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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Improve Your Weakness: Train Your Fitness Flaws

FMS-NewWouldn’t it be satisfying to not be weak at something? We’re all born with differing personality traits and those exist as either our strength or our weakness. We are generally aware of these traits, which fall on either side of the line. It is normal to single out our strengths to share and use publicly because we are proud of them. However, it makes sense that we downplay our weaknesses and hide them as much as possible. It is also our human nature to speculate how we stack up in comparison to other individuals. Whether applying for a new job, competing in a sporting event, or even scrolling through social media, we are looking to see how others are doing and comparing ourselves to them.

Here, I will explore the benefits of training your flaw—in other words, making your weaknesses your strengths.

Individual Goals and Beliefs

Everyone has their own goals and beliefs, but if it were up to me, I would rather be decent at several things than great at only one. When it comes to health and fitness, I urge you to be a well-rounded individual. Whereas the nutrition aspect is difficult for some, others might have the self-control and discipline to succeed at it. Some people might enjoy a good sweat session when others despise even setting foot in a fitness center for various reasons.

We gravitate toward what comes easy or what we enjoy more, leaving behind what we dislike, and that which needs the most work. My goal is to be the best version of myself no matter how long it takes. To accomplish this, I must first identify my weaknesses and dislikes. Once I complete this, the next step is to set new goals and come up with a plan of attack. This typically means starting with the weakest links.

Pinpoint Your Weaknesses

You may or may not have specific goals, so I will explain by sharing examples. The first example is CrossFit. I personally do not participate in CrossFit; however, the concept is quite clever. Their quest to attain the title of “Fittest on Earth” stems from being the ultimate athlete. CrossFit has identified 10 measurable fitness categories, such as stamina, strength, power, speed, flexibility, balance, coordination, agility, accuracy, and cardiovascular fitness. If every exercise that ever existed were written on slips of paper and you had to draw one out of the hat and complete it, could you do it and do it efficiently?

Another example would be the use of the Functional Movement Screen (FMS). It scores me based on what I am proficient at and where I fall short within seven distinct movement patterns seen not only in exercise, but also in day-to-day life. The strategic plan of attack is to start with the lowest scores to make them better so that all the other movement patterns can improve as well. Basically, the test pinpoints your weakest link (movement pattern), and the goal is to improve the movement and restore function by reducing the risk of injury.

NIFS staff members are certified to not only complete the FMS testing, but also to design corrective exercises and workout plans tailored to individual needs. Contact one of our Health Fitness Instructors, who can assist you in testing what may be a weak point for you (such as the bench press, squat, deadlift, pull-ups, stamina, mobility, and so on).

Strive for Progress

Lastly, it’s no secret that we tend to shy away from what we aren’t good at, even when it comes to our health and fitness. With some courage and the help of others, we can begin to expose our downfalls and identify weaknesses we may be blind to and start finding ways to make improvements. We should always be striving for progress rather than perfection. Find a program that improves on your weaknesses. Growth and change are not easy, but the benefits you gain are well worth it! 

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This blog was written by Cara Hartman, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS fitness center nifs staff personal training CrossFit goals fitness assessment

She Said She Could, SO SHE DID!: From Novice to Marathoner to Coach

“She said she could, SO SHE DID.”

These were the words in the back of my brain as I journeyed to my third marathon finish line, crossing it on November 3, 2018, with a newfound respect for the sport.

The Inspiration

In 2009 as a 16-year-old high school girl, I heard some words from my mom I never wanted to hear, not just from her but from anyone: “I have breast cancer.” These words changed my life. I immediately became fearful of losing my mom, and in my moments of needing time to breathe and destress I turned to running. Running became my time to forget everything going on around me, and enjoy the beauty of nature and fresh air. It became my time to fully take advantage of these things, realizing at any moment in our life they could potentially be taken away. My mom survived two cancers, and to this day still wakes up getting to enjoy those beautiful things as well as her family and friends who helped her fight through her tough times.

The Journey Begins

Marathon 1- DC

After discovering this new love for running and fitness, I wanted to dive deeper into it. As a kinesiology major at Indiana University in 2011, I took on a part-time job at the IU Student Recreational Center, where I began teaching running group fitness classes called “Trekking.” These classes were 30–45-minute runs that everyone could participate in at their own pace, and motivated people to get in their general health cardio recommendations through walking/running. I fell in love with the sport even more after this. During my college years, I also began hanging out with friends who enjoyed running as their go-to for general fitness too, and we turned our passion into weekend fun by participating in 5K races.

