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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

5 Lessons I Learned at the Wanderlust Yoga Retreat

YogaSlackers-_-Day-1-_-Tony-sitting-on-slackline-Photo-2.jpgI recently attended an event that was pretty far outside my usual activity base. I consider myself a lifetime mover and a lifetime learner, but I have to admit this event had me a bit concerned about my success rate, comfort level, and quite honestly my enjoyment. After all, I was supposed to be on vacation. The event I am referring to is a rather large one called Wanderlust, a three-day celebration of the practice of yoga and its branches.

Now you can see a guy like me was pretty concerned about my abilities stepping into this weekend of yoga, meditation, slacklining, and the like. I have little to no experience in many of the mindfulness practices on what I refer to as “that side of fitness,” nor was I confident in my abilities to slow down long enough to find some kind of connections while performing in the sessions. I’ve been known to be a bit on the intense side, especially when it comes to training, so I was worried about my presence at this kind of event. A bull in a china shop came to mind.

After the first few sessions of meditation, yoga, and some slackline training, I was quickly finding out the great benefits that come from mindful movement. I was able to slow down and connect with myself and my surroundings. I began to feel every part of the movement and how it affected the entire body. Even the very difficult poses of yoga were providing positive feedback that I am sure so many seek during their personal practice. Don’t get me wrong, there were some frustrations and many failures, but it became very enjoyable to experience those hurdles and challenges. Here are few more lessons I grabbed from my time at Wanderlust.   

1. Yoga Is Hard, and You Are Going to Fall

Tony-in-Crow-Photo-1.jpgPrior to this trip to Snowshoe Mountain, I participated in two group fitness yoga classes here at NIFS, and I struggled. After a few more sessions at Wanderlust, I was still pretty bad, but I was better. I learned from my previous failures and falls (usually on my head from a handstand or crow) and got a little better each time. Small improvements made consistently will always lead to success in anything that you do.

2. Wandering Does Not Mean You’re Lost

Attempting new things and stepping out of the norm does not mean you are lost or unhappy with your current training methods and ideas; it is a positive thing to try new activities that provide a different kind of stimulus. Challenging your current limits once in a while is a good thing; you tend to find out some things about yourself you never knew, opening up new interests and opportunities for growth. It’s exciting to find strength in activities you never knew you had and jump out of that self-made comfort zone. Try new things and witness the benefits both positive and negative that will always lead to growth.

3. Balance Is Key

I think finding balance in your fitness world is as important as having one in the first place. Remove the blinders once in a while and work on aspects of your fitness that create balance in your body, like mobility, strength, endurance, and power. Repeating the same thing over and over again, constantly performing high-intensity workouts or only performing heavy strength workouts, is a good way to paint yourself into a corner. Find balance during your week of workouts to continue to get the best of all disciplines that will ultimately create the best version of you.

4. Just Let Go

Probably one of the major lessons for me during this retreat was finding ways to just let go and be where you are at that moment and absorb what that experience has to offer. Being in that moment and not stressing about what has happened and what is yet to come allowed me to get the most out of not only the activity I was participating in, but everything that surrounded it—like the beautiful day and scenery, for example. And by the way, here are a few things you should learn to let go:

  • Toxic people in your life
  • Being a victim
  • Trying to please and/or impress everybody
  • Worries about the future or past mistakes 

5. There Is Always a Way

Tree-on-top-of-Rock-Photo3.jpgI am a huge believer that if there is a will, there is a way, and to always find ways to get things done. Just like the tree in the picture growing on top of a rock, it found a way to get tall and strong even though it is out of its usual environment of growing from the ground. IT FOUND A WAY. You can always find a way to eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, decrease stress; you just have to reach and work for it. There is a way; find it. This tree did, and so can you.

Bonus Takeaways:

  • Find your “True North,” that reason you are here and what makes you happiest.
  • Have faith in yourself and be brave; don’t be afraid to make a mistake.
  • Find getaways that are out of the norm for you and redefine your boundaries.
  • Surround yourself with like-minded people who want the same things you want.

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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 fitness center yoga group fitness balance mindfulness

Four Reasons to Make Time for a Cool-down after a Workout

Cool_DownWe know it is encouraged by fitness professionals, and included at the end of group exercise classes, but I want to ask you, personally: how many times after a workout do you actually take the time to cool down?

