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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Build a Bigger Engine with Aerobic Training (Part 2 of 2)

GettyImages-1217027916-1Last time, I covered a few of the benefits of building your aerobic base:

  • Ability to recover more quickly between bouts of high-intensity exercise
  • Ability to sustain higher-threshold movements for longer (think being able to hit more heavy singles on bench or deadlift with the same rest)
  • Ability to handle more acute rises in training volume
  • More efficiency, as you’re able to remain in an aerobic state for energy for longer periods (before resorting to another system like anaerobic/glycolytic)

Cool, Lauren! Now, how the heck do I train my aerobic system? How do I start to build that base? Here are a few examples of ways to incorporate aerobic training into your fitness plan.

Contralateral Circuits

As the name implies, a contralateral circuit involves working opposite sides of the body while performing a two-part, compound movement—for example, a step-up with the right leg followed by an overhead press with the left arm. Each movement is performed for time, typically 20–30 seconds, followed by a short period of rest while you switch to the opposite side to perform the movement.

By cycling between exercises that work opposite limbs and opposite sides of the body (think diagonally across), we are taxing the cardiovascular system in a relatively novel way. Specifically, as blood is pumped and pools in working limbs for 20–30 seconds (right leg/left arm), the heart has to work slightly harder to then switch to pumping blood to ensure that the next group of contralateral limbs is adequately supplied (left leg/right arm). Heavy weights aren’t involved; typically it’s a combination of bodyweight exercises, bands, or light weights. But after 20–30 minutes of near continuous movement, chances are you’ll see that some sweat has appeared!

Here’s a quick example of exercises that can be linked together for a contralateral circuit:

  • Reverse Lunge Right + Band Row Left x 0:25/0:30 rest and transition
  • Reverse Lunge Left + Band Row Right x 0:25/0:30 rest and transition
  • Step-Up Right + DB Overhead Press Left x 0:25/0:30 rest and transition
  • Step-Up Left + DB Overhead Press Right x 0:25/0:30 rest and transition
  • Single-leg RDL Left + DB Row Left (Right stance leg) x 0:25/0:30 rest and transition
  • Single-leg RDL Right + DB Row Right (Left stance leg) x 0:25/0:30 rest and start over

Escalating Density Training (EDT)

This type of training not only trains your aerobic system, but also allows you to gradually build up volume on particular lifts. So if you in any way resemble me and aren’t the number-one fan of running, this might be for you! Escalating Density Training involves working for 5-minute blocks continuously. You alternate between two lifts, usually opposite in nature (upper vs. lower body), and complete only 1–2 reps of each before returning to the other movement.

For example, you can pair a Kettlebell Goblet Squat with a DB Bench Press. So, for 5 minutes you complete one rep of a Goblet Squat, followed by one rep of DB Bench Press. You can keep a tally of how many rounds you complete in 5 minutes and compare for future sessions to see whether you’re able to do more work in the same period of time. Typically, you can complete three blocks of EDT in one training session, separated by 3–4 minutes of rest. All in all, you’re completing 15 minutes of high-quality work.

Here’s an example of an EDT session:

  • Block 1: KB RDL/DB Overhead Press x 5:00 --> 3:00 rest post round
  • Block 2: Sandbag Clean & Squat/TRX Row x 5:00 --> 3:00 rest post round
  • Block 3: DB Incline Press/Goblet Reverse Lunge x 5:00 --> cooldown

A Long Walk or Hike, Focusing on Nasal Breathing

This one is pretty simple, but surprisingly effective. Getting used to nasal breathing, as opposed to mouth breathing, has more than a few benefits. One of them is that it allows our body to become better adapted to handling CO2 as we produce it during exercise and movement in general. Why does this matter? This has been shown to lower resting heart rate, improve pH regulation, and improve our body’s ability to cycle and filter out metabolites.

So, the next time you head out for a hike at a state park or a stroll through your neighborhood, see if you can maintain a moderate pace while only nasal breathing. If you feel the need to breathe out of your mouth, that’s fine! Each time you go out, simply see how much you can do with nasal breathing, trying to push that time or distance bit by bit each session. Bonus? You get to enjoy the great outdoors.

