As the year winds down (2018, where the heck did you go?), it’s only natural that we start to think about new beginnings too. And sure, you could wait until January 1 to think about your big goals — but starting a little earlier gives you all the time you need to visualize what you want to create for yourself and nail down the strategies you’ll take to get there. Ready to formalize your big, scary aspirations for 2019? Here’s a handy DIY guide to smart goal setting!

This guest post is adapted from one that was originally featured on

Smart goal setting 101: open your notebook.

Yes, we’re going old school pen-and-paper for this smart goal setting session. We’re big fans of the tactile and visual elements of this exercise. The way you set up your paper gives you freedom within a clear structure to write out your thoughts in a concise way.

A DIY guide to smart goal setting with aSweatLife

Photo courtesy of aSweatLife

Do this:

  • Draw a line down the middle of the paper and write “vision” on the left and “goals” on the right.
  • Underneath the goals side of the page, divide it into three sections – they’ll be for your one-year, five-year and ten-year goals.
  • Finally, under each yearly increment, write down “career,” “personal,” and “health.” You’ll eventually come up with a goal categorized underneath each of these umbrellas.

Start with a vision.

Close your eyes and imagine your ideal day ten years from now. Like, the absolute best day ever, where everything goes perfectly and you’re able to do all your favorite activities — regardless of schedules, transportation, and hours in a day.

There is no right or wrong way to create a ten-year vision. It might be a stream of consciousness, words that provoke feeling, song lyrics that describe how you feel or a full walk-through of your day from start to finish. The more specific, the better. Go through your ideal day, and do it more than once to pick up on more nuances each time that you can use for better specificity.

Do this:

  • Close your eyes, picture your perfect day in 10 years and get creative as you write it down.
  • This process will set you up for the “goals” side of your paper in the right column. After envisioning a perfect day ten years from now, ask yourself, “How do I get there?”.

Formalize a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal.

The BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is a goal so big that you aren’t sure if you can even attain it.

During this time, let go of any constraining thought processes. For example, don’t limit yourself to thinking that your goal has to be work-related or that it has to be 100 percent attainable. This goal doesn’t have to work right off the bat — in fact, not having it work is a part of the process, as is going back to the drawing board and re-evaluating your thinking after the next few steps.

Do this:

  • Write down your BHAGs underneath the ten-year goal section. You might have one or two (but no more than two) goals for each category – career, personal and health. It might scare you to write them down, but do it anyway.
  • Give it an exact date. The idea is to go big and take yourself seriously about it at the same time.
  • Write in the present tense, i.e. “In ten years, I am living in Colorado as a ski instructor for Aspen Snowmass.”

Work backwards from your BHAG.

By slowly taking steps back, you’ll have career, personal and health goals for a specific date in 2019 looking you in the face. These set you up with actionable goals to work towards versus ambiguous New Year’s resolutions like “I’m going to eat healthier foods this year.” This specific way of goal setting brings purpose and sense to those well thought-out sentences.

Do this:

  • Take a step back now and ask, “What’s a mid-level step to get to that goal?”
  • Still think as specifically as possible to create your five-year goals with another end date on them in 2024.
  • Finally, ask “What needs to happen in the next 365 days to make that five-year goal happen?”

Related: breaking your big goals down into smaller goals should help to prevent burnout, but what if it happens? Here are some easy tips for getting back to your baseline and recovering from burnout. 

The best (and worst) part?

These goals are meant to be displayed where others can see them – and can hold you accountable.

Here’s the cool part – the part that’s hard for a lot of us to wrap our heads around. If your goals change, that’s fine. Decide to shift your focus? Cool. Your vision changes drastically? No problem. Update your goal plan accordingly and re-post. Just because you write it down doesn’t mean you’ve signed your life away. You’ve just given yourself some daily direction to cut through the clutter and go after what you want.

Do this:

  • Put your vision and goals up somewhere and be proud to look at them daily.
  • Let others see your goals too! They’ll be able to encourage you, ask for updates, and hold you accountable.
  • If your vision or your goals change, update your goals on the display, and re-evaluate your next steps.

Now what?

The question isn’t whether or not you can do it — you’ve just practiced smart goal setting and created a space where you can do it. Your big, hairy, audacious goal shouldn’t feel quite so scary anymore. Share your goals with your friends and family so they hold you accountable in the coming year, and talk excitedly about your goals (and the mini-goals you have to tackle first) to anyone who asks you about New Year’s resolutions. You’re on your way to doing something amazing, something exciting, something that 99 percent of people won’t be brave enough to go after — shout that from the rooftops and go crush that goal.

