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.

 

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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.

 

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Exercise can be described as a ‘tug of war’ around a bone or joint.” –Tom Purvis, RPT

Interestingly, this is not a metaphor exclusively for exercise. It also represents the most fundamental struggle we encounter throughout life – the battle between a force of nature and a force from within us. The most common force of nature (called gravity) becomes the resistance that imposes “war” on our bodies, and when we are “under siege”, the force we use to “tug” against it comes from the contraction of our muscles. We refer to this contractile force as tension, which ultimately represents our effort to tolerate the threshold for work and “remain the same” – aka the primal directive of homeostasis.

The factors that make exercise beneficial and different from the continuous, mundane, but necessary assault of gravity pulling on us mentioned above are (1) how we use our body to “wage the battle” beyond the basic homeostasis level (because life has proven that if we are complacent and do nothing except try to achieve homeostasis, we eventually become “as we were in the womb”… bent over and crumpled), (2) the way we adjust the variables of gravity and (3) the purpose or goal.

The Biggest Exercising Mistake

The most profound mistake we make when we exercise is not knowing the present borders of the territory we govern to “wage the war”. Essentially, we don’t understand the threshold/boundaries of our central nervous system until we meet and exceed them, often resulting in injury. And just as likely, we may try to overcompensate for the failure of not being able to exceed our boundaries, with other muscles. If you’ve ever experienced an inexplicable or unexpected strain, this overcompensation is often where it comes from. And, by the way, the brain will try to construct any overcompensation needed, whether we’re attempting a 600 lb deadlift or simply washing dishes.

Adjusting the Variables of Gravity

When we exercise to achieve a goal-specific outcome, we typically decide the force of gravity we’re imposing to help us achieve that physical outcome by selecting weight, speed, time, distance, etc. These factors all represent the amount of gravity we’ll encounter – but there are other more subtle types of factors we need to consider that will also have an effect on the outcome of our efforts, like from what angle the force will come from, or physical laws at hand. If we don’t know “what to use” or “how”, there will probably be unintended consequences like muscle strains or other injury.

The Purpose/Goal

We also have to consider the goal we’re trying to achieve and what kind of force it takes to achieve the particular outcome we want. That force is the contraction of muscles, in order to overcome the gravity we’ve imposed on ourselves with weights, speed, etc.

Related: have any pain or injury? These 5 fitness tips are your new best friend.

The Problem with This Methodology

The problem is, we equate exercise with movement and concentrate on the effects of our efforts: how much energy we expend, how much our heart is beating, how much weight we move (or lose), how many repetitions we perform, how far, fast, or high we go, etc.

That’s like treating an illness with a remedy for its symptoms.

We don’t actually cure the illness, but just feel better temporarily, until the treatment wears off. We need to flip this way of thinking and instead train the source. We need to learn how to contract our muscles better and synchronize the tension with our joints, brain and mind.

Here’s an ironic fact of life: the very same force of nature we require to live is ever so gradually crushing us to death. Gravity. It’s the same force of nature we need to overcome to look, feel, move, function, and live better. But if we reach for our goals without developing the source of our efforts, we essentially expedite the crushing effects that gravity is already imposing on us – creating pain, injury and other issues.

Performing exercise in in a manner that maximizes intended benefits and minimizes unintended consequences like injury is different from traditional efforts and requires the assistance of someone like a Resistance Training Specialist who can teach you to “train the source” instead of solely focusing on the effect – someone who can detect muscular contraction and adjust the resistance to improve deficiencies and provide better results. You can also contact a MAT (muscle activation technique) specialist to help you relieve strain associated with unintended muscle contractions.

For more information on Resistance Training, contact Eric at eglickstein@ffc.com. For more information on MAT, contact Skip Chapman, Bill Busch, Jeremy Gordon or Jessica Thiel at schapman@ffc.com, wbusch@ffc.com, jgordon@ffc.com or jthiel@ffc.com.

Post written by FFC Resistance Training Specialist Eric Glickstein.

 

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Running is an exercise that you either enjoy or really hate. Those who enjoy it post about their sunrise views and race times and those who hate running are tired of seeing them. I am one of those people who enjoy running but only for a short period of time. The idea of keeping a steady pace for an extended period of time is as exciting to me as counting sheep. With that said, I’ve come to thoroughly enjoy Tread at FFC. Check out this efficient treadmill class for your next lunchtime workout!

What is Tread?

