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.

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!

Everyone feels run down, overworked, and just plain depleted at one time or another. Getting back to a wellness baseline with your weekly schedule will keep you feeling your best and ready to take on all that life throws your way. Here are a few tips on how to recover from burnout by getting back to the basics.

What Are the “Basics”?

The main areas I focus on when I’m feeling depleted include:

  • Quality sleep
  • Nutritious meals
  • Self-care
  • Journaling
  • Connecting with others

While these seem like pretty tangible goals to maintain at the surface, these basic elements for a happy and healthy you are usually the first and easiest things to push to the backburner when our calendars are full to the brim day after day.

What’s a Personal Baseline?

What is your personal baseline you may ask? With this term, I’m referring to the point where you feel stable, secure, nourished & calm so that you can go out and be the best you while you are fulfilling all of your commitments to others and working towards your personal goals.

As an example, I feel my best when I eat healthy meals regularly, sleep at least 8 hours (even if 2 are just lying in bed & not actual sleep), working out in some capacity, (yoga, walking, Zumba), have a clean house, and a plan in place for the upcoming week. Everything on top of that, such as social events or fitting in a squeeze from my nephews are just icing on the cake.

That may sound like a lot, but if I have missed a workout due to a social event or grabbed a meal on the fly it won’t throw me off. However, if I have eaten crappy for a few days, had a few bad nights of sleep, come home to a messy house, haven’t seen anyone outside of work in a few days AND missed my daily work out then I will most likely be feeling frazzled – which will snowball into missed meetings, tardiness, forgetfulness and crankiness.

Taking time to check in with yourself to make sure your baseline needs are being met is a great way to ensure you are being the best version of yourself when you step into the world.

How to Make a Plan to Recover from Burnout (Or Prevent Burnout in the First Place)

  • Whether you work 9-5, 11-7 or nights and weekends, pick an afternoon or evening to map out your week so you can see when & where you need to be.
  • Plan for your meals as much as you can, and work towards cooking as many as possible.
  • Add exercise as an event on your calendar and aim for 30 more minutes and 1 more day a week then you currently at.
  • Pencil in some you time to journal, take a long bath; paint your nails or do something that allows you to check in with your mind, body & soul.
  • Connect with others either during one of the meals or on a walk.

Just like anything else, the more you practice the things that make you a happier you, the easier it becomes to make them fit in naturally to your day to day life.

Life Hacks to Preventing Burnout from a Busy Chick

Okay, so you may have a plan, but implementing it is a whole different story. Time and money seem to be the 2 biggest roadblocks people will bring us as to why they don’t take time for cooking, exercise and self-care. Remember, everyone has the same 24 hours in a day that you do – so make the most of the time you have. Here are a few tips for how to do that in each of the sections I mentioned above.

Nutrition & meal prep tips:

  • Wash & chop veggies for easy go to salads, hard boil eggs for protein on the go.
  • Make a big batch of soup for an easy lunch or dinner throughout the week.
  • Use a crockpot – the best invention ever for quick easy home cooked meals.

Related: need more meal prep tips? These hacks will help ensure you can actually stick to your meal prep routine!

Fitting in fitness tips:

  • Get up 30 minutes earlier OR skip TV after dinner & go on a brisk walk, jog or run.
  • Meet a friend for a workout instead of a meal – try a new class together through Groupon or Class Pass if they are offered in your area.
  • Plan to walk on your lunch break – even 10 minutes will be a great addition to your day.

Self-care tips:

  • Schedule it like you would any other important meeting, and don’t blow yourself off.
  • Look for fun ways to try something new for free. Sephora offers makeup classes regularly & local park districts often provide free or low cost events and classes.
  • Unplug everything. I mean it – start to unplug 30 minutes before bed, not looking at a screen of any kind… I bet you will fall asleep faster!

Related: insanely simple ways to practice more mindfulness in your everyday life.

Understanding Benefits of Routine

As I delve deeper into my own self-study, I have become fascinated with many different ideas and teaching, one in particular is Samskara. Yogic philosophy teaches that we are all born with a set of mental & emotional patterns that we cycle through over and over throughout the duration of our lives. These ideas and actions together create our conditioning. When repeated over and over a sort of groove is formed which can be hard to break away from. These grooves can be positive, negative, or somewhere in between. The most important factor is being aware of them, and understanding that they can be changed: you can always break an old pattern and create a new groove in your life.

Think of your morning routine, for me it involves brewing a cup of coffee – hearing the grinder, smelling it brew, and enjoying a hot mug before interacting with anyone else. I’m aware of this groove, I enjoy it and I am not trying to break it at this time.

As an example on the other side of the spectrum, when fall turn into winter and the days get shorter, my groove is to get a little mopey and blue. I exchange tea for wine and salad for carbs. A little of this is just going with the seasonal flow, but when I find myself falling out of my good habits that I worked hard to create, I make sure to get back into the positive groove(s) I created.

Why This is Important

I am a strong believer that knowledge is power, and even though most of this is basic stuff, it can be helpful for people to read what others do for wellness and to recover from burnout and keep the wheels turning in their lives, so I am sharing what I have found useful with you. Please join me in a class, I would love to be a part of your yoga journey!

