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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

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

Get Moving with Improved Hip-Mobility Warmups

Whether or not you exercise, hip mobility plays a factor in your everyday life. Within the exercise realm, good hip mobility can be the difference between being “in the game” and just watching from the sidelines. In day-to-day life, hip mobility factors into nearly all movements, including climbing stairs, sitting and standing, and walking. If you find yourself wondering whether you could benefit from improved hip mobility, the answer is a resounding “Yes”! While understanding the importance of hip mobility is key, designing a routine that is appropriate for your needs and goals takes precedence.

Benefits of Improved Hip Mobility

If I were to pinpoint a few benefits of improved hip mobility, I would first look at the basic elements and emphasize the benefits of improved balance. Although you do not stand on one foot on a regular basis, you do, however, get in and out of your car, which requires a degree of balance. As hip mobility deteriorates, you may find it harder and harder to get out of your car.

A second area to look at is hip-strength imbalances in the body. This can become a more advanced quickly, so lack of hip mobility can lead to an abnormal strain on other muscle groups. An example of this is that an individual who sits all day may develop weak hip muscles (like the psoas, iliacus, and rectus femoris), which in turn could lead to the hamstring getting overworked.

Lastly better hip mobility can lead to fewer injuries and decreased overall pain due to hip tightness. Those who are running a marathon might discover tightness in their hips that could be remedied through a well-thought-out hip-mobility warmup.

Improving Your Hip-Mobility Warmups

IMG_4979Most workout formulas include a warmup process. If hip mobility is a focus, your workout would benefit from a few additions to the routine. Foam rolling, which has been around for a while, is a great way to get blood circulating to the muscles and decrease soreness (if you worked them out prior). Spending a few minutes to roll out the trigger spots (areas of higher tenderness) will help you feel better, and you will be able to exercise on a more consistent basis.

IMG_4983Second, I would suggest a dynamic movement stretch (rather than traditional static stretching) to help not only stretch the muscle, but also warm up the body for more movement. “The World’s Greatest Stretch” (yes, that’s really its name) takes the exerciser into a lunge position, rotating and opening up the torso to the ceiling. Why is this called the “World’s Greatest Stretch?” For starters, you are able to stretch not only your hip flexors, but also your hamstrings and torso. As you do the stretch, both sides back to back, you notice that the stretch allows you to flow, dynamically, which is a great way to get your body ready for movement.

IMG_4990Finally, another great stretch to do is simply called a Hip Internal Rotation Stretch. While lying on your back, cross one leg over the other, allowing the hips to lean to one side and getting a decent stretch.

 

Address Your Hip Problems Now

Some hip problems are not from a lack of trying. Physiologically, there are many reasons your hips might hurt. If you feel as though you are having excessive pain in your hips, you might need to consult with someone who can help you. Overall balance issues, unnecessary pain, and muscle imbalances can all become bigger, life-altering issues down the road, so take care of them before they become bigger issues.

We want you to feel good! Come see a NIFS staff member at the track desk to schedule a complimentary FMS Screen to determine ways we can best help you with your exercises. Remember to warm up properly and stretch when appropriate, strengthen your weaknesses to see real improvement, and consult a professional to help you develop your plan.

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

 

Topics: staying active workouts injury prevention balance pain warmups mobility stretch hips hip mobility

Upper-body Workouts: Try the UBE Equipment in the Fitness Center

IMG_4820Ergometers have been a mainstay in the fitness world for a long time. You might not realize it, but many of the cardio pieces in your fitness center that you use regularly are ergometers. The arm ergometer comes from two Greek words: ergo, which means work, and metro or meter, which means measurement. In essence, any cardio equipment you have been using that has the capability to measure your workload can be considered an ergometer.

Because this is a wide spectrum of possibilities, we will focus on some pieces of equipment that fall into a subcategory, Upper-body Arm Ergometers (or UBE for short). I will give some professional tips and workout ideas to incorporate some great exercise into your program well into the new year.

