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

Post written by FFC Gold Coast member Kandace T.


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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 group fitness instructor 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.


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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. 


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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.


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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.


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This past year, I decided it was time to get serious about endurance – specifically in swimming. I spent a lot of time researching and clicked through many web pages reading up on FFC’s TriMonster Endurance program. “If not now, when?” I thought. This is how TriMonster helped me finish my first triathlon at 70 years young.

I began by tackling the swim portion, and went on vacation with a homework assignment of walking to build up stamina and swimming to build up endurance. Unfortunately, a few weeks into the vacation, I flew over the handlebars of my bike (which set me back a bit until I could hobble to the pool) but eventually recovered and got back on track.

Soon after I started my training, I attended a kickoff session for triathlon preparation at FFC Lincoln Park, where I learned about TriMonster.

I was not thinking about actually doing a specific race at that point, per say, but when I discovered that the Chicago Triathlon organization has a “kindergarten”-level entry, a nudge from Endurance and Swim Coach Terri Friel was all I needed to decide to go for it.

That winter, I participated in the Indoor Triathlon at FFC Lincoln Park, which for many members who biked, ran and swam regularly, was more of a warmup to the season. For me, it was a baby step. Before starting, I looked at the total and individual distances and thought, “if I can’t do that, I’m not dong much.” But I’m so glad I followed the TriMonster training program – I was skeptical at first but the endurance program did help me complete it. The fact that I survived all three parts was encouraging!

Related: try Tri! Click here to learn more about TriMonster and schedule a tour to try us out for free! 

Maria's first triathlon at 70

In preparation for the Chicago Triathlon SuperSprint event on August 27, I went to every single open water swim clinic sponsored by Lifetime. Lake Michigan is scary – and this is when you can see the shore! I struggled each time with wetsuits. But I did become adept and overcame an immense amount of trepidation about the swim portion. And this is coming from someone who swam a lot in the pool beforehand!

Andrea, my other trainer at FFC Oak Park, and Terri both worked together to come up with a plan to build strength and endurance, even when it was looking dim, to have me primed to finish the SuperSprint by walking both legs across the finish line. Andrea went to the expo with me to pick up my race packet. Of course, I joke that she was just making certain I was going to be there!

On race day, she even came to pick me up at my house, in the pouring rain, and kept pumping me up the whole way to the event. She helped me get into my wetsuit before going to the transition area and even managed to get down to the shore to jump up and down when she saw me emerge. I swear, she outdid my husband in her cheerleading. She stayed on the sidelines while I finished the on-foot leg of the race and kept up the positive energy. THAT is exceeding expectations!

“She did struggle with the swim at times, but perseverance provided her with enough force to get out of the water and onto the SuperSprint course at the Lifetime Chicago Triathlon in order to complete the whole course and cross the finish line. She finished first place in her age group and won an entry to the National Championship! We are all so very proud of her accomplishment this year!” said Coach Terri Friel.

Finishing my first triathlon at 70 years young

I don’t think I ever worked so hard physically and played so many mind games to accomplish the awesome feat of finishing my first triathlon. Even the “kindergarten”-level triathlon is scary. Fortunately, I had the support of my age group, coach, trainer and husband, who were all on hand to see me finally emerge from the lake, complete my final transition, finish the biking portion, and with much cheering and sign waving, get me through the ‘run’ (which I walked, albeit quickly!) to get both legs across the finish line. Satisfying and priceless.

Now that I’ve got one event under my belt, I plan to continue the TriMonster program in order to improve my swim endurance and bike more efficiently. Triathlon Sprint, I’m coming for you.


Post written by FFC Oak Park member Maria D.




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Getting an injury is never a fun situation. Especially when you’ve been focused all winter and all you want to do is show off your hard work! Regardless of where you’re at in your fitness journey, it can happen to anyone.

I recently sustained an injury while doing upright barbell rows on a Saturday. I wasn’t doing anything too heavy, and I was going my normal pace. During my second set, I felt a pinch in my left bicep, which threw me off.

I attempted to continue the set but something didn’t feel right. I put the workout on pause and began to stretch for quite some time. After that, my pinky and ring fingers went numb.

Since it was the weekend, I felt it would be best to take a few days off and make an appointment with my doctor. He recommended I get an MRI, so I took action that day.

My doctor called me the next day with the results. He stated that while I luckily did not tear any of tendons in my shoulder or elbow, I had strained my bicep. Upper body workouts would be out of the question for the next 4 – 6 weeks while I went through physical therapy. Here’s how I stayed active with an injury.

