Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

NIFS: 9 Tips for Overcoming Shin Splints

leg_painDuring my days as a track athlete, I came to know shins splints a little too well.  The constant running and pounding will undoubtedly bring about some discomfort in your lower legs.   But I am here to tell you don’t panic!  There are ways to fight back against the pain you are feeling and get back to running that doesn’t require you to completely take time off.  Follow these tips to understand how to sooth your shins and get back on track!

  • Progress Gradually - This may sound like a no-brainer, but many people tend to dive in to running and do a little more than their bodies can handle.  Build strength and endurance first and slowly increase mileage.
  • The Shoe Matters - Make sure your shoes fit and that they have proper cushioning.  Yes, those minimalist shoes you wear may be the cause of your shin splints.  Shoes with improper support will cause over pronating and rolling of your foot.  Visit a local running store to get some expert advice on shoes and get the right fit.
  • Cross Training - This is especially important if you are already experiencing shin splints.  By cycling, swimming, or rowing you can maintain your fitness level and log miles while taking it easy on the shins.  If you currently run 5 day per week, try a 3/2 training ratio.  Run 3 times per week and cross train 2 times per week.  You will notice relief quickly!
  • Mid-Foot Striking - Resist the urge to run up on your toes or to heel strike!  Flat, mid-foot striking will encourage correct biomechanics, help you run with a proper gait and prevent injury.
  • Don’t Over Stride - The usual culprits here are people who tend to strike heel first.  Think to slow down your cadence and run with proper mid-foot striking form.  This will help you perform with proper body mechanics.
  • Use Ice - Ice those shins!  The ice will bring recovery to the area and help reduce swelling and discomfort.  You can ice for up to 10-15 minutes every hour.
  • Stretch and Foam Roll - Stretch out those calf muscles and get to work foam rolling them as well.  Tight muscles are going to contribute to the pain you are feeling in the shin.  Work on both loosening the calves and strengthening them.
  • Switch Running Surfaces - While recovering from shin splints, look for softer ground to train on.  Find a field and do running workouts in the grass to give your legs a break from the pounding taking place on the road and tracks.
  • Consider Orthotics - Consider visiting your doctor to get some recommendations on orthotics for your shoes.  These can sometimes be a life saver and can be customized to your feet providing that added support you may be missing!

Remember that the key to getting past shin splints is patience!  Take your time, listen to your body, take steps to heal, and get back out there better than before!

Subscribe to NIFS blog

 

Topics: running injury health and fitness

What If: Health Care Collaborated with Exercise Specialists?

Throughout 2015, we’ll be blogging about our dreams for corporate wellness, fitness, and aging well. Some of the content will represent a gentle “poking fun” at the industry, but it’s all written to stimulate thought about what really could be if we put our heads together and started mapping out what’s really possible in the realm of individual wellbeing. We hope you’ll join the conversation by commenting on the blogs, giving us additional ideas about which to write, and/or by finding us on Twitter at #wellnesswhatif.

fit_scanYou’ve heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” right? The idea is that a child needs a whole village worth of support, influence, education, and diversity to be raised as a healthy and vibrant member of society. If we look at individual wellbeing through a similar lens, I would say that it takes a team to help an individual be well. 

When I think about the generally poor health (admittedly, I tend to focus on physical health) of adults in the U.S., specifically preventable issues, I wonder how much is connected to adults simply not knowing how to choose better health and how much goes back to adults making unhealthy choices even though they know better.

Let’s face it, there are a lot of external players who influence an individual’s health. I can’t get into all of those factors here, but I do want to focus on the potential for a better relationship between health care providers and exercise specialists. What follows are some of the historical challenges, as well as some what if ideas for working better together to take a team approach to individual wellbeing.

When I was working in corporate fitness several years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for me start talking with a new member about her goals for exercise and learn that she came to see me because her physician recommended she start exercising. In further conversation, I would learn that either the doctor provided no guidance on how often, how much, what intensity of exercise would be best; or (sometimes worse) the physician provided recommendations that were not practical for the individual.