Tread is a 45-minute (or 30 minutes, if you’re doing the express version) running class that consists of sprints and hills. The drills are broken up with rest in between and each drill changes so you’re not doing the same run the whole time.

The point of the class is to build strength and cardiovascular endurance. The more efficiently your body delivers oxygen to its tissues, the lower your breathing rate is. What does that mean? The more you do the class, the easier it’ll become. Below is an example of Tread led by FFC’s regional group fitness director, Lois Miller at FFC Union Station.

Example Lunchtime Workout (or for any Tread class or time of day)

Warm-up:

  • 1 minute incline 1.0 intensity (speed) at 60%
  • 1 minute at 70%
  • 1 minute at 80%
  • Repeat the above at incline 2.0

Drill I:

  • Escalator – start at 70%
  • Increase the incline every 60 seconds; then ladder back down in descending order
  • Minute 1 (incline 2.0)
  • Minute 2 (incline 3.0)
  • Minute 3 (incline 4.0)
  • Minute 4 (incline 5.0)
  • Minute 5 (incline 4.0)
  • Minute 6 (incline 3.0)
  • Minute 7 (incline 2.0)

Rest – walk for 2 minutes

Related: want another quick lunchtime workout? Check out this 30-minute squat circuit!

Drill II:

  • Intervals – perform the following as fast as you can (AFSYC); incline stays at 1.0
  • 20 seconds on/10 rest x2
  • 30 seconds on/10 rest x2
  • 40 seconds on/10 rest x2
  • 50 seconds on/10 rest x2
  • 60 seconds on/10 rest x2

Rest – walk for 90 seconds

Drill III:

  • Side Shuffle at a fast walking pace
  • 30 seconds on each side at incline 1.0
  • Repeat at incline 5.0
  • Repeat at incline 10.0

Rest – walk for 60 seconds

Drill IV:

  • Hills – speed is at 60%; every 30 seconds the incline changes for 4 total rounds (no rest)
  • 30 seconds incline 1.0
  • 30 seconds incline 5.0
  • 30 seconds incline 10.0
  • Repeat total of 4 rounds

Rest – walk recovery / 60 seconds of tricep power pushups off the front of the treadmill

Stretch!

What can I expect from this lunchtime workout?

Just like any new workout or class you try, there are always a few items to keep in mind.

  • Do not participate in this workout if you have knee or hip pain. This is a high intensity class that requires a ton of stop and go.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during, and after
  • Recover with potassium. I’m a fan of avocado in my morning smoothie because it has less sugar than bananas (your muscles will thank you by not cramping!).
  • Watch your step. You don’t want to be that person who slips on treadmill (this is my biggest fear).
  • Wear some form of tracker. The class is not measured by distance, since it’s an interval class and drills change every time (MYZONE is my preference – you can read more on my experience here).
  • Stretch before and after! There’s nothing worse than a calf cramping up during a class or an injury taking you out of commission.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re looking to get faster, run longer or just exercise in general, give Tread a shot. Your percentage to max is based on your athletic abilities. What may be fast for others may not be to you. Check out FFC’s schedule here for dates and times.

Post written by FFC Union Station member Omar R.

Want to follow along with Omar’s workouts? Follow him on Facebook and Instagram!

If you’re like me – from an area where it’s always sunny, never drops below 30 degrees and frost is the closest you’ll ever get to snow- then Chicago’s infinitely long winter and elusive spring has probably sucker punched you in the gonads in a lot of ways. You might find yourself more apathetic towards moving away from your couch or swearing whenever wind blows. Getting to the gym becomes less of a priority when the weather is downright terrible! But you’re in luck – we’ve got bad weather workout tips to combat that. Check them out!

Implement Dedicated Days

A large issue people run into is not having a consistent routine. However, consistency is SO important, because consistency is where you see results! It also helps motivate you when the weather takes a turn for the worse. Setting dedicated days is hard initially because you’re holding yourself accountable for working out. So start by setting a simple goal for the week. I recommend three dedicated days- that’s the easiest way to begin, that’s how I became consistent- Monday, Wednesday and Saturday for an hour.

When I stuck to the days I started to see the biggest changes in my body- three days a week. If you know you don’t like working out on Sundays, don’t! But, you also have to stick to the plan and not work out those days. Once you hit the routine regularly, you may naturally want to add a fourth (if you don’t, that’s ok too!). Just stay consistent with your days. You’ll begin to notice the difference in your body and your mind.

