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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Early Sport Specialization Is Detrimental to Kids’ Health

GettyImages-155601842Recently I heard someone say something along the lines of, “That sixth-grade basketball player is ranked #1 in the country.” That got me thinking: How in the world are we ranking sixth-graders? They haven’t even gone through puberty yet!

Early sport specialization basically refers to putting a child into one sport before puberty and keeping them in that one specific sport their whole childhood and adolescent life. Parents think that if their child is focused on one sport, they have a higher chance of getting an athletic collegiate scholarship and possibly going pro at their respective sport. This is the furthest thing from the truth. Early sport specialization is actually detrimental to young children physiologically, psychologically, and fundamentally.

Children Should Learn a Variety of Sports

Children should be exposed to as many sports as possible as they grow up because this allows them to learn different skills that they might not learn if they are focused on only one sport. If a child focuses on the skills required to play baseball or tennis, that child will not master the physical literacy that every athlete should have. Physical literacy is the basic sport and movement skills required for sports that include agility, balance, coordination, and speed (Brenner, 2016).

Variety Will Help with Injury Prevention and Avoiding Burnout

Being a strength coach and personal trainer, a lot of parents ask me to train their child from as early as 10 years old because they think their child is the next LeBron James or Usain Bolt. What I have found out is that those kids typically can’t perform a simple movement like a skip or jumping jack. It actually is sad to see kids struggle with basic movements like this. Allowing kids to play sports for fun is the best way to keep them from burning out or getting seriously hurt before they reach puberty.

Let Kids Play to Have Fun

At the end of the day, we need to allow kids to be kids and play to have fun. Putting too much pressure on kids takes away from their experience and they begin to get scared of failing or not being good enough. They need to learn to fail in certain situations when it comes to athletics or they will not know how to deal with it on their own. Parents and coaches need to work together to eliminate the concept of trying to get their kid to be a professional athlete because chances are it won’t happen. Allow them to enjoy their young years without the pressure.

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This blog was written by Pedro Mendez, CSCS, FMS, Health/Fitness Instructor and Strength Coach at NIFS. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: injury prevention kids sports professional athlete football student athletes basketball early sport specialization team sports baseball parent

Sports and Games: Socially Distancing and Still Having Fun

GettyImages-1193671199During this 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic, have you found yourself looking out your window and wishing that you could be enjoying sports, recreational activities, and exercising? In the not-so-distant past, we could spend seemingly unlimited time playing pick-up games of basketball with our best buds or head down to the gym and join our favorite yoga class, packed with like-minded individuals. Unfortunately, with social distancing being more and more prevalent in society, we have to not only limit contact sports, but also allow enough space so that others can safely participate in the activity, leaving classes no choice but to limit size or cancel altogether.

If you are one of these individuals that need sports and exercise in your life, there is good news! There are many activities you can participate in without putting yourself in harm’s way or interfering with someone else’s space. Here are several options that could help you become more active and socially distance at the same time.

Tennis

Although tennis is a two- to four-person game, the court is large enough to share and still be sufficiently socially distanced. Tennis is a great game to improve total overall body health from cardiovascular capacities to strength development to motor skills.

Pro Tip: Avoid the end-game “high-five” and instead try one of these creative new celebrations (such as these replacements suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Disc Golf

Disc golf, a game played with a Frisbee-like disc, is quite popular because it can be played in wide-open outdoor areas, which allows for social distancing while still being able to have a friendly competition with your pals. Although disc golf may not be as physically active as tennis, you can benefit from other elements such as hand-eye coordination and positive stress relief. Check out the Professional Disc Golf Association website for information ranging from disc golf courses near you to pro tips to get the most out of your experience.

Kayaking

For those who enjoy the water, kayaking can provide numerous health benefits, most notably cardiovascular health. Like traditional cardio, you will most likely receive more benefits with increased efforts. You can expect to get a healthy dose of upper-body strengthening as kayaking uses the back, arms, shoulders, and chest. Possibly the best part of kayaking: when you are finally finished and are ready to cool down, you can take a quick dip in the water! You do not have to own a kayak; there are many outfitters in central Indiana that can provide kayaks, safety gear, and paddles for your excursion. Check out KayakingNear.me for exact details.

