“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!



Try FFC for free in Chicago


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.

My journey started 10 years ago, in 2007. In the early 2000’s, I was your typical 40-year old guy. Happily married, great social life, working too hard, overweight, and eating and drinking all wrong. I thought working out equaled going to the local gym after work – stretching and jumping on a stationary bike for 45 minutes.

I thought eating right was starting the day with fruit, yogurt, and toast. If I worked out, I could have a reasonable dinner and have a drink or two. Nothing was changing.

However, being 240 pounds meant some serious lifestyle modifications were needed. My wife Ruth-Anne and I set a goal to get into road cycling, so that we could participate in a 2-day 200-mile charity ride in North Carolina in October of 2007. Crazy, right? I certainly thought so. We had 9 months to figure this out. So, I joined FFC Boystown, where Ruth-Anne was already a member.

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

Spin Bike to Road Bike

Step one? Start working out early in the morning vs. in the evenings after work. Two other friends joined our mission. We started with 6:15 AM spin class, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, instructed by Arthur Riepenhoff. We went religiously, and he quickly became our Jedi Master.

He taught us how to use spin for strength and endurance, which would help in outside cycling. Week after week we did spin. Spring came, and we started riding outside every weekend together. Arthur even joined us for many of the rides. 30 miles at Bike the Drive, 50 miles at the Udder Century in June, we continued to up our miles every week. North Branch Trail, Fox River Trail, more organized rides, until finally we did our first 100-mile ride at the Northshore Century.

We then successfully completed the 200-mile charity ride in October, but there was one small problem: I didn’t lose any weight. We thought (at the time) that if we did spin and road all those miles outside, that we could eat and drink whatever, and the weight would still melt off. Obviously not.

Related: FOMO of food? Here’s how to eat more mindfully.

Fast forward to 2008: this year’s goal was to lose 40 pounds. After some research, talking to FFC trainers, and figuring out that sugar was more than candy bars, Ruth-Anne and I went on a low carb, minimal sugar diet regime, and we followed the South Beach Diet for 3 months.

The diet, along with continuing to work out at FFC (the bike and now some weight training), was working. From March through July I lost 48 lbs. We rode more organized rides that year, upgraded to better road bikes, completed 3 century rides. I was now a road cyclist.

Fitness to Fundraising

Over the next several years, Ruth-Anne and I road all the time, and now most all of our travel included cycling. We organized our first euro-bike trip with family and friends.

Then, in 2011, I read (at FFC one morning) about a cool century bike ride, The Wrigley Field Road Tour, which I signed up for, and where I learned about World Bicycle Relief – an organization that provides bicycles to students, healthcare workers, and entrepreneurs in rural Africa, where distance is a barrier. It all clicked. I was able to turn my passion for cycling into helping to do good things for those in need of simple transportation.

From 2011 through 2015, I used my cycling for fundraising, to help World Bicycle Relief provide bicycles to students in need in rural Africa. It’s been amazing. Hundreds of friends, family, and colleagues are now aware of the great work and impact of WBR. Together during those 5 years, we raised enough to provide over 500 bicycles to those in need. The best part of this entire journey has been that Ruth-Anne is now working for World Bicycle Relief as their director of global marketing. It’s come full circle since joining FFC and the journey has been amazing.

One Day 100 Bikes – How to Get Involved

Want to get involved? One Day 100 Bikes is an annual one-day festival of fun, fitness, and fundraising, supporting World Bicycle Relief, to provide bicycles to students in rural Africa and allow them to thrive. With the help of the community, FFC, and many other sponsors, we were able to raise over $24,500 in the first year of the event – enough for more than 166 bikes. Each year we plan to do even more. Visit www.oneday100bikes.com for more information on upcoming events.

Post written by FFC Boystown member Tom R.

For most of my life, I’ve struggled with developing healthy habits. Whether it was exercising enough or eating right, it never came easy for me. Despite several setbacks, I finally got it together and lost 50 lbs! My success, however, was short-lived… I went from running several miles a day to barely being able to walk one block. I started to notice that I was frequently out of breath and exhausted. Constantly fatigued and with a diminishing lung capacity, I began to put exercise on the back burner. Shortly after noticing these changes, I was diagnosed with Lupus and Sjögren’s Syndrome, both of which are autoimmune disorders that can trigger lung inflammation.

I was very fortunate to get the medical attention I needed in order to slow the permanent damage of the disease, but the medicines came with their own side effects. Adjusting to the new diagnosis meant that I was intimidated and scared about what I could do.

