FFC Oak Park spa manager Jason VonGerichten shares the effects of stress on the body and stress management tips, including strategies like massage for stress relief, among others. Check out the research and tips below!

When discussing the stress response, I would often tell my students that their bodies are like the Starship Enterprise.

Stay with me.

When the Enterprise was in a battle and they were taking some hits, Captain Kirk would inevitably say:

“Scotty, put. all. power. to. the. forward. shields!”

And Scotty would unplug the microwave (or whatever) in order to divert all extra power to their forward shields so they could get that final photon torpedo into the Klingons.

Our bodies do something similar.

Effects of Stress On The Body

When we’re faced with stressful conditions our sympathetic nervous system – the “fight or flight” response – is activated, and all power is diverted away from any unnecessary functions. Due to the effects of stress, blood flow is diverted away from our digestive system so we can get more oxygen to the muscles needed to run, many maintenance hormones and mucus production stop secreting, our immune system shuts down, and adrenaline and cortisol are dumped into the bloodstream to give us an extra boost of energy and strength.

And all of this is great… if we are indeed faced with a physical threat. But how often are we actually facing off with a bear in the woods? What do we usually get stressed about?

Office politics. Income taxes. Mortgage rates. Personal relationships.

Can we defend ourselves against these emotional things with a physical response?

We cannot. And in fact, we end up damaging our bodies from this response, because we don’t feel the effects of stress about the next election for five minutes, we feel it every day for the next two years, and our physical bodies have yet to find a pre-programmed response to this type of emotional stressor.

So, we divert blood flow from our digestive system and we get constipated or diuretic. We stop secreting growth hormone and we don’t repair damaged tissue as quickly. Less mucus in our stomachs means there’s no protection from stomach acid (hello ulcers!). We get sick easier without an immune system functioning, and a constant drip of adrenaline and cortisol means damage to our circulatory system and higher levels of glucose in the blood. You can stress yourself into type 2 diabetes!

So what do we do?

It’s easy to tell someone to just relax to combat the effects of stress, but unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. In fact, I don’t know if you know this, but telling somebody who is upset to calm down often has the opposite effect, and all of that person’s non-calmness then gets directed at the person offering advice.

Related: mindfulness could help! Here’s some best tips for practicing mindfulness.

Luckily, our bodies have two built-in systems we can manipulate to activate our parasympathetic nervous system – our “rest and digest” functions.

One of those systems? Breathing. You do not have to get in touch with the divine. You don’t even have to meditate. Just breathe, and breathe deeply. By activating your diaphragm, that big muscle under your lungs, your body gets the signal that you are in a restive state, even if you’re not, and then the rest of the body follows suit. It’s been said you can add years to your life by just breathing deeply a few minutes every day.

Massage for Stress Relief

Massage is the second thing we can do. Our bodies are built to be social creatures, and in the age of online communications it’s more important than ever to find ways to incorporate healthy, healing touch into our lives. Massage for stress relief is a great approach. Aside from all the benefits to your musculature, a simple sense of touch begins the release of dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin in your brain. Those are all, in this case, feel-good neurotransmitters, mood elevators, and stress relievers.

Related: did you know that massage can also be a great solution to help with Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Study after study has shown that children who are consistently given loving touch from their parents grow up to be stronger and less sickly, and elderly people whose partners have passed are less healthy because of the lack of loving touch.

Do yourself a favor. Live long and prosper by breathing deeply and getting a regular massage for stress relief.

Post written by FFC Oak Park spa manager Jason VonGerichten.

Hey, did you know FFC offers massage? Set phasers to deep tissue! Use your communicator to give us a call and book an appointment. Have more questions for Jason or want to set up a complimentary consultation? Email him at jvongerichten@ffc.com!

Jason VonGerichten is the spa manager at FFC In Oak Park. He is a husband, massage therapist, pug enthusiast, and his first book, Welcome to Uranus, is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Google Play.

FFC Union Station personal trainer Tyler Sutphen shares a perspective on the body positivity movement and a reminder to prioritize health habits above all.

As you read this, please know that I do not condone bullying of any kind. However, I do find it alarming the way the body positivity movement has progressed in certain directions.

Before I delve into this topic further, I’d like to point out that fatness doesn’t determine fitness. You can be overweight and be fit. Also, above all, you should be happy with who you are as a person both physically and mentally, or at the very least who you are becoming. If you’re not, then it is up to you to take action to change that. It is, however, time that we educate ourselves more about fat instead of suppressing the topic away because of negative feelings about it or an elementary school bully we once had.

