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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

NIFS November Group Fitness Class of the Month: Circuit Training

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 11.30.38 AMTo achieve electricity, you need a complete circuit; the same thing goes for achieving a higher level of fitness, which is why circuit training is a great total-body workout. It can be classified as a type of endurance training, resistance training, strength training, or high-intensity interval training, which is why we can see great results from it.

Circuit training is great for activating all of the muscles in the body. Typical circuit training is performed in a style of circuits. You will complete one exercise for a duration of time, and then switch to a new exercise and repeat the total circuit multiple times. During each circuit, you’ll perform upper-body, lower-body, and core exercises for maximum body results. Baylor University did a study proving that circuit training is the most efficient way to enhance cardiovascular and muscular endurance.

Endurance Training

Endurance training is the ability to exert yourself over a period of time. It’s also the ability to complete any aerobic or anaerobic exercise relating to cardiovascular and muscular endurance. Cardio endurance allows you to pump oxygen to your body for an extended period of time. This type of training is great for your overall health. Some of the benefits include the following:

  • Higher levels of energy
  • Heart function improvement
  • Increased metabolism
  • Performing daily life tasks more easily

Resistance Training

Resistance training is muscle contraction from external resistance during exercises. The external resistance can come from many pieces of equipment, including weights, bands, balls, boxes, disks, sleds, and definitely using your body weight. Benefits of resistance training might include the following:

  • Help keeping muscles strong during aging
  • Decreased osteoporosis
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increased metabolism

Circuit Training

Strength Training

Strength training is lifting heavier weight to increase muscular strength. Benefits of strength training include the following:

  • Lower abdominal fat
  • Better cardiovascular health
  • Controlled blood sugar
  • Reduced cancer risk
  • Lower risk of injury
  • Stronger mental health
  • Osteoporosis prevention
  • Increased confidence

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High Intensity Interval Training is a workout that alternates between intense bursts of activity and fixed less intense or rest periods. This type of workout is typically known as a “fat blaster” filled with many benefits that include the following:

  • Efficiency
  • Cardiovascular strength/endurance
  • Muscular strength
  • Weight loss, muscle gain
  • Increased metabolism
  • Can be done anywhere

So Why Circuit Train?

Circuit training is not just an exercise that can burn hundreds of calories. Based on the benefits of the types of training a circuit training class is made up of, it can lead to major results in total fitness and health. You can find circuit training on the NIFS Group Fitness Schedule with our highly educated staff Mondays and Wednesdays at 4:30pm with David or Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:15pm with Darius.

Group Fitness at NIFS

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: circuit training Group Fitness Class of the Month strength training endurance NIFS core cardio resistance

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 cardiorespiratory strength and conditioning aerobic endurance workouts strength strength training

Powerbuilding: The Middle Ground Between Powerlifting and Bodybuilding

Davin_lift1Over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed an increasing trend in bodybuilders and physique athletes migrating toward the sport of powerlifting. I’m no exception. I spent the first eight or so years of my lifting career focused almost exclusively on bodybuilding. Eventually, however, I got tired of the culture, the subjective judging criteria, and the politics involved in the sport. I decided that I’d rather be strong and functional rather than just big and muscular. Over the next couple of years, I began focusing more and more on strength-specific training. Eventually, this led me to my first NIFS Powerlifting Competition back in 2016.

How Are Bodybuilding and Powerlifting Different?

In case you’re wondering how the two sports differ, I’ll go ahead and give a brief overview of each of them. Bodybuilding is a sport that emphasizes muscle size, shape, symmetry, and definition. Competitors train specifically with the goal of inducing hypertrophy in their muscles. Much like a sculptor, they sculpt their own bodies with these specific goals in mind. On the competitive side of things, there’s absolutely zero emphasis on physical performance. It doesn’t matter how much weight you can lift, but rather, it matters how much weight you look like you can lift. The judges make their decisions based on the aforementioned criteria, of course, coupled with their own subjective bias.

Powerlifting, on the other hand, is sport in which athletes are ranked according to their combined strength on three specific barbell movements. They compete in a max squat, bench press, and deadlift. The total amount of weight lifted is added up and then usually a strength-to-weight ratio is calculated using what is called, the Wilks Coefficient.