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

Staying Active Despite Being Injured

As someone who took Chisel as if it were a multivitamin, this seemed like a nightmare. I quickly started doing research on how to keep working out with an injury – without irritating my bicep. I looked at FFC’s group fitness schedule and saw that some of my options could include Tread, spin, FitCore and yoga, in addition to anything I would be doing on my own. Below is the schedule I followed during my recovery time frame, which also included physical therapy.

  • Monday Morning – self-guided bike for 45 minutes, core for 15 minutes at FFC Union Station
  • Monday Evening – Heated Vinyasa Flow yoga class at FFC Gold Coast
  • Tuesday Morning – Tread class at FFC Union Station
  • Tuesday Evening – physical therapy
  • Wednesday Morning – self-guided stepmill for 30 minutes, FitCore class for 30 minutes at FFC West Loop
  • Thursday Morning – Spin class at FFC Union Station
  • Thursday Evening – physical therapy
  • Friday Morning – self-guided stepmill for 30 minutes, then FitCore class for 30 minutes at FFC Gold Coast

The Most Important Thing I Learned

Despite not being to work out my upper body, this injury has allowed me to focus on different areas that I wouldn’t have before. The biggest positive impact that this has had on me is my lower back. I have always had soreness in my lower back from lifting and never took much time to stretch it (Yoga), or strengthen it (FitCore).

Related: brushed off yoga in the past? It’s time to give it a try! Check out a first-hand account from this “inflexible dude”.

Regardless of the slight setback, this injury has taught me the importance of truly taking care of my body by warming up properly and engaging in post-workout stretching.

Post written by FFC group fitness instructor Omar R.

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Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a professional hockey referee? Skating for the entire duration of games, keeping up with the players and even getting into the middle of fights, these athletes need to be in the best shape possible. We recently had the opportunity to do a Q&A with FFC member Jonathan Sladek about what it takes to be a professional hockey referee and how his training at FFC South Loop helped him achieve his goals and get to the AHL!

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Jonathan Sladek. I’m 27 years old and I’m a referee in the American Hockey League and United States Hockey League. I played DII hockey in college at the University of Iowa from 2008 – 2012.

Transitioning from playing to officiating professionally came pretty naturally for me. I’ve actually officiated hockey since I was 12 years old. During the summer months (our off season), I like to hang out on the lake. I’m also a big snowboarder and surfer.

How did your training help you achieve your goals?

My ultimate goal is to get hired in the NHL. Before joining FFC, my goal was to get hired in the American Hockey League. Fitness Formula Clubs is a gym that feels like home to me. In such a big city, there aren’t many gyms where the training staff knows you on a first name basis. Coming to FFC South Loop every afternoon is the best part of my day.

FFC South Loop personal trainer Ben Timmis worked with me this past summer in my preparation for the NHL exposure combine. At the combine you are scouted as a referee in the same way that players are scouted. My training helped me prepare for the physical on and off-ice testing.

Training for the American Hockey League at FFC Chicago

What kind of workouts do you do? Any you’d like to share?

I lift weights year round 5 days a week and officiate or play recreational hockey 2-3 days a week. In addition to lifting, my cardiovascular workouts are all hockey oriented. As officials, we skate the entire duration of the game so leg strength and both aerobic and anaerobic training is key.


  • Slider Board
  • Bike Wattage Test
  • Treadmill Endurance Test
  • Boxing
  • Parachute Sprints
  • 1 mile runs = 300-meter jog and 100-meter sprint x 3

What kind of challenges have you encountered on your journey?

  • Nutrition – hockey is a long season, and eating the right things throughout the week and on game days is critical.
  • Travel – most guys travel 300-600 miles every weekend and work throughout the United States. Time away from friends and family is one of the many sacrifices I make to do what I love. But we get to see some pretty cool places and the ice is my second home!
  • Mental focus – the game moves really quickly. Officials are really good at skating, especially during their career. What separates the better officials are the ones that can mentally stay focused the duration of the game and have a great hockey IQ.

How did you overcome these obstacles?

I made a plan, worked with Ben the entire summer, and also met with a nutritionist to cut body fat. I also ran through the combine tests that I was preparing for throughout the summer.

Sticking To a Routine Is Key

The day before games, I like to get a good night’s rest and stick to a routine on game days. I’ll get a light workout in the morning and have a pasta dinner around 3 PM. When I get to the rink I like to stretch, do my homework on the teams playing, stretch and play two touch (a soccer game) with my officiating crew. Getting into a routine and mentally preparing for the game from the minute I wake up always helps my performance.

Is there any advice you’d give to someone who is looking to train athletically for a specific goal?

Make a plan and stick to it. Every day you aren’t training someone else is getting better than you. Hard work gets noticed!

Post written by FFC South Loop member Jonathan Sladek. 

