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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

How to Build Training Programs for Competitive Athletes (Part 1)

ThinkstockPhotos-dv484081.jpgWhen putting together a program for anyone, client or athlete, you always want to have an idea when you would like to peak, or be at your best throughout that calendar year. For Mini-Marathon runners, May is the time to be at your best. For football players, you want to be firing on all cylinders when August rolls around. The structure of your training should be based around when your season is going to begin, to make sure your body is prepared to last the duration of the competitive months. Regardless of when you are competing, your training should never remain totally the same throughout the whole year.

This concept of training periodization has been around forever. It was developed by a physiologist named Leo Matveyev around the 1960s. By definition, periodization is a preplanned, systematic variation in training specificity, intensity, and volume organized in periods or cycles within an overall program (see Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning). Periodization can build the general framework of how you might want to structure your workout programs through your training year.

For our sake, I am going to refer to these periods or cycles as macrocycles. Macrocycles are the biggest of the divisions of training timeframes throughout your competitive year. They can be filtered down to smaller variations (mesocycles—smaller, microcycles—smallest), but we will stick to the biggest ones for now. This will allow you to get a general idea about the main goals for each macrocycle.

There are four macrocycles that will be divided up throughout the year. These are the following:

  • Off-Season
  • Pre-Season
  • In-Season
  • Post-Season

In this blog, I talk about the first two macrocycles. In my next blog I will talk about the final two.

Off-Season

The off-season is always one of the best times of the year to train. This is a time when you can focus on building strength but also implement some training modes that you might not use during the other phases of development (for example, flipping tires, boxing, swimming, and so on). I also like to use this time to assess the success of the programs I have used over the past year to see what helped improve aspects of my teams and what did not (FMS testing, strength/power testing, energy system testing).

A lot of teams and individuals spend a fair amount of time in this macrocycle (12-16 weeks). Although your competitive season is a long time away, slacking during this phase could set you behind in the goals you want to achieve. Practices are usually very short or nonexistent, which leaves plenty of time for you to hit the weights to get your body ready.

Recommendation:

Training Frequency: 4 to 6 days per week
Mode: Moderate Sport Specificity
Volume: High

Pre-Season

The pre-season begins what is considered crunch time when it comes to preparedness in the weight room and on the playing field. The season is right around the corner, and the next 8 to 12 weeks will fly by. You will be competing before you know it.

During this macrocycle, training becomes a lot more sport specific than in the preceding cycle. The goal is to get the body ready for the exact situations and stressors that you will encounter during competition. As a strength and conditioning coach, I want to prepare the athletes’ bodies with exercises that will mimic and enhance their actions on the field. Examples include working on lower-body power with football players, increasing aerobic endurance with soccer athletes, or enhancing rotational power with golfers.

All in all, you just need to be on the field or court playing in order to get ready for the season. However, the smaller the learning curve the athlete has from off-season to pre-season conditioning, the better. Too much stress too soon (as for athletes who do no training over summer break) can lead to overuse injuries from ramping up the activity levels too fast. Remember to take into account the fact that you are training more for your sport at this time, so do not overdo it in the weight room. Make sure you have adequate recovery time in order to get the most out of your previous months of training.

Recommendation:

Training Frequency: 3 to 5 days per week (depending on practice time/schedule)
Mode: High Sport Specificity
Volume: Medium-High

In part 2 of this blog, I’ll go through the other two macrocycles: in-season and post-season.

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

 

Topics: mini marathon training weightlifting programs athletes

The Importance of a Maintenance Phase for Athlete Training

The NFL season is only three weeks old and injuries are running rampant through the league. Week after week, a star player is lost for multiple weeks, months, or possibly the whole season because of injuries that usually are the result of bad luck or possibly not being as physically prepared as they could have been. Hopefully your team, **knock on wood**, does not or will not have to deal with this at any point during their season. My team, my beloved Detroit Lions, look like a dumpster fire for reasons other than injuries.