The Rise of Powerbuilding

Powerbuilding has emerged as a sort of hybridization of the two sports. Bodybuilding and powerlifting each have their own respective training styles and dietary practices that ultimately lend themselves to the specific outcomes of maximizing strength or maximizing hypertrophy. Thus, powerbuilders are essentially bodybuilders who have decided that they want to be as strong as possible, or they are powerlifters who have decided to prioritize aesthetics as well as strength.

To the layperson, it would seem like these two goals should go hand in hand. I mean, it makes sense that a strong person would have big muscles, and a person with big muscles would be strong. Technically, this is true to some degree. Early on, hypertrophy will be the most predominant adaptation seen in response to any resistance training program. In accordance with the principle of “general adaptation syndrome,” as the muscle becomes more adapted to the presented stimulus, it will require greater intensities and more specific overloads to elicit a response. This is where the principle of specificity comes in to play.

Strength Training vs. Hypertrophy Training

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), to most efficiently train for strength, a person should perform 1–3 sets of 8–12 repetitions using a load that is 60–70% of their one-rep maximum (1RM) for novice to intermediate lifters; and 2–6 sets of 1–8 repetitions at 80–100% of their 1RM for advanced lifters.

Inversely, to maximize hypertrophy, the ACSM recommends that a person perform 1–3 sets of 8–12 repetitions at 70–85% of their 1RM for novice to intermediate lifters; or 3–6 sets of 1–12 repetitions at 70–100% of their 1RM for advanced lifters.

The recommended rest periods range from 2–3 minutes when working at higher intensities to 1–2 minutes when using lighter loads. In some training programs you might even see rest periods of 3–5 minutes between sets to allow for optimal recovery and performance on each set.

For more information on resistance training guidelines, see https://www.acsm.org/docs/brochures/resistance-training.pdf.

As you can see from the above guidelines, the type of training required to maximize muscle size is different than the type of training to maximize muscle strength. According to a meta-analysis performed by Dr. Brad Schoenfeld in 2016, most of the research has demonstrated that there is a direct correlation between hypertrophy and volume (total sets and reps performed). Since strength-specific training usually consists of training with lower volume at higher intensities, it stands to reason that it is less hypertrophic overall. Even though there is a fair amount of overlap between the two training styles, optimizing muscle size ultimately means sacrificing some muscle strength. The same could be said about strength training. In order to train at higher intensities, the volume must be reduced to avoid injury and overuse.

Make Your Choice

So what does this all mean? Powerbuilding is a tradeoff of sorts. This is especially true when reaching beyond the levels of basic strength and fitness. Initially, the body will react to any sort of resistance training by developing larger and stronger muscles. When that adaptation stops, it starts to become a matter of prioritization. One must choose where they’d rather go. The same could be said about distance running and bodybuilding, or perhaps rock climbing and powerlifting. You can be moderately proficient at both endeavors, but in order to really excel at either, you’ll have to sacrifice the other.

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Don't miss out on training for NIFS 2018 Powerlifting Competition! Our Bend the Bar training program starts in just a few weeks so get signed up now! September 11—November 1, Tuesdays & Thursdays 5p-6p at NIFS.

 

This blog was written by Davin Greenwell, ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: bodybuilding powerlifting powerbuilding muscles strength training hypertrophy NIFS Powerlifting Competition

Mini-Marathon Training: 3 BIG Things for Running

mini.jpgNIFS' Mini-Marathon Training Program has started, with most individuals’ goals revolving around one thing: to run a new personal best. Come May 6, months and months of training will be put to the test against a tough 13.1-mile journey.

What are you doing to get ready? Many veteran runners of this race have programs that they have used year after year with repeated success. Some newcomers (or maybe even veterans) may still be searching for that training program that will allow them to reach their fastest potential. But where do you start? Obviously when preparing for a race (5K, half marathon, marathon, etc.), running will take up the majority of your training time. My only tip for the running aspect of your training is to be sure to utilize a running progression that fits your current training age (or level of fitness/training you are currently at). This will help ease your body’s adjustment into the longer distances as they build up over the next few months.

