatigue in adults of all ages with various health conditions and healthy ones as well—even those who suffered from ailments that cause fatigue, such as fibromyalgia.
  • Research shows that the less you move, the higher your risk for just about every health problem increases substantially.
  • Data from the National Weight Control Registry, which is an ongoing decades-long study, shows that people who lose a considerable amount of weight maintain the loss in part by exercising most days of the week.
  • A 1999 Duke University study found that adults suffering from depression who did 45 minutes of aerobic exercise three times per week improved their mood as much as individuals who took the antidepressant Zoloft instead of exercise.
  • In a three-month study, Martin Gibala tested how effective a 10-minute workout could be compared to the standard 50-minute session. The shorter workouts resulted in identical improvements in heart function and blood-sugar control.

The Prescription

The current guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommend getting 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 120 minutes a week of moderate–vigorous aerobic exercise, or a combination of both. The ACSM, myself included, also highly recommend strength and endurance training as a part of a balanced exercise program.

A lot of activities count as exercise that many don’t realize, and people feel that they have to have an extensive exercise program and fancy health club to exercise. But we really just need to move. Now don’t get me wrong, I strongly recommend seeking the counsel of a fitness professional to help get you on your way to a healthier lifestyle or to redefine your current fitness level and aspirations. But until then, the prescription to stay healthy is simply to increase your movement throughout the day.

If you are unable to dedicate 30 straight minutes a day, break it up into three 10-minute sessions. We should all be able to spare 10 minutes to be able throw away the bottle of pills. Don’t forget that lawn work constitutes exercise, and so does taking the stairs.

Here are a few more physical activities that can allow anyone to meet the standard recommendations for exercise and physical activity: Walking, household chores, dancing, golf, basketball, tennis, volleyball, hiking, jogging, running, shoveling snow, raking the lawn, carrying heavy loads, biking, cross-country skiing, swimming, soccer… the list goes on and on! There are so many options to get the recommended amount of exercise for health. Choose the one that you enjoy and go do it!

The Takeaways

Until recently, the healthcare system was inching toward a model of value-based care as opposed to volume-based care, and docs and hospitals were essentially going to be penalized for longer patient stays and reoccurring patient visits. On the surface, that makes a great deal of sense to me; if you are not helping a person get back to being healthy, you shouldn’t be rewarded for it. I’m also not naïve enough to think there are not a lot of “hands in the pot” when it comes to healthcare, and many have a say as to the logistics of the current health care system. But the ACSM, with the Exercise Is Medicine initiative, have their heels on the ground marching toward the value-based system that will hopefully create real change in the health of our nation. I’m sure you can agree that a change of this magnitude will take some time, but there are some things we can be doing in the meantime.

First and foremost, talk to your doctor about how exercise can help you with any current conditions or battle future ones. If your doctor is unable to give you the advice you need, remember, they are not fitness experts. Seek out the assistance of a fitness pro to help. More simply, get up and move, and take someone with you! We can all help create change.

Hippocrates wrote many years ago that “Eating alone will not keep a man well. He must also take exercise.” We knew then what we should be practicing now: exercise is the true medicine for the ailments that plague mankind these days. So instead of looking at the next prescription drug label, let’s take a walk and talk about how we can be truly healthy by using exercise as medicine.

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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: fitness disease prevention exercise as medicine drugs weight control

Balancing Academics and Fitness in College

ThinkstockPhotos-650623468.jpgWelcome back to school! Or, if you are new to the college experience, welcome to your first adventure in time management and balancing your life. This not only includes your academics and social life, but other areas that go under the radar as less important. I’m talking about fitness and wellness. College and university fitness centers are usually well populated with individuals with a wide variety of goals ranging from stress reduction to spring break abs, to meeting people.

Many of the students that I have met at NIFS are likeminded, health conscious, and body-image-positive, which makes coming to a campus-centered fitness center more enjoyable. In retrospect, when I was in school I found myself using the campus fitness and recreational center as a way to not only hone my training skills, but also to get away from the stress caused by deadlines and grades.