The physicality of football increases every year. The players are getting bigger, faster, and stronger in training facilities across the country getting ready for that next season. Guys are always looking to take that next step during the offseason to ensure that they are a better player than they were the preceding year. Countless hours are spent in the gym and on the field trying to achieve this goal. Some training programs start the day after a season is over, whether it be after week 17 in the regular season or if your team wins the Super Bowl. It’s no secret that being a professional or collegiate athlete is a year-round commitment. 

Changing Training After the Season Begins

But what kind of training do players do after their season begins? Do they continue to train five or six days a week like they did in the offseason? Of course not. With large time commitments for practice, watching film, and simply resting, an athlete must shift their focus to making sure all of that hard work is not wasted over the course of the season. The most effective way to salvage the progress that you have made over the past five or six months is to enter a maintenance phase.

A maintenance phase is one phase or “macrocycle” (a large portion of a training year) that you should use during the start and duration of each athletic or competitive season. As mentioned before, this phase is used to preserve the strength, power, and muscle mass that was built in the many months prior to the season. 

What Does a Maintenance Phase Look Like?

Some characteristics of a maintenance phase include the following:

  • 2 (±1) workouts per week
  • 45 to 60-minute sessions
  • 2 (±1) sets per exercise. Main exercises should focus on strength, power (plyometrics, Olympic lifting, core lifts [bench, squat, deadlift]), and functional mobility.
  • Promoting overall health
As you can see, these phases don’t take much time, but could pay huge dividends throughout your season. The ultimate goal for many (if not all) sports, like the NFL, is to make the post-season. The teams that always seem to perform the best in those scenarios are the ones that are the healthiest or freshest. Continuing to lift throughout your competitive season will help you maintain the overall function of your body instead of gradually losing it throughout the season. As a wise man (Dr. Alan Mikesky) once said, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

Impact on Future Seasons

Don’t underestimate the importance of a maintenance phase, due to the implications that it could have on subsequent seasons. Think about this scenario:

Imagine you start training for your freshman year of college football squatting a maximum (1RM) of 315 pounds. After 4 months of preseason training, your 1RM has gone up to 365 pounds. Once the season starts, you stop lifting weights and focus on football. Three months later when the season is finished, you hit the weight room for the first time. Your 1RM squat is back to 315 pounds. Your body had no reason to keep the neural drive of the muscles because you no longer required it to. You start your offseason conditioning program and increase your squat back up to 365 pounds and exceed those numbers by squatting 380. Once your sophomore season starts, you stop lifting weights once again. At the end of the season, your 1RM squat is back to 315. 

This is a vicious cycle that never allows for any solid progression. You start from square-one every year. Now think about the same scenario with a few changes:

Imagine you start training for your freshman year of college football squatting a maximum (1RM) of 315 pounds. After 4 months of preseason training, your 1RM goes up to 365 pounds. Once the season starts, you begin an in-season maintenance phase. You lift two days per week, making sure your squat loads are significant enough to maintain your 1RM (80-95%). Three months later when the season is finished, you hit the weight room for the beginning of your offseason training program. Your 1RM squat is 355. Although you dropped 10 pounds, it is not as significant as the 50-pound loss from the previous scenario. From your offseason program, your 1RM increases from 355 to 410. Once your sophomore season starts, you begin another in-season maintenance phase. At the end of the season, your 1RM has only dropped to 405. 

***

As you can see, progression of strength (and power with other lifts) has to be maintained year round. This goes for all athletes throughout their seasons. If they want to continue to improve, they must prevent the loss. It is as important of a cycle of training as any. Without a properly structured in-season maintenance phase, you will be starting from the same place every time you start a new offseason training program.

 

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

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Topics: training weightlifting strength power professional athlete muscle mass

Summertime Sizzle: Adding a Fitness Challenge

Summer_Showdown_sun2-1Cue DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince because it is summer time—FINALLY! This is the time of year when we get to enjoy more sun and more fun, and smiles and laughter are abundant.

