FFC South Loop fitness specialist Matt Wallace answers the question, ‘what’s in my gym bag?’ and shares his list of top gym essentials to keep handy when you’re sure you’re forgetting something.

Having the correct gear for any situation can be the difference between success or failure. If you are properly equipped for the gym, your workout can increase your confidence, heighten your intensity, and maximize your gains. (Want some inspiration to do that? Check out a list of my favorite fitness YouTube channels here). That new custom weight belt can lead to new PRs never before possible. Your emergency deodorant will ensure that you can spend as much time as necessary fighting in a shoulder press to finish the set. Who knows – your gym crush might be admiring how clean your shoes are because you know to wear your gym shoes IN the gym and not ON THE WAY to it.

What’s in my gym bag? This list is actually built based off of how frequently I have either solved a problem with said gear or have had to overcome a challenge due to not having it. The following is a list of stuff that should be in your gym bag every time you step into the gym:

But first…

Even though you might think these are no-brainers, I can’t tell you how many times I see people coming into the gym to work out in something not quite gym-appropriate, like denim and flannels. The latter being okay as long as the sleeves are cut off and slightly frayed. If this is you, then proceed as planned, lumberjacked. If you’re thinking you might take a break during lunch and hop over to the gym for a quick sesh in your monkey suit, then prepared to be the subject of much discussion. Make sure you have loose fitting clothes that are designed to give you the proper range of motion and comfort level. Clothes that you’re supposed to look sweaty in. T-shirt, gym shorts, sweat pants. Don’t head back to the office looking like you just worked out. Coworkers and gym-goers will thank you. Now that the obvious but necessary precursor to this list has been established, we can continue with the real list….

#1 – Shoes

No matter what modalities you train in, the kicks are an essential part of your gear. Some think footwear is to gym-goers as the katana is to the Samurai. One thing the samurai never let their sword do was touch the ground, so you shouldn’t let your shoes touch the ground either. Buy a pair of shoes that you do not wear anywhere else besides your gym. If you run outside, buy a pair specifically for that. If you work out inside, buy a pair you never let touch the ground outside. It might be a little more costly upfront, but the money you will save not having to replace a trashed pair of shoes every six months is a great incentive.

My recommendation – I LOVE the Metcons by NIKE. As someone who mixes a lot of agility and plyometric work with compound powerlifting these are easily the best mix of traction, response, and support I’ve ever worn. I’ve had the same pair since March 2017 and I’m just starting to see signs of wear and tear. They have a hard sole so acquiring the correct foot proprioception while lifting is a cinch. The crazy grippy web design on the outer sole allows you to cut confidently on turf and the rubber floor most gyms have. However, they do not do well on basketball courts, so I would advise against trying to work on any type of wood flooring.

#2 – Socks/Underwear

Again, it’s just proper hygiene to have a pair that you change into after your workout so that your shoes aren’t squishy and smelly, and you’re not putting nasty undergarments back on. The key to socks and underwear is to get pairs that don’t retain the odor after wash. You might notice some of your gym clothes will start to stink when they get wet, even if they come out of the washer still slightly damp. This is a huge pet peeve of mine.

My recommendation: Stance makes great athletic socks with an array of interesting designs. They last a long time and the comfort level is top notch. Every time I wear a pair of Stance socks I get compliments from gym-goers, and praise from my feet. Where underwear is concerned, I have a healthy obsession with a company called Ethikia. They’re basically just the “Stance” of underwear. They have over 100 models for men and women, they stretch, they’re dry fit, and I have never chaffed in them once.

#3 – Water Bottle

This is possibly the most important piece of gear on the list. Every time you enter the gym or set off for a run you NEED a water source. Especially one that is YOURS and yours only. Many people neglect to purchase and bring one to the gym because there are water fountains or packaged water for sale. That’s fine and dandy but having your own water bottle will make you WANT to drink water. Not just at the gym or during your workout, but it will keep you hydrated all throughout the day. Slap some stickers on that bad boy and you’ll be stoked to start sipping life giving essence from your personalized water receptacle.

My recommendation: Huge fan of the Klean Kanteen. They are durable, look cool, and keep your water cold all day long. The key is to get the wide mouth models because they are easier to wash. I currently have a narrow mouth bottle and have to use a toothbrush to reach the bottom of the bottle.

#4 – Lacrosse Ball or Foam Roller:

These are huge for muscle release and preventing tightness in specific areas. A large percentage of us sit at a desk most of the workweek and as a result develop muscular imbalances. Sitting all day long creates a shortening of the hip flexors and over time they adjust to this length becoming tight and weak. The lacrosse ball is a great way to get inside those areas that are hard to hit with large foam roller. The lacrosse ball is very stiff and can be quite intense for tightest of areas – a great alternative is a tennis ball, which has a little more give than the former but still able to reach those tough spots. The foam roller is great for release in large areas like the quads or the back. If you want to know more about these tools do some research on trigger point and myofascial release.

Related: the only guide you need to reaping the benefits of foam rolling.

My recommendation: Rogue has been a go-to for most of the fitness industry when it comes to anything mobility. Foam rollers and lacrosse balls have all sorts of different shear designs, from smooth surface to more robust. It’s personal preference, but I like the company and their aesthetic.

Post written by FFC South Loop fitness specialist Matt Wallace.

About Matt

Matthew Wallace is a Chicago native and personal trainer at FFC South Loop. He specializes in strength training and sport performance, teaching clients to improve their compound lifts, and crafting unique workouts and programs custom tailored to his clients’ needs.

“To see someone turn their goals, wishes, and desires into a reality, and to be entrusted with guiding that process, is a feeling that can’t be described. I chase this feeling every day in my professional and personal life.”

Matt holds a bachelors of arts from Columbia College Chicago, is certified personal trainer by NFPT, competes on the world stage of the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation, and spent 5 years active duty in the United States Marine Corps. Contact Matt by email (mwallace@ffc.com) or phone to set up a complimentary consultation today. You can also follow along with him on Instagram here!

 

Try FFC for free in Chicago

If you’re like me, you may spend some nights deep in a YouTube rabbit hole, going from one topic to another until you’ve wasted hours you could’ve used to catch up on sleep. The amount of content out there can be hard to sift through, especially when it comes to health and fitness. There is a plethora of gyms and trainers out there that are producing some not-so-great or “I can’t believe this is free!” content. With the season changes come new beginnings, and many people are going to be taking steps on their journey to better living. This list of fitness motivation videos & channels will help anyone who wants to access motivational, educational, and reliable fitness content without the anxiety that accompanies a late night click-a-thon through the YouTube rabbit hole!

