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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Weight-Loss Goal Setting: Focus on What Your Body Can Do

GettyImages-1131330779It’s time to get serious about goal setting. Setting goals can help you dig more deeply into fitness and think about what you truly want to accomplish. Goals can range from wanting to walk 1 mile to squatting 2 times your body weight, and absolutely everything in between and beyond. Everyone is on a different path to fitness, so whatever your goals may be is completely up to you.

The current trend in the fitness industry is to lose weight, gain muscle, and look like this girl or that guy that you see on social media. While there’s nothing wrong with setting a weight-based goal, we’re completely missing one major key of what working out can do for you: unlock your potential.

The Pitfalls of Rapid Weight Loss

When we set a goal of losing weight, we often lose sight of the importance of being strong and healthy, and this may lead to behaviors such as disordered eating or excessive exercise. All too often, people just want to get rid of the extra weight quickly. This mindset may encourage rapid weight loss that is not sustainable over the long term. Rapid weight loss can also lead to the loss of muscle mass, instead of fat loss, which is not desirable because muscle plays so many important roles in the body. It drives metabolism (having muscle increases Resting Metabolic Rate), keeps people strong as they age so that they can maintain their independence for as long as possible, and more.

Focus on Performance

The human body is capable of so much more than how much weight it can gain or lose—it has the power to perform. If you want to run a half marathon, you can train to run a half marathon. If you want to deadlift 300 pounds, you can train to do that. You can push the boundaries of your strength and endurance to do the things that may seem impossible right now. By going beyond what you think your limits are, you will adapt to the stress and become stronger. If you limit your goals to how much you would like to weigh, your focus is on what your body is, not what it can do.

It’s perfectly reasonable to have a weight-loss goal. There’s plenty of research describing how losing weight is beneficial for long-term health if one is overweight. However, it is rarely a linear process, and you must be prepared to face ups, downs, and plateaus. Having a goal that revolves around some type of strength or endurance feat will give you something to work toward even during the hurdles of a weight loss journey. You’ll be too distracted trying to do three pull ups or running five miles to notice those tiny, yet frustrating weight fluctuations that are a natural part of weight loss (and in general).

Beyond Your Weight-Loss Goal

Besides, the work doesn’t stop once you have reached your weight goal. The last thing you want to do is gain back what you spent months or years working toward. So if you haven’t yet set a goal beyond weight loss, now would be a great time to do so. The moral of this blog is to remind you that it’s okay to want to weigh “X” amount of pounds, but it’s not in your best interest to limit your body to a goal revolving around a number. You are capable of much more than just weighing a certain amount. Unlock your true potential by knocking down barriers and pushing the limits in and out of the gym.

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This blog was written by Hannah Peters, BS, CPT, Health Fitness Instructor. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: goal setting weight loss challenge endurance strength performance

STRENGTH: 6 Expert Weightlifting Tips to Be Stronger Than Ever

9power.jpgStrength. We all want it, and many of us will go to great lengths to obtain it. Strength and the ability to be strong will find its way into all of our lives, from weightlifting in the gym to all the activities of daily living (ADLs). It was once explained to me that you should picture your absolute strength as a bucket; the bigger the bucket (the stronger you are), the more things you can put into the bucket. Aspects of health and fitness such as mobility, endurance, agility, and power can all be better developed and improved with the presence of strength. To put it simply: be strong—be better.

Of course you can google “how to get strong,” and you will find no shortage of philosophies and program theories to wade through to answer that question. Some may actually be safe and useful, but who can you trust these days? I tend to learn from those who have “been there and done that” and continue to do it because of a high success rate of most-wanted outcomes.

Get Strong Tips from Dan John

Dan John is one of the top fitness coaches, and I never miss a chance to hear him speak or read his weekly newsletters. I have learned so much from reading his materials and implementing his principles into my training and the training of others. Dan will be the first to tell you that he continues to learn from people like Pavel Tsatsouline and many others. Dan believes his tips are an “easy” way to get strong.