This blog focuses on the less obvious pieces of your running puzzle. Check out my “3 Big Things” to consider when preparing to race.

1. Have Your Functional Movement Screen (FMS) Done

FMS-5.jpgThis sits at #1 on the list for good reason. The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) can help identify different types of mobility issues and muscular imbalances. In my experience with runners, these issues are prevalent. These are also issues that can lead to a less efficient running stride, or potentially even injuries.

Think about it this way: do you get better, worse, or the same gas mileage when you drive your car with uneven tire air pressure? The answer is worse. Now think about it in terms of your body. If you have an ankle that is immobile, you will be spending your training time and the 13.1-mile race fighting that issue. If you identify that problem and improve its mobility (i.e. airing up the low tire pressure), the workload will be more evenly distributed between both sides of the body. This should allow you to run more efficiently and expend fewer calories per stride.

Did I mention that NIFS members can have this done at our facility, FOR FREE?

Learn More

2. Practice Self-Care/Recovery

It’s not uncommon to see a runner’s performance struggle not for the lack of an adequate training program, but because of what happens after training has concluded. What do you have planned for your off days or light training days? Do you even have off, light training, or recovery days? These are definitely factors that need to be addressed as soon as your training commences. Depending on your training age, these variables may be adjusted.

Training for any type of race is definitely going to be stressful on the body, so finding ways to optimize your recovery throughout your training program is paramount. Three main areas that I recommend that you focus on include the following:

  • Sleep: At least 6–7 hours.
  • Soft-tissue work (for example, foam rolling): Hips, calves, shins.
  • Low-impact/low-intensity movements: Cycling or swimming.

The ultimate goal throughout these areas will be to allow your body to prepare itself for the next intense training bout. Training at 60, 70, or 80% of your absolute best probably won’t yield the greatest return on your training sessions. Being closer to that top level will allow you to push yourself each training session and get the best results.

Did I mention that you can talk to a trainer about how to optimize your rest and recovery at NIFS’ fitness center, FOR FREE?

3. Do Strength Training

Some of you are probably looking at this with a “yeah, right” thought in your mind. If strength training is not currently in your running preparation program, I challenge you to add it. I’m not saying you have to be lifting weights 6 days a week. I’m not saying that you need to look like Arnold. I’m saying that a couple days a week of resistance training might be the key to take you to the next level. And no, you are not going to get big or bulky. Training frequency and the exercise selection associated with a strength program for runners will not yield those results. Bodybuilders train to get bigger. Athletes (runners included) train to prepare their body for their sport.

After mobility issues are improved from the FMS, I usually focus on a few main areas with runners that I strength train. Those areas include unilateral (single-side) exercises, lateral movements, and core strength.

  • Unilateral exercises allow the strength training to mimic stressors that are similar to running, which is also essentially a unilateral movement.
  • Variations of lateral exercises allow a runner (who normally only goes in a straight line) to develop strength in different planes of movement. This can be good for running efficiency as well as potentially reducing the risk for injury.
  • Lastly, and certainly not least, is core strength. Strength of the hips and abdominal area is key to maintaining your form throughout a race as well as reducing impact on the joints. Form and posture are vital to your performance while running, which will be enhanced by training these muscles.

Also, did I mention that you can have a strength-training program like this made at our facility—you guessed it, FOR FREE?

Free Fitness Assessment

Conclusion

There are a lot of ways to approach how you train and a lot of ways that can make you successful when competing for your running goals. Make small changes with your current program to start, and slowly add in more as you see yourself improve!

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

Topics: Mini-Marathon Training Program NIFS running strength training functional movement foam rolling recovery core strength

Fitness Training Types: Find Your Method

bands-1.jpgIf you take a few minutes to google the various types of fitness training out there, you will come up with a list of about 10 different ones, and then 10 more different variations of each of those. And each year more and more “fitness trends” come out, making it quite confusing for the consumer as to what to choose and where to start. It can be confusing and even frustrating choosing what is right for you and your body.

And to take it a step further, maybe the results you want that you aren’t getting are because you need to try something different. Maybe that different thing does not have to be some crazy, drastic change in gyms, your diet, or everything in your life. In fact, maybe it’s just a workout style that suits you better. Each product you see today—like CrossFit, Orangetheory, and Dailey Method to name a few—all follow a specific training method. And what works for one person doesn’t always work for the next.