Related: pain? Injury? Here are 5 important fitness tips to consider.

Getting Back in the Fitness Game

When I initially decided to lose weight, I attempted to do the same workouts I had done prior to getting sick. I quickly became upset and felt defeated with what little I could do. After talking to my doctor, he suggested trying aqua aerobics and other low-impact workouts.

Sterling was more than happy to give me a series of exercises in the pool but challenged me to try weights and a little cardio. With inhaler in hand, I reluctantly showed up, committing to the one-hour sessions and at least three days a week of exercise.

There were many sessions where I was assigned exercises that I mentally thought I couldn’t do, but I tried nonetheless. I ended up being surprised by how much I could actually do in the gym! Taking things day by day, I started to see small changes.

Related: come see for yourself! Try us free – click here. 

My Results

Since joining FFC Gold CoastI’m down a total of 30 pounds. What I’m excited about, however, is my increased cardiovascular strength. When I first started, I couldn’t enter the gym without my inhaler by my side. Now, I’m able to last most sessions without it!

While I still have further to go on my health journey, I’ve never felt so confident in my own abilities. Rather than focusing on getting back to where I was, I know now I can create a stronger, healthier version of myself.

Sterling Martin is a CPT at FFC Gold Coast. If you too are suffering from an autoimmune disorder and would like to contact Sterling, please email her at sterling.martin@ffc.com

Post written by FFC Gold Coast member Kandace T.

Before MYZONE, and as a fitness fanatic, I always ask myself a few questions after each time I exercise:

  • Was that good workout?
  • How many calories did I burn?
  • Was that better than last time?

Typically, the answer to this was based on a feeling. I would tell myself, “that was a good workout.”

Endorphins would be running and I “knew” something was accomplished. I’ve also used multiple products to help me as I continued a healthy lifestyle but I found myself looking for more information.

  • I used a pedometer – but just because I hit 15,000 steps didn’t mean I pushed myself.
  • I used a GPS watch to track my heart rate during runs – but what about when I was cross training?
  • I used a fitness tracker – but none of the models I used would give me a clean application unless I was willing to spend over $200. Another issue I had with trackers was that I was only able to compare myself to others that owned the same tracker.

Being the tedious person that I am, I continued to search for a solution that would help measure exerted energy and enable me to review my physical activity easily.

My Intro to MYZONE

As a member of FFC, I always saw advertisements for MYZONE, so I decided to give it a shot. The application was easy to set up on my phone and connect with the sensor tied to the belt. There are many reasons why I moved forward on the MYZONE but I am only going to cover two: MYZONE Effort Points and the “Health and Fitness” overview ability.

Related: have a belt (or thinking about getting one) and want to give performance training a try? Click here for a free class!

MYZONE Effort Points (MEPs):

MYZONE Effort Points are what I loved most about the belt. These points (or MEPs) measure how hard and how long you push yourself during a workout. Let me give you 2 separate scenarios on doing the same type of exercise and the different results you would see on the MYZONE app.

Scenario 1: you are running on a treadmill for approximately 30 minutes at a steady 9 minute / mile pace and you’re burning roughly 350-450 calories

Scenario 2: you’re still running on a treadmill for approximately 30 minutes, but instead of staying at a consistent in speed, you are increasing your speed plus fluctuating the incline.

Though you are still running on the treadmill, the increase and decrease in speed / incline causes your heart rate to fluctuate. With the fluctuation of your heart rate, the exerted energy becomes more difficult and you begin to hit different levels within the MYZONE app (See breakdown below). Ultimately, you would find yourself burning anywhere from 500-750 calories based on how much recovery time you give yourself.

MYZONE Makes Things Better

Now we look at how this is broken down into the MYZONE app. Below is a screenshot of the levels along with the points affiliated with each level. In the 9-minute / mile scenario, you would find yourself going between the Green, Yellow, and sometimes Red zones based on your level of fitness. In the fluctuating scenario, you would also find yourself between Green, Yellow, and Red. Most times you will see yourself sticking in the Yellow and Red based on how much recovery you give yourself. This lets you target your workouts based on your own max heart rate to get the most benefit out of each one.

After each workout, you’ll receive an email with your move summary, like the one below:

Overview of Health & Fitness

As I mentioned before, I am a tedious person when it comes to data. Working out is only a fraction of a healthy lifestyle. I also track my food with MyFitnessPal (want to know how to do that? Check out this post!). I allow Apple’s Health app to sync with both MYZONE and MyFitnessPal. This allows MyFitnessPal to automatically factor in my workouts from my food intake. This is a cropped screenshot of what the end of the day looks like:

Related: how to use the MyFitnessPal app to lose more weight.

