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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

3 Simple Rules to Train When You Have Pain

GettyImages-1017760106How many people do you know who suffer from a form of back pain? I’d be willing to wager it’s at least one person, and perhaps that person is you. The prevalence of nonspecific lower-back pain alone is estimated at 60-70% throughout the lifespan of a citizen of the United States and other industrialized countries. If you fall into this category or know somebody who does, first direct them to my previous blog about warming up with back pain to get started. Once you’ve made your way through that, keep reading to find out how to design a great workout even if you’re in pain.

For some, the idea of working out with pain is strictly off limits for fear of further injury. For others, the workout must be completed as planned, no matter how intense the pain might be. As usual, the solution will likely require a balanced approach between these two ideals. Unless your pain is an emergency (and this article might give you an idea of whether or not it is), there is likely something productive you can achieve by not skipping your scheduled workout. For one, if one of your goals is to establish a new habit or routine, making it to the gym for some self-love might just keep you on track. Self-love can mean foam rolling or other soft-tissue work, properly prescribed corrective-based activities or stretching, walking, or virtually ANYTHING that helps you feel better. The bottom line is that it must provide a feeling of relief.

Great, so you’ve made it to the gym and you’re feeling better than when you walked in thanks to some well-thought-out pain-relief techniques, or maybe just 10 minutes in the sauna. In any case, you’re ready to sweat and help that heart of yours pump some blood. Before you get too carried away, there are some general rules I like to follow if I know somebody has a history of, or is presently experiencing, back pain symptoms.

1. If It Hurts, Don’t Do It

This one sounds too simple to be genuine advice, and I’ll admit I stole it straight from my own father’s dad-joke arsenal. I’d say, “Dad, it hurts when I do this,” and he’d invariably respond, “Then don’t do that.” Of course, the older I get, the more I realize how wise much of his advice was, especially that nugget. If there is a particular movement or activity that you know for a fact will reproduce your pain symptoms, simply avoid it, at least until your symptoms go away. You can almost always find an alternative exercise to accomplish what you wanted, especially with the staff here at NIFS ready to provide you with such options. Regardless, no exercise is worth potentially worsening your symptoms, causing an even greater setback, or worse, leading to yet another injury.

2. Keep the Weight Off Your Back

The last thing you want to do while experiencing back pain symptoms is to make it any worse, and I see the risk as far outweighing the reward in having a barbell or any other load compressing your spine directly. You’d also be wise to approach higher-impact activities such as running and jumping with a fair amount of caution. Although not directly loading the spine, the landing portion of these high-impact activities requires a fair amount of compression throughout the body, particularly through the spinal segments. If a contributing factor to your flare-up of pain was a lack of integrity in your core strength and control, these higher-impact activities become even more risky.

3. Use Perfect Form

This should be a no-brainer, even when you’re not in pain. However, it becomes vital when the fear of pain is on your mind. Use this time to make sure every aspect of your movement is as close to perfect quality as you can get it. When in doubt, refer back to Rule #1. A great way to monitor your form closely is by either performing each repetition with an extremely slow tempo, or doing some static holds (unless you have high blood pressure or higher risk for aneurysm), meaning holding still during the repetition. Performing your repetitions in this manner will also require you to use significantly less weight, therefore limiting another risk factor. Many of our members take advantage of completing a Functional Movement Screen, which allows one of our trained fitness professionals to analyze your movement on a fundamental level. This is included as part of your membership at no extra cost, and it can provide essential strategies for you to make sure you’re moving to the best of your body’s abilities.

You may have noticed this post is largely about what not to do instead what you should be doing. That’s because each presentation of pain is completely different from another, and should be approached individually, and with care. No two humans are the same, which is what makes us fascinating creatures, but it also provides a challenge of finding the proper activities for each unique case. This is true no matter what your current physical condition is, but requires special attention when you’re limited by increased symptoms of pain. Whatever the case, movement will almost always be the answer to returning to your “normal” self; it’s just a matter of what type and how much.