The Next Level

Marathon 2-ChiIn 2014, I moved to NYC where I was going to pursue my passion for fitness in the fitness capital of the world. I was surrounded by some of the top fitness professionals and eager to learn more and more every day. In addition to this new lifestyle also came new stress. I turned to running again, and in one of the best parks you can run in, NYC’s Central Park. Weekends were filled with seeing long-distance endurance athletes racing. Novembers were filled with spectating one of the biggest marathons in the U.S. right outside my Upper East Side apartment: the New York City Marathon. I was inspired! In addition to my running solo, I also began taking classes at Barry’s Bootcamp from top trainers, including Nike Trainer Ashley Wilking, and hanging out with Jessica Woods, a Nike Run Coach and Ultra Marathoner herself. In February 2016, I ran my first marathon in Washington, D.C., where I completed with a goal in mind of under 4 hours, and finished at 3:54.

This “runner’s high” was real. I immediately signed up for half-marathons and started training harder, and in October 2016 ran my second half-marathon for a breast cancer charity in Chicago, and set a personal record at a pace of 3:48. I was shocked by what the power of my body could do. But then I burned out after completing two marathons, two half-marathons, and endless hours of intense training through 2016.

A New Journey

After teaching thousands of fitness classes and achieving personal fitness goals, I was ready for my next journey to learn the business side of fitness. I took 2017 and half of 2018 to recover my body physically, and gain strengths in two new areas of my life: mindfulness (Strength Through Stillness) and business.

In that time, I experienced management in two different types of fitness setting, boutique fitness and the standard gym setting. I also began tuning into meditation daily, and focusing on the strength in my mind I had been experiencing while running. I was ready to sit in stillness and challenge myself in a new way.

My Mindful Marathon Experience

Screen Shot 2018-11-29 at 11.42.16 AMOn August 15, 2018, I took on the role of coach for the NIFS Monumental Half/Full Marathon Training Program. Day 1, one of the participants told me he had just started running, and wanted to complete a marathon. He was one of two participants to sign up for the Full Training Program, and one of the only runners who had never participated in a running event before, including 5Ks or shorter-distance races. But he was determined to go the full 26.2 miles, and I was ready to coach him every step of the way. My knowledge from past experiences and mindfulness was the approach I took into this training and journey to get him to the finish line. When times got tough, I reminded myself of my 12-week goal motto “She believed she could, so she did.”

Nestor crossed the finish line and is now a marathoner. My passion for running now holds a new place in my heart as I experienced coaching someone to achieve an amazing goal. I will never forget seeing him run through the finish line with the biggest smile as tears of happiness came running down my face, and getting the biggest hug of happiness every coach hopes for.

Mini_logo_2019_smallInterested in training for the Mini? NIFS Mini Marathon & 5K training program registration is now open!

REGISTER TODAY!

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: running marathon training half marathon nifs staff goals mindfulness

Five Great Things About the 5th Annual NIFS Powerlifting Competition

IMG_0151Almost five years ago, the team and I hosted the first ever powerlifting event here at NIFS. Also known as the Iron Triathlon (shirt slogan spoiler alert), the first year was a modest one with 25 athletes competing. This year, the competition registration sold out in just under three days! From our humble beginnings to this year’s event, it’s been a ride. There has been so much hard work, resulting in so many smiles and victories for both the athletes and the crew. We have learned a lot from year one to now, and we have developed from our challenges and gotten better each year.

As we near this year’s NIFS Powerlifting Competition coming up on November 10, I found myself wondering what were some of the best things that have happened in the five years of this event. Here are the five best results to come from the past five years.

Growth

As mentioned before, our first event consisted of 25 athletes who put on a great show and set the tone for years to come. The next year we doubled our registration. Obviously the word got out that the athletes, event staff, and environment were second to none. We increased again the third year and sold out the 4th and 5th annual competitions. The team and I couldn’t be prouder to provide such a great event that athletes and spectators are flocking to Indianapolis to compete in and witness.

