NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Five Tips for Maintaining Your Health and Fitness over the Holidays

GettyImages-1406790902With the holidays coming up, it can be easy to get caught up in the busyness of it all. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, we are bombarded with festive meals, holiday parties, sweet treats, and family gatherings that simply interrupt our normal routine. The holiday season is one of the most difficult times to stay motivated to be healthy. Not to mention the fact that it is several degrees cooler and I would rather hibernate than go out to the gym. Plus, many of us travel to visit family and friends and we are just not close to our gym.

I know that I personally struggle with all of these things, especially because the food around the holiday time is absolutely my favorite. To really get myself into the right mindset, I follow these five tips to make sure I can keep my health and fitness at the level I want it to be at.

1. Maintain the right mindset.

Staying motivated won’t be possible unless you start out with the right mindset. Go into the holiday season determined and dedicated. Do not make excuses when it comes to working out. Make sure that it is really a priority for you and something that is attainable.

2. Make a schedule.

Making a plan and workout schedule ahead of time will make it a lot more difficult to make excuses when the time comes. If you are prepared, you are more likely to get it done. Take a look at your schedule and write down the times that you will be able to get in your workout session.

3. Make it a family activity.

If you are struggling to find the time to balance working out and also spending time with your family, make getting exercise a family activity. For example, my family goes out and walks together, takes fun exercise classes together, and even runs fun holiday-themed 5Ks together. Not only are we working out, but we are making memories as well.

4. Switch up your normal workout.

You can add new exercises to keep it new and exciting. You are less likely to get bored with something that you are working on improving. You can also include more HIIT workouts that will help you achieve a lot in a short amount of time.

5. Know that you don’t always need a gym.

During the holidays, you are more than likely going to be traveling a lot and may not be by a gym. Doing body-weight exercises or using at-home items to lift can be a useful temporary solution when you are away. Try some of these exercises and workouts.

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Even though it's the season of giving, be sure to not give yourself a hard time. Some days a workout just won’t happen, and you may find yourself consuming more calories. We have to remember to be gracious to our minds and our bodies. Being too strict on yourself can cause you to burn out and even create unhealthy habits. Make sure you understand your balance so that you can live your best life.

Happy Holidays and Happy Fitness!

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

Topics: motivation holidays Thanksgiving traveling new year's mindset christmas workout plan health and fitness family

Three Keys to a Healthier, Happier You

A happy mind is a healthy mind. Here are three keys to working your way toward a healthier life.

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1. Show Gratitude

One way to retrain your brain to feel more gratitude and happiness is taking pen to paper. Write down three things about your day that were positive and make you feel thankful. By doing this, you are shining a light on the good things in your life, which shifts your focus and will eventually lead to a healthier mindset.

2. Make Movement a Priority

According to the Mayo Clinic, being active for about 150 minutes a week can result in a drop in depression in most people. Examples of daily activity can be taking your dog for a walk, taking the stairs, working in the garden or backyard, or doing a bodyweight mobility flow to loosen up your muscles and joints. Whatever the activity, make sure you do some movement each day to get the blood flowing and your endorphins boosted.

3. Act in Kindness

Shifting your focus on others instead of just yourself is a great way to boost happiness. Spending time on others has been proven to be more helpful in creating a positive life than spending it just on ourselves. Examples of acts of kindness can be volunteering at a local shelter, running errands for a friend or family member, helping a friend move into a new house, or even buying a cup of coffee for the person behind you in line. Time spent on others is time well spent!

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

 
Topics: depression staying active mindset emotional physical health

5 Tips for a Safe Return to Fitness After Quarantine

GettyImages-1134331738Do you remember the last time you went on an extended vacation, came back home, jumped into the gym and your favorite class and thought you could pick right back up where you left off? You might remember feeling like you were not going to make it through the class and were so sore for days on end. And that was just after a vacation consisting of a long rest, relaxation, and food freedom. Just think what you may encounter once you return to your favorite class or training group after two to three months of quarantine.

Now if you have been able to keep up your training intensity during this time, that’s awesome, and what I’m talking about might not apply to you. But I would argue that most of us, even with the best intentions, might not have been exercising at the same intensity in which we left our favorite facility. And if you jump back in too fast, at too furious of an intensity, you could find yourself with far worse than a case of sore muscles—and maybe even losing your lunch during class.

As you make your way back into your gym and classes, here are five helpful tips that will aid in keeping you safe and free from injury so you don’t get knocked out for another couple of months.