While limiting our workouts seems unavoidable, always remember that there are many activities available to keep your interest and your fitness at peak level. Keeping you moving and exercising, all while being as safe as possible, is one of our top goals. NIFS is committed to fitness and safety alike. Feel free to stop by and see a staff member at the NIFS track desk to schedule an appointment for a fitness evaluation, a workout program, or just to discuss your favorite socially distanced activities and sports!

As always, 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 sports watersport pandemic tennis kayaking disk golf social distancing socially distant

Warming Up for Vertical and Broad Jumps with Pogo Jumps

GettyImages-1225454377Want to jump higher, jump farther, or possibly dunk a basketball? With all the athletes I have trained over the years, at some point within their sport they all jump. Competitive as athletes are, they want to be able to jump higher like in volleyball, or jump farther like swimmers coming of the blocks, for example.

Warming Up Your Lower Body

Before you start jumping, you need to warm up your lower body. A fun way to wake up your lower body and prepare for explosive work like vertical or broad jumps is to incorporate easy plyometrics into your fitness routines. Plyometrics refers to exercises involving rapid stretching and contracting of your muscles.

An easy warm-up drill into plyometrics for athletes is to start with pogo jumps. They are one of my favorite athletic drills to warm up with and incorporate within athletic workouts. Pogo jumps are a great tool for teaching athletes what it feels like to be fast and or explosive off the ground. I use pogo jumps primarily to target the calves and shins. To a lesser degree they also target the hamstrings and quads within our warm-ups.

Proper Form for Pogo Jumps

Here’s what we want to see out of athletes when doing pogo jumps: minimal ground contact time, and minimal knee flexion (knees over the toes). Each jump is mainly with ankle movement instead of hips and knees. Never let your heel touch the ground. Stay on the ball of your foot to utilize your lower-leg elasticity. Low pogo jumps look similar to bunny hops, and high pogo jumps are similar but emphasize more explosive power for height on each jump, making you look more like a kangaroo.

Pogo Jump Drills

Depending on available space, pogo jumps can be done in place for typically 10–20 jumps in a row, or you can do them for distance down and back in a 10-yard space. If doing pogo jumps laterally, I like to go 10 yards down right and switch halfway, and keep going 10 yards left. Like most exercises, you are only going to get out what you put into it, so really push yourself to jump for speed (quickness) or height (explosive) each time. As always, make sure that you are keeping good form when you jump as well.

Goal: Improve vertical leap, quickness, and footwork
Equipment Needed: None—just you!
Space: In place or 10–20 yards distance

Drill: Low Pogo Jump

Execution: Begin the drill in an athletic posture with the feet hip/shoulder-width apart. Raise heels up and stand on the balls of your feet. Quickly bounce up and down on the balls of your feet. Don’t let your heels touch the ground. 

Drill: High Pogo Jump

Execution: Starting the same as low pogo, stand tall with feet slightly spread apart about hip-width. Raise heels up and stand on the balls of your feet. Advance the low pogo drill by attempting to gain more height in your jump and still minimizing ground contact time.

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This blog was written by Michael Blume, MS, SCCC; Athletic Performance Coach. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercises plyometric sports warmups drills jumpings

Three Drills to Develop Athletic Agility

GettyImages-871413050Agility drills basically represent an obstacle. Athletes who can respond faster to starts, stops, and change of direction earlier than the obstacle will have a practical advantage on the playing field. This blog highlights three of my favorite agility drills that can be built into your team’s conditioning routines. The benefits of these runs, jumps, and cuts include increases in reactionary speed, coordination, footwork, and body awareness. Athletes need to be able to change direction rapidly under control without decreases in speed.

You will need a good strength base before doing any high-intensity agility drills. These three drills are great for giving athletes the ability to keep their eyes on the play while knowing what is around them. Adding teammates to the mix always makes it fun and competitive.

Enjoy the drills!

Screen Shot 2020-03-03 at 2.54.12 PMDrill 1: Offense/Defense—Partner Reaction Acceleration Tag

Setup: Cones are spaced 10 yards apart with a middle cone at the halfway point.

