Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Senior Living: Four Tips for Improving Your Resident Exercise Program

Truly, one of the things I love about working in senior living is the passion employees have for serving the residents who live in their communities. Despite variation in the physical spaces’ amenities, decor, and size, the culture of caring about the residents is consistent. The people who work in senior living are genuinely committed to getting to know their residents as a means of helping them live exceptionally well.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but the other half of my career is spent in corporate

wellness, where the bottom line often drives the conversation. And while I think employers do care about their workforce, that’s not their starting point for investing in any wellness initiative. So when I work with senior living communities on improving their programming ThinkstockPhotos-529580019-1.jpgand activities for residents, I’m often surprised at what an afterthought their exercise amenities and services are. The clear appetite to provide residents with the very best options for living just doesn’t square with what’s in place for resident exercise at the community.

 If this disconnect resonates with you and you’re looking to make a change, consider
improving your resident exercise program with the tips below as ways to live up to your commitment to build active living options for your residents.

 

1. Provide staffing in your exercise program.

Residents will not (I repeat, will not) use your exercise equipment and spaces without the right leadership in that area of the community. It’s not sufficient to simply offer exercise classes, nor is it adequate service to have a trainer in the gym a few hours per week to offer assistance on the equipment. You can hire your own manager, or you can work with a fitness management company like ours. For more information on how get exercise leadership right in your community, check out some of the blogs we’ve written on the importance of staffing.

2. Review and update your group exercise equipment when you can.

Fitness equipment isn’t cheap, but the items used for group classes are far less expensive than the capital equipment in the fitness center. For $5,000, you can buy one new treadmill, or you can buy a classroom worth of new resistance chairs. There are a lot of practical tools that group fitness instructors can use in classes to make them more interesting and more effective for the residents, and they aren’t that expensive. In your next budgeting cycle, make room for a few of these options:

  • Small weighted balls: Sets of the 1.1# and 2.2# work well.
  • Airex balance pads: Buy enough for each person in balance class to have one.
  • BOSU: Buy a few to use in stations on a strength or balance class.

3. Establish a cross-referral system between your fitness center and your therapy group.

If you have qualified staff in your fitness center and there is not already a relationship between that individual and your therapy team, building a bridge between the two is low-hanging fruit on the improving-services tree. Check out this quick read to learn why we believe integration of therapy and fitness is important for resident well-being.

4. Take a hard look at all of your senior wellness initiatives and how fitness folds into that set of programming.

It should be woven in seamlessly among other programs and services designed to engage rather than entertain your residents. If all programming is being carried off in silos, it’s time to take a fresh approach. If participation in programs and services is represented by the same handful of residents, it’s time to re-envision your offerings. If the activities calendar looks pretty much the same as it did last month, last quarter, and last year, it’s time to breathe new life into what you’re offering. Download this quick read for a series of questions you can use to evaluate the quality of your wellness programming

Find out how to evaluate your program

Topics: exercise group exercise senior wellness senior living active living senior fitness staffing

Active Aging: Ten Ways for Seniors to be Active in the Country

active_in_countryLiving in the country can have its share of pros and cons when it comes to getting in your recommended daily activity. Although you might not have access to a fitness center at your fingertips, here is a list of 10 ways for seniors to stay active in multiple wellness dimensions while living in a rural area: 

