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Created by Joseph Pilates as a method of exercise to strengthen the body AND mind, Pilates has been growing rapidly in popularity since the early 20th century. Now practiced by fitness enthusiasts, those looking to overcome chronic pain and ailments and professional athletes like the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta and the Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews alike, there’s no reason not to give it a shot.

Want to take it a step further? While there are endless benefits to be reaped from practicing Pilates, there is no parallel for the level of knowledge you’ll receive from going through a Pilates teacher training program. Check out the testimonials from some of our Pilates Chicago grads below!

Related: how Pilates makes you mentally stronger and why you should try it.

Karen Ljungmann

I knew I wanted to take my fitness career in a new direction by attending Pilates school, however, I was undecided about which program to attend. I could not be happier about the choice I made! I knew from the beginning FFC’s program was going to be different from any other trainings I’d attended. I was very impressed by the organization and layout of the program, and I felt very supported – from the beginning to the end. There were times I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing, but now looking back, it was part of the learning process (like letting go of the training wheels). I was learning new things, new ways to move the body and new ways to teach.

We were able to learn from THE best Chicago Pilates instructors, not just one. But what was really unique was all the hands-on training we had. We constantly practiced with each other – I was able to use the instructors as a resource on a constant basis. The classes were intense, but I looked forward to every weekend. We all grew together. I’m still friends with several of my peers from the program. I felt we were immersed and committed. I am excited and am getting ready to take the PMA, which I am fully prepared for thanks to the FFC Pilates Teacher Training program. I’ve been in the fitness industry for 10+ years and have gone through several different formats, trainings and certifications. Hands down, this is one of the best decisions I have made. My only regret? That I’d done this sooner! – Karen (kljungmann@ffc.com)

Alyssa Bell

Pilates helped me get back on my feet. Literally. In mid August of 2016, I had a nasty fall and injured my right ankle. I was devastated because I was 3.5 weeks away from beginning my Pilates teacher training program. The healing process for a periosteum tear takes a while – I couldn’t walk and I needed a boot to get around. However, I wasn’t going to let that keep me down; I started the program and began learning Pilates Mat work (which was perfect during that first month, it allowed me to work free of direct weight on my ankle).

I couldn’t believe it but I was actually getting stronger, without having to stand on my feet. I knew as a massage therapist, this was speeding up my healing process. As time went on, the black and blue swelling faded and I was learning exercises on various Pilates apparatuses.

Thinking back to the first day of the program, we had gone around to introduce ourselves and say why we wanted to be Pilates instructors. I told the group that to me, it’s a form of therapy, and something additional I want to give my clients. It empowers them to discover their own bodies and learn things they can take with them for the rest of their lives. The strength I was able to get back because of Pilates is something magical that I want everyone, especially dealing with an injury, to discover. It’s a form of medicine! – Alyssa (abell@ffc.com)

Related: read about this instructor’s life-changing pre and post-surgery Pilates experience!

Jennifer Dahl

As a long-time lover of fitness, I’ve always appreciated Pilates, but no more than working one-on-one with a trainer. I decided to take the plunge into the Pilates Teacher Training Program in August 2018 and have been thrilled to work through the program so far – the content is extremely well put together, the trainers are highly knowledgeable, approachable and willing to help me grow. As a fitness director at FFC, I have seen two of my personal trainers successfully complete the program which has set them up to be incredible hybrid trainers.

As a powerlifter, I was intrigued by Pilates as a means to improve my posture, stabilize muscles and increase my core strength – all as a means to life heavier! So far, Pilates has done exactly that. I’m sitting taller behind the desk I’m at for hours on end, feeling less pain in my hips, shoulders and knees, both in and outside of training sessions. Additionally, I can see my posture is improving – I look taller, my shoulders are more relaxed and the rest of my mind/body connection has increased dramatically.

The Pilates training program is perfect for anyone who wants to learn for their personal practice to enhance their skill set as a trainer, or even as someone craving education. – Jen (jdahl@ffc.com)

Paula Ziols

I came to FFC a year ago with a modern Pilates certification, and enrolled in the classical Pilates teacher training program to learn more. I loved what the training did for my body, in strength, and found all three instructors to be very supportive. The training was exceptional and I would recommend it to any personal trainer to bring their training level to a new place. I have been incorporating the classical method I learned with clients and have had great success. – Paula (pziols@ffc.com)

Joanna Tomczynska

Many years ago, while I was living in Connecticut, I decided to try a Pilates Mat class because of my aches, pains, lower back issues, shoulder impingement and straight neck. I wasn’t aware of all the good that Pilates was going to bring to my life – but kept doing it and getting better.