With the energy level rising as the temperature rises, we tend to look for new and fun ways to challenge ourselves somehow in our lives: decluttering the house (a must, by the way), updating the landscape, spending more time with the kids, or taking on some kind of physical challenge to help keep you moving forward. 

Tons of events are popping up all around with the arrival of the nice weather, designed to challenge any and all fitness levels. Finding the physical challenge that is right for you is a fantastic way to spice up your current fitness routine and challenge your limits, perceived or actual. 

Besides some of the obvious physical benefits from creating and completing a fitness challenge, such as improved body composition and an increase in strength and endurance, accepting a fitness challenge can provide so much more. Here are just a few.

Inspires You to Return to Your Drive Toward Excellence

It can be easy to lose some fire over the course of a long year. Even the most committed fitness enthusiast (yours truly included) can be unable to find the drive sometimes to stay vigilant in striving to improve. Taking on a new challenge can provide the spark that will reenergize your commitment to excellence.

Establishes a Timeline

One important characteristic of a well-stated goal is to have an established timeline to reach it. Without a specific date for completion, it is not a goal; it is a dream. If the challenge is on a certain date, and you have 6 weeks to train for it, you have yourself a well-defined timeline. This will not only allow you to complete your current challenge, but also hammers home this important concept of a timeline for future goals.

Incorporates New Movements and Modes of Training

If you are planning on taking on a challenge that you have never done before, there’s a very good possibility that you will have to perform brand new movements and adopt a new training idea. This could be just what your body and mind need to push your limits to create new ones.

Creates Powerful Personal Bonds with Fellow Athletes

The power of working with a group of likeminded individuals is colossal and life changing. When you take on a challenge together, the relationship that will be formed is long lasting and built on mutual respect. I have seen countless strangers join together to complete an event or training program, only to become the best of friends and continue to work toward improvement.

A Challenge for You: NIFS Summer Showdown

Now that you’ve learned some benefits of establishing and completing a fitness challenge, let’s define one, shall we? Starting on June 22 here at NIFS, the Summer Showdown challenge returns. New and improved, this program nails all of the benefits discussed above. Not only do you get to choose your team, you get to choose the level of the challenge you wish to complete. 

The NIFS team has designed a whopper of a challenge for you this year. New to the Summer Showdown will be mass test-in and test-out events where all participants will complete the challenge together at the beginning and end of the program. At the test-in event, all teams will be given specific wristbands to wear throughout the showdown. After you get tested in, you will spend 6 hyped weeks training to improve your test-in time. You will be meeting with your team twice a week to work on all of the aspects of the challenge so that you can crush your previous score and improve your fitness. 

All of your hard work will lead up to the finale, where you will once again complete the challenge with all of the participants of this year’s Summer Showdown. Learn more about the Summer Showdown challenge here.

I took on the Level 3 challenge last week and finished in 25:40. It was a blast, and super challenging, just the way I like it!

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, Health Fitness Specialist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: goal setting group fitness workouts accountability NIFS programs challenge summer training

Big Bang Theory: Are You Getting the Most Out of Your Training?

GT-newWhen you think of the term “economy,” what is the first thing that comes to mind? Money would probably be number one, and maybe government and the idea of debt would more than likely come to mind next. There is another economy that should be as well known, and that is your training economy. Simply put, your training economy is the rate of return that you get from the methods and practices of your current training program.

How much time do you spend in the gym or working out? Are you getting the results you set out to achieve? Are you getting the best ROI (return on investment, as they say in business)? Time is one of our most valued commodities, and how you spend your time working toward your health and fitness can determine whether you are on your way to bankruptcy (injury, lack of results, etc.) or getting the most out of your biggest investment.