NIFS has several options for UBE-minded people. For starters, the Marpo Rope Climb Machine, the Concept II SkiErg, and the Schwinn Air Bikes can each provide a nice, challenging upper-body cardio exercise. Because each machine specializes in its own fitness discipline (climbing, skiing, and biking), exercisers have an opportunity to not only do the exercises they love to do, but also try new pieces of equipment.

Rope Climbing Machine

Rope climbing is hard work, but quite beneficial. The main movers here are the Latissimus Dorsi, also known as the Lats; however, you can easily notice other muscles that work to support the movement, such as core and grip strength. Sometimes, though, this exercise is a little aggressive and you might not be ready to attempt a rope ascent. In this case, we can introduce you to the Marpo Rope Climbing Machine. This device can simulate various rope activities ranging from climbing the rope to a tug-of-war. Further, accessibility and versatility are both pluses. I like to use the rope machine for cardio on days that my legs are too sore to go, or if I am recovering from a lower-body injury.

Workout: I would suggest doing an interval of 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off for 4 to 5 rounds at the end of your workout. During the “go” time, be ready to work!

Concept II Ski Erg

skiAnother piece of UBE equipment you can find is the Concept II Ski Erg. The machine is designed to replicate cross-country skiing, but can also be used for upper-body only. For years, cross-country skiing has been associated with some of the most beneficial exercises in our industry. When snow is not in the forecast or if we lived far away from winter weather, it might be hard to come by a set of skis. The Ski Erg takes up a relatively small space and still gives a great workout. The Concept II machines are designed to take a lot of intensity while providing a good, safe workout.

Workout: A quick workout could be as easy as measuring your quickest 1,000 meters and then trying to beat that time the next time you are at NIFS.

Air Bike

Screen Shot 2019-05-30 at 11.35.49 AMThe final piece of equipment is the air bike. Bikes have been around for quite a while, but not all bikes are created equal. The air bike is fan driven, which means that the intensity you feel is based on your exercise output. Because it uses both your arms and legs, you get a full-body effect from the exercise. When muscles contract, not only are calories being burnt, but blood has to pump out to all those muscles, hence your heart rate increases. Ask anyone who has used the air bike and they will tell you that it could be one of the best challengers in the gym.

Workout: Use the bike as a warmup or a final finisher. I like to use the bike as a cool-down to keep the blood flowing and ease out of a hard workout. Try an 8–10-minute ride at moderate intensity at the end of your session.

***

For people who are injured or just want a great workout, the UBE equipment has something for everyone. NIFS provides support and will help you find the equipment and workouts that are appropriate for your goals and level of training. Train hard with equipment designed to push you to the limits.

If you are unsure about the UBE equipment, please stop and see a NIFS staff member to assist you with your needs. As always, keep working hard to achieve your goals, and don’t be afraid to try something a little different at the gym—you might end up loving it!

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

Topics: fitness center equipment workouts skiing biking upper body climbing ergonomic

How to Get in the Flow with Your Workouts

When was the last time you were so immersed in an activity or project that you completely lost your sense of time and surroundings, and nothing else seemed to matter? Hopefully it was fairly recently, because these types of experiences are among the most enjoyable a person can have. You might have heard this described as being in “the flow” or “the zone.” The event that came to mind was likely one in which you are highly trained, or at least felt a healthy amount of challenge. Those are often the strongest sources of “flow states,” as psychological researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has reported in his book Finding Flow: The Psychology Of Engagement With Everyday Life. My goal is to provide you with some tools to help bring about that state of mind in your workouts, and even in your daily life.

GettyImages-1149614540The Rules of Being in the Flow

In order to fully understand the rules of being in the flow, it is helpful to use a tennis match as an analogy. Imagine Roger Federer, arguably the best tennis player of all time, playing against a ten-year-old tennis player who’s only taken a handful of lessons. Assuming Federer isn’t taking it easy, the outcome of the match is going to be completely lopsided. The ten-year-old beginner will almost instantly become anxious and discouraged, while Roger Federer will quickly grow extremely bored.

Make sure the challenge of the task at hand is appropriate for your skill level.

