Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

What Happened When I Stopped Doing Cardio; Increased Strength Training

ThinkstockPhotos-80699669.jpgSix months ago, a friend dared me to give up cardio for three months and focus on strength training. My initial response was, “No way! I’m a runner, I’ve always been a runner. There is no better exercise than running!” My friend was relentless and eventually I agreed to take a brief hiatus, although I was convinced that I would turn into a mushy ball of goo if I didn’t get in my daily run.

How I Changed My Workouts

Fast-forward six months. During this time, I’ve followed a low-impact exercise routine, which includes four days of low-impact strength activities such as yoga, one day of cardio, and one day of heavy weightlifting. And I have to say, the results are completely the opposite of what I expected.

How the Change Affected How I Look and Feel

What happened when I stopped doing cardio:

  • I gained 10 pounds, but my body measurements decreased. This was perhaps the most surprising change that I noticed. Muscle tissue takes up much less space than fat. After nearly six months of strength training, I’ve added 10 pounds to my frame and my clothes are fitting better than ever—not to mention it feels good to look in the mirror.
  • My energy levels skyrocketed. There is a reason why running burns so many calories: It’s HARD work! And when your body works that hard, you’re going to feel fatigued. Even if you sleep seven to eight hours a night, the physical strain of high mileage takes a toll on the body. I must admit that my energy levels are higher than they’ve ever been, even though I have a 5am alarm to fit in my exercise before work. In fact, I feel more fatigued on the days I don’t exercise!
  • I’m not as hungry. This was a “well DUH” moment for me. Many people tend to focus on the calorie-burning power of running without stopping to think that your body will want to replace all those calories. Several weeks after I stopped running, I noticed that I had a much easier time regulating my food intake. I didn’t need to eat as much, but I felt fuller with the foods I did eat.
  • I’ve noticed improvements in other areas of physical fitness. Previously, I was focused on distance, time, and miles. To me, a run wasn’t “a run” unless I ran at least four miles. Now I’m focused on how many pushups I can do with proper form (I’m getting close to 30!), how long I can hold a plank (nearly five minutes!), and how many pullups I can do (well, let’s just say I’m still working on this one).
  • I have fewer injuries. Focusing on low-impact exercise and strength training has helped my body recover from more than two decades of intense, running-focused exercise programs. My legs no longer ache if I stand for more than an hour. My tight hip flexors are starting to relax, particularly as I focus on improving the flexibility and strength of my hamstrings and glutes.

In sum, to everyone out there who is worried about limiting their cardio because they don’t want to risk gaining weight, try it for three to four months. You might just be surprised at how different you feel and the gains you make!

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*Weight loss claims or individiual results vary and are not guaranteed.

Topics: running NIFS cardio strength training yoga weightlifting

5 Ways to Avoid Injuries When Running

ThinkstockPhotos-516819890.jpgIt seems that running injuries are all too common. There have been many research studies done on runners and, each year, as many as 79% of runners are sidelined due to injuries. Here are 5 ways to avoid injuries when running.

1. Add Strength Training

Strong muscles, ligaments, and tendons can guard against the impact of running, lead to improved running form, and help you achieve a more consistent gait. When the body is strong, the brain is able to tell the muscles to brace for impact before your foot even hits the ground. The glutes and the core contract, in order to, steady the pelvis and the leg. The foot and ankle muscles are activated, providing a solid foundation for your heel strike. Many runners lack strength in at least one muscle group. When one stabilizer muscle is weak, the other muscles make accommodations for the weakness and therefore can become overworked. This can create a “domino effect” in the body and cause an injury or injuries.

2. Always Warm-Up AND Cool Down

A warm-up prepares the body for exercise, by increasing the heart rate and blood flow to the muscles. Then, just as the warm-up prepares the body, the cool down brings it back to its normal state. The time spent warming up and cooling down helps prevent muscle soreness and aids in recovery, both of which will help prepare the body for your next run.

3. Use Correct Form

There are many disagreements amongst runners about what defines correct running form. Just as baseball players swing a bat, or a guitarist plays a guitar, there may be some variance in form from runner to runner. But, there is some common ground, and most can agree that certain components of form, such as, good posture and proper stride, can help prevent injury. For proper posture: Be sure to keep the upper torso straight and the head directly over the shoulders. DO NOT arch the lower back. For proper stride: Avoid over-striding, which is when the foot lands well ahead of the knee. Overstriding can put extra wear and tear on the muscles and joints. Try to focus on where your foot is landing and place it close to the body. Instead of reaching with the foot, try to drive forward with the knee.

4. Wear Proper Footwear

Shoes can alter your running form and have an impact on the amount of force that is applied to the joints with each step. Professional running stores may be a good place to start when trying to find the right shoe for you, but the best indication is how the shoe feels. If it doesn’t feel good, then it’s putting stress somewhere. If you experience aches and pains after a run, it may be a good indication that you’re not in the right shoe. You may need to try a few pairs before you find the right shoe for you. Also, be sure to change your shoes often. Running shoe should be replaced every 350-450 miles.

5. Avoid the terrible "too's"

Don't do too much, too soon, too often, too fast, too hard, with too little rest.  Listen to your body and ease into it and rest when needed.

