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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Bring New Life to Your Deadlift: 3 Must-Know Weightlifting Tips

deadlift-2.jpgThe deadlift is a creature all its own. There is no other exercise like it, and there are so many reasons behind that. It can be one of the most beneficial total-body exercises, yet at the same time, one of the most detrimental if performed incorrectly. Numerous factors go into this very important lift, but there are a few tricks to keep in mind to help you set up and perform well consistently while avoiding injury.

1. A straight line is the fastest path to your destination.

The deadlift starts at the floor and ends at a fully upright stance. There are no two ways about that. Isn’t the quickest way from point A to point B a straight line? Absolutely. This means that the path of the bar during the lift should be as straight as possible. If you’re saying “I have no idea whether my bar path is straight,” take a quick video of your deadlift from the side. A great smartphone app for this is Iron Path. It lets you track your bar path, and it has definitely helped me out.

2. Learn how to breathe and use a belt.

People ask whether they should wear a belt. There is no one-size-fits-all answer here. It completely depends on why you are wearing a belt in the first place. Contrary to popular belief, wearing a lifting belt will not save your back from bad deadlifting. Bad deadlifting (for example, rounding of the back) will place a lot of torque on your entire spine, and this is why most deadlifting injuries occur. A belt is not your safety net. The proper use for a belt is to, along with proper breathing, help create intra-abdominal pressure to brace the midsection for a heavy lift.

First, learn to breathe correctly. If the lift is heavy (80% or greater of your 1-rep max), you will want to take in a big breath before every rep and brace your abdominals and obliques to maintain spinal alignment. Once you can deadlift with proper breathing, a belt becomes helpful during your heavy lifts.

3. Determine your best stance.

I can’t tell you what your best stance is. You will have to find out on your own. The two traditional stances used are conventional and sumo stance. With conventional, your feet will be somewhere around shoulder width apart. With sumo stance, your feet will be much wider (typically 6 to 8 inches outside shoulder width). Certain body types tend to work better for each style. For example, someone who is considered to be tall and lanky might have a good chance of being a better conventional-style deadlifter. Certain limb lengths create different leverages that give advantages and disadvantages with each style of deadlifting. Long story short: try both.

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Done correctly, the deadlift is one of the best overall exercises out there. It is a closed-chain, multi-joint movement that involves lower- as well as upper-body strength, stability, and mobility. Warning: the deadlift is not easy, and you may have to lighten up the weight to get the correct technique. Give these tips a try and make sure you ask a NIFS Health Fitness Specialist for more help with technique and how to better yourself as an athlete.

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This blog was written by Aaron Combs, NSCA CSCS and Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS fitness center injury prevention muscles weightlifting deadlift

Four Reasons to Make Time for a Cool-down after a Workout

cool_down-1.jpgWe know it is encouraged by fitness professionals, and included at the end of group exercise classes, but I want to ask you, personally: how many times after a workout do you actually take the time to cool down?

Many of us tend to finish a hard workout and walk right to the showers or straight to our cars to hurry and get home to the next item on our to-do list. Some of us may not notice much of a difference whether or not we incorporate a cool-down, such as athletes or active adults. However, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, “for the general population, many apparently healthy adults may have heart disease or other diagnosed conditions,” making a cool-down a game-changer for not only everyday movement abilities, but safety.

Here are just a few reasons why you shouldn’t skip out on a few minutes of recovery.

1. Prevent Dizziness

If you have ever felt lightheaded immediately after a hard workout, it could very well be caused from blood pooling. Strenuous exercise causes the blood vessels in your legs to expand, bringing more blood into the legs and feet. After physical activity, your heart is beating faster than normal, and your core body temperature is higher. When you abruptly stop exercising without taking time to cool down, your heart rate slows immediately, which can cause blood to pool into the lower body, causing blood to return at a slower rate to your heart, and your brain. This in turn can cause you to experience dizziness or fainting.

Many accidents in fitness centers actually tend to occur in the locker room from members making a beeline straight to the locker room, steam room, or sauna after a tough workout, without taking adequate time for their body to calm down.