These two extreme emotional states lie on opposite ends of the flow state continuum. In essence, the most entertaining tennis match to both play in and watch is one in which the players are fairly equally matched. The point at which the two skill levels meet provides the highest possible level of challenge for each player. This is the underlying concept of being in a flow state, or being in “the zone.” The challenge at hand must equal the skill level of the participant. Otherwise, the task might be too easy and become boring, or the challenge is too much to overcome and you’ll be discouraged.

This might sound like common sense, but it can often be difficult to put into practice. The art of maintaining this balance comes from properly increasing the difficulty level at the correct time, otherwise you risk either boredom if the task becomes too easy or frustration if it’s too difficult.

Steps for Getting in the Flow

GettyImages-9280883901. Have a plan, and don’t cheat.

Your workout plan will, and should, be different from anyone else’s. This is because, as Dr. Seuss said, “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.” As correct as these words are, the worst possible plan followed religiously will always be better than the best plan that you quit after one week. Having a plan takes away the anxiety of not knowing what you’ll be doing for each workout. The cognitive effort it takes to develop a workout every time you hit the gym can be overwhelming enough to discourage even the most disciplined folks. Developing a plan can be challenging in itself, however, so you should always seek the guidance of a skilled professional if you’re unsure. In any case, any plan that is followed consistently will still be better than no plan at all.

2. Start slow, and progress intelligently.

Typically I will start a client on a level at which it’s virtually impossible to fail, even bordering on too easy at times. As soon as I notice it’s too easy, it’s time to quickly advance to the next step. If you’re following along, you might notice that this is breaking the rule of the challenge meeting the skill level. However, it’s far more beneficial to start simply and build the confidence to move on quickly than it is to start with something far too advanced and completely discourage the individual with whom I’m working, or worse, cause an injury. If you’re unsure what your starting point is, check out one of our many fitness assessments we offer here at NIFS. I always recommend establishing a baseline dependent upon your goal(s). After all, you can’t get where you’re going if you don’t know where you are.

3. Diligently track your progress.

This means recording your workouts consistently. Just as you need your starting point, you’ll benefit greatly from tracking your week-to-week, or even day-to-day progress. What you are recording is less important than staying consistent with your tracking. Some items I highly recommend tracking are the following:

  • Volume (sets x reps)
  • Load/Intensity (resistance, weight, speed, etc.)
  • Rate of Perceived Exertion (how difficult was a particular set, exercise, or workout?)

Try to implement one or all three of these strategies into your exercise routine and see if it helps you find a groove in your workouts!

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This blog was written by David Schoch, CSCS, FMS, Healthy Lifestyle Coordinator at NIFS. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: workouts attitude mindset assessment flow

How to Superset Like a Boss: Speedy Workouts with Big Results

GettyImages-878254216Have you ever tried working out in a time crunch or just wanted to get more exercise in a shorter period of time? Maybe you would like to speed through, but would rather have a plan of action to make your path a little easier. You are in luck because there is a fitness concept that does all of this while making sure you get a great workout. The idea is called supersetting, but it’s not as simple as you might think. To develop a great superset workout, you need to understand how a few concepts really work.

What Is a Superset?

A superset is more than just a two-exercise “mini circuit.” First of all, for these to work the way they are intended, you will have to reconstruct your fitness plan to allow for two exercises, back to back, that complement each other. Basically, the superset exercises need to work different muscle groups all together. For example, I could do a set of pushups (which primarily work the chest and secondarily the shoulders and triceps) and then follow that with a set of pull-ups (which primarily work the Latissimus Dorsi and secondarily the biceps and other back muscles). Another example would be bicep curls and triceps extensions. These are usually a great superset, especially for a time crunch.

Where many people get into a snag is when they try to superset two exercises where both movements incorporate the same muscle and movement pattern. Although it might be a great workout, a traditional superset wouldn’t ask you to do a lat pull-down followed by a pull-up (this would be a basic “burnout” style of exercise that works, but for other reasons).

How to Have a Successful Workout

Now that we have defined the superset, here are a few tips to help make sure your workout is successful.

