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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Build a Bigger Engine with Aerobic Training (Part 1)

GettyImages-605772224For whatever reason, there seems to be this notion in the fitness industry that if the workout doesn’t leave you on the ground gasping for air, it really wasn’t a good one. Or maybe that you didn’t work hard enough because you didn’t go running to the nearest trash can by the end. This could not be further from the truth; but unfortunately this way of thinking still seems to run rampant.

Not Every Workout Has to Be a Gut-Buster

One of my favorite quotes when it comes to strength and conditioning comes from Yuri Verkhoshansky, Russian professor, coach, and author who is credited as being the father of plyometrics. He suggests that “any idiot can make another idiot tired.” Now, I’m not calling anyone out. But this brings up a fantastic and often forgotten premise: that we should not judge the quality of a training session simply by how exhausted we feel.

Yes, we should challenge ourselves. Yes, there should be times when a workout feels more difficult. But here’s the key: not every workout should feel like a gut-busting knock-down, drag-out fight to the finish. If it does, it might be time to reevaluate.

A Quick Exercise Physiology Lesson: The Aerobic System

Our bodies rely on three energy systems to get us through everything from a tough workout session to washing the dishes, as well as basic organ function around the clock. They are all operating in some capacity all of the time, just in varying degrees based on the activity we’re doing. It’s not like a light switch, just on/off. Here are our players:

  • The ATP-PCr or phosphagen system (immediate)
  • The anaerobic or lactic system (short term; remember glycolysis?)
  • The aerobic system (long term)

Now, this isn’t intended to be a full-blown Bill Nye-esque science lesson. But I do want to focus on one of those energy systems for just a moment because it plays a massive role in how we are able to recover from task to task. And that is the aerobic system. It has the capacity to produce a great deal of energy, ATP—our body’s form of energy currency. The only problem is that is takes a little while longer to do compared to the other two. As a result, the aerobic system is responsible for replenishing and producing energy during rest periods or downtime between bouts of high-intensity exercise.

Much like any facet of fitness, this system can be trained directly. It typically comes in the form of slightly lower-intensity exercise (examples to come in a future post). So, while the exercise session might not feel like a back-breaker, the benefits that arise from it can come back twofold when looking at future training sessions. Essentially, what you’re doing when you are working on bolstering your aerobic system is building a bigger, more efficient engine.

Reap the Benefits of Faster Recovery

So, those high-intensity classes you take a couple times per week? Think about being able to sustain the same power and strength from round to round because you can recover more effectively during your rest periods. Or maybe you like to hop under the bar for some strength training in the form of squat or bench press. Well imagine being able to hit more of those heavy singles because you recover more proficiently between sets. That’s when the aerobic system really kicks into high gear: during rest. Yes, it is always contributing to some degree when it comes to ATP production (remember energy currency?). But its benefits really come to light during the downtime.

Building your fitness profile really requires a 360-degree approach. Some sessions may focus on strength. Some sessions may focus on high-intensity training. And some should take the time to address the aerobic system. Not only do they provide the body some much-needed recovery time; these sessions can also allow you to get more out of those strength and high-intensity workouts as well.

Next time, I’ll cover specific examples of how you can train your aerobic system. Until then, stay strong, my friends!

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

Topics: strength recovery high intensity energy aerobic

5 Tips for a Safe Return to Fitness After Quarantine

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

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

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

Reset Your Mindset

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

Start Slow and Add Gradually

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

Do an RPE System Check

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

Warm Up/Prep for Movement

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

Hydrate and Recover

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

***

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

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here. 

Topics: injury prevention hydration recovery warming up mindset quarantine

My 7-Day Experiment with Hot/Cold Contrast Showers for Recovery

GettyImages-533891978Nowadays, it seems that many people are trying to find that next great gadget to help put them over the top. Whether it’s the fitness world, life at home, or the day-to-day grind at the office, people seem to be peddling some kind of shortcut or cheat code to help aid performance in some way, shape, or form. I know I can’t go a day without scrolling through Instagram and seeing an ad for some new, expensive toy guaranteed to solve whatever problem I seem to be having that day.