Reset Your Mindset

I think the most important step in getting back to your previous fitness level is being okay with not being at your previous fitness level. There is no room for negative self-talk because your deadlift isn’t Instagram-worthy right now, or running a mile is now incredibly challenging when it was once a warm-up. Think short-term adjustment at the beginning as you get your legs back underneath you. Find the little victories and be proud of them as you continue to ramp back up to previous intensities.

Start Slow and Add Gradually

Stave off injuries or worse by starting slow and adding intensity progressively throughout the first 8–10 sessions back. Starting off too heavy or too fast can lead to physical injuries as well as emotional setbacks. Build some confidence every session, and you will be back to your prime self in no time, safely! 

Do an RPE System Check

Do a frequent body system check using Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale. The Borg Scale is a rating chart from 6–20 of how hard you feel yourself working at any one given task. There is a modified version that is a simple 0–10 rating system. Either one correlates well with your heart rate and can provide a quick and reliable audit of how your body is reacting to exercise. If you feel like you are barely moving, you may be at a 6 or 7 (1,2); or if you feel like if you keep up the current intensity you may lose that lunch I mentioned earlier, you may be at an 18–20 (8–10). It’s quick and easy, does not require equipment, and can provide an accurate intensity level check. Do frequent system checks throughout your workout, and if you feel you are pushing to the higher numbers of that scale, you may want to back it down and gradually work up to that intensity level.

Warm Up/Prep for Movement

Take the time to properly warm up and prepare yourself for the work at hand. This message is not new, and should always be practiced, but even more so now that you may have had a lengthy layoff. Consider this as part of your workout and you are more likely to complete it every time; don’t treat it as an option that is nice to do if you have the time. Make time! Foam rolling and soft tissue techniques, dynamic warm-up drills, and stability work should all be completed before jumping into a training session or your favorite class. Five to seven minutes can save you months in rehabbing an injury that could have been avoided.

Hydrate and Recover

Same as above, not a new message but a super-important one these days! Start hydrating now if you have been lacking in that area. Don’t wait until midway through a training session to start fluid intake. If you are following the rule of thumb and ingesting half your body weight in ounces of water daily, you are in a great position. Just like your warm-up, take the time to cool down and perform recovery drills post workout. These will help with soreness and increase mobility while slowing down your mind to focus on the victories you just grabbed in the workout. Slow down the systems and reward yourself for a job well done!

***

We were confident that this day would come when we could get back to our gyms, groups, and classes and get moving like we did before everything changed. Now that it is here, please take the proper steps in protecting yourself against injury or even worse. It may take some time to get back to where you once were, but it will be well worth it!

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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: injury prevention hydration recovery warming up mindset quarantine

Lockdown Lessons: Learning from a Crisis

GettyImages-823912910Daily, life provides countless learning opportunities that, if processed properly, can make us strong individuals capable of accomplishing extraordinary things. Some lessons stem from positive experiences in our lives, but I think the strongest lessons are derived from strife, hardship, and even failure. These lessons can hurt, and you can either live in the pain or learn from it. We are currently living a life full of learning opportunities that have and will continue to test our ability to grow.

I have learned so much during this time of crisis—about facets of daily life and of my profession, about myself and about people. In one of my recent posts outlining ways to “pivot” during stressful times, I encouraged you to write down and define a list of things you are grateful for. That same activity can be applied to lessons you learn each day. Take a moment daily, or weekly, to write down a few lessons that challenged you and how you learned from them. If you think about it, you should ink it for self-processing and to refer to later.

Here is a brief list of some of the greater lockdown lessons I have learned and have grown from.

I Don’t Hate Working from Home

In the past, I have always thought I would hate having a home office and not going to a physical place of work. Being in the people business and with the multitude of distractions that home life can add to your workday, I didn’t think I could be as productive, or that I would enjoy it. Now don’t get me wrong, I am counting the minutes until I can be back with people; that’s who I am. But I really don’t hate working from home right now. There is freedom in it, and it has provided ample time to really focus and get things done. It has helped harness my self-discipline, creativity, and a balance of work and life duties. I found some key behaviors to get the most out of your day working from home:

  • Keep a schedule: The early bird gets the worm. This goes for eating, too.
  • Dress up to show up: Get cleaned up and put on some proper attire.
  • Designate a work area: That is where you put in work.
  • Get up and move around often: I rotate work and chores to stay fresh.
  • Work out: Duh, exercise is crucial no matter where you are working from.
  • Don’t eat and work: Enjoy the quick break.
  • Log what you do: Some people are required to do this, but I think it’s a great reflection tool as well.
  • Shut it down: When your day is over, shut it down.