Body positivity is a relatively new movement that has resulted in a change in the way the beauty is perceived. No longer is it just the size zero models strutting down the catwalks, as we also have people of a variety of sizes modeling for clothing companies, representing different body types in advertisements, etc. This a great stride towards diversity and mental health, as more people are happier with who they are.

Prioritizing Healthy Habits

There are, however, limitations that people should be reminded of in order to balance both physical AND mental health. The notion of body positivity can sometimes promote a greater likelihood for a dangerous lifestyle of overeating and inactivity, which can lead to serious health issues.

Just because you’re content with your body size, doesn’t mean that it is in fact physically healthy. While fat is important and we need to have some of it, like anything else, there are limitations.

There are mainly two types of fat in adults – white fat and visceral fat. White fat is the most common in the body, and is also called subcutaneous fat. This is the fat under your skin that gives your body its shape. Visceral fat is the harmful type of fat that you cannot see. It is the fat that lies on top of your organs. This fat affects the body in that the more of it that you have, the more at risk you are for developing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease (the #1 killer).

*Bonus Fact: if your waist to hip ratio is over 1, you’re at a higher risk for heart disease*

So, as you can infer, the more overweight a person is, the more likely they are to have more visceral fat. Another thing that can contribute to more visceral fat that most people don’t realize is a heavy intake of alcohol. We can combat this type of fat in a healthy, sustainable way – no need to go all “Biggest Loser”. By simply eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly, you can help drastically change your body composition. An example of a healthy exercise regimen would include 3-5 days per week of a combination of aerobic and anaerobic activity (like cardio – check out that post here!).

No one is saying that you need to look like Brad Pitt or Gal Gadot, but you do need to take your physical health as seriously as your mental health and try your best to prioritize a healthy, balanced lifestyle through nutrition and exercise.

Post written by FFC Union Station personal trainer Tyler Sutphen.

Want to learn more or set up a complimentary consultation with Tyler? Email him at tsutphen@ffc.com.

“I can’t run. I don’t do group fitness classes. I won’t lift weights.” Are these statements true for you? But why? Many times, the answer involves fear. Fear can take the form of many lines – such as “I’m afraid of my knees hurting.” Or “I’m afraid of looking silly because I can’t keep up with the class.” Or “I’m afraid that I’ll be doing it wrong.” How is fear limiting your workouts? How is fear limiting you in general? How to overcome fear? Fear is not simply an excuse. It is a real thing that can prevent us from doing things we want to do, or from dreaming and setting goals for things we might not even realize are possible for us.

If you find yourself saying things like “I can’t”, “I don’t” or “I’m not”, it’s important to really think about what you’re saying. Take a moment to consider how fear can impact your beliefs about yourself or things you’re doing. What if you took fear out of the equation? How would that change your beliefs and actions?

How to Move Forward

Take it one step at a time.

The most important thing to consider when thinking about how to overcome fear is to take overwhelm out of the equation. Pick one thing. Maybe it’s taking a Pilates class, or maybe it’s learning how to lift weights. Or maybe it’s taking an art class or speaking in front of people. It can be very helpful to find a trainer (or mentor) who believes in YOU and your ability to conquer your fear.

Chart your wins so that you can see that your progress is real.

Sure, you can set all the goals in the world, but measuring yourself against things you haven’t accomplished yet isn’t that helpful. Keep a list of your wins so that you can see your forward momentum.

Establish a plan that will move you forward.

Put a clear plan in place to reaching the one specific goal you set and be prepared to adjust this plan frequently, as success rarely moves in a straight line! There will be weeks when you hit all of your mile markers, and weeks where you won’t. Knowing that going off plan is actually part of the plan (and totally normal) can keep you from derailing!

Also, when you do hit a milestone, as mentioned in the previous step, acknowledge it! Chart it, note it – give yourself a high five. Breathe in the success of the moment, and then move onto the next action or stage in the plan.

Related: check out this simply DIY guide to setting smart, achievable goals.

How to Overcome Fear: Moving On and Moving Up

Continue to celebrate your successes and enjoy your new sense of empowerment through movement, no matter how small each baby step forward might be. Know that fear is normal, and never really goes away. However, when you recognize it and practice moving through the fear using the steps above, it becomes a lot less scary!

Reflect, recognize, plan and move through your fears for a strong and healthy body, mind and spirit!

Post written by Kristin Strom, FFC regional Pilates manager.