I have narrowed it down to five categories of training methods, so let’s take a look at what each one is, and I’ll help you narrow down your focus.

Circuit Training

High intensity–style workouts that incorporate both aerobic exercise and strength training. These circuit workouts can be done with or without equipment.

    • Target: Building strength and muscular endurance. These workouts tend to keep you on the higher end of your heart rate zones and are usually designed in stations for time, with little to no rest in-between.
    • Goals: The circuit training method of exercise is good for those people who are looking for weight loss, are in a time crunch, or are looking for overall general fitness, a total-body workout, and toning. Many say this is where you get the most bang for your buck because you can get the results you are looking for in less time.

Aerobic Training

This type of training is generally summarized as meaning “with oxygen” or cardio training.

    • Target: These workouts tend to target the cardiovascular system, mainly the heart and lungs. In most cases it’s associated with running, biking, swimming, jumprope, step class, and other cardio-based exercises. This style of training helps to increase your cardiovascular endurance and open the gap in your heart rate zones.
    • Goals: The aerobic training style is good for those looking to lose weight, for specific training programs like marathons, for athletes looking to increase performance and endurance as well as recover appropriately, and for those trying to reduce the risk of chronic illness like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

Heart Rate Training

ThinkstockPhotos-520046406.jpegThis type of training is specific to each individual and their personal zones. You can read more here about HR training, but this training method is focused in on zones like fat burn, cardiovascular endurance, peak performance, and recovery. In many cases, HR training is viewed as the all-around best training method there is.

    • Target: Heart rate training helps to increase endurance and sustainability in workouts by allowing you to peak and recover in a way that is specific to your body. Training zones are identified by doing a VO2 test.
    • Goals: For anyone and everyone! Typically people training for endurance races like Spartans or marathons, or athletes honing in on max results and recovery, for the person who is totally burnt out after each workout, and all the way to people who are on medications that affect their heart rate.

Flexibility Training

Contrary to what I know everyone is thinking, it’s not just yoga! Forget the general stereotype of moms walking into the gym with lattes, flip-flops, and their yoga mat; this training style is probably the most important, yet the most neglected. It incorporates corrective exercises, stretching (both static and dynamic), and movements from head to toe.

    • Target: To improve flexibility, mobility, range of motion, balance, and better posture.
    • Goals: Another method of training that is for everyone! If you are not a yoga person, it’s time to start! Yoga folks, dancers, runners, meatheads: this is for you, too! Flexibility training is for every single person who wants to enhance their training in any way.

Strength Training

deadlift-3.jpgStrength training typically is done with heavy weight but can be done with lighter ones as well. This style of training is directly associated with Newton’s law: mass x acceleration = force.

    • Target: To increase muscle strength.
    • Goals: Perfect for those looking to put on mass; can be good for those who don’t have a bunch of time to train; also good if you desire to move heavy things.

What should you do from here? If you are stuck in a rut or want to find the method that is going to be most effective for you, take some time to define your goals, figure out what is realistic for you, and take into consideration your past exercise experience. All these things play into what will work as well as what you like to do while in the gym.

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This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, BS, CPT. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: methods training fitness NIFS circuit workout flexibility aerobic heart rate strength yoga strength training core strength goals

Posture and Fitness (Part 2): Anterior Pelvic Tilt

ThinkstockPhotos-611184084.jpgIn part 1 of this series covered kyphosis (rounded shoulders). Now we move on to another posture issue, anterior pelvic tilt.

What Is It?

Anterior pelvic tilt (APT) is a postural deficiency that results in an excessive forward tilt of the pelvic region. Essentially, it protrudes the abdominal region while creating an excessive lower-back curvature. This postural deficiency can cause one to have lower back pain, more abnormal movement mechanics, and muscle accommodation throughout the body, which we refer to as reciprocal inhibition.

What Causes It?