Number of Athletes: 2
Athlete 1: Offense (starts the drill); Athlete 2: Defense (reacts and chases)

Execution: Both athletes start on the ground head to head on the baseline. Athlete 1 starts the drill and is allowed two fakes before they must stand, turn, and sprint 10 yards. Athlete 2 reacts and chases Athlete 1 once they stand and turn and has 10 yards to catch and tag Athlete 1 in a sprint fashion.

Screen Shot 2020-03-03 at 2.54.22 PMDrill 2: Cat & Mouse—5-5 Shuttle Reaction Tag

Setup: Cones are spaced 10 yards apart with a middle cone at the halfway point.

Number of Athletes: 2
Athlete 1: Offense; Athlete 2: Defense
Athletes will face each on opposite sides 10 yards apart.

Execution: At the start of a whistle or cue, both athletes sprint a 5-yard shuttle 5–5.

Athlete 1 then tries to sprint past the midline as fast as possible before Athlete 2 tags him before passing the midline after they both do a 5-yard shuttle.

After the 5-yard shuttle, Athlete 1 can juke/cut, etc. to get to the midline to fake out Athlete 2 before being tagged. Athletes switch between offense and defense.

Screen Shot 2020-03-03 at 2.54.44 PMDrill 3: Shuttle Runs—Reaction 5-5-10 Shuttle

Setup: Cones are spaced 0, 5, and 10 yards apart.
Another set of cones is 5 yards apart on the baseline.

Number of Athletes: 3–4
Athlete 1: Shuttles (drill start); Athletes 2–4: Reactionary

Execution: At start of a whistle or cue, Athlete 1, facing the baseline, begins shuffling between the 5-yard cones. Athletes 2–4 stand facing the other way on the baseline waiting to react to Athlete 1. Athlete 1 can shuffle back and forth for a total of two times. However, within the two shuffle attempts, Athlete 1 can turn and sprint whenever. Athletes 2–4 must respond to Athlete 1 and turn and sprint. After Athlete 1 initiates the sprint shuttle, all athletes are now in a race to sprint a 5–5–10-yard shuttle.

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This blog was written by Michael Blume, MS, SCCC; Athletic Performance Coach. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: team training sports speed athletic performance drills agility coordination proprioception footwork

Using Battling Ropes for Training

_68R5895When you begin your fitness quest and are getting started on a new program, finding exercises that are appropriate for you is key to your success. Your fitness staff at NIFS has your back! Training methods and training tools developed from years of research and practice have shown that sometimes a simple exercise done well can be quite effective.

In this case, we will be looking at training with battling ropes (also known as battle ropes). I was lucky to have been in attendance at one of the top fitness summits recently and was humbled by the overall amount of work that can be accomplished with the ropes. (Taking some learning cues from renowned fitness professionals has given me the opportunity to deliver some great, purposeful workouts to NIFS members and clients.)

You may have seen the battle ropes in your gym, but did not know exactly what exercises could be done with them. For the most part, the movement patterns are simple, yet effective. Slamming the ropes utilizes multiple muscle groups and also gets your heart rate to rise. Taking the training one step further, your rope slams can be broken down into many movement patterns including small movement patterns, large movement patterns, and several other fun, specialized movement patterns (which we will look at in this blog).

What Are Battle Ropes?

Before we get started on the exercises, it would be helpful to have a better anatomical understanding of these ropes. For starters, ropes come in many lengths and thicknesses. The longer the rope or the thicker the rope, the more challenging the exercises become. Also, using a poly rope with shrinkwrapped endcaps has advantages over the less-expensive manila gym ropes traditionally used for climbing. The poly rope material tends to be softer on the hands and more durable than the manila rope. The manila rope, however, can work fine and be more cost-effective.

Small-Movement Pattern

The first movement pattern we will discuss is called the small-movement pattern. This pattern is the easiest to learn and progress from. Once you have selected your rope and have attached it to its anchor point, simply get your body into an athletic position (not unlike getting ready to hit a volleyball or pick up a groundball in softball). You will slam the rope quickly, yet rhythmically in cadence so that the small slams create a ripple that flows all the way down to the anchor point. This pattern can also have several small variations including single-arm slams. Typically, this exercise can be done for time (i.e., 20 seconds per set) or with your interval training (i.e., :20 on, :20 off for 3 minutes).