2. Flexibility Is at Its Best

When you finish a tough workout, as stated before, your core body temperature is higher. This means that your muscles are warm and ready for more static stretching. Dynamic stretching is recommended at the beginning of a workout, so static stretching (in other words, taking a deep breath and holding a stretch in a particular position for 15 to 30 seconds at a time) is the next step you can take in maintaining and increasing elasticity in the muscles. This lengthening of the muscles leads to better range of motion and, in turn, improved quality of life for daily activities.

3. Injury Prevention

Tagging onto flexibility, you can prevent yourself from acquiring common injuries with some of this mobility work. One of the most common injuries is in the lower back, which can sometimes be triggered by tight hip flexors and hamstrings. By simply adding some mobility work after you finish, you can not only increase your range of motion, but also increase your ability to catch yourself when you fall or have to react quickly to an unstable surface.

4. Restoration for Your Body

Whether it be simply slowing down to a light jog or walk after some light sprints, or by moving into a savasana pose at the end of a yoga class, a cool-down can have physiological benefits on the body in terms of finality. When we slow down, we feel a “sense of normality” come back into our extremities, and the body begins to restore itself back to a steady state. In other words, it just feels nice!

So whatever you decide to do at the end of your workout, I encourage you to take a moment to think twice for next time. Whether it be adding five minutes of walking to bring the heart rate down, or an extra five minutes to stretch while your muscles are warm, it’s important to note that there are no negative effects to the process. It can only help you in the long run!

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This blog was written by Rebecca Newbrough, Lifestyle Program Coordinator and Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: yoga injury prevention flexibility stretching workout recovery heart rate cool-down

Warming Up Before Your Workout

ThinkstockPhotos-498944002.jpgHave you ever gone into the gym and jumped right into your workout, only to notice that it took a good 20 minutes to get into it? Or how about heading out for a run without any form of warming up, and you really don’t start to feel into your rhythm until halfway through?

I know that I have experienced both of these things, and I also know the value of warming up before you begin a workout! Warming up before you start has several benefits that I will talk about, as well as giving you a few good exercises to get yourself moving.

Why Warmups Are Important

Some key benefits to getting in a warmup before you begin to lift or do cardio exercise is that it is one of the most efficient ways to avoid an injury. You want to be sure to get all parts of the body moving to keep yourself from getting hurt. Also, warming up is important if you want to be sure to get the most out of your workout by moving efficiently and reaching your peak performance.

How to Warm Up

The warmup is the prep phase of your workout. This needs to include static and dynamic movements to get the body going. You also want to be sure to incorporate some corrective exercises and foam rolling to get the blood pumping, stretch the muscles out, and make your joints more limber. Getting blood moving through the body and to the muscles will help to increase your body temperature in preparation for movement. Stretching helps to also warm up the muscles and help with making your body more stable, mobile, and flexible. And you want to be more limber so that you are more mobile when beginning exercises and explosive movements.

You might be thinking, “Okay, so what does a good dynamic, all-around warmup look like?” Here are some things that you can include into your warmup (and which take maybe just 10 minutes):

  • Toe-Touch Squats
  • Glute Bridges
  • Bird Dogs
  • Inch Worms
  • Pushups
  • Planks (Side Planks)
  • Lunge Reaches
  • RDLs
  • High Knees
  • Butt Kicks
  • Lateral Lunges
  • Side Shuffles
  • Frankensteins
  • Knee Hugs
  • Line Jumps
  • Reverse Lunges
  • Body-Weight Squats
  • Mini Band Steps

Maybe it’s a time thing, or maybe you just don’t like to warm up, but I want to encourage you to get yourself moving in preparation for working out and see what a difference it makes. Ask one of our Health Fitness Instructors at NIFS to show you some good exercises and come in for a free fitness assessment to get started the right way!

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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 center workouts injury prevention stretching warmups

Training the Aging Active Adult (Part 4 of 4)

ThinkstockPhotos-179075741.jpgThis is the final installment in my series on training for people 40 and over. Previously I’ve discussed training needs and health concerns for older adults, the importance of strength training, and the role of the glutes. Now let’s talk about the old-school way to reach your fitness goals while aging gracefully.

