Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Easy postpartum exercises for getting back on the wagon after baby arrives

NIFS | Mom and baby exercisingThe baby has arrived! Congratulations! You just completed the toughest thing on the face of the Earth (at least in my opinion). You so graciously shared your body for up to 40 weeks and endured all the highs and lows that come with being pregnant. Now comes the not so fun part, trying to get that baby weight off. Unfortunately, I think in today’s society there is so much pressure on moms to get back to their “post baby body” as quickly as possible. This pressure can often cause unrealistic goal setting which leads to  frustration when you struggle to  get back to where you were before the baby arrived.

For me, one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn as a new mom has been taking my time to get back to where I was. I am currently six months post baby and have finally realized that my body (and lack of sleep!!) is going to be different than it was before. Listening to your body, learning patience and body acceptance is one of the best things you can do for yourself during this transition. Below I’ve listed several postpartum exercises that are great for easing back in to mild activity; they should help build the foundation for establishing a regular exercise program. Of course, always seek advice from your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

Walking, walking, walking! I used to HATE walking for exercise. I would much rather run. I thought if I wasn’t sweating and breathing heavily, I wasn’t getting a good workout. WRONG. Walking is your best friend before, during and after pregnancy. Even if you can only walk for 10 minutes and at a slow pace, do it. This will help you become familiar with your body again. You can still reap the benefits of cardiovascular health through walking, with a decreased risk of injury or overtraining. This is also an activity that you can incorporate with your newest addition if you’d like – a good walking/jogging stroller is a great investment!

Pelvic Tilts. That baby of yours took up a lot of room in your abdominal cavity and so graciously stretched its limits, so this exercise is going to improve your abdominal strength and stamina. It may also help you improve posture which can be changed during and after pregnancy. Start by lying on the floor on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Flatten you lower back against the floor by tightening your abdominal muscles and then begin tilting your pelvis up slightly. Exhale and repeat. Continue for 10-15 reps, several times a day.

Pelvic Bridges. There’s a good chance you learned about pelvic bridges while you were pregnant and I’m here to tell you to keep doing them! This exercise is a great way to strengthen your quadriceps, hamstrings, abdominals and glutes. It can also help stabilize your hips, which often become relaxed and soft to allow the baby to pass through during labor. Begin in the same starting posture for a pelvic tilt, resting your arms by your side, inhale and raise your pelvis off the floor while squeezing your buttocks. Exhale and lower your pelvis and lower back down to the floor. Start out with 6-10 repetitions holding them 5-10 seconds.

Remember, how the tortoise won the race? Slow and steady. That’s going to be your motto for the next few weeks (or months) as you maneuver your post pregnancy health and that’s okay. Your body created another human life and just for that you should be so proud of yourself! Sneak in whatever workout you can during this busy transition into motherhood. Stay positive and remember to love yourself and your new body. Congrats, mama!

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Topics: postpartum exercises workouts exercises fitness for new moms exercise after pregnancy

How I manage my stress with a 5:00am workout

NIFS | Managing Stress | Early WorkoutI know I'm not the ONLY one who exercises early in the morning.  While I don't have stats on the percent of exercising adults who workout before 7:00am, I know there are quite a lot of us; I see my tribe at the gym when I'm there at o'dark thirty.  (Seriously, why would commercial gyms open at 5:00am if there wasn't a demand for it?)  Still, whenever I get into a conversation with a friend about exercise and it comes out that I'm on the treadmill at 5:00am, I get the "are you out of your bleeping mind" look. 

The thing is, adulting is hard. There are a lot of pressures flying in (and sometimes sticking around) from different directions. We're wearing so many hats - wife, mom, friend, volunteer, employee - that without fail, when one of those important elements in life is out of whack with high stress, the other areas suffer too. 

I know it sounds cliche, but exercise is my fix.  When I'm not moving my body regularly, the carefully-laid house of cards I've built that has the appearance of everything going smoothly in my life is going to get blown over by the slightest of stressors.  Enter the 5AM workout.  I don't mean to sound dramatic, but I've tried other times of the day and it just doesn't fit for my life.  I have to be at work by 7:30am so I can leave by 4:30pm for kid pick up and once I'm in mom-mode, forget the afternoon/evening for "me" time. I suppose I could try the lunch-time thing if I thought my coworkers would be okay with me sweating in the office (even after a shower...yes, I'm one of THOSE people).

To be clear, when my alarm goes off at 4:30am it's not like I'm all bright eyed and perky.  I stumble to the kitchen, turn on the coffee pot and then sit on the couch to go through some basic seated stretches while I wipe the sleep from my eyes. I am never happy about the 5:00am workout, and I don't hit it every day, but I'm always glad when it's done and my whole day is better for it.  