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

Topics: injury prevention pain lower back pain back pain

Warming Up with Back Pain

GettyImages-936117924How many times have you had every intention of heading to the gym either before or after work, only to be deterred by nagging back pain? Maybe you woke up feeling stiff and sore, or maybe you had a long day at work and had a flare-up of pain. Either way, you’re far less motivated to be active when in pain, which quickly turns into a slippery slope. Pain is often a signal that something is not right, and your body will likely encourage behaviors that relieve your pain or prevent it from worsening. If your pain increases with movement, the likelihood of you working out becomes very low. The less you move, the better you feel, and voila, your back pain “magically” goes away!

How long will that last, though, until yet another flare-up digs its claws painfully into your spine? Unfortunately, we have yet to discover a sensor for detecting such episodes, but in the meantime we can do everything possible to prevent it from happening. The first step has to incorporate some semblance of movement. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a client come to me with a flare-up of pain. Virtually every single time, there is a significant reduction in pain after simply taking some really good breaths and/or actively moving through a safe range of motion. “My back was really achy/stiff/tight/sore/etc. when I came in, but now it feels great!” Some version of this is music to my ears, because now that individual is likely to be far more motivated to complete the workout.

The How

To know exactly what movements or warm-up activities you should be doing, the first step should be to determine whether your pain is something that is chronic (more than a week or two), or extremely severe. In either case, you might need to seek a trusted physical therapist or other healthcare professional to dig a bit deeper into your pain. However, if you’re simply in need of a consistent routine to optimize your warm-up, there are three main activities that can benefit virtually any generally healthy gym-goer.

1. 90/90 Hip Lift (adapted from the Postural Restoration Institute)

  1. Lie on your back and place your feet flat on a wall, or place your heels on a box of appropriate height. Your knees and hips should be bent to 90 degrees, as pictured.
  2. Lift only your tailbone, keeping your back flat against the surface on which you’re laying. Visualize tucking your tail between your legs, as though you are a dog that just got in trouble. You should feel your glutes and hamstrings engage.
  3. Holding this position, fully exhale through your mouth so as to push your ribs down into your back. You might place your hands on your ribs to better feel them lowering as you exhale. You should feel a very strong contraction in your abdominals, especially on your sides.
  4. After a full exhale, lightly inhale through your nose, keeping your ribs in the “down” position that you achieved after your exhale. Your goal is to maintain the engagement in your abdominals as you breathe in through your nose.
  5. Repeat this for 4 to 5 full exhales, and do 2 to 3 sets overall.

KEY POINT: The first priority here is to be in the correct position. If the body parts aren’t aligned properly, the muscles you want to be working won’t have any leverage to work. Feeling your hamstrings and glutes engage along with your abdominals, particularly on your sides, is a good sign you’re in the right position. It’s also entirely possible that you could be in the correct position, but not “feel” either of those areas working. That’s okay, just keep practicing and you’ll start to feel it soon. It never hurts to take a video of yourself just to double-check.

2. Hands and Knees Rib Lift

  1. Start on your hands and knees, with your palms directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.
  2. Tuck your tailbone between your legs, as though you are a dog that just got into trouble.
  3. Push your palms through the floor or table to spread your shoulder blades, opening up some “space” in your upper back. Your spine will have a moderate curve to it, as pictured, and you should feel your abs around your ribs engage.
  4. Holding this position, exhale fully out of your mouth as though you are fogging up a mirror.
  5. Pause for a moment after you finish exhaling, note the activity in your abdominals, and inhale through your nose, keeping your abdominals engaged by pulling your ribs up into your spine.
  6. Repeat this for 4 to 5 full exhales, and do 2 to 3 sets overall.

KEY POINT: Avoid shrugging your shoulders toward your ears as you push your palms through the floor. You also want to make sure you’re not using those 6-pack abs (rectus abdominus) in this activity. You want to be focused more on the abs attached directly to the ribs, on the sides of your belly. There’s a time and a place for the 6-pack abs, but this is not one.

3. Spiderman Stretch with Rotation

  1. Start on hands and knees as in the Hands and Knees Rib Lift.
  2. Bring one foot forward and to the outside of your hand on the same side.
  3. Keep your forward foot flat, and take your hand on that same side up to the ceiling, reaching long through your fingertips.
  4. Fully exhale through your mouth as you reach up to the ceiling, inhale through your nose while reaching, then return to start.
  5. Repeat 8 to 10 times with each arm and leg.