Channel Judging Criteria

  • Frequency of Use: the channels listed below are chosen based on the frequency in which I myself – as well as other fitness professionals and participants – refer back to them. These channels are a staple in my repertoire. Whenever I have a question or need to search how to do anything fitness-related, I’ll look to these channels first.
  • Ease of Access: these channels are useful because they are accessible by individuals of any fitness level. The
    information is articulated clearly and is put into terms that even a day-one fitness noobie will understand.
  • Likability: let’s face it… there’s a lot of people that are hard to like – these aren’t those.

Athlean-X

  • Subscribers: 6,770,490+
  • Videos: 980+

This channel is lead by physical therapist and celebrity strength coach Jeff Cavaliere. At close to 7 million subscribers, it’s one of the most popular fitness channels out there. He focuses on numerous elements of fitness, including diet, mobility, and strength training workouts/exercises. I use this channel when I have clients with muscular imbalances and/or injuries such as knee valgus (knees bowing inward) or bad posture and want to get ideas about how to fix it – or, if possible, work around it.

I like Jeff’s visual approach; he’ll often have an artist draw on him with marker to show where the muscle is and how it moves in relation to the limb or structure it’s attached to. Athlean-X also features a 619-video playlist dedicated just to women called Athlean-XX for Women. This is an all-around great channel for fitness professionals, advanced fitness practitioners, and beginners alike.

Yo Elliott Strength Camp

  • Subscribers: 1,834,560+
  • Videos: 1,630+

This is one of the first channels I came across after I started adding weightlifting into my fitness routine. Elliott is a former college football player, strongman, and powerlifting athlete who now owns the Strength Camp gym brand, which has twenty locations worldwide and a home base in Florida. His channel’s utility is two-fold. There’s a great segment called “Yo Elliott” where fans will write to him with questions about everything from correct deadlift form to existential concerns. Also featured is the staff of his gym going through specific workouts with athletes of all types. Exercise program design, specific workouts, and proper exercise techniques are all covered on this channel. I find myself going here a lot because I appreciate Elliott’s enthusiasm and his wisdom concerning fitness and exercise. His charisma and knowledge inspire many who aim to become the strongest version of themselves.

Yoga with Adriene

  • Subscribers: 4,408,980+
  • Videos, 1280+

Yoga is one of the most valuable modalities of exercise both physically and mentally – period. This channel was and still is a great place to look when implementing yoga into my routine. If you’re someone who has never done yoga before, Adriene has the perfect 30-day beginner challenge series that will get you acclimated. With hundreds of videos and 64 different playlists, Adriene’s channel is expansive. Every video is pleasant, highly visual, and serves a specific purpose. There isn’t a lot of fluff on her channel. If you’re someone who isn’t into the mysticism that many yogis base their practice on, then this is the perfect place for you. Most of the videos are pretty straightforward. But if you are looking for that mystic ancient cave yoga, there’s some of that for you as well. My favorite thing about this channel is that it’s something you can do on your own accord. There’s no one watching you practice or judging your poses, it’s simply just a pleasant experience to follow along with Adriene.

fightTIPS

  • Subscribers: 2,052,150+
  • Videos: 1,000+

Don’t let the title of this channel scare you into thinking that it’s a bunch of meatheads doing karate in the garage. The four gentlemen that run fightTIPS are outstanding trainers and practitioners. This is a fantastic place to come if you’re someone with no martial arts experience that wants to start incorporating some boxing or kickboxing into your cardio routine. For the experienced or competition level fighters, it’s an outstanding free source of knowledge that’s sure to add to your fight IQ. They cover everything from kickboxing, boxing, and footwork to wrestling and grappling techniques. I especially appreciate the tutorials on equipment like their double end and heavy bag videos. They often have special guests in their videos to show that the techniques and instruction are interpreted easily for immediate use.

Charisma on Command

  • Subscribers: 2,260,120+
  • Videos: 250+

This channel does not deal with fitness of the body, but instead focuses on fitness of character and how that helps us build lasting and meaningful relationships or connections. In my own experience, the latter of the two is what’s going to make you someone that people will remember and value. This channel is the most entertaining on the list by far. They break down many celebrity personalities by narrating videos of them interacting with other people (be it fans or in a professional setting). I especially like the Game of Thrones series where all the characters are broken down and examined. They feature a wide variety of topics, like attracting the opposite sex, standing out in crowds, crushing job interviews, being funny, and managing body language. The hosts are extremely likable and charismatic themselves, but at the same time, they lack that air of pompousness that comes with expert authority. It never feels like you’re being treated as if you should already know the information being presented.

Summing It Up

I hope this list serves as a sufficient starting place for anyone who is looking to make this year their best and wants to use all the free education tools available to them. YouTube is one of the most underrated sources of knowledge anywhere. All of these channels, and the individuals involved in creating them, have helped me in some way to become a better version of myself. I surmise that if applied correctly, the information available on these channels will also guide you to an elevated physical and mental state.

About Matthew

Matthew Wallace is a Chicago native and personal trainer out of FFC South Loop. Matt specializes in strength training and sport performance, teaching clients to improve their compound lifts, and crafting unique workouts and programs custom tailored to the clients’ needs.

“To see someone turn their goals, wishes, and desires into a reality, and to be entrusted with guiding that process, is a feeling that can’t be described. I chase this feeling every day in my professional and personal life.”

Matt holds a bachelors of arts from Columbia College Chicago, is certified personal trainer by NFPT, competes on the world stage of the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation, and spent 5 years active duty in the United States Marine Corps. Contact Matt by email at mwallace@ffc.com to set up a fitness consultation today! You can also follow along with him on Instagram here!

 

 

 

 

 

Try FFC for free in Chicago

FFC-exclusive group fitness instructor and trainer Austin Head shares a simple 15-minute bodyweight workout for when you’re on the go. Needing no additional equipment (just yourself!), this hotel room workout will ensure you’ll be able to stay on track, even if you’re pressed for time.