I then moved to Chicago, joined FFC and started going to mat classes. That is where I met Kristin (very pregnant then) who would give the classes with such ease, knowledge and energy that I started to love it even more and would look forward to her classes. I’ve always been athletic, but Pilates gave me the inner core strength I needed to gain better posture and flexibility, AND get rid of my back pain. I didn’t want to continue going to the chiropractor, so I kept going to Pilates classes. That’s when a friend told me about becoming an instructor.

I joined the training program and I have to say, it is not only the knowledge of the teacher that is important (and surely is what the instructors with the FFC Pilates teacher training program have) but also the good energy they put into it, the beautiful facility, flexibility to allow students to train and practice and the work opportunities! Kristin pushed me to my current level of confidence and without her I would not be where I am today, loving what I do, and seeing my clients progress. – Joanna

Take a Pilates Class or Sign Up for the Program!

Want to learn more about this part of the Pilates Chicago community, the program, or simply try out a Pilates class at FFC? Email kstrom@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.

Tucker Dupree is a professional swimmer. Not only that, he has been swimming professionally for 12 years, has swum for Team USA at the Paralympics, has won medals and World Championships, and is also one of FFC’s newest endurance coaches.

FFC marketing manager Megan Zink had the opportunity to talk to Tucker about his background, the challenges he’s overcome and advice learned along the way… and the best way to get into a cold pool.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Megan Zink: So Tucker, tell us a little bit about yourself and your background, and also your background with FFC.

Tucker Dupree: I had a lot of great opportunities to wear the Team USA uniform for 12 years as an athlete, and swim for all the best coaches in the world. I had the ability to represent our country at 3 different Paralympic games; 2008, 2012, 2016. And to take the sport of swimming and travel the world and represent our country was one of the most surreal things I’ve ever dreamed of doing as a kid.

I retired last year after the World Championships. When I won the 50 freestyle, I was like, ‘alright, I’m done, I’m going out on top. I need nothing more from this sport, I’ve won all the medals.’ After that, I had the opportunity to really sit there and say, ‘what’s next? I’m not getting any younger.’ So I retired from swimming, and I now work for the marketing team at BP down here in the loop.

MZ: I read that you started losing your eyesight when you were 17, and then in a short number of months, it progressed. But I also read that your take was, ‘I love this so much, I have to make it work. I have to figure out how to make it work.’ So do you have any advice for people who feel like they have come up against obstacles in their lives that seem indomitable? Like, ‘I don’t even know how I’m going to get around this’ type obstacles?

TD: A couple of things. I was going through the transition of okay, ‘I didn’t lose all of my vision’, so I’m not going to sit around and think about ‘what if’ – the condition I have is so rare, that when I was diagnosed, everyone was like, ‘well you could wake up tomorrow and be completely blind, so, good luck.’ There was no, ‘this is exactly what’s going to happen to you.’

When that all happened [when I was 17], I was swimming. And I had all these aspirations to swim in college, I had different scholarships on the table, and I was like, ‘okay, what am I going to do, because I’ve worked so hard to get to this stage in my career, but also I’m losing my sight.’

So I sat down and talked to one of my swim coaches at the time, who had been coaching me since I was a teenager – 12 all the way through 18 – and who actually became the travel coach with me throughout my Olympic journey. She said, ‘you have a choice. You can pick between what’s right, and what’s easy.’ And I think that was the biggest crossroads for me, because losing my vision was something everyone was telling me was going to give me depression – there wasn’t a cure for what was going on with me. And that’s something that I really had to pick between. Because it was so easy to give up, it was so easy to have this become something that was depressing or something to feel bad about. Or, I could say, ‘hey, you know what? I’m going to do something great with this. I’m gonna show people that yes, I am technically ‘disabled’ but also that it’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do with what happens to you.’

Because I’m still a person, right? And I say this all the time – yes, I’m part of the disabled community, but at the same time, people with disabilities are people with disabilities. The word people is before that. And I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve been an advocate for – we’re not less. Yes, I have something that’s different. But at the same time, any time someone meets me or I talk to them, they’ll say something like, ‘I didn’t even know you are blind.’