KEY POINTS: Make sure you’re reaching straight up to the ceiling. Don’t rotate for the sake of rotation. Reach long through your fingertips as high as you can while you’re pushing away from the floor with your support arm.

Ask a Trainer

Try these out the next time you have some soreness or stiffness coming into the gym. Even if you don’t, these three activities will very much set the tone for your entire workout if performed properly. As always, if you’re unsure, just ask! Any one of our trainers will be happy to help you out, or find the person who can.

Happy moving!

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

 

Topics: stretching pain warmups back pain

Fight Back Against Back Pain: Fitness and Wellness Solutions

GettyImages-866081050With millions of people around the world suffering from back pain, is there any hope for relief outside of traditional methods? Low back pain can be excruciating and immobilizing, but there is still hope. When dealing with any pain or injury, exercising might be the last thing that crosses your mind, especially if it’s chronic low back pain (CLBP). However, that’s exactly what is recommended and what can help.

Research is revealing that people who exercise and stay flexible are better able to manage pain than those who are sedentary. So my charge to anyone reading this, whether or not you are living with low back pain, stay proactive and make health and fitness a priority. Rather than be forced into reacting to an injury that might have you sidelined for months, take a step toward low back pain relief.

The Impact of Lower Back Pain

Alarming statistics reveal that the single leading cause of disability globally is none other than low back pain. According to the American Chiropractic Association, “Back pain is experienced by 31 million people at any given moment.” After all, it is the third most common complaint during doctor visits and accounts for more than 264 million lost work days annually.

What Causes Low Back Pain?

Low back pain can flare up and subside in the blink of an eye. Often there is no warning and there are no other accompanying symptoms. Pain can occur in varying intensities and pain levels. It is important to take back pain seriously because it is your body trying to tell you that there is something wrong and that you need to make a change. Common causes include the following:

  • Muscle strain/sprain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Bulging discs
  • Arthritis
  • Skeletal irregularities

What You Can Do: Fitness and Wellness Ideas

Fortunately, there are several precautionary steps that you can take to prevent low back pain episodes as well as further injury. Keep in mind that humans are complex beings and it is important to address overall health.

  • Start and maintain an exercise program. Our NIFS staff can work individually with members to develop a proper strength-training program that addresses cardiovascular fitness as well as flexibility and mobility.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. According to the National Arthritis Foundation, “Every pound of excess weight exerts about 4 pounds of extra pressure on the knees.” Therefore losing a few pounds can take pressure off the back and knee joints.
  • Limit and manage stress levels. Paying attention to stress levels can help you avoid behaviors that lead to obesity such as overeating and a sedentary lifestyle. If stress levels stay low, it can help improve overall health.

Always keep in mind that we are complex beings and it is important to address our overall health needs. It might take multiple methods to address back issues, but why not jump ahead and try to prevent them through proper health and wellness strategies? Visit www.nifs.org to find out more information, see the up-to-date Group Fitness Schedule, and start your fitness journey now.

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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: stress group fitness muscles weight management pain fitness and wellness lower back pain low back pain arthritis

Tricks of the Trade: Exercise Coaching Cues to Avoid Injury and Pain

IMG_7980Coaching cues can really make a big difference in the outcome of your workouts. Sometimes it means the difference in whether you get injured during an exercise. Or are you even working the muscles you originally intended to use? Without cues, it would be foolish to have a client jeopardize their health because they saw someone else do a movement incorrectly or think they read it in a magazine or online. This is not to say that there are not many ways one can do to their exercises, or modifications to spice up their workout plan, but you need to make sure you aren’t compromising yourself and goals in the process.

I aim to clarify several cues you might have heard a trainer speak to their client, or have read about in a magazine or online. With this knowledge, hopefully you will have an opportunity to make more informed and educated decisions about the exercises you are doing in the fitness center.

Wall Sit Knee Pain

A great exercise to utilize on leg day is the tried-and-true wall sit. Due to the nature of the exercise and positioning of the body, it can cause a real strain on the knees.

Dissecting the exercise shows which muscles are active during a wall sit. This includes the gluteus, hamstrings, quads, and calves. The movement is basically a static squat while pressed against a wall, utilizing the principles of isometrics. Lowering the body to a position in which the knee is bent at 90 degrees and the back and head are flat against the wall is ideal.