Whether you believe winter starts the second water freezes or more officially on December 21, we can all agree the changing of the seasons can create moodiness. Believed to be related to the decrease in sunlight and amount of chemicals our brains release with the change in seasons, Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD for short) – which is also known as Winter Blues – is a real thing. Check out this guide for some additional information about SADs, and how you may be able to find an effective Seasonal Affective Disorder treatment through massage therapy.

Don’t be fooled – SAD can hit you at any time of year, but seems to be especially prominent during the colder months. As I mentioned, the chemicals your brain releases can change during seasonal changes. Your brain creates all different types of chemicals, one of them being serotonin (which can be tied to sunlight). When the sun isn’t out as long, your brain creates less serotonin, which gives you motivation, energy, etc. It’s also a mood regulator, so when there isn’t as much produced, it can lead to feelings that are similar to depression or fatigue. Other symptoms include wanting to sleep or eat more, and lethargy. Not only that, but if you already have other types of mood disorders, this can cause an even greater effect.

Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatment through Massage Therapy

While some may find they are prescribed medication for these times to help fight imbalances, there is actually another great alternative – you can find Seasonal Affective Disorder treatment through massage therapy! We already know that massage has a lot of great benefits to your health – but now you can add this to your list.

Those with SAD generally have higher levels of anxiety, increased symptoms of depression and can see a lack of sleep. This can lead to soreness and increased cortisol levels. Massage can help create Seasonal Affective Disorder treatment by activating neurotransmitters that lower those stress hormones. It can also lower heart rate and improve blood pressure. This can help you feel more calm, as well as more energetic. Massage also offers a gentle touch, which can give you a sense of comfort you may have not felt you were getting.

Remember how earlier I mentioned your moods can be affected by SAD? Another major thing that can be affected is your circadian rhythm – that little internal clock that keeps you awake and helps you sleep. Find yourself tossing and turning? You can help regulate your circadian rhythm by getting a massage – which helps relax sore muscles, ease the mind and make your day a little better through self care. All of those factors can be beneficial when it comes to getting adequate sleep and keeping your circadian rhythm on track, despite the change in sunlight, hormones, etc.

Related: avoid mood swings with these nutrition tips. Check out the post!

Other Ways to Combat SAD

Additional ways to fight off the effects of SAD include developing an exercise routine (ideally one that includes some sort of cardio as well as weight training). Making sure you’re getting enough sleep and exposing yourself to as much natural sunlight as possible, even as little as 30 minutes, could be beneficial too.

Post written by FFC Boystown massage therapist Ariel Leonard.

 

About Ariel

Ariel is a massage therapist at FFC Boystown; she graduated from the Cortiva Institute and specializes in a mix between deep tissue, sports and relaxation massage, as well as prenatal massage and a number of other modalities. She likes helping people fell better about themselves, whether it be helping overcome mental or physical stress. She always prioritizes listening to and taking care of her clients and always makes sure to share some type of valuable information they can put into practice.

Want to set up a complimentary consultation with Ariel? Email her at aleonard@ffc.com!

FFC Union Station massage therapist Aaron Gunn shares the benefits of Swedish Massage, plus other types of massage and all of their benefits.

Today is the day. You’ve made the decision to take that next step. You’re going to book a massage! You hop out of bed, put on your finest athleisure wear, eat a MyPlate-approved balanced breakfast (right after posting a picture of it on Instagram), and make your way to the closest FFC.

As you speed toward the club, you’re so excited about your dive into the world of massage therapy that you almost run over a now-terrified pedestrian. Slow down. The path to wellness is not a race.

You park your car and enter the doors that lead to your new destiny. You approach the spa desk and engage the gatekeeper. This is it. You have prepared for this moment. With confidence, you proclaim, “I would like to book a massage!” The receptionist smiles warmly and responds, “My pleasure. What type of massage would you like to book?”

Wait. Hold on. TYPE of massage? There’s more than one? You did not prepare for this. Which one do you choose? Swedish massage? Deep tissue? Sports massage? What if you choose the wrong one? Will you embarrass yourself, be disowned by your friends, and bring shame to your family? As beads of sweat begin to roll down your face, you panic and yell, “I HAVE DIARRHEA! I HAVE TO GO!”

Crisis averted. Try again tomorrow.

Types of Massage and Their Benefits

Now here’s the thing. You don’t have to be well-versed in the vast array of massage modalities to receive the type of bodywork that is most appropriate for you. At risk of further confusing things, I will briefly discuss a few types of massage that I most often get asked about: Swedish, deep tissue, sports, and myofascial.