While sometimes it can be tempting to explore those avenues, I usually tend to stay the course and preach the basics when it comes to performance and recovery. Have I slept 8 hours? Have I eaten whole foods? Did I have a sip of water that day, or was it an IV of caffeine instead? Despite all this, recently I found myself continuing to run across the concept of cold showers, or contrast showers, and how they can be used to aid recovery.

I saw articles about athletes like LeBron James using them for recovery. I read articles from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning examining their benefits, both physically and psychologically. I saw them pop-up as topics on a few podcasts that I listen to frequently. So finally I decided, “Why not? I’m going to do a 7-day experiment on myself and give these contrast showers a try!”

What Is a Contrast Shower and How Can It Help?

First, a little background. A contrast shower alternates between bouts of hot and cold water for a total time of anywhere between five and ten minutes. Some of the purported benefits of this cold thermogenesis include the following:

  • Improves blood flow and nitric oxide delivery, especially within the brain.
  • Reduces systemic inflammation.
  • Supports the connection between the brain and the digestive system by strengthening vagal tone.
  • Improves appetite regulation.
  • Improves insulin sensitivity.
  • Improves mood, focus, and attention.

What Happened When I Tried It

In my case, I chose the 10 seconds of hot, 20 seconds of cold version. I alternated between these 30-second segments 10 times for a total of five minutes. Here’s the breakdown of what ensued:

Day 1

I was terrified. I was starting my early morning with a cold shower. However, I cheated a bit and started with 30 seconds of lukewarm water before flipping it straight to hypothermia-inducing temperatures. And it took my breath away when I finally did. I used my arms as a shield. I think I actually screamed at one point (haha). Once I was through two or three cycles, though, it was a lot less shocking. Still not fun, but definitely more manageable.

Day 2

The first two or three rounds were still brutal. My breathing accelerated and I’m pretty sure I was making weird noises too. By round four, I started turning around, 360 degrees, during the cold portion. It helped a bit, purely from a distraction standpoint. The last two rounds I stood stock-still, focusing on my breathing. When I got out, and even 5, 10, and 15 minutes afterward, my mind felt very clear. I felt a little more energized. But maybe that was because I was grateful it was over!

Day 3

This time I rocked it out at the end of my day. Similar to the first two days, the first two rounds were a struggle. However, finding two really good songs to jam to was extremely helpful. I didn’t have to focus as much on how many rounds were left; instead, I just waited for the songs to end. Also, dancing in the shower, albeit somewhat risky, was a heck of a good distraction!

Day 4

I’m probably losing it by day 4, because I was actually looking forward to it today! I liked the clarity it seemed to bring. I liked the way I felt physically afterward. And as alluded to before, picking a killer playlist is key!

Day 5

I almost ditched my 7-day experiment today. Mentally, I was not feeling up to it. But afterward, I’m glad I stuck with it because I felt very refreshed. I could stand under the cold water while staying still and not screaming, even on round one!

Day 6

Today I focused on making sure some of the more temperature-sensitive areas, like the top of the head, underarm, and chest, were hit throughout. This was quite the curveball! That take-your-breath-away temperature hit me like a tidal wave. I was so alert afterward, though, that I almost forgot to make my morning cup of coffee. I was wired and ready to go at 4am!

Day 7

Mama I made it! I went into this one hoping to alleviate some soreness I had from a workout the preceding day. Afterward I still had some stiffness, but it was markedly different. This was at the end of my day, and transitioning from the contrast shower to holding a warm cup of tea and reading a book was incredibly relaxing. While I was alert, I wasn’t amped up. I felt refreshed and focused. And it sure didn’t stop me from falling asleep the second my head hit the pillow about an hour later.