A New Appreciation for the Breadth of Social Media and Technology as an Educational and Behavioral Tool

I still consider myself quite the caveman when it comes to social media and all the technology that connects us as a community. But I have learned so much in a short time about so many ways I can affect others’ lives using many technological and media applications. From Zoom workout sessions to the many ways to post on all social media channels, there are countless ways to funnel information and great content to the masses. And although nothing can replace the feeling of connecting with someone in person, these tools provide a close second to reaching people. The strategies I have learned during this time using technology and social media will be used far after the lockdown is over and have made me a better fitness professional to serve people.

Great People Show Up in a Crisis

A crisis can bring out the best or the worst in people, but great people show up no matter the situation. Health care workers, first responders, and officials on the front line of the pandemic are owed our deepest gratitude for the work that they do. But I am also referring to coworkers, family members, and friends. Great people relish challenges and step up to provide solutions and take action to complete tasks and help others. I’ve learned a lot about many folks during this time, and that most people want to help as much as they can and find ways to do so. Your instructors and professionals at NIFS have answered the call and are proof that great people show up.

Fitness Matters

Once the stay-at-home order was set, it was amazing to see how many people were clamoring for ways to get their fitness fix. Fitness continues to be a huge part of so many lives, and as a fitness professional it was awesome to witness how important fitness and our industry are to people. Physical activity and exercise are still, and will always be, the best medicines to prevent and treat serious illnesses. I have seen so many stories of people who are healthy because of regular physical activity beat COVID-19 into submission.

Not only that, the response of so many people who wanted—nay, needed—to work out either virtually with others or family time fitness had been huge. Countless posts of people being active flooded social media, and folks flocked to virtual training sessions. It is not a new lesson to me that physical activity is the answer for so many things in our lives. It was great to learn that so many have heard the message and will do anything to get and remain active.

Adapt and Adjust

Don’t be that person who is the first to complain about a situation and the last to do something about it. We are going to encounter so many more challenges in our lives, both big and small, and the ability to adapt and adjust will be a lesson we use forever. Having the strength and grit to pivot and find ways to thrive during adversity are attributes that I believe are fortified during a crisis or negative situation.

The strategies and positive approaches you learn to implement during strife will pay huge dividends further down the road, whereas allowing the situation to consume you coupled with a negative mindset will lead to greater hardships even from smaller issues. Staying positive and taking time to think about how to adapt is how you learn to take on anything that may stand in your way. Taking action right away and not sitting on your hands waiting for something or someone to bail you out can be hard at times, but will be the only sure way to make it through and be a better version of yourself.    

School Is Always in Session

Last lesson: school is always in session, kids. Lessons can be found in any situation, and it will be those lessons that will serve you the rest of your life in great times and crisis. We will get through this; but “will you be new and improved because of it?” is the question. We will all need to learn a new way of living, at least for a little while. Find those lessons that are waiting for you and be a lifelong learner.

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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: exercise at home attitude technology mindset social media quarantine covid-19 lockdown work at home personal growth

Cheat Meal Is a Garbage Term—Strive for a Healthy Balance

GettyImages-492321666Can we just cut out the term “cheat meal” already? This fuels the idea that foods are “good” or “bad,” and, in turn, our food choices then become this reflection of us, as humans, being “good” or “bad.” News flash, you are not “bad” for eating a specific food.

Balancing Physical, Mental, and Social Health

Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, “is the state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” When we pursue our health goals, we need to consider all three aspects. Often we only think of the physical, such as disease state, body composition, and weight. While we are consumed in fixing the physical, we neglect the mental and social aspects, or the very methods to “fix” the physical start to interfere with our social and mental health.

For example, have you met the person who won’t enjoy an occasional outing with friends because they are on a diet? Goodbye social health. Or have you met the person who is restricting the foods they love, such as bread or chocolate, because they hope to meet some type of health goal? Goodbye mental health (let’s be real, chocolate is good for the soul). Nine times out of ten, what ends up happening? People quit. They binge and give in to whatever they have been restricting. Well, goodbye physical health. Repeat cycle.

Let’s break the cycle. Let’s throw away that “cheat meal” mentally and explore ways to shift your mindset.