Post written by FFC contributor, aSweatLife.

Want to learn more about aSweatLife? Head to for tips, tricks & more health/wellness content!

Several years ago, after ruining my knees from a lifetime of running and martial arts, I took up spinning to keep my cardio up while I rehabbed.  I hated it…  but not for long.  After a while, I started putting together playlists and decided to become a certified instructor.

At that point, I committed to donating everything I made from teaching to charity and to donate my time whenever possible. Eight years later, I’ve done dozens of charity rides (both indoor and outdoor), mostly for children’s causes, and have been lucky enough to donate several thousand dollars to various charities. I’ve been blessed with the support of so many people who join me on my rides or donate in support of these wonderful causes.

Two years ago, FFC paired up with World Bicycle Relief and asked if I would participate in their “One Day – 100 Bikes” Event. WBR is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing greater access to education, sustainable business and healthcare in developing areas of the world through the power of bicycles. The goal of the event was to raise enough money to provide 100 Buffalo Bikes. These special heavy duty bicycles would provide needed modes of transportation to allow children (particularly young women) to get to and from school safely, entrepreneurs to maintain sustainable businesses and clinicians to see more patients. I was hooked. Since that time, WBR has become one of my main charitable causes and is part of both my personal and professional life.

This year, WBR is again hosting the “One Day 100 Bikes” event and I am proud to say that Northwestern Medicine and Northwestern’s Global Health Initiative are part of the team, graciously providing needed sponsorship and support to this wonderful organization and event.

I love being able to give back and to promote fitness.  As long as I’m healthy, I’ll keep going.

Post written by FFC group fitness instructor Bill Bower.

About One Day 100 Bikes

The mission of One Day 100 Bikes is to create fun and active events to support the World Bicycle Relief organization. Funds raised at these events will provide hundreds of bikes for students, healthcare workers and entrepreneurs in need in Africa.

Easy Ways to Get Involved

Sign up to participate in one of the 3 fitness events listed below happening through the month of September! Register here to save your spot!

  • Friday, September 7 – “Silent Spin” Outdoor glow in the dark cycling class on the pool deck at night at FFC West Loop
  • Sunday, September 9 – Dance for 100 Bikes cardio dance mashup on the sun deck at FFC Lincoln Park
  • Saturday, September 15 – Outdoor Cycling spin class outside on the sun deck at FFC Lincoln Park

There will also be a Filmed By Bike film festival on Friday, September 14, in addition to a morning group ride on Saturday, September 15. Learn more by clicking here.


Believe it or not, swimsuit season is just around the corner! But don’t let that deter you from soaking up all the warmer months have to offer – it just comes down to moderation. There are choices you can make in any social situation so you can indulge responsibly and enjoy upcoming social gatherings like weddings, picnics and parties without overdoing it or feeling left out.

Bringing the treats? You can control what options are available. I’ve created a list of the 4 best Lakeview bakeries that include some “not so bad” options for when you need balance, and “bad” options because hey, if you’re going to treat yourself, you may as well do it right!

Vanille Patisserie

Photo courtesy of Vanille Patisserie.

Vanille is a classic French patisserie with an astounding selection of pastries, cookies and desserts perfect for the holidays or your next special occasion. They have several individual pastries too, so you don’t have to worry about leftovers; just get exactly how many servings you need.

When it comes to a special occasion, though, if you are going to be bad… do it well. The Royal (pictured here) is a delightfully sinful chocolate mousse on top of a crisp caramel streusel base with a layer of hazelnut dacquoise. If you want just a little sweet decadence but don’t want to wreck your nutrition for the day, try one of their 15 seasonal flavors of macarons. One macaron has under 120 calories on average.

Bittersweet Pastry Shop

Bittersweet is a European bakery AND cafe so you can get sinful pastries (like one of their amazing layered cakes) etc, but you can also get a healthy lunch of fresh salad, sandwiches and soups full of hearty vegetables that are updated weekly so all items are at the peak of freshness. The Turkey Reuben is a popular choice on fresh marbled rye – leaner than a traditional reuben that would have the added fat of corned beef.

Related: in the area? Check out these healthy lunch spots in Boystown while you’re up this way!

Dinkle’s Bakery

Dinkle's Stollen Best Bakeries in Chicago

Photo courtesy of Dinkle’s Bakery.