Final Thoughts

By the end of the seven-day experiment, I was oddly “hooked” on the whole contrast shower concept. Although this is anecdotal evidence, I felt calm, focused, and alert after each shower. I noticed small improvements in self-reported soreness as well. And if nothing else, it was a heck of a wake-up call at 4am before work!

It remains to be seen just how much cold thermogenesis can aid in recovery post-exercise, as the current research (and here) is equivocal. But as with many recovery methods, there is something to be said for the perceived improvements in soreness or pain management. In other words, if you think that it’s working for you, then it will. If you think that it’s a waste, then it probably is.

As of today though, I’m currently riding a 17-day streak of contrast showers! Stay cool, everybody!

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

Topics: recovery contrast showers inflammation blood flow mood cold thermogenesis

Go With the Flow: Spice Up your Warm-ups Using Flow Circuits

With the winter months settling in, and maybe traveling becoming part of your routine, it may become harder to carve out time for workouts. Limited access to equipment may also throw a wrench into your plan for a quick training session. But by incorporating bodyweight movements into a flow circuit, you can bypass the excuses and be workout ready any time, any place.

What Is a Bodyweight Flow?

Flow circuits typically include bodyweight movements that are linked in succession one after another with minimal or no rest in between. They can be used as a dynamic warmup, a low-intensity recovery circuit, or an entire workout in and of itself. They can also be a great way to sprinkle some physical activity into your day, especially if time and equipment are lacking.

How to Implement a Flow Circuit

If you’re looking to spice up your standard dynamic warm-up (or add one in general), a simple two-minute flow circuit fits perfectly. You can perform each movement three to five times, and when the movements are linked together in succession, they help increase blood flow, improve mobility, and increase your overall core body temperature to prep you for the workout ahead. Bodyweight flow circuits also allow you to hit large, compound movements that address stability at multiple joints in a shorter amount of time. Overall, they are a great bang for your buck. Examples of movements include bear crawls, cross-under lunges, inchworms, and rocking patterns.

Here are a couple of bodyweight flow options that you can take for a spin next time you’re at the gym in need of a warm-up.

  • Video 1 (Hip Flow Series)

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  • Video 2 (Crawling/Rolling Patterns)

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If you’re interested in learning more about how to use bodyweight movements and flows for warm-ups, circuits, cool-downs, or recovery routines, check us out down in the Fitness Center. You can also reach out to me via email to lzakrajsek@nifs.org for any and all questions. Happy lifting!

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

Topics: fitness center circuit workout videos recovery warmups bodyweight flow bodyweight flow flow circuits low-intensity

Scrooged: Growing Older Is Getting Old (Three Keys for Aging Better)

shutterstock_119305324Getting old sucks. That’s right, I said it: getting old sucks. I might be the only one in the fitness world to say it, but it does. I know I’m supposed to be positive about the inevitable passing of time and what each of us face in our journeys—and I’m positive it is not fun at all. No matter whether you are turning 20 or 70, we are all getting older and it is getting old! If you can’t tell by now, I am a bit grumpy about some of the aspects that each passing birthday has in store; and much like Ebenezer Scrooge, I say, “Bah humbug” to it all!

In a previous post, “This is 40,” I mentioned how quickly some physical attributes can change, and not in a good way. I recently purchased some readers (which are currently aiding me to write this blog) because my eyesight is beginning slip, I guess. I sometimes make a bunch of noises when I get-up, and it takes a few steps to get upright. The other day I went for what I used to consider a short run, and had to stop three times to stretch out. When goofing around with my nephews, I have to first ask myself, “Will this activity result in me hurting myself?” before I participate. Bah humbug, right? And yep, I’m still pretty grumpy about the whole thing!

You Will Be Visited by Three Goals

Okay, now that I’m done complaining about it, what can you do to help growing older go more smoothly? In the coming weeks, you will be visited by three goals that can change your life. These three different goals cover the concepts and strategies that can help minimize some of the effects of getting older. What are these goals, you ask?

  • Eat well.
  • Move more.
  • Recover better.

