Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Corporate Fitness: Free Workout Friday - Progressive Overload


As much as a proper warm up and cool down and flexibility, cardiovascular, and strength training are essential to an effective workout regimen, so are progressive overload and periodization. Progressive overload ensures that the program continues to challenge you over long periods of time in order to meet your specified goal. It is important to match any increase in training with an increase in rest and boost strength prior to increasing the overall load. Periodization refers to the planned variation of a program over time. You can’t expect to continue to get results if you do the same workout over and over again. It can be really easy to change up your workout. For example, refer to this previous blog. Repeat the same strength exercises but in a different order and add 3 more repetitions for each one. To mix up your cardio routine, choose a piece of cardio equipment you haven’t used in a while. If you’re cramped for time, don’t worry! A rowing machine is a great way to get a strength and cardio workout at the same time.

Check out this site for an overview of Progressive Overload Training. Every peak (shown with a downward pointing arrow) symbolizes a training session or a workout. Directly after each workout, performance drops while your body recovers. Once it has fully recovered, you are in your peak performance time. Follow this with another difficult training session; performance drops again while your body recovers. As you can see in the graph, your performance increases over time using Progression Overload Training.  Keep it up and join us next month for Free Workout Fridays!

Check out additional videos on our YouTube Channel.

Topics: exercise at home Free Workout Friday

NIFS Member Speaks: Sherri Pryor made exercise a part of her life

members_speakSherri Pryor came to me in our corporate fitness center after starting this journey on her own.  She was determined to continue to make positive changes in her life.  She was definitely apprehensive about talking to me at first.  However, she has overcome her own insecurities to become a stronger and more confident version of herself than the woman that first came to me three years ago. There have been goals set, goals achieved, and goals missed, but through it all she has always kept a positive attitude.  This attitude has helped her become the best version of herself she can be.  Here is her story!


My Success: Making exercise a part of my life

Sherri_Pryor_-_member_speakI started this process in early 2012; I was committed more than I had ever been in my life to making changes, exercising more and improving my personal wellness. I was tired of feeling like I had no control over how I felt and looked. There are so many things in life that we truly can’t control. Making time for exercise and doing things to improve your overall health are not on that list. It was hard at first; but it got easier with time.

Two things were always in my head: 1) It’s hard! It takes time and effort and my plate was full with a family and a full-time job. I was convinced I couldn’t fit it in and still get everything else done, 2) I can’t stick to both exercising AND making better food choices. I had always been able to be successful at one or the other but only for a limited amount of time.

One step at a time worked for me… I started making better food choices. I lost a few pounds and started feeling better. Sixty days later, I started going to the gym. And finally…I asked for help. Working with a personal trainer made such a difference. I learned so much about how to maximize the time I spend there. I felt accountable because he was putting in the time to help me every week, but I did not feel pressured.

I’ve experienced one set-back along the way; but instead of giving in to the negative feelings that came with that I tapped into the positive feelings I had become familiar with to that point. I kept going to the gym. I kept hitting the salad bar at lunch, even if I had had a chocolate chip cookie the night before.

In the beginning, it was about losing weight more than anything. Today, I consider success making exercise part of my life; not just a means to an end, like losing weight or training for an event. Those things are awesome and have definitely played a part along the way for me. But it’s how it has improved the quality of my life. I would say the same for wellness. Success comes when the changes you make become part of your life/lifestyle. They stay with you.

I enjoy exercising now and I WANT it to be part of my life; the same with wellness in general. I want to feel healthy and energetic. And those things have come because of the changes I made starting in 2012.

Interested in helping your employees reach their goals in regard to living a healthier lifestyle.  Checkout our webinar series and learn how you could have a successful corporate fitness center.

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

Guide to Successful Corporate Fitness Centers


Topics: corporate fitness employee health and wellness NIFS member speak

NIFS Nutrition News: Beware of AdvoCare®, a message from Laura

In 2014, Laura Zavadil, one of our registered dietitians wrote a blog about her work with a corporate fitness client who had a bad experience with AdvoCare® products.  This blog has generated a lot of feedback, conversation, and comments. We want the readers to hear where she was coming from in sharing her opinion on the blog. We appreciate all the feedback and want to encourage positive dialog and sharing of opinions. Thank you for reading.
Check out this blog in regard to what's in your diet.  
Topics: diet and nutrition supplements nifs nutrition news

Corporate Fitness: Free Workout Friday -- Flexibility


We kicked of the new year with tackling the components of a workout.  Flexibility is often overlooked, but is needed in everyday activities. Not stretching properly or a sedentary lifestyle can negatively affect one’s flexibility and range of motion. Without appropriate stretching and activity, our bodies’ posture and movement patterns can change overtime reducing range of motion. There are two kinds of stretching: dynamic and static. Dynamic stretching uses controlled movements that bring muscles through their full range of motion. Static stretching involves taking joints through a range of motion to a comfortable end point, holding that position for a period of time (at least 10 seconds).