Like Bittersweet, Dinkel’s Bakery is one of the best bakeries (of the German variety) that also has a cafe. Indulge in a little history lesson by trying their famous stollen. The delicious flavor starts with a pure, hand-shaped butter dough, which surrounds a buttercream filling, almonds, cashews and fruit soaked overnight in rum and brandy. It is then glazed in melted butter and lightly dusted with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar. The recipe is from the 1800’s but they perfected it in the 20’s right here in Chicago and serve it all year round.

Need something a little more sustainable? Head to Dinkel’s for a healthy breakfast – choose a dish like the Veggie Baker’s Sunrise, which includes cage-free eggs, sharp white cheddar, avocado, spinach and pesto all on root bread.


La Boulangerie

Last, but not least, is La Boulangerie, another bakery AND cafe (French bakery, that is). They have some of the best tarts around — another great item to bring to a festive brunch or dinner. The Chocolate Passion Fruit Caramel Tart is an absolutely sinful indulgence – if you’re going to give into temptation, make sure it’s worth it! (It is.)

They also have the less guilt-inducing option of 8+ flavors of macarons (always a good choice when being bad but trying to stay good). Their savory crepes are one of the best things you can grab for lunch or breakfast. Since La Boulangerie has a traveling food truck, you can actually get these fresh meals on the go all over the city! The website updates the locations on a regular basis, – check if they will be in your area.

Have a favorite or see one we missed? Let us know in the comments!

Post written by FFC East Lakeview Membership Director Julia Groves.


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When it comes to eating lunch in Chicago, there is NO shortage of options. Trust us. But like the saying goes, moderation is key – we can’t always be indulging.

On the flipside, though, we know it can sometimes be tough to eat nutritiously, but also feel full. Being physically and mentally satiated starts with the types of food we put into our bodies.

We’ve rounded up the 3 best healthy AND delicious lunch spots in Boystown that offer well-priced options with fantastic service that will appeal to a wide audience. Check them out and let us know how you like them!

11 Degree North – 824 W. Belmont Ave

Not only is 11 Degree North perfect for your morning pick-me-up, this café has several different grab and go or sit and eat options to excite your taste buds ranging from gluten-free flat bread “arepas” and biscuits and bagels stuffed with all types of protein-rich options to sandwiches and smoothies.

My personal favorite? The Caribbean Chicken Sandwich – it comes with grilled chicken, cheese, bacon, pineapple and avocado served on a pretzel bun. Okay, so it might not be the healthiest option, but it’ll be sure to brighten things up on a cold, windy Chicago afternoon!

Related: the best weekend brunch spots in Lakeview.

Azteca Grill – 847 W. Belmont Ave

This is your one-stop shop for all your taco and burrito needs. (And late-night snacks!) The menu offers a wide selection that is sure to please almost any palate. The Azteca De Oro is my go-to order; this burrito comes with a choice of ground beef, chicken, pork “pastor”, pork carnitas or fajita veggies, rice, black beans, cheddar-jack cheese, guacamole, sour cream and Pico de Gallo. The protein-heavy yet light fillings will keep you energized all day long!

Chicago Diner – 3411 N. Halsted St.

Think “old-school” diner but with a “new-school” menu. Opened in 1983, the Chicago Diner specializes in creative vegetarian and vegan options that are sure to take you outside your comfort zone. Like we said, though, balance is key – go for the healthy options but stay for the dessert! Their pies and cakes are sure to impress.

Post written by FFC membership representative Kyle Souther-Bruno.

About Kyle

Kyle Souther-Bruno at FFC ChicagoKyle recently moved up to Chicago from Austin, Texas. He joins the FFC Boystown team with a background in digital marketing, VIP event planning and was a VIP event planning consultant for four years before his current position with FFC! To set up a complimentary VIP member experience at FFC, email Kyle at!

Try Out FFC! 

Stop in to try FFC for free – click right here to redeem!

So you’ve conquered all of the other races – 5K, 10K, half-marathon… now, it’s time for the big show: your very first marathon! First, congratulations on making the plunge into one of the most difficult and rewarding achievements for any athlete. Read on for our top 5 training tips for you as a first-time marathon runner!

After the feelings of registration elation subside, you need to make a plan. As a first-time marathon runner, you’ll need to train harder, and most of all, smarter than you ever have in your life. You can’t roll out of bed and knock out a marathon (like you did with that fun run.)  A marathon is all business.