Knee pain can be a side effect; if so, using caution is always rule #1. To help alleviate some discomfort, some cues to consider include the following:

  • Make sure your feet are flat on the floor.
  • Move your feet away from the wall.
  • Widen your stance a little.
  • Slightly point your toes outward at an angle.

You will still be using the same muscles, but the emphasis will shift away from the knees and more into your powerful glutei muscles. I also cannot stress it enough: keep your head back against the wall and your cervical spine in a neutral position. For an added challenge, you can try being in a wall-sit position, then add in a bicep curl to accentuate the movement.

Overhead Shoulder Press Pain

Yet another staple exercise you will see in the gym is the overhead press. There are many variations to consider, some with free weights and some with selectorized machines. Both ways, potentially, will get the job done, if done properly. The shoulder press is performed by pressing one or two dumbbells or a barbell overhead (if using free weights), or with a designated overhead press machine from your favorite selectorized machine line.

A typical issue that arises during a shoulder press is general overall pain in the shoulder itself, and sometimes discomfort in the upper middle back. If there are no underlying issues with the shoulder, this might only be a technique issue that could be resolved with proper cueing. You can discover whether you do have an underlying shoulder problem by completing a Functional Movement Screening (FMS) at NIFS.

Cues to consider here include the following:

  • Never allow the bar to travel behind your head or neck.
  • Try to keep your elbows forward of your shoulders as you press overhead.
  • Lower the weight until your hands are about at eye level, then press.
  • Use dumbbells only when your skill and experience level allows for it.

Lifting really heavy weight, such as during Olympic lifting, can also be hazardous and warrant special consideration. Sometimes an injury occurs during an overhead Olympic movement, but often injuries happen when a weight is being lowered to the starting position, safely to the ground.

Dropping weights from overhead is permissible when the weight being used gets to a range that cannot be safely managed on the descent. At this point, it is advisable to drop the weight, but there is a right and wrong way to drop. Consulting with an Olympic lifting coach or professional along with experience is the best way to learn how to drop the weights in a controlled and safe manner. Ideally, you are going to be safe, and the equipment maintenance guy appreciates your courteous and safe lifting efforts.

Screen Shot 2019-01-29 at 10.30.09 AM

Lat Pulldowns, the Safe Way

Our final cue is for the Lat Pulldown, which is a variation of a pull-up, using a selectorized machine. Although the motion and muscles are the same, the lat pulldown is an easier way to get good repetitions at an otherwise challenging movement. This doesn’t mean you can flub the exercise at the expense of your health.

Ever since the beginning of strength training, an iconic image in the gym is the “behind the neck or head” lat pulldown. A trainer who cares about you will tell you not to do this movement because it’s bad. “But why not?” you may ask. Without a doubt this is a high-risk exercise, but not for the reason you might be thinking. The equipment you are using is checked, double-checked, and deemed safe, but there is always a chance that the cable will give way, causing the bar or handle to come at your noggin at a high rate of speed. We can all agree that a behind the neck lat pull down is not worth a concussion (or worse).

Here are some cues for a safer lat pulldown:

  • Grab the bar or handle with hands evenly spaced,
  • Pull the bar or handle down to around eye level in front of the body and control the motion both on the way up and back down.

Many people may have other perceptions, but safety is the number-one priority when you are a personal trainer.

***

Do you have a trainer who has given you cues for exercise? Cues can really make a big difference. If you are interested in safer, more effective exercise, and learning about how your body works in exercise, contact a NIFS personal trainer or health fitness specialist to schedule a meeting to discuss your goals, questions, and next steps to a better workout. Getting the most out of your time at the gym also makes sense. Now get back to work!

Muscleheads rejoice and evolve!

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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: Thomas' Corner injury prevention pain personal training exercises coaching functional movement screen cues

Foam Rolling: The Next Big Thing in Pain Relief and Injury Prevention

GettyImages-686409390For the majority of my athletic and fitness career, getting sore from activities, workouts, practices, or games has not only been a sign that work has been done, but also a rite of passage. The saying, “no pain, no gain” came about as a result, and the world would judge successful workouts on soreness.