  • Keep it simple. First, try to keep the movement patterns simple and basic. I wouldn’t superset a complex exercise, such as a clean and jerk or a Turkish get-up. These exercises have many elements, which makes them unique and requires more attention to details.
  • Choose proximal exercises. Second, I suggest picking exercises in your fitness center that are relatively near to each other, so you don’t have to track all over the gym and waste time. This is why a bicep curl and triceps extension work well together. You can use the dumbbell area in your gym and have the weights right there ready to go.
  • Pick exercises that require less recovery time. Finally, bigger lifts usually take longer time periods to recover from. I suggest that if you are taking several minutes to recover from your first superset exercise before you do the next, you might need to consider a different exercise. I suggest that your rest be between 30 seconds to a minute maximum.

Developing workout plans that are appropriate and goal-oriented has always been the hallmark of the NIFS health fitness specialists. Being able to superset properly might not come as easy as you may think, but a staff member can help you make wise choices. You can set up a time to meet and evaluate your goals, do one of our numerous fitness-related tests and screens, or talk about workouts that you are doing. We are more than happy to assist with your programming. Followups are also important, so if you haven’t met with a trainer in a while, please stop by and set up an appointment and keep moving forward.

Until next time, muscleheads evolve and rejoice!

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

Topics: fitness center Thomas' Corner workouts speed superset

Leg Day Workouts for Non-Squat Enthusiasts

GettyImages-622809280For some people, leg day at the gym is the greatest single day of the week. For others, however, there couldn’t be a more grueling and loathsome experience. We all know that leg workouts are essential to our total-body fitness plans and that there are consequences to not doing leg day, like becoming internet memes.

Reasons People Skip Their Leg Workouts

Some of the reasons people do not do leg day include knee pain, hip pain, after-workout soreness, poor technique, and sometimes mechanical reasons (your body just can’t do squats due to anatomy). Whatever the reason may be, you still need to address your lower body and quit skipping leg day.

I, for one, have been guilty of skipping leg day from time to time, but I know that there are important benefits to doing the workouts. The main reasons I do not like doing the exercises began with just being tired of standing at work all day after a great leg day. It made the rest of my day brutal. You might feel the same way, but it’s just part of the process that your body needs to go through to get stronger and better.

A very plausible reason some people skip leg day could be that they decided to start a workout “split” (each day of the week dedicated to a body part—Monday is chest day, Tuesday is bicep day, etc.). With the split, you would have to spend a lot of time at the gym to ensure each body part is worked each week—a minimum of 5-6 days per week to do the job. If you have a life event come up, such as a work meeting, a kid’s birthday party, or an illness, you will need to skip a day this week to deal with that situation. What happens is that people will skip the day they like the least, leg day. When next week rolls around, it will have been two weeks since your last leg day. That’s not good.

Leg Workout Ideas

Here are some ideas for leg workouts that are set up for beginners and people who are not fans of squats. You will see a lot of familiar exercises that will give you benefits. Hopefully, with the right motivation, you will become better at leg day.

  1. Deadlift: This can be done with a barbell, dumbbells, or even kettlebells. This link shows a variation of a deadlift called a trap bar deadlift. As you can see, the legs are definitely getting a lot of attention, while good form can be easily distinguished.
  2. Lunge: Although this exercise is about as popular as squats, the benefits are equally impressive. Not all lunges are the same. Check out this example of a lunge variation that you can easily add to your workout.
  3. Hip press machine: We don’t always want to use machines, but in this case, the hip press machine is a great way to get your legs and hips stronger and more ready for squats. Check out this video that highlights a hip press machine.

Leg day doesn’t have to be the most dreaded day of the week. You do not have to hide from your leg workouts any longer. Start off small and smart. Talk to a Health Fitness Specialist at NIFS. They will not only help you set up a workout tailored to your needs, but also monitor your progress through benchmarks you can set at your free strategy session. Words of wisdom: Do not become an internet meme because you skipped leg day!

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

Topics: Thomas' Corner workouts videos squat leg day

Cardiorespiratory Fitness: Increase Your Strength and Endurance

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

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

What Is Cardiorespiratory Fitness?