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Topics: exercise running injury prevention

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!

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Topics: running injury health and fitness

Corporate Fitness: Walk or Run for Heart Health

women_walkingWhat if I told you that instead of hitting the pavement for that dreaded 2 mile run, you can walk on your lunch break with a co-worker and keep your heart just as healthy? Sounds more appealing, doesn’t it?  We have long known the health benefits of walking, but most people would tell you if you want to be “more fit”, you should bump up the intensity to a run compared to a walk.  Before you call your running buddy and cancel, let me explain.

Thanks to researchers at Duke University, researchers have now shown that only two to three hours of mild exercise a week at a moderate intensity can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. So, does that mean if you are runner to stop and start walking? Not quite. That same study shows that those people who ran 20 miles a week vs. 12 achieved a higher improvement in fitness levels, but there’s more. The study also proves that walking 12 miles a week or running the same amount of miles doesn’t change an individual’s fitness level. This is great news for anyone who isn’t too fond of running, but is still looking to steer clear of cardiovascular disease. (Who isn’t right?!)

Not sure how to start a workout plan? Here are my top three tips:

  1. Talk with your doctor
  2. Meet with a Certified and Degreed Health Fitness Specialist for a fitness assessment and exercise prescription
  3. Start slow

Before you start any type of exercise program, it is always wise to first discuss this with your primary care doctor.  Your doctor will be able to discuss any concerns or restrictions you may have when first starting a new regimen. This is also a chance for you to ask any questions you may have about your health. Once you have talked to a doctor, the next best step is to meet with a degreed and certified Health Fitness Specialist. This professional will take you through a series of fitness tests to be able to correctly assess your current fitness level and also create a safe and individualized exercise plan.  They will lay out a plan that will best help you reach your goals. My third tip when first starting a new exercise program is to start slow. Make slow changes to your routine that becomes lifelong habits instead of trying to change everything at once. This will enable you to make changes that you can stick with and create a permanent change for your health.

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Topics: adapting to exercise running

Corporate Fitness: How to Prepare for a 5K Race

This blog was written by Jenna Pearson. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

running, 5K, corporate fitnessIf you’ve always wanted to run in a 5K road race (or any road race, for that matter) but haven’t because you are not a runner, listen up: You do not have to be a “runner” to run. Anyone can run! Get yourself ready for your first 5K by following these guidelines:

Start slow: Doing too much too soon is likely to result in injury. It may sound obvious, but if you are a beginner, opt for a training program that was designed for beginners, such as Couch to 5K. Have realistic expectations. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Don’t compare yourself to other runners—we are all different and will progress according to our own body’s schedule.

Warm up: Warming up prepares your body for aerobic activity. It gradually revs up your cardiovascular system and increases blood flow to your muscles to ensure that they are getting the nutrients and oxygen supplies they need to sustain an activity such as running. Warming up is also crucial for minimizing injuries.

Cool down: Immediately after your workout, take time to cool down. This gradually slows your heart rate back to resting and slowly reduces the temperature of your muscles, which may help reduce muscular injury, stiffness, and soreness.

Stretch: After you cool down, your muscles will be warm and pliable, making it a perfect time to stretch. Regular stretching increases your flexibility, improves circulation, and helps maximize range of motion in your joints. Simply put, stretching makes moving easier. It may also help reduce injuries.

Stay hydrated: If you prefer not to bring a water bottle with you on your run, make sure you are adequately hydrated before you hit the pavement. It is also important to make sure you hydrate after your run to replace the fluids you lost through sweat. If you do not properly hydrate, you could fall victim to muscle cramps, prolonged time to recovery, and other dehydration-related ailments.

Now that you know how to prepare, which race have you been dreaming of running?

Topics: corporate fitness hydration running stretching

NIFS Employee Among Jingle Bell Runners for Arthritis Research

This blog was written by Diane Miller. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

jingle bell run, arthritis, NIFSIf you’re looking for a run/walk event this December, why not try the Jingle Bell Run? The Arthritis Foundation will host its 23rd annual event this year in downtown Indianapolis on December 10. Runners and walkers of all ages and abilities gather together for this 5K (3-mile) event dressed in crazy costumes and ready to support the foundation as it searches for a cure for arthritis.

As someone living with arthritis, I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of this event. Having had back pain for nearly 10 years, I was finally diagnosed in 2010 with osteoarthritis (a degenerative joint disease). With at least five vertebrae affected, it has made daily living more difficult. My love of running and racing in events has been well rewarding but has taken a toll on my body.

After weeks of tests and a doctor telling me not to race, I decided that I wanted to compete in my biggest race to date, a half-Ironman. Seven hours into the race, I finally crossed that finish line and was overwhelmed by one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced. Tears of joy ran down my face as I completed the unthinkable. Unfortunately, days after the race, I paid the price; the back pain was terrible.

I hope that one day we can find a cure, not only for myself but for other generations so they can reach their ultimate goals and live pain free. I am happy to be a part of the Jingle Bell Run and can’t wait to wear my best holiday-inspired costume. See you at the start line at 9 a.m.!

Topics: winter fitness triathlon running arthritis