When FFC asked me to write a blog for the website my first reaction was, “It’s me, Pete. You got the wrong guy!” When they asked again, I said, “When did you get a liquor license… because you must be drunk!” I finally agreed to do this because I wanted to share with everyone the secrets to success. Yep, they’re all right here for you to grab and use.

The question we ALL need to ask ourselves is, “What is MY why?” What motivates me? Find your “WHY” and run with it. I like BEER, so I work out. Thanks. The end.

(What? I need to type more? Really? Damn it. Ok.)

4 Secrets to Success by Pete McMurray1. SCHEDULE your workouts.

I’m just like you: It’s a struggle to work out some days. I have a kid. Both my wife and I work. We have a dog. I work a few jobs. I volunteer. I coach. It’s nuts. But, we ALL juggle life. Get over it. Think about the most successful things you’ve done in life. Sports, work, volunteering – they ALL have one thing in common; they have a schedule.

You don’t randomly show up for work whenever you want. You don’t randomly show up for a game whenever you want. Make a SCHEDULE and stick to it. Work out at the same time weekly. If someone said, “Hey, if you work out the same time every week for a month, I’ll give you a million dollars.” Could you? Yep, you could. So, do it! Schedule, schedule, schedule.

2. Have a PLAN.

What do you like to do? You hate spinning, but love floor work? Great – do floor work.
Love the elliptical, but hate Jacobs Ladder? Great – do the elliptical. When you go to the club, have a PLAN and know EXACTLY what you’re going to do. DON’T waste your time (you’re busy, remember).

I take classes – Austin or DC’s spinning class, Tread Express or (I ABSOLUTELY HATE) Lois’ Saturday Formula 94 class. It’s 94 degrees, you hold dumbbells in your hands & move your body for 45 minutes – what’s fun about that? The END of the class, that’s what. I try and do it every Saturday morning. Why? Because Lois and the people make it fun. When I’m done I feel like a million dollars (she is the best and her 80’s & 90’s playlist rocks!).

Related: failure to plan is planning to fail. Check out this post on how to set smart, actionable goals – even BEFORE 2019 starts so you can get ahead!

3. Find your WHY.

Bear with me on this, because I’m going deep here. I come from a family of 12 kids (I’m #6). High cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease runs in my family. As for my immediate family? My dad died of liver cancer, my sister Mary is a breast cancer survivor, my brother Jonny is a prostate cancer survivor and my brother Mark is a kidney cancer survivor. Yep, cancer runs in my family. I have a beautiful wife, wonderful son and a pooch. I love traveling, having beers with friends and living life to the fullest. THIS is my WHY.

Pete McMurray with fellow member Linda at FFC4. Radar UP – #PEAKSTATE

I try to say hello to a lot of people when I get to the club. I’ve found that if you say, “Good morning! What’s your name?” People will tell you. I have met so many people just by saying hello. Linda is one of my faves. Linda turned me on to Formula 94 class, Chisel class and knows everyone in the club. My guys, like Richard lifting weights, Dan the Monday & Wednesday workout guy, MAT specialist Bill Busch (usually giving me a motivational speech), Ainsley running like crazy on the treadmill, big Kirby, Ari, Greg, the trainer talking sports or club general manager Bob taking turns with me on Jacobs Ladder.

LIFT your head, turn your RADAR on and say hello to people. When the radar is up, life happens. We call that #PEAKSTATE

Putting it all together.

Do you think running is fun? Lifting weights on a rainy Monday at 8 AM enjoyable? No, but we work out because we feel so much better… AND WE WANT TO BE HEALTHY. I keep motivational quotes in my phone because I’m a nut bag. Let me leave you with this:

“Life has no remote. Get UP and change it yourself.”

About Pete

Pete McMurray can be heard as a host on the radio on WGN Radio 720 AM, seen on television on “Fox Kickoff Sunday” Fox 32 and usually seen at FFC Lincoln Park. You can follow along with him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at @petemcmurray. #PEAKSTATE

 

Pete McMurray and Lois at Formula 94 heated group exercise class FFC in Chicago

 

 

 

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My name is John Jaramillo, and I finished the 2018 Chicago Marathon. In other words, I did something that I once deemed impossible to ever accomplish. Let me give you some context around the lack of believability in that endeavor: I grew up the oldest of five children raised by a single mother in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood. Exercise and eating healthy were certainly not aspects of focus. Most days it was mere survival.

Some months my mom had to choose between paying the rent and buying groceries, so it didn’t matter what was on the table or in the fridge; most times it was the food that was the most affordable and had the longevity to last more than one day in an environment of five hungry kids. Chips and brownies were prevalent; frozen pizza was a constant.

Growing up - how FFC helped member John finish the Chicago MarathonThe frozen food aisle, not the fresh produce section, was the most visited part of the grocery store. Eating out also became a regular venture as we got older; a couple of jumbo pizzas or trips to got us through when we didn’t know the next time we’d eat. When we did have groceries, our mom made some favorites: tacos, pierogis, tamales, kugela or dishes that warranted seconds. Or, in my case, thirds. Again, uncertainty over the next meal called for padding the plate while I could.

Being a Chicago Public Schools student also didn’t equate to access to the most nutritious meals (at least not in the late ‘80s through the ‘90s). I remember the prepackaged donuts offered at school breakfast that were touted as nutritious. Even the simplest and most basic need was often ignored for filler. Soda was a favorite in our household, and it was more natural for us to go through a few three-liter bottles of RC Cola than remember to hydrate with water.

Exercise? That was usually the walk to school and back. But, with the Bulls in their dynasty years and the Bears garnering significant interest during my youth, I participated more and more in pickup basketball and street football games.

However, most of my prolonged physical activity occurred running from manhole cover to manhole cover, aka the designated end zone lines, to catch passes while dodging parked cars and oncoming traffic. That running was rare, as I preferred catching the shorter passes, requiring a short little “sprint” (or whatever that was called when I attempted it). It was no wonder I was 200 pounds, without the height to carry such weight, in the middle of my teenage years.

Continuing into College

This context carried into my college days. While I gained more interest in walking in order to get around Champaign-Urbana with no car at my disposal, I still didn’t have the most nutritious diet. Pizza and burgers were a constant. My eating got a little better as I took more of an interest in weight training as a junior and senior, but I still had the mindset that cheaper food = a more convenient choice. Cooking beyond pushing buttons on a microwave was still a mystery to me.