I hear it all the time: ‘Austin, I just don’t have time to work out; my schedule is too crazy!’ Or, ‘I’m traveling for work for the full week ahead… what do I do?’ As a group fitness instructor and personal trainer, I hear all kinds of reasons why my clients can’t work out, but time and travel-related commitments are the top reasons.

What if I said you can efficiently burn calories, elevate your mood and CRUSH a workout, all in 15 minutes? Sounds too good to be true, right? Wrong! I’ve put together a hotel room workout/bodyweight workout with 5 different total-body exercises that you can use literally anywhere.

How to Do This Hotel Room Workout

  • Perform each exercise for 50 seconds, with a 10-second recovery period in between.
  • Once you’ve completed all 5 exercises, repeat the cycle for a total of 3 rounds, trying to complete the circuit in 15 minutes.
  • Boom – you’re done! Enjoy the feeling of accomplishment.

Bodyweight Workout Exercises

Squat + Rotation

I love starting my classes off with this move, because it’s a great full-body move. Not only do you work your lower body, you also start to warm up the core (and the rotation helps too).

2 Reverse Lunges + 2 Squat Jacks

Be warned that the heart rate will start to elevate with this one! If you want to progress this move and make it a little more plyometric, repeat as 2 lunge explosions and 2 squat jumps for the 50-second round instead.

 

1 Push-Up + 2 Mountain Climbers

I’m just evil… 2 exercises back to back to elevate your heart rate? You’ll thank me later! The key to this move is to keep your elbows at 45 degrees to your side.

Related: airport food can be the WORST. Here are some easy ways to navigate airport food when you’re traveling!

 

Bicycle Abs

Don’t forget to drive your elbows to the opposite knees on this one!

Freestyle Burpees

Burpees… everyone’s favorite exercise! Right?! There are so many different forms of burpees; have fun with them! Add 2 glute kickbacks at the bottom. Add a push-up. Add a tuck jump. Maybe even a cartwheel! Okay, okay, I might have gotten carried away suggesting that one. But you get it – be CREATIVE!

So as you can see, exercising doesn’t have to involve heavy weights, or even a gym, for that matter. It can be as easy as doing a bodyweight workout in a small space. Or this simple hotel room workout! On one of those days where you say ‘I just can’t fit my workout in my schedule today’, rethink your perspective and try this simple 15-minute rotation instead. Make it a great day! Tried the workout or plan to on your next trip? Tag me and FFC on Instagram! @Austin_Head / @ffc_chicago.

Post written by FFC group fitness instructor and personal trainer Austin Head.

About Austin

Austin Head is an FFC-exclusive group fitness instructor, personal trainer and creator of the TRT boot camp at FFC Union Station. Recently, Austin represented FFC on WGN’s Living Healthy Chicago – you can see his interview about the benefits of bodyweight exercises with Jane Monzures here. Have questions for Austin? Email him at ahead@ffc.com!

Try the best gym in Chicago for free!

As the year comes to an end, we begin to think about the last 12 months. We ask ourselves, ‘Did I accomplish the things I said I would in January? Am I happier? Am I stronger? Have I grown as an individual?’ Everyone wants to be better. We always want to find new ways to do more with less. People always ask me, what I’m working towards, and how I’m doing it.  Hopefully, this message will answer some of those questions. Regarding work life balance importance, I’ve put together a collection of my thoughts, the tools I use and ideas for how to implement them that I hope will be useful for you and help you find balance in multiple aspects of your life.

Giving Back

Fitness has always been a passion of mine and I was looking for ways to give back to the world. A great friend and mentor of mine (Antonio Coke) made a comment one day over lunch that stuck with me: “Life isn’t about what you take from it, but what you can give back.” Before I turned 30, I really had the mindset of taking what I could from the world. Some would refer this to “doing me.” I work for large corporation out of Chicago as my day job, and truly enjoy what I do. But I could never quite shake the feeling that something was missing.

I’m a firm believer that life works in mysterious ways, and all it takes are small moments to make a big difference. In April of 2018, I was asked to lead a class at FFC to see how I would like it. The week I turned 30, I led my first class, and got a taste of fulfillment. The feeling of giving back to the world. I later proceeded to sign up for my ACE certification in Group Fitness and had 6 months to take the exam. Fast forward to the end of September, I took the exam and passed. I was legit. Where am I going with this?

Work Life Balance Importance

Finding balance is still one of the most difficult parts of my life, even today. From working out in the morning, working a 9 to 5, and teaching at night, I needed a plan. Friends and family ask me all the time, “How do you have time for everything?”

Through trial and error, I learned that the only way I was going to be able to handle everything was with a balanced workout and diet schedule. As we get ready for the new year, I’d like to give back by providing ideas and thoughts that I have implemented in my life to bring fulfillment.

So many times, we hear about people “wanting” to do something that makes them happy but that they’re “too busy.” For me, I have found that having a morning routine, nightly routine, structured diet, and focused workout schedule helps me function at maximum capacity. Integrating all 4 of these factors has helped me find balance within my daily life while giving back to others.

Please note – the purpose of this message is to answer the questions of those who have asked about what I do and how I do it. My process and ideas below are specific to my schedule, goals, and body type.

Factor #1: Nightly Routine

Before going over my morning routine, I thought it would be better to go over how I end my days in my nightly routine. I’ve learned the hard way that if I don’t sleep the way I need to, my next day is derailed. I wake up every day at 4:00 am, and work best after seven true hours of sleep. I use the word “true”  because that is actual sleep.

I am an advocate for social media, but I push myself to not become dependent on it. Two factors that help me with that can be accessed as settings within the iPhone, and are now available with the iOS 12 update (check out this quick guide for how to set them up).

  • Downtime – I have my apps shut down from 8:00 PM – 4:30 AM
  • App Limits – I limit the amount of time I spend on Instagram (30 minutes), Facebook (15 minutes), and LinkedIn (15 minutes)

These settings help me by allowing my brain to wind down an hour before sleep. For the longest time, I found myself flicking my thumb along that screen until I was ready for bed. I’ve come to learn was that blue light and media were stimulating my brain, which delayed the time it took my brain to get to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

REM sleep is important for many reasons, but what I was wanting especially was the muscle recovery piece. Having my apps shut down at 8:00 PM also pushed me to read books and/or journal. This helped me with allowing my mind to get away from the day and/or let anything out onto paper. Now, if I’m reading, I’m typically out within 15 minutes around 8:45 PM.