I've done the early morning workout since I started adulting after college, and I've learned over the years to listen to my body so each early meet up with the treadmill, the weights, or the pool isn't always a time trial to beat yesterdays effort. I'm more forgiving for a light day and for skipping a day which has its own benefits for my psyche. 

When I managed corporate fitness centers for NIFS years ago, I used to get asked what was the best time of day to workout, and my answer was always the same: it's whatever time you actually will workout.  That's still my answer; 5:00am isn't for everyone. But there are a lot of hours in the day to choose to move your body.  Even a short 10 minute stint can be powerful for your health.  Carve out the time, no matter the hour and no matter how brief. Your body, your family, and your friends will be glad you did. 

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Topics: stress workouts morning workout making time to exercise exercise habit

Debunking the Myths About Personal Trainers

 

TRX Cher (2).jpgThere are a number of misconceptions these days about personal trainers and what it’s like to be one. Don’t all personal trainers have perfect bodies and eat nothing but fruits, vegetables, and protein shakes? Sure, you’ll have a select number of trainers who eat, sleep, and breathe fitness, but the vast majority of us are just normal people. Let’s debunk some of these common myths about personal trainers.

  • We eat healthy foods every day of the week. While most trainers enjoy a nutritious, well-balanced diet, most have no problem mixing in a few splurge meals throughout the week. I personally follow extremely strict nutrition Monday morning through Friday afternoon, and then reward myself with fresh pasta or pizza and breadsticks for a Friday dinner. You better believe I’m getting up early on Saturday morning for a long bout of cardio to put those extra carbs to good use!
  • We work out two or three times a day. It’s true, trainers should practice what they preach; however, most of us only work out once a day, most days of the week. One big misconception is that trainers and fitness specialists spend most of their workday working out. I actually had a friend ask me, “What do you do all day at work, just work out?” I was flabbergasted with my friend’s question. Whether I’m delivering fitness and nutrition presentations, making workouts for group exercise classes and clients, or creating fun and exciting fitness challenges, most fitness professionals don’t spend all day “just working out.”
  • We love all types of exercise. Variety in your workouts is essential, but any trainer would be lying if they said they love all modes of fitness. Most trainers have been working out long enough to recognize what they enjoy, so they generally stick to those methods of exercise to maintain a healthy weight. The key is understanding your client’s needs, and providing them with a variety of options that work for their likes and dislikes. For example, I have two left feet in Zumba class and feel like I might drown in a pool, but I understand that some clients thrive in a choreographed class or swimming freestyle.
  • We never get hurt. It’s true that trainers should be demonstrating impeccable technique and injury prevention form while exercising. The truth is that even trainers can overdo it with too much weight or too many repetitions. Furthermore, trainers can sometimes feel like Superman or Superwoman and try things outside of traditional exercises that could potentially hurt them. I learned this the hard way recently while thinking I could ski all day for four days straight in Colorado. The second to last day of my vacation I severely tweaked my back, making the long plane ride home almost unbearable. I credit my consistent core training for my quick recovery; however, I learned my lesson that anyone can overdo it.
  • We’ve never had issues with our weight or body. Believe it or not, trainers can be even more self-conscious than their clients. We have problem areas and imperfections. We look in the mirror and wish a certain part of the body was more defined or had less fat. We set such high standards for ourselves; it’s easy to be extra critical of the way we look. Most good trainers can relate to these insecurities and use these feelings to help empathize with clients. Eventually trainers and clients alike have to learn to accept imperfections and embrace the beautiful qualities of their body.

Now that you know a little more about what it’s like to be a personal trainer, you can learn more about personal training at NIFS, and even get a free 30-minute assessment.

 

 

Topics: personal training personal trainers nutrition workouts injury prevention NIFS

Focusing on Flexibility in Fitness: Stretching’s Role in Workouts

ThinkstockPhotos-607478378.jpgAfter a workout, it’s important to relax your mind and body. A great way to make sure the muscles are relaxed after a workout is to stretch. Many people overlook the importance of flexibility in fitness, not realizing that with improved flexibility you can enhance your workouts.

Even just adding in 5 to 10 minutes of stretching after a workout is better than nothing! You do not have to set aside 30 minutes a day for flexibility; quick sessions after a workout are great to relieve the tension in your muscles. When I stretch after a workout session, I can tell I have a better range of motion, my muscles are pliable, and the stress from the workout eases tremendously. Most mornings when I wake up, it’s a struggle to even be able to touch my toes. With a quick stretch, I am instantly moving better.