It was always so helpful, when working with individuals who had a complicated health history, to get a physician recommendation that took into account that complex health picture. With more information from the doctor, I was able to write a more effective exercise prescription. But more often than not, the physician is hurried, and filling out one more form isn’t top on their list, so I’d get an almost blank form returned with little more than their signature. 

What if physicians had more time for discussion with patients about preventive health?

I think at least some of the barrier, though I’ve never heard anyone actually articulate this, is the image of the personal trainer. The certifications available for personal trainers are many and varied in terms of their rigor, and it leaves a lot of question about credentials. Licensure has been debated for years in the industry, and although the discussion varies by state (currently Louisiana is the only state with licensure requirements for clinical exercise physiologists), I think the reason licensure is even on the table is because requirements for certification are so widely varied, it’s tough for even a well-educated individual to get to the bottom of what “certified personal trainer” really means.

What if all certifications had to meet a specific standard that raised the bar for education and experience?

The American College of Sports Medicine released an Exercise Is Medicine campaign years ago with the goal of having physicians make regular exercise a part of their recommendations for practitioners to their patients. The program includes guidelines for health care providers as well as for exercise specialists to interact in the best interest of the public. While some progress has been made on the partnership between the medical community and exercise professionals, there is much work to be done to bridge that professional relationship for the improved outcomes of the patients.

What if health insurance supported visits with a certified exercise specialist as part of a prescription for better health? (This would not be unlike counseling from a registered dietitian that accompanies a diagnosis of diabetes.)

What if general practitioner offices hired exercise physiologists to counsel patients right in their offices?

What if medical training provided some insight into exercise prescription, and curriculum for exercise physiologists provided insight into what the doctor has to accomplish with a patient in an office visit?

We have a long way to go to build a strong village that contributes positively to individuals’ health, and this health care + exercise practitioner discussion is only one portion of that village. What other areas are you passionate about? Where do we need to build a better village to help individuals make healthier choices?

Read our case study, how partnering with NIFS and putting a qualified fitness professional in their new facility helped jump start this fitness program.

  NextGear case study

 

Topics: health and wellness exercise and wellness what if

What to Do When Traditional Senior Living Activities Fall Short

I was scrolling through my Twitter feed recently and stumbled across a posting for a Life Enrichment Director with a prominent senior living provider. The title was intriguing enough—I’m always curious about what’s happening in the area of wellness and lifestyle in senior living—so I clicked on the link, taking me to the job posting. What I read on the posting was enough to make me hang my head.

senior_ladiesWithout getting into detail, I’ll tell you that a primary responsibility for the position was to “create pleasant days.” Now, that requirement was in quotes on the posting, which makes me think it’s a branded program that’s a hallmark for the organization. And to be clear, the posting was for a Life Enrichment Director in a memory care community. So I can appreciate the need for programming to minimize participants’ agitation and anxiety, and to maximize the enjoyment of their days. Still, the idea of programming around building pleasant days for residents (in any level of care) struck me as wildly patronizing and profoundly off base.

Folks, we are doing an enormous disservice to the adults in our communities (in any area of the community) if our primary focus is to make their days nice. The residents are living, not passing life by sitting in a rocking chair on your porch. Your Life Enrichment Director shouldn’t be facilitating passive and placating activities unless that’s what the participant wants. 

The Need for More Engaging Senior Living Activities and Programs

Most of the amazing older adults I’ve met as I’ve traveled to various communities are full of life, eager to connect, and interested in learning new things. We have got to do lifestyle programming better than building pleasant lives for them. To be fair, a lot of organizations are succeeding at implementing creative, active, and engaging programs for their members. For example, Mather Lifeway’s café concept provides for fabulous connections with peers in the midst of unique and lively programs. 