Low-intensity Modalities + Breath Holds

I came across this method after listening to Cal Dietz, Strength & Conditioning Coach at the University of Minnesota, at multiple conferences and clinics. He’s worked with numerous Big Ten Champions, NCAA National Champions, and Olympians throughout his career. When working with athletes as they return from a hiatus in training (i.e. post summer semester), he has employed a 2-week period focusing primarily on aerobic training.

One method he’s used is 10-second exhalation and breath holds while performing light aerobic exercise. For example, while on a Concept2 Rower, he’ll have his athletes find an easy, maintainable pace for 1–2 minutes. For the next 10–15 minutes while maintaining that pace, athletes will exhale at the beginning of every minute and hold their breath following that exhale. They will attempt to hold their breath until the 10-second mark of that minute. So, if it takes 4 seconds to exhale, they’ll then try to hold their breath for 6 more seconds. Once you start breathing again, the goal is to stabilize the breath as quickly as possible.

After trying this myself, it was surprisingly difficult. There was a sense of being uncomfortable, obviously the urge to breathe, some slight tinging, followed by immense relief after the 10-second mark. I’m listing this last because it’s something I would work up to. Can you try it right off the bat? Absolutely. But don’t feel that you need to continue the breath hold for the full 10 seconds. Maybe its only for 5–6 seconds while you acclimate to the training.

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All in all, there are various ways to train the aerobic system, and there isn’t one that fits all. But if you’re looking to sprinkle some variety into your routine, one of these modalities might be for you. As always, the goal with these workouts isn’t to leave you running for the trash can. If it does, take it down a notch.

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This blog was written by Lauren Zakrajsek, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer, and Internship Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: walking workouts training weight lifting high intensity aerobic breathing

Dear Soon-to-Be and New Mommies: You Can Do This!

GettyImages-1060547970Today, the realities of the human body immediately after giving birth are less mysterious than ever, a development some attribute to a changing climate around motherhood. In the past women felt like they couldn’t talk about the after-effects of having a baby, let alone caring for other children at the same time.

Everything Is Different and There Is Pressure from All Directions

People don’t talk about the messy postpartum “situations” that take place, the frustrating and sometimes painful process of figuring out breastfeeding, the wound care necessary for the area the baby came out from, oh and let’s not forget waddling around the house wearing whatever undergarments can hold everything together. And how about the best-kept secret of icepacks!

And how can we forget the added stressors of life in general. Maybe you’re hearing and feeling things like this:

  • Make sure you work out during your pregnancy.
  • Be sure to only gain 25–30 pounds throughout this whole 9 months.
  • Don’t forget to take care of the other kid/kids you have.
  • Please make sure that report is on my desk by 9am tomorrow.
  • Clean the house.
  • Work 40+ hours a week.
  • Make dinner.
  • Drive the older ones to school and sports.

And on and on and on…

DON’T PANIC! It’s natural to feel exhausted and unfamiliar in your new body and new life. From the time you become pregnant to the time that you give birth, each is a new beginning and an exciting chapter in your life.

The mental difficulties of pregnancy and the first few months after giving birth can be more challenging than the physical effects. Your body will begin to change from its previous state back to its new normal: shedding water weight, frequent trips to the bathroom (again), after-birth contractions as the uterus shrinks back down. If you are breastfeeding or not, there will be pain involved. Let’s not forget the hormonal change that will take place. All of this can lead you to having “baby blues” or feelings of postpartum depression. You are trying to adjust to a new life and a new baby, and these stressors can cause low self-esteem and doubt.

Tools for Confidence in the Postpartum Time

Do not give up! You are the same strong woman who just grew a child and gave birth, and you are who you have always been, but now you have someone else to share your strength with. The more you start to believe in yourself, the happier you will feel and be. Some stress relievers that helped me during my “baby blues” moments are the following.

Get Some Fresh Air

Getting outside for fresh air can help lift your mood. There are also many benefits of walking that include stress reducers. Take a walk by yourself, or take that precious new baby out for some fresh air.

Communicate

Having a new baby can make you feel as though you are alone. Making an effort to connect with friends, join a mommy and me group, or reach out to other moms can help you indulge in adult conversation and not feel isolated.