Change the Time of Day

We’re creatures of habit. I love working out in the morning; I go to work happier and more engaged with clients. I just feel better! But it can be difficult to get up in the mornings (especially during fall/winter, or even the odd with the dark skies of a spring or summer thunderstorm). A bad weather workout tip? Switch it up! Go to your gym after work or on your lunch break. If your office has a gym for its employees, utilize it.

Working out at night is a good for you too, as it has been known to assist in sleep and encourages your brain to wind down for the evening. Winding down is just as important as working out. We are all stressed in the age of technology and working out at the end of a day is great for releasing the mental drudgery of everyday work.

Find a Gym Buddy

Gym buddies help you stay accountable with your fitness goals and regimen. Help each other out; cheer each other on! You can even alternate who chooses what workout to do for the day or participate in a group fitness class together; you’ll take comfort knowing your friend is suffering beside you. So text each other, call each other, demonstrate different workouts you want to try. When you’re done, grab coffee, dinner, or if you’re like me, a bagel! Friends help friends stay consistent.

Related: feel like you fell off the bandwagon a little bit? Here are 5 tips to get you back into a fitness routine!

Change Up the Exercises

Get off the elliptical! Oh yeah, you heard me. Change up your routine. There is nothing more motivating than doing a different workout everyday. It helps with dedication, it’s fun and it’s challenging. This small change will help keep your mind engaged and excited to exercise. If that’s too much effort, you can also download an app. Two of my favorites are Sworkit and Workout: Gym Exercise Tracker, which offer various programs that will get you stronger, leaner and fitter, along with different intensity levels. They even offer lists of exercises and demonstration videos.

If you’d rather go for a more hands-on approach, you could also hire a trainer. It is literally our job to create programming so you don’t have to think — just do. Each FFC trainer has a unique take on fitness with different exercises and routines. For example, I work with kettlebells because they blast fat, increase strength and cardiovascular endurance. My coworker Steve is all about barbell work and lifting, Taylor does great with strength and conditioning. If this interests you, talk to the FFC membership team! They’ve worked out with the trainers and can pair you with someone suited for you and your goals. Or, if you’re feeling brave, walk up the trainers desk and ask for advice. If a trainer isn’t with a client, he or she will most likely show you an exercise or two. We’re here to help and want you to have fun!

Be Good To Yourself

Strength and fitness is a journey, just like life. You’re going to have good days and bad days and it’s ok to go with the flow. For example, if you don’t make it to the gym as much as you wanted that’s ok. Let’s say these changes are hard for you to implement. Ask yourself, “why am I making these changes and how important is this to me?”

Fitness is more than just the physique – in fact, rockin’ bodies are byproducts of exercising. Fitness is treating your mind right because your mind and psyche are what helps you reach your goals. So be realistic and make small changes so you’re not shocking your system. For example, if you want a cookie- eat a damn cookie. Don’t deprive yourself, but be aware of what you’re doing and adjust along the way. Success isn’t made in leaps and bounds, but rather in small doses. Find your small victories and build off of those!

Post written by Julia Meese, FFC East Lakeview Personal Trainer.

 

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About 8 years ago I made a change to how I approached my training. Well, to be precise, I actually started training and stopped “working out”. It all started with a fitness plan.

It’s made a huge difference in how I get results, my overall health and resilience, and my understanding of how my body reacts to stressors. My results in the gym skyrocketed and it all started with a process that occurs outside of the gym; I started following a program that a coach would write for me.

My mentor once described a good program as a “helicopter view” of the trainee’s current position and where they want to be. A good fitness plan allows us to see the whole picture and how we will get from point A to point B.

“Making it up as you go” or not having a plan at all provides us with what he calls a “car view”; it doesn’t allow us to see the whole picture and leaves a lot to the imagination. How often do you get in a car in unknown territory and leave the navigation up to your imagination? You don’t, right? Because that’s a huge waste of time! Why would you do that in the gym?

“My mentor once described a good program as a “helicopter view” of the trainee’s current position and where they want to be. A good fitness plan allows us to see the whole picture and how we will get from point A to point B.”

If you are just starting out, working with a program can be intimidating. Even a simple program can look very complex on paper and seem hard to read – which is why I’m going to break down FFC’s brand new Workout of the Month program and make sure you feel confident from the start. The first step? Grab your worksheet below!