Following are six of his expert tips that I have integrated into my training (and the training of those I work with).

  • Lift heavy. This seems obvious, but it really is where it all begins. If you lift heavy weights to get strong, you have to challenge the system and force it to adapt. Without adaption, there will be no gain.
  • Perform the fundamental human movements. There are some variances in what is believed to be fundamental, depending on who you talk to. But I believe those movements are Squat, Hinge, Push, Pull, and Carry.
  • Keep sets and reps low. I love Dan’s “Power of 10” rule: never go over 10 total reps for any exercise. For example, 2x5, 5x2, 3x3, 6 singles, 5, 3 and 2.
  • Stop your set and workout before fatigue. Stay fresh and leave some energy for the next training session.
  • Don’t even struggle. Choose the proper load so that you can finish each rep with integrity, not sideways and crooked.
  • Never miss a rep. Choosing a load that you are 100% confident you can make can be hard for some. Most of us want to challenge the limits with every rep and set. Refrain from that for true gains.

A Challenge to Prepare for the Upcoming Powerlifting Competition

Following these tips, from time to time I will cycle in my training what Dan refers to as the 40-Workout Strength Challenge. With the NIFS 6th Annual Powerlifting Competition coming up on November 9th, I wanted to share a program that I learned from Dan that added 10 pounds to my bench, 30 pounds to my squat, and 50 to my deadlift. Dan also has seen a few PRs fall in both throwing and weightlifting competitions. I am a big believer in the program’s concepts and simplicity. We are very good at overcomplicating things when it is not necessary. Here you work on fundamental movements all the time, and you make sure you hit every rep. This could be a great challenge for you leading into the competition; however, just like anything else, it might not work for everyone. Here’s the setup:

  1. Pick one exercise from the fundamental human movements described above. If competing in November is your goal, I would suggest a back squat, bench press, and deadlift. Add in a chinup and a farmer’s carry and you are good to go.
  2. Perform these exercises for the first 10 workouts every training session with varying sets and reps.
  3. Never miss a rep, and if the weight feels light, add more weight.
  4. After the first 10 workouts you can repeat them 3 additional times or make small changes to the movements every two weeks (for example, change to an incline bench, front squat, rack pulls, barbell bent-over rows, and racked carry). There are far too many examples of exercises and combinations to list here; I would suggest scheduling a personal program session with a NIFS instructor to help you out.

Here is how I set up my challenge that may help you develop yours. I can’t stress enough that this is what worked for me. It may not work for you, but it could be well worth the try.
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I found that after completing this 40-workout challenge, not only did I add pounds to my big lifts, but many of the other tasks in my life became easier. The other aspect of this challenge I really, really liked was that due to its simplicity, I can turn my brain down a bit and just lift. It provided that escape from our day-to-day tasks that I think we all need from time to time.

Registration is now open for NIFS 6th annual Powerlifting Competition. Get registered today online or at the service desk.

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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 weightlifting strength powerlifting

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

Update Your Fitness Routine: Add Variety to Enhance Your Health

GettyImages-1026603090How do you define fitness? Whatever your answer is, it will shape the way you work out, influence the goals you set, and impact your long-term health. Although everyone might have different perceptions of what “fitness” means, the American College of Sports Medicine has defined what Health-Related Physical Fitness is and has broken it down into five measurable components.

Whether you know it or not, you use every single component in everyday life, so incorporating all of these factors is vital to maintaining high quality of life. As people age, their ability to carry out certain tasks may become compromised if they don’t regularly challenge their bodies to perform them. So, one key to aging well is to incorporate all of the components of health-related physical fitness.