Take Time for Yourself

Ask for help. Making time for yourself will not only allow you a minute to breathe, it will also help you become a better mom by taking care of yourself.

Feel More Secure

Body confidence is typically the first issue that woman deal with after giving birth. Your body has spent the last 9 months stretching to make room for a growing baby. As long as that took, your body needs time to recover. Most of us do not bounce back as quickly as we would like and that’s okay. After having my first child, I felt like I bounced back better than I had anticipated, but the second one made me feel otherwise (and still does!). My body changed so much after having my second child. One of the hardest things for me was not feeling confident and realizing that this is my new body.

Love the Skin You’re In

Even if you don’t have anywhere to go, try to get up and make an effort every morning. Wear your favorite outfit, put on a little bit of makeup. Find a way to feel good about the day at the very beginning.

Make Time for Healthy Eating and Exercise

Probably the hardest of them all are these two! Without a doubt, eating healthy and exercising tend to be the last things on our minds after having given birth. The best advice I can give you is to plan ahead. During those months where nesting sets in and you have energy to get things done like the nursery and shopping, throw meal prepping in there as well so that you’ll have some healthy options ready to eat after the baby comes.

When it comes to exercising, once you are cleared after 6 weeks, start slow and build from there. Try bodyweight exercises, or walks working into a jog/run. When stay-at-home restrictions are lifted, find a friend to join you at the gym, find a class that you can ease intensity into, or join a program geared toward weight loss/strength. Find what fits you and your schedule.

The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love

Well soon-to-be, new, and veteran moms, I am here to tell you that the world is unfair, the jobs we have as mothers will continue to be the hardest jobs we’ll ever have. We will have good days, we will have bad days; we will have days that we want to run, and days when we have conquered the world. There will be days where we ask ourselves why we decided to do this, and days where we doubt every decision we made. It will be a constant cycle, of good, bad, bad, good, and so on.

Whatever situation you are in currently, I can say with confidence that YOU WERE MADE FOR THIS and YOU CAN DO THIS! There is no greater creation than that of a woman. LOVE YOURSELF! TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF! and ASK FOR HELP!

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, Weight Loss Coordinator. To Learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: depression stress walking anxiety bodyweight pregnancy self-care self-esteem postpartum self-confidence

Walk This Way: Why You Should Walk More

GettyImages-1088123908Unless you have been on Mars for the last four or five decades, you have heard, read, and seen the benefits of walking for health and fitness. There is no new hot take on walking; it’s always been a fantastic way to stay healthy and enjoy exercise.

Walking is often undervalued as a great way to lose weight and feel better, mainly due to the perception that walking is not as “sexy” or intense as some of the fitness programs out there. And the popular opinion on the “interwebs” is that if you are not on your back at the end of the training session gasping for air, it’s not effective (with Prancersizing not doing walking any favors in the “sexy” department). But walking can be a great way to get and stay in awesome shape no matter what the Instagram stars may be showing.

Why You Need to Walk More

Let’s start with WHY you should be walking more:

  • It’s FREE and it’s FUNDAMENTAL.
  • A walking workout is customizable and can be done anywhere.
  • Walking improves almost all aspects of fitness: cardio, endurance, balance, core strength…the list goes on and on.
  • You already have the equipment (your body).
  • It’s an easy way to get activity throughout the day.
  • It has been shown to decrease the chances for diabetes, cardio-respiratory disease, heart disease…and this list goes on and on. (Side note: It has also been shown that the best medicine for the top 10 causes of death is EXERCISE.)
  • Can be a solo or group activity.
  • No extra training needed—you already know how to walk.

Those are all pretty good reasons why we should walk more, right? Trust me, there are more reasons than listed above, but we’ll start with those.

How Can You Walk More?

So HOW can you walk more than you currently are? Hopefully you know the common ways: park far away from any building you are entering, take the stairs, walk the dog more than once a day. Here are a few other strategies you may not have thought of:

  • Walk to complete errands.
  • Take public transit and get off two or three stops before the closest stop.
  • Take a shopping cart all the way back to the store or the farthest return—and oh, grab a few on your way because leaving your cart is an epidemic.
  • Fill up your water bottle every hour during your workday, and travel as far as possible to do so.
  • Schedule a 30-minute walk as a training day.
  • Walk mow your lawn, and maybe your neighbors’, too.
  • Practice the Hawaiian wellness habit of searching for beauty.
  • Start your day with a 15–20-minute walk.