Large-Movement Pattern

The second movement pattern is the large-movement pattern. With this movement pattern, the goal is to create big slams with the rope. This movement is similar to the one seen with medicine ball slams, where you take your body from a small movement position to a fully extended position with the ropes overhead and on your toes, and then end by slamming the rope with maximum force into the ground. This movement can be rhythmic, but sometimes seems a little more aggressive in nature than the small-movement pattern. The benefits here, though, are definitely more athletic in nature, as many sports require movement patterning based on this exact exercise. Because this exercise makes it easier to count reps, being able to do sets such as 4 x 10–12 reps, makes sense (but do not limit yourself; intervals here are also appropriate).

Other Ways to Use Rope Training

Outside of these two movements, you can explore rope training in many ways. Thinking back to grade-school times, we used the rope often during physical education class as the true tests of strength with tug-of-war and the rope climb, but we can make ropes fun and challenging when we put them back into our workout plans and add a little competition. With tug-of-war, you need several people to compete, but other exercises can replicate this movement solo. The Marpo Rope Trainer machine can convert to a standing tug-of-war rope pull, just you versus the machine! The rope climb, which is a daunting challenge for most, can be replicated on the rope machine as well. But if you don’t have the rope machine, starting with rope descends is an excellent way to get more comfortable and definitely stronger.

BONUS: Here is a great Friday Finisher series using the Ropes!

 

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These rope challenges are great additions to most workouts because they are simple and they can be done with individual maximum efforts or in groups where a cardiovascular challenge is needed. If you are interested in adding ropes to your workouts and want more information, NIFS staffers are more than happy to help you begin your new rope training workout. As always, muscleheads evolve and rejoice!

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

Topics: NIFS exercise fitness center Thomas' Corner equipment workouts strength sports movement

Finding Your Lifetime Activity: Staying Active Should Be Fun

GettyImages-184973240We exercise many ways every day, many times unknowingly. Sometimes this is because we actually enjoy doing it and it doesn’t seem like work to us. As the old saying goes, “time flies when you’re having fun.” One requirement for a lifetime activity, though, is that it most often needs to be something you can do from the time you stop wearing diapers until the time you start wearing diapers again. The ideas I like to explore can include fitness, but also non-exercise–based activities.

Is Tackle Football a Lifetime Sport?

Rarely, if ever, do you hear about a 60-plus person excelling at tackle football, yet it is still one of the most celebrated and promoted sports in the world. That sport in particular has plenty of fitness-related benefits, ranging from strength training to teamwork; but on the flip side, not many people play tackle football outside of peewee football after they graduate from high school.

You might argue that there are people who play in college and professionally, or that there are adult flag football leagues. But the reality is that the percentage of participation is relatively low. This poses an issue, so you need to strive for activities that provide exercise for the long haul.

Some Appropriate Sports and Activities

Many sports can be considered lifetime activities. These include tennis (or any variation: badminton, table tennis, racquetball, and so on), golf, and swimming. 5K races and mini-marathons are also in this category and are well attended by all age groups, with many older competitors able to complete and compete among others in their age group.

The question may arise, “What if I don’t care for sports? What am I going to do?” You might already have it covered if you participate in any of these activities:

  • Gardening (bending, squatting, etc.)
  • Walking pets (both can get benefits)
  • Playing with the kids or grandkids (bike riding or sharing a nice afternoon playing toss)

There are many ways to track the estimated calories burned for these types of exercises through the www.myfitnesspal.com website. Take one weekend and track every step you take with a pedometer and note all activity. You might surprise yourself with how much you actually do.

Help Kids Get More Active

Circling back to the original idea of pushing lifetime activities, it only makes sense to start early with children. Educate youth about health and fitness and why it’s important to give attention to lifetime activities and planning for a healthy and full life of fitness.

There Is No Age Limit on Healthy Living

Beyond the kids, you’re never too old to aspire to being healthier. Meeting with a fitness coach can provide a spark: they can help you assess where you are starting, what your strengths are, and possible avenues for participation you might never have known existed.