Those aspects remained status quo post-college, as my seemingly non-stop work schedule in a college athletic department made me think that I had limited time to work out and eat nutritious meals. Free pizza at basketball games? Count me in. All the weight I lost in college, almost 50 pounds or so, was gained right back. While the weight gain affected my confidence, it was not my biggest concern, as I tried to make an impression with my work ethic and move up the ranks.

Before the change - how FFC helped member John finish the Chicago MarathonCatastrophe to Change

Then something catastrophic happened. One day I arrived home and my mom was not feeling very well. She refused to see a doctor, which was another stubborn trait we all had, and tried to rest off the discomfort. Later that night she stood up and fell to the ground, convulsing right in front of me and my three brothers. I frantically called 911, and paramedics arrived and attempted to resuscitate her as we all stood feeling so helpless.

Our mother suffered a massive heart attack that night, an event that caused her to lay in a coma for more than two weeks before she passed away. I saw her every day during those excruciating weeks, wondering how life changed so suddenly, so brutally. Our mom constantly made difficult choices, like either having to pay rent or feed her kids, at the detriment of her own health.

The context of poor eating continued even after we lost our mom. I was 25 years old, still tentative when turning on a stove. The easier route remained to eat out. Managing everything in the aftermath of that loss felt like another full-time job, so the easier route for eating was traveled with frequency.

Things started to change about a year after our devastating loss. I felt more cognizant of my body and when things felt off, especially with my chest, I didn’t take any chances. I scheduled doctor appointments regularly, especially due to pain. High cholesterol and another internal issue were discovered.

Taking the First Steps to Exercise

My first step toward feeling better was exercise. I became interested in running and started to try out various distances, from 5Ks to the Soldier Field 10 Mile. Friends who shared a similar interest in running would sign up for races, and I would do the same with their encouragement. Running was easy; just put one foot in front of the other. It even helped burn off some of the pizza in my regular meal rotation. I even completed a few half marathons, swearing that was the longest distance I would ever run. A person of my build, with my diet, could never do anything longer than that, I thought.

I moved to Oak Park in 2012, around the time of my running rut. I had been running races during the previous four years, and it became clear that I was not getting any faster or feeling any better as a result of all that running. After researching nearby gyms and hearing from two friends about the FFC on Lake Street, I signed up and gave it a try. I was even given four free personal training sessions with the trainer my friends had seen and highly recommended: Steve Malok.

My first session with Steve was memorable in that I couldn’t finish it. I was huffing and puffing, unable to continue. It was pretty embarrassing for me, yet Steve was calm and understanding. He did not make me feel like I was a failure, even though I felt like it. I had been running all these years and completed a few lifting plans torn from the pages of Muscle and Fitness before; how could I not get through this?

I still had the three more sessions. Steve was willing to keep working with me. I was willing to keep working with him and unwilling to accept that the first session defined my fitness. The next three sessions went well, and Steve asked if I wanted to continue working with him. It was a big decision as, going forward, those were not free sessions. It’s the decision every human being has to make in different ways: do I invest in myself?

Related: do the things you thought you couldn’t. How TriMonster helped 70-years-young Maria finish her first triathlon.

A Valuable Investment

Running the marathon - how FFC helped member John finish the Chicago MarathonI decided this was an investment in myself, and I was not happy with where I was at physically, and I needed guidance to get me to a place where I wanted to be happy with my physical appearance and feeling. At the very least, I wanted to be happy with my effort to change my physical appearance and feeling.

So I started working with Steve once a week. That was all I did at first, and he recommended that I maximize our sessions and my membership by coming in a few times each week. He took time to construct plans, (even when he didn’t have to do it), and showed me how to perform movements on my own. Even though my work schedule was volatile, I made it my mission to maximize my sessions with Steve, my membership at FFC, and my time on this planet by coming in as much as possible. Regular gym visits became much easier to do by learning from Steve and being confident in my ability to do the exercises and proper movements.

I still ate poorly. I remember a Monday morning session with Steve after I had worked all day on Sunday, and he asked me what I ate after work. I slyly said chicken. He asked about the type of chicken dish I had, and of course I had not initially mentioned it was a fried chicken sandwich I picked up from Sonic. I didn’t even bring up the tater tots.

That moment caused me to rethink my eating habits and the barriers to healthier consumption. I knew I needed help and needed to invest in myself when it came to nutrition too. I finally mustered up the courage to ask for that help when I saw Amy Silver last summer. Steve had highly recommended Amy; and she was kind and nonjudgmental from the start.

You Can’t Out-Exercise a Poor Diet

Amy’s advice and information opened my eyes to a much healthier eating approach. I ignored nutrients beyond multivitamin pills. I never cared about the amount of sugar listed on a nutrition label or how I fueled myself before and after workouts. She taught me to think outside of the box (of cookies) and plan out my meals. Just like Steve taught me how to plan out workouts and stay consistent with exercise, Amy helped me evade my usual bag of excuses by providing critical tips on meal preparation, planning and, most importantly, the content of those foods.

I became aware of my ideal calorie intake and more interested in making my own meals. Years of hesitancy over cooking fish became a distant memory as I followed Amy’s initial plan by the letter and stepped out of my comfort zone to cook and eat foods that were foreign to my diet but, eventually, became regular staples. I have lost around 30 pounds and about seven percentage points of body fat since I started the Nutrition Solutions program with Amy. I felt stronger in my workouts and even felt proud with the resulting need to buy pants since I needed a much smaller waist size.

Now, to that marathon thing I mentioned at the start. For a long time, I never believed I would run a marathon. Too daunting. Too long to run. Too much time commitment. I couldn’t possibly run one in a decent time after all of those years of not taking care of myself. There was curiosity in the possibility as I started to run half marathons, but it still seemed unlikely.

Then last year happened.

I attended the Chicago Marathon expo and the atmosphere immersed me in the possibility. I cheered on runners at the 2017 Chicago Marathon and felt the energy all around. I watched Shalane Flanagan win the NYC Marathon and Meb Keflezighi finish his final marathon at that same race. The 26.2 elixir was swishing in my brain.