How to Ramp Up the Intensity of Your Walking Workout

For those of you who want to ratchet up the intensity on this catch-all, easy-to-use mode of exercise, here are some strategies to rock a great walk:

  • Walk with a purpose: Walk faster and with purpose whenever you are walking (unless it’s a long stroll on a beautiful beach).
  • Inclined walking: Find some hills or put some incline on the treadmill.
  • Weighted carries: Pick up something heavy and walk with it.
  • Rucking (walking with a heavy pack): Same idea as carries, just using a pack.
  • Sled pulls: Strap a sled to yourself and start walking.
  • Hiking: Undulating terrain is a built-in training mode of increasing intensity.

Exercise and fitness does not always need to be extravagant and really should never be complicated (here are some really simple workouts for students). Make walking a bigger part of your training program. No matter the intensity level you choose, just move more!

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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: walking weight loss workouts disease prevention wellness mindfulness steps

Healthy Lifestyle Habits for Lowering Your Risk for Diabetes

GettyImages-892674198nMost of us are aware that the number of Americans diagnosed with diabetes is increasing, but so is the number of us at risk. The American Diabetes Association says you now have a 1 in 7 chance of developing diabetes if one of your parents was diagnosed with the disease before age 50, and a 50 percent chance if both of your parents have it.

Genetics plays a role, but what can you do to reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes? Lifestyle changes can be your best bet. Here are three areas that can have the greatest impact.

1. Practice Healthy Eating Habits

Eating a wholesome diet that is focused on plant foods is key. A large meta-analysis found that those who chose a Mediterranean-style way of eating were 23 percent less likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes. This style of eating is high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, fish, seafood, olive oil, whole grains, herbs, and spices but moderate in meat, poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt. 

2. Move More, Sit Less

Physical activity can improve insulin resistance for as long as two days following the activity. The American Diabetes Association recommends that people at risk for Type 2 diabetes exercise for at least 150 minutes per week. This could be as simple as a 30-minute brisk walk, five days per week. 

3. Sleep

Many studies have shown that sleep deprivation impacts glucose metabolism. Aim for at least 7 to 8 hours per night for lowered risk of developing the disease.

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Just because you have a family history of Type 2 diabetes, doesn't mean you will automatically have it too. If you can make healthy lifestyle changes in nutrition, exercise, and sleep, you can lower your risk and improve the quality of your life.

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This blog was written by Judy Porter, RD, CD. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy habits walking healthy eating diabetes sleep sitting healthy lifestyle sleep deprivation

Fair Food Finds: Healthy Eating While Having Fun at the Fair

GettyImages-886128934It only comes around once a year, so why not just indulge, right? Well, some of your favorite fair foods might only be consumed once per year, but if you aren’t increasing your exercise, too, the extra weight gained can stick around for longer.

Top 6 State Fair Foods—and How to Burn Them Off

Here are some of the more popular fair food items and how far you will need to walk to burn off the calories.

  1. Elephant ear: Average is 310 calories and 15 grams of fat—3 miles
  2. Funnel cake (6”): 276 calories and 14 grams of fat—3 miles
  3. Lemon shakeup: 254 calories: 2½ miles
  4. Deep-fried everything: Fried Snickers, 444 calories and 29 grams of fat; fried Twinkie, 420 calories and 34 grams of fat—either would take 4.5 miles. One Oreo, 98 calories—1 mile
  5. Corn on the cob: 250 calories and 12 grams of fat—2½ miles
  6. Corn dog: 200 calories and 10 grams of fat—2 miles

Fair Food Fixes: Better Nutrition Choices

There are some easy ways to save some of these calories or burn them off. Try these tips:

  • Think your drink—grab bottled water, sugar-free lemon shakeups, unsweetened tea, or diet sodas to drink instead of empty calories from other beverages.
  • Don’t arrive starving, which can lead to you wanting to purchase everything in sight. Have a balanced snack before you head to the fair.
  • Share with friends and family so you can try smaller portions of more foods.
  • Sit down and eat versus walking and grazing. This can help you feel fuller faster and more satisfied.
  • Wear comfy shoes to maximize your walking! Park farther away and avoid taking the shuttles or train services.
  • Check out all booths and choose your absolute favorite…you’ll eat less and walk more.