Beyond the obvious benefits, studies have been conducted that actually link exercise to getting better grades. Here is what I have found, along with some constructive ideas to help you benefit from fitness.

Set Goals

Breaking through your fitness barriers is the first step to getting what you want out of your fitness experience. In previous blogs, I have talked about setting realistic goals and expectations; because of all the time allotted to school and social life, you may find yourself in a crunch to dedicate any extra time to your goals. Choose goals that can be measured, such as coming to the gym four days per week for the entire semester or wanting to complete a 5K in less than 25 minutes. This will allow you to focus while you are at the gym and not tune out what you are trying to accomplish.

Find Motivation

Also, finding something you love to do for exercise helps. If you love swimming or plan to have swimming as part of your training goal, you should practice swimming often. Finding a support network can also help bridge the gap between your student life and fitness life. These people do not have to have the same goals as you, but it helps when training for an event. NIFS offers group fitness classes daily that are included in the membership; this is a great way to meet people and commiserate about how much fun burpees are!

See How Exercise Helps You Get Better Grades

The benefits go beyond looking good for spring break. Studies conducted at Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana, have shown that if a student works out as little as once per week, they have a better chance of having a higher grade-point average than their classmate who doesn’t work out. The findings supported not only improved grades, but also better time-management skills and mental wellness. As these studies become more and more prevalent, there is a noticeable trend for better, more suitable campus fitness centers to fulfill the needs of the students.

A worrisome trend in schools today is the deemphasis on physical education classes. From a young age, I remember having physical education class and never thought twice about how much exercise I was getting because I was having fun playing games and interacting with others. Based on the researchers’ data from Purdue, the trend of discontinuing physical education, which is leading American children down the road toward obesity and lack of knowledge regarding wellness, could affect their ability to get better grades. With anything in life, balance is the key. The right amount of study, exercise, nutrition, and recovery can benefit anyone.

Just Get to the Gym

In closing, all signs point to fitness as being undeniably great for people. We find that having a goal in mind is good, but really just getting to the gym can be beneficial. NIFS, located at the south end of IUPUI’s campus, is staffed with individuals looking to help you on your fitness journey. Along with the staff are thousands of everyday people just like you who are trying to do the same thing you are. You can do a different class every day of the week or have a trainer design a specific plan tailored to meet your needs. Welcome back and have a great school year!

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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 fitness fitness center Thomas' Corner motivation goals college time management

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

You’re Not Finished Yet: Action List to Create Real Fitness Change

FFA2017.jpgBack on March 4 I participated in my fourth Fight for Air Climb (check out the NIFS team results here, too!) with a band of NIFS warriors. If you don’t know much about the climb, to put it simply, you race up the tallest building in Indy, the Salesforce Tower in downtown Indianapolis—forty-seven flights of stairs to the top with a 360-degree view of our great city waiting for you at the finish. It’s a great event for raising awareness and funds for the fight against lung cancer and other cardiopulmonary conditions.

I raced to the top five times this year in under an hour, and I am rather proud of how I did. But very few people know that the day before the climb I was in a hospital room visiting my mother, who is suffering from Congestive Heart Failure (CHF). She has battled CHF for a long time now, and this was not her first time being admitted for symptoms involved with CHF. It doesn’t get any easier to walk through those hospital hallways to go see her.

A Call to Action

Now before we go any further, you need to be aware that this is not meant to be a “touchy-feely” kind of piece or a promotion for the FFA event. This is a “finger-pointing,” call-to-action kind of piece for those of us who participate in some type of physical event in support of some cause, and failing to further the effort to create real change. Quite simply, participating in an event and drinking a bunch of beer afterward is not enough to help those you claim to be supporting.

I think someone’s willingness to give up a Saturday and put their body through some fitness-related act is noble and a decent start, but it can’t end there. I see it far too often: run a 5K, walk for diabetes, climb for lung cancer, snap a few photos for Facebook or Instagram, drink a few complimentary beverages (usually the wheat and barley variety), and after the event is over the effort stops. This will not inspire real change; it may make you feel better about yourself, but the completion of the event itself will not create much impact to those in true need of your help.