So I signed up for two race lotteries: the NYC Half and the Chicago Marathon. I ran the NYC Half in 2016, so I thought it would be cool to run it again. I figured that, if I didn’t get into Chicago, I had another race to train for and it would be a sign that I wasn’t meant to run a marathon.

I didn’t get into the NYC Half. I got into the Chicago Marathon. I was shocked, and I was ready to get ready for the biggest physical challenge of my life.

Marathon-Ready

During the race - how FFC helped member John finish the Chicago MarathonSteve and Amy could not have been more supportive. They helped me adjust my training and my nutritional intake to support my new endeavor. I stayed consistent with strength training and mixed in three runs a week, including my weekend long run, in addition to three strength workouts. I upped my calorie and carb intake appropriately. I even completed an RMR test with Amy and a VO2 Max test with Chris Navin, who was quite helpful with his explanation of my test results and providing his own marathon experience and tips.

Rain or shine, I ran. I lifted. I moved around. I ate. I made it all work for me, and I felt like I had a supportive team of experts helping me along the way. The support of the friendly FFC Oak Park staff and fellow members got me through the rigors of the training. From excellent conversations to just a simple “hello” or fist bump after running 18 miles on a hot day, so many people felt like a positive part of my marathon training experience.

Then race day came, and it all came together. I thought of all the support I was lucky to have along the way. The advice I took in. The positivity I experienced. The strength I felt. The fuel I knew I had. Throughout the race I remembered my mom, and how she made things work for her children even in very adverse conditions, and how running this race was a privilege and not even comparable to such difficulties. I felt lucky to feel healthy and in this position as I waited in Corral G. After a brief bout of anxiety as Wave 2 started to cross the starting line, I calmed myself and told myself this should be fun and all of my preparation would make this a piece of cake (not literally, Amy! I swear!).

Running 26.2 miles through the city for the Chicago Marathon was one of the best experiences of my life. I felt surrounded by support, people I knew, people I didn’t know but felt a connection to just by merely being on the same course. I felt this day as a culmination of effort, planning, and changes for the good of my life. I know marathon running can be cruel, but on October 7, 2018, it gave me one of the greatest feelings of my life. I wish I could bottle that feeling up and share it with you.

My goal was to finish in four hours or less, and with a mile left to go, I looked at my watch. I knew that, barring an unexpected hindrance, I was going to be within range of my goal. I pushed through, knowing I had slowed a bit but feeling invigorated that the finish line was near. I stayed steady on “Mt. Roosevelt”, that hill going east on Roosevelt Road that I had run so many times by sidewalk, and to my delight, saw the “400 Meters Left” sign.

Finishing the 2018 Chicago Marathon

I finished the 2018 Chicago Marathon in 3:55.46. After going through a running rut six years ago that brought me down, I felt a sensational high I’d never felt before after crossing that finish line. I knew I would never win this race (congrats, Sir Mo), yet I felt victorious.

I did something that I once deemed impossible for me to ever accomplish. Thanks to the help of multiple people, with special mentions to Steve Malok and Amy Silver, it eventually felt very possible. Now the next challenge awaits, and I can’t wait to make the impossible possible again.

Post written by FFC Oak Park member John Jaramillo. 

Finishing the Chicago Marathon - FFC Oak Park Member John

 

 

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I’ve been overweight all my life, since I was a little kid in kindergarten. I was always getting picked on and seen as an outcast – all the way to high school. I always kept telling myself that things would get better, that I wouldn’t look like this, that I would be happy one day.

I don’t think there was ever a period in my life where I was consistently happy, due to me always self-sabotaging myself, believing I could never do better than what people labeled me as. I would always be furious or depressed at myself and at the people around me. Because I held onto so much negativity, I felt like I was a toxic person. There were times where I would be mean to people – even to ones who didn’t deserve it – and wouldn’t put in the effort to connect with strangers.

Related: how FFC member Lou accomplished his fitness transformation.

I remember numerous times where I would work out to exhaustion to look different, to try to force change. It didn’t matter how much I sweat, if I didn’t see immediate change, I would always relapse. I avoided lifting weights and would only focus on cardio. There were times where I believed I was destined never to be different – even when I felt like I was doing all I could. At some points during my former airport job, pushing wheelchairs, I walk walking 10 miles a day – but still would not lose a pound. People would say “you can’t out-train a bad diet” – but I didn’t care to listen and kept looking for shortcuts. I signed up with FFC with hopes of detoxing my body, but I still didn’t fully change my lifestyle, as I was afraid to get out of my comfort zone.

I decided to visit Turkey last year, in August, to celebrate my 22nd birthday because I wanted to do something different and I couldn’t think of a better way than to see and get to know an amazing country. When I arrived, I was stunned by how beautiful and interesting Turkey was. The people were the definition of generous and caring, and I never felt intimidated or worried – it was like a home away from home.

During my stay, I changed my behavior because I didn’t want to look bad or give a bad representation of Americans. I slowed down my chewing (as I barely chew my food at home) and was surprised at how quickly I was full, despite eating significantly less than what I ate back home. I also started to eat healthier, as I wanted to try new things (the food was delicious) and consistently did it for two weeks. I ate boiled eggs, pita, Turkish rice, all with the best tea in the world. I was glad I had completed training sessions with my trainer, Jose, who helped me prepare for my trip and the hot weather and terrain of Turkey; I was afraid of having of no energy to explore and get to know the amazing country. I met Turkish scuba divers who motivated me to always see the bright side of life – as they knew I was still carrying a lot of pain in my heart. They showed me the beauty of their land with their talented scuba diving crew.

FFC South Loop member stories Oscar's weight loss transformation

I found out how abundant peace and love is with the Turkish people; everywhere I went, people offered me gifts and greetings – and I felt closer to humanity. I weighed myself at the end of my visit at a clinic and was surprised to find I had lost 5 pounds in only two weeks. The doctor told me something I had heard my whole life but never listened to; one of the basic rules of healthy living is to chew more. I realized if I could manage two weeks of healthy choices, I could survive a longer period, and I was determined to try out my new lifestyle.

My time with Turkey was an educational experience – I got to see an amazing country with a unique history and meet people with hearts of gold. Traveling motivated me to become a better person and try new things to enjoy more of life. I owe Turkey and her people everything for helping me kick start my journey to become a better person. Turkey is the brightest, most beautiful and social country I have ever seen – and deserves the best out of me.