Finally, if you are looking outside of fitness and sports, don’t search too hard because you might have already found something that you can benefit from without realizing it. As personal trainer, author, and entrepreneur Martin Rooney says, “Doing something is better than doing nothing.” You can take it one day at a time and tell yourself that doing something is better than nothing at all. If you believe you can become a better you every day, one day you will.

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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: staying active Thomas' Corner calories sports technology lifetime activities lifetime sports

You Got Shoe Game? Choosing the Right Athletic Shoes for Your Workout

GettyImages-905973914Believe it or not, shoes do serve a higher purpose than just to make a fashion statement—especially when you’re choosing shoes to wear to the gym. Now, my first example is rather obvious, but it gets the point across. Would you ever enter the gym for a workout wearing high heels? That’s for you to answer, but there are safety issues that arise from wearing stilettos to the gym. More specifically, footwear is of concern if any of the big lifts such as squatting, running, jumping, and weightlifting are programmed into your workout.

Let’s start by laying the ground rules. Given that your footwear is the avenue by which you gain momentum necessary for movement, it is extremely important to be conscious of your goals, your workout, and your footwear. After all, the only object in contact with the floor is your shoes! A wide variety of shoes are made for different surfaces and sports; however, they fall into three basic categories: performance footwear, running footwear, and cross-training footwear. Let’s take a deeper look at each specific type of athletic shoes.

Performance Footwear

First, the broadest category of shoes is performance footwear. This includes shoes engineered for nearly every specific sport, indoors or outdoors. Each shoe is carefully designed for specificity of sport as well as durability of surface, especially at the elite and professional level. A good example is basketball shoes, which are usually high-tops to help prevent ankle sprains. Soccer cleats, track spikes, football and softball cleats, and others all have spikes that can dig into the playing surface to make cuts sharper and aid in injury prevention.

Other specific shoes occasionally seen in a gym setting are powerlifting shoes and Olympic lifting shoes. Powerlifting shoes are low and flat, with a solid sole that is good for deadlifts because it puts you closer to the floor. It also allows you to push through the whole foot throughout the entire lift. Conversely, Olympic lifting shoes are made with a slight heel to allow athletes better mobility during lifts such as a squat and snatch, where lack of mobility would decrease performance drastically. They are also designed with a solid surface for the sole, tailored to the demands of the sport.

Running Footwear

The next type is the running shoe. Keep in mind that not one foot is the same size or shape, perhaps not even your other foot. Therefore, sizing can be difficult.

A standard running shoe tends to be manufactured with more cushion than other shoes, which in turn allows for less force on the hip and knee joints when running. The shoe design should offer sufficient traction needed to grip the surface and optimum weight distribution in order to ensure safety. They are ergonomically designed to absorb the ground-force reaction when the mid-foot strikes the ground, instead of sending the shockwave up the shin to the leg, commonly known to cause shinsplints.

Cross-training Footwear

Last is the training shoe, also known as the cross-trainer. This shoe is the most versatile of the three and can be used for small amounts of running, jumping, and lifting, but is mainly used to do lateral movement as well as plyometric workouts. Because the shoe is primarily a lower shoe with good support, it is made so you cannot easily roll your ankle or twist your knee when planting your foot into the ground to change direction as quickly as possible.

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Choosing the right equipment for your workout is very important, so know the different types of shoes and choose the ones that are best for the activity that you will be doing.

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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: running equipment workout sports powerlifting shoes cross-training footwear

The Benefits of the Hip Press Exercise in Developing Glutes

glutes.jpgThe benefits and importance of developing the glutes in sports performance, fitness, and physique is a popular topic these days and has been for quite some time. In fact, an entire industry is built around shaping the perfect backside for some, and developing the most powerful athlete for others.

“The big house,” a term I have adopted from Mike Boyle, is a part of the body that has so many important duties in human movement (and yes, for filling out a swimsuit as well) that it should be a focus in everybody’s program. Until recently we targeted this area through back squats, lunges, kettlebell swings, clamshells, and the like, which are all very good options. The hip press, also known as the hip thruster, has been found to be possibly the most effective exercise for gluteal engagement, strength, and development. It has definitely become one of my go-to exercises personally and with the individuals I work with.