APT is commonly caused by excessive sitting. While in the seated position, your hip flexor muscles become very tight from being in their shortened position. When the hip flexors become tight, they pull down on the pelvis, which causes a forward tilt. Tight hip flexors also keep the gluteus muscles from firing efficiently, which causes the hamstrings to compensate for the lack of use, which in return causes them to become overworked. (The root cause for tight hamstrings may be anterior pelvic tilt.) APT is also a cause of weak abdominal muscles. The abs become loose and overstretched, which allows the pelvis to tilt forward even more. This may lead to a false conclusion of having too much fat around the abdominal region because your belly tends to stick out farther than what is natural.

Why Is It Bad for Fitness?

APT causes an overextension of the lumbar spine, lack of glute activation, and quad dominance, which leads to compensation patterns and poor exercise technique.

How to Fix It

There is a solution! In order to fix this problem, you must attack the root cause. Most commonly you will need to improve your hip flexibility, which can be done with a variety of hip stretches and proper warmup and movement patterns that I will list below. Once the hips have regained flexibility through stretching, the gluteus and hamstring muscles should be allowed to fire more efficiently. This will allow the pelvic region to rotate back into proper alignment, which will make movement patterns such as the squat and deadlift more comfortable, especially for the lower back. It is also a good idea to strengthen up the abdominal region as this will pull up on the quadriceps muscles, also allowing the pelvis to be pulled back into place.

Muscles to Stretch

  • PSOAS
    Hip stretches: Butterfly stretch, pigeon pose, kneeling hip flexor stretch, etc.
  • Quads
    Quad stretches: Standing quad stretch, kneeling quad stretch, etc.

Muscles to Strengthen

  • Glutes (Gluteus Maximus and Minimus)
    Glute exercises: Hip thrust, squats, etc.
  • Hamstrings
    Hamstring exercises: Straight-leg deadlifts, Swiss ball leg curls, lying hamstring curls
    Anti-extension abdominal: Planks, hallow holds, hanging leg raises, reverse crunches, lying pelvic tilt 

See a NIFS Health Fitness Specialist today if you believe APT may be keeping you from proper exercise mechanics.

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This blog was written by Darius Felix, Health Fitness Instructor. Click here for more information about the NIFS bloggers.

Topics: fitness NIFS posture glutes muscles stretching abs hamstring glute APT anterior pelvic tilt assessments strength training functional movement

From Mini-Marathon Participant to Ironman: NIFS Leader Nick Iaria

Nick-Before.jpgnick-after.jpgLongtime NIFS Mini-Marathon Program leader Nick Iaria shares his personal story about the NIFS Mini-Marathon Training Program, his fitness changes, and his path to completing an Ironman triathlon.

How long have you been involved in the NIFS Mini-Marathon Program, and what made you decide to join?

I joined in 2009 as a participant, not a leader. I was a part of the run/walk group, and up to that point in my life had never completed a distance over 5 miles. Since 2010 I have been a group leader in the run/walk group and have transitioned to different time-specific groups over the years (11-minute, 10-minute, etc.).

I found out about the program from my then girlfriend, now wife, who was an intern at NIFS, and she was joining as a run/walk leader. I think I joined not just because of her, but because I was interested in finding out if I could do it. I don’t think I would have just gone out of my way to train for it on my own. I needed the knowledge and experience that NIFS gave in the training program format to get me started.

Since being a part of the program you have gone from the run/walk group to, in 2017, leading the 8:30 pace group. How did you manage to increase your speed?

I would like to say I did X and then Y and that led me to Z, but that isn’t how it worked. I am not sure what path got me here, but I think I just had a desire to improve and to continue just for the purpose of continuing. I do think that a large improvement came in the form of my mental training over the years that became a critical step in enhancing my physical development, which led to an increase in speed. It was never really my goal to get to a certain pace or speed; it just kind of happened.

Another key ingredient is core body strength. By improving the strength of my midsection and upper legs over the past two years, it has helped in pushing through the “I want to slow down” or “full-out quit” moments. The mental/physiological improvements I have made within myself—where I believe more in myself and I learn to listen to my body and learn from past mistakes during runs or events where I didn’t do the right things along the way—has been a key part of my success. I don’t take anything as a failure, just a learning opportunity for the next time.

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Why do you enjoy running?