Wait, you’re telling me you’ve heard of these goals before? (Hopefully you’re picking up on my sarcasm!) That’s right, there’s no crazy new idea here. But no matter how we in the health and fitness world try to gift-wrap the keys to living long and living well, you all still don’t do it. Crazy, right? Who knew shutting your pie hole, getting off your butt, and resting properly could have positive effects on your health and longevity? So why aren’t more of us doing these simple things that can change the game forever?

Gear Up for a Better Christmas Future!

During the visits from these goals, they will walk you through the how and why of each goal and the steps to take to be better as you age and not the other way around. Recipes, videos, and workouts will all be part of these visits, covering an array of strategies that can help.

It’s not too late! You can change; we can change! Listen to the messages these goals have for you during each visit, implement them, and say “bah humbug” to getting old and say “Whoopee!” to being awesome for life!

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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: holidays recovery goals healthy lifestyle aging

Happy Playmore: 5 Movement Tips to Stay on the Golf Course Longer

GettyImages-961002976It’s finally that time of year again—time to hit the links and chase a little ball all over a well-manicured green space with the hopes of golf immortality. If you are like me, you have a love/hate relationship with the sport of golf, but I look forward to my weekly round with friends to take on challenging courses and ultimately myself.

All levels of golfers are continually looking for ways to improve something in their game and to get out there more and more to test their skills. But are you taking the necessary steps to make sure you are able to lace up the spikes, strap on the glove, and swing a club anywhere from 70 to 100 times in a 3- to 4-hour span? We can plan practice like crazy on the short game, driver, and flat-stick, but if you can’t move well, or if you have an injury, you won’t be booking that tee time.

As an avid golfer myself, and an aging one at that, I have found some ways to ensure I can enjoy the game that frustrates me so much at times but provides aspects you just can’t get anywhere else. That’s why we play. Here are some tips to help you play longer and, ultimately, better.

Get Screened

Do you know whether you are moving well? Do you know whether you have some mobility issues in key joints for the golf swing, or imbalances? If you do, are you performing specific strategies to help correct and enhance any movement problems you may have? You wouldn’t expect a Corvette to drive at a high performance level if it had square tires, would you? But often we golfers expect to play in the 70s with glaring movement issues and become rather frustrated when we do not. See a certified pro, like all the coaches at NIFS, and get an FMS (Functional Movement Screen) completed to see if there are any movement deficiencies that could be holding you back on the course. You will receive an in-depth report of how you are moving and a bunch of strategies to help make your movement better. Our coaches take the approach of Gray Cook: that when you move well, you will move often; and in this case, moving better means more golf.

Emphasize Mobility

If you want to hit the ball farther, and more often, you have to emphasize mobility exercises and drills in your fitness routine when you are not playing, especially mobility of the thoracic spine. The rotation of the golf swing comes mainly from your ability to “turn” through the T-spine, or upper back area. The larger the turn, the greater the potential swing speed you can create, which can lead to bigger drives and adding yards to all of your clubs. You will receive drills from your coach after completing your FMS, and you can also read more on the importance of T-spine mobility from experts like Greg Rose and others at the Titleist Performance Institute. In most if not all athletic environments (life being one of those), it truly has to start with mobility. The more mobility you have, the more potential you can unleash.

Train the Frontal and Transverse Plane

Working in a fitness facility I witness on a daily basis a lack of training emphasis on the frontal and transverse planes of motion. We are a pretty straightforward kind of fitness planet, and not in a good way. And many times I field questions about an injury that happened on the golf course from individuals who have never trained outside of walking in a straight line, or straight presses and pulls. They are confused that they move explosively in a plane of motion they never train and somehow get hurt. The golf swing happens in the frontal and transverse planes of motion, so you need to train with movements that challenge you in those planes. Countless exercises and drills can get you out of the sagittal plane (forward and back), and prepare and load your body to take on a big swing as well as provide the endurance to perform many swings. Here are a few of the classics:

Warm Up Properly

This really should go without saying, yet I have to: WARM UP BEFORE YOU PLAY! Racing to the course, pulling the bag out of the trunk, stepping to the first tee, and hitting the big dog after a few practice swings is a sure-fire way to at best play poorly, and at worst suffer a big injury that takes you out for the season. Take the time to show up a little earlier and warm-up properly. As I typically do, I reference the experts. I learned this quick and effective warmup from Jason Glass that I use every time. If you don’t dig this one, that’s fine; just do something to prepare your body to perform for that 3- to 4-hour round of golf.

RICE After the Round

If you don’t know by now, RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. You don’t have to suffer a trauma to enlist and perform this concept. Ice can go a long way in the recovery process, and that is the goal here, to recover quickly and get back on the course. You don’t think the pros finish up, go get some dinner, and hit the rack, do you? No way! They recover properly so they can swing well every time they step on the course. Take time to perform a light stretch after a round, jump in the hot tub, or ice down sore muscles after you are done enjoying this great sport. It will get you back out quicker and you will be playing longer.

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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 injury prevention golf recovery mobility movement functional movement screen

Win the Day, Not the Lottery: Daily Success in Fitness Training

GettyImages-1083000206So often in life people like to look at things as win or lose. But what if you switched your perspective to thinking of making progress by winning each day? With this simple shift, your days can be filled with more positivity and success instead of the typical mindset of losing or not being good enough.

Assess Your Current Fitness Level

So how can you take this approach into your fitness training? It starts with acceptance. Where are you at today? Maybe start by doing a simple fitness test:            

EXERCISE DURATION  # of Reps Completed
Pushups 1 minute  
Situps 1 minute  
Box step-ups 1 minute  
Squats 1 minute  
TRX Row 1 minute  
Burpees 1 minute  


Set Realistic Fitness Goals

After you complete the test and track your results, set attainable goals in your mind. Maybe you want to increase each number by 3 to 5 reps a month from now. That doesn’t sound too bad, right? We often set ourselves up for “losing” or “failure” by creating goals that aren’t realistic.

The chance of winning the lottery in your lifetime is expected to be 1 in 175,000,000. If you set up your goal to win, how much money would you lose trying to buy all the lottery tickets just to achieve this goal? You might argue that the lose outweighs the win. The same is true in fitness training. People often think that doing more will get them to their overall desired results, but often this approach burns them out quickly, making the overall goal not attainable, and they give up on it after a short period of time.

The Mindset of Fitness Training

Here are some things to keep in mind.

“Progress over perfection leads to winning every workout!”

If you set yourself up to start at the bottom and slowly add each time you work out, you will notice progress at each session. With new growth comes new excitement. Aim for progressing in your workouts for a daily feeling of winning, instead of an overall outcome of burnout and losing.

Proper form leads to winning longer!

Practicing proper form can be a huge challenge for many people. Slowing down in general can get uncomfortable, but breaking out of your comfort zone can reduce injuries and lead to success in your fitness progress for a longer duration.

When you practice quality in addition to your quantity goals, you are making double the progress. Have you ever asked a trainer to take a look at some of your basic movements, like a pushup or squat? A lot of details go into these exercises without weight that you might not even realize, let alone the additional details you need to think about when adding weight. A Functional Movement Screen might be a great way to receive feedback about your form to help give you additional knowledge and tools for personal fitness growth.

Don’t forget recovery!

People often forget about the importance of recovery and how it actually allows us to win. Without allowing the body time to heal, you are putting negative strain on the body and brain, leading to not just physical injuries but also a lot of stress and anxiety, which also spirals into even more problems such as future disease.

Being mindful of how much stress you put your body under and balancing it out with how well you recover with days off, diet, and foam rolling and stretching is a huge fitness bonus!