However, in many cases, what I see in communities is a calendar full of activities where 90 percent of what’s listed are recurring events like cards, exercise classes, arts/crafts groups, religious services, shopping trips, and coffee or happy hours. The remaining 10 percent are unique to the month and are typically grouped into musical offerings, lectures, and excursions to the theatre or opera. From a maintaining status quo standpoint, there is nothing wrong with that calendar. Just don’t confuse it with one that is built to engage more than the 20 percent of your residents who participate in existing programs. And don’t consider that calendar creative and interesting simply because there’s no white space left to pack in more activities. 

Building a Better Activities Calendar

If you’re interested in building a better activities (or life enrichment, or wellness…) calendar and program, here are some starting points for consideration:

  • Evaluate what needs to change about your current mentality on programming for your members. If your job is to provide lots of opportunities to keep residents busy, it’s time to rethink the job. Residents don’t want to be kept busy; toddlers need to be kept busy. Building a successful and person-centered programming schedule is about inviting residents to engage in the lifestyle they want—the lifestyle that’s driven by their passions and interests.
  • Ask what success looks like for any given program. (Hint: the answer is quantifiable and isn’t measured by how satisfied the residents look.) Then establish your programming goals and figure out how to measure them. Take what you learn from that evaluation and do better with the next program.
  • Understand what drives your residents, and keep track of that information. Ask them what they’re passionate about and what makes them get out of bed in the morning. If you don’t have programming that speaks to those interests, figure out how to support them anyway (for example, see how one community supported an interest in golf). When you have an inventory on all the members, you have a tool to inform what types of programs you should start building and which residents you need to tap to be champions for the newest offering.

It’s time to stop busying yourself and your residents with filled-to-the-brim calendars that lack intention and invitation. Start actually building Life Enrichment by getting to know what motivates your members and build your creative and strategic (and dare I say “edgy”) program around your people, not their pleasant days.

Ready to get started?  Click below to find out how we can help you.

find out more about consulting

 

Topics: senior wellness programs engagement senior living community program planning program evaluation

Active Aging: What are the benefits of getting a massage?

knee_painHow many suffer from joint pain and inflammation?  Feel stiff and sore? Deal with lack of circulation, feel tired, depressed or have lack of energy, even have trouble sleeping? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then the big question is why are you not getting a massage?!?

Getting a massage is a proven way to reduce some of these issues.  Because we are living longer and keeping much more active, our muscles, joints and bones will develop forms of stiffness, aches and pains.  In addition we start to have limited range of motion or flexibility.  Aging brings about many other conditions that affect our bodies, such as osteoporosis arthritis, back pain and reduction in circulation. Massage therapy cannot cure these issues, but it has been proven to alleviate them.  A good licensed massage therapist can use techniques that focus on areas of the body to gently get to those muscle contractions or knots, making the muscles feel less stiff with more capability to move. 

Feeling down and depressed? Guess what? Getting a massage can actually help improve your mental health.  A regular massage can play an important role in boosting moods by providing that much needed contact.  Sometimes certain oils or creams used in massage therapy are another form of enhancing mood. 

Can’t sleep? Guess what? That’s right a massage can help you sleep better! Massage Therapy has been proven to relax the body, reduce stress and even assist with concentration.  When you get a massage, you can throw away your worries or even think about things as you relax, therefore, not having to think about them when you’re ready for sleep.

So now that you realize how good massage can be follow these helpful tips prior to setting up an appointment:

  • Always consult your physician and research your massage therapy options. 
  • Look for a therapist who specializes in working with active agers.
  • The words gently or soothing in the types of massage descriptions.
  • Always get referrals
  • Verify that they are licensed.  

The question is not why should I get a massage?  The question should be why not get a massage?

 

Your community fitness center is more than just group fitness classes, check out our white paper and how you can create a culture of wellness in your community.

Download Now

Topics: senior wellness active living health and wellness

Employee Health: Why is breakfast the most important meal of the day?

healthy_breakfastHave you ever wondered how some people seem to have energy throughout the day and manage to work out after they get off work?  What’s their secret and how can you steal it?

