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.

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.

Related: is your FitBit slowing down your progress? You might need to up your game with a MYZONE heart rate monitor. Read this hilarious breakup letter between trainer Marylou and her FitBit.

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!

 

 

 

 

 

Try HIIT at FFC

“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!

As an operations consultant, I provide information to my clients about doing things faster, more efficiently with less wasted time or money and repeatedly. If you are in business and want to grow, you really want to establish the least costly methods early on and then scale up as you expand. The same principles are applied to race car driving pits, when every second counts. When tires need to be changed during a race, every move is scripted and efficient with no loss of time or movement. This is how the pit crew assures that not only are the new tires installed correctly, but the minimum loss of time occurs for the change. As a triathlete, I have applied my profession and expertise in efficiency to races in order to perfect and reduce time for more efficient triathlon transitions.

These days, my transitions are slow only if I decide I’m not worried about the time and am using my race for training instead of competing. On racing days, however, I apply all my planning and motion analysis skills to reduce the time for each transition to optimize for my best times on the courses.

What You’ll Get Out of This Post

In this post, you will learn how to achieve good triathlon transitions no matter what equipment you feel you must have for each leg of the race. Additionally, at the end of this blog you will find a list of items you may want for your transitions- both my personal list of essentials, as well as a list of extras.

I don’t recommend using every item, but it’s a comprehensive list so you can consider what items you need versus want (a very important consideration!) At the top of the list you’ll find what is essential and what you absolutely must have to start.

Under that, you’ll find a second list of extra equipment. This will allow you to practice your timing with only what is needed to get your baseline down. That way you can factor in additional seconds or even minutes to your transition based on every item you add.

The Bare Essentials

Transition 1(T1): Swim to Bike

Take off wetsuit, goggles and cap, put on biking shoes, helmet and sunglasses.

This is really all you need to ride your bike. Protection for your eyes, head and feet. How fast can you get these things on? Start by timing yourself as you put each item on. What motions are wasted? Does it help to have your helmet on the handlebars with your sunglasses inside? I say yes because I put my sunglasses on first, then my helmet and snap it over the earpieces. Shoes go on next and I’m off.

Can you get this to 30 seconds or less?

Transition 2 (T2): Bike to Run

Take off biking shoes and helmet, put on running shoes, bib and cap.

This is really all you need to run if you use nutrition on the course. Can you save time by wearing your bib on the bike? You can, but only if you pin it on before the swim. If you use a race belt, you can put that inside your cap and put both on as you run out of T2 to save time.

Can you get this to 30 seconds or less?

Arrangements: put stuff in the order you will need it.

There is a factory system called 5S. It basically means “everything has a place, and everything should be in its place” Thus, it makes sense to put things in the order you will need them and then return them there when you get back. Minimalism helps a great deal here. I use the following arrangement:

  • I put down a towel or my mini Tatami mat and put my bike shoes in front with sunscreen and nutrition inside.
  • My bike helmet and sunglasses are on the handlebars.
  • On the mat, behind my bike shoes, are my running shoes, extra water bottle, and my race belt stuck inside my cap in one shoe.
  • I use my sunscreen pre-bike and put it into the open running shoe as a reminder to use it again pre-run.
  • I always throw my goggles and cap into the bag and hang my wetsuit next to my bike on the rack during the race.

Travel Time: plan, plan, plan.

As you plan your transition, consider how far you must travel from the swim to T1, from the biking dismount to T2 and the distances out of both. These can result in minutes. Some swim outs to T2 are nearly .25 miles long and your running speed is a factor. Plan for this time so you don’t get flustered if you see you are taking longer than expected.

Related: click here to try TriMonster! Sign up for a free visit & more info.

The Extra Stuff

Now that you’ve got the basic necessities down, you can start to factor in some extra equipment and how you might arrange it for the most efficient usage during your triathlon transitions.

Transition 1 Extras: bike socks, sunscreen, nutrition, water to wash your feet, towel to dry feet, other misc.

If you are a person who must have socks, you may need to wash your feet and dry them to get your socks on quickly. Once you have mastered the essentials of T1, add the socks and practice. Ask yourself, is it more efficient to put your socks in your shoes pre-rolled or are you better off if you put both socks on first then both shoes?