The Burning Question:

Was that a good workout? Below is an overview of how I break down my workouts, based on data I’ve collected, to answer that question. Please note, everybody’s level of fitness is different so please don’t use this as a must hit in order to consider your workout good.










You’re crazy!


Final Thoughts On MYZONE:

I believe that in order to continue a healthy lifestyle, you need to know if you’re continuously pushing yourself. I don’t necessarily mean you need to train for a triathlon or become a professional athlete, but to push yourself physically and take in the right foods. The MYZONE app helps with keeping you honest and lets you compete with friends who are working out next to you. Follow along with my progress on Facebook or Instagram!

Post written by FFC Union Station member Omar R.

Before my back surgery in June 2016 for a herniated disc, I weighed in at 200 pounds. On my 5’4” frame, the extra weight was destroying my health. The year before, I had sustained not one, but two herniated discs in my lower back.

Although I did physical therapy, I had no relief from the agonizing pain and had to take painkillers to make it through the day. On top of that, one of the herniated discs was crushing a nerve and I had to have an operation. After the surgery my doctor told me, “I’ll be seeing you this time next year to remove the second herniated disc if you don’t lose weight.” I was terrified.

After 9 weeks of recovery and 12 weeks of physical therapy, I decided I had to make a change. I started out by cleaning up my diet, counting calories, and most of all, swimming. I immediately fell in love with the water. When I was swimming, my problems simply floated away with each stroke.

I saw results quickly, but was hesitant to do anything else. I added resistance to my swims with paddles and flippers, but it wasn’t enough. I was afraid that I would further injure my back or get another herniated disc  if I tried anything with too much impact. I knew that if I didn’t have guidance I would never venture to other parts of the gym.

I started personal training sessions. My personal trainer has been absolutely invaluable to my health and fitness journey. Not only did he show me the ropes around the entire gym, he personalized all my workouts to help me strengthen all the muscles that will help prevent further injury to my back.

With his help I’ve gained the confidence to explore the gym and utilize all features of it! It no longer frightens me. It has become a playground to traverse and challenge myself.

Related: try out a personal training session at FFC, on us! Click here.

With my new confidence I started to take up hobbies I never thought I would. I now rollerblade, kayak, and do standup paddle boarding. The other week I rollerbladed 14 miles just because I could!

I also started to see the onsite registered dietitian to “up my game.” Though I’ve lost 60 pounds in the last year, I no longer fret over the number on the scale as much. With my dietitian’s help, I now focus on my body fat percentage and measurements instead.

The weight loss hasn’t been the biggest reward, though. I now have a completely new perspective on life. The world is an unpredictable place that can throw anyone a curve ball at any time. Despite this, I have complete control over my diet, exercise and the choices I make.

Related: how FFC helped me make a doctor-recommended lifestyle change.

No matter what happens I have the final say about what I eat and how I exercise. I take fierce pride in my accomplishments. Weight loss has been a wonderful result of my journey but the best award has been that the cultivated discipline and skill power have changed all aspects of my life for the better.

FFC is not just a place I go to work out. It’s a sanctuary where I get to practice all the new things I’ve learned. The people at FFC are like family. If I don’t come in, I am missed. Staff ask me with genuine concern if I’m ok. It’s a great feeling to not only see familiar faces every day, but to be one too.

Post written by FFC Lincoln Park member Kristy D.

I saw the signs plastered all over FFC East Lakeview: “Move2Win, Join Now!” Even trainers were wearing blue shirts with “Move2Win” on them. I wasn’t sure what was going on at first, but eventually I learned it was a fitness challenge that had to do with moving and wearable fitness tracking devices. Okay, it’s not so much a challenge as it is a full-blown competition. Teams, prizes and even competing against other clubs!

I quickly dismissed the whole idea and let the signs and shirts just turn into a blur. For me, to get to 10,000 steps every day is a challenge—and it’s a challenge that I don’t always (okay, rarely) meet. So the thought of being in a competition seemed laughable to me.

Getting Started

When I was approached about joining “Move2Win” by my personal trainer, I actually laughed out loud and asked if she was joking. Alena looked at me in her deadpan (more like death ray) stare and replied, “What’s so funny? No, I’m not joking… You’re joining.”

I explained that aside from my advanced age, I sit on my backside at a desk job and have an hour and 15 minute commute each way, but I never got to finish because she interrupted me with that death stare of hers again.