Flexibility’s Role in Functional Movement

Flexibility is often overlooked because it’s not something seen as a component of health and wellness. When it comes to exercise, most people are looking to lose weight, run faster, lift heavier weights, and become a stronger person overall. They fail to realize that when you improve your flexibility, you will also increase your workout performance as well as increase your ability to tackle everyday activities (functional fitness).

As we age, we know it becomes increasingly difficult to be as mobile as we were before. Bones become more fragile and muscles tend to lose elasticity. This is where flexibility really comes into play. When you keep up with stretching and loosening those muscles daily with flexibility, you are increasing your body’s range of motion. With a greater range of motion comes the ease of accomplishing everyday activities.

The Best Time to Stretch

When’s the best time to stretch? The best time to static stretch is after a workout. Many of us have been taught that it is important to warm up the muscles with stretching before exercise. Many scientists have determined that is not the case. Stretching the muscles before an intense exercise session can do more harm to them than good; it may actually inhibit the ability for the muscle to fire when it is supposed to.

It is important to warm the muscles up with dynamic movements versus static. Dynamic exercises will activate the reflexes in the muscles and tendons, whereas static stretching is just pulling on the muscles before they are warmed up. Static stretching is best after exercise during recovery because it helps the body cool down from a workout; the muscles are warm from the workout, making them easier to stretch.

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Topics: stretching flexibility workouts recovery functional movement

Three Important Facts to Help You Start a New Exercise Habit

ThinkstockPhotos-186871442-1.jpgIndividuals who are new to regular exercise, or those who are considering recommitting after a long hiatus, may have preconceived notions about what it takes to effectively reap the benefits of a new routine. For this reason, I want to establish a number of foundational principles and debunk some common myths surrounding fitness. Reworking your current schedule to include exercise can seem like a daunting task, but starting with a foundation of knowledge may help to quell the discouraging thoughts that make starting a new exercise habit so difficult.

Following are three important evidence-based facts about exercise and fitness.

1. Reaping the benefits of exercise does not require a large time commitment.

If your idea of exercise is a monotonous jog around the block or on the treadmill, you need to start defining exercise in broader terms. Long walks or runs are great if you enjoy them enough to complete them on a regular basis, but there are endless activities that can lead to similar benefits while requiring less exercise time. Vigorous-intensity exercise (exercising at 77 to 94% of maximum heart rate*) has been shown to have positive effects on cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness in bouts as short as 10 minutes. (*The Gelish equation to estimate maximum heart rate is HRmax = 207 – [0.7 x age].)

Examples of vigorous-intensity exercise include sprinting, swimming, boxing, jumping rope, dancing, bicycle sprinting, and a number of other exercises that can be performed at a gym or fitness center.

2. Working out at a gym does not require any more than basic knowledge and can lead to drastic results within weeks.

The benefits of consistent workouts are created by bodily adaptations triggered by a stimulus—the activity that you performed. While experienced weightlifters and endurance athletes require more advanced and intricate stimuli to produce more adaptations, those who are sedentary can expect to see significant gains in strength or aerobic capacity in a short amount of time when they start exercising regularly. This can make for an excellent motivating factor when starting an exercise habit.

3. There isn’t one type of exercise that’s mandatory in order to achieve positive results.

Purposeful exercise generally falls into one of two categories: resistance or endurance. However, many different activities straddle the lines between these two forms (such as CrossFit, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIT), boxing, gymnastics, and various other sports). All types of exercise have the potential to improve overall health.

Benefits of resistance training include increased resting metabolic rate (faster metabolism), improved insulin sensitivity, lower body-fat percentage, increased bone density, potential for slower cognitive decline, improved balance, and improved strength, mobility, and self-esteem. Endurance exercise has the potential to produce many of the same benefits while having a slightly more robust effect on cardiovascular health. This shows that even without choosing a specific activity, you can realize the rewards of exercise.

***

Careful planning can be important for effective habit change, but sometimes too much thought can hinder your ability to implement change. The mind always seems to have a way of creating obstacles. Remember that physical activities can produce benefits in just a few short sessions per week, even when performed with just basic knowledge and in an unorganized way.

Hopefully this new knowledge will help you smash through your barriers and get moving!  Looking to add exercise to your workplace, click below for how to get started.  

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Topics: exercise habit high-intensity workouts resistance strength workouts

Corporate Fitness: Why Do Your Feet Go Numb During Workouts

 

ThinkstockPhotos-484968472.jpgRegardless of whether you're new to exercise or you've been sweating it out for years, there's a good chance you've experienced the sensation of one or both of your feet going numb during a workout. For me, it's most likely to happen when I'm on an elliptical machine in the fitness center, but it's happened when I was out on a run, too. And "Why do your feet go numb during workouts?" is certainly one of the more commonly asked questions posed by our corporate fitness members. This phenomenon is common (and annoying), but it's probably not a life-threatening medical condition. There are a few things you can try to get the sensation to go away for good.

