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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

You Can Do It! NIFS Training Helps You Meet Your Goals (Part 1 of 2)

Greetings! With spring right around the corner, it would seem appropriate to check in on some of your personal goals or resolutions you might have made over the last few months. How are you doing? I would imagine some are doing better than others, but you still have time to make significant change from here on out.

What keeps us from continuing our programs or “falling off the wagon?” Do the results not come fast enough? Do you not have the drive to finish the tough workout after a long day? Do you feel like you are all alone at the gym? If you are second-guessing yourself after those questions, you might need a reboot at the gym, a refocus on yourself. But also think about how group training can benefit your wellness both physically and mentally.

Small Group Training: All the Benefits of a Personal Trainer at a Lower Price

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Small Group Training at NIFS is a service for individuals who want the personal touch, accountability, and flair associated with working with a personal trainer, minus one big thing—the elephant in the room—the price tag. Being able to work directly with a trainer has its benefits, but also comes with a sticker price. One of the appeals of group training is that it makes a premium service affordable. Could you use the extra motivation? Does having set appointments offer accountability and help you keep commitments? Although you are sharing your trainer, there is plenty of opportunity for knowledge, technique, and personalization of your workout experience.

Work Out with Your Friends!

When you participate, you immediately will notice that there are others just like you (same goals, struggles, likes, and dislikes). Completing workouts becomes more doable with the backing of others. You get to know these people and they become your second family and support system at the gym. After a long, hard day at work, going to the gym might not seem appealing until you remember that all your friends are there!

Customized Workouts That Make Use of the Whole Gym

Finally, your group trainer will have the workouts ready for you when you get to the gym. Forget about coming to the gym and doing the elliptical for 30 minutes and calling it a day. Your workouts will enable you to experience your fitness center fully, so that you get the most out of your time, effort, and money. Expanding your own personal exercise library can have its benefits, too, especially when you are on your own and want to get creative with your routine.

Ultimately, we want you to succeed with your fitness goals. Being able to utilize group training is an asset at your doorstep; all you have to do is open the door! NIFS Small Group Training can be purchased at the NIFS Service Desk. Before you take that step, contact the NIFS Track Desk to set up a strategy session and fitness testing (both complementary with your membership) to ensure that your goals and health are in line with group training. Now is your time! Take control of your fitness and see the change.

In part 2 of this blog, you’ll see how NIFS training can help you with the huge goal of doing a triathlon.

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

Topics: NIFS Thomas' Corner motivation resolutions group training accountability personal trainer

Fitness Rescue 911: New Workouts for the New Year

GettyImages-668003598.jpgGreetings NIFS friends! Hopefully your New Year’s resolutions are keeping you more active at the gym and less active at the buffet line. All joking aside, getting back to the gym can be challenging, especially if you are not sure what to do when you get there or if you are burnt out on cookie-cutter workouts that are barely working anymore. With that being said, introducing new equipment, ideas, and strategies can be a daunting task. Don’t let that get you down, though, because we are here to rescue your workout!

Breathing life into your workout can have numerous benefits. Sometimes the benefits allow us to break through plateaus, keep us interested in what we are doing (refocusing our goals), and give us variety (aka “the spice”). Highlighted in this blog are three pieces of equipment that may be overlooked by the simple reason that we just don’t know what it is or what it can do for our body. Without a doubt, just trying these exercises will not only be challenging, but also effective as you strive to reach your fitness goals.

Tire and Sledgehammer Workouts

The tire and sledgehammer workout was derived out of simplicity, necessity, and function. There are two main exercises to consider here, tire flips and sledgehammer strikes. With an optional smaller tire, one does not have to possess the strength of Paul Bunyan to complete this task (but there are bonus points if you do). To flip the tire, first squat low and get your fingers under the edge of the tire. As you stand up, use your legs and drive your body into the tire, leveraging it up on its end. The tire should tip over easily and come to rest square on the ground.