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

Topics: goal setting recovery mindset assessment fitness goals functional movement screen

Rest for the Wicked: Recovery from High-Intensity Training

GettyImages-701140898The peripheral pollution surrounding what fitness and wellness should look like and how you get there is near epidemic status. The topic of high-intensity training receives the majority of the attention, with using Olympic lifts for conditioning a close second. And oh, what is “Insta-worthy” is atop the pollution charts as well. Okay, so that last one was a personal gripe more than based on empirical data. No matter; there are so many messages out there, many of them incorrect and downright unsafe, that it is hard to wade through the muck to get to the clear and beneficial information.

The peripheral pollution surrounding what fitness and wellness should look like and how you get there is near epidemic status."

What I have come to appreciate more and more these days both professionally and personally is the concept of rest and recovery both during a training session and on subsequent days of the week. In my previous post, “This is 40”, I touched on how recovery is so important to get right as we age, but it is just as important for any age and fitness level. Rest and recovery do so much to help you reach your results, but they so often get forgotten due to the misguided messages out there saying that it has to be hard all the time no matter what. Here’s the thing: your immune system does not know the difference between disease and overtraining, which could leave you susceptible to a whole slew of infections. Not only are rest and recovery good for you physiologically, they can do wonders for your emotional self.

Here are three Rs to live by that will allow for the greatest training effect from the high-intensity work you are putting in at the gym, decrease the chance for injury and or illness, and hopefully increase the amount of SMILES you give to the world each day because you feel great!

Your immune system does not know the difference between disease and overtraining.”

Recover

Let’s look at recovery both during a training session as well as outside of a training day, shall we?

Training session: For higher-intensity training sessions, mind your work-to-rest ratio and aim for 1:2 or 1:1. Be wary about a laundry list of exercises to be performed for :45 work and :15 rest for multiple sets. There is not sufficient recovery time at the higher intensity loads, and before long most movements are not executed well, leading to poor results and maybe even injury. Physiologically, not allowing the system to return to a more normal state (or closer to it) can play havoc on the systems needed for the results you are seeking as well as keeping you alive. If you are not using time, heart rates or a simple talk test can be used to determine when it is appropriate to take on the next bout. A good rule of thumb is 110 to 120 beats per minute for your heart rate, or you can complete a couple of sentences in a row. Hard work pays off, but you have to be able to work hard each round and set. Ample time to recover will allow for that.

Off day: What do I do on my days off for recovery? See below. But, let us talk training schedule for maximum recovery results. As always, fitness IQ and fitness level will determine both the training schedule and loads; and there are many very thick books on that topic, which I am not trying to cover here. My hope is to provide a few basic, typical, rules of thumb. Again, for higher-intensity training sessions, here are a few sample weekly schedules:

  • Beginner: 1 On, 1 Off
  • Intermediate: 2 On, 1 Off
  • Advanced: 3 On, 1 Off

These are very general ideas of what a training schedule could look like, and I would highly suggest that you let your body be your guide. Resting heart rate can be a key indicator of proper recovery and being training ready. If you wake up and you’re at 80bpm, you might want to recover that day. Build in those recovery days to help maximize your results.

“Hard work pays off, but you have to be able to work hard each round or set.”

Regenerate

Once again, let’s look at both training days and off days and what regeneration looks like for each.

Training session: Regeneration for a training session is made up of some drills that aid in elasticity of the soft tissues and prep the body for movement. This is typically completed before a training session but should also be done afterward as well to help aid in recovery and be ready for the next session. Elements found in regeneration are the following:

  • Breathing techniques
  • Foam rolling and trigger point drills
  • Active mobility and range-of-motion drills
  • Stability drills

Off day: Here is where we step away from the training stimulus and dig deeply into the regeneration of tissues and resetting energy levels through activities that encourage rehabilitation from training and focus on recentering yourself. The place to start is to get ample SLEEP! Enough said! If you are not getting 7 to 8 hours of restful sleep a night, consistently, reaching your goals will be an even tougher road.