When I came back, I implemented what I had learned from my trip and started listening to my body more. I reduced my food portions and compensated by chewing more thoroughly at a slower pace. I also began to take notice of what I was eating much more seriously; every day was a new day full of research as I considered serving sizes, calories, sugar, etc. My diet changed completely. Then, out of nowhere, I was losing pounds around the clock. I would feel weird, like I was in the wrong body. I would sometimes wonder what was going on, what was happening to me. I had never lost weight before, so the experience was exciting, but a scary ride.

Each day working at the airport was progress in the making; I felt like the miles I walked pushing wheelchairs were contributing to my health. There were days where the fat in my neck and face felt like it was being shaved off as easily as butter. There were even times where I would smile spontaneously, because I was genuinely happy, even if just for the moment. I felt like I was going through a metamorphosis and there was no going back. I had co-workers telling me as I passed by them that I was losing weight. My pants were baggier, my infamous “man-boobs” were shrinking, etc. To finally get to hear those things I had wanted to hear all my life just blew me up.

My shirt size finally decreased from the double XL range down to the normal-sized L. All I had to do to finally burn the fat off was make gradual changes and stay committed to it – something so simple, yet something I had refused to do all these years. I will never forget those first two months of change – every day was a ride full of adrenaline.

There were times when I wanted to quit my new lifestyle, but became more motivated to change after my dog Daisy passed away in November of last year, due to advanced heart disease. My family, best friend and angel from childhood was gone – I wouldn’t get to show her how I looked or would look when I reached a range healthy for my body. I intend to make sure I keep evolving as I promised and become the person she always saw me as – a strong protector. It was time to get out of the prison I’d made for myself and connect more with the world; I was tired of being angry and depressed. It was time to be alive and become the best I could be for others and myself.

I took my time with FFC more seriously, by showing more up consistently and training myself to become better than what I was. Now, every time I enter the gym, I set my mindset to let loose and see my potential. I have started to come out of my shell and lift more, in addition to taking classes, which has helped me expand my horizons. I have noticed that my performance has been getting better and that I have more energy – and that is something I can be proud of; what I have been dreaming about all my life is finally becoming a reality. I now have a chance to break the chains I put on myself for all these years and strive for the happiness I denied myself.

Related: how training helped FFC member Jonathan make it to the AHL.

Member Stories - How Travel Inspired Me To Change My Diet, Make a Lifestyle Change and Lose Over 10% Body FatOne of my trainers always told me, “Take control of your life.” and that is something I go by every day, because I am tired of being on the sidelines, watching life slip by. It’s time to write my own story and start living. I’m not close to my target, but having come this far brings out the part of me that wants to keep fighting. I owe thanks to the entire staff at FFC South Loop for helping me on my journey to transform – especially Marcus, Sherry, Charles, Martin, Leroy, Chris and Jose, for never giving up on me and becoming a second family.

Post written by FFC South Loop member Oscar Florentino.

 

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My friends and coworkers often ask me about weekly meal prep. I am very passionate about healthy eating. In multiple conversations with friends and coworkers, I have noticed most people want to do it, but find it difficult to justify the time and question the cost savings. As someone who has prepped meals for years, I am a firm believer that it saves time, money, and provides many health benefits.

Here are the common questions people ask me about meal prep:

  • What do you make during meal prep?
  • How long does it take to cook?
  • Does your food taste good at the end of the week?
  • Is it cheaper than eating out?

As a member of corporate America, I find myself constantly influenced by the dark side of donuts, candy, and/or some sort of processed food. In the beautiful city of Chicago, it’s even more difficult, having restaurant upon restaurant within blocks of my apartment calling my name with cuisine from around the world. I believe that life is short and you should enable your body to experience these great restaurants.

Notice that I used the word “enable” versus “treat myself.” What I mean by this is that I believe there’s always a balance between treating yourself and eating too much of the wrong stuff. With that said, I feel that one meal we can take control of and help us throughout our day is lunch. Lunch is the meal that creates the break in our work day. Regardless if you’re in corporate, hospitality, or health care, you need to eat lunch. It is far too easy to go with what everyone else is having (hamburger, processed sandwich, etc) and let this meal get away from us.

This is where meal prep comes into play and making a healthy choice can really be easy with weekly meal prep. Meal prep enables your body to truly enjoy cheat meals (I’ll explain that later) without the guilt. The purpose of this message is to not only answer the questions above but outline them in a way that logically proves that meal prep is worth your time and money.

Though you can meal prep for any time of day, I will keep this overview to lunch – as it’s the most common meal everyone asks about. Lets get started!

What do you make?

The answer to this questions depends on the type of food you eat. Personally, I prefer the Paleo lifestyle and my food choices are limited to lean meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits, nuts & seeds, and healthy fats. I look for a balanced portion of a protein, greens, and carbohydrates for lunch. This allows me to have my break during the day and be able to get back to work without the afternoon dip.

Here’s what a typical lunch may look like:

Meal prep tips

How long does it take to cook?

I start with skinning the sweet potatoes and throw them into the oven since they take the longest. I time the broccoli start time to end the same time as the sweet potatoes. Once those two are complete, I move onto the chicken and grill it outside, which takes roughly 30 minutes. The food prep and cooking time will take you roughly 1.5 hours in total.

Related: check out even MORE food prep tips for various steps in the process to help make this easy time, money and progress saver a regular part of your routine.

Meal Prep = Time Saver

I always like to compare this to the alternative. Let’s look at both scenarios of going to get food and bringing it back to your desk versus eating there. I did time trials by walking with coworkers to grab their lunch and I found that the average time was roughly 15 minutes to go there and back. Total time throughout the week is an hour and 15 minutes. Ok, we’ve saved some time!

In a different situation, let’s look at how much time is saved in comparison to when you eat at a restaurant. I began timing this trial from the time we sat down and began to eat. I excluded any sit down restaurants that included a server since the lead times varied by person and restaurant. I came to the conclusion of an average 15 minute eating time. Combining that with travel time, you’re looking at 2 hours and 30 minutes saved per week.

Does your food taste good at the end of the week?