Actions to Take After the Event to Create Real Change

Once again, this is a call to action to make an actual change and not simply pride yourself on supporting a cause. I challenge you that you are not done once you cross that finish line, and you have to do more both for the large-scale efforts, and just as important, the efforts that hit close to home.

  1. Be brave and reach out to show someone you care, and start the process of change by providing information on mindset and readiness for change.
  2. Emphasize small steps at a time to create real change; small steps add up to big change.
  3. Get them moving; a casual walk can be all it takes to create change.
  4. Educate someone about nutrition and how to replace the mac and cheese and fried foods with grilled parsnips and carrots, and a green salad.
  5. Be a good example and practice what you preach
  6. Continually show somebody that you are proud of the steps they are taking toward change; “I’m proud of you” are very powerful words.
  7. Donate to the cause you support; maybe instead of the daily venti mocha macchiato, save the nine dollars and make a monthly contribution.
  8. Volunteer your time and help out during events, or spend time with those individuals; don’t wait until next year’s event to be active in the cause.
  9. Fundraise for your cause. Start knocking on some doors and spread the word about your cause and get others to donate or join.
  10. Form a Facebook support group and share information on how to create change.

I provided just 10 actions you can take. I’m sure there are many more. Understand that simply running an event does not make you an ultimate catalyst for making changes. If you want to help someone, you have to put in the legwork that has to far exceed the 5K you completed on a Saturday for the free beer and t-shirt at the end. I wish I would have done more for my mother and maybe she wouldn't be in a hospital bed. This is your call to action, and mine! It's not too late, but don't wait until it is!

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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 fitness challenge making changes cardiopulmonary

The Benefits of the Hip Press Exercise in Developing Glutes

glutes.jpgThe benefits and importance of developing the glutes in sports performance, fitness, and physique is a popular topic these days and has been for quite some time. In fact, an entire industry is built around shaping the perfect backside for some, and developing the most powerful athlete for others.

“The big house,” a term I have adopted from Mike Boyle, is a part of the body that has so many important duties in human movement (and yes, for filling out a swimsuit as well) that it should be a focus in everybody’s program. Until recently we targeted this area through back squats, lunges, kettlebell swings, clamshells, and the like, which are all very good options. The hip press, also known as the hip thruster, has been found to be possibly the most effective exercise for gluteal engagement, strength, and development. It has definitely become one of my go-to exercises personally and with the individuals I work with.

How to Perform the Exercise

So how effective is the hip press in developing this important area of our body? My buddy Alex Soller did some of the legwork already for me in his post Are You Glute-n Free? The Importance of Exercises for Glutes, where he covers the structural importance of the glutes and some exercises to enhance them. But we will focus on the hip press here and why it has quickly became one of the best ways to get the most out of the big house. In the video below, Kaci demonstrates some of the most popular ways to perform the hip press using our newly acquired hip press bench that will set you up for success when training the hips.

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Programming for Glute Development

In a 2014 post, Eric Cressey and Bret Contreras compared the “glute-building potential” of the back squat and hip press. Their ultimate belief, as well as mine, is that both are important movements for glute development and should be a part of your programming. This is partially due to the differences the two movements have in the activation of the glutes and the tension generated throughout both exercises. What I found significant in their findings is the massive difference in the activation of the glutes during the hip press leading to the burning pump that you will feel performing a challenging set of presses. This is a feeling you will just have to experience for yourself! I also believe that the hip press is a safer and easier option for the average gym-goer whereas the back squat can be a rather technical exercise, especially when dealing with heavier loads. 

The bottom line is (see what I did there?) that the hip press is a relatively easy movement to perform that can result in building that big house you have always wanted for fitness and physique. Need to learn more on how to implement the hip press into your program? Be sure to schedule your Assessment and Personal Program with an instructor today.

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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: fitness exercises sports glutes programs

Choosing the Best Obstacle Course Race for Your Fitness

ThinkstockPhotos-481448438.jpgThe weather is getting warmer; people are starting to take their running from the treadmill to the streets and training for upcoming spring races. With the warmer weather comes endless options for races to run and events to participate in. Maybe you are up for a new fitness challenge this year, a type of race that you have never tried before.