  1. Can you dig it?  Try gardening!  Plant your seeds and reap the benefits with a bouquet of flowers, a variety of vegetables, and some new herbs to spice up your daily activity as well as your meals.
  2. Enjoy some time with nature by going on a nature hike!  With the scenery ever changing, this can be a beautiful change up to your typical cardiovascular exercise routine.  So don’t delay, lace up your shoes and take a hike!   
  3. Go for a swim at a local lake or community pool.  This activity uses the gentle resistance of water to strengthen your muscles.  It is easier on joints and the buoyancy of the water is effective for those with balance issues.  Don’t forget your water floaties!
  4. Walk a pet.  Take your favorite companion around the block for some good company during your exercise.  Maybe you start with a short distance that increases over time as you and your pet improve your stride and endurance together.
  5. Not feeling like going outside?  Then workout to a fitness DVD!  Pick out a yoga, gentle aerobics or senior boot camp DVD to do at your own pace in the comfort of your home.  What other workout DVDs do you recommend? 
  6. Go to the mall!  Do laps around your local mall to get your steps in each day.  You don’t have to go into a store and make a purchase if you don’t want to, but this is a great option whether the weather is rain or shine!
  7. Camping with the family.  Helping set up camp and carrying a pack can be a great way to burn calories while spending time with your loved ones.  Just avoid eating too many roasted marshmallows to gain back all of the hard earned calories that you just burned off!
  8. Check off the “honey-do” list.  Kill two birds with one stone by doing chores around the house while making your spouse overwhelmingly appreciative of you!  Dust, vacuum, do the laundry or put way the dishes and work off calories all the while!
  9. Do work around the yard.  Spend a nice, sunny afternoon outside by mowing, pruning and raking your yard.  Have a home improvement project that you’ve been putting off?  Then now is a great time to conquer it!  Your neighbors will be impressed by how immaculate your yard looks, and you will be reaping the benefits of your activity!
  10. Play with your grandkids at a park or playground.  Tap into your inner child and participate in the games that suit your fancy!  These are memories that your grandchildren will cherish for the rest of their lives. 

What ways have you found to be fit in your area?  Keep in mind these safety recommendations to optimize your overall wellness.  Don’t live in a rural area?  Then check out this blog about Ways to Stay Fit in the City!

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Topics: active aging active living senior fitness

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.

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Topics: senior wellness active living health and wellness

Free Workout Friday: Components of a Cool Down

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Last week we talked about the proper way to warm up before exercising.  This week lets talk about cooling down post workout.  A proper cool down at the end of your workout is just as important as a total body dynamic warm up. Your goal during a cool down is to decrease heart rate and static stretch the muscles. To decrease heart rate, continue with low intensity cardio and reduce pace every minute or two. Marching, light jogging, or walking are great ways to get your heart rate back to its resting level. Static stretching prepares the body for its resting state. Start with some basic stretches. As you feel comfortable, incorporate some compound moves.

Basic:

  • Upper back
  • Check
  • Quad
  • Hamstring/calf
  • Tricep
  • Oblique
  • Shoulders

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Compound:

  • Cobra
  • Triangle
  • Warrior 1
  • Down on knee, hand inside foot, torso twist
  • Eagle arms
  • Downward dog
  • Child’s pose

Check out these other blogs from NIFS Fitness Center Management's staff in regard to stretching:

Employee Health: Stretching and Ergonommics to prevent Injury

Workplace Wellness: Prevent Injuries with Stretching

 

Topics: Free Workout Friday active living stretching

NIFS: Be Active in the City over the Holiday

rope_courseSummer has flown by, unfortunately, and we’re headed into our last long weekend of summer. That obviously means have to have fun and live it up a little, so what better way to enjoy this three-day weekend than by spending time doing some of Indy’s popular activities with your family and friends?! There are a variety of activities available for all ages. You’re probably wondering what in the world there is to do in good ol’ Indianapolis. Some of the popular events include:

Family Adventures – You can test your risk taking and adventurous side by going to places like Go Ape! Treetop Adventure, a course at Eagle Creek with rope ladders, 39 crossings, including the log balance and flying carpet, Climb Time Indy, where you can challenge yourself with rock climbing, or Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park, which includes a Foam Zone, Ultimate Dodgeball, SkySlam basketball courts, and SkyRobics fitness classes. I have only been to Sky Zone and I must say I had just as much fun as the kids there and it totally wore me out!

ActiveIndy Tours – Enjoy some fresh air while enjoying a view of the city you live in! There are walking tours, biking tours, bike rentals (I’d totally love to try out those new Pacer bikes for my own tour!), running tours, and custom/private tours. You have quite opportunity to listen to stories and explore history! Another neat little piece of info – the running tour fee is donated to the Back on My Feet chapter, which in turn helps create self-sufficiency within the Indianapolis homeless community. I am one who lives giving back to the community, so I find that pretty neat!