Self-myofascial release, commonly used with a foam roller, is another method to increase flexibility. In this technique, one uses a foam roller to assist in self-massage to release muscle tightness or knots. Foam rollers are available in different densities. At the beginning, the process may be uncomfortable. A softer roller is ideal to start with. Foam rollers are available for purchase online or in any store that provides basic to advanced fitness equipment.

For dynamic stretches, check out our blog about warming up which includes dynamic stretching.

Static Stretches:

  • Arm hold across the body
  • Triceps overhead
  • Upper back
  • Chest
  • Obliques
  • Inner thigh
  • Hamstring and calf
  • Quadriceps

Foam Rolling: (demonstration video)

  • Hamstring
  • Calf
  • Glute maximus
  • Glute medius
  • Piriformis
  • IT Band
  • Upper back (1)
  • Upper back (2)
  • Lats
  • Quadriceps

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Topics: Free Workout Friday employee health and fitness

What If: We Did Corporate Wellness FOR Our Employees, Not TO Them?

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 possible in the realm of individual wellbeing. We hope you’ll join the conversation by commenting on the blogs, giving us additional ideas about what to write about, or by finding us on Twitter at #wellnesswhatif.

There is a growing swell of chatter online these days about where corporate wellness is headed. Outcomes-based programs seem to be the flavor of the day regardless of the profound lack of data about their effectiveness. Similarly, the battle of numbers continues between those who promote data about the effectiveness of wellness that is, at best, questionable, and those who strongly object to that potentially flawed data.

Underneath all of the banter is a concept, originally put forward by Al Lewis in his book, Cracking Health Care Costs, that wellness should be something done FOR employees, not TO them. I’m not going to be coy about this—we sit squarely on the side of doing wellness FOR employees. What follows are (1) my observations about common corporate wellness program elements done TO employees, along with (2) what if ideas that speak to our continued quest toward wellness that is FOR employees.

Health Risk Assessments

I have never been a fan of the much-praised Health Risk Assessment (HRA) for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that the survey tool is one of many done TO the employee. There is very little personal and intrinsic value for the employee when he fills out an intrusive online survey. Sure, employers tack on financial incentives for the employee who follows their rules—and sometimes the incentive is substantial. But there isn’t really any answer for the employee’s question, “How will this help me change my health?” because an online survey (and the results) don’t move any health needle for any sustained amount of time.

What’s worse is that in some cases, flawed HRA recommendations are pointing employees toward unnecessary follow-up medical care that is in direct conflict with U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations. And let’s not discount the harmful effects of employers hacking off their employees by doing what feels like invasive questioning about personal issues, only to leave employees with yet another reminder about their likely substandard health.

Does an employer really need aggregate HRA data to learn that their employees are representative of the adult U.S. population with high rates of overweight and obesity, risk for diabetes, and heart disease, and lack of physical activity? How much did it cost the employer to administer an HRA that provided an employee health profile that was already understood?

Biometric Screenings

And then there’s the bloodletting (oops, I mean screenings). I won’t belabor the issue here because the challenges with finger stick/venipuncture screenings are much the same as what I outlined with the HRA above. When was the last time employees walked away from their screening session feeling enhanced loyalty to the employer—as if the employer was genuinely interested in their health and had their back on taking whatever steps were necessary to improve their health? (If you have that warm-and-fuzzy story, I’d love to hear it.)

The Carrot (or the Stick, Depending on Your Perspective)


Incentives come in carrot and stick varieties, and really, it’s just two sides of the same coin. Whether the employer is offering an incentive or a disincentive is a matter of which side of the message you’re standing on. Frankly, there is little evidence to indicate that financially prodding employees leads to any sustained behavior change. But you don’t have to take my word on this; check out this joint position paper published as a partnership among the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Heart Association. And yet, employers put piles of cash into these financial offerings.