This one intrigued me for a while as I did notice that my chicken would become rubbery or not taste as good toward the end of the week. A trick you can use to help your food last and taste better longer is with your freezer. I do my meal prep on Sundays and put Monday and Tuesday’s meals in the refrigerator. The rest goes into the freezer and I pull out one meal each day throughout the week. Monday, I pull out Wednesday, etc.

Is it cheaper than eating out?

Yes, meal preparation will save you money. Below is an outline of the cost comparison between purchasing groceries vs. eating out. Please note, I am measuring groceries for a single person, using the chicken/broccoli/sweet potato meal outlined above.

If you go out to eat each day, lunch costs anywhere from $6 (typical fast food options) to $10 (Chipotle, Panera, etc.) depending on where you go. Add a sugary Coke, that’s another $2.00. The numbers speak for themselves.

Final Thoughts on Meal Prep

Regardless if you’re training for a race, show, or looking for ways to be healthier, I am a firm believer that meal preparation can bring value to your day and life. You will not have to worry about answering the question, “What should I eat for lunch?” You have the opportunity to learn to cook new meals and try something new every week. Not only will meal prep save you money on a weekly basis, but you’ll get more out of your day. We can’t get more time in a day, but we can make the most of it.

For more about meal preparation and fitness, follow me on Facebook and Instagram!

Post written by FFC Union Station member Omar R. 

 

I joined FFC in December last year as an early Christmas present to myself. After a successful year of racing, I was ready to head into the “off-season”. Even though I had a successful and enjoyable season, I was looking forward to taking a break from triathlon training, long runs and blistered feet. I was also looking forward to doing slightly less laundry and eating a little more chocolate. I didn’t want to let my fitness completely lapse, but I did want to give myself a mental and physical break such that I could fully recover from the stresses of competition and start next year both healthy and motivated.

Having 20 years of experience swimming competitively, I know that injury and burnout are one of the greatest threats to an athlete’s well-being. An “off-season” or, as I prefer to call it, an “alt-season” is critical to longevity in the sport. (Why do we call it an off season? Off implies a dormant state. It implies doing nothing. Training and exercise are positive experiences for me. I don’t want to stop! I just want to change focuses for a while. Hence the “alt”.)

Related: trying to recovery from fitness, work or stress burnout? Check out these 5 simple tips!

For me, FFC was the perfect place for an alt-season. With access to rock climbing, swimming and indoor CompuTrainer classes, I knew that I would be able to find lots of opportunities to keep myself happy, engaged and in-shape while I took my alt-season recovery.

Fitness is Fun

It was a GREAT alt-season. The FFC pools were lightyears better than the one I’d been training in. They were better lit, colder, better ventilated and less crowded. Even though I wasn’t specifically training my swimming for a triathlon during the months of January and February, my times got better simply because I felt better. I wanted to spend more time in the pool rather than just put in the required workout and bolt to the comforting warmth of the shower.

The same thing happened with cycling. Over the winter, I saw massive increases in my cycling power as I attended the CompuTrainer classes on a regular basis. I wanted to go to Dan’s Saturday classes and rock out to the Pandora Punk Rock station. I wanted to go to swim classes with Coach Joy because she could make me laugh. Competitions like the Indoor Time Trials or the Indoor Tri60 kept me motivated to work hard and reminded me how much I enjoyed racing and competition. By the time competition season rolled around again, I was not only energized and excited to start the season again, but I was in better shape than before! It turns out having fun leads to better training.

Crushing Goals

2016 had been a great racing year for me. I had completed my first 70.3 (ToughMan Wisconsin) and collected titles in shorter distances at Terre Haute and Wauconda. To cap the season off, I won my age group in my first-ever trip to USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals.

The next year turned out even better. Racing many of the same courses as I did the year before, I saw my bike times consistently drop by 5 MINUTES OR MORE. I broke the 5-hour mark in my 70.3 and took home the overall title. I won my age group at nationals again and ran my first-ever sub-40 10k. When I raced Chicago (consistently the single best-organized race I’ve been to and my favorite), I dropped seven minutes between the bike and the run to nail down a new PR and secure the race title.

From there, the year still got better. The highlight of the year was the opportunity to go to Rotterdam and represent Team USA in the ITU Age Group World Championships. I was so excited and nervous to go. I had never been to Europe before, much less competed on an international stage! Once again, TriMonsters had my back and the year of training paid off. I won my age group, posted a personal best 10k time and took home the title of 2017 Olympic Distance Age Group World Champion. I cried when I stood at the podium with the American flag wrapped around my shoulders. It felt so unreal. Nine months ago, when I joined FFC, I had never imagined that this was a place I could get to. I had never thought that I was capable of this.

I’m excited to see where FFC will take me from here. With a new pool at Gold Coast and a new Performance Training Center at Old Town, I’m excited to try out new toys. I’m also excited to spend time with my wonderful TriMonster training group and watch more movies on the indoor screens!

Triathlon training with TriMonster in Chicago at FFC

Post written by FFC member Jacquie Godbe. 

 

For more than 10 years, the idea of trekking in Europe had been on my mind – it only needed a focus to actually come to life. I soon found it: a 100-mile trek around the largest massif in Europe called the Tour du Mont Blanc.

I have been an avid backpacker most of my life, hiking in the Rockies, the Southwest, the Southeast, and especially in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I looked for every possible opportunity to be on a trail, even volunteering for a few years to lead high school kids from a church camp on week-long backpacking trips.

Throughout my life, time for such adventures was mostly hard to come by. For example, if I played golf, I could play every week – however, as my thing was backpacking, I needed more than 3 or 4 hours a week. During a good year, I might be able to slip away for an entire 7-day stretch. But as I assumed more and more responsibility, time became more and more precious, and increasingly hard to find.

Though fitting hiking into my schedule was difficult, I committed myself to always being ready and fit for trekking. Wherever my work took me, I joined a gym. And if I wasn’t in the gym, I was pacing the streets – often walking 4 or 5 miles before sunrise. When I retired in 2010, I made it a point to hike more often – so far I’ve completed The Apostle Islands, Sleeping Bear National Seashore, Big Bend National Park, Yellowstone, the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin, the River to River Trail in Shawnee National Forest, the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia — and especially the Smokies, where I would go again and again.