The 5 Components of Health-Related Physical Fitness

  • Body composition is the comparison between fat mass and fat-free mass, where fat-free mass is everything that isn’t fat, including muscle, organs, bones, and so on. This proportion can be used to assess risk for potential health issues, or used as a baseline measure to be retested after you have started a program to track progress. There are several ways to measure body composition; the most accurate methods are water displacement or the BodPod. (See the complete list of NIFS assessments here.)
  • Muscular strength is the amount of force a muscle can produce in a single maximal effort. Muscular strength is relative to a specific muscle group, so a few different tests may need to be conducted to get an overall picture of your strength. A grip strength test is popular and has been utilized frequently in the fitness world. Another is the Repetition Maximum test that can be conducted by the NIFS Health and Fitness Instructors. It is important to gain or maintain muscular strength as you age for many reasons, but we use our strength every day.
  • Muscular endurance, by definition, is the ability of a muscle group to execute repeated contractions over a period of time sufficient to cause fatigue. Like muscular strength, it varies depending on the muscle group, so multiple tests are required for a proper assessment. A common muscular endurance test is the pushup test (you’re probably familiar with this test from grade school). Another is the plank test, which is relatively new, and is a way to get a baseline value for core endurance and use it as a reference for retesting to measure improvements.
  • Flexibility is having the ability to move a joint through its full range of motion. Having sufficient flexibility can help prevent injuries and ensure that you’re capable of performing movements that you may need in daily life. While having enough flexibility is necessary, too much can be risky.
  • Cardiovascular endurance is the ability of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems to deliver oxygen to the rest of the body during continuous exercise. It’s directly correlated to our ability to perform exercise that involves large muscles, dynamic movements, and moderate- to high-intensity workouts over a period of time. Having adequate cardiovascular endurance is vital to keep up with daily activities.

Start with Things You Like to Do and Then Branch Out

If your main goal is to achieve good health, you’ll want to make sure you distribute your training so you can hit all of the categories. Start by doing things you like to do and then branch out by trying new things. It’s common for people to tailor their training to one particular component for whatever goal they are trying to achieve, but to be lacking in most of the other areas. For example, a marathon runner might excel in cardiovascular endurance but be less than average in muscular strength or flexibility.

On the other hand, someone who only lifts heavy weights may lack cardiovascular endurance. However, the runner may start to notice running is easier after incorporating resistance training into their routine, or their muscles might feel great after adding stretching and mobility work. This doesn’t just apply to marathon runners or heavy lifters; almost everyone can benefit from including all 5 components into their routines.

To sum it up, you should practice different forms of exercise to achieve a holistic fitness regimen. It’s perfectly fine to include running, resistance training, or group fitness such as yoga or BODYPUMP, and that’s just a few examples. There are so many different activities and classes to try to help get you to your goals. When you blend different types of training, you can discover your talents, weak links, and things you just enjoy doing.

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This blog was written by Hannah Peters, BS, CPT, Health Fitness Instructor. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: NIFS group fitness endurance flexibility strength exercises BODPOD variety fitness assessment physical fitness

BOSU Returns: 4 Reasons to Come to a Class at NIFS

COM_BOSUWhen I first came to NIFS more than a decade ago (I know, right?), I brought BOSU Conditioning with me, and the NIFS community welcomed it with open arms (and legs, and core…you get the idea). I was fresh out of a training opportunity with the inventor of the BOSU, David Weck, while working at another gym. I took to the BOSU very quickly and loved the many training dimensions it provided and wanted to share it with as many folks as I could.

In its debut here at NIFS, BOSU was a hit and saw eight great years on the class schedule with many great instructors and class designs. But it needed a break. Finally that break is over, and BOSU has returned to the class schedule and is getting a lot of hype again!

What Makes BOSU So Awesome?

Here are few things you need to know about this powerful, multi-use fitness tool:

  • BOSU stands for BOth Sides Utilized. This refers to the ball itself. You can use the dome side as well as the platform (flat side) for so many different movements. Both sides utilized also pertains to using both sides of the body in harmony.
  • You can train all aspects of fitness utilizing the BOSU, including mobility, stability, core strength, power, strength, and cardio.
  • Movement options are endless and can be adapted to the fitness level of the user.
  • Movements can become three-dimensional, which is how we move in the real world.
  • Provides an unstable surface, forcing the user to use important stabilizer muscles of the entire body.