All of these tools—if truly helpful to the employer such that they must stay in the corporate wellness toolkit—could be repackaged so as to be an actual benefit to the employee. The employer would need to send a message that clearly indicated a desire to help the individual employee improve his health, and then they would need to back that up by putting their money, policies, environment, and productivity expectations where their mouth is.

The Alternatives

In my opinion, the current wellness program pillars outlined above are flawed—very flawed. So how do we get back to this idea that wellness should be done FOR employees, not TO them? Our staff, largely practitioners through managing corporate fitness centers, took a moment to dream about the possibilities for shifting the current wellness paradigm to one that might actually support and inspire individual health. Here are some of our what ifs:

  • What if the five-minute walk break throughout the day was supported, encouraged, team-driven, even required? We’ve been beaten about the head with the research that shows the harmful effects of sitting. But now, new research from Indiana University has demonstrated that walking as little as five minutes on three different occasions during a three-hour sitting period can reverse some of the harmful effects of prolonged sitting.
  • What if there were no unhealthy options available in your vending machine or cafeteria? Is this the pendulum swinging too far in the other direction? Most of the clients we work with have shifted to healthful subsidized options with unhealthy choices at full cost. I can’t think of a client who has made a 100% change in their worksite food/snack option, though.
  • What if management at ALL levels in the organization supported employees working out during the day? There are a lot of corporate policies that keep employees in their seats, and even for those with more flexible schedules, there is a pervasive management message that work comes first and there is not time for a workout, a walk, a mental health break, etc.
  • What if paid-time-off policies provided bonus time off based on the number of minutes an employee spends exercising in the company fitness center? In a similar vein, what if employees who choose to spend their 30-minute lunch break exercising could be given another 30 minutes to still eat lunch, away from their desk? (Gasp…compensated workout time!)

None of these ideas is a complete pie-in-the-sky kind of concept. And just like outcomes-based wellness programs, none of these ideas has been tested for long-term effectiveness (or harm), validated, or assigned an ROI that means anything. They do, however, require a shift in workplace policy, and they require fresh thinking about how organizational wellness money is allocated. These what ifs fit squarely into the “doing FOR employees” camp, and I’m sure there are many more ideas like this out there. Comment below on your own “FOR employees” what ifs or share your successes with these and other ideas. 

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Topics: corporate wellness employee health corporate fitness employee wellness exercise in the workplace corporate wellness success what if

Free Workout Friday: Cardiovascular and Strength Training


It's important to fit exercise into your daily routine and both cardiovascular and strength training are recommended by the CDC to be incorporated weekly. One hundred fifty minutes of moderate aerobic activity is recommended for cardiovascular training. To strengthen and ton your muscles, strength training should be done at least twice each week and include all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abs, chest, shoulders, and arms). Cardio stresses your heart and lungs making you breathe harder, while strength training focuses on muscle strength, power, and endurance. It’s okay to enjoy one activity more than the other; most people have preferences, but a proper balance between cardiovascular and strength training is what is important.  Check out the following suggestions.  Pick one or two of the cardio activities, break it up into 15-20 minute bouts.  Complete the strength exercises to tone and improve muscular endurance.  Strive for 12-15 repetitions of each exercise using moderate weight.  


  • Running
  • Bicycle
  • Brisk Walk
  • Treadmill
  • Elliptical
  • Arc Trainer
  • Row Machine
  • Stair Master
  • Recumbent Bike
  • Upright Bike


  • Shoulder Press
  • Squat
  • Lunge
  • Chest Press
  • Bicep Curls
  • Tricep Extension
  • Reverse Fly
  • Leg Raise
  • Back Extension
  • Plank

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Topics: Free Workout Friday employee health and fitness

Free Workout Friday: Components of a Cool Down


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.


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



  • 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

2015 Fitness Trends, are you already incorporating these in your workout?

jungle_gymA new year means new trends to follow! What do you have planned for your workout routine this year? Hopefully, the plan is to either begin or continue your fitness routine, but possibly add more variety into it. Make it your year to become familiar with the endless options and try something new!

The new trends predicted to become popular and make you sweat at the gym this year are:

  • Body Weight Training
  • High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
  • Treadmill Training

Wait, body weight training? What happened to lifting heavy? Body weight training is predicted to be the next big thing this year. This includes comprehensive incorporation of gymnastics, adult jungle gyms, uncluttered workout spaces, suspension training options, basic movements, and programming that is not as focused on the standard weight lifting protocols. This means back to the basics with lunges, squats, and push-ups. What are your thoughts? Will the benefits from body weight training be as successful as lifting heavy weights?