“The competition was amazing and it was extremely smooth from setup to setup. I will definitely recommend NIFS to anyone, and the crew you had there was stellar. I’ve volunteered for a few powerlifting meets myself and I understand how exhausting just setting everything up can be. The atmosphere was great.”
—Damon Bryant

Competition

As the number of registrations rose, so did the level of competition. Athletes were coming from other states to compete, and they all brought their talents to Indy to win. We have seen Squats and Deadlifts over 700 pounds and Bench numbers surpassing the 300 and even 400-pound mark. Our first event had five female athletes competing; this year there are 22! It’s awesome to see so many strong women competing.

"I would say that this is a great first meet for any beginner powerlifter or anyone interested in pushing their body to their weightlifting limits. It gives you the chance to compete against people around your body type and ultimately see what you're made of."   
—Tyler Mullen

Comradery

IMG_0363One thing we hear a lot is how inclusive and supportive the environment is on event day. Even though athletes arrive to be victorious over one another, they all support and cheer on each other to do their best. I think the sport of powerlifting is just this way, but I also think the NIFS event intensifies the comradery among these athletes. It sounds corny, but there is something in the air that day, something that reinforces that it’s “WE” and not just “I.”

"I loved how encouraging everyone was. Even though it was a competition, people were constantly saying ‘you can do it’ or ‘great job’. High-fives were everywhere and it was awesome. PLUS all the free goodies—what college kid doesn’t love free stuff?"  
Madison Stewart

Victories

One of the coolest aspects of our event is that, for many, it’s their first competition. As a non-sanctioned meet, it’s a great first step to see whether the sport of powerlifting is for you. So many first-time lifters, those who maybe once thought they couldn’t succeed in this kind of competition, have not only competed, but have taken home some hardware. There’s nothing like witnessing someone take on their fears and conquer them; it is so powerful!

"This was my first powerlifting meet, and I was a little nervous coming in not really knowing what to expect. However, EVERYONE was very nice, including the staff running the event and the competitors that were competing. After doing several powerlifting meets after this one, this one ran the smoothest and fastest by far. It was an amazing atmosphere with lots of spectators and everyone cheering you on every single lift.”
—Bailey Schober

Athletes

The amazing staff and crew are responsible for providing an energetic and smooth event, and so many thanks go out to each team over the past four years. But it’s the athletes who put on the show. I have had the great pleasure to meet and work with some pretty outstanding individuals during the past four years of this competition. These athletes work so hard for so long to put it all on the line that day, and they do such a phenomenal job. Of all the enjoyable aspects of this event, being around all these amazing athletes is by far my favorite. Having the opportunity to learn about them, maybe meet their families that day, and be able to give them that last word of encouragement before their last attempt at a PR—it lights me up! I know I speak for the entire crew that we cannot wait to get underway on November 10!

“NIFS is one of my favorite competitions each year because of the great people that make it all possible. Thank you for hosting such a great event that I look forward to returning to each year!”
—Ben Poore

So if you are interested in seeing why this event is so awesome, put it on your calendar for November 10, and witness the spectacle and a bunch of bars bending. Lifting begins at 9am, and it’s a measly $5 per person. Kids 12 and under get in free. We hope to see you all there!

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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 staff NIFS programs weightlifting Indianapolis competition NIFS Powerlifting Competition

A Spoonful of Fitness: Should You Work Out When You’re Sick?

GettyImages-674772578-1Have you ever woken up feeling like a truck ran you over? This might be due to an underlying illness; whether it be a cold, flu, bronchitis, or some other bug, it seems to happen to everyone at least once per year. When it comes to fitness, we sometimes have to make a choice: “Should I work out or should I rest?” The answer to this is not as cut and dried as it might seem. We’ll look at when it’s a good idea to stay home and chill and when you can just “sweat it out.”

Making the Call: Should I Cancel My Workout?

Sometimes just keeping up with your daily routines can help you feel better, especially as you move through the day. You might even pick up energy from exercise and activity instead of staying idle at home. A few guidelines dictate whether you should green-light a workout. According to experts, a major factor to consider is body temperature. Having any kind of fever is an immediate red flag, especially at more than 101 degrees. Another obvious red flag is if you are unable to keep fluids down. Anytime you are dehydrated, your body does not function at peak capacity. Here are some additional ideas to help make the decision.

Going Back to Working Out After Being Sick

When you feel like you are ready to go back to the gym, try to ease into your workout. Your body (namely your T-cells) has been fighting a battle. A quick assessment of your symptoms should give you a good indication of whether you are good to go. Temperature, fluids, and blood pressure are all surefire ways to draw that line in the sand.