It’s no secret; you’ll have more energy for physical activity if you are properly fueled and that starts with the most important meal of the day – breakfast.

To get from point “A” to “B” you need to fuel your car with gas or you won’t reach your destination; but if you haven’t checked the oil in a while the engine is going to have issues and your car will be in serious trouble. We put more thought into maintaining our vehicles then we do for caring for ourselves. Think of the food and water you consume as gasoline and oil. If you choose low quality foods and fail to drink enough fluids your performance will be compromised, you’ll become dehydrated, and won’t have any energy.

If you wait until lunch to have your first meal you’re more likely to make poor food choices and cave into eating whatever is most readily available simply because you’re too hungry to make a better choice. If you start your day off with a healthy breakfast you’ll be more likely to make other healthy choices. One good decision will lead to more good choices. You’ll be more likely to pass on tempting leftovers in the break room and instead choose to have a healthy lunch. The bonus is you’ll be able to work out because you’ll have the energy.

Lack of time, choices, and simply not feeling hungry are the common reasons why we skip breakfast. Planning ahead and having some quick no-fuss options in the kitchen or at your desk will save you time. Keep dry cereal, whole wheat bagels, a nut butter, or instant oatmeal on hand. If you still cannot manage eating a whole meal in the morning start with something small like a banana. Stay on track with your eating throughout the day.

See for yourself how eating breakfast can affect your energy level and increase your daily activity and let us know using #NIFS150 and #MoveMore.

Subscribe to NIFS blog

Topics: employee health wellness nifs nutrition news

Senior Living: Keep Moving and Keep Improving with Senior Health and Fitness Day

moving_seniorsNational Senior Health and Fitness Day is approaching with celebrations focused on senior health and wellness across the country on Wednesday, May 27.  Many YMCA’s, health clubs, park districts and especially Independent and Assisted Living Communities will structure programs and activities to promote staying healthy as we age!  The motto for this year is “Keep Moving and Keep Improving” That got me thinking about not just why it’s important to move but how exercise can actually continue to improve our quality of life. 

When I ask our active agers about the possibility of living to the age of 10, they always comment that they would be happy to live to that age under the condition that their bodies and minds are still capable of decent function, not necessarily great or even good function, but decent function to get around and still have cognitive ability.  Enough to move!

Movement is defined as an act of changing physical location or position or of having this changed (a slight movement of the upper body).”  The definition is not emphasizing how much or how intensely we need to move, it’s simply saying motion of the body, even slight motion of the body.  My goal for National Senior Health and Fitness Day is to promote moving the body! No matter what your limitations, there is an exercise that can be modified to benefit and keep the body moving!  The ultimate goal is that by movement (exercise) we will continue to improve quality of life.

So how do you keep moving with limitations?

  • First recognize your “movement” limitations and ask are they temporary or permanent? For example, if you broke your ankle and are recovering, or had recent surgery, for most those are temporary “movement” limitations. On the other hand, if you have arthritis in your knees, or have been told you have Parkinson’s then these are more than likely permanent “movement” limitations.
  • Second find an exercise routine that focuses on three things:
  1. Safety! It may be best for you to choose a movement with a limited range of motion or perform it sitting instead of standing.
  2. Strength! What will strengthen my “movement” limitations? For example, if you cannot move one arm higher than another because of a rotator cuff problem, continue to move them both separately, continuing to keep the stronger side strong and also allowing the weaker side to gain more strength.
  3. Fun! Whatever you do you need to enjoy it in order to continue doing it! If you enjoy a particular exercise classes, talk to the instructor about modification and your “movement” limitations when necessary.  Or, hire a personal trainer to design a program appropriate for you.  Remember always consult your physician before starting any exercise program.

The goal is to keep moving! If you keep moving you’ll keep improving! Celebrate National Senior Health and Fitness Day with a lifetime goal to keep moving!