Here are some videos that show some of those movements:

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Five Reasons to Try BOSU

Now that we all agree that the BOSU is pretty awesome, here are some reasons to stop waiting and just take a class already. You won’t regret it!

  • Be different: There is no other tool like the BOSU, so a class session designed around this one-of-a-kind piece of equipment will be very different from any class you might have experienced. We use different body positions and equipment differently than most training disciplines, making each class different than the last.
  • Options for movement: There are countless options for different movement patterns that can be adjusted to suit any fitness level. No matter whether it is your first time on the ball or your 50th, the BOSU finds a way to challenge you.
  • Specific adaptations: As mentioned before, the BOSU is an unstable surface that will increase the usage of small stabilizing muscles that are found all over the body globally, and locally to the area directly in contact with the BOSU. An unstable surface elicits a specific adaption of stability. “Use more, burn more" is a direct effect from a class; the more muscle you have to use, the more energy you will burn. If the goal is to increase your stability, balance, and core strength, the BOSU will provide that specific adaptation.
  • Unique experience: There are exercises that are done on the BOSU ball, and then there are BOSU movements, both providing a unique exercise experience. There are also unique training effects that can only come from working with the BOSU. Effects such as the increased usage of the foot for grip and stability, which aids in all movement on a stable or unstable surface.

There are plenty more reasons why should try a BOSU class right away, but there are only four letters in the word. So what are you waiting for? Come see me on Sundays at 10am and realize what the BOSU can do for you!

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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 cardio group fitness balance strength core strength mobility stability core exercises BOSU

Cardiorespiratory Fitness: Increase Your Strength and Endurance

GettyImages-671140578“Cardio day” are maybe the most dreaded words for a gym-goer. Or maybe you’re a cardio junkie and love nothing more than knowing it’s on the exercise menu for the day. In any case, most seem to have a love/hate relationship with cardio. We know we need it, but it can be a long and arduous task.

What the heck does it even mean, anyway? You hear about high-intensity cardio and low-intensity cardio, but surely one has more benefit than the other, right? Well, as always, it depends. Cardio is really just a fitness buzzword that’s been tossed around so much that it seems to have lost its definition (probably around the same time the Thighmaster started to fizzle).

What Is Cardiorespiratory Fitness?

According to Wikipedia, cardiorespiratory fitness refers to the ability of the circulatory and respiratory systems to supply oxygen to skeletal muscles during sustained physical activity. Blah, blah, technical jargon, blah, blah. Basically, it’s how well your heart and lungs can work together to pump blood, oxygen, and nutrients to exercising muscles. Again, it still doesn’t tell us a whole lot, but we’re getting somewhere.

Look at that simplified statement again and you’ll notice three key words: heart, lungs, and exercising muscle. (Okay, that’s four words, but you get the idea.) To simplify the discussion, I’ll focus primarily on aerobic adaptations, meaning improvements in the ability to use oxygen to produce energy, which are very different from anaerobic adaptations.

That being said, the primary aerobic improvements we’ll assume are the following:

  • We can help the heart and blood vessels improve their abilities to pump blood throughout the body.
  • We can improve the ability of the lungs to take in oxygen and put it in the blood.
  • Lastly, and this is often overlooked, we can train the muscles to become more efficient in using the oxygen from the blood.

Great, so how do we do this?

Global Improvements vs. Local Improvements

Before we answer that, it’s helpful to make a distinction between the two types of improvements we’re chasing: global (or systemic) and local (or specific). The first two areas (heart/blood vessels and lungs) are considered to be global changes, while improvements within the exercising muscle are the local changes.

Car analogies are helpful here (even if you’re like me and know diddly about cars). You might think about the global changes as being similar to putting in a bigger gas tank or a better air intake, while local changes might be similar to adding lighter wheels and tires. One is making a change to the engine, or system, while the other is making a change to a specific part to enhance the efficiency of the system already in place.

How to Train for Cardio and Respiratory Fitness

Now, back to what we can do to make these changes in your body.