First and foremost, in my opinion, if you are spending more than two hours in the gym, you are making friends, not gains. If that is your thing, that’s great, but you can never say “I don’t have the time to get the results I want.” Save the Instagram photos and tweets for vacation, and WORK when you are in the gym. Most importantly, you will want to get the most out of the time (there’s that word again) you have committed to training and being the best you that you can be. There are two surefire ways to get the biggest return on your investment while in the gym: 

1. Have a plan of attack.

Needless to say, the plan (or program) is a very important step in ensuring that the time you are working toward the goals you defined is purposeful and bringing you closer and closer to that outcome. This plan should be specific to the goal you are striving to achieve, and should adhere to sound principles. This plan should be progressive. A great coach told me once that you can’t put your tie on before your shirt. Master the basics before moving on to more advanced movements. Read more about this investment step in my previous posts, Do You Even Lift Bro? Weightlifting for Beginners and Alice and Chains.

2. Emphasize “big bang” movements in your program.

Performing what are widely known as “big bang” movements is the second way to get the biggest return on your investment of time. Big bang movements are categorized by including multiple joints, including multiple planes of motion, and incorporating variable loads during the movement. Here are five of my favorite biggest “bang for your buck” movements.

  • Squat and press: Combining both upper and lower body, squat and pressing patterns, and loading the anterior core; the Squat and Press exercise provides a whole lot of BANG! 
  • Ultimate Sandbag Rotational Lunge: As your body moves in one plane of motion, the load of the sandbag will be moving in another. This awesome big bang movement will not only challenge your stability, but it also hits both the lunge and hinge patterns at one time. What a bargain! 
  • Turkish Get-ups: One of the most all-encompassing movements on the planet. The Get-up combines mobility, stability, and strength all in one package. This movement takes some practice before loading it, so take the time to master it to get the most out of it.
  • Crawling patterns: You have to crawl before you can run, right? Crawling patterns are a great way to target the entire system while performing something that is innate to us humans. Try out different variations to continue to stress the body in different ways.
  • Dead lift: Considered by some to be the “beast” of all movements, the dead lift is a huge, multi-joint-pulling motion of awesomeness. We all at one time in our day must bend over to pick something up. The dead lift prepares us for that. 

Getting the most out of your most precious gift, TIME, should be a priority in your fitness programming. Utilizing big bang movements can help you get the results you are looking for without burning the clock.

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

 

Topics: fitness center training weightlifting strength exercises

Enhance Your Fitness with Heart Rate Training

heart-rateThere are several different ways that you can train. Common training methods are interval training, total time and sets/reps, but heart rate training is one that is growing in popularity. Heart rate training has different zones in which subtle physiological effects occur that will enhance your fitness. This type of training can benefit a variety of people who are exercising from the most elite athlete to the least-fit person!

What Heart Rate Training Is

Let’s take a deeper look into what heart rate training is. There are different zones that you want to train in depending on what your goals are. Zones are simply a range of heartbeats based on how frequently your heart is beating. Let me describe the different zones to you:

Heart-Healthy Zone: This zone is 50 to 60% of your maximum heart rate and is generally easy and comfortable to exercise in. You may be breathing a little heavier than your general breathing pattern goes, but you will be able to carry on a full conversation.

Fitness Zone: This zone is 60 to 70% of your maximum heart rate and is a little more challenging than the Heart-Healthy Zone. You will be breathing a bit more heavily and have some shortness of breath, but you should still be able to carry on a conversation. This zone is used for weight loss and building endurance.

Aerobic Zone: This is 70 to 80% of your maximum heart rate and is considered much harder work. You will be breathing heavily and unable to have a conversation, and able to speak in only short phrases. The Aerobic Zone is used to train for endurance and encourages your body to build new blood vessels and increase your lung and heart capacity. This zone is used for maintaining weight and improving your cardio fitness.

Anaerobic Zone: 80 to 90% of your maximum hart rate. This is intense exercise and you will be unable to speak except in gasps.

Red-line Zone: This zone is 90 to 100% of your max heart rate and you will not be able to stay in this zone for more than a minute or two.