“Enough with the excuses, you ARE joining the challenge,” she said. “Are you ready now?” I meekly replied no, yet promised I would go home and sign up, but I could see the doubt on her face.

I turned to slink away, hoping she would forget all about it, but she jumped in with some parting advice. “Don’t think of it as a contest, but more of a chance to be a part of something and meet new people. If you get some extra walking in, great!”

The one thing about working with Alena is that I always keep my promises to her—and she expects me to! So, I went home and promptly signed up for Move2Win.

Related: feel like you fell off the fitness bandwagon? Here are 5 tips to help you get back on track!

My Progress During Move2Win

The day before the challenge started, Alena sent a group text a little before 10 in the morning. It was a picture of her tracking device, which read 10,718. I’ll be honest—I felt like the biggest loser as I looked at mine and read 2,656. But then I noticed a second text come in. Someone had excitedly replied, “The power of running!” which I thought was sort of cool.

Then emails were exchanged about a team name. Alena was very democratic about it and put her executive stamp of approval on the Scarving Pumpkins. Our group was fun, and Alena planned some great activities that everyone enjoyed. Not to mention there seemed to be a real camaraderie going and a bunch of our team members were on the leaderboard. (Go Scarving Pumpkins!)

Throughout the fitness challenge, we got fun, motivational updates from Alena like this:

Good morning:

After checking the leader board, I am happy to report the following stats.

  1. Prince Lewis – 335,575 steps; 163.76 miles
  2. Cody Melcher – 246,201 steps;  129.15 miles
  3. Anna DeLuna – 211,374 steps; 93.66 miles
  4. Courtney Kearschner – 172,388 steps; 89.12
  5. Christine Spasoff – 163,656 steps; 81.50 miles
  6. Kimberly Roberts – 159,570 steps; 71.66 miles

Let’s keep up the good work and represent FFC East Lakeview!

Wow, we have some awesome team members! And even though my name was nowhere on that list, it’s okay. We all have to start somewhere! I’ve started with my membership at a terrific club, which has terrific trainers and staff.

So the next time you see FFC is hosting a “fitness challenge” or event, definitely join! It can’t hurt, and who knows—maybe you’ll even find the “fun” in fitness, too.

Related: sign up for a personal training session at FFC on us – click here!

Finally I have to give a huge thank you to Alena, who helps keep my focus, tries to put fun into my fitness routine, has taken the word “can’t” out of my vocabulary, and has ultimately changed my perspective on the word “challenge” altogether.

Keep checking that leaderboard, you might just see my name up there!

Post written by FFC East Lakeview member Dee Dee S. 


I’ve been a member of FFC Union Station for six years with varying levels of fitness success, but got soft over the past two years. I made all the excuses: travel for work, no free time for the gym, back surgery recipient… did I really need to be that fit? I was rapidly approaching my heaviest weight ever (from several years ago.) In the past I had made promises to myself to never get that heavy again. My gym schedule was two to three times per week with light cardio and weights; my diet was terrible; my mojo was down; and I was rapidly approaching 40. I needed to get fit.

The week before Thanksgiving I came in for my usual quick and dirty work out. It was chest day and I noticed one of the few machines I used was MIA. FFC Union Station trainer Shawn Hemmingsen was manning the front desk, and I asked him if the machine was moved or completely retired.Instead of just an answer, he was kind enough to walk me through three new exercises and to give me some advice on how to improve my workout. I had never worked with a personal trainer before. I thought I could get back into shape on my own and that a personal trainer would prove too expensive and probably wouldn’t dramatically improve my results. He made me an offer: come in tomorrow for a consultation, bring a list of your personal goals, and I know I can help you.

We sat down the following afternoon and I laid out my goals; get fit; down to a size 36, restore the strength in my legs I lost after back surgery, be confident on my friend’s boat this summer and maintain a diet and exercise program I could rely on after our sessions ended. Shawn looked right at me and said, “You’ll be a beast by 40!” With that, my “Beast by 40” action plan was in place and moving forward.

Related: how member Sal changed his life for the better with the help of an RD and a personal trainer and lost over 50 pounds.

Goals Set, Plan in Place

We met once a week and Shawn pushed me harder than I’ve ever been pushed in the gym. He laid out an action plan for the rest of the week including diet and exercise. I found myself really nervous coming into the first workout, but he proved such a good person and coach those fears melted away after the first set. I wasn’t fighting this fight on my own, I wasn’t pushing a rope– I found  another person  who  wanted me to get fit and succeed just as much as I did.