HIIT, the alternating bursts of exercises with short recovery periods, is a popular trend known for its quick fat blasting tactics. I mean, who wants to spend endless hours at the gym when you can just knock out about 20-30 minutes of HIIT? Trust me, that is plenty of time to get a ‘sweatastic’ workout in and definitely one my personal favorites. You can create quite the variety of workouts, allowing your muscles to always be surprised by what is next. Plus, the variety can keep it interesting and fun so you don’t get burnt out so easily!

Treadmill training is poised to be the next “it” workout, according to Health Magazine. I know many are not fans of treadmill workouts and are tempted to consider it torture, but Health Magazine names running as the oldest form of exercise. I, myself, would rather run outside than on a treadmill any day. That tends to become a challenge during the colder months, so I put together treadmill interval and speed variation workouts to keep myself from getting bored of my workout. With this up and coming trend, classes will allow participants to improve their running through speed and interval-based training drills. Participants will also have the chance to become more engaged in their workouts and can avoid the worrisome of how to log miles when it is cold or rainy, since training is indoors.

These workouts are meant to push your body’s limits. With the higher chance of being sore, there is a need for recovery - foam rolling, restorative yoga, therapy balls, dynamic stretching, and core strengthening are perfect examples. A good night’s rest is also important for recovery. Allowing for recovery time after an intense workout decreases your chance of overtraining your muscles and the potential for injuries.

So, now that you are familiar with the predicted trends, how will you log your intense workouts? We are in a generation that is highly involved with technology - fitness watches and Smartphone apps at our fingertips. Digital engagement keeps us motivated, gives us inspiration, and coaches us through our workouts. Do you have a favorite piece of technology you use to track your workouts?

Overall, what do you think about these trends? Are you interested in trying out something new this year?! Connect with a health fitness specialist in your corporate fitness center or local gym to get started on a better you.

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Topics: fitness health and wellness

NIFS Fitness Management: Free Workout Fridays Back in 2015


It's 2015, a fresh start, a new you and what better way to start following our Free Workout Friday blog?  This year we have two new faces to keep you motivated and have scheduled out a year worth of workouts for our readers.  Let's start this first Friday off by meeting the faces behind our 2015 Free Workout Friday Blogs.

adamsMichelle Adams is a corporate fitness manager in Indianapolis.  She began working for NIFS in January 2013.  She really enjoys working in the corporate setting because she is able to get a good variety of being active with employees through teaching group fitness classes while also having the opportunity to design wellness and incentive programs.  Michelle encourages her members to take control of their own health and is very passionate about helping others with their health and wellness goals.  Michelle is currently certified through the American College of Sports Medicine as a Health Fitness Specialist, a group fitness instructor through the American Council on Exercise, and holds specialty certifications in TurboKick and PiYo.

Stephanie Hackett is a health fitness specialist at a corporate client hackettlocation in Indianapolis.  She began with NIFS fitness management shortly after completing her internship with NIFS,  Stephanie loves the variety that comes with the corporate fitness setting.  She is able to teach classes, personal train employees, and implement health promotion programs.  Her favorite part of the job is making those special connections with members to help engage them and keep them coming back.  Stephanie is currently certified through the American Council on Exercise as a personal trainer, and is GEAR Indoor Cycling certified through the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America.

Now that's you've met our staff behind FWF's, let's get started with Stephanie as she takes you through the components of a workout each week in January!

Dynamic Stretching and Warm Up

It is extremely important to give your body a proper warm up before starting a workout. For years, static stretching was the norm. Static stretching means holding a stretch in a challenging but comfortable position for generally 10 to 30 seconds at a time. Research has shown that dynamic stretching is better for you before a workout. Dynamic stretching uses controlled movements that bring muscles through their range of motion without exceeding it. It helps promote blood flow through the muscles and to prepare the body to exercise. Start your warm up with a handful of basic movements targeting the whole body. As you become more experienced, use compound movements to warm up.

Basic: (demonstration video)

  • Arm circles
  • Marching
  • Squats
  • Lunges (front and side)
  • Trunk rotation
  • Arm raises (front and side)

Compound: (demonstration video)

  • Walking lunge with trunk rotation
  • Inch worm
  • Knee hug lunge
  • Side lunge with rotator cuff activation
  • Ankle grab toe touch
  • Arm swings across the chest

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Topics: exercise at home Free Workout Friday