Someone on Facebook said she wanted to train her back harder than her grip would allow and asked which would be better, lifting straps or Versa Gripps. The answers bounced back and forth between the two options (usually bodybuilders doing the commenting), but I just had to offer a third option: neither.

“Old school–develop your grip strength so it’s not the weak link.”

Some of the clueless responses from a few bodybuilders about grip work interfering with arm and back day and how you couldn’t develop your back if you had to wait for your grip were sadly amusing.

Shortcuts Don’t Pay

If she did use the straps or Versa Gripps to allow for heavier loading of the back for the sake of back development (aesthetics), the grip would continue to be weaker than the muscles up the movement chain and would therefore be a rate limiter in the upper body’s functional strength. This imbalance could be a source of future injuries as well. And of course, this begs the question: why is there an imbalance in the first place?

When the focus of fitness is to look better in front of a mirror, concepts like correcting movement deficiencies, addressing strength weaknesses, and the effects of rate limiters on functional strength have as much interest as broccoli does to a 3-year-old.

It’s easy to pick on bodybuilding because to those on the outside, bodybuilding seems to be the extreme example of narcissistic frivolousness. But alas, all exercise and fitness pursuits have a huge egocentric component, whether it’s picking up more weight, running faster/further, or killing Fran or Fight Gone Bad.

Sometimes You Just Have to Eat Your Broccoli

The point is that we are all results-driven regardless of whether our fitness interests are functional training or just looking better. We want improvements to arrive quicker and the process to be easier, even if the shortcuts we take for short-term gains have a high price on the back end. Seemingly innocent lifting straps are at one end of the shortcut continuum, and PEDs at the other; but they all are attempts to circumvent the body’s natural processes. All the things you chose to ignore, neglect, and ill-advised shortcuts will eventually show up during your fitness “come to Jesus meeting” sometime in your 40s and 50s. And just know that the accompanying injuries that come during that meeting are served in a broccoli casserole, heavily seasoned with “I Told You So.”

Take shortcuts and ignore weakness at your own peril. There, I just told you so. Go eat your broccoli!

Learn more about your current fitness status with NIFS’s Functional Movement Screening or Personal Fitness Evaluation.

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This blog was written by Rick Huse, CSCS, WKC Competition Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: functional training injury prevention muscles senior fitness strength goals

Training the Active Aging Adult (Part 3 of 4)

ThinkstockPhotos-523032469-1In earlier installments, I’ve talked about health concerns for active people over 40, as well as the importance of strength and functional training for people in this age group. As promised, I will now focus in on strength training, and we’ll start with your butt.

The glute complex (your hips) has the greatest potential for strength and power in the human body, and is the foundation for all ground-based movement. If used properly, it lifts things up (like the grandkids) and spares the low back. Let’s call this the “lifting things up” or the dead-lift pattern.

The Lost Glutes

Because of the enormous amount of sitting done in our modern lifestyle, many adults can’t find their glutes (through muscle activation) with a map, hand mirror, and a flashlight. When you place people on their backs on the floor with their knees up and feet planted on the ground, then have them try to raise their hips off the floor by contracting just their glutes, many will fire their hamstrings while their glutes remain totally quiet. This situation has been referred to as glute amnesia; more accurate would be to say it’s a disconnect between brain and muscle. The body will find a way to accomplish the desired task by resorting to Plan B (in this case, the hamstrings) if the primary movers, the glutes, are offline. The hips will move off the ground but at a cost: inefficient movement, lower performance potential, and higher risk of injury to the Plan B muscles—and also to surrounding tissue and joints.