Parks – I can hear that fresh air calling your name now! Did you know that Indianapolis has five recommended parks, White River State Park, Eagle Creek Park and Marina, Fort Harrison State Park, Garfield Park Conservatory and Sunken Garden, and Holliday Park. Each offers a different view or attraction. White River State Park, the park with a few of the finer attractions within walking distance of each other, includes the Indianapolis Zoo (definitely checkout the new Orangutan Exhibit), the Eitlejorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, NCAA Hall of Champions, Indian State Museum, Victory Field.  Eagle Creek Park and Marina is one of the nation’s largest city parks, encouraging you to enjoy the great outdoors and relaxation! The Harrison State Park offers a golf course, historic districts, and beautiful foliage! Garfield Park houses plants from the world’s tropics, and said to be every green thumb’s dream. Every kid’s dream park has to be Holliday Park, considering its slide towers, tunnels, bridges, climbable spider web, and trail along the White River.

Fitness Center – Wanting to try a new gym without making the full commitment on the first day? NIFS offers a 14-day trial pass, allowing you to experience opportunities that fit your fitness level and interest; from group fitness classes, an NBA sized basketball court, to a relaxing steam room or sauna - you’re bound to find something that keeps you motivated and active!

The opportunities for a fun-filled weekend are endless!  You can read up and research activities that suit your fancy through the linked words above, but whatever you do, get out this weekend and enjoy every minute of it! Indy’s popular activities aren’t limited to just Labor Day weekend, so if this weekend is filled for you, plan for another weekend to be active and explore Indianapolis’ beauty!

What fun activities does your city offer? 

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Topics: active living

Senior Living: Using Wellness Programs to Combat “Someday Syndrome”

social seniorsThere’s a lot of talk about what some in senior living call “someday syndrome.” It’s the phenomenon by which adults who have a lot to gain by moving to a retirement community for one reason or another put off the move, indicating they’ll make that change someday.

There are industry articles, LinkedIn discussion groups, and product/service provider blogs about this phenomenon. I’ve heard it in my own parents’ discussion about moving out of their house and into a community. They’re ready…sort of. Well, not really quite yet, but they’re taking steps to be ready. I think they’re like so many of their generation. They have very good reasons to put off leaving their house. What they’re missing are compelling reasons to make that difficult change and move into a senior living community.

In 2008 and for a few years afterward, there was a delay by older consumers largely because of the housing crisis connected with the great recession. But more recently, as the housing market has slowly made a turn for the better, someday syndrome remains. My parents and many of their contemporaries are waiting because they simply don’t see themselves, their lives, anywhere but in their current home.

The Power of Storytelling

In one of Steve Moran’s blogs, “Is Good good enough?,” he talks about recent trips to two better-than-average communities. And although he records being politely and promptly greeted as well as appropriately “sold” during his visit, he felt no connection to either location. He was given good marketing collateral and told quite a bit about both communities, but there was nothing in that messaging to provide unique, compelling, relatable, or personal connections. In short, if he were a prospect, he had no heartstring tug, no strong pull to move to either community.

In the end, Steve comes around to the idea of telling stories as a way to distinguish your community from those around you, and I think he’s right. The stories about residents, their family members, their lives at your community, and how the staff facilitate the very best for them are the essence of who you are.

The good news here is that you already have stories; if you’ve been in business a while, you quite possibly have tons of them. But the hard work lies ahead in figuring out how to use them to communicate your culture, your way of life, as a tool for inviting prospects to join your community family. One of the places you should be looking for stories is within your wellness program.

