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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Upper-body Workouts: Try the UBE Equipment in the Fitness Center

IMG_4820Ergometers have been a mainstay in the fitness world for a long time. You might not realize it, but many of the cardio pieces in your fitness center that you use regularly are ergometers. The arm ergometer comes from two Greek words: ergo, which means work, and metro or meter, which means measurement. In essence, any cardio equipment you have been using that has the capability to measure your workload can be considered an ergometer.

Because this is a wide spectrum of possibilities, we will focus on some pieces of equipment that fall into a subcategory, Upper-body Arm Ergometers (or UBE for short). I will give some professional tips and workout ideas to incorporate some great exercise into your program well into the new year.

NIFS has several options for UBE-minded people. For starters, the Marpo Rope Climb Machine, the Concept II SkiErg, and the Schwinn Air Bikes can each provide a nice, challenging upper-body cardio exercise. Because each machine specializes in its own fitness discipline (climbing, skiing, and biking), exercisers have an opportunity to not only do the exercises they love to do, but also try new pieces of equipment.

Rope Climbing Machine

Rope climbing is hard work, but quite beneficial. The main movers here are the Latissimus Dorsi, also known as the Lats; however, you can easily notice other muscles that work to support the movement, such as core and grip strength. Sometimes, though, this exercise is a little aggressive and you might not be ready to attempt a rope ascent. In this case, we can introduce you to the Marpo Rope Climbing Machine. This device can simulate various rope activities ranging from climbing the rope to a tug-of-war. Further, accessibility and versatility are both pluses. I like to use the rope machine for cardio on days that my legs are too sore to go, or if I am recovering from a lower-body injury.

Workout: I would suggest doing an interval of 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off for 4 to 5 rounds at the end of your workout. During the “go” time, be ready to work!

Concept II Ski Erg

skiAnother piece of UBE equipment you can find is the Concept II Ski Erg. The machine is designed to replicate cross-country skiing, but can also be used for upper-body only. For years, cross-country skiing has been associated with some of the most beneficial exercises in our industry. When snow is not in the forecast or if we lived far away from winter weather, it might be hard to come by a set of skis. The Ski Erg takes up a relatively small space and still gives a great workout. The Concept II machines are designed to take a lot of intensity while providing a good, safe workout.

Workout: A quick workout could be as easy as measuring your quickest 1,000 meters and then trying to beat that time the next time you are at NIFS.

Air Bike

Screen Shot 2019-05-30 at 11.35.49 AMThe final piece of equipment is the air bike. Bikes have been around for quite a while, but not all bikes are created equal. The air bike is fan driven, which means that the intensity you feel is based on your exercise output. Because it uses both your arms and legs, you get a full-body effect from the exercise. When muscles contract, not only are calories being burnt, but blood has to pump out to all those muscles, hence your heart rate increases. Ask anyone who has used the air bike and they will tell you that it could be one of the best challengers in the gym.

Workout: Use the bike as a warmup or a final finisher. I like to use the bike as a cool-down to keep the blood flowing and ease out of a hard workout. Try an 8–10-minute ride at moderate intensity at the end of your session.

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For people who are injured or just want a great workout, the UBE equipment has something for everyone. NIFS provides support and will help you find the equipment and workouts that are appropriate for your goals and level of training. Train hard with equipment designed to push you to the limits.

If you are unsure about the UBE equipment, please stop and see a NIFS staff member to assist you with your needs. As always, keep working hard to achieve your goals, and don’t be afraid to try something a little different at the gym—you might end up loving it!

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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 equipment workouts skiing biking upper body climbing ergonomic

Going for Gold: NIFS Winter Olympics Special Exercises

GettyImages-533291891.jpgEvery four years, the Winter Olympics shows up, and we are in awe of some of the most gifted athletes on the planet. Ice skaters gliding upon an edge like a razor blade, yet choreographed to music. Bobsledders who risk near death contently as they barrel through corners (mortals, like myself, need not apply). And the cross-country skiers boast some of the highest aerobic capacities of any athlete in the world. For the majority of us, riding down a hill on an inner tube does the trick, but that doesn’t mean we can’t infuse your workout with the tools to not only get a great workout, but dream for gold!

Looking around the fitness center, finding options to get into Olympic shape isn’t too difficult. With a little imagination, you can add these three exercises to your workout today with little or no skating, skiing, or bobsledding experience. Now get ready for the NIFS Winter Olympic Special: Going for Gold!

Helix Lateral Elliptical

If you want powerful legs, endurance, and balance, you might want to take a look at speed skating. Not unlike its summer Olympic running counterpart, speed skating requires a lot of practice. To accelerate, the skater pushes side to side, arms working to not only balance but also propel the body forward.

To simulate this motion, the Helix Lateral Elliptical allows you to safely perform the lower-body movement used in speed skating. Being able to do this exercise year round in the friendly confines of NIFS is a definite bonus. A built-in console allows you to track intensity and time. A quick Tabata (:20 on, :20 off) for 5–8 rounds can give your workout a nice lift. Be sure to try both directions!