Many of us tend to finish a hard workout and walk right to the showers or straight to our cars to hurry and get home to the next item on our to-do list. Some of us may not notice much of a difference whether or not we incorporate a cool-down, such as athletes or active adults. However, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, “for the general population, many apparently healthy adults may have heart disease or other diagnosed conditions,” making a cool-down a game-changer for not only everyday movement abilities, but safety.

Here are just a few reasons why you shouldn’t skip out on a few minutes of recovery.

1. Prevent Dizziness

If you have ever felt lightheaded immediately after a hard workout, it could very well be caused from blood pooling. Strenuous exercise causes the blood vessels in your legs to expand, bringing more blood into the legs and feet. After physical activity, your heart is beating faster than normal, and your core body temperature is higher. When you abruptly stop exercising without taking time to cool down, your heart rate slows immediately, which can cause blood to pool into the lower body, causing blood to return at a slower rate to your heart, and your brain. This in turn can cause you to experience dizziness or fainting.

Many accidents in fitness centers actually tend to occur in the locker room from members making a beeline straight to the locker room, steam room, or sauna after a tough workout, without taking adequate time for their body to calm down.

2. Flexibility Is at Its Best

When you finish a tough workout, as stated before, your core body temperature is higher. This means that your muscles are warm and ready for more static stretching. Dynamic stretching is recommended at the beginning of a workout, so static stretching (in other words, taking a deep breath and holding a stretch in a particular position for 15 to 30 seconds at a time) is the next step you can take in maintaining and increasing elasticity in the muscles. This lengthening of the muscles leads to better range of motion and, in turn, improved quality of life for daily activities.

3. Injury Prevention

Tagging onto flexibility, you can prevent yourself from acquiring common injuries with some of this mobility work. One of the most common injuries is in the lower back, which can sometimes be triggered by tight hip flexors and hamstrings. By simply adding some mobility work after you finish, you can not only increase your range of motion, but also increase your ability to catch yourself when you fall or have to react quickly to an unstable surface.

4. Restoration for Your Body

Whether it be simply slowing down to a light jog or walk after some light sprints, or by moving into a savasana pose at the end of a yoga class, a cool-down can have physiological benefits on the body in terms of finality. When we slow down, we feel a “sense of normality” come back into our extremities, and the body begins to restore itself back to a steady state. In other words, it just feels nice!

So whatever you decide to do at the end of your workout, I encourage you to take a moment to think twice for next time. Whether it be adding five minutes of walking to bring the heart rate down, or an extra five minutes to stretch while your muscles are warm, it’s important to note that there are no negative effects to the process. It can only help you in the long run!

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This blog was written by Rebecca Newbrough, Lifestyle Program Coordinator and Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: yoga injury prevention flexibility stretching workout recovery heart rate cool-down rest

Why I Have a Passion for PiYo Fitness

piyo.jpgOkay, so you may have been hearing the word “PiYo®” circulating these last few months within the world of group fitness. For those of you who feel like you do not completely know what it means or what the class entails, fear not. I guarantee you are not the only one with questions, and as a certified PiYo instructor, I would love to share a few reasons why I teach it, and the benefits that can come from practicing it.

PiYo® is a Beachbody program created by celebrity fitness trainer Chalene Johnson (who is also the creator of TurboFire, Turbo Kick, etc.). She originally created the PiYo® class because she wanted a workout that would provide results without straining your body. She loved the benefits of Pilates and yoga but got bored with the static moves in yoga and the microscopic movements in Pilates. So essentially, the class is set to music, combining moves from both techniques and making them dynamic to give participants an enjoyable yet challenging class that works on not only body strength, but also balance and flexibility. Let’s look a little more deeply into those features.

Bodyweight Strength

PiYo_LOGO_Gray_M.jpgSurprisingly, for many of us (myself included), just using our own bodyweight for certain exercises can be challenging enough. From moves like triceps pushups, to lunges, to side planks, 140+ pounds begins to feel really heavy really quick! PiYo® takes many of these simple-to-learn yet challenging moves and combines them with aspects such as “time under tension” and dynamic pulses to keep the body moving the whole time.

Each song also has its own focus; the workout begins with a heat-building track to wake up the body and get blood flowing to the muscles, then moves into a lower-body and power track. Following those, we seamlessly transition the second half of the class into a yoga flow, and finish with a core and stretching/strength track to leave you feeling worked and refreshed.