How to Keep from Getting Sick Again

Finally, you should hopefully, at this point in your life, understand the importance of illness prevention—not only for you, but also for those around you. The routine of washing hands wasn’t widely practiced until about 150 years ago when a Hungarian doctor named Ignaz Semmelweis discovered that when his crew washed their hands between patients, the number of diseased and dying patients dropped off immediately. The long forgotten disease, puerperal fever (sometimes known as childbed fever) was nearly eradicated by simply implementing a hand-washing regimen. Today’s world allows almost endless opportunities to not only transmit illness, but also prevent them. Enough history lessons, though. You get the point: wash your hands often, please.

Ask for Help from the NIFS Staff

NIFS staff can help you in a number of ways, especially when deciding whether exercise is right for you when you are not feeling well. Blood pressure monitors, both electronic and manual, as well as an oxygen sensor are available to all members. A well-stocked first aid kit and a staff well versed in first aid and safety are also on your side. Always remember, your workout is important, but your health is priceless.

Muscleheads evolve (and rejoice)

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness center Thomas' Corner nifs staff workout illness oxygen illness prevention handwashing

Are You Ready for Fitness Change? Meet the NIFS Trainers Who Can Help

BarreChange is scary. Getting in a comfort zone, routine, or pattern is easy. But why is change for success so trendy nowadays? This applies to all areas of life. Change your diet habits and you start to “magically" lose weight. Change your workout routine and you start to “magically" see results. Change your spending habits and you start to “magically” save more. Change your mind and commit, and you realize change isn't scary; it’s successful.

Use Change to Make Changes

I have worked at many fitness studios and gyms, tried many fitness trends and challenges, and been given crap when I tell clients we are doing something different today. But then I explain why and it changes their minds. I'm a firm believer in giving it a chance. You can try something new, and if it doesn't work or you don't like it, we can always change it back to what it was. 

I started at NIFS not realizing how much they change the workouts to keep creating beneficial results. I was prepped to manage a typical gym where trainers just keep making you pick up the same weights, do the same motions, and make you do something you “hate” to make it seem like the workout was hard and make bank off that concept. The NIFS program changes weekly. You’re set on a four-week plan, but the staff varies your workout routine in that time by changing your sets, reps, and weights. Then by week 5, there is a new plan, new changes, new results, and new continued growth.

Here are some examples of the experiences and results you can get from working with various members of the NIFS staff:

  • Take a small group training class from Tony, and he guides you through this process with motivation to make it easy.
  • Take a Barre class with Brittany and she uses the same concept with a gentle tone, breath cueing, and education as to why your muscles might start shaking in temporary discomfort the way they do: because they are changing; because they are growing stronger!
  • Try a program challenge with Crystal, and you’ll see that the success stories of members we put up on the Brag Board who are excited to share their accomplishments are truly amazing. It's because they weren't bored doing the same thing weekly. The variety created results, change, strength, and an awesome brag-worthy story.
  • Weight loss is another common goal for members, and we have a program specifically for that with Ashley. Did you know that more than 50 percent of Ashley's day is spent with members who are accomplishing weight-loss success with her guidance? Not just that; as a wife, mom, and caretaker for a child at home, she comes in on weekends to care for her clients. She plans fun meet-ups and gatherings so her clients don't lose track of their goals with the common "weekends don't count" excuse. 
  • Thomas might arguably have the hardest job out there. "My TV channel isn't working,” or "This machine is broken,” are just a few things I have heard members say to him. Within 24 hours, I bet it has been fixed. Because Thomas cares about the members’ happiness—whether that's watching their favorite show or working out on their favorite machine—he is the handyman of the team. Feedback is his cue to grab the toolbox and take action.

Teamwork Does Make the Dream Work

With a wide variety of options, there is always something for everyone. As a team, we don't let change hold us back. We teach our clients that change creates results. We all practice change daily and are never doing the same thing at our desks, but we’re creating programs, events, or requests that will change a member’s experience to be the most beneficial. So are you ready to change your mind, change up your routine, and achieve your goals? There are endless options. Find a place to start and follow through. We are here for you! 

Heading into my third month here, I am grateful to have witnessed the great work of the trainers from the perspective of fresh eyes. Most of the team has been here for five years or more, but that same daily intention to help clients with results and enter the door with passion is why NIFS has been successful for 30 years and will continue growing, because our knowledge behind change is more than a trend; it’s a success story that will continue to be written.