How to Perform the Exercise

So how effective is the hip press in developing this important area of our body? My buddy Alex Soller did some of the legwork already for me in his post Are You Glute-n Free? The Importance of Exercises for Glutes, where he covers the structural importance of the glutes and some exercises to enhance them. But we will focus on the hip press here and why it has quickly became one of the best ways to get the most out of the big house. In the video below, Kaci demonstrates some of the most popular ways to perform the hip press using our newly acquired hip press bench that will set you up for success when training the hips.

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 12.14.15 PM.png

Programming for Glute Development

In a 2014 post, Eric Cressey and Bret Contreras compared the “glute-building potential” of the back squat and hip press. Their ultimate belief, as well as mine, is that both are important movements for glute development and should be a part of your programming. This is partially due to the differences the two movements have in the activation of the glutes and the tension generated throughout both exercises. What I found significant in their findings is the massive difference in the activation of the glutes during the hip press leading to the burning pump that you will feel performing a challenging set of presses. This is a feeling you will just have to experience for yourself! I also believe that the hip press is a safer and easier option for the average gym-goer whereas the back squat can be a rather technical exercise, especially when dealing with heavier loads. 

The bottom line is (see what I did there?) that the hip press is a relatively easy movement to perform that can result in building that big house you have always wanted for fitness and physique. Need to learn more on how to implement the hip press into your program? Be sure to schedule your Assessment and Personal Program with an instructor today.

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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: fitness exercises sports glutes programs

Water Fitness: How to Get Better at Swimming

ThinkstockPhotos-103584574.jpgIn my previous blog on swimming, I talked about the vast benefits that can come from adding lap swimming into your off-season workout regimen. But maybe you are already comfortable in the pool and swim on a regular basis; wouldn’t you like to get better and become more efficient in your stroke? By taking small steps to improve the different components that make up the specific strokes, you can become a better swimmer in a decently short amount of time.

Focus on Form

As other sports, form tends to be one of the key players in overall success. Each stroke has a certain form that will allow the swimmer to be more efficient. Take some time to research the different strokes that you like to do and learn the correct form. Whatever swim stroke you happen to choose, the different pieces will consist of breathing, kicking, arm movement, location of chest and hips in the water, and what you do with your hands, feet, and ankles. I know it seems like a lot to think about, but you may really benefit by simply understanding what the stroke should look like.

Breathe More Efficiently

Breathing tends to be one of the hardest elements of a swimmer’s performance. Getting the breathing technique down right takes time, practice, and patience. Master breathing by using a kickboard or holding onto the side of the pool before combining it with the actual stroke and movement in the water. You also will need to learn your breathing cycle—for example, if I am swimming freestyle, do I need to take a breath every three or four strokes? You may need to learn to breathe on both sides and be able to turn your head to the left and right to get air.

Learn the Body Roll

This movement is used specifically in freestyle. Have you ever seen someone swimming freestyle (on their stomach) and when it’s time to take a breath, they pick their entire head up out of the water? The body roll will allow you to efficiently roll your upper body (and partially through the hips) to get air so that only part of your head is not in the water. This movement can be learned easily using different pool equipment like a pull buoy.

Slow Down

We all have the tendency, when getting into the pool to do some laps, to go a million miles an hour. Whether or not you mean to do it, you will quickly be made aware that you need to slow down because your breathing will remind you! Take your time, be patient, and learn the proper technique in every stroke by putting your foot on the break. You will be amazed, when you slow down the pace a little bit, at how long you can actually swim!

Develop an Efficient Kick

Another great way to improve your overall swimming skills is to learn the different kicks that go along with the various strokes. Each kick has specifics in how far to pull your heel back, how big of a splash you should be making, how far below the surface you want your hips and legs to be, etc. Utilize a kickboard or the wall, as you do in learning to breathe right, to master the different kicks.

Utilize Equipment

There are so many great tools out there to help you learn to swim better. Utilize things like kickboards to improve your breathing and kicking, pull buoys to work on your stroke, and fins to work through power kicks and master the body roll. At most pools you will usually see hand paddles to work on power in the pulling motion to propel you through the water faster, and maybe even gloves that have webbed fingers. All of these things will allow you to work on certain pieces of form one at a time.