Factor #2: Morning Routine

My morning routine is important to me because I am able to start the day by focusing on myself. My day job requires me to contact customers and partners all day with minimal downtime. While teaching class in the evenings, I am giving myself physically and mentally to each participant to ensure they’re getting a workout they wouldn’t get on their own. A 4:00 AM wakeup is out of the ordinary for most, but works well for me as I like to start my day with journaling and a workout. I use the app Sleep Cycle, which gradually wakes you up versus dramatically with the default Apple settings.

I get to the gym at 5:00 AM. I always start my day with a cardio session, which varies between kickboxing and running. Each workout is followed by a long shower then back home for my first meal. Once done, it’s usually around 7:00 AM, and I am ready to head to the beautiful world of Corporate America. From the time I wake up to the time I get to work, I have already been awake for 3 hours and my body/mind is clear for the day.

Factor #3: Nutrition & Sample Diet Breakdown

Nutrition has been a key factor of success in sustaining morning workouts, evening workouts AND my day job. While working with FFC’s dietitian, Alicia Huggler, I learned I wasn’t eating enough to keep up with my workouts plus my resting metabolic rate. Now, I change my diet throughout the month as I change my workouts. Below is a breakout of what I eat on a monthly basis.

          

The first week of the month includes higher carb intake as I lift heavier. As the month goes on, I replace my carbohydrates with fats (which is highlighted in blue above). This resets each month as I reintroduce carbohydrates into my system. In working with Alicia, I learned many different things, such as to eat the skin of my sweet potatoes because they are a great source of fiber and nutrients.

Factor #4: Fitness & Sample Workout Breakdown

When it comes to my workout schedule, I do my best to mix things up with cardio, strength training, HIIT and circuit training. Below is an overview of the schedule along with descriptions of each focus and why I do them:

  • Cardio – I jump between kickboxing and running workouts, and do them in the morning, as they’re a great way for me to wake up and start my day with something I enjoy.
  • Strength training – I lift weights twice a week (with a focus on “pushing and pulling”) to ensure I’m retaining muscle mass while doing cardio on a daily basis. “Pushing” might include squats, shoulder press, lunges, chest press, etc. “Pulling” might include deadlifts, upright rows, rows, etc.
    • Week 1 (heavy strength training): 5-10 reps / set x 5
    • Week 2 (intermediate strength training) 10-15 reps / set x 5
    • Week 3 (light strength training) 15-20 reps / set x 5
    • Week 4 (recovery) 10-15 reps / set x 5
  • HIIT – I do evening HIIT workouts following strength training days, which allows me to increase my heart rate quickly while using weights, ropes or kettlebells.
  • Circuit training – I follow an hour-long run with circuit training a part of my Saturday morning routine because I’m following a rest day and need to wake up my entire body. I’m not looking to break records, more so integrate push, pull, and core exercises into one workout.

 

Weekly Workout Breakdown

I break up my schedule on weekly basis: weeks 1 – 3, heavy, intermediate, light; week 4, recovery. Some months have 5 weeks vs the typical 4; I extend week 3 (light strength training) into week 4 and perform the “light” schedule for 2 weeks.

In the screenshot above, you’ll notice a “recovery” week, where I continue movement, but at a lower intensity. I do a single workout instead of two-a-days; in the morning I use the extra time to do light stretching and foam rolling to wake up.

When it comes to technique and proper form, I work with expert FFC trainer, Jeremy Gorden. His experience in personal training has helped me with building lean muscle mass, while staying an agile runner. I always recommend hiring someone to push you plus they’ll see things you won’t.

Summing It Up

As for final thoughts, I hope this message is received not as a manual of how to live your life but, as an example to pull from. Remember, this is what works for me and what I enjoy doing. If you could take one thing from this, and it impacts you in a positive way, this is a success. As you prep for 2019, take a second to think about something you’ve always wanted to do, and just go for it.

It doesn’t matter if you’re 30, 40, or 50, we all have the choice on how to live our lives. What you give back to the world is what you’ll be remembered by when you’re gone.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” -William Shakespeare

Omar

Post written by FFC group fitness instructor Omar Romero.

About Omar

Omar is a fitness enthusiast based out of the Chicagoland area. As an FFC group fitness instructor, his focus is around functional fitness mixed with high intensity interval training. His personal philosophy is based on hard work and no excuses. You can see his other published pieces by clicking here!

We all know that the Thanksgiving meal is the main event on Turkey Day, but there is no better way to prepare for the feast than with a fat-burning workout. As many pilgrims say, “thou shall work hard, if thou desires to play hard”. You’re allowed to play hard and indulge in all the delicious food, but you also have to work hard during your pre-feast workout.

Don’t fret! We’re here to help. We’ve developed two workouts to incorporate into your Turkey Day traditions of watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and cheering on your favorite football team. These exercise outlines will help you maximize the sweat before the sweets!

Choose one of the two workouts below and perform the corresponding exercise every time a list item occurs. Want more of a challenge? Grab some canned cranberry sauce as weights!

Thanksgiving Parade Workout

  • Every time someone says “turkey” or “pie” – 5 push-ups
  • Every time a new celebrity is introduced – 5 squats
  • Every time someone says, “Macy’s” – 10 bicycle crunches
  • Every commercial break – perform butt-kickers for the duration of 2 commercials
  • Every new musical number – perform high knees for the duration of the song
  • Every Snoopy sighting – 15 burpees

Related: burn tons of calories during this 45-minute mom-friendly workout!

Thanksgiving Football Workout

  • Every 1st down – 5 squats
  • Every penalty – 10 push-ups
  • Every timeout – hold a plank for the duration of the timeout
  • Either team scores a field goal – 10 dead bugs
  • Opposing team scores a TOUCHDOWN – 10 burpees
  • Your team scores a TOUCHDOWN – hydrate!

Have any questions about these workouts, the exercises or fitness in general? Email us or stop by FFC Boystown anytime!

Sedona Buttner = sbuttner@ffc.com Luke Meierdiercks = lmeierdiercks@ffc.com

 

 

Post written by FFC Boystown Personal Trainers Sedona Buttner and Luke Meierdiercks.