Foundational Movement: The Hip Hinge

Learning to properly hinge the hips and to activate the glutes is critical for skilled and graceful movement and injury prevention as you age. This is life quality for now and into your future. So let’s try the foundational movement, the hip hinge:

  1. Stand with your feet about hip width apart and hands resting on the front of your thighs. You can also hold a light barbell or a pair of light dumbbells to provide a little resistance.
  2. With your lower legs perpendicular to the ground, push your hips backward while bending forward at the hips. Your upper body will fold over with your back in a straight line from the tailbone to the back of your head.
  3. Do not squat and do not bend forward at the waist (lumbar spine).
  4. Once your hands reach your knees, pause, focus on your glutes, and tighten them as you try to push the ground away with your feet. Return to standing with a straight line from the heels to the back of your head.
  5. Rinse and repeat until the movement feels natural.
  6. If in doubt, keep your hips higher while you bend forward and sense your upper body closing the distance with the ground.
  7. If you have health issues, balance problems, or serious muscle weakness, seek proper medical assistance. Watch this video as a guide.

Your body is programmed to avoid falling on your face by trying to stay more upright and bending your knees more into a squat pattern if it doesn’t sense proper muscle activation. If you learn to position your skeleton into the correct architecture for the movement you are attempting and recruit the target muscles for that movement (in this case, the glutes and core), you will not face-dive. If you do splat, see #6 above (and please post the video on YouTube).

Every day, at some point, you will need to bend over (hinge) and pick something up. Conventional wisdom dictates that we lift with our legs from a squat position, but our greatest power for this movement comes from the hinge pattern and the glutes. That’s why we call it the Big House. Heed the immortal words from Sir Mix-A-Lot: “You can do side bends or sit-ups, but please don’t lose that butt.”

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This blog was written by Rick Huse, CSCS, WKC Competition Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: staying active injury prevention muscles senior fitness strength exercises

Training the Active Aging Adult (Part 1 of 4)

There comes a day when you wake up one morning and realize you’re not 25 any longer. Usually, this happens when you’re 50—or in other words, after 25 years of denial and of being totally oblivious to nature’s less-than-subtle warnings: hair loss and color change, skin texture and wrinkles, where did that body fat come from, when did that thing (?) become so heavy to lift, and those stairs weren’t that high last year. The mind feels young but the body fades in and out of pretend youth. The body is also willing until it gets tired or pain rises above the level of annoyance.

But there is hope: you can be cool without being young, but cool doesn’t make you stronger, quicker, more flexible, thinner, and the owner of painless joints.

What Motivates Senior Fitness?

When you were younger, the goal of exercise was to look better naked. It seems reasonable, because younger people look better naked than old farts. Besides, older people have more pressing issues like serious joint pain, heart disease, diabetes, age-related weight gain, hormonal changes, and perhaps even the chilling shadow of cancer has visited them. No doubt that looking better and feeling better about yourself is really an important motivator to exercise, but they pale in comparison to these life-altering issues. Therefore, the motives for training of an aging active adult are more complex than a 25-year-old and must be recognized and honored when designing training programs.

Specific Health Concerns for Active Seniors

If you happen to be a fitness enthusiast over 50, these are things you need to be aware of.