Those days have come and gone, and fitness professionals have come to the understanding that the old saying definitely needs updating. While getting a great workout and being sore is fine, being able to prevent injury, decrease soreness, improve mobility, and increase blood circulation are things we would like to incorporate into our wellness on a daily basis. One thing that I have found in my fitness journey is that you can get a great workout today, and with proper foam rolling (also known as self-myofascial release), you can get back after it tomorrow.

A Brief History of Foam Rolling

Foam rolling might seem like it’s a fairly new concept, but the idea has been around quite a while within manual physical therapy circles and with nontraditional medicine practitioners. In the late 19th century, physicians were using manual therapy to improve blood circulation and lymph flow. Although there are almost no studies that show that foam rolling had any benefits, the people that these techniques were being implemented on seemed to see the benefit.

Fast-forwarding to modern times, we have seen a boom in various industries associated with massage and related therapies. Individuals are seeing great results from meeting with these professionals and become interested not only in the tools they are using, but also in figuring out ways to implement similar techniques and experiences as a way to a quick-fix home remedy. Thus was born the foam roller, which now comes in many sizes, lengths, and shapes, and can be supplemented with everything from heat and ice to vibration discs.

How to Start Foam Rolling

Here are some quick tips and ideas to get you on your way.

  • Choosing a density: Pick a foam roller density that matches your comfort level. The softer foam rollers are geared more for beginners who might be sensitive and unable to cope with the discomfort a denser foam roller brings. As you become more accustomed to foam rolling, you may increase the foam roller density to your desired comfort level. As with getting a deep-tissue massage, it might feel uncomfortable at the time, but you may feel great right away, and tomorrow you will feel like a million dollars!
  • Rolling before and after bed: NIFS Personal Trainer Kris Simpson, a huge proponent and practitioner of foam rolling, says, “Foam rolling before bed is a great way to relieve muscle tension and stress from a long day. You will sleep better while being better rested, in turn giving you a head start on the following day. Again foam rolling in the morning would help get the blood flowing after a long, unrestful sleep.”
  • Finding a pattern: Another NIFS Trainer, Cara Hartman, uses foam rollers with her athletes. She has all of her clients and athletes follow a pattern that makes sense. “We like to start lower posterior (calves) and work our way up (hamstrings, glutes, back, etc). Smaller muscles can be rolled with a little creativity. If you find yourself unable to perform a movement, try putting the foam roller against the wall and rolling vertically as opposed to horizontally.”
  • Watch our video on how to properly foam roll.

As you work to get better at foam rolling, understand that it is very similar to everything you do in life. It will be most difficult the very first time you do it, but it will get a little easier each time you try it. I have a personal philosophy regarding foam rolling:

“If you want to maintain current mobility and flexibility, foam roll one time per day. If you want to increase mobility and flexibility, foam roll more than one time per day (the only limit is how much time you have to devote to your wellness). And if you want to get worse, do nothing!”

Foam Rolling at NIFS

NIFS has multiple foam-rolling stations designated to give you as many opportunities to roll as you need. There are multiple lengths and densities as well as a specialty roller made by Rollga. If you would like a quick tutorial and to talk about foam rolling with staff, please stop by the track desk and see one of the Health Fitness Specialists on staff. Get on a roller today, feel great tomorrow!

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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 injury prevention pain mobility foam rolling circulation

It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint: Running Shouldn’t Be Painful

GettyImages-958722754Running a marathon can be a very positive, rewarding experience or a very painful, negative one. THE CHOICE IS YOURS!

How I Got Started with Marathons

I began running as a feel-good stress release in 2009, but never knew that stress release would turn into my stressor. After my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, I turned to running at times to just get away from my daily life for a few moments and enjoy some fresh air and a good sweat. I loved this workout a few times a week.

In 2016, I was ready to set a goal. I signed up for my first half marathon, but forgot to sign up for a training plan to go with it. As my mind was set to long distances to achieve my goal, I began running more and more. Before I even completed my half marathon, I realized I was ready to do a full marathon, so I signed up spontaneously to run 26.2 miles and completed my first marathon in Washington, D.C., in February 2016. Two months later, I crossed the finish line of a half marathon, which was my original goal.