The Workout of the Month Fitness Plan Breakdown

Each Workout of the Month will come in a 4-week block.

  • Week 1 – exploratory week
  • Week 2 – intensity increase
  • Week 3 – higher weights, lower volume
  • Week 4 – the home stretch = higher weight, higher volume
Week 1 – Exploratory Week

This is a time to get comfortable with the exercises and figure out what weights you will use with the exercises that will result in the prescribed RPE (rating of perceived exertion). RPEs will range from 6-8 depending on what kind of work you are doing. Here is a chart to help you figure out your RPE:

Why work to an RPE instead of using percentages? The short answer is flexibility and health.

Not flexibility in the sense of being able to do the splits, per say, but flexibility in the sense of being able to adjust your working weights to how you feel that particular day. If you got a lot of sleep and ate well before your workout, you may feel like a million bucks and be able to match the RPE with a heavier weight than normal. Great!

Some days, you may be tired from a long work day or not sleeping well or whatever life is throwing at you and a lighter weight than normal gets you to the prescribed RPE. That’s cool too! We’re all about getting work done and keeping it safe, relative to our current readiness. Winning!

Week 2 – Intensity Increase

Now that you have your weights dialed in, you can get after it a little bit during week 2. You will usually see increased intensity during this week due to what you figured out during week 1’s exploration.

Week 3 – Higher Weights, Lower Volume

During week 3, you will see a lower volume in your strength work – but that doesn’t mean you’re doing less – you will be adding weight to make up for the decreased volume. This week is known as the “PR and go home week” — get to the gym, work a little bit harder than you have been, and go home feeling satisfied. Hooray!

Week 4 – Higher Weight, Higher Volume

Week 4 is a tough one. This is the pinnacle of your training block that will bring increased volume as well as increased weight. However, as long as you are within the prescribed RPE, you are safe and sound.

Here’s the thing… if you stick to the program, you will see that you are able to work with heavier weights but remain at the same RPE. That’s pretty cool, right?! You’re getting stronger!!

How to Read the Workout of the Month Worksheet

You’ll notice that the exercises in this program are sectioned off by letter (A, B, C, D). Those letters indicate that those exercises in that letter group are to be performed in succession. For instance, in the A section of the Monday workout you will perform 5 Overhead Med Ball Slams, 10 total (5 on each side) Deadbugs and 10 total (5 on each side) Banded Leg Drops.

You will then repeat that circuit 2 more times in that order. Then you will move on to section B and perform those exercises in succession for the prescribed sets and reps. Easy peasy!

If you are new to the gym and training in general, ease into it. Any program is to be viewed as more of a suggestion than a rule. For example, you could start with just 1 resistance day and 1 metabolic day for the first week. Or maybe a 2 resistance to 1 metabolic ratio is more your speed. Or, for you gym veterans, you could perform all 6 days.

Do whatever makes you feel good! The goal is to feel and move better while getting stronger and more resilient. We don’t need to beat ourselves up – we just need a plan and an honest assessment of our current capabilities.

Also – make sure that you are using the key provided to pick an exercise that is right for you. You should be able to perform the exercise you choose confidently and within the RPE for the prescribed set and rep range. If you need help choosing your exercises, please ask a trainer for help.

What Can You Expect?

Now that you have your weeks laid out and now how to work with the program, let’s talk about some intricacies. Writing a fitness plan for thousands of people is daunting. How do we fit it all appropriately for the individual’s skill sets and goals?

Well, it’s pretty simple if you let it be. This program will be designed for targeting general fitness. It will help you get stronger, lose some body fat, become more resilient, and improve your cardiovascular health. Yes, it really can do all of that!

Skill levels will be addressed with exercise and RPE selections. Do what’s appropriate for you! More and more difficult is not better, what is appropriate to you and what you feel confident doing is better. Working outside of your skill set isn’t going to get you to your goals faster, it’s just going to increase the risk of injury and most likely burn you out more quickly. We’re in this for the long game here. Consistency trumps intensity!

Taking It a Step Further

If you are curious to learn more about the exercises in this program or want to gain a better understanding of it, feel free to strike up a conversation with one of FFC’s trainers. We want you to succeed and get the most out of this offering! Professional guidance is never a bad idea when you are working toward a healthier you.

We hope that this helps get you started on your journey. Questions will come up and that’s ok, just contact a trainer at your club and they will be happy to help you at any point. We are very excited about this opportunity to expand our service to you and the quality and value it will add to your fitness journey!