The other exercise is called sledgehammer strikes. This is not much different than chopping wood or driving a railroad spike. Because your goals may not include having the strength of a lumberjack, there are several sledgehammer weight options to choose from, ranging from 8lb to 16lb. Strike directly in the middle of the tire to avoid a glancing strike. Try this in your next workout:

5 tire flips, 20 strikes (10 each side) for 4 sets

Slideboard

The slideboard was designed as a means of training lateral movements as well as developing balance and stability in the lower body and core. If done properly, this exercise can also produce a high-intensity workout all while gliding side to side. As an application, the strength and power developed from this lateral movement translates well to the world of speed skating, where athletes are known for incredible leg strength.

Because the gliding might not feel as natural to everyone, there are other exercises to consider, including Slideboard Hamstring Curls and Slideboard Mountain Climbers. For both exercises, you will need to use the booties to decrease friction (otherwise, the exercises won’t work). For Hamstring Curls, position your body toward the end of the board, with your knees bent and heels on the slick part of the board. Keeping your back flat and head down, raise your hips fully. Finally, extend your legs and return to the starting position. For beginners, this can be done with one leg at a time.

The other exercise, Mountain Climbers, is done by positioning the body at the end of the slide board in an “all-fours” position. With your toes on the slick part of the board, rise up so that your knees are off the ground. At a quick tempo, slide your legs inward, being sure to alternate legs. Additional pushups can add some variety to this movement. Try this in your next workout:

12 Hamstring Curls, 30 seconds of Mountain Climbers x 4 sets

Slosh Pipes

One thing to consider when making workouts: most of the good equipment and exercises have already been invented. The slosh pipe, a unique, homemade piece of equipment, is both odd and beautiful at the same time. It allows us to think and work so far out of the box that everyone can benefit in some way from using it. Basically, a slosh pipe is a PVC tube (3 or 4 inches in diameter and anywhere from 40 to 96 inches long) filled halfway with water and sealed on both ends. The water is meant to slosh around inside the pipe, hence the name Slosh Pipe.

Thinking outside the box, the pipes can be used to develop strength as well as core, balance, and stability. Two exercises to try here include the half-kneeling overhead hold and the walking lunges. The first exercise, the overhead hold, is pretty self-explanatory: find a slosh pipe and hold it over your head for time. The pipe needs to be moderately heavy, but if there is a question about safety, always have a spotter on overhead lifts such as this one. As you hold that weight overhead from a half-kneeling position (one knee up, one knee down), seconds turn into minutes. There is a constant rebalance happening with your core, as water tips one way or the other. Grip strength and overall upper-body strength are challenged as fatigue sets in. Lower the weight back to the floor with the help of a partner.

The other exercise is a walking lunge. This is accomplished by holding the slosh pipe in the crooks of your elbows and performing a walking lunge. The same effects as the overhead hold are prevalent. Try this in your next workout:

45–60-second half-kneeling Overhead Hold, 20 walking lunges x 4 sets

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As you can see, there are several pieces of equipment at the gym that you may have overlooked. Keep looking; there are more than you think. The NIFS staff of Certified Fitness Professionals strives to give you not only a good workout, but also to introduce you to new exercises and cutting-edge equipment. If you want a new routine to save your resolution from disaster, contact NIFS’ Fitness Rescue to set up a strategy session, testing, and workout.

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

Topics: NIFS Thomas' Corner workouts challenge new year personal trainer hammer workouts fitness rescue slideboard

Core Exercises to Take You from Snore to ROAR!

GettyImages-514734718.jpgSome of the number-one fitness goals are to strengthen the core, lose belly fat, and get six-pack abs. These are all pretty good goals that can be addressed by a fitness professional and a dietitian, but everyone might not have that luxury. From a traditional perspective, we have mainly used a few ab exercises such as crunches, sit-ups, and variations of them. For the most part, these are better than the alternative—nothing at all.