Obstacle course races (such as Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash) are new and exciting to a lot of runners. They bring something different from the normal concrete road races—something enticing, new, and exciting! If you are considering an obstacle race this year, here are five things to consider when picking which one is best for you.

Distance/length: A cool thing about obstacle races is that the obstacles break up the total distance of the race. You may be able to run further than you do in a typical road race because you will get intermittent short breaks from running while completing the obstacles.
Number of obstacles: Some races are full of obstacles, while others have just a few along the course. Having an idea of how many you are willing to complete will help when picking the race. Most races give you the number of obstacles before you register.
Difficulty of obstacle/option to skip: It is important before you sign up for the race to make sure you are able to accomplish the obstacles at hand; in many races you are not able to skip over them. Electric shock, crawling through mud with barbed wire overhead, monkey bars, cliff jumps… while it may be fun for some, not everyone digs this! Be sure to check out the difficulty level to make sure you are up for the challenge.
Group vs. Solo: The great thing about races is that they bring everyone together, and people are generally friendly and “suffering” through the race right there with you. Some obstacles require teamwork to accomplish, and due to the nature of the course, no doubt someone will be there to help you out. If you do it with a group, you can help each other out; otherwise plan to use your new friends to assist you.
Training: If your typical workout consists of only running, changing up your training before the race is something to consider. You want to be prepared for the obstacles that will be thrown at you. Breaking up your run with different types of strength exercises will be a great start when preparing. Stop by the NIFS track desk and an HFS can help you design a program that will help you prepare for obstacles.

Although these are just five factors to consider when deciding what obstacle race to run, hopefully they will help with your decision. Go out and pick one that is the best fit for you.

Happy running!

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This blog was written by Kaci Lierman, Personal Trainer. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS fitness running obstacle course race spring

Water Fitness: How to Get Better at Swimming

ThinkstockPhotos-103584574.jpgIn my previous blog on swimming, I talked about the vast benefits that can come from adding lap swimming into your off-season workout regimen. But maybe you are already comfortable in the pool and swim on a regular basis; wouldn’t you like to get better and become more efficient in your stroke? By taking small steps to improve the different components that make up the specific strokes, you can become a better swimmer in a decently short amount of time.

Focus on Form

As other sports, form tends to be one of the key players in overall success. Each stroke has a certain form that will allow the swimmer to be more efficient. Take some time to research the different strokes that you like to do and learn the correct form. Whatever swim stroke you happen to choose, the different pieces will consist of breathing, kicking, arm movement, location of chest and hips in the water, and what you do with your hands, feet, and ankles. I know it seems like a lot to think about, but you may really benefit by simply understanding what the stroke should look like.

Breathe More Efficiently

Breathing tends to be one of the hardest elements of a swimmer’s performance. Getting the breathing technique down right takes time, practice, and patience. Master breathing by using a kickboard or holding onto the side of the pool before combining it with the actual stroke and movement in the water. You also will need to learn your breathing cycle—for example, if I am swimming freestyle, do I need to take a breath every three or four strokes? You may need to learn to breathe on both sides and be able to turn your head to the left and right to get air.

Learn the Body Roll

This movement is used specifically in freestyle. Have you ever seen someone swimming freestyle (on their stomach) and when it’s time to take a breath, they pick their entire head up out of the water? The body roll will allow you to efficiently roll your upper body (and partially through the hips) to get air so that only part of your head is not in the water. This movement can be learned easily using different pool equipment like a pull buoy.

Slow Down

We all have the tendency, when getting into the pool to do some laps, to go a million miles an hour. Whether or not you mean to do it, you will quickly be made aware that you need to slow down because your breathing will remind you! Take your time, be patient, and learn the proper technique in every stroke by putting your foot on the break. You will be amazed, when you slow down the pace a little bit, at how long you can actually swim!

Develop an Efficient Kick

Another great way to improve your overall swimming skills is to learn the different kicks that go along with the various strokes. Each kick has specifics in how far to pull your heel back, how big of a splash you should be making, how far below the surface you want your hips and legs to be, etc. Utilize a kickboard or the wall, as you do in learning to breathe right, to master the different kicks.