What a CCRC Can Offer Prospective Residents

If we look at broad brushstrokes of what a CCRC can offer to prospects, there are two big categories: safety/security and lifestyle. Both categories are clear distinguishers in terms of providing more/better than what a prospect is able to achieve in her own home. The continuum of care with qualified and passionate clinicians, along with related services (therapy, podiatry, etc) all within the four walls of your community is simply not achievable for an individual who remains at home. And if your organization is on the cutting edge of opportunities for education, service, growth, and camaraderie in your wellness programming, you no doubt have robust programming that no one individual could so easily experience living in her home.

If you are a healthy individual in your 70s or 80s and you’re considering moving out of your home into a retirement community, which of those two messages is likely to pull you through someday syndrome and toward relocating in a community setting: how you’ll be cared for when you’re sick or dying, or how you can experience new opportunities and enrich your wellbeing as you live at the community?

Let me offer a word of caution here. The idea of using lifestyle to combat “someday syndrome” only works when your lifestyle programming is truly compelling, diverse, individually oriented, and life affirming. If you calendar is full of various card games, bingo, the occasional trip, the occasional lecture, the same old group fitness classes, and the monthly podiatrist visit, there’s no lifestyle to sell and you won’t be different from the competition. Make no mistake: just because the calendar is full does not mean the events are expanding the horizons of your residents.

How to Sell Lifestyle

After years of working with our CCRC clients, here’s what we’ve learned about selling lifestyle:

  • Selling lifestyle is easy when you have the right programming and people in place that can elevate resident stories of successful living.
  • Selling lifestyle is easy when your programming has data to back up participation and engagement rates.
  • Selling lifestyle is easy when your marketing and sales staff understand the language they need to use and have specific stories to make a connection with a prospect.

If you’ve been nodding your head and you believe it’s time to elevate your community lifestyle both to serve your residents better and to create a true market differentiation for what you’re selling, check out this blog.

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

Topics: senior wellness programs senior fitness management CCRC fitness center senior living engagement active living senior living community marketing

Active Aging: Liven Up Your Olympics Programming (Part 2 of 2)

seniors swimmingIn part I of this blog series, we discussed opportunities to develop a comprehensive Olympics-themed program that would create a more memorable experience for participants as well as opportunities to attract more resident interest in the events. In the second part of this blog, we will explore a variety of events that you can consider folding into your Olympics to compliment the recreational activities your residents already know and love or to take a different path all-together.

Part II: Freshen up your Olympic events

Weekly recreational offerings with a strong resident following might seem like low-hanging fruit when it comes to spinning off an event for an Olympics-themed program. However, creating a flyer with your own Olympics logo and inviting these participants to a “special” tournament one afternoon can be less than inspiring for residents.  Read on to broaden your horizons on additional events you can pull into your next Olympics adventure.   

Recreational Activities & Games:

You’ve probably considered croquet, putting contests, corn hole, shuffleboard, bocce ball, ping pong, water volleyball, billiards, etc., but have you considered adapting your own versions of the following?

  • Frisbee Discuss: Play it indoors or outdoors and mark targets at varying distances. You can use hoola hoops or simply use tape to mark off the targets. You can designate varying point values for the different distances or recognize participants by the number of Frisbees that hit inside or on the target.
  • Water Balloon Shotput: Teach your residents how Olympians throw a shot put (without or without the spinning in a circle…OK, probably without the spinning) but use a water balloon! Measure the splash marks and who can shotput the water balloon the furthest distance.
  • Wii: Many residents are already familiar with Wii bowling and golf, but consider purchasing the Wii Fit if you don’t have one and allow your residents to hone their skills on downhill skiing. Wii also has games for archery, hunting & target practice, and many other options that might appeal to your residents.
  • Synchronized Swimming: Planned well in advance of your Olympics, you can have small groups of 3-4 residents compete against one another in synchronized routines they develop or have one large group of residents work together to put on a spectator sport for the entire senior living community. Perhaps you could host your Opening Ceremonies in your pool area to increase exposure of this wonderful amenity your community has to offer!

Brain Fitness:

You’re Olympic events don’t necessarily have to be recreation or fitness related. Finding other ways for residents to compete can be a great way to attract more individuals to participate.