Calculating Your Zone

Now we need to take a few minutes to calculate your zone, which is done by finding your maximum heart rate and your resting heart rate. One method that is used quite often is to subtract your age from 220. So if you are 40 years old, 220 minus 40 is 180, so your max heart rate would be 180. 

However, this method does not take into account your current fitness level, which can vary your max heart rate by up to 10 to 20 beats per minute! You can also use this calculator to estimate your zones. 

Tracking Your Heart Rate

With all the different forms of fitness technology, tracking your heart rate is getting easier. Standard heart rate monitors sync with the machine to show your heart rate. Fitbits, Jawbones, and other fitness tracking devices work. And, of course, the machines have heart-rate sensors on them. Take a week in the final winter weeks and try some heart rate training!

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

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Topics: fitness cardio training heart rate

Train Like an Athlete: Start Building a Foundation with Resistance Training

Every day during the week, hundreds of sporting events are played across the world. From football to tennis, golf, and soccer, among many others, athletes are competing at every skill level possible. Professional and collegiate sports have rigorous schedules that require their participants to prepare for the upcoming season year round. For many of these athletes, there is no more “off-season.” There is a constant flow of training through different cycles that allows them to hit their peak performance during the right time of the season.

But how do these athletes get to be in the shape they are in for their seasons? Where do they start?

Getting Started

resistance-trainingAn athlete’s training age, or experience they have in the gym, is one factor that is used to determine their initial starting point for their individual program. Someone with a higher training age will be able to perform exercises of more difficulty versus someone who has never stepped foot into a training atmosphere. This is important to consider when starting your program because some individuals may need more instructional time than others.

Resistance training can be a good starting point. It is one major mode of training that can lead to multiple benefits for everyone, not just athletes. Increasing muscle mass, strength and power are three main benefits that can be derived from a well structured resistance training program, but many more can be had. With the athletes that I train, all of them can benefit from an increase in one or more of those variables.

If you are new to resistance training, try coming to the gym two days per week for the first month and establishing your routine. Rest and recovery is very important during this time. Once you have your schedule in place, add a third day. This will allow you to keep improving as your body begins to adapt to your program.

Training Exercises for Beginners

To start, a “full-body” lift should be sufficient if you are beginning a new program. These exercises will focus on all of the major muscle groups of the body, not just a single group. Make sure the movements being performed are perfect. This is not the time to add as much weight to the bar or grab the heaviest dumbbells as possible. It is time to learn the basic movements to build for the future. Trying to break bad habits in weightlifting is one of the most common issues I see. Do your best to learn and perform the movements correctly the first time. The addition of weight will come shortly thereafter.

Start with 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions per set for exercises of each major muscle group (Quads, Glutes, Chest, Back, Shoulders). For starters, one exercise per muscle group will be sufficient. As your body adapts, more exercises can be added.

The basics are going to be what set you up for success in the future. Regardless of your lifting ability, everyone needs time to focus on the fine points of their techniques. Once you have developed a routine for resistance training, other areas can begin to be improved, like speed, agility and explosive power.

If you need assistance in creating your first full-body workout, contact me at asoller@nifs.org. For information on what NIFS can do to help you train for a sport, see NIFS Athletic Performance.

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

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Topics: fitness center muscles resistance training sports

“Caddy Smack”: Fitness Tips to Improve Your Golf Game

golferWith summer in full swing, I thought some tips to improve your golf game might be a good way to start my blogging experience. No, I’m not going to fix your slice or tell you how to hit out of a bunker (I still can’t fix that myself). What I’m going to do is give you a few fitness tips that could potentially help add some yards off the tee or with long iron shots.

Getting More Distance on Your Shots

One of the best ways to bolster the distance of your shots is to increase the club head speed during your swing. Now, you are probably thinking, “Okay, I’ll just swing harder than I normally do.” Those of us who have done that before already know the outcome is not favorable for scoring par or birdie. The ball probably ended up two fairways over or at the bottom of a lake and left you saying, “I almost crushed that.”