  • Sarcopenia: An interesting word to say, but not so good to have, because it means a loss of muscle mass. Heavy-chain muscle fibers start dying out around age 30. Most professional athletes retire in their 30s because they have lost a step (in power and strength) and can no longer compete with younger athletes. Since most adults do not push their athletic genetic limits, they become aware of this loss of step in their 40s, or certainly by their 50s. This fiber loss is called sarcopenia. Unless there is some attempt to retain strength through formal strength training, this strength loss will continue at a ever-increasing and very noticeable rate. Common movement patterns—sit to stand, picking things up, pushing away and pulling back, pushing up and pulling down—will become increasingly more difficult as life quality decreases. Many people just give in to the process and call it “getting older.” It doesn’t have to be that way. Strength training can certainly slow it down.
  • Joint issues: Connective tissue seems to injure more easily and take longer to heal. Tendonitis becomes an all-too-common answer to the question, “How are you feeling?” Dynamic joint mobility training helps regain joint range of motion and lubricate joint surfaces with synovial fluid for cartilage health. Older athletes have to allow time in the program design for something the young take for granted.
  • Slow recovery: It takes longer for the body to repair and to make new tissue. This seems to be related to changes at the DNA and RNA levels as we age; and of course, changes in hormonal levels further compound the problem. Knowing this, nutrition and rest are key for proper recovery. The aging active adult has very little margin for error. Without proper nutrition and rest, progress will stall and the likelihood for injury will increase.
  • Balanced training: Cardio exercise is still important for overall health, but must be managed in such a way as to not interfere with the recovery for strength training, and not to add to the training volume to the point of over-training and adversely effecting the immune system. The body also does not respond well to being forced to adapt to opposing stimulus (cardio vs. strength). It gets confused as to what exactly it is being asked to do. How much cardio is very individual, but it is easy to err on the side of too much. Interval training may be an answer to those concerns by reducing the training time factor while still challenging the alactate, anaerobic, and aerobic substrates for improved conditioning.
  • Shared epiphany: There is a common experience at this age that there is a price to be paid for all of the fitness and health-related issues you chose to ignore when you were younger. Pain, discomfort, illness, and excess body fat are the reasons for your body’s “come to Jesus” meeting. Your body demands corrections, and your currency for payment is time and effort spent bringing the body back into balance. The aging active adult has been humbled enough by aging to be open to addressing these issues if the guidance they receive makes sense.

With the number of active aging adults increasing, both trainers and the older clients should understand the training needs and limitations of this age group in order to develop the best program designs that will effectively produce results and at the same time do no harm. So far, the fitness industry and fitness media have chosen to ignore the 800-pound gorilla by focusing on the 25- to 40-year-olds; but it is the aging active adults who have the greater need. They understand that the youth genie is not going back in the bottle, but that their life quality can be a whole lot better through proper training and nutrition.

In part 2 of this series, I talk more about the need for strength training at this age.

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This blog was written by Rick Huse, CSCS, WKC Competition Coach, and originally appeared on his blog. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: cardio injury prevention muscles joint health senior fitness endurance strength pain

50 Shades of Bruise: Non-Contact Contusions After a Workout

With an element of self-consciousness and a mystery to some, non-contact bruises due to exercise can cause some discomfort and become a deterrent to those who really need exercise but don’t want this side-effect. Typically occurring following an intense bout of exercise (such as a marathon), non-contact bruises appear even though the individual may not have physically injured the area.

Other types of bruises occur more often than not from some type of physical trauma. If you have experienced this exercise side effect or just are curious about the topic, we will take a closer look at the bruising phenomena simply known as a contusion.

What Causes Bruising After Exercise?ThinkstockPhotos-200380515-001

Several factors are associated with these developments, including age, experience, current medication, and genetics. Most bruises occur following a significant accident, fall, or surgery, but not always. Some bruises are caused by some underlying weakness in the blood pathways. The exercise (whether it is extensive “pounding the pavement” or “pumping the weights”) intensifies over the course of time, leading to a bruise effect. 

The bruise, usually bluish, purple, or green, is caused by small ruptures in blood capillaries that seem to develop near the recent trauma site and can be more or less serious depending on the severity of the injury. 

On a side note, people who are bruised due to being struck are only amplifying the issue by exercising. The bruise will go away slower, stay the same, or even get worse. Other issues other than bruising that come up include swelling and pain (WebMD, 2015).

How to Heal Contusions

The best remedy for a bruise is to rest the body part that is bruised. Applying a slight pressure wrap can be helpful. Normal pain management devices such as ointment and Tylenol seem to be the most common treatment for aches and discomfort. 

You can also look to a dietitian to see whether your diet is a contributing factor (MD-Health, 2015). People low in certain vitamins and minerals are more apt to the bruise effect. Your age and medications can cause blood to thin, leading to an unmerited bruise (WebMD, 2015).

If the problem persists, I would recommend calling your physician. If your physician feels that your condition is not serious, you can resume exercise when you feel comfortable doing so. Most likely, you can resume normal activity following recovery. Your bruise can just be a simple reminder that our bodies are pretty amazing machines and we need to take care of them to ensure we can continue to “pound the pavement” or “pump the weights” for a long, long time. 