Balance

I want to take this opportunity to emphasize that balance does matter! It’s amazing how quickly we lose balance over time if we do not continue to develop it. Think about how many times you shift your weight from one side to the other; from simply walking, to going up and down flights of stairs, to catching yourself when you trip, to leaning backward or forward to grab something off the floor. For the younger generation it might seem quite simple, but I promise you, in 30 years, if you never trained in a split stance or single-leg pattern, just standing on one leg for 30 seconds can turn into one of the most difficult and frustrating things you have done.

Flexibility

As a former dancer, this aspect is one of my personal favorites. If you want to deepen your flexibility in your hips and hamstrings, and focus on finding space within those areas to stretch, PiYo® is wonderful for this, especially the flow section, which focuses on this. Even if you have never been very flexible, and simply just want to work on being comfortable when you reach to tie your shoes, or being able to twist and open the t-spine to improve your posture, PiYo® has something to offer for that as well. Mobility work is so important in performance, as we age, and is essential to maintaining and improving quality of life.

***

If you are wondering whether you could keep up in a PiYo® class or if you could do it, you can! The best part of PiYo® is that it’s your workout! I run the class and have the moves and choreography, but it’s your workout and you are more than welcome to take it at your own pace. That includes modifications; I make sure to offer plenty of modifications to assist and advance you as you go along, allowing you to have a suitable class that will not only challenge you, but also be safe for you to participate in. Take a look at NIFS group fitness schedule and:

Try a group fitness class for free

This blog was written by Rebecca Newbrough, Lifestyle Program Coordinator and Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness yoga balance Pilates stretching core strength bodyweight Beachbody

Muscle Soreness Recovery Tips

sorenessWhen we are new to exercise or trying an exercise that is new to our body, it’s pretty common to feel SOME sort of muscular pain.

I think most of us can agree that a little muscle soreness after a fantastic workout is a fun way to remember that things are changing and that we are getting stronger. I think we can also agree (and most have experienced it) that there is a certain degree of soreness that kind of feels like “everything hurts so badly you can’t stand up or lift your arms,” which isn’t quite as motivating. Along with this you may feel irritable, fatigued, and really hungry. Sounds fun, right?

Not to worry! For each type of muscular soreness there is an amazing  recovery solution.

Why Do My Muscles Get Sore in the First Place?

The muscle soreness that you feel 24 to 48 hours after the workout is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), and it is actually caused by tiny micro-tears in the muscle and surrounding tissue. Say WHAT? Tears in the muscle? Sounds pretty terrible, right? But actually those little tears in the muscle are necessary to make things stronger.

So What Should I Do About Muscle Soreness?

To alleviate mild muscle soreness, a little movement is actually best! Try walking or some yoga. While it’s good to move after a workout to take away some of that pain, this is a pretty fine line and it’s most important to truly listen to and trust your body and give it rest when needed.

Here are five ways to take care of your muscles and reduce muscle soreness:

  1. Take it slow. Gradually progress the intensity, frequency, and duration of your workouts.
  2. Foam roll. Not sure what this is? It’s a way of stretching and basically giving your muscles and fascia a great massage. Check out our handy guide on how to foam roll!
  3. Get a massage. You’re going to love this one! Foam rolling is great, but if you have the time and funding for a therapeutic massage, it’s well worth the investment. It helps your body heal itself.
  4. Practice yoga or do some light stretching. Avoid a fast-paced or intense practice and choose something slower such as Yin or Hatha yoga.
  5. Ice the muscles. Placing an icepack on a specific area may help reduce muscle soreness in a very localized area. Make sure not to leave the icepack on for very long, though, as it may cause tissue death.

It all comes down to listening to your body and not being afraid to take a day or two to let your body heal. Soreness, injury, and illness are a time to nurture yourself and give your body the rest it needs. Take the rest, and pay attention to how much stronger you feel in your next workout!

This blog was written by Tara Deal Rochford, contributing writer, group fitness instructor, and author of healthy living blog Treble in the Kitchen. Meet our other NIFS bloggers.

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Topics: yoga injury prevention muscles stretching pain recovery

Three Group Fitness Classes to Try NOW!