Get our Slideshare: Improve Resident Engagment

Topics: active aging senior living fitness center health and fitness

3 Ways to Do Wellness Better with Better Resident Onboarding Processes

Raise your hand if your senior living community does not have a formal, functioning, and strategically built new resident onboarding/orientation/integration process. It’s common—really common—to see communities either have no process or expectations on how to integrate new residents, or to have expectations that are so loose and disorganized that the “process” is ineffective.

There is so much to take care of when someone moves in, not to mention all the other responsibilities of community jobs that don’t stop just because a three new residents arrived last week. Still, I think we’re missing a huge opportunity to do right by those new residents in the community’s wellness program when we only look at orienting them to the community as simply another item on the “to-do” list. You might be wondering how I’m making the leap on the orientation affecting wellness. Bear with me and read below about three ways you can do better with new residents to ultimately build a better wellness program.

Of course, in order for this to make sense, you’ll need to appreciate that I’m coming from the position that your wellness program is more robust than simply filling the calendar with “one and done” activities. For your wellness program to be multidimensional and person-centered, it has to be based on fulfilling the purpose and passions of the residents you serve. For tips on how you can better evaluate the quality of your programs, read this blog

 

#1: Shift Away from Telling Them What They Need to Know.1-_senior_independence

In most communities where I’ve provided wellness consulting, if there is any formal new resident integration process in place, it involves staff scheduling time with the resident to tell him about a particular area of the community. There’s usually collateral involved, and the time the staff member spends with the resident is usually a download of programs, services, and how-to’s related to that department.

I’m all for making sure new folks have the information they need in your community. They should absolutely know how to place a work order for service, how to reserve their seat on the bus trip to the symphony, and how to access their financial accounts with the community. But spending your “I’d like to get to know you better time” with that individual overloading them with do’s and don’ts, calendars, contact information, and anything else on your 20-point checklist will be daunting and downright exhausting for even those who are wildly enthusiastic about their move into your community. Imagine how it feels for those who are ambivalent about their transition.

This is not the end of your onboarding process.

#2: Start Focusing on Individual Purpose and Passion.

Once you’ve followed through on providing the basic how-to-get-what-you-need information for new residents, you can turn your attention to understanding individual resident passions. It’s understanding what makes an individual tick that sheds light on his potential. And that is the place you can help him connect in your community.

Several months ago, I wrote about the position of activities director and how it’s turned into something of an order-taker role. Tasking your activities director with onboarding new residents in a different way can be a great first step toward breaking down that order-taker paradigm. It could also be appropriate to consider a Community Navigator, as described in this blog from Glynn Devins, for this kind of role. Regardless of whose job it becomes, someone on your team initiates the “get to know you” visit with a new resident. But instead of using that time to download from a checklist, the time is spent asking open-ended questions that drive conversation and allow the staff member to honestly learn about what motivates and inspires the new resident.

I would advocate for some set/standard questions, but also allow space for the conversation to meander along the individual’s personal history to afford glimpses of who that resident is and what they’re truly passionate about. (In truth, your team members may need some training to learn how to do this style of conversation and investigation.)

Remember, too, that by the time a resident is ready to move into your community, they’ve already gone through the prospecting and sales process with your counselors. There’s a good chance that the resident answered several questions about personal interests as part of that wooing process, and using that information in advance of the 1:1 session will help maximize everyone’s time during that face-to-face meeting.

#3: Use What You Learn.

The information you gather from your sit-down with the resident should be used to start building a resident profile to help you connect that individual to opportunities in the community to learn and grow. You should also use the information you’re gathering from all new residents to build a database that informs your wellness programming strategy, because now (finally!) you have a basis from which to build programs and services that speak to the actual articulated needs of your residents. You’re no longer slapping spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks; instead, you’re building what they’ve asked for, and you’re feeding the resident’s purpose. You’re helping them live exceptionally well.

Are you ready to do wellness better? Learn more about wellness consulting.

Topics: senior wellness senior living community nifs fitness managment