Benefits of Swedish Massage

This is often used to describe a full-body or most-body massage that encourages fluid circulation and promotes relaxation. It intends to create a general sensation of feeling better without necessarily treating specific physical issues. However, as a technicality, Swedish massage techniques fall into a broad category that ranges from superficial and relaxing to some of the deepest and most aggressive techniques in the industry. It is not a simple task to describe Swedish, as it can have a variety of intended purposes.

Benefits of Deep Tissue Massage

Ready to have your mind blown? Deep tissue massage is technically Swedish massage. It’s just a specific application of some Swedish massage techniques done with a substantial amount of pressure. It aims at addressing deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue that are creating imbalance, pain, or other dysfunction. I find that many people are hesitant to book deep tissue massage because they expect it to be painful. Guess what? Deep work doesn’t need to be painful to be effective. I firmly (get it?) believe this.

Benefits of Sports Massage

You’re getting massage at your gym. You’re athletic, or at least trying to be. So this is the massage for you, right? Well, maybe. This is where it can get confusing – sports massage is a lot of different things, depending on how it’s complementing your athletic activity. It can be done right before your event/activity, aiming to prepare the body for the movements it’s about to do repetitively and/or forcefully. I can be done afterwards to help the body recover from activity. It could be a deep tissue massage, just specific to the muscle groups most utilized during your sport. Or a Swedish massage. It could be specific treatment of an athletic injury.

Just make sure that your therapist understands what your activities are and what your training schedule looks like. It is important to plan the timing of different massage types with the timing of your activities.

Related: curious as to which type of massage might be best for you depending on what type of fitness you do? Check out this post!

Myofascial Release Techniques & Benefits of Massage

Mostly simply put, myofascial massage is a category of techniques that addresses the connective tissue (fascia) within and surrounding your muscles (myo). By mobilizing connective tissue layers, the aim is to allow the body to move through its full range-of-motion without limitation or pain. While it can be an entire session alone, the reality is that myofascial techniques are incorporated into Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, and sports massage.

And This Helps Me How?

I know what you might be thinking. After reading this overview of the various types of massage, you are now even less confident in booking the correct type of massage. That’s ok. The reality is that different modalities are often combined into a single session to give you a catered massage experience that is specific to your needs and goals. The most important thing to know is that you want to schedule a massage. Choose whichever option is closest to what you think you want, and choose the amount of time (if unsure, an hour is often a good place to start).

Then, just speak with your massage therapist. If we need to change the type of massage in our system, we can do that. Our priority is giving you the work that you NEED, not some pre-determined category of massage that you may have randomly chosen. When my clients arrive, I ask them about their goals, their activities, their known injuries and areas of discomfort, and what they are looking to accomplish. I guide them through my professional recommendations, and I structure the massage accordingly. As I often tell my clients: “You’re in good hands. I’m like Allstate.”

Post written by Aaron Gunn, FFC Union Station massage therapist.

 

Get social with us! Check out more great wellness tips and follow us on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube & Twitter. Looking for some workout motivation? Follow our curated lists on Spotify!

 

Aaron Gunn Massage Therapist at FFC in Chicago shares all the different types of massage and their benefits.About Aaron

Aaron Gunn has been an educator in the field of massage therapy for almost 13 years. In addition to being a practicing massage therapist, he is certified as a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and a registered yoga teacher. He has had the privilege of providing massage therapy for a variety of sports teams and athletes. As a runner and triathlete, Aaron utilizes massage as a part of his own training programs. He aims to shift the perspective on the role of massage therapy to help individuals meet their fitness and wellness goals safely and pain-free. Want to schedule a consultation with Aaron? Email him at agunn@ffc.com!

 

 

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As the year comes to an end, we begin to think about the last 12 months. We ask ourselves, ‘Did I accomplish the things I said I would in January? Am I happier? Am I stronger? Have I grown as an individual?’ Everyone wants to be better. We always want to find new ways to do more with less. People always ask me, what I’m working towards, and how I’m doing it.  Hopefully, this message will answer some of those questions. Regarding work life balance importance, I’ve put together a collection of my thoughts, the tools I use and ideas for how to implement them that I hope will be useful for you and help you find balance in multiple aspects of your life.