  • Scavenger Hunt: Take pictures of random artwork and landmarks inside and outside at your community and provide these snapshots to participants. They will embark on a scavenger hunt trying to recall where they’ve seen these different items throughout the community and will visit each location. You can make it a timed event for the top three finishers or do recognition awards for everyone who makes it through.
  • Brain Trivia: Host a Jeopardy or other trivia type event for residents to promote intellectual wellness as part of your Olympics. For a large turnout, you can have multiple games going on at different tables simultaneously, or you can have residents work as teams for the answers.

Let your creative juices flow in developing a comprehensive and fresh approach to your next community Olympics!  If you like what we have shared, check out our Best Practice Series featuring 11 of our Best Practices we have implemented in active aging communities!

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Topics: active aging nifs fitness management senior living active living senior living community nifs best practices

Active Aging: Breathe Life into Olympic Programming (Part 1 of 2)

seniors high fiveMany communities have regularly scheduled recreational activities on the monthly calendar such as croquet, bocce ball, or Wii that seem like fairly logical programs to spin into Olympics-themed events in senior living communities.  Still, it’s not enough to simply group these regularly occurring events together and call them your Community Olympics.  How do you set up the initiative so that it has broad appeal and allows those residents who participate in the events regularly to feel inspired and challenged alongside their novice neighbors?  This two-part blog will provide creative tips to kick your Olympics up a notch with your resident favorites as well as provide fresh new ideas for events.

Part I: Kick it up a notch

Many active aging residents, who participate in weekly recreational offerings such as shuffleboard, putting contests, are quite good. Wait, I take that back –they are really excellent! After all they are playing on a regular basis (perhaps their entire lives) and enjoying the friendly competition amongst their neighbors. As the media starts to promote the next Summer or Winter Olympics and you begin brainstorming ideas for another competition, consider how to create something that will be a truly memorable experience for your residents when they are already playing and honing their skills on a regular basis.

Get more of the community involved:

While some residents aren’t interested competing, that element of competition can breathe life into your Olympics and get more residents involved by tapping into volunteers as well as creating spectator opportunities. Create opportunities for your non-competitive residents to engage as volunteers to be scorekeepers, line judges, and coordinators for the individual events. Furthermore as you designate various venues for your events, make sure you include space for spectators and consider offering light refreshments. Market the opportunity for residentsin your senior living community to come and watch and cheer on their neighbors participating in the events. You could even host a workshop where residents can make banners or signs to bring with them and cheer on the Olympians. This can inspire not only your competing Olympian to feel the support of their neighbors, but it might also inspire a resident who is watching the event to give it a try themselves the next time around.

Make it a formal affair:

I’m not talking black ties and ball gowns, but do consider hosting a more formal approach to an Olympics by including an opening and closing ceremony as well as medals ceremonies for the different events you offer. Promote these ceremonies to the entire community and not just the Olympians. If residents are already use to regular tournaments for the recreational programs at the community, these ceremonies can help set your Olympics apart from the offering they partake in from month to month.  If you are hosting a variety of different events in your Olympics, have a parade at your Opening Ceremonies to present your Olympians in each event. If you are able to tap into resident volunteers and spectators, recognize their contributions with spirit awards at your Closing Ceremonies. 

Residents Unite!

Your residents are already competing amongst themselves on a regular basis. Why not unite your residents into a team and invite neighboring retirement communities to be your opposition for the Olympics. Plan the friendly competition well in advance so all participating communities have a chance to practice and hone their skills at the events that will be offered. While corn hole, for example, may be a big hit with your residents, it may be a new activity to residents at another community and they’ll need some time to reach Olympian status. This can motivate your residents to come together as a team and provide a fresh spin on an activity they already know and love.

Up next in part II of this blog, I’ll outline the variety of events you can consider for your Olympic Games.

Click below and subscribe to our best practice series and see how our active aging staff create great programming to engage residents!