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

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

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

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

Great, so how do we do this?

Global Improvements vs. Local Improvements

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

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

How to Train for Cardio and Respiratory Fitness

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

Cardio

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

Respiratory

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

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

Muscular

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

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

Get Aerobic Improvements, Then Endurance, and Never Get Bored

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

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

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

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

Rest for the Wicked: Recovery from High-Intensity Training

GettyImages-701140898The peripheral pollution surrounding what fitness and wellness should look like and how you get there is near epidemic status. The topic of high-intensity training receives the majority of the attention, with using Olympic lifts for conditioning a close second. And oh, what is “Insta-worthy” is atop the pollution charts as well. Okay, so that last one was a personal gripe more than based on empirical data. No matter; there are so many messages out there, many of them incorrect and downright unsafe, that it is hard to wade through the muck to get to the clear and beneficial information.

The peripheral pollution surrounding what fitness and wellness should look like and how you get there is near epidemic status."

What I have come to appreciate more and more these days both professionally and personally is the concept of rest and recovery both during a training session and on subsequent days of the week. In my previous post, “This is 40”, I touched on how recovery is so important to get right as we age, but it is just as important for any age and fitness level. Rest and recovery do so much to help you reach your results, but they so often get forgotten due to the misguided messages out there saying that it has to be hard all the time no matter what. Here’s the thing: your immune system does not know the difference between disease and overtraining, which could leave you susceptible to a whole slew of infections. Not only are rest and recovery good for you physiologically, they can do wonders for your emotional self.

Here are three Rs to live by that will allow for the greatest training effect from the high-intensity work you are putting in at the gym, decrease the chance for injury and or illness, and hopefully increase the amount of SMILES you give to the world each day because you feel great!

Your immune system does not know the difference between disease and overtraining.”

Recover

Let’s look at recovery both during a training session as well as outside of a training day, shall we?

Training session: For higher-intensity training sessions, mind your work-to-rest ratio and aim for 1:2 or 1:1. Be wary about a laundry list of exercises to be performed for :45 work and :15 rest for multiple sets. There is not sufficient recovery time at the higher intensity loads, and before long most movements are not executed well, leading to poor results and maybe even injury. Physiologically, not allowing the system to return to a more normal state (or closer to it) can play havoc on the systems needed for the results you are seeking as well as keeping you alive. If you are not using time, heart rates or a simple talk test can be used to determine when it is appropriate to take on the next bout. A good rule of thumb is 110 to 120 beats per minute for your heart rate, or you can complete a couple of sentences in a row. Hard work pays off, but you have to be able to work hard each round and set. Ample time to recover will allow for that.

Off day: What do I do on my days off for recovery? See below. But, let us talk training schedule for maximum recovery results. As always, fitness IQ and fitness level will determine both the training schedule and loads; and there are many very thick books on that topic, which I am not trying to cover here. My hope is to provide a few basic, typical, rules of thumb. Again, for higher-intensity training sessions, here are a few sample weekly schedules:

  • Beginner: 1 On, 1 Off
  • Intermediate: 2 On, 1 Off
  • Advanced: 3 On, 1 Off

These are very general ideas of what a training schedule could look like, and I would highly suggest that you let your body be your guide. Resting heart rate can be a key indicator of proper recovery and being training ready. If you wake up and you’re at 80bpm, you might want to recover that day. Build in those recovery days to help maximize your results.

“Hard work pays off, but you have to be able to work hard each round or set.”

Regenerate

Once again, let’s look at both training days and off days and what regeneration looks like for each.

Training session: Regeneration for a training session is made up of some drills that aid in elasticity of the soft tissues and prep the body for movement. This is typically completed before a training session but should also be done afterward as well to help aid in recovery and be ready for the next session. Elements found in regeneration are the following:

  • Breathing techniques
  • Foam rolling and trigger point drills
  • Active mobility and range-of-motion drills
  • Stability drills

Off day: Here is where we step away from the training stimulus and dig deeply into the regeneration of tissues and resetting energy levels through activities that encourage rehabilitation from training and focus on recentering yourself. The place to start is to get ample SLEEP! Enough said! If you are not getting 7 to 8 hours of restful sleep a night, consistently, reaching your goals will be an even tougher road.