If you were to ask me how I felt about my experience, I'd honestly tell you: painful, awful, and sore. Thankfully I didn't get any injures, but like most runners, I ran a lot and neglected cross training, because I preferred the “runner's high.”

Why I Quit

I continued this training process through 2016, and by the end of that year I was done and burnt out. My body was depleted of important nutrients, my muscles were constantly sore from neglecting proper recovery, and I never knew how much mental tension I had been putting myself through by pushing my body to get what I thought was "faster and stronger."

In 2017, my running for hours had now turned into recovering for hours. I picked up a consistent yoga practice, started meditation classes, was visiting a doctor to replenish my depleted body, focused on strength with pilates and circuit training classes, and was only doing low-impact cardio. 

How I Got Back into Running—the Right Way

As I began stressing out my body less, my passion for running was still in the back of my mind. In 2018, I began running long distances again, but with newly gained knowledge of proper fuel, proper recovery, and proper cross training. It's so weird waking up not sore after a long run, or enjoying friends and family instead of wanting to sleep all the time due to fatigue, and I love it!

Practicing mindfulness is so important when setting a big goal. In society, we often want to get to the reward faster instead of enjoying the process in the present. Attempting to run a half or full marathon does not have to be a painful experience. Running a half or full marathon does not have to result in injury and burnout. The choice is yours!

Tips for Running

  • Follow your training plan. As endurance picks up, so does your ego as a runner. When you get a short run, just do it and enjoy it! There will be plenty of long runs you can save your energy for to reduce burnout and achieve success.
  • Warm up. Our bodies are not meant to go from 0 to 100 percent effort for extended periods of time, which is a common mistake by runners that leads to injury. Spend time prepping your muscles and your mind for success. If you remember that your goal is to get to the finish line, you'll remember to warm up so you can get there pain free.
  • Cool down. Just as we aren't supposed to go from 0 to 100, 100 to 0 is just as harmful. Allow yourself time to deep-breathe and restore your muscles. When running for distance, the blood starts to pool toward your legs. Doing yoga or total-body corrective exercises and stretching will help reduce injury by properly recirculating blood to aid in healing muscles.
  • Cross train. Running is a cardio-based exercise that requires strength. If you only run, you are often getting weaker because you are burning off the muscles that will support you. Adding two to three strength-only days is crucial for not just the muscles’ health, but also the health of your joints and bones.
  • Know your limit. Be okay with accepting that you accomplished something amazing! If it's a hot day and your plan is to run 5 miles, but you can go only 3, that’s okay! Over-stressing the body can lead to many health consequences. Loving your body’s health as first priority will keep you injury free and a well-oiled machine.

So, don’t be afraid if your goal is to run a half or full marathon. Train with the people who have experienced the not-fun, painful part of running and want it to be filled with fun based on knowledge and past experience. The choice is yours to set your goals. The choice is yours to listen and follow your coach to achieve those goals.

Screen Shot 2018-07-11 at 2.45.21 PMNIFS Fall Marathon Training Program prepares you for the Monumental Marathon on November 3, 2018 by providing you with a 12-week training program and weekly long runs with a training coach. Training starts August 15th-November 3rd. Wednesdays 6am OR 6pm and Saturdays at 7am. Find out more and get registered today!

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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 running marathon training half marathon injuries pain mindfulness

High Intensity Training (HIT): No Pain, No Gain

HIT-6.jpgIf you have ever participated in High Intensity Training (HIT), you will quickly discover what separates this style of workout from other popular styles you may know, like super sets or pyramid training. The main intention behind high intensity training workouts is that the workout will challenge your body to such a level of discomfort that its threshold or maximum capacity has no choice but to rise. Now don’t let the word “such a level of discomfort” scare you away; it’s the discomfort level that we all feel during exercise at some point, and of course you can push past it.

The Importance of Pushing Past the Pain

During resistance training, you will at some point begin to experience a level of discomfort. This happens because lactic acid begins to be produced by muscles during intense exercise bouts, which causes muscle fatigue. Although lactic acid may slow down muscle productivity and intensity, it does not mean you have reached muscle failure and are unable to continue. Quite honestly, this means your set is just now starting (if you want to bring down barriers and advance to the next level). Most individuals get to this point of discomfort and stop their set. However, if you stop here, you are more than likely not pushing your body past its threshold point, which is important in order to increase muscle strength, endurance, and even hypertrophy (muscle building).