Indulge Your Cravings

Denying your body the foods you crave leads to obsessing over that food and/or constantly eating other foods to fill the never-ending void. If you have a craving, give yourself permission to eat and plan it into your regimen. Let’s say you have a caloric goal of 2,000 calories per day, and you have been craving chips. Incorporate 1–2 servings of chips into your daily snack or a meal. Read the nutrition label, account for the calories in the serving(s), and apply them to your daily calorie goal. Then, ensure that the rest of your meals include high-quality, nutritious foods that fuel your body’s needs. This is called balance.

Enjoy Special Occasions

If you are going out for a date night or meal with your friends or family, ENJOY THE OCCASION. On the day of the event, try to eat lighter meals before and after, filling up on protein-rich sources. During the event, be sure to eat, laugh, and soak in the moment. Feed your social health. Then, move on with your life. Do not stay hung up on that one night, because one night will not derail your physical health progress. It’s the foods we eat consistently over time that matter.

Find Nutritious Swaps

Food swaps usually come in handy when preparing recipes. Identify the foods you love the most, such as pizza, brownies, tacos, dips, etc. Replace ingredients with choices that are lower-calorie or better for your specific health goals. For example, instead of high-fat red meat for tacos, try lean turkey. Instead of a pizza crust made with refined flour, try a crust made with whole grains. Swap the high-fat cheese for cheese made with skim or 1% milk. Like ice cream? Consider making ice cream out of frozen fruit or trying a frozen yogurt bar. Give Greek yogurt a try for the base of your dips. The possibilities are endless. This won’t work on everything, but it can for some food choices. Pinterest will come in handy here.

Honor Your Health

I will leave you with this final thought, because it is the most important concept: Honor your health. Registered Dietitian Evelyn Tribole says it best: “Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel good. Remember that you don’t have to eat perfectly to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or become unhealthy, from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters. Progress, not perfection, is what counts.”

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

Topics: nutrition healthy eating calories mindset cheat days emotional

7 Things You Can Do to Avoid Cabin Fever

GettyImages-1185186125It goes without saying; we’re living through some pretty odd times. With the onset of COVID-19, many of our lives have been flipped on their heads. For some, there has been less structure, and maybe a little more downtime, and that has the potential to make even the sanest of them all go a little stir-crazy.

Here are a few things that you can do today to help break the monotony (or break that Netflix binge) and add some flavor to your day.

Learn to play a new card or board game.

Remember that time your friends from Michigan asked if you wanted to play Euchre, and you responded with a shrug and said, “I’ve never played, can you teach me?” But they were too competitive to have the patience to do so? Is this oddly specific? Yes. But now is a perfect time to pick up a new game to play around the kitchen table. Whether its Euchre (I’m still working on it), Catan, or even perfecting your Poker face, take a break from professional development and instead work on learning a new game.

Play a round of Chopped: Home Pantry Edition.

For those of you who don’t frequent the Food Network, Chopped is a show in which four chefs compete against each other. In each round there are four “basket ingredients.” These basket ingredients must be used in some way, shape, or form, and typically end up being some off-the-wall, unexpected item that must then be used to create an appetizer, entrée, or dessert. After you’ve reorganized your pantry (because goodness knows there’s time now), take that flavored olive oil, an overly ripe banana, a packet of oatmeal, and a can of tuna and see what you come up with! Okay, maybe use some more tasty items, but you get the idea. Now, grab that apron and get cooking!

Reorganize your living room furniture.

This has the built-in benefit of killing two birds with one stone. Not only do you try your hand at being Joanna Gaines (you know, from Fixer Upper), but you also engineer a little extra movement into your day. Sometimes just a quick rearrangement can make that space you’ve been spending a lot more time in feel brand new. Just make sure you don’t take it a step too far and channel your inner Chip Gaines for a demo-day. (Jokes!)

Make a scrapbook of that awesome vacation from 3 years ago.

We all know you probably took a bajillion pictures when you were out West on that road trip, many of which didn’t make the Instagram cut. So break out the scissors, cardboard, stickers from all the places you explored, and of course all the goofy photos you snapped, and get down to business!

Finally finish that book that’s been sitting on your bedside table.

We’ve all seen those articles, right? Something along the lines of “How CEOs Read 247 Books a Week.” Well now’s a great chance to pick up that half-read book and finish the darn thing! Even if you’re not a bonafide bookworm, maybe check out something like a history of your favorite sports team, a biography from a standup comedian you love, or the book version of one of your favorite movies or shows to see how they compare.