But what if there is a way to get more out of your workouts that allows you to get core exercise without doing sit-ups and crunches? If you are tired of the same old ab routine, or if you are finding it hard to get to the floor to do exercise, this may be exactly what you need to know to break plateaus and possibly change your life.

How You Use Your Core

Out of the many instances in which you use your core (basically your torso, minus your arms and legs), you could find occasions where you use sit-up movements, but not to the extent that we train them (hello 300 sit-ups, yes we are looking at you!). Overall, normal functions include standing; walking (sometimes up and down stairs); sitting at a desk, in the car, or in a recliner; and standing some more. The core really doesn’t move that much; however, it does stabilize all the time. Therefore, it would make sense to train for stability rather than movement, at least some of the time. This is true for everyone from beginners to seasoned athletes, and from young to elderly. Core stability is a part of your life and you use it all the time.

Before I talk about these exercises, know that good form and good posture is the backbone that makes this all work. This goes for every exercise, but also includes standing, walking, and sitting. People tend to slouch, mainly because it’s easier to do than sitting up or standing tall with good posture. Unfortunately, slouching does not activate the core at all. Good posture, however, allows the core to engage (which also helps in the calorie-burning process throughout the day). Focusing on this daily will help strengthen the core, even when you are not at the gym.

Core Exercises and Techniques

In addition to focusing on posture, you can easily add several other exercises and techniques to any routine.

  1. Plank: Create a plank with your body. Your back must be flat; if not, you can go to your knees or introduce an incline. Proper form is imperative. To increase the difficulty, I suggest adding a leg-lift motion, alternating legs.
  2. IMG_2617.jpgAnti-rotational holds: Using either a cable machine or bands, stand perpendicular to the anchor point while holding your handle directly in front of your midpoint. To increase the intensity, I suggest introducing a kneeling or half-kneeling position, making the core work even harder.
  3. Suitcase carry: This is an adaptation to the farmer’s carry. Instead of using two balanced weights, I suggest using only one weight on one side (think about carrying a heavy suitcase through the airport). Try to keep the top of your shoulders parallel to the ground. To increase the intensity, I suggest trying the same walking pattern, but on a narrow line. This will enhance the balance difficulty. You can also go in reverse!
  4. Single-arm dumbbell press: This is a spin on a traditional exercise, the chest press. Using a flat bench and only a single dumbbell, proceed to doing a normal press pattern. If you place your other hand on your stomach, you should feel muscles in there working to keep you from rolling off the bench. You will have to engage your core to maintain posture, though. Be sure to keep your head, back, and feet in contact with the bench and floor respectively.
  5. Overhead sit and stand: What is more functional than sitting and standing? In order for you to sit and stand, your core is engaging constantly. To increase the intensity, begin by sitting and standing without using your hands. Once that is easy, try holding a weight plate or medicine ball overhead while you sit to the box and stand. Notice how much more your core is working?

As you can see, several exercises and techniques are available to assist your core training regimen. Adding one or more of these will add some much-needed diversity that will not only keep you interested in exercise but also able to break through plateaus that may have been giving you trouble for years.

If you want more information, contact a fitness professional or personal trainer at NIFS to develop a strategy to build your own core exercise knowledge library.

Knowledge is power.

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

Topics: muscles core strength functional movement posture personal trainer stability core exercises core exercise core stability plank plateaus

Choosing a Fitness Professional: Finding the Right One for You

Kris-52.jpgIn an industry that is constantly evolving, the world of fitness is never boring. As a fitness professional, I get a lot of questions about what I do and why I do it. Each question, although relatively complex, has a simple answer.

I chose my profession because I love to motivate, converse, educate, and be enthusiastic around other people. My passion made college classes and clinical research thrilling. I also wholeheartedly believe that a healthy lifestyle extends positively to all aspects of an individual’s life, as well as their family, friends, and coworkers. The human body is miraculous and deserves to be treated so.