Finally, make sure to tell your family and friends about your new goal. The marathon officially becomes a reality when you tell people, due to two things:

  1. Telling others holds you accountable for completing your marathon journey
  2. You will receive instant support which will motivate you

Read on for some other top tips that will help you as a first-time marathon runner!

Set a goal.

Simply having the goal of “just finish” is a bit broad and could lead to a training regimen that lacks focus. For instance, if you’re hoping to finish the marathon in under 4 or 5 hours, you might need a specific training program (or partner program with a charity, like Team Bright Pink with FFC Endurance) to help make that happen.

Develop a training schedule.

This is critical for preparing your body for the rigors of a 26.2 mile race. You want to make sure you don’t add too many miles too quickly, or else your body won’t properly progress. Start training for a marathon at least 5 months prior to the race and gradually increase your miles every week. You can find a variety of solid training plans online or by speaking to a running coach/club.

Related: don’t forget recovery!! Here are some tips on foam rolling & why you need it.

Mix it up.

Marathon training doesn’t have to exclusively be about the running. Most trainers encourage including a combination of cross-training and strength training to your schedule a few days a week. Rowing and swimming are two good aerobic conditioning exercises. Hitting the weight room or doing yoga once or twice a week will strengthen your muscles and help you in the long run.


Training for a marathon is… well… a marathon – not a sprint. As a first-time marathon runner, you definitely, 100% need to rest properly during your training. You’ll need to accept that you’ll have some bad runs and that’s probably because you are very sore. If that happens, take a day off. Maybe even two days. Always allow at least one day per week where you don’t train at all. If you’re having a hard week physically, take two days off. Your body will thank you.

Simulate the marathon ahead of time.

This is where some solid research ahead of time will make you more comfortable during the race on the big day. Become familiar with the route of the course. Maybe there are a few sections of the course that have hills. You’ll want to mentally prepare for those sections of the race so they don’t cause you any stress during the race.

Have a favorite race tip we forgot? Share it with us in the comments!



One hour of torture or 35 minutes of effective work? When it comes to working out, slogging it out on the treadmill is not my idea of a great workout. As a professional soccer player, I do enough running as it is. I personally never recommend running as cardio unless you genuinely enjoy it.

However, lifting weights is imperative! Lifting actually keeps your metabolism running all day and night, hence burning more calories. Burning calories when you’re not even working out? Uh, YES! I promise it is not as hard as you think.

Think big muscle groups, then small muscle groups. Most women tell me lifting will make them too buff. Come on now, don’t be afraid of a little muscle definition! Here’s how to do it right.

Every person can define their version of sexy through the different areas of the gym. My kind of sexy starts with upper body lifting, then lower body lifting on a different day. You don’t want to do too much and get so sore you don’t want to come back to the gym.

Related: why weight training is more effective for fat loss.

Work Smart, Not Hard

Make sure you have a plan when heading to the gym so you can use your time most efficiently. One of my preferred upper body workouts consists of flat presses (working chest muscles), single hand rows (working the back), weighted curls (working the biceps) and bench dips to work the triceps. It really is that simple. I also pay a lot of attention to my abs (I have a personal “ab artist” I work with) to get summer ready!

The Secret Sauce

Once you finish your upper body lift, slip into the sauna (following gym protocol for sauna usage) for 5 minutes and kick start that metabolism, sweat out those toxins and clear your skin for the week! I live by the benefits of sauna treatments!

Post written by FFC Contributor Samantha Johnson.

Samantha Johnson Chicago Red Stars Professional Soccer Player


About Samantha

Samantha Johnson is a professional athlete who currently places for the Chicago Red Stars National Women’s Soccer League team as a defender. You can follow along with her on social media on Instagram and Twitter or on her website. You can also follow along with the Chicago Red Stars on InstagramFacebook & Twitter!

Photo courtesy of Samantha Johnson via Instagram.



Try FFC for free in Chicago

Sunlight, fresh air, the city skyline – an outdoor workout sounds kind of like a vacation, doesn’t it? We promise your indoor spin bike won’t get offended if you ditch the gym and head outdoors during your next workout.

Check out these reasons to feel the breeze on your face and get outside!

Bonus: looking for an opportunity to do so? Check out Windy City Sweatout – an annual 90-minute spin class appropriate for all fitness levels featuring high-energy instructors from FFC, heart-pumping music (plus hits from Windy City Smokeout’s featured artists), and an AMAZING cause to fund ALS spearheaded by Augie’s Quest. Stay tuned for more information on dates!