I lived 17 years of my life fully-sighted and I have a visual impairment now, and a little bit of my vision in the middle is gone. But at the same time, I had the opportunity to take a sport and represent our country in the Paralympics, which is the second largest sporting event in the world (it’s bigger than the World Cup) and a lot of people in the US don’t know that. So I was like, ‘I have to get out, I have to tell my story.’ For me, the only things that really impaired me in the pool were that I couldn’t really read a clock, or the practice on the board. But other than that, I was doing everything that everyone else was doing. I tell a lot of people that swim with me, ‘you’ll never even notice that I can’t see most of what’s going on around me because I’m very high-functioning.’

‘Because it was so easy to give up, it was so easy to have this become something that was depressing or something to feel bad about. Or, I could say, ‘hey, you know what? I’m going to do something great with this. I’m gonna show people that yes, I am technically ‘disabled’ but also that it’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do with what happens to you.’

With this swim workshop I’m doing at FFC, I’m going to be in the water with everyone, I’m going to be demonstrating what I’m talking about and it’s very athlete-specific; it’s not going to be a workout that I write up on the board and then I yell at you. I think that’s something unique – a ‘walk the walk, talk the talk’ sort of thing. Giving everyone a wealth of knowledge is really my philosophy, because there isn’t just one way to fix swimming. Because that’s not what worked for me. I had coaches all around the world teach me different things, and what I want to bring to the table with this class is that this is not just a workout, this is an opportunity to really tweak the things that you want to get better at, to improve your ironman, or just to have the ability to come in and swim consecutively. Whatever your goals are, that’s what this class is about.

Tucker Dupree FFC endurance

Photo courtesy of TriMonster

MZ: That was actually going to be my next question – has this sort of changed the way that you coach people? Because I know when you were working with coaches [when you were losing your eyesight] they had to get way more descriptive with you.

TD: The thing about this sport is – I tell people all the time – it is not easy, at all. To do this at an elite level, it takes a LOT of work. And it’s tweaking little things. Moving your hand 4 inches to the left over the course of 45 strokes goes a long way, because it’s improving every single stroke. If you can tweak something that you’re already doing, it just goes so much better. This sport has a TON of moving parts – your hands, your legs, your feet, your head, your core, everything is moving – and you’re horizontal. The only time you’re horizontal during your day is when you sleep. And not only that; you’re floating… so body awareness – out the door. So I’m telling you to lay down, float, and work hard. So yeah – your brain is gonna explode. That’s normal. That’s something I tell people – this sport is not easy, but when you make it simplistic – I’ve had coaches sit down and describe everything to me, and then I got to go do it – that has really helps me as a coach now, to describe different ways to get from A to B.

MZ: So really quickly, because I don’t want to forget the other question I have; for me, the ‘getting in the pool’ thing – the cold water is terrible. Do you have any tips for getting over that?

TD: Just jump. You just gotta go. You can’t – the only way to do it is to not dip your toe it. That’s the worst idea.

MZ: Have you been able to – can you pinpoint anything you’ve taken from swimming or coaching and apply it to the bigger scale of life? Do you have any tips?

The sport is very repetitious; you go up and down the same lane expecting different results – which unless you’re changing things, is the definition of insanity. So I think having different perspectives is something that we all are always seeking – we’re always looking, especially in the fitness world – for that silver bullet, that ‘I want to be the best tomorrow’… but understanding that this sport teaches tenacity is something that I have really taken and put into my day to day life. There are days I show up to the pool feeling like crap and not really wanting to be there, but some of those days are my best training days. The fact that I came in and set a small goal for myself that day, of something like ‘every time I push off the wall, I’m going to have the best streamline I’ve ever had’ – that’s something that, over 5000 yards, is a lot. That’s 5000 yards of perfect streamlines. And when I’m swimming a race that takes 21 seconds, that’s a great training day.

I learned a lot from the sport, just being kind of aware of what I’m doing. And my sport was all about time, so being aware of time and time efficiency and being punctual – all that translates to day to day life. The sport gave so much to me – I did more without vision than I ever would have dreamed about doing sighted. Now it’s one of those things where I’m like, ‘alright, what do I do next?’