Giving Back

Fitness has always been a passion of mine and I was looking for ways to give back to the world. A great friend and mentor of mine (Antonio Coke) made a comment one day over lunch that stuck with me: “Life isn’t about what you take from it, but what you can give back.” Before I turned 30, I really had the mindset of taking what I could from the world. Some would refer this to “doing me.” I work for large corporation out of Chicago as my day job, and truly enjoy what I do. But I could never quite shake the feeling that something was missing.

I’m a firm believer that life works in mysterious ways, and all it takes are small moments to make a big difference. In April of 2018, I was asked to lead a class at FFC to see how I would like it. The week I turned 30, I led my first class, and got a taste of fulfillment. The feeling of giving back to the world. I later proceeded to sign up for my ACE certification in Group Fitness and had 6 months to take the exam. Fast forward to the end of September, I took the exam and passed. I was legit. Where am I going with this?

Work Life Balance Importance

Finding balance is still one of the most difficult parts of my life, even today. From working out in the morning, working a 9 to 5, and teaching at night, I needed a plan. Friends and family ask me all the time, “How do you have time for everything?”

Through trial and error, I learned that the only way I was going to be able to handle everything was with a balanced workout and diet schedule. As we get ready for the new year, I’d like to give back by providing ideas and thoughts that I have implemented in my life to bring fulfillment.

So many times, we hear about people “wanting” to do something that makes them happy but that they’re “too busy.” For me, I have found that having a morning routine, nightly routine, structured diet, and focused workout schedule helps me function at maximum capacity. Integrating all 4 of these factors has helped me find balance within my daily life while giving back to others.

Please note – the purpose of this message is to answer the questions of those who have asked about what I do and how I do it. My process and ideas below are specific to my schedule, goals, and body type.

Factor #1: Nightly Routine

Before going over my morning routine, I thought it would be better to go over how I end my days in my nightly routine. I’ve learned the hard way that if I don’t sleep the way I need to, my next day is derailed. I wake up every day at 4:00 am, and work best after seven true hours of sleep. I use the word “true”  because that is actual sleep.

I am an advocate for social media, but I push myself to not become dependent on it. Two factors that help me with that can be accessed as settings within the iPhone, and are now available with the iOS 12 update (check out this quick guide for how to set them up).

  • Downtime – I have my apps shut down from 8:00 PM – 4:30 AM
  • App Limits – I limit the amount of time I spend on Instagram (30 minutes), Facebook (15 minutes), and LinkedIn (15 minutes)

These settings help me by allowing my brain to wind down an hour before sleep. For the longest time, I found myself flicking my thumb along that screen until I was ready for bed. I’ve come to learn was that blue light and media were stimulating my brain, which delayed the time it took my brain to get to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

REM sleep is important for many reasons, but what I was wanting especially was the muscle recovery piece. Having my apps shut down at 8:00 PM also pushed me to read books and/or journal. This helped me with allowing my mind to get away from the day and/or let anything out onto paper. Now, if I’m reading, I’m typically out within 15 minutes around 8:45 PM.

Factor #2: Morning Routine

My morning routine is important to me because I am able to start the day by focusing on myself. My day job requires me to contact customers and partners all day with minimal downtime. While teaching class in the evenings, I am giving myself physically and mentally to each participant to ensure they’re getting a workout they wouldn’t get on their own. A 4:00 AM wakeup is out of the ordinary for most, but works well for me as I like to start my day with journaling and a workout. I use the app Sleep Cycle, which gradually wakes you up versus dramatically with the default Apple settings.

I get to the gym at 5:00 AM. I always start my day with a cardio session, which varies between kickboxing and running. Each workout is followed by a long shower then back home for my first meal. Once done, it’s usually around 7:00 AM, and I am ready to head to the beautiful world of Corporate America. From the time I wake up to the time I get to work, I have already been awake for 3 hours and my body/mind is clear for the day.

Factor #3: Nutrition & Sample Diet Breakdown

Nutrition has been a key factor of success in sustaining morning workouts, evening workouts AND my day job. While working with FFC’s dietitian, Alicia Huggler, I learned I wasn’t eating enough to keep up with my workouts plus my resting metabolic rate. Now, I change my diet throughout the month as I change my workouts. Below is a breakout of what I eat on a monthly basis.

          

The first week of the month includes higher carb intake as I lift heavier. As the month goes on, I replace my carbohydrates with fats (which is highlighted in blue above). This resets each month as I reintroduce carbohydrates into my system. In working with Alicia, I learned many different things, such as to eat the skin of my sweet potatoes because they are a great source of fiber and nutrients.