Rejoice and Evolve,

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Instructor at NIFS. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.
Topics: exercise nutrition fitness center Thomas' Corner injury prevention injuries

The Benefits of Incorporating Resistance Bands into Your Workout

bands-1If you have spent any amount of time in the gym lately, I am sure you have seen a lot of people using exercise bands for part of their workout. When looking at a flimsy, thin exercise band, many would think, “Okay, what type of workout will that even give me?” Studies have shown that workouts using exercise bands will increase muscle strength and size while helping decrease fat, similar to using free weights.

How Bands Improve Your Workout

So, whether you are in CXWORX, working out in a HIT class, or doing something on your own, using resistance bands can add significant benefits into your workout. Here are the top things they can do:

  • Provide resistance: Just like using a weight to make an exercise more difficult to do, resistance bands help to provide tension and resistance to challenge you in your workout.
  • Allow free range of motion: Doing exercises in the full range of motion is important because it helps in injury prevention. Training in full ROM puts positive stress on your connective tissue and will decrease the chance of injury.
  • Allow progressive speeds and tension without changing equipment: Adapting an exercise while using a resistance band couldn’t get any easier! With a simple step forward or backward, the tension on the band will significantly change, allowing the exercise to become easier or more difficult.
  • Easily packable for road trips or a space saver: This is the most obvious one of all; resistance bands don’t take up a lot of space, so even if you have always dreamed of that “home gym,” you can get a few bands and still make it work without a lot of equipment. It goes without saying that this is a huge cost saver.
  • Get a total body workout: Any fitness professional will tell you that you can get a full-body workout simply by using a resistance band. From biceps to triceps, back to chest, glutes to quads, and everything in between, using a band will change the idea of using 200 items to get in a full workout!

Change Up Your Workout

If you are trying to think of ways to change up your workout, think about throwing some resistance band training in there. You can ask any of the health fitness specialists at NIFS to show you some exercises or put you through a routine. 

Need help setting up a workout program? Schedule a free assessment today!

Free Fitness Assessment

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

Topics: equipment injury prevention muscles range of motion resistance Les Mills

Where Do “They” Come Up with These Exercise Names?

Salutations, NIFS friends. Whether you have been working out for 30 years or are brand new to fitness, one mystery that normally goes unsolved is “Where did they come up with the name for that exercise?” Sometimes it’s pretty self-explanatory (such as biceps curl), but other times it can be quite misleading (for example, Burpee). Then when you have met several different trainers, maybe they call the same thing something different (such as torso rotations versus Russian twists). It can be downright confusing.

Here we will explore a few of my favorite mystery exercises and dig a little deeper into their backstories.

Jumping Jacksjumping-jack

So, who invented the jumping jack, and where did it originate? I should preface that by saying that it is really hard to invent exercises, at least classic, iconic ones like “the pushup,” “the sit-up,” and “the jumping jack.” That being said, we really want to credit the jumping jack to the great Jack LaLanne. Although LaLanne made the exercise popular, it was already in use by the U.S. military and gets its name from a traditional toy in which a string is pulled and the arms and legs spread into a star or jumping-jack position. 

Burpees

Another exercise that carries some notoriety for name confusion is the Burpee. To a lot of people, the Burpee sounds like a made-up name for this brutal exercise. Prior to doing Burpees for the first time, you might snicker at the idea of doing some crazy Dr. Seuss-like movement, but then you do them and your opinion changes quickly. 

So, where do Burpees come from? Apparently, in the 1930s, Dr. Royal H. Burpee (sounds made up, right?) at Columbia University invented the Burpee as part of a PhD thesis. His Burpee test was meant to simplify fitness assessments and was used by the U.S. military. Nowadays, the Burpee is mostly associated with cruel and unusual personal trainers.

Turkish Getups

The Turkish Getup is in a category all by itself when it comes to mysteries. To some, it closely resembles a strongman wearing a leopardskin Onesie and handlebar mustache performing for a traveling-circus sideshow. 