Some other activities that will promote regeneration include the following:

  • Massage
  • Ice (my product of choice is HyperIce)
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Hot tubs
  • Cryo-bath

Reflect

The third R should be reserved for reflecting on the week of training and life as a whole and should be an enjoyable training session. The session should emphasize play and nature. It should be an active session, but not nearly as intense as a training session (unless, of course, you play a sport for leisure). Mainly, take the time to be happy to be alive, spend time with the people you love, and do something you enjoy doing. Just as important to your health and well-being as the other two Rs, treat it as a mental-health day where you are being active. I don’t have a list here for you because you should do what moves you; but I highly recommend that it emphasize play, and that you connect with nature somehow.

I say again, hard work pays off, but you have to be able to work hard, and treat recovery as a training priority if you hope to get the most results from that hard work. These activities and days should be built into your training schedule, because it is still training, and a super-important aspect to the overall training plan. So there is rest for the wicked!

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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: workouts training recovery high intensity results

This Is 40: Fitness Checks for Active Aging Workouts

IMG_1729I celebrated my 40th birthday almost a year ago but postponed writing the “I’m 40 now” blog until now, mainly because it is a bit played out. But more importantly, I wanted to see what this 40 thing was all about before writing about it.

My 40th year on this planet started off great, spending that 18th of August completing 40 holes of golf with the wizard Alex Soller and a few other NIFS characters. It was a very memorable day, one that helped make me feel that 40 truly is just a number and I am still very capable of fitness feats. So I leaped into my 40th year like I have so many previously, with grit and an attitude that nothing will slow me down. I love to move around and I love to challenge myself, and I looked forward to what the year had in store for me.

Do You Really Start to Fall Apart When You Hit 40?

However, Father Time soon showed up with a message that a few adjustments must be considered if I was to continue to stay as active as I like to—nay, need to—be. It was crazy how it seemed so many things were going wrong physically, or it took so much longer to recover, or my drive to train hard lessened. I was reminded of Rocky’s last conversation with Apollo before the Drago fight, where Stallone attempted to talk Apollo out of the fight, stressing that they have changed and were no longer able to do what they used to.

I had always dismissed the messages from men my senior saying, “just you wait; things will change”; but it was becoming more and more apparent that those guys were right. I am not so naive that I would run obstacle course races and hit PRs in the gym left and right and at the level I was used to; I just didn’t expect so many reminders that I am not who I once was physically.

Check Yourself: Five Steps for Adjusting Workouts as You Age

Have you ever heard the saying “Father Time is undefeated”? Sometimes it’s a pretty tough pill to swallow, but here are a few system checks that I have made, which you can use to keep moving as the years keep coming.

  • Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 11.57.34 AMCheck your expectations/mindset. Although it can be hard to handle at times (believe me), physical abilities are going to change and it is important to evaluate and adjust your expectations. This will help when you are faced with a physical challenge that you might have formerly handled pretty easily, to determine whether you should attempt it or live to fight another day. Your mindset is your story; now it’s just the next chapter. Negative self-talk about what you used to be able to do will not help in moving forward positively. I have found it helpful to manage the minimums and find that new normal. This will keep you safe both physically and mentally.
  • Check your warm-up. Maybe the days of performing a few stretches and jumping jacks and then hitting heavy back squats are gone, and that is okay. Taking a few more minutes to warm up properly, including mobility and core stability drills followed by dynamic stretching exercises, is key in avoiding big-time soreness and injury.
  • Check your focus. My focus has changed a little from conquering any fitness challenge I can get my hands on to doing things that would allow me to continue to do things. I am no longer a competitive athlete nor am I all that interested in how much I bench press. What I am most interested in is staying active and being able to move around. Because of that, my focus has shifted a bit and my training has as well to accommodate it. Check your focus to make sure your training is providing what you need. If you are still chasing a strength goal or PR in a half-marathon, go get it, but do it safely. If your focus is like me and you want to be a great mover, fit and healthy, your training should be centered around that. NIFS can help with that!
  • Check your workload. I am a staunch supporter of the ACSM’s guidelines for physical activity: getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week and 60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise; you pretty much need to move every day for at least 30 minutes. That shouldn’t change, but check your intensity and exercise selection for those training sessions to determine whether the workload matches what you checked from above. Also, you should consider the total time being active for the day and not just your training session. Training hard for 60 minutes followed by 8 hours of sitting can be just as bad as not training at all. Focus on staying active throughout the day by taking the stairs, parking farther away, or playing with the kids when you get home.
  • Check your recovery. This has been the most impactful area for me entering my fourth decade: how I am approaching my recovery. I have always been pretty solid with my recovery strategies, but I’ve really had to up my game these past few years. One game changer: ICE! I never really used ice in the past, but now I ice almost every night, especially after a back injury that put me on the couch for a week. Regular massages and other soft-tissue treatments are strategies I highly recommend for recovery. But if I were to put a thumb on what has helped me the most for recovery, I have stopped trying to pack so much into a training session or a day, period. Take time to reflect and relax from the daily stressors, whatever that looks like to you. Enjoy fitness and moving every day, rest and recover properly, and you can keep moving for a lifetime!