Until recently I have never considered myself a runner; I always considered myself a jogger. However, the stronger and longer I go, the more I feel like a runner. I enjoy it because I can do it whenever (early morning, evening, etc.) and wherever (outside in the elements or inside on a treadmill, etc.). I don’t need anything besides a good pair of shoes and sometimes some good music to get me started or keep me going. It is something I can do alone or with other people. It is versatile as I can go different speeds or distances, and it is easy to track both with different forms of technology so I can track my results as I go.

Last year you were a Mini-Marathon Ambassador. What did that mean, and why do you love the Mini-Marathon so much?

I felt really honored to be a part of the program’s first year. There was an amazing group of 32 other people from all walks of life with different Mini experiences. Getting to interact with them and being able to help others who had questions or needed advice on the Mini made this year’s race that much better when I rang the PR bell at the finish.

My love for it came with my first time back in 2009. I was in a car accident (not my fault) 2.5 weeks before the race and had 5 stitches put in my knee. They were taken out the Monday of race week. I went back and forth all week about whether I should even do it, and that went all the way up to the morning of the race. For some reason I thought I could deal with the pain and still go out and run/walk the full 13.1 miles, but only made it through 4 miles. I knew I had to walk in order to finish and I WAS GOING TO FINISH. Walking the next 9 miles was really fun (and a bit painful) to be walking and interacting with all the different walkers and groups on the side of the road/track cheering us all on. My experience would have been different if I wasn’t walking and taking it all in. Plus, I ended up posing for one of the photographers on the track and ended up on one of the 2010 Mini advertisement posters, so that was an unintended perk, too.

What advice do you have for individuals just starting out or thinking about training for a half marathon?

If it is something that interests you or if you are looking to see how far you can push yourself, I know that feeling. I went way outside my comfort zone recently when I signed up for a full Ironman triathlon (that’s 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, and 26.2 miles of running). It was way outside my comfort zone since I had never swum that far, never biked that far, and had only completed 26.2 miles twice previously at an average completion time of around 6 hours, and it was a struggle just completing the 26.2 miles, so combining all those into one day seemed unattainable. But I told myself there is only one way to find out, and with the support of my friends and family, I signed up, got a triathlon training program, and on October 9 I reached my goal and crossed the finish line.

So, that is my advice: If you are thinking about it, then you probably already want to do it, but just need that confidence or something that helps you to convince yourself that you can reach that goal. I know that you can do it, no matter your level of experience or age. I would say join a program like I did when I joined the NIFS program back in 2009. It will help in learning what to do and when to do it, plus it will help provide that accountability from start to finish for you. The finish line doesn’t care if you run, jog, walk, or roll across it; it only cares that you cross it.

***

Congratulations, Nick, on a wonderful accomplishment! And thank you for your continued dedication to the NIFS Mini-Marathon and 5K Training Program. If you have been thinking about competing in the Mini-Marathon or any other spring half-marathon, or training for a 5K, registration is now open for these NIFS programs. Sign up here!

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

Topics: NIFS programs NIFS mini marathon Mini-Marathon Training Program 5k running Ironman triathlon goals weight loss exercise motivation group training accountability core strength weight training strength training

High Intensity Training (HIT): No Pain, No Gain

HIT-6.jpgIf you have ever participated in High Intensity Training (HIT), you will quickly discover what separates this style of workout from other popular styles you may know, like super sets or pyramid training. The main intention behind high intensity training workouts is that the workout will challenge your body to such a level of discomfort that its threshold or maximum capacity has no choice but to rise. Now don’t let the word “such a level of discomfort” scare you away; it’s the discomfort level that we all feel during exercise at some point, and of course you can push past it.

The Importance of Pushing Past the Pain

During resistance training, you will at some point begin to experience a level of discomfort. This happens because lactic acid begins to be produced by muscles during intense exercise bouts, which causes muscle fatigue. Although lactic acid may slow down muscle productivity and intensity, it does not mean you have reached muscle failure and are unable to continue. Quite honestly, this means your set is just now starting (if you want to bring down barriers and advance to the next level). Most individuals get to this point of discomfort and stop their set. However, if you stop here, you are more than likely not pushing your body past its threshold point, which is important in order to increase muscle strength, endurance, and even hypertrophy (muscle building).