Post written by FFC Oak Park Fitness Director Mike Connelly.

Check out the move of the month – the kettlebell swing!

Pressed for time? Many of us struggle to fit exercise into our already busy days. Additionally, many of us think that a workout needs to be be at least 45 minutes to count. Throw that thought out the window and get your fitness in 30 minutes or less while competing against the clock! (Compound body moves, like these, also help to make your workout more efficient). Try this quick lower body workout to work your legs to the max – minimal equipment needed!

Equipment needed: Medium weight dumbbells, a mat and a body bar (for balance).

Set up your equipment and start your clock. See how many times you can get through your circuit, and challenge yourself to improve your total rounds performed on the next attempt. (And be sure that form is always your top priority)!

Warm Up

Warm up with one round of the following (30 seconds each):

  • Jogging in place
  • Alternating body weight lunges
  • Jumping jacks
  • Body weight squats

Lower Body Workout Challenge

Choose five of the following moves to rotate as many times as you can in 25 minutes.

Weighted Walking Lunges (10 reps per leg)

Walking lunge lower body workout

Walk through the lunge instead of stepping your feet back together. Make it more difficult with a dumbbell in each hand. (Perform a basic lunge if space is an issue).

Dumbbell Deadlifts (15 reps)

Dumbbell deadlift lower body workout

Start standing straight, then bend, keeping your shins vertical and your back straight, hinging just at the hips. Return to standing for one rep.

Jumping Lunges (30 seconds)

Jumping lunge lower body workout

Start in a lunge, then swing your arms to help propel yourself off the ground as you switch legs midair, landing on the opposite leg.

Ice Skaters (30 seconds)

Ice skater 1 lower body workout  Ice skater 2 lower body workout  Ice skater 3 lower body workout

Leap to your right and tap your left foot behind you, then leap to the left. For added difficulty during this lower body workout, tap your hand to the ground or keep your back leg elevated for a count before leaping to the other side.

Related: try this workout, then

Lateral Squats (10 reps per leg)

Lateral squats lower body workout

Perform a squat, step your left leg in so your feet are together, then step your right leg out to perform another squat. Repeat side to side. Make it more difficult by holding a weight in front of you.

 

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Single-leg Romanian Deadlifts with Knee Raise (15 reps)

Romanian deadlift 3  Romainian deadlift 2 lower body workout

Romanian deadlift 1 lower body workout  Romanian deadlift 4 lower body workout

Hinge at your hips, keeping your body in as straight a line as you can (grab a body bar if you need help balancing).

Jumping Squats (30 seconds)

Jumping squats lower body workout

Perform a squat, then leap straight into the air, landing softly back into a squat.

Lunge Hops (30 seconds)

Lunge hops lower body workout

Perform a lunge, then leap straight into the air without switching legs, landing softly back into your lunge. Switch legs after 15 seconds.

Cool Down

Cool down with one round of the following:

Standing Quad Stretches (30 seconds per leg)

Standing quad stretch lower body workout

Grab your body bar or the wall for balance, gently pull your knee into your backside until you feel a stretch in the front part of your leg.

Low Lunges (30 seconds per leg)

Low lunges lower body workout

You can use your dumbbells if you can’t reach the ground.

Downward Facing Dog (30 seconds)

Downward dog lower body workout

Try to keep your back and legs straight as you lean your chest down for this hamstring and shoulder stretch.

Post written by an FFC contributor.

 

A classically trained musician since age four, FFC member Kelly Richards can’t recall life without rhythm and melody. Throughout college and corporate life, music remained a focus as she kept close watch over the evolving scenes of favorite genres – and eventually found her way to digital music. Now, she spends her days in a corporate position, but the rest of her waking hours as DJ and producer, Hummingbird. Based in Chicago, she’s opened for tons of well-known artists and played numerous clubs and music festivals – locally and all over the world. Here, she’ll discuss how you can get better results with workout music and then share her favorite songs to help you kick start your workout.

The Why

Music possesses undeniable power.  It can impact our emotional state, lead us to lose our inhibitions, give us goosebumps, put us at ease, create tension – even make us smarter.  It can also help us work out longer, harder and more effectively.

Music has the remarkable ability to improve focus. One obvious way it does this is by minimizing distractions, but there are additional factors in play. The repeated sound patterns in virtually every style of music trigger certain parts of the brain’s frontal lobe – the part responsible for abstract thought, planning and analysis. If you’ve ever put on headphones because you needed to buckle down and knock out a tough project asap, this is what helped you sprint to the finish line.