The incidence and severity of disease can be decreased through regular physical activity (insert flashing neon arrows). Even so, large populations of individuals still do not have the knowledge to maintain an active lifestyle for themselves or their families as preventative action. It is my career goal to educate those individuals who might not know where to begin or how to progress, or have diminished hope, through behavioral-change goals. However, in an industry that also has many non-credible sources and educators, it is important to be able to separate the two.

Below are some of the regularly asked questions within our field and their answers to help you in choosing a fitness professional who best fits into your plan.

What Is a Fitness Professional?

The best definition of a fitness professional comes from the American College of Sports Medicine:

“A Health Fitness Professional has a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science. The individual performs pre-participation health screenings, conducts physical fitness assessments, interprets results, develops exercise prescriptions, and applies behavioral and motivational strategies to apparently healthy individuals and individuals with medically controlled diseases and health conditions to support clients in adopting and maintaining healthy lifestyle behaviors. Academic preparation also can include fitness management, administration, and supervision.” (2015)

How Do You Become a Fitness Professional?

To become a fitness professional an individual must obtain a four-year degree or a graduate degree in Exercise Science, Kinesiology, Health Studies or in a health and fitness–related field. After graduating, an exam is taken through a certifying body, such as the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) or the National Academy for Sports Medicine (NASM). Some of the most common exams include the Certified Exercise Physiologist (formerly Health Fitness Specialist) and the Certified Personal Trainer. If an individual is in a cardiac rehab environment and obtains 400/500 hours of clinical exercise programming, the professional can then apply to take a clinical-level exam.

How Do Fitness Professionals Stay Up-to-Date?

ACSM is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world, and they continue to set the standards in the fitness industry. ACSM requires a minimum number of CECs (continuing education credits) and CEUs (continuing education units) in a three-year period to maintain certification.

NASM, a leader in providing technology-based education and certification solutions, also offers CEUs alongside specialization exams.

Alongside CECs, CEUs, and specialization exams, individuals can subscribe to additional research publications and continue to take certifying exams. Attending conferences, taking graduate classes in the field, and meeting other individuals in the industry is also a great way to network and learn from peers.

How Do I Choose a Fitness Professional That Is Right for Me?

Today, many individuals market themselves as trainers or nutritionists. When choosing an individual to work with, ask about their education and background, how many clients they have worked with, and their specializations. Working directly with an individual is similar to hiring for a job; don’t be afraid to ask for their resume or references! An individual who is qualified should happily comply.

It is also important to remember that a fitness professional is not a Registered Dietitian (RD). According to ethical guidelines, a fitness professional can discuss and provide insight into healthy alternatives but can’t develop meal plans or suggest drastic diet changes. For in-depth nutrition advice, a fitness professional should always refer to an RD. Fitness and nutrition go hand in hand, but knowing scope of practice is important.

At NIFS, we pride ourselves on providing the most well-rounded professionals for every health and wellness need. For more information on what qualifications a fitness professional should have, check out the following resources.

“Exercise is really important to me—it’s therapeutic.” —Michelle Obama

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This blog was written by Ellyn Grant, Healthy Lifestyle Coordinator. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS nutrition personal trainer exercise science certification choosing a fitness professional

Six Reasons to Join a Gym or Fitness Center

ThinkstockPhotos-497351337.jpg“I don’t need to join a gym; I work out at home.”

“I have videos I watch when I want to work out.”

Do these things sound familiar? I hear it from people I talk to all the time. There is a place for everybody at the gym; and in fact, there are many good reasons that you should join one! I am here to give you the top six reasons why you should join a gym or fitness center.

1. Community

When you join a gym and you go at the same time each day and each week, you start to see some familiar faces. The gym has one of the best communities around that you can be a part of. Everyone is welcoming and working toward the same goals: to get fit in some way or another. It is an encouraging and motivating place to exercise. And I know from personal experience; some of the individuals I have worked with have met lifelong friends at the gym.