Factor #4: Fitness & Sample Workout Breakdown

When it comes to my workout schedule, I do my best to mix things up with cardio, strength training, HIIT and circuit training. Below is an overview of the schedule along with descriptions of each focus and why I do them:

  • Cardio – I jump between kickboxing and running workouts, and do them in the morning, as they’re a great way for me to wake up and start my day with something I enjoy.
  • Strength training – I lift weights twice a week (with a focus on “pushing and pulling”) to ensure I’m retaining muscle mass while doing cardio on a daily basis. “Pushing” might include squats, shoulder press, lunges, chest press, etc. “Pulling” might include deadlifts, upright rows, rows, etc.
    • Week 1 (heavy strength training): 5-10 reps / set x 5
    • Week 2 (intermediate strength training) 10-15 reps / set x 5
    • Week 3 (light strength training) 15-20 reps / set x 5
    • Week 4 (recovery) 10-15 reps / set x 5
  • HIIT – I do evening HIIT workouts following strength training days, which allows me to increase my heart rate quickly while using weights, ropes or kettlebells.
  • Circuit training – I follow an hour-long run with circuit training a part of my Saturday morning routine because I’m following a rest day and need to wake up my entire body. I’m not looking to break records, more so integrate push, pull, and core exercises into one workout.

 

Weekly Workout Breakdown

I break up my schedule on weekly basis: weeks 1 – 3, heavy, intermediate, light; week 4, recovery. Some months have 5 weeks vs the typical 4; I extend week 3 (light strength training) into week 4 and perform the “light” schedule for 2 weeks.

In the screenshot above, you’ll notice a “recovery” week, where I continue movement, but at a lower intensity. I do a single workout instead of two-a-days; in the morning I use the extra time to do light stretching and foam rolling to wake up.

When it comes to technique and proper form, I work with expert FFC trainer, Jeremy Gorden. His experience in personal training has helped me with building lean muscle mass, while staying an agile runner. I always recommend hiring someone to push you plus they’ll see things you won’t.

Summing It Up

As for final thoughts, I hope this message is received not as a manual of how to live your life but, as an example to pull from. Remember, this is what works for me and what I enjoy doing. If you could take one thing from this, and it impacts you in a positive way, this is a success. As you prep for 2019, take a second to think about something you’ve always wanted to do, and just go for it.

It doesn’t matter if you’re 30, 40, or 50, we all have the choice on how to live our lives. What you give back to the world is what you’ll be remembered by when you’re gone.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” -William Shakespeare

Omar

Post written by FFC group fitness instructor Omar Romero.

About Omar

Omar is a fitness enthusiast based out of the Chicagoland area. As an FFC group fitness instructor, his focus is around functional fitness mixed with high intensity interval training. His personal philosophy is based on hard work and no excuses. You can see his other published pieces by clicking here!

FFC Oak Park spa manager, Jason VonGerichten, shares massage therapy benefits related to exercise (even for just regular, everyday fitness enthusiasts – you don’t have to be an athlete!) and how it helps you, no matter what type of fitness you like.

As we’ve always been told, too much of anything can be bad for you. Did you know you could die from eating too many carrots?

Carrots!

If only eating carrots didn’t look so cool I wouldn’t have gotten hooked at such a young age…

The same methodology can be applied to your fitness routines.

Is lifting weights good for building strength? Yes. Is yoga good for your core? Absolutely. Is Pilates some sort of torture device that is irrationally good for you? Of course it is.

So should you only do any one of these things? Probably not.

In the same way you should not only do any one of these things, you should also consider occasionally integrating different wellness practices into your routine. If you add in regular massages to your routine, you can amplify your performance and see dramatic increases in results. Here are some massage therapy benefits related to each type of fitness mentioned above.

Weight Lifting

If you’re a weight lifter you probably spend a lot of time tearing up your muscles and allowing them to heal in shortened positions. Look over at the big guys on the benches. Are their shoulders rolled inward (so you can see the backs of their hands when their arms are at their sides)? Those big gains might look good now, but over time holding your shoulders in this posture can lead to any number of dysfunctions (tendonitis, rotator cuff impingement, frozen shoulder, etc.).

Getting regular massages from a skilled practitioner can help realign those shoulders before any major damage is done. With a combination of myofascial release and Swedish techniques over the pecs and shoulders, you can increase your range of motion and make sure you keep on getting swole.

Related: in addition to not taking advantage of massage, are you possibly also committing one of these fitness faux pas at the gym?