Sure, running on the treadmill, busting your tail on the elliptical or kettlebell swings during a PTC class will help you rack up those Myzone Effort Points (MEPs), but that’s not the only way to score them! The cool thing about the Myzone system is that it measures your effort based on your unique heart rate range and streamlines the reward system across the board. That means almost any kind of activity you can think of will earn you MEPs to track your workouts and foster friendly competition. If you’re looking for a fun and different way to rack up the MEPs, you may want to consider spiking that heart rate and fatiguing those muscles with the help of rock climbing! This adrenaline pumping, full-body workout will be sure to bring you into the yellow and red zones before you ever even leave the ground! If you are finding yourself unmotivated or exhausted by the thought of your current workout routine, try shaking things up a bit with a fresh take on physical fitness and check out indoor rock climbing in Chicago. Here are some reasons why you should strap on the MyZone, harness up, and get climbing.

Climbing is a cardiovascular workout.

Amy Brown indoor rock climbing in Chicago benefitsWhile climbing, you will feel your heart racing. It may be due to exertion. It may be due to nervousness. It may be due to both. Either way, your heart is working. A study conducted by Purdue University suggests that rock climbing performed at a moderate intensity is roughly equivalent to 244 steps per minute. This exceeds the estimated 222 steps per minute that are taken when running a 10-minute mile.

This year, I decided to join the fun and invest in a Myzone belt of my own! After a two hour, low-intensity bouldering sessions (more on bouldering versus rope climbing later!), I charted my first 229 MEPs. I also took it upon myself, my climbing buddy and my trusty stopwatch to record how much time I spent actively climbing. The breakdown estimates that I spent roughly 30 total minutes actively climbing, leaving myself with a measly 90 minutes of chatting and socializing! After all, I’m the queen of “climbing a little and chatting a lot!” Luckily for me, climbing was shown to be extraordinarily efficient when I decided to focus.

Climbing helps with strength training and muscle toning.

Thankfully, your heart is not the only muscle that will see some action during climbing. While climbing, every part of your body from your head to your toes plays a significant role in your ascent. All major muscle groups must work cohesively during your gravity-defying fun! These include your core, shoulders, back, biceps, triceps, quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. After one session, my back and shoulders are already screaming for a visit to the spa! Many new climbers are also surprised to find their forearms sore due to the grip strength required to remain on the wall.

You can tailor different workouts to cardio and strength training goals.

Because climbing is so versatile, you can structure your climbing sessions to place a bit more emphasis on either one of the aforementioned fitness components. There are two common forms of climbing: rope climbing and bouldering. These two are related to one another in the same way that marathon running and sprinting are related. While both fit under the large umbrella of “running,” there are very different approaches to properly training for and performing these activities.

Rope Climbing

Think of climbing with a rope and harness as the marathon run. During these climbs, more focus is placed upon your respiratory output and endurance. The climbs take a longer amount of time to complete and are typically completed on a vertical wall, climbing upward. If a climber was interested in placing a greater emphasis on spiking his or her heart rate, it would be a great idea to spend time climbing laps on less difficult climbs.

Bouldering

Conversely, think of bouldering as the sprint. Bouldering is a different type of climbing that is done without ropes and harnesses. The routes are shorter and go nowhere near as high. Because of this, bouldering is often done with mats and padded floors. When the climber falls, they land on the mats. The movement associated with bouldering is often more powerful and technical, which calls for less respiratory output and more strength-building. Given that my first Myzone climbing session catered to strength performance, I was pleasantly surprised by the results. I can’t wait to see what happens when I strap on my belt during an endurance session!

Climbing complements other workouts.

Climbing is a wonderful thing to do, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you do! Reap the benefits of a stronger grip while maxing out on your deadlift. Squat with ease knowing that you regularly perform pistol squats while suspended 20 feet in the air on the climbing wall. Engage those back muscles to finally crank out the first of many pull ups. No matter what your fitness goals may be, just know that regularly climbing will help you get there.

Related: speaking of squats, check out these 8 great benefits of using weights in your fitness routine.

Climbing improves flexibility and mobility.

You will often find your body in very unorthodox positions while indoor rock climbing (“You want me to put my foot where?!”). Rock climbing regularly allows you to increase your overall range of motion, especially in your hips and shoulders. Many climbs call for far reaches and high foot placement. Performing these movements regularly will allow your body to adapt and strengthen accordingly.

Pairing rock climbing with regular stretching (dynamic warm-up stretching and static post-workout stretching) multiple times a week will also assist in improving your flexibility and mobility.

Climbing improves balance (and combats imbalance!).

While rock climbing, you are suddenly far more aware of your center of gravity because you are constantly shifting and moving. Determining the most efficient way to position your body and using your core to remain on the wall are of utmost importance. There will be times when there will only be one foothold for you to move from. As you ascend, you will need to stay calm and balanced while your second leg remains off the wall. This requires a great deal of balance and control!

Additionally, the combination of pushing and pulling motions required from both sides of your body will help eliminate muscle imbalances. Are you a righty or a lefty? Leave your friends guessing! There’s no such thing as a strong side when you’re this balanced!

Climbing helps develop functional strength.

That jar of pickles is no match for you! Never again will you need to hand over a jar and have someone “loosen it first”. Climbing helps you to develop grip and forearm strength that will allow you to leave no jar unopened. You may not crush everything you hold into dust (I hope), but you will quickly notice a substantial difference in your hand and forearm strength.

Aside from your arms, other parts of your body will strengthen. The repetition of upward stepping will make every staircase a breeze. Your strengthened back and core will help alleviate some of the discomfort associated with poor posture. I hope you’re ready to be the talk of the town for being one lean, mean, functional machine!

Indoor rock climbing Chicago benefits

Climbing is a mental workout.

Every single route is a life-sized puzzle waiting to be solved. You must rely on your focus and problem-solving abilities to complete each climb. Assessing your personal skills and applying them to each step of your climb is extraordinarily important and thought-provoking. Additionally, every other thought and concern must be left on the ground below. For a few blissful minutes, you have no choice but to ignore the nagging voice in your head trying to convince you that you left the oven on!

Many individuals also use climbing as a creative outlet. As you become more familiar with your body, you develop an individual style of climbing. More than a few of our regular climbers embrace each climb as a form of choreography. They become very focused oh perfecting a sequence to a climb that was once difficult. We like to watch and learn from one another, embracing different styles of movement and attempting them. Climbing is a social sport by nature, and we take great pride in the community we form and the ideas we share in order to complete a climb!