Just jump. You just gotta go. You can’t – the only way to do it is to not dip your toe it. That’s the worst idea.

Sign Up for a Swim Workshop with Tucker Dupree!

Want to take your technique to the next level? Sign up for a swim workshop with Tucker Dupree! Each class is strategically designed to provide members with drills to improve technique and efficiency, as well as interval workouts to improve speed and endurance. Email tdupree@ffc.com for more information!

 

A dream of mine? To be told I should eat more food – by data, no less. That dream came true during my recent resting metabolic rate test at Fitness Formula Clubs in Chicago. What’s a resting metabolic rate test, you ask? In the simplest terms, a resting metabolic rate test is a test to determine how much energy (read: calories) your body burns while at rest, in order to perform basic functions of living, by measuring your oxygen and carbon dioxide levels – and therefore, your daily caloric requirements for weight maintenance, gain or loss based on your unique metabolism. Sure, you could work with a RMR calculator (there are a couple online) to find out how many calories you should be eating – but since those aren’t based on your unique metabolism, they can be off. To get an accurate reading, it’s better to meet with a licensed registered dietitian and have an RMR test administered.

Cardio Coach metabolic testing machine for RMR test

How the RMR Test Works

As opposed to an RMR calculator, the resting metabolic rate test requires the use of a machine with a tube you breathe into that will use oxygen consumption measurement to determine your caloric requirements for weight loss, gain or maintenance. Since you need to be completely at rest, you will asked to recline in a chair while you have the test done, as well as wear a nose clamp (sounds weird and scary, but basically it’s just a padded thing you put on your nose to keep your nostrils closed so that all your breathing happens in the tube).

RMR Calculator vs RMR Test: Why You Should Do an RMR Test

As I mentioned before, RMR calculators are great and all – but they’re based on a formula. An actual RMR test analyzes your breath and gives you MUCH more accurate data. For example, I use an app called MyFitnessPal (when I remember) to keep tabs on my diet and to try and reign in my occasional snacking festivals – especially in the winter! According to that app, I was supposed to eat something like 1200 calories a day. Between meals and snacks there was barely room for anything else. I was constantly going over, feeling guilty all the time. I also incorrectly accounted for my exercise – I typically try to work out at LEAST 4 times a week. They’re also fairly intense workouts. Couple that with a meager 1200 calories and you get one very tired, irritable and hangry individual.

Related: how to use MyFitnessPal to help you with your weight goals.

When FFC West Loop registered dietitian Emily Marshall and I looked at an online calculator before my test, it was also pretty low – around 1325 calories a day. Post test, we found out that my actual RMR is up around 1555 calories a day – at a slightly elevated level beyond “normal”. Add in my exercise, and I should be eating something like 1900 calories – even in order to lose a pound a week!! So with no exercise, I should have been eating an additional 230 calories a day than what was predicted by the RMR calculator (which operates using an equation known as the “Mifflin St. Jeor” equation).

In the simplest terms, a resting metabolic rate test is a test to determine how much energy (read: calories) your body burns while at rest, in order to perform basic functions of living, by measuring your oxygen and carbon dioxide levels – and therefore, your daily caloric requirements for weight maintenance, gain or loss based on your unique metabolism.

Emily explained that with the equation estimation, it would have taken a fair amount of time and trial and error to figure out how much to eat for my body and goals – but with the RMR test, I have a much better starting point right off the bat. Not to mention, with the results, I can feel the effects that much faster – eating more and fueling my body properly means more energy, better ability to focus and a faster exercise recovery time. I have been feeling pretty sluggish lately and I am definitely noticing a slight change since being more mindful of eating proper snacks etc. Of course, this is my personal result based on my body – it will be different for everyone. However, there is something to be said for having a roadmap to get to one’s goals more quickly and accurately. Our bodies are like machines and are a lot more formulaic than we realize. The right combination and amount of fats, proteins and carbs can really make that much difference in how well and efficiently it functions!

RMR calculator vs RMR test - why you should get a resting metabolic rate test done

Important note: I agreed to do this test in the lobby to help bring awareness to the awesome power of data and wellness, but this is not the norm. You will definitely have privacy! Unless, you know, you want to hang out and wave at people while you’re taking your test. You do you.