Improved Mood

Feeling blue? Go green! Just five minutes of exercise in a “green space” like a park can boost mood and self-esteem, according to UK researchers. Bonus: Go blue, too! The biggest mental health booster was found when the “green space” contained a lake or a river.

Related: speaking of mood – nutrition can help you regulate it. Check out these tips!

Natural Caffeine 

Swap your morning cup of joe for a sunny sweat session. A study from the University of Rochester found that just 20 minutes outside can have the same pick-me-up effect as a cup of coffee. Put that $4 toward a new pair of running shoes!

A Free Dose of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important for bone health, cancer prevention, hormonal problems and a strong immune system. Now get this – exercising in the great outdoors is an easy way to get your Vitamin D … for free. Experts suggest 10 minutes of unprotected sun three times a week. Just make sure to apply that sunscreen at minute 11!

Habit-Forming Boost

If you want to see physical results, consistency is the key. And an outdoor workout might just make that easier! A 2011 survey found that outdoor exercisers “declared a greater intent to repeat the activity at a later date” than those who only worked out inside.

The Perfect Playlist

Not sure what to spin to? Check out this curated list of country-centric songs (featuring hits from featured artists at the Windy City Smokeout) that will get you in the mood, covering everything from warm-up to that last hill and even the cooldown!

  • Kip Moore – “Somethin’ Bout a Truck” – an interesting twist and rhythm for a warm up song…
  • Jake Owen – “Good Company” or “8 Second Ride” – both good for a buildup for some tough hill climbs with lots of resistance!
  • Lee Brice – “Hard to Love” – perfect chorus for some sprints!
  • Eli Young – “Salt Water Gospel” – great song to keep the speed going!
  • Luke Combs – “When it rains, it pours” – more hills climbs…
  • Steve Moakler – “Love Drunk” – cooldown time!

Post written by FFC contributor Augie’s Quest.


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After a long, cold Chicago winter, it’s time to heat things up with someone special by your side. While heading to the beach or for drinks on a rooftop are always great go-to options for an outdoor date, Barbie Adler, president and founder of Selective Search, recommends the following active summer date spots in Chicago to kick your experience up a notch.

Yoga at Lincoln Park Zoo

Take in views of the city skyline and connect with nature at Lincoln Park Zoo. Learn the basics of yoga in a quiet yet intimate group setting. Not only will this bring positive vibes to your date, but also is the perfect segue to brunch or a trip to your favorite coffee shop!

SUP Paddleboarding on Lake Michigan

Stand up paddleboarding (SUP) offers a unique experience on Lake Michigan at night. Engage in some friendly (or flirty) competition to see who can paddle and balance the longest while taking in new views of the city. Don’t miss the Navy Pier fireworks from your floating “blanket”! Get comfortable on the water as the sun is going down, then take in the scene as darkness falls and the fireworks go off.

FFC Chicago try us free!

Urban Kayaks Down the Chicago River

Urban Kayaks provides a new level of adventure in downtown Chicago with the most scenic route available. Kayak down the Chicago River while learning about the history of some of Chicago’s most famous buildings. Or take a night tour and watch the weekend fireworks from your own private kayak on Lake Michigan!

Bike Tours Through Chicago’s Neighborhoods

Think you’ve mastered the bike trails of Chicago? Bobby’s Bike Hike gives you an opportunity to ride through different neighborhoods of Chicago while also learning about its history and culture. Choose from a variety of different unique tours including Bikes, Bites and Brews or Southside Gangster. To spark some extra romance, try an evening bike tour with views of the sunset over the city along with skyline fireworks (Memorial Day through Labor Day.)

While the summer months may be short, these active outdoor date spots in Chicago will let you take advantage of all of the outdoor fun this city has to offer (and lead to even better date nights in by the fire in the winter!)

 Post written by FFC Affiliate, Selective Search.

About Selective Search

Need help finding your summer love in Chicago? The matchmakers of Selective Search will lead you to new adventures with your better half – check out their complimentary affiliate program!

Selective Search Founder and President Barbie Adler is an expert on dating and relationships who has consulted on national dating-related television programs and appeared in Forbes, Fortune, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and on CNN. In 2000, she left a successful career as a high-level executive recruiter and founded Selective Search to provide North America with its first fully offline, confidential, and customized executive matchmaking firm. Her goal is to combine her experience recruiting top talent with her passion for helping busy, successful, single men and women find a committed loving relationship.