NIFS offers a wide variety of group fitness classes every day of the week that are innovative, fun, and make sweating a bit more enjoyable. Whether you are a group fitness “junkie” or just trying out the whole group fitness thing for the first time, here are three group fitness classes you should put on your list to check out:

1. Cycle/RPMcycle

This heart-pumping cardio class will get you fit while sweating to the beat of powerful music. In the middle of summer, it’s often too hot or humid to safely ride your bike outdoors, while in the winter it can be too icy and cold. Indoor cycling is a great alternative. For a high-intensity workout, cycling is low-impact. Each class focuses on a combination of interval training, speed work, and hill climbs to keep you healthy, fit, and happy.

2. CXWORX

The CXWORX workout is just 30 minutes and focuses on the core (the abs, hips, butt, shoulders, and back). That means whether you are looking for a quick and effective workout or are trying to improve your performance in your other workouts, this is the group fitness class for you. While this can be an intense and challenging class, our instructors are excellent at providing exercise modifications that allow everyone in the class to be successful!

3. Yoga_DSC0280

We all know that stress doesn’t do anything good for our health, and one way to balance out the many stresses of life is to hit the mat and take a yoga class. The controlled stretching and breathing practiced in a yoga class allows the body to relax, which can lower your blood pressure, repair overworked muscles, and give the mind a needed break from the hustle and bustle of a regular day. Not flexible? Not a problem. Our instructors understand that everyone comes into class with his or her own “baggage” and will make necessary adjustments and provide options so that everyone can have a calming and rejuvenating yoga practice.

With 60 monthly group fitness classes at NIFS there is something for everyone. Get started and try a free class on us!

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This blog was written by Tara Deal Rochford, Les Mills® certified BODYPUMP®, and CXWORX® instructor. Author of Treble in the Kitchen.
Topics: NIFS yoga group fitness cycling core Les Mills biking

A Deep-Breathing Exercise for Stress Management

Do you ever stop to pay attention to your breath? Observe it now. Is it shallow? Is your inhale longer than your exhale? When we are stressed, we breathe more shallowly. When we relax, our breath deepens. What follows is a simple breathing technique that can help you lower your heart rate and manage your stress.

breathing for relaxation

Get into Position

Before you begin, check your posture. Often a slumped posture makes it more difficult to breathe deeply. Sit at the edge of a chair so that you can tilt your pelvis forward to bring the natural curve into your low back. Place both feet on the floor about five or six inches apart. Bring your head back so that it is in line with your spinal column.

Doing the Deep-Breathing Exercise

This exercise is a three-part breath used often in yoga classes. Follow these steps:

  1. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your ribcage. Observe your breath and state of mind.
  2. Now, begin to deepen your breath so that you feel your belly pushing out.
  3. Next, feel your ribcage expand.
  4. Finally, feel your collar bone lift up toward your chin. As you exhale, your collar bone lowers, your rib cage compresses, and your belly flattens.
  5. Try counting the inhale and exhale to make sure they are the same length. We tend to breathe more deeply on the inhale than the exhale.
  6. Breathe like this for a few minutes.
  7. Now, rest your hands on your lap. Again check in with your state of mind and your breath.

 Other Benefits of Deep Breathing

According to scientific research, deep breathing not only lowers stress and blood pressure but can also affect the brain, the immune system, and digestion. You should be able to feel the effects of this practice as it triggers your parasympathetic nervous system or relaxation response. To learn more about how breathing affects your mind, body, and spirit, click here.

Practice this breathing technique at one of our many Yoga classes at NIFS! Try a class for free today by requesting a Free Class Pass here!

Blog written by Laura Haehl, Yoga Instructor at NIFS. Meet our NIFS bloggers.

 

Topics: stress yoga health

Thomas’ Corner: Yoga Is for Muscleheads, Too

yoga and muscles go togetherGive me a rack of dumbbells, some benches, a squat rack, and two hours and I’m in heaven. For some reason, this could be it, every day for the rest of my life and I would be fine. Then again, after roughly 15 years of pounding the weights, certain everyday tasks that require little things like flexibility and balance, which in our youth are taken for granted, become noticeably more and more challenging.

For the record, yoga is not going to make you less of an uber-athlete. In fact, practicing yoga daily can help improve day-to-day functionality, from getting up off the floor to scratching your back. In all seriousness, yoga can benefit even the most fit bodybuilders, weekend warriors, athletes of all ages, and average Joes and jams.

For those muscleheads who would rather die than be caught dead in a yoga studio, there are literally thousands of yoga instructional videos to experience in the comforts of your own cave.

MUSCLEHEADS REJOICE! And evolve.

Topics: Thomas' Corner yoga