Yoga

Even yoga practitioners, who are all about stretching, core strength and mindful movement, can take advantage of massage therapy benefits. Anyone who has failed at pigeon pose will know what I’m talking about. A little troublemaker, named piriformis, is the main muscle stopping your hip from rotating the way it should. It’s typically made short and tight from holding your hip in an externally rotated position for extending periods of time (like when you’re seated). Are you seated right now? Are your feet pointed straight forward? No? Then your piriformis is becoming misshapen.

A massage therapist knows how to release this muscle through deep tissue massage and appropriate stretching, making sure your sit bones get all the way down to the mat during pigeon pose, no blocks required.

Related: perplexed by how many different types of massage there are? Check out this post on all the types of massage and their benefits!

Pilates

And Pilates. You’re going to be sore after Pilates. Massage will improve your recovery time so you can get right back to getting sore again.

Here comes the shameless plug:

FFC hires only the most skilled massage therapists to staff their spas, and any one of them can help you reap massage therapy benefits and devise a massage plan to help reach your goals as painlessly as possible. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation and let us help you achieve all your fitness objectives.

Post written by FFC Oak Park Spa Manager Jason VonGerichten.

About Jason

Jason VonGerichten is the spa and retail manager at FFC Oak Park. He’s been a massage therapist for ten years, a writer for much longer, and he currently resides with his wife and three pugs in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. To set up a consultation or for more questions or information, email him at jvongerichten@ffc.com.

Bullying starts earlier than you think – but you can arm your loved ones with the tools to combat it. When we think of bullying, we generally envision the jocks in high school throwing the little guy in a locker or the mean girls on the bus making fun of someone’s hair texture. The fact is, it starts a lot earlier than that. Studies show that although bullying activity peaks in middle school, it can begin as early as preschool. What start out as simple disagreements over crayons or who gets to throw the ball quickly turn into teasing. Once a child has shown that teasing gets under their skin, it manifests into bullying. Bullying becomes a habit. Below I’ve outlined some tools one can use to help stop bullying.

Confidence as a Tool to Help Stop Bullying

The key to help stop bullying – especially in those early years of preschool and elementary school when children are forming their own personality – is to teach them to love themselves and know they have value.

At the same time, we don’t want to develop a little monster who thinks they’re better than everyone else. That’s a problem of another sort. The goal is to develop children who build a sense of self-importance and self-confidence in themselves.

They also need to learn whose opinion is important. Johnny – who picks his nose and eats glue – might not like them, but his opinion doesn’t mean as much as that of mom or dad. Developing confidence at a young age is not a quick fix either. It’s a process. It takes time, attention and cultivation. Like raising a child.

And in the age of cell phones, today’s children have it worse than children just a generation before them. Cyberbullies – the bully who doesn’t even have to be standing in front of you to upset you – is the worst. And they don’t just tease children. Most adults have dealt with this on some level. If allowed to fester, bullying could lead to poor grades in school, depression, sleep disorders, drug use, incarceration or even suicide. It cannot be allowed to fester.

Martial Arts as a Tool to Build Confidence

I have a potential solution for you. I say potential because there is no catch-all, quick-fix answer to eliminating all of the jerks in the world. My potential solution is training martial arts. And no, I’m not advocating kids just wallop the guy who stole their pencil. Martial arts, in addition to teaching self-defense, teach self-confidence in the individual from the word go.

In my classes, I tell my students they are individuals and they are part of a class, but I do not promote that they are on a team. I don’t think there is anything wrong with team sports, but I believe in today’s world – where often everyone gets a trophy and having 3 or 4 good players wins you a title – children can get lost in the mix.

In martial arts, you succeed or fail by what you put into it. Sure, Mom or Dad or the babysitter get participants to class, but once they step on the mat it’s all up to the student. And sure, that can be intimidating, but the right instructor – one who is a real educator and builder of people – can inspire that child and arm them with the tools to deal a not-so-friendly world.

Related: learning how to take a step back can help too – here are some simple tricks for practicing mindfulness.

I have more to tell you so stay tuned. Better yet, come train with me at FFC Park Ridge – my classes are for all ages; 4 years through adults. Both classes and private lessons are available.

Post written by FFC Park Ridge Martial Arts Instructor James Hirth.

About James

James started teaching students, ages 4 and up, in Tae Kwon Do and self-defense at FFC Park Ridge in October. For more information or any questions, email him at jhirth@ffc.com.