How to Prepare for the RMR Test

If you happened to see my post about my Vo2 Max experience a couple of months ago (which basically measures how efficiently you exercise), you’ll know that gearing up for a test like this requires some prep on the front-end. As in, the fasting kind. My recommendation is to try to schedule the test as early as possible so you don’t have to worry about depriving yourself of food or caffeine for very long! (I did mine bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 7 AM). In order to get the most accurate results possible, you will need to make sure you

  • Don’t eat or drink anything prior to your test (check with the registered dietitian for specific timeframe).
  • Don’t drink caffeine before your test.
  • Refrain from exercise 24 hours before your test – if your workouts are high-intensity, you may need to hold off for 48 hours. Again, check with the RD!
  • Wear regular clothes (I wore my regular office clothes).
  • Bring something to occupy yourself for about 25-30 minutes that you can do with one hand in case you need to hold the tube for more comfort.

Things I’d Want My Former Self to Know Before Taking an RMR Test

The test was quick and painless – albeit a little awkward, but overall very simple. Emily did a great job of explaining the process to me, what each of the pieces of equipment was for, how the machine worked, etc. Here are a couple of tips & tricks for anyone considering taking an RMR test.

  • #1 most important thing – bring chap stick! If your lips get dry easily, I recommend some kind of chap stick or lip balm. If you get drooly, they will have tissues for you. The RD will explain!
  • Yes, they do use all-new disposable nose clamps, mouth pieces and breathing tubes – no germs here.
  • Don’t do the test with a cold – because you’re only breathing through your mouth, it can do wonky things to your head pressure – I would maybe stay away from the test if you’re experiencing a head cold.
  • Breathing with the tube will be weird – kind of like a snorkel.
  • Hold the tube with your hand if you find yourself wanting to bite down on the mouth piece so that your jaw doesn’t get tired! That’s why I recommend a phone or Kindle etc. that you can hold with one hand.

How to Sign Up for an RMR Test

Yes, this might sound a little more complicated than a simple online RMR calculator, but I promise the data and knowledge you will come away with will be well worth it. Now, I can use my results to figure out meal plans, and have a much better understanding of how much I should be eating for specific goals. Plus, if I ever wanted to start a race training program, kick up my weight loss a notch, etc., I would have an accurate roadmap to do it. To sign up for a test at FFC, you can visit this link or email metabolictesting@ffc.com! Questions about the specifics? You can email registered dietitian Emily Marshall at emarshall@ffc.com or visit your club’s RD.

Post written by FFC marketing manager Megan Zink.

 

I was never a healthy and active kid growing up. Instead of being outside running around or participating in sports, I’d rather sit myself in front of the TV for hours. My parents (my mom, in particular) noticed the bad eating and exercise habits our family had established. When I was in elementary school she took the initiative to sign our family up for an activity program.

The program allowed parents the opportunity to learn about how to implement a healthy lifestyle for their families. Once this kicked off, my mom’s awareness for what our family was eating and our exercise regime grew immensely. We started cooking more meals as a family at home, going on family walks, and decreasing our fast food intake.

(Side note: my mom is my role model; she challenged herself to make this change, not only for our family, but for herself. She lost close to 30 lbs while turning our family’s habits from bad to good.)

As for me, I became more aware of my body throughout middle school. I was not overweight; I was heavier than most kids though. I struggled with how I looked, being called names, and not having the confidence to do things that others around me were doing. By high school, as most teens do, I grew. Luckily taller. I felt better about myself; I started to become more aware of the changes my mom had made. This allowed me to notice what I was eating, how often, and how often I exercised.

It wasn’t until my senior year that I felt my best I had in high school. I overheard a classmate tell someone she ran a half marathon, and then it hit me – ‘I want to do that’.

Running into Trouble

I put together a running plan for myself, bought some new running shoes, and started eating better than I ever have. I fell in love with running; I was able to accomplish something that I never thought possible for myself. This training plan led me into my freshman year of college.

I was running and working out everyday. When it came to nutrition, though, I was eating the bare minimum. I finally felt happy with my body and I was afraid I would gain weight with the slightest indulgence. I thought I looked good. While I did loose the “freshman 15”, I was too thin. Family and friends were worried about me. Looking back, I was worried about myself.

I let this fitness ‘high’, so to speak, take over my mind and body. Yes, I looked good, I was eating healthy, and I felt good. I didn’t realize that this goal of losing weight was still implanted in my mind.