Specifically, in high intensity style training, most often you will reach that lactate threshold and then be pushed beyond that. Just when you think that your body can go on no longer, you dig deep within yourself and the encouragement of your teammates and find that new level. And this is why we see so many success stories in people who attend HIT workouts. They push beyond what their bodies thought they could do, past the threshold, resulting in an increase in muscle strength and endurance.

hit-high-res-logo-web-new.jpgHow NIFS Can Help

If you need help discovering what those new levels are, and some accountability to keep pushing, then I invite you to try NIFS’s High Intensity Training. Our classes are designed to motivate you to push past the limits you think are there by utilizing short bouts of high intensity work, which will increase your body’s thresholds, causing an increase of metabolism. We use our training expertise to provide the necessary motivation to close the gap between you and your body’s threshold. Once you reach this threshold, we will teach you how to tap into that next level to take your workouts to the next step on the ladder of success!

We invite you to come experience a good workout, a good team feeling, and a good environment where each participant has the same goal: to get better! Get your first session for FREE by contacting Tony Maloney at tmaloney@nifs.org.

Yes! I want to try a HIT class!

This blog was written by Darius Felix, Health Fitness Instructor. Click here for more information about the NIFS bloggers.

Topics: high intensity HIT accountability NIFS pain muscles muscle building resistance strength group training strength training NIFS programs cardio motivation

Weightlifting Gear: Equipment to Enhance Training—or Ego?

lifting.jpgThere are numerous different products on the market now that are supposed to help improve your strength training. From lifting belts to Mark Bell’s patented Slingshot, there is more gear available now than ever. For a novice lifter, the multitude of available products will probably just leave your head spinning. What is actually helpful and what is just a moneymaker? Here is my take on some of the most popular products out there.

Lifting Belts

There are some products that I will advise most lifters to stay away from, but this is not one of them! A lifting belt is imperative to a good strength training regimen. Any kind of substantial load for a squat or a deadlift is going to put a lot of pressure into your abdominal cavity, as well as onto your spine. A lifting belt acts as a brace when the lifter takes in a large breath and pushes their abdomen out into the belt. This ensures that the spine stays stable in place and has nowhere to go, resulting in a much-reduced risk of injury. This piece of equipment is the first that I would recommend purchasing for any new lifter, especially if you are thinking about competing in powerlifting.

Not sure if you want to compete? Try it out at the annual NIFS Powerlifting Competition! It is a great starter meet to get your feet wet and see what competition is all about.

Olympic Lifting Shoes

You have probably seen or heard of lifting shoes before. They have an elevated heel and make a nice, loud “SMACK” sound on the platforms at NIFS during a properly executed Olympic lift. These shoes can be helpful for more than just Olympic lifting, though. They can be very helpful for front and back squats (depending on your body type). If you have the right body type (usually tall and lanky), these shoes will create better leverage for you to squat more efficiently. The elevated heel actually shifts your center of gravity forward just a slight bit, which allows the squatter to sit backwards and reach “good depth” easier.

These shoes can be somewhat costly for students. Try to find a good deal on a pair of lifters if you are strapped for cash. The more expensive pairs (Nike Romaleos) can run up to $250 or $300, but Adidas makes a similar shoe that you can find for around $75. If you are not an Olympic competitor, there is not much need to spend a couple hundred dollars on these shoes.

Mark Bell’s Slingshot

So, we have looked at an “almost necessary” product and a “nice to have, but don’t totally need” product. Here is an example of a “don’t really need at all” product. Mark Bell’s Slingshot is a highly elastic band with two arm sleeves on the side, which, once you put the Slingshot on, causes the elastic band to stretch across your chest. Basically, this tool allows the lifter to handle heavier loads on the bench press than they normally could. The few advantages to this product are

  • Less shoulder pain for those with very severe shoulder issues
  • Overloading the bench press with above-maximal weight
  • Frankly, loading your ego by seeing how much you can bench when using it

If you’re thinking I am just hating on Mark Bell or his product without just cause, please reconsider. I am a big fan of Mark and his no-nonsense business style. He knows what his product is for and to whom he should market it. I even have a Slingshot of my own! That being said, I think there are too many young lifters who buy his products just because they see him as an idol and they want to be like him in any way possible. The Slingshot is a tool that can be utilized by experienced lifters, and it can be helpful. But, for the beginner lifter, this product will almost certainly do you more harm than good.