Foundations are the beginning of all things, whether it be the first day of a new job, or training for the Chicago marathon. Present within these foundations is transformation, such as rain becoming snow. Thoughts transform into our attitudes and mindsets and eventually become our personal philosophies. Many philosophies have roots in ancient history, such as yin and yang, which comes from observing nature. Observation is the most accessible skill we have. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), is based greatly upon this – nature being of the most important (which includes us). Here’s a basic introduction to the philosophy and why you should balance your yin and yang.

In its purest form, observation derives itself from contentment and passiveness (baring in mind, though, that passiveness does not necessarily mean without action). An action can be as simple as a thought or internal response, whether that be a change in breathing, energy level, relaxed to tense, or just warm to cool. There can be an effect without an affect.

Yin and Yang Philosophy

Yin/yang philosophy began with the book Tao Te Ching, by the philosopher Lao Tsu (6th c. BC) . ‘Dualism’ is the core of yin/yang as, ‘one defining the other’. For instance, a sense of relaxation represents yin, while tense represents yang. Slower breathing represents yin, while faster breathing represents the idea of yang. Cool is more yin, while warm is more yang. A yoga pose like downward dog is very yin, while performing a deadlift is more yang.

The moon shines brightest on a dark night, while the sun is brightest during a winter day.

Our observations are intertwined in our daily lives, as well as over the span of a lifetime. Embracing the elements around us as being different, as much as they are the same, is key to grasping how they overlap and become whole. Balance is harmony and imbalance is disharmony. Yin is the heavier, darker side, while yang represents the lighter side. Yin is the moon and yang the sun. Yin reaches for the earth, as in yoga, while yang reaches for the sky, as in lifting weights. A yin personality may enjoy evening yoga classes, while a yang personality may wake up bright-eyed, ready for a workout. Yin can be calmer, quiet, and even shy – while yang is loud, high energy and outgoing. In harmony, yin and yang are balanced, and we are at our best.

Related: how to recover from burnout by getting back to the basics.

If we find ourselves sluggish and tired, we may need a yang influence in our daily activities. Conversely, we may need more yin-influenced relaxation to balance the excitement of yang. Yoga is great for relaxation, and if lacking energy, a higher intensity “yang” workout may be helpful, like a spin class. These aspects of yin and yang are just microcosms of a much larger system. The basics of yin and yang are effortless and lead to a path of self observation. Nurture balance in your life.

Post written by Jessica Heffernan, FFC Park Ridge massage therapist.

About Jessica

Jessica Heffernan, LMT, CP-AOBTA, believes that the most beneficial massage is customize for your workout goals. As a certified practitioner of Asian Bodywork, her goal is to restore and maintain the balance of yin and yang of her clients. Want to set up a consultation or experience the benefits of restorative, balancing massage? Email Jessica at jheffernan@ffc.com!

Imagine a soothing massage. Now imagine that, but for your face. Usually thought of as a pampering practice, facials are actually a very important aspect of skincare. Here’s why you need a facial, plus wellness benefits associated with a facial.

Jess, licensed and insured esthetician, suggests receiving a facial every 2 weeks (or more, depending on your preferences and skin). Besides achieving relaxation, they provide many benefits to enhance the beauty of your healthy skin, as well as address and correct concerns.

What’s involved? The process includes cleansing the skin, exfoliation and correction, followed by moisturizing and and protection with various products. You can also take the opportunity to ask your esthetician about best practices, or any questions you may have about your skin, including products to buy and ingredients you should look for/stay away from.

Benefits of a Facial

What are the benefits of a facial? Benefits of a facial include:

  • Refined skin texture
  • Prevention of imperfections such as milia and blemishes
  • Increased cell turnover, which can reveal brighter skin
  • Revival of dull, lifeless skin
  • Improved skin elasticity

Related: dealing with a breakout? Your diet could be to blame. Here’s a recipe for low-sugar breakfast options you should check out!

For anyone who love massages, you’ll be glad to know facials include a massage! And the FFC Signature Facial actually includes a back massage. The different manipulations during the facial will increase oxygen and blood flow to the skin, reducing the appearance of dark circles around the eyes, relaxing the muscles, and slowing the onset of fine lines and wrinkles while firming the muscles beneath the skin.

Regular facials promote healthy clear, well hydrated complexions leaving us all with young, beautiful skin.

Post written by FFC West Loop skincare expert, Jessica Harp.

About Jess

Jess is an esthetician at FFC West Loop who helps clients attain healthy, beautiful skin through facials, waxing and education. She looks forward to meeting you and helping you complete you healthy skin routine. Email her at jharp@ffc.com to discuss the best program for you and your skin!