Some other activities that will promote regeneration include the following:

  • Massage
  • Ice (my product of choice is HyperIce)
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Hot tubs
  • Cryo-bath

Reflect

The third R should be reserved for reflecting on the week of training and life as a whole and should be an enjoyable training session. The session should emphasize play and nature. It should be an active session, but not nearly as intense as a training session (unless, of course, you play a sport for leisure). Mainly, take the time to be happy to be alive, spend time with the people you love, and do something you enjoy doing. Just as important to your health and well-being as the other two Rs, treat it as a mental-health day where you are being active. I don’t have a list here for you because you should do what moves you; but I highly recommend that it emphasize play, and that you connect with nature somehow.

I say again, hard work pays off, but you have to be able to work hard, and treat recovery as a training priority if you hope to get the most results from that hard work. These activities and days should be built into your training schedule, because it is still training, and a super-important aspect to the overall training plan. So there is rest for the wicked!

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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: workouts training recovery high intensity results

This Is 40: Fitness Checks for Active Aging Workouts

IMG_1729I celebrated my 40th birthday almost a year ago but postponed writing the “I’m 40 now” blog until now, mainly because it is a bit played out. But more importantly, I wanted to see what this 40 thing was all about before writing about it.

My 40th year on this planet started off great, spending that 18th of August completing 40 holes of golf with the wizard Alex Soller and a few other NIFS characters. It was a very memorable day, one that helped make me feel that 40 truly is just a number and I am still very capable of fitness feats. So I leaped into my 40th year like I have so many previously, with grit and an attitude that nothing will slow me down. I love to move around and I love to challenge myself, and I looked forward to what the year had in store for me.

Do You Really Start to Fall Apart When You Hit 40?

However, Father Time soon showed up with a message that a few adjustments must be considered if I was to continue to stay as active as I like to—nay, need to—be. It was crazy how it seemed so many things were going wrong physically, or it took so much longer to recover, or my drive to train hard lessened. I was reminded of Rocky’s last conversation with Apollo before the Drago fight, where Stallone attempted to talk Apollo out of the fight, stressing that they have changed and were no longer able to do what they used to.

I had always dismissed the messages from men my senior saying, “just you wait; things will change”; but it was becoming more and more apparent that those guys were right. I am not so naive that I would run obstacle course races and hit PRs in the gym left and right and at the level I was used to; I just didn’t expect so many reminders that I am not who I once was physically.

Check Yourself: Five Steps for Adjusting Workouts as You Age

Have you ever heard the saying “Father Time is undefeated”? Sometimes it’s a pretty tough pill to swallow, but here are a few system checks that I have made, which you can use to keep moving as the years keep coming.

  • Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 11.57.34 AMCheck your expectations/mindset. Although it can be hard to handle at times (believe me), physical abilities are going to change and it is important to evaluate and adjust your expectations. This will help when you are faced with a physical challenge that you might have formerly handled pretty easily, to determine whether you should attempt it or live to fight another day. Your mindset is your story; now it’s just the next chapter. Negative self-talk about what you used to be able to do will not help in moving forward positively. I have found it helpful to manage the minimums and find that new normal. This will keep you safe both physically and mentally.
  • Check your warm-up. Maybe the days of performing a few stretches and jumping jacks and then hitting heavy back squats are gone, and that is okay. Taking a few more minutes to warm up properly, including mobility and core stability drills followed by dynamic stretching exercises, is key in avoiding big-time soreness and injury.
  • Check your focus. My focus has changed a little from conquering any fitness challenge I can get my hands on to doing things that would allow me to continue to do things. I am no longer a competitive athlete nor am I all that interested in how much I bench press. What I am most interested in is staying active and being able to move around. Because of that, my focus has shifted a bit and my training has as well to accommodate it. Check your focus to make sure your training is providing what you need. If you are still chasing a strength goal or PR in a half-marathon, go get it, but do it safely. If your focus is like me and you want to be a great mover, fit and healthy, your training should be centered around that. NIFS can help with that!
  • Check your workload. I am a staunch supporter of the ACSM’s guidelines for physical activity: getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week and 60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise; you pretty much need to move every day for at least 30 minutes. That shouldn’t change, but check your intensity and exercise selection for those training sessions to determine whether the workload matches what you checked from above. Also, you should consider the total time being active for the day and not just your training session. Training hard for 60 minutes followed by 8 hours of sitting can be just as bad as not training at all. Focus on staying active throughout the day by taking the stairs, parking farther away, or playing with the kids when you get home.
  • Check your recovery. This has been the most impactful area for me entering my fourth decade: how I am approaching my recovery. I have always been pretty solid with my recovery strategies, but I’ve really had to up my game these past few years. One game changer: ICE! I never really used ice in the past, but now I ice almost every night, especially after a back injury that put me on the couch for a week. Regular massages and other soft-tissue treatments are strategies I highly recommend for recovery. But if I were to put a thumb on what has helped me the most for recovery, I have stopped trying to pack so much into a training session or a day, period. Take time to reflect and relax from the daily stressors, whatever that looks like to you. Enjoy fitness and moving every day, rest and recover properly, and you can keep moving for a lifetime!

