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I walked into my first spin class a very depressed woman. I’m not exaggerating—just a week before accepting my new position at FFC’s Oak Park location, I was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder, depression, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. My battles for mental health are the result of genetic pre-dispositions and having grown up under the spell of a hyper-controlling and abusive father who is currently serving a prison sentence for a felony domestic assault.

I came to FFC during a major depressive episode—I almost didn’t even accept the job when Larry offered it because I didn’t believe I could thrive in a new atmosphere, especially one in the fitness industry. I, like many of my fellow depression survivors, fall into ruts of inactivity. Couple that with some bad body images, and you’ve got one very anxious couch potato in a gym full of people who are actively living their lives. Obviously, I accepted the job—with the encouragement from my husband—and I’ve loved working in Oak Park’s Local ’84, making connections, and catching that active energy from my coworkers that I couldn’t quite find within myself.

FFC Oak Park employee spotlight ChicagoIt has been about four months since I sent Larry the email to accept the open position, and I’ve experienced a change in my GAD, depression, and PTSD symptoms. I give a lot of credit to the positive working environment that FFC provides, but I also have to give credit to the first spin class I attended with Amy O’Dea. (Full disclosure: some credit must also go to my therapist and psychiatrist and their diligence in getting me on the correct mix and dose of medications.)

On a Wednesday morning in April, I walked into Studio 1 (very tired after losing many hours of sleep to anxiety over my first spin class) to fulfill my New Employee Orientation requirement to take a group fitness class, and was greeted by a highly energetic instructor, Amy. She was genuinely happy to be there and equally excited to help me set up my spin bike.

Related: how exercise helped save FFC Lincoln Park employee Nicole Achille’s life.

As members trickled in, my heart raced—I’d like to think it was because I was pedaling and I was working up a sweat, but I was also experiencing a rush of cortisol from neuron to neuron… and I was feeling quite anxious. I wish I could remember every little detail of that first 45-minute class, but the only thing I’m sure of is that my legs kept moving.

For years, every time my sister was visiting from DC, she would try to get me into a spin class with her. Every time, I turned down her offer—largely due to the anxiety triggered by trying something new. Now, I can’t go a week without fighting with that red resistance lever.

How spinning helped me overcome anxiety, depression and PTSD.In that first class, I was convinced I would fail. I truly did not have faith in my body; I didn’t believe my legs could carry me through the class. “Focus on the beat, and trust your legs,” I hear Amy repeat that affirmation several times as she leads us through various drills in the subsequent classes I’ve taken, and it’s still much easier said than done. But that day, when I finally listened and allowed a little trust of my legs, a few tears crept from my eyes. I wasn’t in pain, and my chest didn’t hurt. Yet there I was, pedaling hard against the heavy resistance and fighting even harder against the urge to cry.

“You woke up today. You made it here,” Amy likes to remind us at the beginning of most classes. To some, it might sound like cheesy “fitspo,” but for me, it’s a reminder that I’m alive, that I made an active choice to participate in life, that I can move my body, and I can trust myself.

I cried in that first class, not because the drills were too hard, but because my body had proven my brain wrong — it had proven my GAD, depression, and PTSD wrong. Every day I get to test my limits – whether it’s spinning or returning to strength training – in combination with correct medication, my heart heals a little bit more. I’ve regained a trust in myself that lessens the power that anxiety, depression, and PTSD have over me.

“Your mind will give up before your body does,” so I choose not to believe my struggling mind when she tries to convince me I can’t keep going. Instead, I keep pedaling, keep breathing, keep living.

Post written by Rebekah Frese, FFC Oak Park local ’84 Cafe attendant.

About Rebekah

Rebekah is an Iowa native who has found a home in Chicagoland. Her hobbies include swinging kettlebells, trying to take her pet bunny on walks, and playing logic games. While on breaks at FFC, she’s preparing for the LSAT in hopes of starting law school next fall. You can find her on Instagram: @freser_.

 

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FFC employee spotlight: how spinning helped Rebekah overcome anxiety, depression and PTSD

I love data. Being in marketing, I love being able to make smart decisions based on numbers and know that the route I’m taking my work has a good likelihood of succeeding. I also am a big fan of nerdy stuff when it comes to fitness and wellness – so naturally I use BOTH my Apple watch and Myzone belt when I work out, use MyFitnessPal to track meals (though, with varying levels of consistency), and mostly stay up-to-date on new trends. So when I learned about the V02 Max test and its ability to measure aerobic ability and also calorie burn related to heart rate, etc., I was pretty excited. I created a list of V02 Max test FAQs based on what was going through my brain during my own test – check them out!

What is a V02 Max test?

According to Korr Medical Technologies, which is an industry-leading company that creates equipment for these tests, VO2 Max is the maximum rate of oxygen consumption that can be attained during the most intense exercise possible. Basically it’s how efficiently your body uses oxygen during exercise.

Who is the VO2 Max test for?