Utilize Equipment

There are so many great tools out there to help you learn to swim better. Utilize things like kickboards to improve your breathing and kicking, pull buoys to work on your stroke, and fins to work through power kicks and master the body roll. At most pools you will usually see hand paddles to work on power in the pulling motion to propel you through the water faster, and maybe even gloves that have webbed fingers. All of these things will allow you to work on certain pieces of form one at a time.

Learn the Turns

When I was younger, I spent hours in the pool trying to learn how to do the flip turn. And while many think it’s simply “cool,” the flip turn happens to make your swim efficiency shoot through the roof. This move will also take some time to learn, but if you are patient and work on the timing of the flip turn, your lap swimming will soon be quicker.

Watch and Evaluate

Do not be afraid to have someone watch you and evaluate the different strokes you are working on. Often someone outside the water can easily tell if you are kicking too hard, slapping the water during your stroke, or not efficiently breathing. Take some time to have someone watch and give you tips to work on.

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While this can seem like an overwhelmingly large list of things to work on, just choose one thing at a time. Each small tweak will make a huge impact on your overall swimming performance.

Remember Natatorium lap swimming is now free with your NIFS Membership! Learn More.

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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: fitness equipment swimming workout sports

Let NIFS Help You Achieve Your Fitness New Year's Resolutions

ThinkstockPhotos-579401104.jpgA New Year is a great time to reset goals, start over, or accomplish something new. Maybe this is the first time you are getting serious about your health and you are ready to begin your fitness journey. I love the thrill of new goals being set, seeing unfamiliar faces in the gym, and fitness becoming a priority for the first time in people’s lives.

Being well into March already, the question arises: are you still on track to accomplish your goals and resolutions for 2017? Allow me to suggest some tips to help keep you on track so that when December 31st comes around again this year, you won’t be making the same fitness goal for 2018 that you made for this year.

Tips for Accomplishing Your Fitness Goals

Many people set unrealistic goals or expect instant results. Once life gets back to the “normal” routine after the holiday season, the fitness goals once again fall on the back burner. Not this year! Here are some tips to help keep you on track all year long:

  • Set weekly or monthly goals—with your end goal in sight. Write them down, hang them up where you can see them every day, and cross each off after you have accomplished it. Leave the list up with the items crossed off so that you can continue to track your progress and see your success.
  • Allow for life to happen on your journey to meet your fitness goals. Some weeks are crazier than others; kids get sick or work is insanely busy. Plan that into your week and do not let it knock you completely out of your fitness routine. Find ways to get yourself to the gym during the crazy cycle of life.
  • Set realistic expectations. Don’t expect to go to the gym 7 days a week. Take baby steps and make your goal to get there 2–4 days a week to start. Getting there a few times is better than not at all.
  • Lack of time should not be an excuse. Everyone has 24 hours in the day, so don’t let time become a factor in not being able to make it to the gym. A 20–30-minute workout is sometimes sufficient for working toward your goal. Be efficient with the time that you do have and make the most of even 20 minutes.
  • Don’t let one bad day ruin your week. Healthy fitness and nutrition choices are sometimes hard during the busy days. Tomorrow is always a new start for eating well and getting your workout in. Pick up where you know you should be and keep moving forward.
  • Don't make excuses. Excuses usually start to build up toward the end of January and beginning of February for how you are unable to make it to the gym. Don’t get caught up in falling for them! Keep that New Year’s excitement going into February and March with new weekly or monthly goals to accomplish.

Get Goal-Setting Help from NIFS

If you feel like you are in a goal-setting slump, ask a NIFS health fitness instructor for ideas or tips to help you get out. Remember to keep your end goal in sight. You do not need to wait for the New Year to start a new fitness journey. Don’t be the person telling yourself, “There’s always next year”; be the person who says “I am so proud that I stuck with my routine and accomplished my goal this year!”

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This blog was written by NIFS Personal Trainer Kaci Lierman. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS fitness goal setting resolutions new year's