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Topics: active aging senior living best practices active living senior living communities fitness programming

Active Aging: Making time for Physical Activity

elderly woman pumping ironRegular physical activity is essential for healthy aging!  There are two main questions that I am constantly being ask: how much exercise should I do? and how do I find the time to exercise?

The first question is easy to answer.  There are specific guidelines that seek to help older adults select types and amounts of exercises appropriate for their abilities. The key word is ability, please know your limitations and make sure you have your doctor’s consent.

Key Guidelines for Older Adults (65 years or older):

  • Avoid inactivity. Some is better than none!
  • Do at least 150 minutes (2hours and 30minutes) per week of moderate-intensity Aerobic Activity! These include walking, biking, rowing, nu-step, water aerobics, and even dancing. These could be performed in episodes of 10-15 minutes throughout the week.
  • Do at least 2 days of muscle-strengthening activities. These include weight machines, hand-held weights, exercise bands, calisthenics, even digging in the garden.
  • Do stretching and relaxation exercises as often as possible. Yoga and Tai Chi are excellent choices.
  • Do Balance Exercises 3 or more days per week. These include backward walking, sideways walking, heel walking, toe walking, and standing from a sitting position.  Remember use support (wall or chair) until you feel more stable.  Tai chi also may help with balance and preventing falls.

The second question is always the most difficult because the number one excuse for not exercising is “LACK OF TIME”.  Even when one retires it seems that all the coupled activities and events leave little room for that important part of our day “EXERCISE”!  No matter how busy you are, someone even busier than you is finding time to exercise.  Here are some ways to squeeze in that time.

  1. Wake up earlier or get to bed later. Sleep is definitely important but you can start your day an extra 30 minutes earlier or end your day an extra 30 minutes later.  You have the advantage of making your own time schedule, and you know whether you’re a morning or evening person.
  2. Cut down on media.  Record how many hours of television you watch or how many hours you spend reading or on the computer.  Cut out some of that time and you will find you have an extra 10 to 30 minutes to exercise.  See Number #3!
  3. Be an active TV watcher or active listener. Combine exercising with watching your favorite show! They have televisions in Fitness Centers! Books on tape are wonderful in enjoying the time you exercise.
  4. Walk around! Getting from one place to another by walking there and back is a great way to incorporate exercise.   Consider your limitations (using a walker, cane, bad knees etc.) but find ways that promote movement.  The stairs, the hallways, standing and talking will burn calories and improve lung function. So take a walk to your retirement community fitness center.
  5. Make it part of your routine.  You brush your teeth, you find time to eat, to socialize, to shower and even to catch up on your favorite television shows or good book.  Therefore, make exercise a part of your daily routine, once it becomes a habit it will be something that you don’t even think about you just do it. Before you know it you will be an active member of your senior living fitness program!
  6. Mix socializing with exercising.  Find an exercise partner, a group to walk with outside or in the hallways, even attend exercise classes where there are others on a regular schedule.  Motivate someone to join you and have them motivate you.  
  7. Schedule an appointment. You wouldn’t want to miss that doctor’s appointment because you may not get another one for over a month.  So why not set a standing appointment with an exercise buddy, a retirement fitness center personal trainer or your dog, and be accountable to exercise on a specific day and time.
  8. Set a goal.  Whether it’s losing weight, gaining weight, standing taller, walking longer or even balancing better.  Exercise provides you those results!  Think about what motivates you to want to incorporate exercising and start working to achieve your goals!
  9. Find an activity you love.  Not everyone wants to come to the community fitness center and not everyone enjoys attending classes.  Dancing, hiking, walking outside and even playing golf provides exercise.  Therefore, do what you love but make sure it keeps the body moving!
  10. Say no.  The big one.  Look at your priorities and responsibilities.  Do you really have to involve yourself in everything on that list?  Can you start to say no to specific things that hinder your ability to find time to exercise? 
Quick Tip to Strengthen Your Community Exercise Program
Topics: adapting to exercise active aging active living balance training staying active