While the VO2 Max test is especially ideal for endurance athletes, marathoners or anyone training for a fitness event, the VO2 Max test is also ideal for anyone who wants to improve their fitness on any level.

Why should I get a V02 Max test?

Not seeing results despite all the work you’re putting in at the gym? This piece of the puzzle can help – for example, I learned that in order to burn fat while exercising, I have to keep my heart rate in a very specific zone and actually was over-exercising for my goals! Do less? … If you say so, data.

 

Related: another similarly surprising truth regarding fitness things you thought you knew a lot about – like your Fitbit. Check out this trainer’s hilarious breakup letter to her Fitbit.

How long does the test take and where can I get a V02 Max test done?

The whole process, from changing into workout clothes, the explanation of the process, short workout, data capture and analysis took about 45 minutes, give or take. Depending on how long you take to get ready, this could easily be done over a lunch hour (however, due to the fasting/ caffeine restrictions listed below, I recommend trying to get it done as early in the morning as possible so you can so you don’t turn into a hangry zombie).

You can get them done many places – Fitness Formula Clubs has a number of metabolic carts (which have the special machine) plus a traveling one that makes its way around to the clubs! The test is $149, and there are other kinds of add-ons and tests (like resting metabolic rate, blood lactate, etc.) you can opt into for additional cost.

Are there special dietary restrictions/fasting for the V02 Max test?

Yes – if you’re getting the basic V02 Max test done, you’ll need to plan to fast for 4 hours before, abstain from caffeine for 6 hours before and rest from any exercise or activity for 24-12 hours before. You can drink room-temperature water up until the test but nothing super cold! And there are different requirements for the other add-ons, so make sure to check with a team member well before your test.

Do I need to shower after the test?

I did, because I got up to a pretty high level of activity… I am essentially a human waterfall. Put frankly, I sweat profusely. So you may want to bring a change of clothes and plan to shower after your test.

What do you wear for the V02 Max test?

Comfortable athletic clothes should do the trick – something you’re not afraid to possibly sweat in, and shoes you can easily run on a treadmill or cycle on a stationary bike in.

Tell me about the weird, Bane-like mask.

The mask is where all the VO2 magic happens and is how the machine is able to measure your oxygen intake and usage. These are just a few questions I had about the mask.

Can I do the test without the mask on?

Nope – the mask is how you obtain the data. It’s actually super cool – it isolates both the oxygen you take in and your carbon dioxide output and then uses a machine to measure the oxygen content.

Does the mask make you feel claustrophobic?

Being honest here, as someone who doesn’t like anything on my face at all, just a little bit. But only when you first put it on – I couldn’t even notice it (aside from being able to see it occasionally when I looked down my cheeks) after the initial set up. And the staff (FFC endurance Coach Chris Navin, in my case) does an amazing job of explaining everything to you and walking you through putting it on.

Can you breathe normally?

Yep! I thought it was going to feel restricted from the looks of it, but you can breathe totally normally when you put it on and when you’re doing the treadmill or cycling portion.

What does the mask smell like?

Basically like a big ‘ole snorkeling mask. It’s fun – I started daydreaming about my next beach vacation.

Does it pinch?

Nope! It took a second to adjust the straps for my face but once we had that done, it was fine!

Do they clean it first?

For all my fellow slightly germaphobic homies out there – they definitely clean it first. Coach Chris has special disinfecting wipes and wipes down the mask/straps/etc. before you put it on.

Running on the treadmill for the VO2 Max test

So you have to run on a treadmill or cycle for how long?

In order to get your oxygen consumption measurements, you have to exercise with the mask on for a certain amount of time, at a graduated scale of intensity, while wearing a heart rate monitor, like a Myzone belt.

Do I have to run on a treadmill?

No! It’s definitely recommended, but for people with injuries or issues related to running/walking, you can also do the test on a stationary bicycle. If you don’t want to run, just let the staff member know – the point is to get you up to your max exercising ability, which may mean different things for different people.

How long do I have to exercise for?

You will be working for about 10-15 minutes, which is about the time it takes to cycle through the warm-up and increasing speeds, up to your max level of ability (by the end of my test, I was running at about 8-9 miles an hour, give or take, for a minute or two.) Like I said, this is different for everyone!

Do I have to wear a heart rate monitor? What if I don’t have one?

Yes, in order to get the right data, you’ll need to wear a heart rate monitor, like a Myzone belt. Don’t have one? Don’t worry! The team will have a belt for you and will help you put it on.

What kind of data do I get from the test?

After your test is completed, you’ll get a handy dandy readout of your data, plus some cool charts, graphs and summaries of what it all means. I got an outline for a workout plan – basically I have to keep my heart rate under 150 to ensure I burn fat during my workouts. I also got more information about how I could apply this to running races, marathons and other endurance events, if I chose to pursue one in the future.

