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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Do’s and Don’ts in the Gym: Videos from NIFS Fitness Instructors

March is typically a make-or-break month for many folks as it relates to reaching their health and wellness goals for the new year. The resolutions are losing steam, weather tends to sway fitness decision-making, and focus begins to shift a bit away from what brought them to the gym in the first place. My message to many at this time of year is to continue to WIN EACH DAY! By that I mean have more checks in the win column than in the loss column. It’s natural to slump a little—we haven’t seen the sun in a month, for crying out loud. But continue to focus on doing those things that constitute WINS and limit those things that would be considered a LOSS.

NIFS Instructors Share Their Observations in the Gym

This is also a great time of year to hit a few reminders of what you should and should not do in the gym I asked the experts (the highly trained NIFS instructors): What are some things you see gym-goers do that needs immediate attention and correction? Along with a few of my own, here is what the team had to report on the common things we see in the gym that you should and should not do.

Screen Shot 2020-03-09 at 4.37.04 PM

Tony: Control the Weights

  • Not controlling the weight of an exercise throughout the entire ROM.
  • Dropping the weight unsafely.
  • Holding on and hunching over a climb mill.
  • Standing the wrong direction in a squat rack.

Lauren: Deadlift

  • Tuck the chin in neutral spine
  • Use clips for safety

Thomas: Bicep Curl

  • The emphasis on bicep curl contraction is more pronounced when we isolate the muscle.  this can be done by avoiding movement and momentum from arm swinging by pressing the elbows toward your sides
  • Sometimes, more weight does not make the exercise better, but better movement patterns can make the exercise more effective and safer
  • An easy way to also accomplish this would be to press your back against the wall and perform the exercise

Ashley: Proper Plank

  • Hips in the air/not a flat back
  • Proper way is flat back, hips level, core tight

Tinisi: Proper Lunge

  • Keep your upper body straight, with your shoulders back and relaxed and look straight ahead
  • lower your hips until both knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle
  • Core tight

Keep Striving for Wins and Contributing to Your Fitness Community

We covered a great deal of information here—pretty important stuff for both proper technique and fitness community etiquette. As I covered in my post Culture Club: How to Be a Strong Member of a Fitness Community, we are all in this together! And a community of support and positive energy is a place we can all thrive in, and must all contribute to. I know that some of the new year perspective may have lost a little sparkle, but you are still on the right track. Just remember, have more WINS than LOSSES and you will continue to improve!

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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: fitness center resolutions workouts nifs staff videos new year's ettiquette fitness community technique instructors

Why I Do BODYPUMP™

Tasha BodypumpLes Mills® BODYPUMP™ has changed my life. There are hundreds of workouts to choose from, but this one…it’s all mine. It’s my workout rock, the base of my week, and the base of my training. Why do I do it? Keep reading.

How I Got Started with BODYPUMP™ and Why I Stay With It

I have to give credit to my sister for starting what some would call an obsession. She discovered BODYPUMP™ and became an instructor. She knew I wanted to be a group fitness instructor and she showed me how to do it through Les Mills. She invited me to take her BODYPUMP™ class and I fell in love with it after the first class. I very clearly remember her telling me that I burned 400 to 500 calories and I thought, “That’s like an extra meal!” I was hooked. The music, the repetitions, the strength behind it; it’s not traditional weightlifting—it’s better!

After the initial love bubble, the true test of a program comes: will you keep coming back? What kept me coming and still does to this day is the effectiveness of the workout. Before starting BODYPUMP™ I was unable to do a single pull-up on my own. After about 6 months, I was able to do one. Then two… then three…without actually practicing pull-ups. It doesn’t matter how many different workouts I try, I always own them and continue to impress others with my strength. I may be small, but I’m mighty and I wouldn’t have gotten there without BODYPUMP™.

The Dynamic BODYPUMP™ WorkoutTasha Bodypump 2

Les Mills BODYPUMP™ is a very dynamic program. It’s always changing and evolving. It’s stable enough that I know I will always get a good workout, but it’s never stagnant. It continues to push me and my fitness level with every release. I am now a National Trainer, Presenter and Assessor for Les Mills BODYPUMP™ and I see every day how both new participants and experienced weightlifters can be both welcomed and challenged by this program. When I look out in class and see 20+ people waking up at 6am to work out with me and do BODYPUMP™, I know we have something special. I can speak from experience that we get stronger with every class. We are more than just a group of people who work out. We are a team of friends working toward a common goal of increasing our fitness and enjoying the feeling of success that only BODYPUMPers know when they finish a set with 8 bottom halves.

BODYPUMP™ has made me strong and keeps me strong. And that is why I do what I do. BODYPUMP™ is offered every day of the week, so check out the Group Fitness Schedule to find a class that works with your schedule. Aim for 2 to 3x per week for the best results. Request a class for free and enjoy!