Tour du Mont Blanc trek

Making the Commitment

It was shortly after I retired that I connected with REI Adventure Tours and decided that I would trek the Tour du Mont Blanc – it became number one on my bucket list. I was accustomed to planning my own treks. The planning and mapping was as much a part of the adventure as the trip itself.

Trek Tour du Mont Blanc mountains

However, I found it very convenient, when I was exploring new grounds, to let REI do the planning for me.

My first adventure with REI was a week-long winter snowshoe trek through the woods in Vermont. I never dreamed how exhausting it might be to trek in the snow! After that, I let REI plan a trip to Yellowstone. I was so pleased with the service I decided I would trek Mont Blanc using their service.

I must admit, it was the Cadillac version of trekking. I only carried a day pack, slept in a bed and had a hot meal and shower every night. Still, the Tour du Mont Blanc was challenging.

Related: read how member Nisha ran the Marathon des Sables, billed one of the toughest in the world, took a break from fitness and found her groove again with FFC.

Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc

The trek began in Geneva, Switzerland. It was there that I discovered that I was a part of an unusually small group of three and a guide, who met us at the airport, making a fourth. We also had a porter who provisioned us and moved our luggage from inn to inn at the trail’s end each day.

Over the course of 13 days, we crossed the border from France into Italy, into Switzerland, and back into France, trekking from Chamonix (the home of the first winter Olympics) to Courmayeur in Italy, to iconic ski villages, to the tiny Swiss mountain village of La Fouly, and many places in between. We trekked about 97 miles, mostly above the tree line, often gaining 3,000 to 4,000 feet in elevation on the trail each day, many times before noon! The scenery was idyllic and truly pastoral – we walked amid ubiquitous herds of grazing cows, goats, and sheep with their iconic bells, often heard over great distances.

Swiss village near Tour du Mont BlancWe were welcomed by dairy farmers in France who proudly displayed their caves of aging cheese. We trekked on sacred ground where the French Resistance had fought valiantly during WW2. We crossed the border into Italy and found shade in the ruins of Italian battle bulwarks where we caught our breath.

We were greeted with bonjour and buona giornata by salvos of international trekkers and locals alike. We trekked old Roman-built roads and visited an ancient church isolated in the mountains, gilded in gold. We trekked through the narrow streets of picturesque Swiss villages, sometimes beginning or ending our days on gondolas, which rose high above the crisscrossing ski slopes of the area.

Toward the end of our trip, we found ourselves serendipitously caught up in the local celebration of Swiss National Day (to commemorate the founding of the Swiss Confederacy), amongst a marching band, a parade of flag-waving children, and fireworks. Needless to say, I came home with much more than a t-shirt bragging I’d trekked Mont Blanc – I returned with memories that will never be erased.

Training for the Trek at FFC

I joined FFC more than two years ago and am forever grateful for their warm welcome into the club. In comparison to Midtown, FFC Oak Park was the Cadillac version which I needed for the Cadillac trek on which I had my sights set. And once I had committed, last January, to the Tour du Mont Blanc, I was even more serious about being fit for the trek. Through the winter I especially focused on a well-rounded fitness program that included cardio, strength, flexibility and balance.

My next big adventure will be to trek southeastern Idaho, near Yellowstone. Until then, I’ll be in the club keeping my tone and my mountain legs in shape!

Trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc

Post written by FFC Oak Park member Michael Winters.

 

 

Try FFC for free in Chicago

Last summer I, a thirty-something British woman, relocated from London to Chicago. I have an extensive background in marathon and ultra-marathon running, but by the time I arrived in Chicago, at the end of June 2017, my fitness was at an all-time low.

I was probably still recovering from a 156-mile ultra-marathon across the Sahara – the equivalent of running almost six marathons over seven days, which I attempted with my friend, Simon. This race, The Marathon des Sables, or Marathon of the Sands, is billed as the “toughest footrace on earth”. It usually attracts a lot of military personnel and less than 6% of the runners are female.

Unfortunately, Simon and I failed to complete the event – we became separated from the other runners and each other. I became lost in the desert, broke 8 toenails and suffered from severe shock.

On reflection, Simon and I realized that we had not appreciated the extremely technical aspect of the race and that had been reflected in both my training and preparation for the race. We decided to attempt the Marathon des Sables for a second time. This time, the organizers of the race decided to “celebrate” its 30th anniversary by increasing the distance to 166 miles!

Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. With this in mind, I decided to take a sabbatical from my business to focus on training in a different way.

Try, Try Again

As I created my new training strategy, I also decided to write a book based on the lessons I had learned from failing and then (hopefully) succeeding. The Marathon des Sables is an extremely technical race; the temperature can reach up to 132 degrees Fahrenheit in the daytime, which has all sorts of implications on the foods, equipment etc. that a runner has to carry.

Marathon Du Sables Ultra Marathon

My plan was to write a book that would be part autobiographical and part technical guide, designed to help other runners so that they wouldn’t face the huge trauma I had faced and ultimately risk failing at the race altogether.

At the peak of my training, I ran 120 miles per week, while carrying a 12 lb rucksack containing my desert equipment and supplies. Unfortunately, my friend Simon developed severe injuries during training and had to pull out of the race.

I wrote the first draft of my manuscript on my iPhone, using the Evernote app. I didn’t want to go through the bureaucracy of a traditional publisher so decided to self-publish. I successfully completed the Marathon des Sables in 2015 and my book “Big Steps, Long Strides”, available through Amazon, was published in 2016.

The Marathon des Sables was mentally and physically exhausting. I needed a significant break from running. In fact, my break was so long that when I arrived in Chicago I was at least 18 lbs overweight!

Related: want more inspiration? Check out how TriMonster helped this member complete her first triathlon at 70!

Getting Back Into a Routine

In Chicago, I decided to work on several goals. The first was to shed my excess weight. The second was to redevelop my base fitness and the third was to complete my first triathlon this year. I faced quite a few challenges. The last time I rode a bike was more than 25 years ago, and I couldn’t swim… at all!

Marathons all over the worldI had a passing conversation with Mike Gorrell, the membership director, who told me, “Nisha, summer bodies are made in the winter.” This comment really stuck with me and made me even more determined to shed my excess weight, so I started attending cardio and weight classes. Personal trainers Neha Mayawala, Manny Hernandez and Torrence Givan took my body fat measurements and helped me with different types of training advice, and Kenneth Li helped me with my heart rate training using MYZONE.