Overall Takeaways From the VO2 Max Test

It doesn’t take a whole lot to impress me…. but holy data! This was a really cool test – and definitely changed what I thought I knew about my workout habits. You’d think running faster would be better for your fitness, right? Not necessarily – especially related to your goals. I found out through this test that I actually have to pull back on my exercise a little bit – and that I can definitely lift weights and do other types of exercise that will keep my heart rate in that specific zone and that I will still see results from it. I haven’t done a resting metabolic rate test (RMR – the one that tells you how many calories you burn at rest) yet, but I will! That, coupled with these results of the VO2 Max test, will help me work smarter, not harder. And I’m all about that!

Have more questions about the V02 Max or RMR test, or want to schedule one for yourself? Email metabolictesting@ffc.com!

Post written by FFC marketing manager, Megan Zink.

 

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Linda Spriggs is a certified Pilates instructor and teacher trainer for the FFC Pilates program. Check out her curated playlist!

About Linda: A Pilates Method Alliance (PMA) certified Pilates teacher (CPT), Linda is a former principal dancer with the world renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and professor at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor). She earned her bachelor’s degree from the Juilliard School (NYC) and her masters degree from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor). She has been a top-tier Pilates instructor in Chicago since 1997, and is currently a level III Pilates trainer/coordinator at FFC South Loop and a Teacher Trainer with the Pilates Teacher Trainer Program at FFC.

Go to workout song: This Is What You Came For – Calvin Harris, Rihanna

Why music is so important related to fitness: Music inspires feeling and emotion, Igniting a visceral response through movement… movement heals!

 

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Austin Head is a group fitness instructor and trainer at FFC. Check out his curated playlist!

About Austin: Austin is 1 of 3 exclusive group instructors in the company. He is also the creator of the bootcamp “TRT” (Tread.Rowing.Turf). Follow him on social media @Austin_Head!

Go to workout song: Anything with an awesome beat. House music or hip hop.

Why music is so important related to fitness: I teach to the beat drops. When you don’t think you have anything left, then you hear the beat about to drop, and push a little harder. THAT is why music is so important!

 

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Heather Hamilton is a group fitness manager and Performance Training Center coordinator at FFC. Check out her curated playlist!

About Heather: Heather is the group fitness manager and PTC coordinator for FFC Boystown, FFC Lincoln Park, FFC Old Town, and FFC Gold Coast. She has been a fitness professional for 11 years and teaches many group fitness classes at FFC. Heather is also a nationally qualified competitive powerlifter and a certified exercise physiologist. In her spare time she enjoys gaming and playing with her rescue puppy named Larry.

Go to workout song: anything “chill” or “EDM” – no particular song. I mostly enjoy experiencing the sounds of the gym around me while working out; no ear buds.

Why music is so important related to fitness:  Music is medicine; it can decrease stress, help you fall asleep – while working out, it can help motivate you, enhance physical performance and increase endurance.

 

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About Austin: Austin Martin is a member experience manager at FFC. Check out his curated playlist!

Go to workout song: I don’t have one. It depends on my mood!

Why music is so important related to fitness:  Music is everything!  It motives, inspires, heals – it’s essential for LIFE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dominick DeFranco is a group fitness manager at FFC. Check out his curated playlist!

Dominick DeFranco FFC curated playlist

About Dominick: Dominick is a dancer, choreographer, director and fitness trainer in addition to acting as the group fitness manager at FFC. He’s traveled the world dancing, performing and instructing classes – and he is a former director and choreographer of the NBA Nets Dance Team!

Go to workout song: anything “chill” or “EDM” – no particular song. I mostly enjoy experiencing the sounds of the gym around me while working out; no ear buds.

Why music is so important related to fitness:  Music is medicine; it can decrease stress, help you fall asleep – while working out, it can help motivate you, enhance physical performance and increase endurance.

 

 

 

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Max Potolsky is a member of the membership team at FFC. Check out his curated playlist!

Max FFC curated Spotify playlist

 

About Max:  Max graduated from the University of South Florida with a B.A. in advertising and entrepreneurship. He is a former realtor who transitioned into the fitness industry after taking the NASM certified training course.

Go to workout song:  Anything Eminem.

Why music is so important related to fitness:  Music is important for fitness because it gets you in the right mindset, which allows you to go harder than you normally would.

 

 

 

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Kristin Johansson is a group fitness instructor at FFC. Check out her curated playlist!

Curated workout playlist by FFC's Kristin

About Kristin: Kristin graduated from Miami of Ohio with a B.S. in dietetics and exercise physiology with a minor in dance performance. Having 25+ years of teaching experience, she loves to share the “love” of hard work and results. Her introduction to each new student: “you may hate me during the next 45 minutes, but after that, we are going to be the best of friends.” She is a former professional dancer and was featured in the halftime show at the Fiesta Bowl in 1992. She loves dogs more than anything and makes the best popcorn.

Go to workout song: Anything Kelly Clarkson!

Why music is so important related to fitness: Being a dancer, music motivates me to move. It turns on my brain, allows me to push harder and for longer.

 

 

 

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