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This blog was written by Tasha Nichols, Group Fitness Manager and Program Coordinator at NIFS and a Les Mills US National Trainer, Presenter, and Assessor. Meet our NIFS bloggers.

Topics: NIFS group fitness workouts group training muscles strength Les Mills BODYPUMP

Go from Sore to SOAR! Preventing Soreness and Injury in Your Workouts

GettyImages-1072667146A common nuisance to almost all fitness enthusiasts is the overall lethargic feeling you get from being extremely sore due to a challenging workout. Sometimes this is a deterrent to those looking to develop a consistent workout pattern, and can be especially bothersome if you haven't experienced this phenomenon before.

Does being sore mean that you should take more time off from fitness to recover, or would your time be better used if you could minimize soreness through workout planning and management? Beneath all of the reasons to either work out or stay home is your desire to see results. So this blog looks at ways in which you can shorten your down time due to soreness and eventually soar to new heights with your workout programming.

Pre-Workout Rituals to Minimize Soreness

We all have been sore from working out at some point. Being able to get back to the gym and work out again is key to not only keeping on track for goals, but also to set important habits. Excuses for not being at the gym can vary and many may be valid, but being sore from a previous workout is becoming less and less common because of our pre-workout rituals, which now include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • FMS corrective exercises (prescribed by a NIFS Health Fitness Specialist)
  • Foam rolling
  • Dynamic warmups (think about track stretches)
  • Even the whirlpool and sauna

With proper usage, these tools are designed to make you not only better at all aspects of fitness, but also safer as you grow into your workout. At NIFS, one of our focuses is on being an all-around fitness center, which includes these aspects. Getting screened with the Functional Movement Screen and talking to a NIFS staff member about your goals is one step toward a better overall experience at the gym.

Planning Your Workout Program for Injury Prevention

Another area to consider is your workout program. Would your weekly times and days allow for a six-day workout split (for example, Monday is chest day, Tuesday is legs, etc.), or would another path that includes total-body workouts make more sense? The answer depends on several things, including your personal goals, your workout experience, previous injuries, and workout frequency allotted. What you want to steer away from is overtraining a specific muscle to the point where it potentially can become injured. This would be more likely if you were to max out on squats six days per week for the next month.

How to plan this program isn't a road you have to travel alone because NIFS offers workout plans (included with membership) to those looking to take their fitness to the next level. Set up a time to meet with a staff member to get started right away.

Take Advantage of Information and Resources from NIFS

In today's world of technology, information is now readily available at your fingertips. You might do an internet search for a TRX exercise and find tens of thousands of websites and videos. NIFS has you covered here, too, as a resource to help you become more engaged in fitness. Posting weekly, the NIFS social media team has not only videos, but also great blogs regarding how to effectively work out, but also how to recover from a tough exercise. If meeting a trainer is a little intimidating, social media such as Instagram and Facebook can be a great way to not only learn, but also get to know NIFS staff who are here to help you.

Now that you have some ideas to help you on your fitness path, there's only one thing left to do: get back to the gym. Meet with a NIFS staff member to set up your complimentary assessments (BOD POD, Fit3D, and FMS). Set up a workout plan that is based on YOUR goals, that makes sense for the amount of time you have to work out, and is centered on your starting point. Expect accountability, encouragement, and growth. Come to NIFS and SOAR!

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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 injury prevention personal training BODPOD warmups assessments fit3d functional movement screen soreness social media

NIFS Group Fitness Class of the Month: Les Mills BODYATTACK

COM_Screenly_BODYATTACK-02It should come as no surprise to anyone that High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Metabolic Conditioning workouts are crazy-popular and are here to stay for the foreseeable future. Research continues to report the scientific findings associated with the many benefits of this style of training. In addition to the research, the anecdotal evidence and many testimonials from normal folks have shown amazing results from functional training done at higher intensities.

Benefits of HIIT

Here are just a few of the benefits that are continually reported from training at higher intensities:

  • Burns a bunch of calories and fat
  • Shortens workouts
  • Improves multiple facets of fitness (cardio, endurance, strength, power)
  • Includes fun and energizing movements

The bottom line is that training at higher intensities coupled with the proper exercises provides a bunch of bennies with a low time cost. Sounds great, right? Where can you go to reap such benefits?