What if there was a way to increase that club head speed without altering the mechanics of your swing? The concept of rotational power may be the key to unlocking that extra 10 to 15 yards for that tee shot. Rotational power is something I focus very heavily on with any of my teams that involve a swinging aspect (such as golf, tennis, and softball). It involves moving your upper body/torso and hips in a circular path to generate a large amount of power while keeping under control. Increasing the ability to generate this force (getting more powerful) will allow you to feel like you are taking your normal swing but have a little more “oomph” behind it. Simply put, you are able to swing harder by increasing the ability of those muscles that are important to the swing.

Training to Increase Rotational Power

Now, how should you go about training to increase your rotational power? Luckily, the NIFS Fitness Center has a ton of tools that can provide opportunities to do so. I am going to focus on one piece of equipment for this specific goal, which are the Dynamax balls located at the south end of the fitness center floor. The following three exercises are designed to help you become more powerful and hopefully improve your game at the same time. Remember, your driver and irons do not weigh a bunch, so use one of the lighter Dynamax balls (I recommend the 10-pounder to start with). The golf swing is a fast event, so focus on the speed aspect rather than the weight during these drills.

  1. Dynamax Pocket Throws (3 sets of 15 per side)
  2. Half-Kneeling Rotational Throw (3 sets of 8 per side)
  3. Overhead Rotational Throw (3 sets of 6 per side with maximum effort)


I know there are many more parts to the golf swing than rotational power, however, this is a key factor. Hopefully in a few weeks you will be hearing a louder “smack” of the club and see some extra distance when the ball comes to a stop.

Hit them straight; hit them far!

If you are looking for more ways to improve the strength of your golf swing or have any other sports specific goals, contact me for a free fitness assessment. 

Free Fitness Assessment

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

Topics: exercise muscles training golf core strength rotation golf swing

Shave Time Off Your Tri by Training for Triathlon Transitions

Transitioning has been called the fourth discipline in Kris-new-1triathlon. When you finished your first race and looked at the breakdown of the times for each event, you probably noticed the T1 and T2 times. T1 is the time it took you to go from swimming to the bike, and T2 is the time it took you to go from the bike to the run. Like the swimming, biking, and running training, the transitions should be trained as well. But don’t think you need to spend hours perfecting getting from one event to the next. A good transition can simply be added to the other brick training sessions.

Before the race you need to check where you will be exiting the water and follow this to your bike. You can mark your transition spot with chalk on the ground, with a balloon, or with a bright towel. The transition area looks different when everyone is out on the course. Many athletes have wandered transition areas looking for their gear. Also look at the course from where you will be headed at the end of the bike to your transition spot. You will rack your bike and put your gear down on the side of the bike you will mount from.

Practicing the Swim-to-Bike Transition (T1)

The swim-to-bike transition is often the most difficult transition to practice because of the logistic of getting to the water (pool or lake) and then keeping your bike close to make this practice possible. Instead, you could just practice getting your bike gear on after stepping your feet in water. Putting on socks is often the toughest part of this as you deal with balancing while tired and getting the sock on without getting sand on the sock. Many people will sit on the ground or bring a big bucket to sit on.78810088

During a race I try to dry my feet with the end of my transition towel (placed before the race) or have a small towel to dry the tops of my feet while standing on my transition towel. You do want to make sure not to have any rocks, sand, etc. on your feet as those may cause a blister.

You must have your helmet on and buckled before you get out of transition, so do this first or directly after getting your shoes on. This is also a good time to get a drink of water and have a gel or other nutrition so you don’t have to try to ride and eat.

Once you get off your bike, you will run your bike back into your transition area. Rack your bike as close to where you took it off as possible. This is a rule, but it also helps you be courteous to your fellow triathletes who are racking after you.

If you change your shoes, have the laces open and ready to slip your feet into quickly (baby power can help with this).

Grab hats, sunglasses, and race belts and put those on as you run out of transition. Again, you could get a drink or nutrition if you need it. The gels or chews can be pinned on your race belt to have along the course.