Cardio

Let’s start with your gas tank, err, I mean your cardiovascular system. Your heart can either be trained to fill up with more blood, or it can be trained to contract more forcefully with each beat. But you can’t do both at the same time. Depending on your training style, your heart will change in different ways. This is vastly oversimplified, but training more aerobically (think endurance athletes) will adapt your heart to fill with more blood, making it “stretchier.” Training anaerobically, on the other hand, will cause an adaptation to your heart, making it thicker and stronger with each beat. Again, this is not absolute, but different training styles trigger different hormonal responses in the body. Without guidance for your training styles, some of those hormones might compete with each other. Therefore, instead of training to become really good at one thing, you might be training to become extremely average at both. Now, for competitive athletes who need aspects of both endurance and strength/power, timing becomes invaluable, and I’ll refer to the great mind of Joel Jamieson on that front.

Respiratory

As for the second part, several different improvements can happen in regard to your lungs, or respiratory system. Let’s focus on the more basic adaptations. First, your lungs will improve in their ability to fill up with more air, similar to the change in the heart we discussed earlier. This is partially due to the strengthening of the respiratory muscles. However, how the ribcage moves (or doesn’t move) during respiration becomes increasingly important so that you don’t reinforce inappropriate breathing muscles. This is a topic for another blog post, but if you’re really curious, check out this in-depth intro to the mechanics of your ribcage during respiration for now.

The other major improvement in your respiratory system I’ll discuss is on a much smaller, even microscopic scale. The way we get oxygen through our lungs is through tiny little sacs, just like the one in the picture here. Each sac is covered in a net of tiny blood vessels called capillaries, which is where the oxygen enters the bloodstream. With proper training this net becomes more dense, which allows more oxygen to enter the blood with each breath. More oxygen means more energy, just like more air into an engine means more power!

Muscular

Lastly, we can make changes in specific muscles if we so desire. It makes sense that a runner would want to train the legs specifically, just as a baseball pitcher trains his arm. One improvement is very similar to the change in the lungs: capillary density. Your muscles have those capillary nets just like your lungs do, and aerobic activity in a particular muscle group triggers more capillaries to form in those areas. Ergo, we get more blood and nutrients to the exercising muscle.

Another major change we see within the muscle is that muscle cell’s ability to actually use the nutrients it’s receiving. So, you have to both get the energy source to the muscle and make sure your muscles are using every possible molecule that they can to generate energy for your training. This happens in a number of ways, such as increasing the size of the muscle cell, increasing the amount of energy-producing mitochondria within the cell, and increased levels of the enzymes responsible for aerobic energy production.

Get Aerobic Improvements, Then Endurance, and Never Get Bored

Of course, the type of training you are doing heavily influences the adaptation you will be stimulating, but for aerobic improvements, these are some of the general mechanisms of those changes. Because the majority of people associate the term “cardio” with high levels of endurance, my assumption is typically that when somebody says, “I need cardio,” what they really mean is, “I get tired really fast during my workouts.” Therefore, it is almost always my priority to place an emphasis on chasing aerobic improvements initially.

After you’ve established a solid aerobic capacity, you can really start to push harder for longer periods if you so desire or require. Remember, your body is smart, but it’s virtually pointless to be training for two completely different goals at one time, only to make crawling progress in each. Instead, if you time your training accordingly, you can consistently make the improvements you desire, and never get bored in your training!

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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: cardio workouts endurance strength strength training aerobic strength and conditioning cardiorespiratory

Yoga: What Is It, and How Do I Choose the Right Class?

Yoga3Yoga is pretty popular, and not just in the fitness industry. It’s getting lots of press for its ability to aid in living a generally healthy lifestyle. When people hear about healthy living, they often associate that only with exercise, and sometimes neglect the importance of a balanced diet and de-stressing techniques. Studies are now showing that it’s important to balance out all areas of life; not just one part should have dominance.

What Is Yoga?

By definition, yoga is a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practiced for health and relaxation. Yoga was developed in India up to 5,000 years ago as a comprehensive system for well-being to balance the body physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Contrary to common thinking, yoga is not a belief system but a guidance technique to enrich living and aid in attaining goals.