Place items you need in order on your mat and practice each in order to see what works. Normally it is better to do the same motion twice rather than changing motions, e.g. put both socks on first then both shoes so that you do one motion twice. However, you may find your mind works better with a sock-shoe-sock-shoe order.

If you did not put sunscreen on pre-swim, you will want to put some on now. Some races have sunscreen volunteers but personally I prefer the spray on stuff because I make sure to get my ears, that “tramp stamp” area and my shoulders and nose. Plan your method and stick to it.

Finally, you may want to start your nutrition in transition. I use a Gu packet pre-opened and just stick it in my mouth as I put on my shoes and helmet. I can suck on it in small doses as I’m getting all my stuff on.

Transition 2: running socks, sunscreen, nutrition, water belt/bottle, towel, other misc.

Same thing here – when you run into transition, you may want to dry your feet and put on dry socks. Personally, I don’t use socks ever, but I know many who must have them. Once again, plan your order and practice it. If you like to carry water, you only need your bib on the run (usually), so you might have a water belt that has the bib on it. Put this on as you run out of transition. Maybe reapply sunscreen to make sure you don’t get burnt shoulders or a burnt nose on the run.

Related: anyone can be a triathlete! Check out this amazing story of how member Maria finished her first triathlon at 70!

Getting in and out: visualize it.

Before the race begins, practice your swim transition by “walking in” from the swim and looking for milestones to remember so you can find your bike and transition area quickly. Visualize yourself running in, tired and excited, past others ahead of you to your spot. Imagine how you will take off your cap and goggles on the run in, when you will remove your wetsuit and how you will put on your bike attire. See yourself doing this calmly, yet fast and efficiently.

Then, walk to bike out. Walk to bike in and back to your transition area, again looking for milestones or landmarks that will help you find your spot quickly. Visualize yourself jogging with your bike to your spot quickly and efficiently, staging your bike (“Will you hook with handlebars or seat? Did you come in on the right side to do that?) and removing your bike attire, calmly and quickly putting on your running gear. Walk to run out. Plan the route you will use to avoid those coming in with their bikes and those still leaving with their bikes. Find a wide row that will allow passing.

Cleaning up and keeping all your stuff.

If you are efficient with your gear up process, you will also have time to put your things into your bag as you remove them, or stack them neatly on the towel. I use my wetsuit as a locator for bike in. I remove it, hang it over my bike slot on the rack and when I return I look for it to find my rack slot.

Putting your goggles and cap into your bag can be done quickly if you plan for it in your practice and will keep your things near you as others jostle their bikes around. I’ve seen many lost goggles, wetsuits and other gear in transitions. I tend to finish later than many younger racers and could probably make a few bucks on the items that remain behind! You will be tired when you return. Having stuff neatly stacked or already in your bag makes it easy to NOT forget stuff and a relief for tired legs and back.

Bonus Tips

Remember, any time you spend in transition is part of your race time. Aim for 3 minutes for your triathlon transitions, including travel time. The pros often have VIP locations and can do transitions in less than a minute. If you can get down to 2 minutes, you are doing great. This means you are taking little time to chat, think about options or anything else but just executing your plan.

After the swim and bike, I will often sit to put on my shoes to avoid dizziness due to bending over. This actually seems to improve my transition times because I’m not stumbling around trying to put my shoes on one-legged. I’ve eliminated a lot of extras and “just in case” extras – leaving only what I really need:

Bandaids are in my bike bento box and my running belt. I do carry aspirin but only in case of dire emergency. All nutrition and water is on my bike pre-race, ready to head out. My Garmin is set to multisport and I hit the lap button at the bike mount and dismount and swim in and run out, to capture all transition times. If I forget, I hit it when I remember. The race will have your official times but it’s good to know during the race how well you executed this part of your plan.

My one final piece of advice: plan your transition and transition according to your plan.

Post written by FFC Oak Park Endurance Coach Terri Friel.

About Terri

Terri Friel is an experienced endurance coach at FFC Oak Park. Have questions, want to better your race times or even try an endurance event for the first time? Email Terri at tfriel@ffc.com!