As with holidays, vacations, and other events that come around infrequently, the goal is to enjoy the day and then get back to balanced eating at the next meal. All foods can be a part of a balanced diet as long as it is done in moderation. Be sure to plan healthier meals and snacks leading up to and surrounding the higher-fat choices that will be available at the fair!

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition walking healthy eating calories summer fair food

Five Tips for Staying Fit in College

ThinkstockPhotos-stk162012rke.jpgWith busy class schedules, homework, exams to study for and papers to write, not to mention wanting to have something of a social life, trying to stay fit in college can really be a challenge. On top of this, many students hold some form of a job where they work between 10 and 25 hours on any given week. Whether you are an undergrad or graduate student, the same thing applies. When all this stuff is on your plate and the schedule continues to fill up, one of the first things that tends to get pushed to the side is getting to the gym!

Here are five tips that will help you stay fit during your education.

1. Schedule Your Workout

Just like you schedule a time to write a paper or study for an upcoming exam, do the same for a time to work out. If you use an agenda or a mobile calendar, set aside at least 30 minutes to be active during your day. Many studies show that those who exercise on a regular basis actually get better grades and have more concrete, focused study habits.

2. Bike or Walk to Class

Whether your campus is small or large, simply biking or walking to class can help to keep you fit. Plan your day to leave enough time so that you can make the bike ride or walk to class and still get there on time. If you do happen to commute far enough that you must drive to campus, try to leave your car parked further away so you can bike or walk the rest of the way to class. Additionally, you can take some time to walk or ride after lunch, before the next class begins or at the end of your busy school day.

3. Watch Your Diet

Healthy eating on campus can be one of the biggest challenges for students. Due to the demanding schedule and often being on a “time crunch,” it’s easy to simply just grab and go, with thoughts of nutrition going out the window. But by simply watching your diet and walking, you can keep yourself more fit without much effort. Try to pack your lunch choosing healthy foods to eliminate the fast food stops and be certain to carry around a water bottle to drink as much water as you can throughout the day for proper hydration.

4. Find a Workout Buddy to Help Get You to the Gym

There are many benefits to working out with others. Having a workout buddy or small group that plans to meet at the gym on certain days will help you to stay on track. If you have the accountability as well as someone banking on you being at the gym, you are far more likely to actually get there and get the work done. Find someone with similar workout goals and interests and start planning to go together.

5. Use the Gym as a Study Break

Everyone needs to take a break from studying. Set a schedule where you use one of those breaks to get over to the gym for a workout. It will allow you to focus better, clear your mind, and be ready to get back to it once you are done. Study for a few hours, take an hour to get your workout in, and then get back to it!

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Regardless of your level of education or area of study, adding in a workout will benefit you in more ways than just staying fit. If you are having some trouble trying to fit in exercise with the busy demands of school, try to implement these five tips!

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

Topics: fitness nutrition walking accountability hydration college staying fit

Thomas’s Corner: Functional Training Series (Part 1)

ThinkstockPhotos-523032469-2.jpgWhat Is Functional Training?

The term functional training is a mainstay in the current fitness/wellness vernacular, but what is it? In lay terms, it is training that supports movements that are performed in everyday life outside the gym, or that are naturally occurring movement patterns (whether or not you use them).

Where You See Functional Training

You encounter functional training anytime you are walking, running, pushing, pulling, twisting, or bending (almost every movement!). As Mike Blume, Athletic Performance Trainer at NIFS, puts it, “Functional training improves our activities of daily living (ADLs), which will then help us get through each day easier.” This improved quality of life could affect something as simple as tying your shoes, to playing with your children on the floor, to carrying your groceries to your second-floor apartment.