Learn the Turns

When I was younger, I spent hours in the pool trying to learn how to do the flip turn. And while many think it’s simply “cool,” the flip turn happens to make your swim efficiency shoot through the roof. This move will also take some time to learn, but if you are patient and work on the timing of the flip turn, your lap swimming will soon be quicker.

Watch and Evaluate

Do not be afraid to have someone watch you and evaluate the different strokes you are working on. Often someone outside the water can easily tell if you are kicking too hard, slapping the water during your stroke, or not efficiently breathing. Take some time to have someone watch and give you tips to work on.

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While this can seem like an overwhelmingly large list of things to work on, just choose one thing at a time. Each small tweak will make a huge impact on your overall swimming performance.

Remember Natatorium lap swimming is now free with your NIFS Membership! Learn More.

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

Topics: fitness equipment swimming workout sports

The Importance of Post-Season Active Rest

ThinkstockPhotos-78322425.jpgOver the past six to eights weeks, I have been creating summer workout manuals for the teams that I work with during the school year. These manuals are meant to bridge the strength and conditioning gap between the time they leave for summer break and when they return for the fall semester. There is much to be gained, or lost, through a summer of hard work (or lack thereof). Although summer break is a true “break” for most athletes academically, there never really is a true break for training.

Many of the teams I work with are spring sports. Their seasons begin a couple months after the turn of the year and may not finish until after school is out. They go from the playing field, track, course, or court, back home where family, friends, and summer jobs await. Being spring sports, their summer usually begins with a recovery period that occurs when their competitive season comes to a close. The components of this recovery process include mental, emotional, and physical aspects that need to be met in order to fully prepare for the next bout of training and the following season.

For the sports that I work with, the first portion of the training calendar for the post-season is called active rest. Active rest is an approximately two-week period where the athlete performs light physical activity at least two to three days per week. These physical activities should have nothing to do with the sport that they participate in. Think about it: after spending six to seven days per week over the past four months participating or thinking about their specific sport, the last thing many individuals want to do is continue to do just that. Although this is the sport that you may love, getting away from it for a short period of time can do wonders.

Taking a Break from Training

Active rest can mean a lot of things, and the best part is the fact that you basically have free reign over what you choose to do, as long as you are staying active. This gives you the opportunity to choose something totally unrelated to your sport and do it for the next few weeks.

I would recommend that the intensity of the activity you choose not climb above “moderate.” The low to moderate style will allow adequate blood flow to working muscles, which will help promote physical recovery of the muscles that were taxed so much during your competitive season. Another recommendation I would make would be to limit the amount of impact (foot strikes) you have during this period, especially if your sport requires a large amount of impact. This will allow your body to recover from the constant “ground and pound” that you might have during track, tennis, or softball season.

Active rest is also a good time to incorporate corrective exercises from the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) that your coach or trainer gave you. These exercises focus mainly on mobility and require very few pieces of equipment for the most part. Spending two to three weeks working on any muscular imbalances that may have developed during the season will give you a leg up when you begin your intense off-season training program in a month or so.

Active Rest Recommendations

Following are my top 5 recommendations for the rest period of your training:

  • FMS corrective exercises
  • Swimming
  • Hiking
  • Bike/elliptical/arc trainer/rower
  • DO SOMETHING FUN!

Physical recovery is definitely important during this time, but recovery of your mental and emotional well-being may be just as or possibly more important. Let’s face it—any competitive season has a multitude of ups and downs, which creates an emotional rollercoaster that could send anyone through a loop. You have spent 48 out of the past 52 weeks preparing or playing your sport. You owe it to yourself to do something a little different and come back refreshed for the preparation for the next season.

If you have any questions about how to set up active rest for your post-season training, or need help constructing an off-season training program for your sport, contact me at asoller@nifs.org. To read more about setting up training programs for athletes, see my blog series that begins here.

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This blog was written by Alex Soller, NIFS Athletic Performance Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

Topics: training sports recovery functional movement post-season rest student athletes