I approached Austin Head before a Tread Express class and asked if he would mind recording his voice during the class, so that I could do the same class more frequently in my own time. It was pretty audacious, but to my delight, not only did he oblige, but was totally enthusiastic about doing this for me. I find Austin’s classes to be absolutely awesome. I used to hate running on the treadmill, but the enthusiasm and encouragement from Austin (“Commit to just 90 seconds of discomfort, because you can do this!) has been amazing motivation.

The combination of interval training and healthy eating meant that by the beginning of April, I’d lost almost 16 lbs of excess weight. As I began to feel more comfortable with my shape, I started going to spin classes. David Bohn has been helping me develop back strength and realigning my posture, while Erin O’Connor, Neha Mayawala and Ramiro Correa have all encouraged and supported me in incorporating weight training into my workouts, so that I can build muscle and reduce my body fat percentage.

Finding a Fitness Support Network

Nisha Harish FFC West Loop Marathon RunnerErin O’Connell is the best swim coach I’ve ever had. When I asked her whether she had done any triathlons, she replied, “No”. I challenged her to complete a triathlon with me. “How can a person train another if they have no experience themselves in the sport?”, I teased.

It’s a testament to Erin as a swim coach that she’s not a bystander who trains clients, but is supporting them every step of the way. As for my swimming, well, at the beginning of January I couldn’t swim a full length. Only six swim sessions later, I can swim almost forty lengths!

I feel extremely well supported and have made plenty of good friends at FFC West Loop, from trainers to members. I really do feel like I’m part of a community. Not only that, but I feel connected to a healthier lifestyle and it’s made my integration to Chicago just so much easier. My goal is to complete my first triathlon with Erin this year, followed by a couple of half marathons and the Chicago Marathon later this year.

The Reluctant Gym-Goer

One of the fantastic consequences of finding my own community at FFC has been that my husband,
whose idea of exercise is to binge-watch House of Cards on Netflix, has now started coming to the gym with me. Every Saturday morning, we do a yoga class and then get on the treadmills and plug in our earphones, to complete the Tread Express audio that Austin recorded for me.

After that, we do some weight training followed by 30 minutes of swimming. I even bring a bag of snacks to the gym, so that my husband, who is a non-stop grazer, doesn’t use hunger as an excuse to leave the gym prematurely!! Many of the trainers know about my plotting to get my husband’s fitness to a good level and are so super encouraging towards him and both of us.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the proverb that “It takes a village to raise a child”, but it also takes a community to raise an athlete. I’m thrilled to say that FFC has been the perfect community for us.

Post written by FFC West Loop member Nisha Harish.

Want to know more about Nisha’s journey? You can purchase her book, Big Steps, Long Strides – a complete guide to running the Marathon des Sables, here and find out more about Nisha on her website!

Nisha Harish Ultra Marathon Runner

“Unkraut wie wir vergeht nicht.” “Weeds like us don’t perish.” That was my mother’s motto all her life. It was the motto that sustained us when, shortly after my seventh birthday, she, my brother and I were captured by the Soviet army as it swept across the German province of East Prussia. Her words sustained me over the next three and a half years when food was scarce and there was no school for the German children. And those words still sustain me today.

When I arrived in the United States at the age of twenty-six in 1964 with two suitcases and $400, I still had plenty of catching up to do. While working full time as a marketing consultant to German companies interested in doing business in the United States, I earned a college degree and an MBA at night. There was little time for sleep or a healthy lifestyle in those stressful days and I gave little thought to my wellness, or to my junk-food-heavy diet of Entenmann coffee cake and beer.

And then, one day, after my then girlfriend told me that I looked pregnant, I took up jogging and also started to play tennis in Riverside Park. But, however fit I was, nothing prepared me for the shock of losing my job and the death of both my mother and my father-in-law in 1995. During that difficult year, my thoughts returned to the hardships I had faced as a child. It was time, I decided, to write a book about my unusual childhood.

Despite these obstacles, nothing could prepare me for what I was about to face. In 1998, after returning from a research trip back to Russia to visit what had once been the German province of East Prussia, I had the biggest setback of all: a triple bypass. Had all my good intentions been for nothing? As anyone who has had bypass surgery will attest, it takes its toll not only on the body but on the spirit as well. With determination, in the years that followed, I gradually resumed my healthy lifestyle and exercise routine and, in 2006, finally saw my first book Weeds Like Us go to print.

 

Riding a bike on the Lakefront PathOn December 1, 2007, following my wife’s retirement from her law practice, we moved to Chicago and, one of the very first things we did was to join the FFC Gold Coast club. Now, ten years of membership later, I’m more fit than ever.

When we left New York, I would bike 8 miles; now I bike anywhere from 17-23 miles along Lake Michigan. When we left New York, I could swim one half-mile; now I swim 50% further than that. When we first got to Chicago, I would take the bus home from Trader Joe’s; now I gladly carry the heavy bags and walk. When we first joined the club, I would not have dared to swing back and forth on the pull-up bar like I recently did on my 80th birthday!

So, I want to express my appreciation and thanks for the important role that the FFC has played in my life in the Windy City. It’s not just how fit I feel, it’s also the wonderful friends I’ve made at the club, both among the members and the staff. You’ve helped to make my mother’s motto come true. Weeds like us don’t perish!

 

 

Gunter Nitsch Weeds Like Us

 

Post written by FFC Gold Coast member Gunter Nitsch.

You can read more about Gunter and his book, Weeds Like Us, by visiting his website here!

 

 

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FFC Gold Coast member Gunter celebrating his 80th birthday!

 

In May of 2009 I had received word from my parents that my mom had gone in for a check-up due to recurring headaches, and that the MRI showed a couple of lesions on her brain. After a hard, five-month long fight (during which she maintained her gracefulness, humor and wit through the entire time), my mom passed away from two aggressive brain tumors. I was able to really learn a lot from her during this time, especially when she would say exactly what was on her mind. As she said, “At this point, what’s the worst that can happen?” My mom was a funny woman. Following this, I began looking for something that could change my life that I could also dedicate to my mom. Fast forward to 2012 when I attended the London Olympics and watched a sport called “Modern Pentathlon.” This sport involves five disciplines: swimming, fencing, horse-jumping, shooting, and running. I made a decision then and there that I would pursue this in dedication to my mom, and see how far I could go to becoming an Olympic athlete.