Choosing the Right Functional Training Movements

Not all functional training exercises are created equal. We find that exercises that are more specific or have a greater “transfer effect” can have a greater overall impact on the participant going as far as increased brain/muscle motor control). Exercises that are on the other end of the spectrum have a lower overall impact, however.

Preventing Functional Training Injury

We find the difficulty and complexity of an exercise must be taken into consideration and may be detrimental to a person’s health and wellness if they are not physically capable of performing the movement correctly. We all know that there is nothing functional about injury due to inexperience or physical limitation. See a NIFS fitness instructor or personal trainer to discuss functional training and how it applies to your workout level.

In part 2 of this two-part series, I'll look at lifting techniques for functional training.

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood. For more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: Thomas' Corner running walking functional training muscles range of motion flexibility

What’s in Your Luggage?: The Best Traveling Fitness Tools

It’s summertime which is usually synonymous with vacations and miles of traveling. Summertime travels have been some of the best times of my life! The weather is great, there are so many things to do, the sun is out, and it’s time to relax and have some well-deserved FUN.

But it can be somewhat difficult to continue your regimen while on the road. Hotel gyms are not always the best (although most will get the job done in a crunch), you are staying in a rented home or cottage that does not include a fitness facility, and day passes to the local gym can play havoc with your vacation budget. If you are anything like me, you want do something quick but effective so you can get back to what the trip was intended for: RELAXING. So what are you to do?

Planning to stay active during your travels doesn’t have to be a huge challenge. To help you plan to stay on track in your fitness, no matter the environment, I put together a list of great tools that travel really well. So when you are packing all the clothes you probably will never wear (I am the worst about that) and your sunscreen, leave a little extra room for a few of these great tools that stow easily and will keep you moving toward your desired outcomes.fitness-travel

TRX

There is a reason the company that manufactures the very popular TRX is named Fitness Anywhere. The TRX can go and be used anywhere. From hanging the suspension trainer off your hotel door, to getting outside and securing it to a tree, the TRX is ready to go in a matter of seconds. The TRX is really your travel gym because most resisted movements you can think of that you perform in the gym can be done using the TRX. Not sold yet? The TRX rolls up into a super-small bag that won’t take up much room in your luggage or even your carry-on.

Resistance Band

Just like the TRX, the resistance band will add load to any movement and will take up no space in your bag. The band also provides many unique movements as well as tension throughout the entire range of motion. This equals big resistance in a small package.

Tennis/Lacrosse Ball

You have heard me speak about recovery many times before as being a huge part of your training program. A great time to spend some time recovering is when you are on vacation. Pack a tennis or lacrosse ball, or even a small foam roller to take care of your soft tissue rehab needs. Remember, the results from your program happen during recovery, so use this time to reap the benefits.

Val Slides

Also known as furniture movers, Val Slides are a great tool to add a little more oomph to your body weight exercise. With hundreds of ways to utilize these sliders to create a major metabolic and strength effect, they are a great choice to throw in your luggage. By the way, they weigh only a few ounces and are super flat, ensuring that they won’t send your suitcase over the weight limit.

Kettlebell

The kettlebell travels best if you are driving to your destination, not flying. But if you are choosing the automobile route for your vacation, the bell will fit very nicely in the trunk. I can’t even start to cover the multitude of movements that can be accomplished with the kettlebell. For those of you participating in Small Group Training or our HIT program, you’ve witnessed what a single kettlebell workout can look and feel like. The kettlebell is a very effective, very quick, and very easy tool to travel with. Grab one and throw it in the car—you will thank me for it!

These lists of workout tools is by no means exhaustive, but are the ones that I think provide the most impact while taking up the least amount of space. There is a tool I didn’t mention above, but can be the best tool of all and that is a pair of walking shoes. No matter the place, time, and who you are with, you can always go for a stroll. Enjoy your summer. You’ve worked all winter for 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: fitness running walking group training resistance kettlebell workout TRX recovery traveling

Making Sense of Cardio: Running vs. Walking

ThinkstockPhotos-78754936Cardio, short for cardiovascular exercise, has been around for a while—really, since the beginning of time, if you think about what cardio is and what it does for our bodies. In essence, we are doing cardio all the time, just at various intensities (if we weren’t, we would not be reading this!). The primitive man did cardio to stay alive, the Pan-Hellenic Games of Ancient Greece introduced cardio as a sport, and in modern times we do cardio to replace the manual labor that produced enough calorie consumption and expenditure to keep our bodies lean and strong.