Call a loved one or a friend you want to reconnect with.

While we’re adjusting to this new normal and practicing social distancing, that doesn’t mean that social isolation has to be part of the equation. As humans, we are social creatures by nature. So, that quick phone call to check in on your mom or dad, your good friend from college, or that coworker you really miss can go a long way in lifting your spirits, as well as theirs.

If you’re restless, get up and move!

As a blog writer for a fitness center, this one may seem like “duh, Lauren, we get it.” And I know most of us have probably had our Facebook page, Instagram timeline, and Twitter feed bombarded with versions of at-home workouts. But I think there is a lot of truth behind the notion that movement is medicine. If you’re restless, do a one-minute workout. If the weather’s nice where you are, get outside for a breath of literal fresh air. If you have a makeshift garage gym, blast some “Eye of the Tiger” and duplicate a Rocky training montage. However you choose to move, chances are you’ll come out in a better mood on the other side.

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This blog was written by Lauren Zakrajsek, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer, and Internship Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: attitude mindset illness prevention mental health quarantine covid-19 coronavirus

Pivot: Ways to Adjust Your Mindset and Grow During Quarantine

GettyImages-637192394During these unprecedented times of self- and mandated quarantines and stay-at-home orders, it can be easy to slip into a negative mindset accompanied by fear of the unknown and worry about how you are going to get through this. Self-quarantine does not have to be void of self-improvement. Social media is drenched with ideas and strategies to keep up your physical fitness at home with a million bodyweight workouts and DIY fitness equipment ideas. I’m partial to the elite content that the NIFS pros are providing daily, obviously, but there is no shortage of methods out there to keep moving at home. But what about emotional and mental fitness, and how to continue the work on YOU that makes us strong individuals inside and out?

A motto that I live by daily is to focus on how you choose to react to an unavoidable situation and not let the situation itself dictate your response. Many things are out of our control, but we can control the way we react. I’m sure you’ve seen that poster sometime in your life, and I think it is the only way you can actually control a situation you find yourself in. This fight against COVID-19 is no different; the situation itself is out of our control, but the way we choose to react and manage the situation is.

Strategies for Mindset Pivot

So how can we PIVOT our mindset and continue our self-growth through this crazy situation? I have a few strategies that you can put in place right away, starting with the mindset PIVOT.

Be Grateful

List and define the things that you are grateful for right now. Obviously, this is not an ideal situation we are all going through, but what are the things that you have or that are going on in your life that you are so thankful for? Here are a few of mine:

  • I’m healthy.
  • My loved ones are healthy.
  • I’m still able to remain employed and help others.
  • I have a safe and comfortable home.
  • I have ample food.

I’ll bet as soon as you put pen to paper and write out those things you are grateful for, you will begin to pivot to a more positive mindset.

Laugh

Find ways to laugh daily. Maybe it’s listening to your favorite comedian or catching a comedy on Netflix. Laughter can change a mindset pretty quickly and will focus attention away from the troubling news we face these days.

Connect

Spend time with your family that is with you and reach out to those who are not. You have some time now to really connect with the people you care about the most. Play a game with the kids, call someone you haven’t talked to in a while, send an email, or Skype. There are so many ways you can connect with others. Stay connected; you have the time now.

Move

There are a number of ways you can remain active at home. As I stated before, there is no shortage of drills and workouts you can do with little and no equipment online and on social media. Follow your NIFS Pros on IG and Facebook and be sure to check out our blogs for a ton of fitness strategies you can do at home:

Be sure to PLAY as well, an aspect of fitness that often gets overlooked. Play and smile!

Strategies for Self-Growth

Even though you may be a homebody these days, it doesn’t mean you have to stop the growth of who you are as an individual, professional, parent, sibling, and other identities that you carry with you. The list of things you can do to grow and not slow down during this time is long. Here are just a few to wet your whistle:

  • Read a book(or books) covering a topic you want to learn more about.
  • Listen to a podcast.
  • Watch a documentary, take a break from the world of fiction to gain knowledge of an interesting topic.
  • Help the kids with their e-learning.
  • Evaluate and adjust those New Year’s goals you wrote down a few months ago.
  • Plan a future vacation and determine the steps needed to get you there.
  • Journal daily thoughts, kind of like a “captain’s log” type of thing.
  • Take a nap.
  • Keep moving (see above).
  • Hop on a webinar.
  • Declutter the house and give it a deep clean.