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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: fitness center weight loss nifs staff making changes barre small group training teamwork

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

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

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

Three Tips for Choosing an Exercise Program

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

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

NIFS and Your Fitness Goal-Setting

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

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

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

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

Healthy Habits: Swap the Bar for the Barre!

GettyImages-680250948Creating healthy habits is a challenge for most people. Doesn't sitting at a bar with a glass of wine sound much easier than going to the gym and taking a barre class after work? In the moment, YES; but which is more beneficial for your health and longevity?

NIFS is passionate about educating gym-goers to create healthy habits, and our staff is here to help members achieve that. As NIFS’ new Group Fitness Coordinator, I am excited to bring Barre Fusion to the NIFS group fitness schedule, and love motivating others to take this class to feel all the benefits. 

So What Is This Workout? 

Barre Fusion classes are getting a lot of hype these days for providing amazing results—not just physically, but also mentally. This workout is designed to strengthen and tone all areas of the body while also providing length in a balanced format through breath. The class aids in small movements to target the stabilizing muscles in the body, which are often untrained in a standard workout. Strengthening these muscles is proven to benefit with core strength and balance as well as prevent injury.

The pace of the class is quicker than a yoga class, creating a cardiovascular aspect through quick transitions but still focusing on the elements of flexibility and breathing that you'd find in a yoga class. By training the body in this format, you are also improving your mindfulness, which will lead to wanting to live a life filled with more healthy habits.

Lisa Williams, avid Group Fitness attendee, says, "This is one of my new favorite all-over workouts! I absolutely love it! With the small movements we do, you can feel a burn in your muscles that you know are getting stronger each class. It also helps tone, as I have already noticed a change in my outfits from it! I also like the variety of the class. Although the flow is the same, you don’t continually do the same exercises. I never leave the class feeling like I didn’t get an amazing workout! I suggest all to try it!"

What Is a Habit?

A habit is a routine or pattern you adapt to. Some habits have negative effects; and some have positive effects. It's often easy to read about what we should be doing, but actually getting out of our comfort zone to create a new habit is a challenge. 

So How Do You Change Habits? 

Create new ones, but ease into it. Stopping anything cold turkey can often just lead to reverting back to that habit. Finding a healthy habit you enjoy and slowly incorporating it into your life is key. For example, do you enjoy going to a bar after work for the atmosphere of the music and people? Maybe start by swapping "the bar" one day a week for "barre." Coming to a group Barre Fusion class will create an atmosphere of music and people, but in a healthy format. Not only that, the calories and sugar often found in drinking are proven to cause health problems, while working out is proven to lead to healthy results.

So the choice is yours! Join NIFS for a healthy option, and try a group fitness class for free! To check out the Group Fitness schedule and all NIFS has to offer, click here.

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

Topics: cardio healthy habits yoga group fitness workouts nifs staff music mindfulness barre

Sports Nutrition: Feeding a(n) (Olympic) Village

GettyImages-172964901.jpgEvery couple of years, the world’s best athletes get to compete in either the winter or summer Olympics, and I have been wondering about what they eat! I know as a dietitian I am obsessed with food, but surely other people wonder about sports nutrition on this kind of scale, too. These elite athletes have a routine when it comes to their nutrition, especially before competition. Then they are put into a situation where they have a giant smorgasbord of choices in the Olympic Village. How hard it must be to try to stick to their plan…at least until their event is over.

Here are some food stats from previous Olympics that I found interesting.

London 1948 and 2012

In the 1948 games in London, which was the first Olympics after the war, food shortages meant that each country had to bring food for its athletes. Things have definitely changed, and in the 2012 summer Olympics in London, they ordered 25,000 loaves of bread and 232 tons of potatoes for the 2 weeks during the games. For protein, they had 100 tons of beef, 31 tons of poultry, and 82 tons of seafood. Luckily, there was plenty of produce to balance the carbs and protein; they ordered 330 tons of fruits and vegetables. Water was the most popular beverage, but after that it was milk, with 75,000 liters consumed!

Rio 2016

In the 2016 summer games in Rio at its peak demand, they fed 18,000 people per day and were open for 24 hours, so athletes could eat whenever their schedules allowed. They served over 40 varieties of exotic fruit such as acai, carambola, and maracuja (passion fruit). The buffets included cuisines such as Brazilian, Asian, International, pasta and pizza, and halal and kosher offerings. The kitchen was the size of a football field and the dining area was larger than two football fields.