As I said before, and it’s worth mentioning again, for me it has been about finding a new normal and managing the minimums. It’s so important that you wrap your mind around what your normal is and what makes you happy. It might not come with blue ribbons anymore, but every day is an event. Go out there and win the day!

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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: workouts recovery mindset warmup active aging over 40

Not a Workout Junkie? How About Swimming and Aqua Fitness?

Of course everyone knows that swimming is good for you. But what are the real benefits gained by jumping into the water?

Swimming Burns Tons of Calories147915512

How many, you ask? Well, here are some hard numbers:

Calories burned in 1 hour for a 155-lb. person:

  • Lap swimming, slow: 493 calories
  • Lap swimming, fast: 704 calories
  • 1 hour aqua fitness class: 281 calories
  • We Water jogging: 563 calories
  • Treading water, moderate: 281 calories
  • Treading water, fast: 704 calories

Swimming Works All Muscle Groups

Swimming uses all major muscle groups. Remember, working big muscles burns big calories! This means you are strengthening your arms, legs, shoulders, and glutes, and it gives you a good core workout at the same time.

Swimming Is Low Impact on Your Body

Because you are suspended in the water, your joints don’t take the pounding they would on the ground or treadmill, plus the movement helps increase your range of motion. More range of motion means more muscle worked through that range, and yes, more calories burned!

Swimming Is a Refreshing Workout Any Time of the Year

The water in the competition pool at the Natatorium is kept between 75 and 79 degrees, the back pool is kept at 85 to 88 degrees, and the diving well for aqua fitness classes is kept at 85 to 88 degrees.

In short, there are few exercises that can give you the workout swimming can. If you have not found a love for kettlebells, weight machines, or treadmills, take the plunge and see what swimming can do for you. You may find a whole new workout routine you enjoy and look forward to.

For additional health benefits read this article on Active.com, 9 Good Reasons Why You Should Get in the Pool.

Swim Drills Anyone Can Do

To get you started, here are some great swim drills you can try in the pool.

  • Stroke improvement drills (with pull buoy): The buoy is held above your knees and you work your arms and upper torso. You can also place the buoy at your ankles to feel your core and inner thighs work harder.
  • Kick drills (with or workout fins): Work on the leg/hip action while holding a kickboard. It may be slow without fins, but you get great singular-leg and cardiovascular work.
  • Side stroke: Lying on your side, down arm extended. Works your legs and core. Make sure you switch sides to get balanced work.
  • Intervals, fast length down the pool: Give yourself proper rest time to go fast on the successive intervals. As you improve, add to the number of intervals or go-down-and-back sprints.

tri training header 2019 LOGO-01-1
If you are interested in swimming as part of triathlon training, check out NIFS Go Girl Tri-Training Program that starts June 11th! Get registered today!

 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.


Topics: fitness workouts swimming