Start with the Basics

There is a time and place for most lifting products, but most of them are not needed until you are way down the road to being competitive. Start with the basic products that will benefit you, not confuse you. A lifting belt is a great product to start with, and possibly a pair of lifting shoes. Do your research about all lifting products and try to determine which ones will work the best for you. I urge you to not just buy any of these products on a whim, thinking that they have to help you because somebody famous said so.

For more information on lifting gear, or lifting heavy weights in general, contact Cara Hartman at chartman@nifs.org. Cara runs the LIFT program at NIFS and has some great expertise to share with you!

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This blog was written by Aaron Combs, NSCA CSCS. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.


Topics: weightlifting strength training equipment NIFS programs injury prevention powerlifting

Mobility: Why Strength Training Is More Than Just Weightlifting

Strength training is becoming increasingly popular in the United States, and I couldn’t be more excited about that. It can benefit everyone in some way. Now that we are all started down the right track, I would like to offer some more in-depth advice on an aspect of strength training that is overlooked: mobility.

Strength and Mobility Go Hand in Hand

Mobility.jpgMany people shy away from lifting weights because they think it will make them “big and bulky.” To bring a little more clarity to that notion, please see this blog post. However, strength and mobility should not be thought of as separate ideas. “Strength” can mean many things. To me, strength is not just about one certain lift or exercise. Sure, there are some competitions that measure just three lifts, but that is its own little niche. I think that for anyone who is not a competitive powerlifter or weightlifter, strength has to be applied to all forms of movement.

There are five major categories of movement, which are squatting movements, hip-hinging movements, pressing, pulling, and “other” (such as isokinetic movements—for example, a plank). All of these movement patterns should be strengthened in a strength training program (barring any limiting injuries).

Before I get too far off topic, let’s get back to our main focus: mobility. Mobility, like all of the different movement patterns, is another aspect of strength training. It is impossible to be all-around strong without being mobile. You may be able to put up some respectable numbers on a few different lifts, but if you neglect mobility, that will come back to haunt you. Strength training is great, but over time it can cause muscle tightness, and even limited range of motion if muscle growth is substantial. This can be countered by putting time and effort into working on mobility.

The Functional Movement Screen (FMS)

IMG_2714_2.jpgThe Functional Movement Screen was developed to help determine whether an individual is at risk for an injury. What it also assists in doing is locating mobility issues. The tests that are included in the FMS were specifically chosen to test the areas that are most commonly associated with limited mobility. Not only does the FMS pinpoint areas that need some work, but it also gives exercises that can improve on your deficiency. The truth is that everyone is unique, and everyone’s exercises should be, too.

Here are a few examples of what might be included in your FMS corrective exercise list:

  • Single Leg Lowering: While lying face up on a mat, bring your feet together and lay your hands down at your sides. Bring both legs up as far as possible while keeping them totally straight. Slowly lower one leg at a time, still keeping it straight, and try to get your leg all the way to the floor. Bring the lowered leg back up slowly and then switch legs.
  • Lumbar Locked T-Spine Rotation: Start by sitting with your shins on the ground and sit back onto your heels. Grab the back of your neck with one hand, and put the other hand on the ground straight in front of you. Without moving your hips, take the arm that is grabbing your neck and try to point that elbow up toward the ceiling without removing the hand from your neck. Hold at the top for one second, then bring the elbow back down and in toward the opposite-side knee. Repeat for the other side.

Everyone is unique when it comes to mobility. Your corrective exercise list can be determined by simply going through a 20-minute Functional Movement Screen appointment with any of the Health Fitness Specialists at NIFS. These results will determine which corrective exercises will most benefit you; then you will get a detailed list of these exercises and how to perform them. So get down to NIFS and schedule an FMS appointment today, or call 317-274-3432 and ask for the track desk.

Free Fitness Assessment

This blog was written by Aaron Combs, NSCA CSCS and Health/Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.
Topics: NIFS range of motion weightlifting strength training mobility functional movement