Concept II Ski Erg

ski.jpgThe concept of cross-country skiing for sport comes from areas in which getting around is easier and more common on skis than trudging through the snow. Out of necessity and the evolution of transportation, people in the Nordic region of Europe are now famously known for producing some of the highest VO2 Max numbers in the world. Your VO2 Max is the quantification of how efficiently your body uses oxygen when you exercise.

With that being said, how can you get similar exercise without all the snow or burden of buying skis? Concept II, the company that makes rowing machines, designed a vertical rowing machine that can simulate the upper-body cross-country skiing pattern. Like the Helix, there is a console to track your progress, intensity, and time. Once you get the hang of the Ski Erg, you can see how far you can get in 60 seconds, rest, and then do it again!

Prowler Sled Push

Alex-Sled.jpgOne of the most fascinating events at the winter Olympics is the bobsled. A team of individuals, working as one, propels a bobsled down a narrow, icy chute. To get the sled going, the team relies heavily on otherworldly leg strength. The rest of the event takes skill and some luck, as this is a race to the finish line. The winning team usually has a complete balance of strength, skill, balance, and weight.

The exercise you can do at NIFS that mimics this movement most closely is the Prowler Sled Push. There are many sled options to choose from, but this one allows you to start in a standing position and requires you to physically push the weighted sled (no attachments needed). This can be done in several ways: heavy weights for short distance and lighter weights for longer duration as well as sprints. For a great partner routine, relay races are a perfect way to give you and some friends exercise and breaks. Have one person push the sled, while the other two are on the “ends.” As the sled approaches, the next person takes the sled-pushing responsibility and pushes it back to the starting point. This continues until a certain distance is reached or for time. Try to mark a 30-yard distance and continue this exercise for 2–3 minutes for one set. Be sure to enjoy your rest times!

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Whether you are looking for a new routine or really are dreaming about the Olympics, these three exercises are sure to give you a great workout. If anything, we can appreciate the hard work and dedication it takes to become an Olympian. For more fun fitness ideas, check back to the NIFS blog and social media outlets (YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter). Until next time, friends, dream big! Go for gold!

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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: balance endurance rowing exercises winter skiing vo2 max olympics skating

Staying Motivated in Your Winter Workouts

Being someone who loves to run, especially outside, I understand the challenge of trying to keep up my motivation during those “indoor months” that have suddenly crept upon us. As is typical for the winter season, Americans report exercising less frequently. And according to a recent study, just from October to November, adults who reported exercising 30 minutes, three or more days a week, fell 3 percent.

122397958So how can we stay motivated for winter workouts? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Try something new that you have been putting off. Have you ever walked by the Zumba® class and thought, “Hmm, that looks like fun. Maybe I should go in and give it a try? Nah, I’ll go outside and run instead.” Or what about that spin class that you’ve been eyeing since you started coming to the gym? Find a class or an indoor fitness challenge that you have been interested in trying and have just continued to put it off.
  2. Build a personal workout calendar. With the hundreds of apps out there these days, this should be one of the easiest things to do. There are several that you can look up online, but check out the Workout Plan app if you need a good place to start. If you are a NIFS member, you can utilize our fitness assessment and exercise prescription at no additional cost. If you work out at another gym, see what services they have to offer to help you come up with a plan that’s right for you. No matter what you choose to do, have a plan in place and follow it to keep yourself on track.
  3. Find activities that you enjoy. One of the keys to staying motivated throughout the winter is to find things that you enjoy doing. You have to pick things that interest you and keep you wanting to come back to the gym. Maybe there is a program that you watch on TV every Tuesday night. Try coming during that time and watching it on one of the cardio machines. Or consider a weight training program or yoga that you have been putting off all summer long.
  4. Get a workout buddy. Finding someone to work out with you will really help those long winter months go by faster. If you have an accountability partner to meet you at the gym, that will help to get you there consistently.
  5. Sign up for a race. There are plenty of indoor events that you can sign up for, or register for a race during the spring to keep you in check. I know there are indoor triathlons within the Midwest that are a fun challenge to try if you have never done one before. You can always sign up for a race in a warmer state as well and make a little trip out of it.
  6. Try other outdoor activities. With all this being said, we don’t need to become hermits and lock ourselves indoors until May. Give some things a try that you haven’t done before, like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, and running. These things can all be just as fun if you are dressed properly!

I hope this list has given you some new ideas for exercising during these winter months! Find something to keep you motivated and continue to train hard. Don’t let yourself become one of those statistics in the study by letting exercise fall by the wayside during the cold months.


Mini_logo_2019_smallNeed a running buddy? The 29th Annual Mini Marathon & 5K Training Program starts January 23–May 8, 2019. Cross the finish line with us this Spring! 

Training is at 6pm at NIFS downtown. Register today online!

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

Topics: NIFS exercise winter fitness motivation workouts winter skiing snowshoeing