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My weight has gone up and down for the past 20 years. I would lose weight and be somewhat fit, but over time, I would gain it all back (and then some). I must have repeated this cycle three times over the past 15 years. I knew it was time for a fitness transformation.

Most recently, I ballooned up to 210 pounds, which was truly dreadful on my 5’8” frame. I worked out 3 or 4 times a week at FFC, but truthfully, I never gave it my full effort – I had to drag myself to the gym and I regarded working out as a chore.

Plus, I would sabotage myself by snacking excessively, especially in the evening or the middle of the night. I loathed my appearance and constantly beat myself up over it. Something had to change.

Additionally, I own fine Italian and English clothing, but I couldn’t fit into any of it. My suits and jackets were size 40 – 42, my trousers were size 33 and my sportswear was medium and small. Much to my chagrin, I had to buy new, larger-sized clothes just to look halfway presentable. When I wore my suits and jackets, I couldn’t button them and my belly hung over my pants.

The Breaking Point

The low point came when I needed to buy a suit for an in-law’s wedding. My wife and I bought me a cheap polyester suit in a size 46. That was a heartbreaking experience for me because I am a sartorial aficionado who takes pride in his appearance. An important part of my very identity had been taken away from me because of my bad dietary habits and my lack of commitment to exercise and fitness.

I regarded weight loss success stories – whether on television, magazines or online – with a combination of envy and hopelessness. I was in my 50s, and had given up hope of ever looking trim and fit. I literally could not look at myself in the mirror… or even my reflection in a window, and I didn’t like people looking at me because I (falsely) thought that they were judging me.

Knowing It Was Time For a Change

However, last October, I decided to made make a change once and for all. I spoke with my sister-in-law, and she told me of a weight loss program that helped her fit into the nice dress for her daughter’s wedding – the wedding I attended in my size 46 suit (ugh).

After that conversation, I immediately started the same diet program as my sister in law: eating lower-fat, lower sodium, decreasing the size of my portions, eating smaller meals six times a day and daily drinking at least 64 ounces of water or zero calorie beverages. The pounds started to come off. However, that was not enough for me. I didn’t want to be skinny – I wanted to be trim, fit and strong. I wanted to look like a man who obviously works out regularly. I was all in.

FFC West Loop member fitness transformationHow FFC Helped Me Get There

This is when I became more diligent about working out at FFC. I began to work out 4 times a week consistently – three days of resistance training (machine and free weights) and abdominal exercises, plus a day of swimming 40 laps in an FFC pool.

I used the club’s integrated app system (now MYZONE)  to create a new routine for every workout. Like my diet regimen, the app provided me with the kind of structure that I needed to fulfill my commitment to fitness and good health.

As the pounds began to come off I reached an epiphany: I no longer regarded my workouts as a chore; rather, I began to look forward to coming to FFC and working out.

I cannot emphasize enough how important this realization was for me. I stopped telling myself that I was a helpless, undisciplined person who had to resign himself to being overweight and hating how he looked. I now owned – really owned – my new identity as a fit, healthy, strong and good-looking man.

I can now do honest-to-goodness pull-ups, which I had never been able to do in my entire life! I recently did 3 sets of pull-ups, (5 – 8 reps apiece) at FFC West Loop. I can swim 2,000 yards (40 laps) in 45 – 50 minutes. I am in the best shape of my life (ever!) and I weigh what I did in my late 20s, when I never worked out.

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Change for the Better

Today, I love my fit, toned body. I am proud of my fitness transformation. I now have muscle definition – strong, muscular arms and a defined abdomen. I know that I can be in control of my own physical shape, and this has transformed the rest of my life. I have more energy and self-confidence. Everyone in my life has taken notice – my sister-in-law (who helped me start on this path) told me that I exude vibrance. Rather than hide behind shapeless clothing, I actually look for clothing that flatters my new look. I revel in that dramatic transformation that I myself created!

Years ago, my wife and I were at a housewarming party for a woman who was (and is) in great physical shape. She had a refrigerator magnet that read, “Would you rather have a tasty treat or a rocking body?” I am proud that I have finally opted for the sustained feeling of pride and good health rather than the temporary rush of unhealthy foods.

Related: check out this recent post about how to use intuitive eating to transform your eating habits.

I have been sharing my success and pride in my body on Instagram and Facebook, and I am pleased to say that I have received a lot of positive feedback and reinforcement. I truly hope that I model fitness and good health for others, and I want to inspire people who have weight issues but don’t think that they can make a change. Thank you, FFC. I could not have done it without the support and encouragement of your staff and the quality of your facilities.

Post written by FFC West Loop member Lou D.


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