2. No Distractions

At home, there can be many distractions to interrupt your workout. Your dog licking you in the face while doing pushups, the laundry buzzer going off in the middle of your yoga, or someone knocking on your door in the middle of your squats can all be frustrating and get you out of your workout groove. Luckily, the gym doesn’t have any of those distractions (sadly, no dogs). You can get your workout accomplished in peace without the potential of having 100 other things get in the way.

3. Accountability

As I mentioned in the “Community” section, when you join a gym and go at the same time every day, you usually start to see some familiar faces. If you do not come for a while, they will question where you have been, and possibly will even call you to check in and see if everything is going okay. The gym environment, from personal training to small group training, helps to hold you accountable for coming into the gym. No one wants to hear, “Hey, I haven’t seen you lately,” when they walk into the gym. The relationships you build with other members and the staff help hold you accountable for your health and fitness goals.

4. Friendships

Some of the best friendships start in the gym. This is something that you won’t encounter if you stay at home for your exercise. Asking someone for a spot or joining a class is a great way to kindle a friendship that may end up lasting a very long time. Good workout buddies are hard to find, but a good place to look for one is in the gym.

5. Trainers

At home, you may have a video telling you what to do and taking you through a workout, but at the gym, you get the real thing. Whether you are in a personal training session, a group fitness class, or just taking advantage of the trainers walking the floor, there are fitness experts around who can answer your questions.

6. Fun

The gym is a fun place to work out. Who doesn’t want a little more fun in their life? Some people claim that exercise is not fun; I totally disagree with that statement. There are plenty of ways to make exercise fun. Come into the gym and find out for yourself! This is not to mention the fact that the plethora of equipment available to use at the gym is much more than what you typically have at home.

Come try the gym today. We’d love to have you experience all of the six things listed above. Try us for free for 7 days! Click here to find out more.

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

Topics: fitness center accountability personal trainer gym join a gym

NIFS Personal Trainer Takes on a Triathlon Challenge (Part 2)

IMG_5313.jpgTriathlon training is past the halfway point (see part 1 of my blog) and has been quite the journey! With long days of juggling my work schedule, the training plan, a dog, a home life, and trying to find time in there to rest, training for this triathlon has been quite challenging! In addition to the training plan that I am following, I have analyzed areas where I need to improve, especially in the swim portion of the race. I have noticed that not only the physical aspect of the triathlon training needs work, but my attitude does as well.

Back to the Basics

How do I tackle this without being overwhelmed with the other 50 things running through my mind that need to be done, and then keeping a positive mindset about my energy to top it off? I have decided to break it down and take each segment one step at a time, in order to not become so stressed out. I have taken the mindset of going back to the basics of training and mastering those first.

Mastering Swimming Basics

On our first swim training, one immediate thing I noticed was how my heart rate skyrockets when I’m in the water. My quads are on fire from kicking incorrectly, my breathing and head are uncontrolled, and I tend to hold onto the edge of the pool in order to not drown. Even worse, this all seems to happen within a 50-meter stretch in the pool! While I wanted to quickly bail, I was reminded to take it one step at a time.

Something that really helped to reassure me was that our coach mentioned to our group, “The hardest part is getting in the water; once you’re in, you’ve accomplished half of the battle. The key is not swimming faster, but it is to concentrate on your form and technique.” Needless to say, I’ve been focusing on those basic tips and am beginning to feel more comfortable in the water and see my swimming improve!

Biking: Getting to Know the Bike

I ride my bike for recreational commuting purposes but have never raced competitively. One of our first rides as a group was focused around getting to know your bike. We had to check our seat height and the air in our tires (and know how to fill them up), learn the gearshifts, and learn a few other tricks about knowing our own bikes. This was a huge help for me.

Another training day we were working on mounting and dismounting our bikes in order to learn to be efficient with our transitions between the swim-to-bike and bike-to-run. A few seconds in your time makes a difference. I ended up having a nice bruise on my leg as my pedal caught my knee on my first try. On the plus side, the convenience of working at NIFS and being downtown has enabled me to run errands and train with my bike, accumulating cycling miles over the course of the week. This has helped me to be more comfortable on my bike and learn how to get on and off quickly.

