My name is Erin Sneed and I have been in the fitness industry for almost 10 years. I played sports all through high school and went on to play college soccer. While in college, I grew to love group fitness and began teaching classes at my college campus. I was extremely active and played pickup basketball, ran, taught workout classes, and trained on my own. In 2011, I was in the midst of my senior year of college and I began experiencing extreme hip pain. I shrugged it off and continued to workout daily, thinking I just needed to add more stretching to my routine. Little did I know I was running with a hip impingement and several labral tears which was putting the joint bone on bone and hip surgery recovery would be in my future.

About 6 months later, I couldn’t tolerate the pain anymore. I was 21 years old (at the time) and was waking up in the middle of night from the pain, unable to walk for more than 10 minutes without dragging my leg. I had acquired an extreme limp which caused every person to ask if I was ok.

Getting to the Bottom of the Issue

When I finally sought medical advice, I discovered that I had a congenital abnormality that causes a mismatch between the parts of the joint (the ball and socket) in the hip, and that, with my active lifestyle, had led to damage that could only be remedied with surgery. A total hip replacement was necessary, but not recommended due to my age.

I learned that hip replacements don’t last forever and the more replacements a patient receives, the more difficult the recovery is. In 2012 I underwent my first hip surgery – an arthroscopic clean up of my joint to help relieve my pain and buy me some time before I had to have a total hip replacement.

With any surgery, the recovery took a toll on my mind and body. I adjusted my workouts to more swimming, rollerblading, and cycling and removed running/impact training out of my routine. I became a cycling instructor and was back teaching in approximately 9 months. The arthroscopic surgery did relieve some pain; however, my range of motion did not recover. I only had 8 degrees of internal rotation in my surgical hip and retained a slight limp. Five years went by and and not only did my limp continue to become more and more pronounced, but the pain crept back into my life.

By this time, I had started a career in federal law enforcement and was gaining more popularity as a fitness professional in the city of Chicago. Going in for more hip issues was the last thing I wanted to do. I reluctantly went to the doctor who showed me my x-rays of an extremely arthritic hip and was surprised that I was even able to walk. A total hip replacement was strongly encouraged.

In my mind, the term “hip replacement” conjures up an image of a Baby Boomer keeping up with the grandkids, not a 26 year old just beginning her professional careers. I had now suffered from chronic hip pain for nearly 7 years and agreed to undergo the surgery with hopes of finally being pain free and without a limp.

As you can see from my video, I worked hard on my recovery and saw great results at first. I was finally living pain free and only had limitations of endurance walking, lateral movements, and running. I continued to attend physical therapy, which was recommended for 12 weeks.

Back to the Hip Surgery Recovery Drawing Board

About 4 months after my hip replacement, I began experiencing anterior hip pain (which was the same type of pain I had suffered from for years). I worked with my physical therapist to investigate what the issue could be and did some trial and error with exercises. I was beginning to limp again. I took a significant amount of time off from all physical activity which impacted my mind and body.

My physical therapist alluded that the pain and limp may have been from a weak gluteus medius and I began to train only that muscle (side steps, lateral leg raises, clam shells, hip abduction, etc.) for over a month. Despite my efforts, the pain persisted.

I scheduled an emergency appointment to see my surgeon who gave me a cortisone injection to relieve the pain. I had zero pain relief. I didn’t know what to do and began questioning if this limp and pain was something I was going to have forever. With a wedding around the corner in August 2018, my stress levels had risen. I had now not worked out in over 2 months and seemed to be out of options.

I doctor shopped, got a leg length discrepancy test done, and went to a different physical therapist to take a second look on what was going on and why I was feeling pain nearly 6 months post hip replacement. I had been doing my PT exercises and resting when needed. Fast-forward to over 32 weeks of physical therapy — which I was still continuing to attend several times weekly… the recommended amount for my surgery was 12 weeks.

Related: check out this story about how Pilates helped an FFC South Loop Pilates instructor recover from hip surgery!

A Second Set of Eyes

I went to see Jamie at NovaCare and she assessed my pain and checked my gluteus medius strength. I could hardly lift my leg it was so weak. How could this be?! I’d been doing gluteus medius exercises for over a month! Jamie watched and felt how I did my movements and informed me that YES, I was doing the exercises, BUT I was doing them with my hip flexor.

She explained that I have probably been moving incorrectly ever since my hip issues started and especially post hip surgery recovery – my body’s natural response to try to protect the hip joint was refusing to activate my gluteus medius and thus creating an over-activated hip flexor. She explained that I had no gluteus medius strength because my hip flexor had become the prime mover for ALL of my exercises, hence the anterior pain around my joint.

Jamie required me to take my physical therapy “back to basics” and only allowed me to do 2 exercises until I saw her next. In order to relieve the pain I needed to turn off my hip flexor and fire my side body. How do you turn off your hip flexor? You use it to walk, sit, lunge, etc. She assisted in turning off my hip flexor by doing some muscle relaxation techniques as well as dry needling.

For those of you who haven’t experienced dry needling, I’m not going to lie. Dry needling is unbelievably painful. However, it is also unbelievably effective. It’s a technique that is used to directly impact the muscle by moving the needle up and down that muscle or muscle group – allowing it go back to its relaxed state. In layman’s terms, it is a very intense version of foam rolling. Jamie said that by manually turning the hip flexor off I would have a better chance of firing the gluteus medius and over time strengthening it so it does the work it’s supposed to (stabilize the hip).

My Aha Moment

As someone who has been in the fitness industry this was such a powerful moment for me (and a total wakeup call). For many of us who enjoy working out, the easiest part about working out (believe it or not) is just grinding through your routine and getting the job done. However, I have learned the hard way that that’s not what fitness is about.