Related: speaking of better results – are you trying to burn fat? Forget the cardio – pick up heavier weights!

When focused, you’re inevitably working at the highest end of your performance spectrum. Research shows this also benefits our workouts by improving our ability to analyze form and technique and make subtle yet very effective tweaks that really hone in on specific muscles.

Certain styles of music are better at this than others. Music with just a few repeated vocal samples or without lyrics altogether seems to be the most effective at increasing focus. This is likely due to how our brains are hardwired for language interpretation. When we hear words that become sentences and ultimately tell a story, we can’t help but get absorbed by it.

Sometimes this happens subconsciously, but more often than not it registers front and center, pulling us away from whatever we were previously focused on. No matter how good you think you are at multitasking, our brains are only capable of thinking one thought at a time. So if you’re at the gym and your thoughts aren’t on your workout, you’re not getting the most from your efforts.

Related: try FFC for free! Click here to get started.

The How

How workout music gets you fitter, fasterWhile classical and ambient music genres are logical options for work and study, when it comes to workout music, it’s house, techno and electronica that steal the show (and I promise I’m not just saying that because I’m a DJ!)

To get better results with workout music, you can check out a few mixes from me (Hummingbird) and my frequent musical partner in crime RJ Pickens to keep you energized and focused at the gym – and beyond.

 

 

Post written by FFC contributor Kelly Richards. 

About Kelly, AKA DJ Hummingbird

DJ Hummingbird aka Kelly RichardsFollow along and stay updated on new music by following her on social:

Facebook | SoundCloud | Instagram | Twitter

If you like what you hear, and are interested in seeing Hummingbird and RJ live, keep an eye on Hummingbird’s Facebook page for password details to allow you free or reduced price entry to upcoming shows!

 

So you’ve conquered all of the other races – 5K, 10K, half-marathon… now, it’s time for the big show: your very first marathon! First, congratulations on making the plunge into one of the most difficult and rewarding achievements for any athlete. Read on for our top 5 training tips for you as a first-time marathon runner!

After the feelings of registration elation subside, you need to make a plan. As a first-time marathon runner, you’ll need to train harder, and most of all, smarter than you ever have in your life. You can’t roll out of bed and knock out a marathon (like you did with that fun run.)  A marathon is all business.

Finally, make sure to tell your family and friends about your new goal. The marathon officially becomes a reality when you tell people, due to two things:

  1. Telling others holds you accountable for completing your marathon journey
  2. You will receive instant support which will motivate you

Read on for some other top tips that will help you as a first-time marathon runner!

Set a goal.

Simply having the goal of “just finish” is a bit broad and could lead to a training regimen that lacks focus. For instance, if you’re hoping to finish the marathon in under 4 or 5 hours, you might need a specific training program (or partner program with a charity, like Team Bright Pink with FFC Endurance) to help make that happen.

Develop a training schedule.

This is critical for preparing your body for the rigors of a 26.2 mile race. You want to make sure you don’t add too many miles too quickly, or else your body won’t properly progress. Start training for a marathon at least 5 months prior to the race and gradually increase your miles every week. You can find a variety of solid training plans online or by speaking to a running coach/club.

Related: don’t forget recovery!! Here are some tips on foam rolling & why you need it.

Mix it up.

Marathon training doesn’t have to exclusively be about the running. Most trainers encourage including a combination of cross-training and strength training to your schedule a few days a week. Rowing and swimming are two good aerobic conditioning exercises. Hitting the weight room or doing yoga once or twice a week will strengthen your muscles and help you in the long run.

Rest.

Training for a marathon is… well… a marathon – not a sprint. As a first-time marathon runner, you definitely, 100% need to rest properly during your training. You’ll need to accept that you’ll have some bad runs and that’s probably because you are very sore. If that happens, take a day off. Maybe even two days. Always allow at least one day per week where you don’t train at all. If you’re having a hard week physically, take two days off. Your body will thank you.

Simulate the marathon ahead of time.

This is where some solid research ahead of time will make you more comfortable during the race on the big day. Become familiar with the route of the course. Maybe there are a few sections of the course that have hills. You’ll want to mentally prepare for those sections of the race so they don’t cause you any stress during the race.

Have a favorite race tip we forgot? Share it with us in the comments!