But most importantly… climbing is fun!

Amy Brown Climbing Wall FFC ChicagoWhether you’re overcoming a fear of heights or experiencing the euphoria of reaching the top of the climbing wall for the first- or hundredth- time…. the excitement never gets old. You will still feel as if you are on top of the world. Rock climbing provides you with a unique sense of accomplishment that you will find nowhere else in the club. There is always a new challenge for you to conquer, leaving you engaged. Join us for some indoor rock climbing in Chicago and enjoy the smiles, chalky high fives new group of friends that are cheering for you every step of the way!

While there are an infinite number of reasons to make rock climbing a regular fixture in your health and fitness program, this list is a great place to start. We challenge you to climb right out of your comfort zone and never look back. Reach new heights (literally) and joining our climbing community! Get climbing with us at our Oak Park and Park Ridge locations. For more class and program information, email Amy Brown at abrown@ffc.com.

Post written by Amy Brown, FFC Oak Park Climbing Wall Supervisor.

Pin this for Later: Indoor Rock Climbing in Chicago Benefits

 

Best benefits for fitness indoor rock climbing Chicago FFC

I frequently come across people who have come to the gym seeking a healthier lifestyle. A number of people have been told by their doctor they need to start exercising or simply need to be exercising more. As easy as it may be to prescribe exercise, navigating a new fitness routine can be more challenging. Here are a few tips your doctor may not be telling you.

Please be sure to check with your healthcare provider regarding any questions or before starting an exercise program.

There are A LOT of different ways to work out.

Just because you don’t like one method of working out doesn’t mean that you won’t love another. It’s good to mix it up and try a bunch of different workout styles until you find the style you connect with the most.

It’s ok to be skeptical about fitness fads.

Just because you see your favorite celebrity sporting the latest fitness fad doesn’t mean that it is actually worth your time. When learning about a new fitness fad it is important that it is backed by science and that there aren’t any negative side effects they aren’t telling you about. If a fad is claiming to do something that sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Working out can bring a lot of new feelings to your body.

It’s good to know the difference between the feeling of a stretch or a “good” sore feeling from working out and a pain from hurting yourself. If you aren’t sure how to differentiate these feelings it can be confusing to know which one is which and then can make it hard to know how to proceed.

It’s ok to ask for help.

Don’t sweat it if you don’t have all of the answers when it comes to mixing up your fitness routine. If you aren’t seeing the results that you want, or an exercise doesn’t feel right, doing a free consultation with a personal trainer can help with that. Having a hard time finding a routine that works for you? They can help you with that too!

Related: not seeing results from your workout? This might be why.

Small improvements can make a big difference.

Whenever you step in the gym for your workout, try and do one thing during this workout better than last time. Over time, all of those small improvements will add up and make a big difference.

Music can set the tone for your workout (pun intended!).

Having different playlists for different parts of your workout can be a game changer. Jamming out to some Ariana Grande can move and grove you through your cardio workout, Beyoncé can push you through some weights, and Adel can slow you down enough to get a deep stretch!

Related: need some playlist inspiration? Check out the library of FFC-curated playlists here!

Post written by FFC Boystown personal trainer Sedona Buttner.

About Sedona

Sedona-Buttner-FFC-Fitness-Chicago

Sedona Buttner is a personal trainer at FFC Boystown. Her passion for personal training stems from her ability to help others live their best life. She believes that training can not only be great for losing weight and getting stronger, but also can empower people to do things they never thought possible.

This passion has driven her to get a degree in kinesiology from Cornell College, as well as an ACSM-certified personal trainer certification and a TRX Team Coach certification. She specializes in working with people looking to increase their strength and conditioning, wanting to lose weight, those just starting their fitness journey, and people recovering from an injury. Want to set up a complimentary consultation? Email her at sbuttner@ffc.com!

I love data. Being in marketing, I love being able to make smart decisions based on numbers and know that the route I’m taking my work has a good likelihood of succeeding. I also am a big fan of nerdy stuff when it comes to fitness and wellness – so naturally I use BOTH my Apple watch and Myzone belt when I work out, use MyFitnessPal to track meals (though, with varying levels of consistency), and mostly stay up-to-date on new trends. So when I learned about the V02 Max test and its ability to measure aerobic ability and also calorie burn related to heart rate, etc., I was pretty excited. I created a list of V02 Max test FAQs based on what was going through my brain during my own test – check them out!

What is a V02 Max test?

According to Korr Medical Technologies, which is an industry-leading company that creates equipment for these tests, VO2 Max is the maximum rate of oxygen consumption that can be attained during the most intense exercise possible. Basically it’s how efficiently your body uses oxygen during exercise.

Who is the VO2 Max test for?

While the VO2 Max test is especially ideal for endurance athletes, marathoners or anyone training for a fitness event, the VO2 Max test is also ideal for anyone who wants to improve their fitness on any level.

Why should I get a V02 Max test?

Not seeing results despite all the work you’re putting in at the gym? This piece of the puzzle can help – for example, I learned that in order to burn fat while exercising, I have to keep my heart rate in a very specific zone and actually was over-exercising for my goals! Do less? … If you say so, data.

 

Related: another similarly surprising truth regarding fitness things you thought you knew a lot about – like your Fitbit. Check out this trainer’s hilarious breakup letter to her Fitbit.

How long does the test take and where can I get a V02 Max test done?

The whole process, from changing into workout clothes, the explanation of the process, short workout, data capture and analysis took about 45 minutes, give or take. Depending on how long you take to get ready, this could easily be done over a lunch hour (however, due to the fasting/ caffeine restrictions listed below, I recommend trying to get it done as early in the morning as possible so you can so you don’t turn into a hangry zombie).

You can get them done many places – Fitness Formula Clubs has a number of metabolic carts (which have the special machine) plus a traveling one that makes its way around to the clubs! The test is $149, and there are other kinds of add-ons and tests (like resting metabolic rate, blood lactate, etc.) you can opt into for additional cost.

Are there special dietary restrictions/fasting for the V02 Max test?

Yes – if you’re getting the basic V02 Max test done, you’ll need to plan to fast for 4 hours before, abstain from caffeine for 6 hours before and rest from any exercise or activity for 24-12 hours before. You can drink room-temperature water up until the test but nothing super cold! And there are different requirements for the other add-ons, so make sure to check with a team member well before your test.