Practicing the Bike-to-Run Transition (T2)179659833

The bike-to-run transition is easy to set up and a nice way to do some race preps the day or two before a race. Follow these steps:

  1. Set your bike against a wall or car, WITH THE SIDE YOU WANT TO GET ON YOUR BIKE FACING OUT.
  2. Place your shoes, helmet, hat, race belts, sunglasses, etc. near the bike.
  3. Figure out in what order you will put on your bike gear and practice it. Put on your helmet, socks, shoes, etc.
  4. Grab your bike and RUN, HOLDING THE BIKE WITH THE OUTSIDE HAND (no need to run with two hands on the stem) to your marked start point
  5. Get on your bike.
  6. Ride a short distance (less than a mile).
  7. Get off your bike at your marked spot and run your bike back to your setup spot.
  8. Take off your helmet, change shoes (if necessary), grab anything you want for the run, and run a short distance, getting into a nice rhythm.
  9. Repeat as many times as you need to feel confident.

Putting in a little transition practice time during your regular workouts will help you cut your total time in your triathlon. As you are trying to beat your time from before, this will help more than you realize.

NIFS’ Tri-Training for Women triathlon training program has recently begun. Find the details here.

This blog was written by Kris Simpson BS, ACSM-PT, HFS, personal trainer at NIFS. To read more about Kris and NIFS bloggers click here.

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Topics: running group training swimming triathlon cycling training

Do You Even Lift, Bro? Weightlifting for Beginners (Part 1 of 2)

Episode #1: 5 Game-Changing Tips for the Weight RoomTony-1

I spent a great deal of time in a weight room growing up, and still do. The “Iron Church,” “The Metal Shop,” and “House of Pain” were all names I used to reference a place where I saw so much growth in myself, both physically and mentally. I remember watching one of my brothers train to power lift with the U.S. team when I was pretty young, and couldn’t wait to get my hands on all the stuff. Flash forward a few years and I was the one on the training side preparing for high school athletics. Man, there was nothing like the weight room! The feel of it, the smells (not always pleasant, but part of the charm), and the clanking of metal on metal were all rushed to the senses, signifying that a lot of hard work was about to go down!

I learned so much during that period of my life when I was in the gym every day; I definitely thought I had everything figured out on how to get strong and stay injury free. As I got older and wiser (okay, older and after many mistakes), I needed to find a way to lift so that I could lift another day. As fitness evolves, we learn bigger and better ways to get the most out of every workout.

5 Game-Changing Tips for the Weight Room

In the first installment of this beginner’s guide, I would like to share with you 5 game-changing tips to rock the weight room like you never have before. In future episodes, I will dig a little deeper into each of these tips (along with a few extras) and outline a guide that will allow you to get the most out of it.

1. Have a plan, ink the plan, and work the plan.free

Going into a place full of things to do without a plan will usually result in meandering around and wasting time, extinguishing the metabolic fire. Get a workout log and write down your plan of attack for the week. This will keep you focused as well as give you a means to track your progress. I highly recommend consulting a fitness professional to help you set up your first program. 

2. Get a super friend.

The benefits of working out with one or more partners are substantial, emotionally, mentally, and physiologically. Find a likeminded individual and link up your training times to provide support for each other and accountability. And if you are using the room for what it is intended (to GET STRONGER), you will eventually need a spotter.

3. Pair exercises.

If you want to get the most out of your time, not only from the clock, but from your ability to get stronger and lose fat, you must pair exercises. You may know this as “super setting.” No matter what it is called, DO IT! I prefer to pair exercises in this fashion: Push/Pull/Upper/Lower. We will spend more time on this in later posts, but here is a basic example:

  • 1a. Front Squat
  • 1b. Chin-ups
  • 2a. Dead Lift
  • 2b. DB Bench Press

4. Work unilaterally.

There are many fitness pros, me being one of them, who believe you are stronger unilaterally than you are bilaterally. I jokingly say that you have nothing to hang onto when you are working one side at a time. The core stability necessary to work unilaterally is also a huge benefit of working one side at a time. So next time you are planning to do a squat, try it on a single leg. You will love the feel and the results.