Related: a registered dietitian shares tips on how to realistically have a better relationship with food. Check out the post here.

Managing Moderation

Three years have passed since my freshman 15 ‘drop’; I work out everyday, eat incredibly healthy, and feel more confident in how I look and who I am. Being happy with how you look and who you are is challenging. There are times I struggle – allowing myself a rest day, or when I want to count macros.

Someone once told me to ask myself “Is this a helpful thought?”

So I continue to do so, I talk to my brain when it tells me not to eat the pizza or cupcake. I think, ‘is this helpful?’ Or ‘will it affect me to have one slice of pizza?’ Generally, the answer is no, and doing so allows me to be self-aware of my thoughts and the impact they have on my choices.

I challenge you to do the same on your own journey.

Post written by FFC Park Ridge Kids’ Club Supervisor Carolyn Perry; photos provided by Carolyn Perry.

Follow along with Carolyn on her Instagram here!

Sure, running on the treadmill, busting your tail on the elliptical or kettlebell swings during a PTC class will help you rack up those Myzone Effort Points (MEPs), but that’s not the only way to score them! The cool thing about the Myzone system is that it measures your effort based on your unique heart rate range and streamlines the reward system across the board. That means almost any kind of activity you can think of will earn you MEPs to track your workouts and foster friendly competition. If you’re looking for a fun and different way to rack up the MEPs, you may want to consider spiking that heart rate and fatiguing those muscles with the help of rock climbing! This adrenaline pumping, full-body workout will be sure to bring you into the yellow and red zones before you ever even leave the ground! If you are finding yourself unmotivated or exhausted by the thought of your current workout routine, try shaking things up a bit with a fresh take on physical fitness and check out indoor rock climbing in Chicago. Here are some reasons why you should strap on the MyZone, harness up, and get climbing.

Climbing is a cardiovascular workout.

Amy Brown indoor rock climbing in Chicago benefitsWhile climbing, you will feel your heart racing. It may be due to exertion. It may be due to nervousness. It may be due to both. Either way, your heart is working. A study conducted by Purdue University suggests that rock climbing performed at a moderate intensity is roughly equivalent to 244 steps per minute. This exceeds the estimated 222 steps per minute that are taken when running a 10-minute mile.

This year, I decided to join the fun and invest in a Myzone belt of my own! After a two hour, low-intensity bouldering sessions (more on bouldering versus rope climbing later!), I charted my first 229 MEPs. I also took it upon myself, my climbing buddy and my trusty stopwatch to record how much time I spent actively climbing. The breakdown estimates that I spent roughly 30 total minutes actively climbing, leaving myself with a measly 90 minutes of chatting and socializing! After all, I’m the queen of “climbing a little and chatting a lot!” Luckily for me, climbing was shown to be extraordinarily efficient when I decided to focus.

Climbing helps with strength training and muscle toning.

Thankfully, your heart is not the only muscle that will see some action during climbing. While climbing, every part of your body from your head to your toes plays a significant role in your ascent. All major muscle groups must work cohesively during your gravity-defying fun! These include your core, shoulders, back, biceps, triceps, quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. After one session, my back and shoulders are already screaming for a visit to the spa! Many new climbers are also surprised to find their forearms sore due to the grip strength required to remain on the wall.

You can tailor different workouts to cardio and strength training goals.

Because climbing is so versatile, you can structure your climbing sessions to place a bit more emphasis on either one of the aforementioned fitness components. There are two common forms of climbing: rope climbing and bouldering. These two are related to one another in the same way that marathon running and sprinting are related. While both fit under the large umbrella of “running,” there are very different approaches to properly training for and performing these activities.

Rope Climbing

Think of climbing with a rope and harness as the marathon run. During these climbs, more focus is placed upon your respiratory output and endurance. The climbs take a longer amount of time to complete and are typically completed on a vertical wall, climbing upward. If a climber was interested in placing a greater emphasis on spiking his or her heart rate, it would be a great idea to spend time climbing laps on less difficult climbs.