Forms of Yoga

There are many types of yoga you might have heard of, including Vinyasa, Hatha, Iiyengar, Bikram, Ashtanga, and restorative, just to name a few. When it comes to picking the "right" yoga class, I say give them all a try because each of them is unique. Some involve lots of moving, some involve lots of deep stretching, some involve heat, and some even involve the use of nature and animals. The whole concept of yoga is to breathe and relax the mind. If you take a class that does not bring out those feelings in you, don't give up! Try that format a couple of times and see whether it is enjoyable. If it's not, research what you are looking to get out of your class and try one that offers that. 

Yoga to Me

Yoga means so many things to me. I began my yoga journey in 2009 to relax during a tough family situation. I was in love with the way it made me feel, and every week I looked forward to my Sunday night time on my mat. In 2011, my mom’s medical condition worsened and I began going to yoga 3 to 4 times a week. In 2014, I decided I was so impressed with the way it changed my mindset that I wanted to become certified, so I spent 3 months intensively training to get my 200 hour yoga certification. My yoga journey has a lot more depth, but that was the beginning. I never knew cancer would lead me to a career path of success and happiness, which is ultimately living a daily life of yoga.

Yoga at NIFS

Yoga is a growing class at NIFS. With a wide variety of instructors, you won’t find your standard “gym yoga.” All of the NIFS yoga instructors are 200 hour or more certified. You might take a class with a “flow” to it, be in a class with a more restorative approach, or even see that Yoga for Athletes is offered for those who want a strength-based yoga class. Check the Group Fitness Schedule for classes and times.

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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: NIFS yoga group fitness strength relaxation healthy living meditation stress relief

Back to Exercise Basics: The Proper Push-up

In our current state of fitness, many folks are continually looking for the next best exercise, program, or intense challenge. My challenge to you is to return to the basics, perfect those, and then explore the possibility of increasing the difficulty or completing some monster challenge. Gray Cook says it best: “Don’t add strength to dysfunction; move well and then often.” Translation: stop jumping right to something you are not prepared for just because you viewed it on “insta.” I challenge you not to focus on and post epic exercise fails, but to post a video of someone performing a stellar squat, a pristine pull-up, or the proper push-up.

A Full-Body Exercise

The push-up is easily the most versatile and effective exercise in the vast movement library in fitness and health. Challenging spinal and core stability, upper- and lower-body endurance, and strength, the push-up, done correctly is truly a full-body exercise. A great push-up starts with a strong trunk, so start there by improving your planks and hip bridges to strengthen the entire system.

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Push-up Checklist

Next, consult the following checklist to perform your best push-ups, and learn some variations to both assist and challenge yourself.

  1. Spine 1: Neutral spine with no sagging or hunching in the low back.
  2. Spine 2 (top of press): Push away from the ground and hollow out.
  3. Head: Don’t sag or extend—look at the ground.
  4. Chin: Pull the chin toward the spine (double chin).
  5. Hands 1: Just outside shoulder width.
  6. Hands 2: Dial hands counterclockwise, splay the hands, and grip the ground.
  7. Elbows: 45-degree angle creating an “arrow” position.
  8. Arms (top of press): Push-up to straight-arm position.
  9. Butt: Push belt buckle to the ground while maintaining spinal alignment throughout motion.
  10. Quads: Send the back of your knees to the sky.
  11. Feet: Press equally through the floor.

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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: exercise fitness fitness center endurance strength core movement push-ups

4 Quick Workouts for Students

ThinkstockPhotos-177248545.jpgBusy college schedule? No time to fit in your workout between exams, papers, and class? Don’t let school be the excuse to skip or miss your workout. According to The Lancet, people who exercise as little as 15 minutes a day have a 14% lower mortality risk than people who don’t exercise at all. Just remember, something is always better than nothing!

Quick at-the-Gym Workouts

Here are some quick workout options, that require dumbells or kettlebells, that you can do if you are short on time.