Something that could potentially be an obstacle for athletes was the giant and free McDonalds that was the centerpiece of the dining hall. This has been an Olympic Village staple since the company first became a sponsor in 1976.One great thing they did in Rio was to donate the leftover food each night. They provided more than 100 meals on average nightly to the homeless.

PyeongChang 2018

At this year’s winter games in PyeongChang, South Korea, they are expected to serve 5 million meals at 13 different venues. This is for 6,000 athletes and officials during the Olympics and 1,700 athletes and officials during the Paralympics. As with other locations, they will serve plenty of food that is local to South Korea to promote their culture to athletes from other regions. There are drinking fountains at all of the venues, but the ones on the mountains will need an anti-freezing machine to keep the water from freezing. There is a different menu every day, and information about the recipes, nutritional facts, and allergens will be made available to those who ask.

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Even world-class athletes are susceptible to the pitfalls of buffets, especially ones as large and varied as the ones at the Olympic Village. So most coaches have now discussed these issues and encouraged a plan when it comes to food. Or they tend to pack suitcases full of familiar foods to guarantee they have what they need. Having the proper nutrition can be the difference between a gold medal and a silver medal. They can enjoy the free McDonalds and all-you-can-eat buffets after their events.

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition nifs staff athletes sports nutrition olympics

Caffeine Free: Breaking the Habit

GettyImages-911432182.jpgLike most people, I’m busy: full-time job, kids, a house… and in my “spare time,” I’m a high school tennis coach and play a lot of tennis. A few years back I started having issues with exhaustion (go figure). Right around 4pm I would just be overcome with complete, hit-the-couch, exhaustion. The only way to make it through the rest of my busy day seemed to be one more caffeinated drink.

I’m not a coffee drinker, so my drink of choice to get going in the morning was an AdvoCare energy drink called Spark®. I loved my Spark®, probably as much as most people love their coffee. I personally had no issue with using stimulants to keep me going through my day, but that changed one day recently on my drive home from work.

The Impact of Stimulants on the Brain

While listening to Fresh Air on NPR, I heard a discussion on sleep with sleep scientist Matthew Walker. Part of the talk discussed the effects of caffeine on the brain and how it alters the natural functions of the brain, including the buildup of adenosine. Adenosine is a chemical in the brain that builds up throughout the day, edging you to sleep. Caffeine comes into the brain and masks the effects of adenosine on the brain so that you are fully awake. One problem is that adenosine continues to build up, so when the caffeine wears off, you have additional levels of adenosine in your brain. This creates the effect we know as caffeine crash.

This made me think about what I had been putting in my body and the fact that I was using caffeine to mask the real issue I was having: not enough sleep. This one show made me rethink how I was treating my brain and how I had allowed caffeine to creep solidly into my everyday habits. It also reminded me that I was disregarding the need for one of the most critical things needed by the body and brain, sleep.

Giving Up Stimulants and Getting More Rest

Three months ago, I quit caffeine drinks cold turkey: no Spark®, colas, or energy drinks. In addition, I put the theory to the test and began carving out eight hours for sleeping each night. At first it took a bit more structuring, but now I don’t allow myself not to get a full night’s rest.

The results have been pretty amazing to me. In the first few weeks after quitting caffeine, I can honestly say that I was not tired. My energy levels were good all day and I was tired at the right time in the evenings, leading up to a decent bedtime and better sleep. I have also lost the cravings I had for those caffeinated drinks, which is an added bonus since I didn't have to worry about ordering more Spark® each month.

Many will tell you there are pros and cons to quitting caffeine but for me its one of the best things I have done for my health recently. Cutting caffeine has allowed my brain to function the way it was meant to, without a stimulate to interfere. For me, that is a step in the right direction.

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This blog was written by Trudy Coler, NIFS Communications and Social Media Director. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: healthy habits nifs staff sleep energy caffeine brain

NIFS Personal Trainer Takes on a Triathlon Challenge (Part 3)

IMG_9672.jpgWe have followed NIFS trainer Crystal Anne Belen throughout her triathlon training program experience (see part 1 and part 2). It’s finally time for the race, the moment the entire group has been waiting for and anticipating for the past 2½ months. Let’s hear from Crystal about her experience!