Check your routine. If you find that you frequently experience numbness during a specific activity, try changing up your routine. Maybe that particular piece of equipment or class just isn't the right fit for your body. Who knows, it might be that you just need a break, and taking a little time off can allow you to come back refreshed and ready for a new start.

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Check your laces. You may find that a simple adjustment in how tightly you lace your shoes can help. Resist the urge to snug-up the laces for a tight fit, and instead give your foot a little breathing room. Feet sometimes swell during exercise, and if you lace up tightly before you start sweating, you don't leave much room for your foot to spread.

Check your shoes. Consider the width (brand) of your shoe. A medium-width shoe is not the same across brands, and the same make/model of shoe has a different width for men and women. Men's shoes tend to have a wider toe box than women's shoes. So ladies, if you don't need a wide width, but your women's joggers aren't cutting it, try the men's version of the same shoe for a more comfortable fit. If you haven't been professionally fitted for shoes, it may be worth that investment.

[Related Content: How to find the right shoe]

Check your placement. On an elliptical or a bike, where the tendency is to keep your feet in the same position throughout the workout, think about making slight movements throughout the ride/roll. Subtly shifting how you place pressure on your feet over the span of a 20–40-minute session can help minimize numbness in the feet.

Check your symptoms. If you can use one of the recommendations above and the numbness goes away, no worries. If you find, however, that the numbness persists through your day, always occurs in the same place on your foot, or is so severe that you have to discontinue your workouts, it may be time to see your doctor. You may be dealing with a pinched-nerve injury that will need more than the suggestions above to remedy.

 

Topics: shoes Fitness Center corporate fitness injury numbness workouts

Corporate Fitness: Should You Pay Employees for Workouts?

 

ThinkstockPhotos-468984741.jpgThere’s a lot of misinformation out there on what is and is not good for you. The science changes all the time; unfortunately, changes in health information can sometimes depend on who’s funding the provider. So it can be hard to trust the latest press release “proving” the next best strategy for preventing disease and living longer. Despite the confusing messaging, there are a few constants on health you can count on:

  • Tobacco use is bad for you.
  • Moving your body is good for you.

I don’t want to get into a discussion of which is more important to employee health; there are too many complicating and personal factors to establish such a case. Instead, I’ll focus on physical activity because I think it represents a substantial area of opportunity for employers when considering options that fit into the “doing wellness for (or even with) employees” mantra.

Plenty of employers offer some kind of option for exercise at work, whether that be with group exercise classes onsite, workouts in a full-blown corporate fitness center, or walking trails on the property. In most cases those amenities/offerings are a use-at-your-own-risk proposition. There’s very little leadership support or communication about how to get involved, so only those employees who feel most strongly about pursuing regular exercise actually have the motivation to engage. And then employers wonder why participation is so low.

So here we are at this weird crossroads where employers try a few fitness-based options at the worksite for employees, very few employees enjoy the benefits of those programs, and employers are frustrated. What’s a company to do?

To be fair, we can’t expect everyone to want to exercise. Employers should have realistic expectations about how many people they can draw into these offerings. If you’re looking for ways to tip the scales that make a work-sponsored group fitness class look a little more attractive to your workforce, consider the idea of compensated workout time. Here’s why this is worth your attention:

  • It’s no secret that time, or lack of it, is a primary barrier for your employees participating in regular physical activity. Couple the lack of time with the idea that your employees spend about nine hours per day at the office, and you have yourself a significant potential audience.
  • However, if the workplace culture or departmental mantra is about working harder, producing more, and keeping butts in the seats, then the convenience of a workplace fitness option is a moot point.
  • Alternatively, if we can pay them for 45 minutes of working out three days per week, now we might be onto something that sends a true message about how important the employer feels it is for employees to make healthy choices. And before you read this and exclaim, “We already do that…it’s called a lunch break,” what I’m advocating is 45 minutes beyond the lunch break. For an employee making $25/hour who works out, walks, or takes a group exercise class three days per week during this compensated time, it costs the company about $2,800 a year ($25/hr x 75% of an hour x 3d/wk x 50wk/yr).

Maybe you can’t afford compensated exercise time for your employees. But before you discount it outright, do what my mom always encourages me to do with a big decision. Make a pro/con list. Consider all the health benefits of engaging in regular physical activity compared to the lost work time on your bottom line. Weigh the positive of increased employee loyalty and creativity against the straight dollar cost. Understand the value of really supporting your employees’ quest for better health versus only paying it lip service. If the tick marks in your pro column outweigh those in the con column, you just might have your answer.

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Topics: exercise at work employee health group exercise corporate fitness motivation incentives workouts