Improving My Running

Running is probably my strongest event in the triathlon. Last year I ran competitively in the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon, although I have not kept up with a consistent cardio program until now. My goal is to increase my pace in hopes of making up for where I am challenged in swimming and biking, but without running out of energy before I cross the finish line. Getting back into a running program is hard! I’ve battled plantar fasciitis in my left foot and a mild case of low back pain. I’ve mixed my workouts with weight training prior to running, sprints, and longer-distance runs in hopes of mimicking the fatigue that I will feel from swimming and biking on race day.

My Top Triathlon Tips

I have learned through this triathlon training program so much about myself and the importance of not stressing over the big picture, but instead focusing on each segment of the training and race. As a trainer and a first-time triathlete in training, here are a few tips I’d like to share:  

  • Use a coach to help you. It’s hard to see your technique when you are swimming, biking, and running, and a few simple tips will make a big difference. You can always improve.
  • Warming up is essential. Techniques such as foam rolling, tension release, dynamic stretching, and letting your body adjust to the environment have made such a big difference in my workouts.
  • Bring on the food. Don’t get me wrong; eating healthy, meal prepping, and portion control are all essential to my daily way of living. However, what I’ve noticed is that I’m hungrier and my body has been leaning out and getting toned from the additional training. I’ve had to increase my food/calorie intake so that I can stay energized throughout the whole day.

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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: NIFS running swimming triathlon cycling nifs staff triathlon training program personal trainer

NIFS Personal Trainer Takes on a Triathlon Challenge

Crystal-1.jpgOne of my greatest passions is health and fitness. It has always been a part of my life, from studying it in school to choosing it as my career path. This year I have decided to try something that I have not done before: a triathlon! I’m excited to share with you my career as a personal trainer and health fitness instructor and my journey in training for the Indianapolis Go Girl Triathlon that will take place August 26.

Taking Time to Achieve My Own Goal

As a fitness professional, one of the ways that I measure success is when I’ve helped an individual or group reach their goals. Knowing that others obtained their dream is more rewarding than reaching my own personal goals. Getting to know a client’s strengths and weaknesses, and guiding them to overcome hurdles that they never thought they could achieve, is so gratifying. As a client seeks my advice and help, I believe it’s just as important that I practice what I’m teaching while working to connect it to current research and trends in the fitness and health realm. With all these different things on my plate, sometimes my own training and goal achievement gets pushed aside.

When considering what my own personal goals were for this year, I decided it was time I took on a new challenge for myself, completing my first ever triathlon. At first, the idea intimidated me because several thoughts came to mind:

  • “That’s a lot of cardio.”
  • “What if I drown in the open water?”
  • I’m not a swimmer.”
  • “I can’t even float.”

I instantly felt afraid, and the thought of a new challenge that I’d never considered doing crept up on me. On the other hand, that’s what also has enticed me to take on this race. Doing something that I’ve never done before actually excites me, and it’s what pushed me to make the decision to give it a try. I have decided to fully accept that challenge and have a coach help lead and guide me to reach my goal.

The Impact of Attitude

In addition to my adventurous and ambitious personality, the experience of surviving leukemia as a child has allowed me to take a look at life from a different perspective—a second opportunity in this world. I believe that your mind is one of the most powerful influences on your daily decisions; what you feed your mind, your thoughts, self-talk, “fight-or-flight” reactions, and which outside influences you believe all play a part in who you choose to be on a daily basis. The bottom line is this: When you tell yourself you can or can’t do something, you make that decision right then and there, because it all comes down to your will to take the next step outside your comfort zone and take action.

I look forward to sharing with you my experience of taking on this challenge and training for a triathlon, and I encourage you to follow my series on this blog.

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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: NIFS triathlon nifs staff challenge Indianapolis goals personal trainer