Specifically, in high intensity style training, most often you will reach that lactate threshold and then be pushed beyond that. Just when you think that your body can go on no longer, you dig deep within yourself and the encouragement of your teammates and find that new level. And this is why we see so many success stories in people who attend HIT workouts. They push beyond what their bodies thought they could do, past the threshold, resulting in an increase in muscle strength and endurance.

hit-high-res-logo-web-new.jpgHow NIFS Can Help

If you need help discovering what those new levels are, and some accountability to keep pushing, then I invite you to try NIFS’s High Intensity Training. Our classes are designed to motivate you to push past the limits you think are there by utilizing short bouts of high intensity work, which will increase your body’s thresholds, causing an increase of metabolism. We use our training expertise to provide the necessary motivation to close the gap between you and your body’s threshold. Once you reach this threshold, we will teach you how to tap into that next level to take your workouts to the next step on the ladder of success!

We invite you to come experience a good workout, a good team feeling, and a good environment where each participant has the same goal: to get better! Get your first session for FREE by contacting Tony Maloney at tmaloney@nifs.org.

Yes! I want to try a HIT class!

This blog was written by Darius Felix, Health Fitness Instructor. Click here for more information about the NIFS bloggers.

Topics: NIFS cardio motivation group training accountability NIFS programs muscles resistance strength HIT pain high intensity muscle building strength training

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

Muscle Soreness Recovery Tips

sorenessWhen we are new to exercise or trying an exercise that is new to our body, it’s pretty common to feel SOME sort of muscular pain.

I think most of us can agree that a little muscle soreness after a fantastic workout is a fun way to remember that things are changing and that we are getting stronger. I think we can also agree (and most have experienced it) that there is a certain degree of soreness that kind of feels like “everything hurts so badly you can’t stand up or lift your arms,” which isn’t quite as motivating. Along with this you may feel irritable, fatigued, and really hungry. Sounds fun, right?

Not to worry! For each type of muscular soreness there is an amazing  recovery solution.

Why Do My Muscles Get Sore in the First Place?

The muscle soreness that you feel 24 to 48 hours after the workout is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), and it is actually caused by tiny micro-tears in the muscle and surrounding tissue. Say WHAT? Tears in the muscle? Sounds pretty terrible, right? But actually those little tears in the muscle are necessary to make things stronger.

So What Should I Do About Muscle Soreness?

To alleviate mild muscle soreness, a little movement is actually best! Try walking or some yoga. While it’s good to move after a workout to take away some of that pain, this is a pretty fine line and it’s most important to truly listen to and trust your body and give it rest when needed.

Here are five ways to take care of your muscles and reduce muscle soreness:

  1. Take it slow. Gradually progress the intensity, frequency, and duration of your workouts.
  2. Foam roll. Not sure what this is? It’s a way of stretching and basically giving your muscles and fascia a great massage. Check out our handy guide on how to foam roll!
  3. Get a massage. You’re going to love this one! Foam rolling is great, but if you have the time and funding for a therapeutic massage, it’s well worth the investment. It helps your body heal itself.
  4. Practice yoga or do some light stretching. Avoid a fast-paced or intense practice and choose something slower such as Yin or Hatha yoga.
  5. Ice the muscles. Placing an icepack on a specific area may help reduce muscle soreness in a very localized area. Make sure not to leave the icepack on for very long, though, as it may cause tissue death.

It all comes down to listening to your body and not being afraid to take a day or two to let your body heal. Soreness, injury, and illness are a time to nurture yourself and give your body the rest it needs. Take the rest, and pay attention to how much stronger you feel in your next workout!

This blog was written by Tara Deal Rochford, contributing writer, group fitness instructor, and author of healthy living blog Treble in the Kitchen. Meet our other NIFS bloggers.

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Topics: yoga injury prevention muscles stretching pain recovery

“Sir! Yes Sir! May I Have Another?” The Militarization of Fitness

200069247-001There is a fitness trend that has been bothering me for a long time, and in recent years it has gotten exponentially worse. There are exercise programs that have actually declared war on the human body, and by doing so, have widened the gap further between health and fitness.