There are many types of cardio that we do to stay in shape, and many arguments about which equipment is best for burning calories. Of the cardio that is mentioned, running and walking usually come up most in discussion about which is the better cardio. Here, I discuss this topic and get to the bottom of this fitness impasse.

Running Pros and Cons

There are always two sides to a story. Running, obviously the more rigorous of the two, carries many benefits, including strengthening the heart and lungs, improving blood flow and circulation, burning calories, etc. 

There can also be a case made that running isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. A lot of wear and tear on the body occurs over the course of a runner’s life, whether it is your feet, knees, or hips (Weil, 2015)

Walking Pros and Cons

On the other end of the spectrum, we can look at walking for cardio in the same light. The benefits of walking include calorie burning, but vary to include stress reduction. The impact of walking is definitely less on the cardiovascular strength side, but it provides much-needed exercise to individuals who cannot physically run (Caton, 2012)

From the calorie-burning standpoint, walking can burn as many calories as running, assuming you do the same amount of work. This means that it will take you longer to burn 100 calories walking versus 100 calories running. 

Running and Walking Are Both Good!

One thing that I have learned both professionally and personally is that not everyone is a great marathon runner, and not everyone has time to be a successful cardio walker. The main thing to take away from this message is that cardio, whether it is through walking, running, biking, or swimming, is essential to good health, feeling your best, and sustaining a long and productive lifestyle (Thompson, et al, 2013)

I encourage anyone who is not currently doing cardio to start (albeit slowly) incorporating a cardio program into your life. The discussion here really isn’t about whether running is better than walking, but that we do something to get going and make the effort to better ourselves. There are no sabertooth tigers to chase us around anymore, but we can see results by incorporating the most simplistic of exercises, walking and running, into our routines.

We can help! NIFS training staff is eager to meet you and help you develop your fitness program. Stop by the NIFS track desk to schedule a consultation today!

Rejoice and Evolve,

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Instructor at NIFS. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.
Topics: NIFS cardio Thomas' Corner running walking cardiovascular

Foundations of a Strong, Healthy Body: Cardio Workouts

ThinkstockPhotos-77293911Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a physically fit and healthy body. The great city was built as the result of the culmination of years and years of hard work. From streets to buildings, each single brick or stone was set with a vision in mind to create the best city in the world. I’m sure many mistakes were made throughout the process; however, those mistakes were only microscopic setbacks in the overall plan.

In exercise, the same rules apply. Some programs you try may yield great results; others may fall flat. You may see success for a couple months and then plateau. Remember: it is all a part of the process. Having a strong fitness foundation sets you on the best path to success in your goals and helps minimize the fitness mistakes you make along the way.

Physically fit characteristics must be set individually. These specific traits, such as cardiovascular fitness, muscular endurance, muscular strength and power, and body mobility, are all equally important. They are the foundation of building a strong and healthy body. You must work on them to maintain or improve your current levels. The majority of individuals possess the ability to improve their current state of health throughout these fitness aspects. Whether or not they choose to address them is another story.

Cardiovascular Fitness

I start by talking about cardiovascular fitness. When it comes to starting a program, begin with the basics: running (or walking), biking, and rowing. These three modes of exercise can all be used to help build that cardiovascular base that you can improve upon continually throughout your exercise program. Although it may seem like it is very basic, all individuals need to have some sort of cardiovascular base they can work off of. Without it, your ability to get through workouts (running, lifting, etc.) will be compromised.

My Recommendation: Intermediate Skill Levels*

  • Run/Walk: 10 minutes at a moderate pace
  • Bike: 10 minutes at a constant and moderate pace
  • Row: 10 minutes, 1 minute at a fast pace, 1 minute at a slow pace

*Adjust time or intensity based on your individual skill level.

Part 2 of this blog series will focus on muscular endurance and how to structure your workouts to improve your muscles’ ability to withstand long-duration workouts.

As always, get after it!

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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: exercise fitness cardio running walking workouts cycling