It wasn’t easy, but it was exciting. I was hitting new machines and doing free weight exercises I found too scary in the past. Each week promised new challenges and accomplishments. There were ebbs and flows; I could have been more consistent; maybe I could have met greater metrics, but without question, it was absolutely working.

Related: want to check out our clubs for yourself? Click here to try us for free!

Seeing Success

Instead of gaining weight over the holidays, my body was rapidly transforming. After ten sessions I lost 15 lbs., dropped 3% of my total body fat and melted off 14.5 inches. It’s the best I’ve looked in years and I’m back to my old confident self. The best part of the experience is the action plan Shawn put in place for me to move forward. The pounds continue to come off, and “Beast by 40” is ahead of schedule!

Shawn continues to send encouraging messages and I’m sure another set of sessions will be in order to help me reach my college weight for the summer. And to think, this all happened because my old seated chest fly machine was put out to pasture. Thanks to Shawn and FFC for helping me achieve my goals. For anyone reading this, never give up, you can make the transformation too!

If you are interested in learning more, visit the FFC Union Station site here!

Post written by FFC Union Station member Kenton B.

In June 2015, I had the realization that I was at my highest weight. I had been in denial that I was gaining weight for a few years prior to that; the weight had just inched its way on over time. This weight gain was greatly due to secretly binging on comfort food and snacks in order to soothe my emotions and numb my stress. Before binging, I would yo-yo diet. I would lose weight but would then gain all of the weight back plus more. I finally had to accept what I had read for years – diets don’t work! I decided to make the highly recommended “lifestyle change” of eating healthy and exercising.

Weight Loss Success Starts with Nutrition

With the help of a nutritionist, I finally changed my eating habits to be nutritious and healthy without any calorie restriction. My nutritionist has helped me discover healthy foods that I like. Eating nutritiously feels good. I have so much more energy now. I’ve learned to eat a proper balance of proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

I am able to track these macronutrients, along with my daily caloric intake, using the MyFitnessPal app. Tracking my food intake every day has been a critical component of my weight loss. It helps keep me honest and accountable of what I’m eating and keeps me aware of how many calories I have remaining for the day. I’ve been told that nutrition is 80% of losing weight so eating nutritiously and having portion control is a daily effort.

Related: check out this post for tips on using the MyFitnessPal app to lose more weight!

Personal Training Has Made All the Difference

My favorite part of losing weight has been incorporating exercise into my daily life. When I hit my highest weight, I joined FFC Gold Coast and requested a personal trainer. I knew that I needed guidance for which exercises would help me lose weight and how to use the machines. Also, I needed support, motivation and encouragement. I was paired with trainer Jessica Korda, and I’ve been working with her ever since.

She took the time to understand my weight loss goals and the reasons I felt I needed help from a trainer. She customized an exercise plan that would help me reach my goals. Jessica uses full bodyweight lifting, strength and resistance training, and cardio techniques with me. She’s taught me that spot-training doesn’t work. All of the exercises we do contribute to overall weight loss in the body. She’s taught me the importance of building muscle mass in order to burn extra calories at rest.

Related: want to check out a club for yourself? Click here to try us for free!

Fitness is Enjoyable

Working with Jessica, I’ve discovered many new favorite exercises: deadlifts, bench presses, weighted squats, and all weight machines. I have really surprised myself at how strong I actually am. I also participate weekly in a HIIT class that is part of the Performance Training Center. This class helps burn additional calories while causing rapid shifts in heart rate. These shifts help to burn more calories. The class is challenging, but the instructor, people and music make it a lot of fun.

In order to make a lifestyle change, I had to ask for help. That’s why I involved the help of a nutritionist and personal trainer. I could not have changed my lifestyle and lost 65 lbs on my own – I wasn’t mentally or emotionally strong enough. I needed guidance, encouragement, instruction and support. I had to accept that weight loss would be a slow and steady process and would require my patience. I have lost 65 lbs over the last 18 months which is just under an average loss of 1 lb/wk. I’m not at my goal weight, but I’m definitely on my way and I know 100% I will reach it!

Heather’s 4 Tips for Finding Success with Weight Loss

  • Weight loss is a slow and steady journey. You need to have patience. With a slow and steady approach, weight loss can be sustainable.
  • Spending money to get help from a personal trainer and nutritionist is an investment in your health. You are worth investing in yourself.
  • Both good nutrition and exercise should become part of your daily lifestyle change. They are necessary to maintaining a healthy body inside and out.
  • Break a large weight loss goal down into smaller weight loss goals (5 lb loss or even 2 lb loss). Achieving these small goals provide a positive feeling of accomplishment and pride.