Bouldering

Conversely, think of bouldering as the sprint. Bouldering is a different type of climbing that is done without ropes and harnesses. The routes are shorter and go nowhere near as high. Because of this, bouldering is often done with mats and padded floors. When the climber falls, they land on the mats. The movement associated with bouldering is often more powerful and technical, which calls for less respiratory output and more strength-building. Given that my first Myzone climbing session catered to strength performance, I was pleasantly surprised by the results. I can’t wait to see what happens when I strap on my belt during an endurance session!

Climbing complements other workouts.

Climbing is a wonderful thing to do, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you do! Reap the benefits of a stronger grip while maxing out on your deadlift. Squat with ease knowing that you regularly perform pistol squats while suspended 20 feet in the air on the climbing wall. Engage those back muscles to finally crank out the first of many pull ups. No matter what your fitness goals may be, just know that regularly climbing will help you get there.

Related: speaking of squats, check out these 8 great benefits of using weights in your fitness routine.

Climbing improves flexibility and mobility.

You will often find your body in very unorthodox positions while indoor rock climbing (“You want me to put my foot where?!”). Rock climbing regularly allows you to increase your overall range of motion, especially in your hips and shoulders. Many climbs call for far reaches and high foot placement. Performing these movements regularly will allow your body to adapt and strengthen accordingly.

Pairing rock climbing with regular stretching (dynamic warm-up stretching and static post-workout stretching) multiple times a week will also assist in improving your flexibility and mobility.

Climbing improves balance (and combats imbalance!).

While rock climbing, you are suddenly far more aware of your center of gravity because you are constantly shifting and moving. Determining the most efficient way to position your body and using your core to remain on the wall are of utmost importance. There will be times when there will only be one foothold for you to move from. As you ascend, you will need to stay calm and balanced while your second leg remains off the wall. This requires a great deal of balance and control!

Additionally, the combination of pushing and pulling motions required from both sides of your body will help eliminate muscle imbalances. Are you a righty or a lefty? Leave your friends guessing! There’s no such thing as a strong side when you’re this balanced!

Climbing helps develop functional strength.

That jar of pickles is no match for you! Never again will you need to hand over a jar and have someone “loosen it first”. Climbing helps you to develop grip and forearm strength that will allow you to leave no jar unopened. You may not crush everything you hold into dust (I hope), but you will quickly notice a substantial difference in your hand and forearm strength.

Aside from your arms, other parts of your body will strengthen. The repetition of upward stepping will make every staircase a breeze. Your strengthened back and core will help alleviate some of the discomfort associated with poor posture. I hope you’re ready to be the talk of the town for being one lean, mean, functional machine!

Indoor rock climbing Chicago benefits

Climbing is a mental workout.

Every single route is a life-sized puzzle waiting to be solved. You must rely on your focus and problem-solving abilities to complete each climb. Assessing your personal skills and applying them to each step of your climb is extraordinarily important and thought-provoking. Additionally, every other thought and concern must be left on the ground below. For a few blissful minutes, you have no choice but to ignore the nagging voice in your head trying to convince you that you left the oven on!

Many individuals also use climbing as a creative outlet. As you become more familiar with your body, you develop an individual style of climbing. More than a few of our regular climbers embrace each climb as a form of choreography. They become very focused oh perfecting a sequence to a climb that was once difficult. We like to watch and learn from one another, embracing different styles of movement and attempting them. Climbing is a social sport by nature, and we take great pride in the community we form and the ideas we share in order to complete a climb!

But most importantly… climbing is fun!

Amy Brown Climbing Wall FFC ChicagoWhether you’re overcoming a fear of heights or experiencing the euphoria of reaching the top of the climbing wall for the first- or hundredth- time…. the excitement never gets old. You will still feel as if you are on top of the world. Rock climbing provides you with a unique sense of accomplishment that you will find nowhere else in the club. There is always a new challenge for you to conquer, leaving you engaged. Join us for some indoor rock climbing in Chicago and enjoy the smiles, chalky high fives new group of friends that are cheering for you every step of the way!

While there are an infinite number of reasons to make rock climbing a regular fixture in your health and fitness program, this list is a great place to start. We challenge you to climb right out of your comfort zone and never look back. Reach new heights (literally) and joining our climbing community! Get climbing with us at our Oak Park and Park Ridge locations. For more class and program information, email Amy Brown at abrown@ffc.com.

Post written by Amy Brown, FFC Oak Park Climbing Wall Supervisor.

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Best benefits for fitness indoor rock climbing Chicago FFC

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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