I had played and coached four sports in high school and college, but none of those sports were represented in the Modern Pentathlon. So I had to learn.

I started to fence at a couple of local clubs, and found that I was pretty good at the sport! I started running regularly and entered in a few 5, 8 and 10K races as a continued source of challenge. I began learning to ride horses at my cousin’s farm when I could leave the city. I also signed up for a membership with FFC and started swimming at the FFC West Loop pool. In the beginning I worked with one of their personal trainers for instruction on how to swim.

Related: check out our facilities – try FFC for free by clicking here!

I began with a 9-10 hour/week training schedule and after three months, I started building up to a 20 hour/week schedule. My performance was improving quite a bit, so I contacted the Team USA Pentathlon coach for some guidance.

Following a meeting with the coach, I was able to sign up for an Olympic development camp in Colorado Springs. The camp went well, and I received an invitation to train at the official Olympic Training Center on a continual basis if I wanted to move out there. However, I also have a music instruction business (one of the major locations being in Chicago), so that move was going to be a difficult one. In the end, I decided to stay and train in Chicago, but travel to Colorado 6-12 times/year to train at the OTC.

Going for the Gold

In October of 2014, I was asked to represent Team USA at my first international event in Guatemala. I would be competing in the Biathlon/Triathlon World Championships (run/swim/run and shoot/swim/run). I arrived in Guatemala, and had my first meeting as an international athlete exactly five years after my mom’s passing. The competition went well, and I made a number of friends from all over the world.

I represented Team USA once again in June 2015 for the Modern Pentathlon in the Dominican Republic (a tournament involving North and Central American athletes).

I also competed for Team USA at the Biathlon/Triathlon World Championships in the country of Georgia. It was an unforgettable trip, again resulting in many new experiences and friendships. I also received word that my fencing training would be sponsored by a club in New York, so I would have the opportunity to train with some of the best fencers in the country.

Around this time I entered into a number of triathlons, with the Chicago Triathlon being my first race. I was a bit wary because of my new status to cycling, but found it to be a lot of fun, and I placed decently well, (which I think had to do partly with the bit of BMX racing I did when I was younger!).

Related: new to the triathlon world? Here’s how to improve your transition time!

I had done another race on a borrowed bike soon after, which went pretty well, and decided to try out the USA Draft-Legal Qualifier in Florida in November. The race was a warm one—and they told me there were alligators and other fun animals where we were swimming—but I managed to qualify and represent Team USA in triathlon at the ITU World Championships in 2016!

What the Future Holds

For the next couple of months, I will be changing my emphasis back to the pentathlon for my Team USA qualifiers. That means different pool workouts at FFC, as well as different running workouts, with more emphasis placed on speed as opposed to endurance.

The Olympics in Rio look like a slim possibility, as there is still a decent amount of improvement I need to make, but Tokyo is in 2020, and I will be continuing to train towards this goal! I am also looking forward to adding more triathlon-oriented training into my workouts, and Chris Navin, head of the Tri-Monster program at FFC has been a wealth of knowledge in assisting me to develop in this sport.

With winter approaching in Chicago, I will be gearing more of my runs to the treadmill and a majority of my bike rides to the spin bikes. When I’m not there I’ll likely have the scent of chlorine sticking to me from many, many laps in the pool (thanks FFC for the facilities!).

For more information and updates, be sure to follow my training journey on Instagram, check out my Team USA bio, connect with me in the music instruction space, and visit my website for tips on how to stay active post-college. 

Post written by FFC West Loop member James L.

I first came to the US in 2009. Having grown up in New Zealand, I was not used to the portion sizes of various fast food options in America. Despite my effort to maintain my weight, poor diet and the lack of an exercise routine slowly took a toll on my body. I went up in clothes sizes and my weight ballooned from 172 lbs to 225 Ibs. I didn’t feel good and it was hard to carry all the weight around. I was determined to get my physique back. I began working out at a local gym in Kansas City. At first I didn’t have a clear strategy to achieving my goal of losing weight. But over time I read a lot of articles related to bodybuilding – covering everything from the bulking and cutting phases to the different diet strategies, training methods, and natural supplements.

Finding Fitness Success

This newfound knowledge and experience through trial and error helped me to refine my plan to best fit my body and to ultimately achieve my goal of losing weight. Through discipline, consistency and sheer determination I was able to bring my weight down from 225 lbs to 158 lbs. I became lean and athletic, resembling the ripped athletes I admired when I was younger on the cover of sports magazines.

Related: the top 12 ways to burn body fat, according to a personal trainer.

I later met a trainer at the local Kansas City gym who introduced me to competitive natural bodybuilding. I competed in several amateur bodybuilding competitions with the goal of earning my professional status in natural bodybuilding. At each competition I got better and closer to getting my pro card, but I still had some improvements to make.

After getting married in December of 2014, we decided to move to Chicago. I still wanted to achieve my goal of obtaining my pro card in bodybuilding, so I continued my training at the gym in the new apartment building we had moved into. It was convenient having the gym within our apartment building, but unfortunately there were more treadmills than heavy weights and was not sufficient enough for me to prepare for my competition.

One day I came home from work and I saw personal trainer Cory Fultz from FFC West Loop promoting FFC club memberships. Cory was friendly, informative and easy to chat with. He offered us a tour of the FFC West Loop gym, and after we did the walkthrough tour of the facility I knew immediately that this would be the right gym for me; it had the right equipment I needed to help me prepare for my competition. I was set.

Related: want to try a personal training session at FFC on us? Click here!

Bodybuilding Competition Day

Three weeks before the competition day my wife gave birth to our son. On November 21st I competed at the OCB Midwest States natural bodybuilding competition in DeKalb, IL. After 7 long months of contest preparation at FFC West Loop I successfully placed first and was awarded my pro card. On top of finally winning my pro card, it was a blessing to also have both my wife and son supporting me in the audience.

I believe I was able to get first place this time round because of the training I did at FFC West Loop. I was able to make significant improvements in my physique that allowed me to come prepared and present my best self on stage. I would like to thank my beautiful wife for her love and support throughout this journey and thank you FFC for providing me the resources to achieve my goals.

Post written by FFC West Loop member Bart M.