NIFS Class of the Month

BODYATTACK is our class of the month, and it delivers that high-intensity and fun style of training that will help you attack your fitness goals. Check it out:

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BODYATTACK Highlights

Looks pretty cool, right? Ready to give a class a try? You can expect a great deal of the following:

  • High energy
  • Suited for all fitness levels
  • Functional fitness focus
  • Big calorie burn
  • Fun and athletic movements
  • Improves agility, coordination, and stamina
  • Energizing music
  • Group atmosphere to keep you motivated

Tips for Success

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Choose the length of class that is right for you. You do not have to take a whole class. Start slow and ramp up to a longer class.
  • Be sure to pay attention to the instructor for movement variations. Watch, listen, and take the options the instructor gives you for your individual success.
  • Take a buddy with you! Working in a group of like-minded people can be super powerful and will help keep you on track and help you enjoy the class even more.

I love to train hard; there is no better feeling than giving your best effort and knowing it after a great workout! If training hard is something that has been missing for you, don’t wait any longer: get into a BODYATTACK class immediately and “FEEL IT ALL”! Classes are offered on Tuesdays at 6:05pm and Thursdays at 5:15pm.

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

Topics: NIFS workouts group training calories Les Mills high intensity BODYATTACK Group Fitness Class of the Month HIIT

Using Battling Ropes for Training

_68R5895When you begin your fitness quest and are getting started on a new program, finding exercises that are appropriate for you is key to your success. Your fitness staff at NIFS has your back! Training methods and training tools developed from years of research and practice have shown that sometimes a simple exercise done well can be quite effective.

In this case, we will be looking at training with battling ropes (also known as battle ropes). I was lucky to have been in attendance at one of the top fitness summits recently and was humbled by the overall amount of work that can be accomplished with the ropes. (Taking some learning cues from renowned fitness professionals has given me the opportunity to deliver some great, purposeful workouts to NIFS members and clients.)

You may have seen the battle ropes in your gym, but did not know exactly what exercises could be done with them. For the most part, the movement patterns are simple, yet effective. Slamming the ropes utilizes multiple muscle groups and also gets your heart rate to rise. Taking the training one step further, your rope slams can be broken down into many movement patterns including small movement patterns, large movement patterns, and several other fun, specialized movement patterns (which we will look at in this blog).

What Are Battle Ropes?

Before we get started on the exercises, it would be helpful to have a better anatomical understanding of these ropes. For starters, ropes come in many lengths and thicknesses. The longer the rope or the thicker the rope, the more challenging the exercises become. Also, using a poly rope with shrinkwrapped endcaps has advantages over the less-expensive manila gym ropes traditionally used for climbing. The poly rope material tends to be softer on the hands and more durable than the manila rope. The manila rope, however, can work fine and be more cost-effective.

Small-Movement Pattern

The first movement pattern we will discuss is called the small-movement pattern. This pattern is the easiest to learn and progress from. Once you have selected your rope and have attached it to its anchor point, simply get your body into an athletic position (not unlike getting ready to hit a volleyball or pick up a groundball in softball). You will slam the rope quickly, yet rhythmically in cadence so that the small slams create a ripple that flows all the way down to the anchor point. This pattern can also have several small variations including single-arm slams. Typically, this exercise can be done for time (i.e., 20 seconds per set) or with your interval training (i.e., :20 on, :20 off for 3 minutes).

Large-Movement Pattern

The second movement pattern is the large-movement pattern. With this movement pattern, the goal is to create big slams with the rope. This movement is similar to the one seen with medicine ball slams, where you take your body from a small movement position to a fully extended position with the ropes overhead and on your toes, and then end by slamming the rope with maximum force into the ground. This movement can be rhythmic, but sometimes seems a little more aggressive in nature than the small-movement pattern. The benefits here, though, are definitely more athletic in nature, as many sports require movement patterning based on this exact exercise. Because this exercise makes it easier to count reps, being able to do sets such as 4 x 10–12 reps, makes sense (but do not limit yourself; intervals here are also appropriate).

Other Ways to Use Rope Training

Outside of these two movements, you can explore rope training in many ways. Thinking back to grade-school times, we used the rope often during physical education class as the true tests of strength with tug-of-war and the rope climb, but we can make ropes fun and challenging when we put them back into our workout plans and add a little competition. With tug-of-war, you need several people to compete, but other exercises can replicate this movement solo. The Marpo Rope Trainer machine can convert to a standing tug-of-war rope pull, just you versus the machine! The rope climb, which is a daunting challenge for most, can be replicated on the rope machine as well. But if you don’t have the rope machine, starting with rope descends is an excellent way to get more comfortable and definitely stronger.

BONUS: Here is a great Friday Finisher series using the Ropes!

 

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These rope challenges are great additions to most workouts because they are simple and they can be done with individual maximum efforts or in groups where a cardiovascular challenge is needed. If you are interested in adding ropes to your workouts and want more information, NIFS staffers are more than happy to help you begin your new rope training workout. As always, muscleheads evolve and rejoice!

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

Topics: NIFS exercise fitness center Thomas' Corner equipment workouts strength sports movement

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.

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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