About Janet

After a series of stressful sales jobs, I was searching for an outlet that would challenge my body and quiet my mind. Hours of driving, phone calls, and paperwork were leaving me stressed out and frazzled. Yoga became that outlet, and ultimately a way of life.

While the physical postures challenged my body, I learned that the calming effect(s) yoga has on my mind allow me to approach life differently. In my quest to deepen my understanding of this mind/body connection that yoga offers, I journeyed to Nicaragua where I studied with Master Trainer Meghan Currie. Since then I have been sharing my love yoga with others. My teaching style is upbeat and approachable, making all feel welcome.

In addition to studio classes, I offer private sessions for those looking to delve deeper into the physical aspect of yoga, and am continue to teach at retreats worldwide. Have questions? Email me at jctkeogh@gmail.com.

Post written by FFC Group Exercise Instructor Janet Keogh.

 

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5 simple tips to recover from burnout & other wellness tips from FFC group fitness instructor

Every year, come about April or May, we see that the resolutions we set for the “new us” during the beginning of the year are basically crumbling because of our lack of focus and discipline. First of all, don’t be hard on yourself, WE ARE NOT PERFECT! This time, I want you to focus on taking steps to be the best version of yourself, instead of trying to set unrealistic expectations.

How to Be the Best Version of Yourself

Now, I do believe in pushing yourself to reach the goals you set this year, but make sure those goals align with your own personal growth. You are your biggest competitor; push yourself to be better than you were the day before. Every year we fill our list up with the usual resolutions (for instance, lose more weight, work out more, eat healthier, etc.).

All of those things are important to our physical state of health, however, we tend to forget about resolutions that will contribute to our mental health. So this year add more “ME TIME” to your list. Sometimes, we work so hard managing our day to day lives that we never make time to really unwind and relax. Of course, everyone has their own ideas of what “me time” may actually consist of, but here are some non-negotiables that I believe should be on your list:

More time and activities for relaxation.

We need to make time to mentally check out from our busy lives and give our bodies a chance to rest. You can do this by cutting time out of your schedule to book a facial to feel refreshed and energized after a workout, or even a deep tissue massage to work out those knots and kinks you might have from sitting at your desk at work all day. Making time for the things that bring you fulfillment.

UNPLUG!!

We need to cut our screen time in half! Try to monitor the time you spend watching tv or scrolling through your social media timelines.

Being aware of the state of your mental health.

Your mental health is just as important as you physical health. Sometimes days can get hard and things and get stressful, so this year let’s focus on how to turn those lemons into lemonade. Try getting a journal to write down your ideas, goals, or whatever comes to mind or cutting at least 5 minutes a couple of times out of your day for meditation. Meditation is the key to clarity – those moments of solitude and stillness can fill you with so much inner peace and ease.

Related: want to start practicing mindfulness and meditation but don’t know how? Here are some easy tips to follow!

Adding affirmations to your life.

Affirmations are used to train our subconscious mind to believe things about ourselves and create the reality we want. This is also called the law of attraction – the idea of your thoughts becoming things. The energy you put into the universe, you shall receive. When you see your mind indulging in the negativity, your more than likely to experience some sort of negativity in your life. Affirmations keep us mentally disciplined and focused.

They key to writing effective affirmations is making sure that they are written in first person, that they are positive, emotionally charged, and in a present state. So for a example, “I am healthy and strong, I love when my body feels energized and renewed when I make healthy choices.

Keep those things in mind when creating your own personal affirmations for yourself this year. Feel free to change them weekly, monthly, yearly, etc. Do whatever you feel is best for you!

Our future is filled with so much promise, let’s take advantage of it! Here’s to personal growth and development!

Post written by FFC contributor.

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Mindfulness is often associated with seated meditation. This is a very traditional and useful practice, but in many of our lives it can become difficult to find time to sit down and “do nothing” (or what may seem like doing nothing.) However, you can practice mindfulness every day in many forms and during everyday activities – as practices, exercises, or games. At first, finding peace and joy within can be difficult with all the mental chatter. However, like everything else, it is through practice that we get better. Here are some simple, introductory-level ways to practice mindfulness every day and reap its benefits in our day-to-day lives.

Mindfulness In Walking

As you walk from room to room or place to place, a first step may be to notice your breath and choose to bring more awareness to it. You may then notice the weight in your feet as you take each step. You can count the number of steps you take for each inhale and exhale.

You might then begin to think: how do the hips and arms move? Do they swing? Am I hunched over? Can I make my collar bone wide and look further down the road? What can I do to make myself more aware of my body?

Mindfulness In Eating

Taking your attention from your phone and social media, move it to the food before you. How does it smell? Are there a variety of textures and tastes? Are you eating fast or slow? Can you slow down? Begin to find space to breathe during or between mouthfuls as you chew thoroughly. Savor the flavors. Chewing slowly is an effective way to prevent overeating. What can I do to be more mindful of what I eat?

Related: check out this post for more tips on eating with mindfulness.

These practices can be done for as little as one breathe, or as many as 50. For 1 minute or for 5. The most important thing to see results is to have the intention to practice consistently.

What are some of your favorite ways to practice mindfulness? Leave them in the comments below or share them with us using #FFCChicago! If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness and relaxation techniques or schedule an appointment with Alejandro, contact him at asalinas@ffc.com or schedule an appointment here!

Post written by FFC Union Station Massage Therapist Alejandro Salinas.