It’s the week of the race and training is complete. A lot of preparation has happened over the last 10 weeks. The hard part is over. Hydrating, breathing drills, staying healthy, visualization, staying positive, and relaxing were my areas of focus. By the end of training, I was feeling confident with my transitions and prepared for the race.

Goal: 500m Swim, 10-Mile Bike, 3-Mile Run

At the start of the race, I felt the excitement in the atmosphere! Almost 400 athletes were there to compete, and everyone had worked so hard for this moment. From my perspective, the distance didn’t look that far to swim in the open water. As I stood there waiting for my time to enter the reservoir, I was determined to conquer it, and there wasn’t anything that was going to stop me. However, the swim turned out a lot harder than I expected. I unfortunately found myself going kayak-to-kayak, needing assistance, and eventually met George, a gentleman who stuck with me as far as I could go. He encouraged me as I went along and said that he was there for me whenever I needed him. No matter how long it was going to take me, I was determined to finish the swimming portion.

I swam about halfway through the 500m, and there came a point where I was taking too long in the water and was told that I had to be picked up in the boat to catch up with the rest of the swimmers. Along with a few other ladies, sitting in the boat in tears, I was disappointed in myself. The official who picked us up offered that if we wanted to swim the last 50m, we could get back in. I wasn’t about to end the swim in total defeat, so I got back in the water and swam the rest of the way in.

The Ride

While I thought that the obstacles were over for me, the bike portion of the race brought even more roadblocks. I started off with a nice, quick transition to begin the ride. Determined to make up some time from the swim and knowing that I couldn't let the swim get to me, I came upon the first hill of the race and ended up running into a problem immediately. As I shifted gears, my chain came off my bike and I ended up having to pull off the road to put my chain back on.

After getting my chain back on, I rode for the next 6 miles, passing a few ladies, but then another unexpected mishap took place. As I shifted gears on another hill, my bike came to an abrupt stop. Emotionally done, I had had enough, and the disappointment of all the training I did for nothing was overwhelming. Another gentleman came and asked if I needed any help. He tried to see what was wrong with it, spent a few minutes looking at it, and ended up telling me that I was going to have to walk my bike the rest of the race. My derailleur flipped over and would catch in my spindle, not even allowing me to pedal. Beyond frustrated and embarrassed, I wasn’t able to keep the positive mindset I had been working toward, although I was still determined to complete the course. It had to happen.

While walking the rest of the course, an unexpected turn of events took place. I caught up to a woman who was also walking with her bike. I felt so frustrated and defeated but as we began to talk, I was grateful for this time. She said, “I’m sorry to hear about your bike, but I'm thankful that you are walking with me.” In that instant, my mindset completely changed. In the full-throttle of my stress, someone needed my help more.

The next thing I knew, the trainer in me ended up encouraging her to keep persevering. I was no longer thinking about the struggles I was going through. I walked with her the rest of the 3 miles, and she eventually rode back on her bike to complete the remainder of the race. Finishing in last place in the biking portion allowed me to put things in perspective, and I was so thankful that I had the opportunity to help another athlete. I was no longer mad at myself, and I kept telling myself that the only thing left to do was the 3-mile run, my strongest portion of this triathlon.

The Last Leg

Running indeed was my strongest event as I completed the 3 miles without any major incidents and ran the entire way. I finished my run in 28 minutes with an overall race time of 2 hours 12 minutes and 10 seconds.

With the rollercoaster of events that took place, I'm very grateful for accepting the challenge, going through the experience, and stepping outside of my comfort zone, and especially grateful for the people I've met along the way. I’ve learned that there are things that happen in life that you can’t control, things happen in which you have a decision to make, for which your attitude can instantly determine the path that you will travel on. As a trainer, I work with many individuals who go through their own challenge on a daily basis, and this has given me more appreciation and a fresh perspective on the process it takes to overcome a difficult part in your life.

With how I completed the race, I've been asked if I'd do another one. Surprisingly, yes, I would do another one. Knowing what it takes and where I currently stand, I can work to improve. So the journey continues, I am tentatively planning on completing another triathlon on September 30, in Illinois, to write a new chapter in this book.

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This blog was written by Crystal Anne Belen, personal trainer and health fitness instructor at NIFS. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: running swimming nifs staff race challenge biking triathlon training program