I know that they are commonly linked, but please understand that health and fitness are not the same thing. You can have very healthy biomarkers and still be unfit. Likewise, you can have tremendous strength or outrageous endurance and be very unhealthy.

The Trend of Intense, Dangerous Workouts

This current version of “beating the body into submission” by the evil triumvirate of ego, willpower, and ignorance started with the media marketing experiment of P90X and its search for the limits of stupidity that people would pay for. At about the same time, there was the appearance of neighborhood boot camps that were conducted on strip mall parking lots and/or any available piece of grass that no one would be chased off of, led by unqualified trainers out to make a quick buck by riding the trend of selling pain to the fitness gullible. And then came the growth of CrossFit and its many copies selling to the male ego: SWAT Team, MMA, and Special Ops–inspired training so that “You can be the man!”

The common theme of this period is finding the limits of discomfort that the public can be convinced to invest their time, energy, and money into by marketing to the ego’s desire for quick and nearly impossible change by violating the basic laws of human biology and twisting logic to arrive at “the-end-justifies-the-means” training: No Pain, No Gain! Train to Failure. Train Hard or Go Home!

Currently, we have a cultural fitness myth that is doomed to fail because it is not sustainable. The human body cannot live on the “edge” for long without breaking down. The changes we desire actually occur during recovery as a result of proper exercise stimulus. More stimulus is not better; it is just more, and too much can retard recovery and greatly increase the risk of injury.

Jonathan Angelili wrote a very thoughtful blog published on Greatist titled, “The Massive Fitness Trend That’s Not Actually Healthy at All,” where he states that the fitness industry has come to “glorify exercise as an all-out war on the body.” Instead of living within our bodies and having fitness and health evolve naturally, the ego/mind plays the role of sadistic coach intent on whipping the lazy body to reach some arbitrary goal as quickly as possible, at which time another arbitrary goal is launched, so the beatings continue.

P90X, boot camps, and CrossFit didn’t create this antagonistic attitude toward the human body, but rather they simply took advantage of it. We, as a culture, have had a very long history of the mind being separated from the body and the belief that success, however you define it, must be chased down and wrestled to the ground at all cost, including the loss of health. The belief is “the more you want it, the more you must sacrifice to get it.” Sadly, way too many people are quite willing to sacrifice their health for what they have been convinced is The Standard for Fitness, not realizing that health and fitness can be diametrically opposed.

Pain Is a Great Teacher!

Punch a shark long enough in the nose and it will eventually bite you. Living on the extreme edge of training because it makes the ego feel special and supported by the mistaken beliefs that more is better and more often is better yet, a breakdown is inevitable. If you want to put a smiley face on this situation, pain is a great teacher.

Pain gets your attention in a way that nothing else can. Movement can no longer continue without a constant reminder that something is very wrong, and more than likely, you are responsible.

The mindset that led to the pain happening in the first place will begin by muscling on: icing, taking OTC pain relievers, and even metaphorically just “rubbing dirt on it.” You know, just suck it up and move on. Next will come a quick trip to a doctor for the next level up pain relief so that the same training can continue without missing a beat. If none of that works, then comes the specialist with X-rays, MRIs, PT, and possible surgery. That same training that got you here has stopped and the search begins for “what can I do now?”

Like a shop teacher accidentally cutting off his fingers with a band saw: Oops! At least, you’re helping the medical economy.

There is inherent risk in exercising. Most waiver forms state that exercise can even cause death, extremely rare but still possible, but the injuries I’m referring to come under the heading of “Can Be and Should Be Avoided” with an eye toward injury prevention.

Reasonable goals, properly designed workout programs, and just some plain common sense can go a long way to safely reaching your goals with few injury setbacks. If you are involved in fitness for the long haul, these three elements can lead to an enjoyable life of fitness and health.

Just ask yourself two questions:

  1. Is what I’m doing striving toward health and fitness?
  2. Am I learning to live within my body and experiencing greater joy while on this journey?

If your answers are yes, cool, you’re on your way.

If your answers are no, then “Sir! Yes Sir! May I Have Another!”

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

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Topics: fitness injury prevention challenge boot camp overtraining health injuries pain fitness trends CrossFit