Do I need to shower after the test?

I did, because I got up to a pretty high level of activity… I am essentially a human waterfall. Put frankly, I sweat profusely. So you may want to bring a change of clothes and plan to shower after your test.

What do you wear for the V02 Max test?

Comfortable athletic clothes should do the trick – something you’re not afraid to possibly sweat in, and shoes you can easily run on a treadmill or cycle on a stationary bike in.

Tell me about the weird, Bane-like mask.

The mask is where all the VO2 magic happens and is how the machine is able to measure your oxygen intake and usage. These are just a few questions I had about the mask.

Can I do the test without the mask on?

Nope – the mask is how you obtain the data. It’s actually super cool – it isolates both the oxygen you take in and your carbon dioxide output and then uses a machine to measure the oxygen content.

Does the mask make you feel claustrophobic?

Being honest here, as someone who doesn’t like anything on my face at all, just a little bit. But only when you first put it on – I couldn’t even notice it (aside from being able to see it occasionally when I looked down my cheeks) after the initial set up. And the staff (FFC endurance Coach Chris Navin, in my case) does an amazing job of explaining everything to you and walking you through putting it on.

Can you breathe normally?

Yep! I thought it was going to feel restricted from the looks of it, but you can breathe totally normally when you put it on and when you’re doing the treadmill or cycling portion.

What does the mask smell like?

Basically like a big ‘ole snorkeling mask. It’s fun – I started daydreaming about my next beach vacation.

Does it pinch?

Nope! It took a second to adjust the straps for my face but once we had that done, it was fine!

Do they clean it first?

For all my fellow slightly germaphobic homies out there – they definitely clean it first. Coach Chris has special disinfecting wipes and wipes down the mask/straps/etc. before you put it on.

Running on the treadmill for the VO2 Max test

So you have to run on a treadmill or cycle for how long?

In order to get your oxygen consumption measurements, you have to exercise with the mask on for a certain amount of time, at a graduated scale of intensity, while wearing a heart rate monitor, like a Myzone belt.

Do I have to run on a treadmill?

No! It’s definitely recommended, but for people with injuries or issues related to running/walking, you can also do the test on a stationary bicycle. If you don’t want to run, just let the staff member know – the point is to get you up to your max exercising ability, which may mean different things for different people.

How long do I have to exercise for?

You will be working for about 10-15 minutes, which is about the time it takes to cycle through the warm-up and increasing speeds, up to your max level of ability (by the end of my test, I was running at about 8-9 miles an hour, give or take, for a minute or two.) Like I said, this is different for everyone!

Do I have to wear a heart rate monitor? What if I don’t have one?

Yes, in order to get the right data, you’ll need to wear a heart rate monitor, like a Myzone belt. Don’t have one? Don’t worry! The team will have a belt for you and will help you put it on.

What kind of data do I get from the test?

After your test is completed, you’ll get a handy dandy readout of your data, plus some cool charts, graphs and summaries of what it all means. I got an outline for a workout plan – basically I have to keep my heart rate under 150 to ensure I burn fat during my workouts. I also got more information about how I could apply this to running races, marathons and other endurance events, if I chose to pursue one in the future.

Overall Takeaways From the VO2 Max Test

It doesn’t take a whole lot to impress me…. but holy data! This was a really cool test – and definitely changed what I thought I knew about my workout habits. You’d think running faster would be better for your fitness, right? Not necessarily – especially related to your goals. I found out through this test that I actually have to pull back on my exercise a little bit – and that I can definitely lift weights and do other types of exercise that will keep my heart rate in that specific zone and that I will still see results from it. I haven’t done a resting metabolic rate test (RMR – the one that tells you how many calories you burn at rest) yet, but I will! That, coupled with these results of the VO2 Max test, will help me work smarter, not harder. And I’m all about that!

Have more questions about the V02 Max or RMR test, or want to schedule one for yourself? Email metabolictesting@ffc.com!

Post written by FFC marketing manager, Megan Zink.

 

Try FFC for free in Chicago

Finding new ways to keep workouts interesting has always been a challenge for me. After recovering from two injuries last year and beginning to lift weights, run, and participate in group fitness again, it all started to come back as I saw the increase in speed, strength, and endurance – but it wasn’t the same. I was looking for something new that I hadn’t tried before that would push me further than I was used to. I considered personal training but couldn’t justify the cost. This past month, though, I had the opportunity to try out Fitness Formula Club’s high intensity interval training (HIIT) classes in the Performance Training Center. At first I thought these would be like any other group fitness workout, but was quickly surprised. Here are some benefits of high intensity interval training I saw and why you should give HIIT a try.

What is high intensity interval training?

Hight intensity interval training is a technique that utilizes the heart rate, during which you focus on a specific exercise for a short period of time, usually at 100% of your effort, and follow it with a short rest period. You may do a different type of exercise after. The structure of this class is typically broken up into timed sections, due to the fact that you’re only given a limited rest period. This helps with fat burning and strength conditioning. For more information on the science behind HIIT, check out this post!

What is the Performance Training Center (PTC)?

Classes in the PTC are those you may have seen in action within the turfed areas of the FFC Gold Coast, Park Ridge, Lincoln Park and Old Town locations. Workouts incorporate equipment like rowing machines, ropes, sleds, tires, weights and kettlebells.

What are benefits of high intensity interval training?

Benefits of high intensity interval training include group size and efficiency, cost, level of attention, cutting edge equipment and more. I’ve broken some additional benefits of HIIT down below.

Smaller groups – HIIT class sizes run lean, so you don’t have to worry about hugging your sweaty neighbor while you work out. You’re typically partnered with 1-2 people, which can lead to a little friendly competition.

Affordable personal training – though personal training was difficult for me to justify, regarding cost, HIIT allowed me to receive the coaching needed without breaking the bank. It’s $100/month and “all you can eat” – you can go as many times as you want.

HIIT at FFC

Coaching – due to the smaller group size, the trainer is able to coach each individual on their form when needed. I found this to be extremely helpful with kettlebell swings, as I have been doing them wrong for years. This also helps with injury prevention, because you’ll learn proper technique that will come in handy the next time you work out on your own or in a larger group fitness class.

New equipment – as I mentioned above, I am always looking for something new, and what better way to get that than via new equipment and techniques? With new equipment comes new exercises that will hit areas of muscle you’re not used to. For example, I found that by doing sleds I noticed an increase in my sprint speed during Tread class.