NIFS: Seven things we can learn from Olympic Athletes

cross country skiingOlympic athletes are viewed as superheroes and celebrities; strong, brave individuals at the peak of their career. The words unrealistic or unattainable may have just come into your thoughts; mine too.  After taking a step back and thinking about these superstars, there are many lessons we can learn from them. Years and years of preparation go into becoming an Olympic athlete and it is a full time job. What can we learn from these elite athletes, how can we train like them, how can they be role models to us on a wellness journey?  Think about the qualities an Olympian possesses and how you can translate these into your life.
  1. They have a purpose- LoLo Jones will make history as one of 10 athletes to compete in both the Winter and Summer games. Meryl Davis and Charlie White made history by becoming the first American team to win an Olympic medal in ice dancing. These athletes have a PURPOSE coming into the games; they want to make history. Purpose drives people to do great things. What is your purpose? A goal to work towards is crucial to succeeding.
  2. They don’t allow distractions- Coming out of retirement to compete in these games is women’s skeleton racer Noelle Pikus-Pace. Not only is she racing down the icy chute at 80 mph, she is also juggling her busy life as a mother of two small children. Time, family, work and a personal life can all be distractions and excuses for not working toward your goals. We all have these “excuses”; it is up to us not to use them as an “excuse.” Olympians have these same outside pressures, but stay focused because they prioritize what is important to them. If health/fitness is a priority in your life, you will find time, and your “good excuse” will not be so “good” anymore.
  3. View food as fuel- Food is used for these athletes as a training tool. The food they eat before/after their workout dictates their performance each day, and how they react to their training. I know it can be hard to think of food in this way; our culture has trained us to think the exact opposite. Food is for enjoyment, even therapy, right? We have to face the facts whether we like it or not what we put into our bodies influences how we feel throughout the day. It stays with us much longer than it takes for us to consume it.
  4. Track their progress- The journey to the Olympics takes years and years. How do these athletes stay motivated and not lose sight of their goal? They track their progress. They know their purpose; have a plan, and a goal they are working towards. Progress pictures, exercise and diet logs, performing a fitness assessment or health screening may seem tedious at times, but trust me, you won’t regret them! How will you know how far you have come if you don’t remember where you started?
  5. Don’t let injury derail them- Training for hours each day and the nature of the winter Olympic sports being very dangerous, injuries are part of the process. Yes, this puts a setback in the athletes’ original training plans, but they do not let it become a barrier. These athletes work around their injury and become creative with their training. Hannah Kearney, two time Olympic gold medalist in moguls skiing, lacerated her liver, broke two ribs, and punctured a lung during training in 2012, won gold at the 2013 world championships and is one to watch at these Olympics. Injuries, physical limitations, or illness can feel like a setback in our fitness journey. Working with a variety of clients in corporate fitness, I have found and I think most fitness professionals would agree, there are few if ANY injuries that should prevent a person from not exercising. Don’t think of an injury as a setback, think of it as a challenge to be creative.
  6. They get professional help- If you are scratching your head after the last point, it’s ok; that’s why there are professionals in the health/fitness industry. Olympians may seem like experts in their sport, which is true, but they have a lot of help. This can be a hard one to swallow. As a fitness professional I have learned that I need help with what is my “expertise.”  Just as a physician needs their own physician, a personal trainer can benefit from having their own trainer. Olympians have a team of people helping them. If you are struggling to find balance or with one particular aspect of your well-being, ask a professional. The best of the best need help, and most importantly aren’t afraid to ask for it!
  7. Have passion- Love what you are doing! At age 37, Todd Lodwick is the first American athlete to participate in six Winter Games. He has made his sport a lifestyle. There are realistically times when these athletes feel overwhelmed or burnt out throughout their journey, but they don’t let this derail them because they have passion for what they do. These athletes have to love the sport to dedicate so much of their lives to it. Find activities and healthy habits that you enjoy that will be sustainable through your whole life. 

If you were an Olympic athlete what would be your sport?

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Topics: active living exercise and wellness goals success