We are going to get through this and return to our lives outside of the house. A challenge to you is to be a better YOU than you were at the beginning of this pandemic. Taking action during this time to maintain a positive mindset and to continue to grow mentally and emotionally will set you up for success when you reenter the world. Control your reaction, take action, and we will come out of this situation better than ever!

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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: exercise at home resolutions attitude mental videos mindset illness prevention positive attitude viruses COVID-10 quarantine

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

How to Get in the Flow with Your Workouts

When was the last time you were so immersed in an activity or project that you completely lost your sense of time and surroundings, and nothing else seemed to matter? Hopefully it was fairly recently, because these types of experiences are among the most enjoyable a person can have. You might have heard this described as being in “the flow” or “the zone.” The event that came to mind was likely one in which you are highly trained, or at least felt a healthy amount of challenge. Those are often the strongest sources of “flow states,” as psychological researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has reported in his book Finding Flow: The Psychology Of Engagement With Everyday Life. My goal is to provide you with some tools to help bring about that state of mind in your workouts, and even in your daily life.

GettyImages-1149614540The Rules of Being in the Flow

In order to fully understand the rules of being in the flow, it is helpful to use a tennis match as an analogy. Imagine Roger Federer, arguably the best tennis player of all time, playing against a ten-year-old tennis player who’s only taken a handful of lessons. Assuming Federer isn’t taking it easy, the outcome of the match is going to be completely lopsided. The ten-year-old beginner will almost instantly become anxious and discouraged, while Roger Federer will quickly grow extremely bored.

Make sure the challenge of the task at hand is appropriate for your skill level.

These two extreme emotional states lie on opposite ends of the flow state continuum. In essence, the most entertaining tennis match to both play in and watch is one in which the players are fairly equally matched. The point at which the two skill levels meet provides the highest possible level of challenge for each player. This is the underlying concept of being in a flow state, or being in “the zone.” The challenge at hand must equal the skill level of the participant. Otherwise, the task might be too easy and become boring, or the challenge is too much to overcome and you’ll be discouraged.

This might sound like common sense, but it can often be difficult to put into practice. The art of maintaining this balance comes from properly increasing the difficulty level at the correct time, otherwise you risk either boredom if the task becomes too easy or frustration if it’s too difficult.

Steps for Getting in the Flow

GettyImages-9280883901. Have a plan, and don’t cheat.

Your workout plan will, and should, be different from anyone else’s. This is because, as Dr. Seuss said, “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.” As correct as these words are, the worst possible plan followed religiously will always be better than the best plan that you quit after one week. Having a plan takes away the anxiety of not knowing what you’ll be doing for each workout. The cognitive effort it takes to develop a workout every time you hit the gym can be overwhelming enough to discourage even the most disciplined folks. Developing a plan can be challenging in itself, however, so you should always seek the guidance of a skilled professional if you’re unsure. In any case, any plan that is followed consistently will still be better than no plan at all.

2. Start slow, and progress intelligently.

Typically I will start a client on a level at which it’s virtually impossible to fail, even bordering on too easy at times. As soon as I notice it’s too easy, it’s time to quickly advance to the next step. If you’re following along, you might notice that this is breaking the rule of the challenge meeting the skill level. However, it’s far more beneficial to start simply and build the confidence to move on quickly than it is to start with something far too advanced and completely discourage the individual with whom I’m working, or worse, cause an injury. If you’re unsure what your starting point is, check out one of our many fitness assessments we offer here at NIFS. I always recommend establishing a baseline dependent upon your goal(s). After all, you can’t get where you’re going if you don’t know where you are.

3. Diligently track your progress.

This means recording your workouts consistently. Just as you need your starting point, you’ll benefit greatly from tracking your week-to-week, or even day-to-day progress. What you are recording is less important than staying consistent with your tracking. Some items I highly recommend tracking are the following:

  • Volume (sets x reps)
  • Load/Intensity (resistance, weight, speed, etc.)
  • Rate of Perceived Exertion (how difficult was a particular set, exercise, or workout?)

Try to implement one or all three of these strategies into your exercise routine and see if it helps you find a groove in your workouts!

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This blog was written by David Schoch, CSCS, FMS, Healthy Lifestyle Coordinator at NIFS. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: workouts attitude mindset assessment flow

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