As deep as that sounds, finding the exact origins of the Turkish Getup was even more challenging. It is thought to have originated in Turkey hundreds of years ago and to have been passed down from generation to generation to modern times, where it is primarily done with a kettlebell in either a kettlebell class or a during a CrossFit session. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the Turkish Getup’s reputation as one of the most intricate movements in all of fitness.

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What are some names that have perplexed you or even made you laugh out loud? Share in the comments below for an open discussion and maybe you can “stump the trainer.”

Whether you call it a squat press or a thruster, one thing we always want to make sure of is safety. Your NIFS health fitness professional will ensure you’re getting a great, safe workout regardless of what you call it. Schedule a free assessment today!

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

 

Topics: exercise cardio fitness center injury prevention kettlebell personal training exercises core strength CrossFit

The Importance of Recovery After Exercise

ThinkstockPhotos-184767539One of the most important elements of performance and exercise is rest, and it’s also one of the hardest things to do! According to ACE (a fitness governing body), recovery is the most important part of any person’s program. Taking time to rest your body can be challenging mentally, but rest has significant physical benefits.

The Recovery Stage

To get better at a sport or to enhance your personal fitness, you must expose your body to stresses. Different stresses include training and exercise programs like weightlifting, sprinting, endurance runs, etc. But upon completion of these stresses the human body needs to adapt to the stresses it just underwent, and this is where we get the recovery stage. 

Neglecting the recovery stage can lead to injuries. Many programs have built-in rest days, but if you are creating your own program to follow, be sure to find where to fit one in! It’s essential to listen to your body and gauge how you are feeling as well. If you are physically worn out, take a rest.

It’s Worth Making the Time for Rest

So maybe this is enough to get you to take a day or two off a week. But I know there are still some of you out there saying, “Okay, Amanda, thanks for the tip, but I’m in the middle of training hard right now for the half Ironman in Wisconsin, so I can’t afford to take a day of rest.” Let’s take a look at the benefits of recovery on the body. 

The whole purpose of recovery in exercise is to allow your muscles to repair themselves and to engage muscles that are sore from your workout. There are also different things that you can do during the recovery stage to help move the process along and come out ready to perform better than your pre-rest stage. 

Top 5 Recovery Techniques

Here are some things to keep in mind and apply while recovering:

Rest: Now we are talking about actual rest, sleep. This is one of the most important ways to get your body to quickly recover from the physical and mental demands of hard training.

Hydration and eating: One of the most vital aspects of both training and recovery is being properly hydrated. And nourishment falls right in line with hydration. Food helps to restore the body’s energy supply, so try to eat good, healthy options at the right windows of time to enhance your performance and recovery.

Massages: Getting a massage helps to loosen up muscles, increase oxygen and blood flow into muscles, remove lactic acid buildup (which is what makes you sore), and deliver nutrients from your body to your muscle.

Contrast therapy: If you are or were an athlete this may be familiar to you, but those who don’t have a facility at their disposal might not use it as frequently. You will be contrasting between an ice bath and a hot shower. You want to be sure to start and end with cold (like an ice bath). Jump in the ice bath for about 45 seconds and then into the hot shower for 3 to 4 minutes. Repeat this three times. The benefits of contrast therapy are to increase blood flow to the muscles and speed up the removal of lactic acid.

Ice bath: A familiar process to many, an ice bath causes the blood vessels of the body to constrict, pushing the blood away from the muscle because of the cool temperature. Once you are done and start to warm up, the vessels open up and allow blood flow back into the muscle, bringing with it more oxygen to help you recover.

No matter where you are currently in your workout regime, I encourage you to take some recovery time. It will benefit your performance in significant ways down the road. Consider trying a method from above that you haven’t before and see if it helps you. Different things work for different people, so find out what’s best for your body. You can also consult one of our health fitness specialists here at NIFS for advice. Most important, take time to rest and recover to avoid injury!

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

Topics: exercise fitness running marathon training injury prevention endurance weightlifting recovery