As I said before, and it’s worth mentioning again, for me it has been about finding a new normal and managing the minimums. It’s so important that you wrap your mind around what your normal is and what makes you happy. It might not come with blue ribbons anymore, but every day is an event. Go out there and win the day!

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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: workouts recovery mindset warmup active aging over 40

Which Fitness Assessment Is Right for Me? Part 1: VO2

V02 Assessment: A Wealth of Fitness Information for Training

Screen Shot 2017-12-26 at 1.05.29 PM.pngFitness trends come and go, but heart-rate training is something that has been around for a long time; and due to its validity, I have a feeling it will not be leaving anytime soon. In fact, some places base their entire programming around your heart rate. And knowing your heart-rate training zone is actually a very useful tool for anyone—from the marathon runner to the three-times-a-week boot camp attendee!

Maybe you have felt totally spent after a workout, or on the flip side, you have been at the gym for an hour and don’t feel very productive. Knowing your heart rate training zones can help you to train both harder as well as smarter. So become more efficient in your training by increasing your work capacity and decreasing the time it takes to do it.

Benefits of Knowing Your Training Zones

Take a look at the top 3 benefits of knowing your training zones:

  • Maximize performance. Train in your zones that are based on real numbers.
  • Know how to recover. Recovery is one important element to exercise that many miss. A V02 test will give you your recovery time in order to be efficient in things like intervals and rest.
  • Train harder and smarter. If someone told you that you could become more fit in less time, wouldn’t you jump onto that boat? Knowing your zones allows you to be more efficient in your training

What Does This Assessment Show Me?

In other words, how efficiently does your body utilize oxygen and get it to the working muscles?

  • Four different training zones (low-fat burning, moderate-endurance, high-cardio training, and peak-cardio training zones).
  • V02 Max (your personal cardiovascular fitness level based on your age and gender).
  • Recovery (both heart rate zone as well as time it takes you to recover from peak performance).
  • Aerobic threshold (the window in which your body stops using oxygen efficiently and begins to rely on another energy system for the duration of the exercise—typically won’t last long).
  • Anaerobic threshold (the point at which lactic acid builds up in the body faster than it can be removed; the point at which you do not have enough oxygen to sustain exercise for long periods of time).
  • Total calories burned (the V02 gives you the total amount of calories you burn during each training zone if you sustained that pace for the entire workout).

With all this being said, I would tell anyone from the regular everyday exerciser to the most elite athlete that getting a V02 assessment is something that is beneficial for your training. The cost is $100 for NIFS members and $115 for guests.

To schedule your V02 assessment, contact the NIFS track desk at 317-274-3432 ext. 262, or fitness@nifs.org.

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

Topics: fitness cardio calories endurance recovery heart rate V02 vo2 max assessment