Performance tracking – HIIT uses Myzone heart rate tracking to show participant’s performance. Heart rate belts are provided as well, in case you don’t have one yet. This helps with tracking how hard you’re working, where your heart rate is and where it might need to be based on your goals, and helps the trainer coach you for the most effective results.

Related: mystified by Myzone? You’re in luck! We have a shiny new infographic that explains what it is, how it works and how it can help you get better results!

Personalized workouts – if you’re injured or unable to perform and exercise, the instructor will always provide an alternative option for you. This is helpful for those who want to participate in group fitness but who may be unsure of how to proceed in a safe manner.

Final thoughts on high intensity interval training

HIIT has opened my eyes to new exercises, muscles groups, and equipment to push my fitness to the next level. Going back to my previous comment about leveraging sleds to help with my speed in Tread, this workout can help you in many ways. Whether you’re looking to increase speed, build muscle, or lean out for summer, HIIT will help you get there. Don’t allow your body to plateau by doing the same workouts every week. As my friend Steve Parkin would say, “If you want to change your body, you need to get out of your comfort zone!” What do you have to lose?

Post written by FFC Union Station member Omar Romero.

 

Try HIIT at FFC

Example of a High Intensity Interval Training Workout

  • Below is an example of a workout we have done during a HIIT class at FFC.

3 rounds of each set; 90 seconds on and 60 seconds rest

Set 1:

  • Tire flip 20 yards
  • Larry push 20 yards back
  • Sprint 20 yards down and up
  • Sprint 15 yards down and up

Set 2:

  • Lateral medicine ball slam X 30
  • Lateral bound X 10

Set 3:

  • Goblet squats X 20
  • TRX squat jumps X 10

Set 4:

  • Band rows X 15
  • Up and down stairs while carrying medicine ball X 1

Finisher:

  • Everyone wall sits while passing a medicine ball back and forth for 120 seconds for 2 rounds.

FFC personal trainer Marylou Tawney pens a humorous breakup letter to her Fitbit, explaining that her fitness goals have evolved and become too complex for the step counter.

Dear Fitbit,

I’ll never forget the first time we met. After a fiercely-fought firm-wide challenge was won by my team, The Piercelings, way back in 2012, you arrived as my prize. Excited to see what all the buzz was about, I clipped on that first incarnation of you to the middle of my bra and strutted towards my first 10,000 steps. The precarious placement of your device never stopped me from checking my steps or the time in far too conspicuous of places because, frankly, I was proud of you. I had nothing to be ashamed of. I had a step goal, and I was going places.

You got me motivated to move even when it was socially appropriate to stand still. As you whispered sweet urgencies in my ear, “10,000…” you kept my feet marching. Desk to candy jar? 54 steps each way. Desk to water cooler? 73-77 steps each way, depending on the enthusiasm of my stride. Together, you and I have walked the 5,772 miles of the Russian Railway, and have gone up 20,000 floors – as high as a shooting star.

I introduced you to all my friends and family right away. We didn’t waste any time, but neither did they! They adopted you immediately, and they too strapped you to their bras and checked their progress in far too conspicuous places. We cheered each other and challenged each other every week to hit those step goals. You got us off the couch and stepping, stepping… and stepping. I knew I’d really committed to our relationship when I got the Fitbit scale that syncs up with you. It was our equivalent to a diamond ring.

We’ve had some crazy times. Do you remember in my postnatal fog that it took me several days to realize that I was getting false steps from sitting on an exercise ball, holding my precious bundle of only-sleeps-when-held, bouncing for hours and hours? Remember that? I got, like, 96,000 steps in one day, and all my friends were worried that I was over-exerting myself, only to find they’d been cheated out of that week’s step-count leaderboard. I took you off and didn’t wear you for a month after that! Oh, still too soon? No, I get that.

You really left your mark on me. Literally. You finally migrated from my bra to my wrist – as my fifth and final model – my Fitbit tan line became so strong that I wore you even when your battery was dead.

Then something happened. My fitness goals evolved and grew more complex. I began to focus more on strength and high intensity interval training, balance, and mobility – the things that you, my dear Fitbit, did not recognize as primary goals. If I wasn’t on a treadmill, I wasn’t earning trophies or accolades for my accomplishments. But strength training protects your bone mass, and builds muscle mass. It burns more calories, reduces the risk of depression. It assists in motor planning, and reduces your risk of diabetes and heart disease! Studies have even shown there is a link between strength training and mental alertness. Grip strength and longevity of life! And I learned new ways to measure progress.

  • First of all, I designed a multi-week exercise program in which a series of workouts and movements are periodically repeated at various intensities and quantities (reps/sets), so I am able to document my strength from one week to the next. (Need a plan like this too? Check out the FFC Workout of the Month!)
  • Second, on each strength training day, I perform a total body workout; however, I focus on certain muscle groups each day without neglecting the others. After all, muscle strength requires muscle balance, so hitting both sides of a joint each time you exercise keeps those joints nice and healthy.
  • Third, I changed my warm ups from the treadmill to a functional warm up that prepares my body for the specific movements I am about to perform. This way, my body is not exhausted before I even start trying to lift weights. However, since I do enjoy a good sweat, I throw in some high intensity intervals on the front end of my workout as well as a fun metabolic finisher at the end. This satisfies my addiction to cardio by getting my heart rate up for my whole strength training workout.

My achievements towards these goals felt disregarded and uncounted by you, my faithful Fitbit. You, who got me moving. You, who kept me stepping. You have your place on steppers wrists, whose goals are to move from sedentary to active, but when goals are no longer aligned, we must finally part ways.

I will forever thank you for keeping me and my entire extended family on our fitness journeys for so many years, but I can’t help but feel you and I have grown apart as my fitness goals have changed. As I cover up the untanned strip on my wrist with a new device that better understands me, I won’t forget you. I forever remain in your debt.

Sincerely,

Mama Lou

FFC Oak Park Marylou Tawny Fitbit letter

Marylou Tawney is a personal trainer focusing on prenatal and postnatal exercise at FFC Oak Park. She is a mother of two rowdy boys, and specializes in wrestling, tackling, and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You can find her on Instagram at @mamalou_fitness – or shoot her an email at mtawney@ffc.com to set up a complimentary consultation!