Workout 1: 2–3 rounds

Workout 2: 2–3 Rounds

Fast Workouts That Don’t Require Equipment

No equipment, no problem. You can still get in a quick workout. Just because you do not have weights available doesn’t mean you should skip.

Workout 1: 3–4 rounds

  • Walking lunges x 8 each
  • Pushups x 10
  • Squat hold x 5 (hold the bottom position of your squat for 10 seconds)
  • Side plank lifts x 8 each side
  • March in place x 30 seconds

Workout 2: 3–4 rounds

  • Side lunges x 8 each side
  • Bear crawl x 30 seconds
  • Single-leg bridge press x 8 each
  • Eccentric pushups x 5 (8–10 seconds on the way down; 1 second on the way back up)
  • Jumping jacks x 30 seconds

Always remember, something is better than nothing! “No time” should never be the reason for not getting in some strength movements as a student. If you need more help for quick workout ideas, stop by the track desk at NIFS and a trainer can help you out.

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

Topics: exercise exercise at home fitness center equipment workouts strength college students

Stand-up Paddleboarding: a Watersport for Fitness

ThinkstockPhotos-175923466.jpgThis is a great time of year to get out and do some fitness activities that you do not get to do year round, living in an Indiana climate. As the weather turns, the opportunity for some watersports becomes more realistic. While there are many different things you can do for exercise on the water like kayaking, canoeing, and swimming, my all-time favorite outdoor activity is paddleboarding. The benefits of stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) are vast, and this activity has gained some serious traction over the past 5 years.

Benefits of SUP

  • Great total-body workout: I remember the first time I saw someone paddleboarding. I thought, “Well that looks nice, relaxing, easy, and not intense!” It wasn’t too long afterward that I realized it was the opposite of that! It is relaxing; however, it is also work, depending on your total time, distance covered, and pace. SUP works your entire body from your toes gripping the board, your legs and core keeping you balanced, your arms and back from paddling, all the way to the tips of your fingers as they grip the paddle.
  • Improves balance: SUP requires core stability and leg strength to keep you balanced on the board and able to stand. Balance is one thing that you will notice you need immediately; otherwise you will be in the water in a matter of seconds. While I wouldn’t say that it’s particularly hard to balance on a paddleboard, you do need to keep your center of gravity low and your body needs to be positioned in the right spot on the board.
  • Low impact: If you are looking for a great alternative to give the joints a rest from running or other high-impact training, SUP may be just the thing to try. This is definitely a low-impact activity with many of the same benefits as others like swimming and biking.
  • Improves overall strength: After spending a few hours out on the lake on a paddleboard, you might feel pretty good. But the typical muscle soreness that you feel after a workout becomes very real the next morning. When paddleboarding, you are using a lot of the smaller muscles that you don’t typically use, causing them to be sore the next few days. Some of these things include sore toes or feet from gripping the board, sore glutes because you are in the bent-knee position for quite some time, and sore muscles in the shoulder and back from paddling (not a frequent motion).
  • Cardio workout: SUP can be a cardio workout depending on the intensity of your time out on the water. You can make SUP pretty fun by incorporating some races into your plan, which will get your heart rate up.
  • Reduces stress: There is something peaceful about being out on the water, and I am not really a big nature person. Being on the water and looking at the sights around you helps you relax and reduce stress. And for those who really want to take this to the next level, you can try paddleboard yoga at Eagle Creek!
  • Great social activity: If you can get a group of people together to go out on an afternoon trip, it makes paddleboarding all the more fun. Find a small island or shoreline you can paddle to and spend some time swimming and just relaxing in the sun.

Where to Try SUP in Indianapolis and Elsewhere

If you haven’t had the opportunity to give SUP a try, I would encourage you to find some time to do so. You can rent paddleboards at Eagle Creek, or if you are on vacation near some water, look up a few places. SUP is and activity that you can try once to get the hang of it, and then go out again and really enjoy it!

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

Topics: fitness cardio balance strength total-body workouts paddleboarding watersport low-impact