5. Utilize many different modes.

Many of us can get stuck using the same tools to perform the same exercises, and wonder why you continue to get the same results. Packing your workout with many different pieces of equipment and varying the movements themselves is similar to why your salads should have a bunch of color in them. It’s because different ingredients provide different nutrients, nutrients that we need. Lifting weights is the same thing; your body needs the different benefits that come from different movements using different pieces of equipment. Some refer to this as “muscle confusion”; I think that’s an industry term made up by those who like to dance around the living room and sell DVDs. I don’t really care what you call it; you just have to do it! Change up the movements and modes of training from time to time so you can taste all that a weight room has to offer and your body can enjoy the benefits of the different ingredients.

This is just the start of what will be a pretty handy guide to getting the most out of your weight room as you begin to lift weights. Keep your eyes open for the next episode, where I show you how to put together a program. Until then, I leave you with one more piece of advice to get you going. Absolute strength is the foundation to your fitness. The stronger you are, the more things you will be capable of across the fitness continuum. Bottom line: to get stronger, you have to lift heavy things. Do it right.

Tony Maloney is the Fitness Center Manager at NIFS in Indianapolis and leads group training on Sunday through Thursday. Follow Tony on Facebook at ELITE.

Topics: fitness center injury prevention muscles training weight lifting strength core dumbbell personal training

5 Core Exercises to Make You a Better Runner

Runners are generally good at doing the same thing over and over again, day in and day out: RUNNING! Oftentimes they will neglect doing some of the components of what runners refer to as “the little things” that pay huge dividends in overall performance and how you feel while running. The little things include sleeping enough, eating right, staying hydrated, maintaining flexibility, and core strength, and the list goes on. When there is limited time in the day to get in a quality run, the thought of cutting a run one or two miles short to do core and flexibility work is often quickly neglected.

Core strength and endurance is a critical component that should not be neglected by anyone, especially runners. Since running is a repetitive movement, the muscles in the body can become imbalanced when cross training, strength training, and core conditioning are not included in the training plan, which can lead to injury.

Here are 5 simple exercises that you can incorporate into your daily training plan with no additional equipment. All you need is 5 minutes!

  • Planks: plank-2Lay flat on your stomach and tuck your toes underneath. Raise yourself up onto your elbows and toes. Hold this position, maintaining a straight line between the top of your head and your tailbone. Do not let your hips sag down too low or press up too high.

 

  • Bird Dogs: Start in a tabletop position with your wrists beneath your shoulders, knees below the hips, and a flat back. At the same time, extend one arm out in front of you as you extend the opposite side leg behind you. Bring the elbow and knee together in the middle to complete the movement. Complete sets on both sides of the body.

bird-dog2bird-dog-1








 

 

 

Bridges: Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Bring your heels as close to your hips as you can without pain. Press your hips up as high as you can while keeping your feet in contact with the ground. Hold for a 2-count and return to the start position.

bridge-2







 

  • Hip Hikes: Standing tall in a neutral position with one foot flat on the ground on an elevated surface, drop the opposite side of the body below your pelvis on the side of your grounded foot. Activate the grounded leg’s glute to return back to the start position. Complete sets on both sides of the body.

Foot-dips

foot-dips-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Try these 5 exercises before you go out for your next run. Start out completing just one set of each exercise. Hold the plank with good form as long as you can and build up to 1 minute. For the rest of the exercises, gradually build up to 3 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions. Once you get the hang of this, it will not take you any longer than five minutes to complete. This method will give you a great start to adding core exercises to your running routine.

Here's another core workout you can try.

If you are looking for a marathon training program consider joining the NIFS Fall Half and Full Marathon Training Program. It is geared toward preparing individuals to complete the Monumental Marathon.

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

Topics: running injury prevention training flexibility strength core exercises