Yes working hard is great, but it’s about using the correct muscles to do the work you intend to do. If you’re doing a squat and you feel pain in your knees you may not be using the right muscles to do the work. My advice to anyone is to get a second set of eyes. Even if you think you’re doing an exercise correctly. If you are unsure about your form or have any doubts, get a second set of eyes to assist you! The power of a trainer, or in my case physical therapist, was life changing.

Post written by FFC Group Fitness Instructor Erin Sneed.





Try the best gym in Chicago for free!

The space we share with one another is defined by the space we create. It may not be something you would think about on a day to day basis, but space is a part of everything we do. Some of us need large spaces and may not enjoy crowds, while others love concerts or any event where large groups of people gather. These two examples are on a large scale, so let’s move on to the smaller, more specific situations. The movements you perform while exercising creates space in your joints, and are an active decision. Yoga, Pilates, heavy weights, etc. create a space. In some cases, space may be restricted and the desire would be to create more. Stretching to increase flexibility and even engaging in massage therapy (and maybe Asian Bodywork) are good examples for achieving greater movement for your body and all its mechanical components.

Active movements happen during exercise (the intentional choice to flex, stretch, and lift heavy weights, spin classes for cardio, Pilates for core strength, etc.) Passive movements are different in nature, but just as important as these other active movements we make. Receiving a therapeutic massage is a great way to achieve passive movement, and the therapist is the one who creates that space our joints need so badly.

Asian Bodywork, such as Thai or Shiatsu falls under the larger umbrella of massage therapy. Bodywork is distinguished by the body mobilization techniques utilized, and can easily be incorporated into a traditional massage. What’s more, the therapist gets to stretch and move during the massage therapy treatment as well, at times mirroring the client.

Related: click here to try FFC for free and check out all the amenities at our clubs!

My personal journey with massage therapy and Asian bodywork

FFC massage therapist Jessica demonstrating Table Shiatsu with fellow massage therapist Samantha Margaret Wolf.

These practices are what led me to become a massage therapist and dabble in Asian bodywork. I have a background in dance and martial arts, and at one point in my past I had to make a decision to find a career path that encompassed what I loved about both. Defining the space around myself with movement, whether it was dance or martial arts, is what massage therapy is to me now.

I have been a board-certified massage therapist and experienced with Asian bodywork with BCTMB for 12 years now. My most recent training is from the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine with an A.A.S. degree in holistic sciences. I am also a certified practitioner of Asian Bodywork, specifically practicing Shiatsu work and Acupressure with 5 Element Theory.

Related: no time for a massage? Find your zen anyway. Check out these helpful tips for how to practice mindfulness every day.

I believe learning is a lifelong journey and for a new challenge I have returned to martial arts. I am learning Jiu Jitsu at my home club in Park Ridge from personal trainer Aiazbek Mustakov, who is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and 2nd dan black belt in Judo. I have also had the opportunity to collaborate with a fellow massage therapist Samantha Margaret Wolf, LMT, CST who is board-certified as well.

If you think you would like Shiatsu bodywork, call the spa at FFC Park Ridge and ask to book that overdue massage with Jessica Heffernan, or email me at for a complimentary consultation! I am at the club Friday 3-8 PM, Saturday 9 AM – 6 PM and Sunday 9 AM – 6 PM. Let’s create some space and define that journey of wellness.

Post written by FFC Park Ridge Massage Therapist Jessica Heffernan.

FFC Park Ridge Jessica HeffernanAbout Jessica

Jessica is board certified in massage therapy and bodywork with NCBTMB. She is also a certified practitioner of Asian Bodywork, including Thai, Shiatsu, Tui Na and Acupressure. She integrates these modalities into all types of massage – relaxation, deep tissue and sports massage. Her work is a blend of eastern and western.

My name is JP and I’ve been in the fitness and training industry for 7 years – from a personal trainer to fitness director. Here on the blog we always tend to see client testimonials, but I want to do something different – give another perspective. A personal trainer’s side.

Thus, here is my trainer testimonial about one of my very first clients and what she has taught me.

I met my client early on in a not-so-common situation. It was my 3rd month at my new job as a personal trainer when I was called down for a customer service-related request. I was new and eager so I rushed to the scene. My help was needed for a free session for a member in lieu of a bad experience with a personal trainer.

I walked into the office and was met with a family of four. Katina, my unexpected future client, her husband and two kids. It was actually her husband that was the one with the bad experience. I tried my best to get him to give us another shot, but no matter how hard I tried, he was set on cancelling the membership. I was feeling pretty defeated.

However, between the commotion of 4 adults cramped in a tiny office and 2 kids fighting with each other, it ended up being Katina that took me up on the offer. She wasn’t even a member at the time. So we got her on a guest pass and scheduled a session.

The next week she tried a class I taught. I definitely didn’t take it easy on her (not my style), but she took it like a champ. We did the personal training session as well, and I think that’s where our connection began. We say it all the time now: together we are a bad combination. I never let up, and she never backs down.

Starting a Routine

She promptly signed up for 3 days a week for a month. Here I was, with a 39-year-old woman that had never worked out in a gym- ever- and had only done the elliptical. What to do? Short answer: whatever I wanted. She never questioned anything I made her do. She might not have liked it, but she did it anyway!

After one month she saw some progress. I was ecstatic. It was the first client I was able to actually get through 12 sessions on schedule!! She lost weight, she got stronger, she felt better. What I didn’t realize at the time, though, was that it was more than just the physical wins and tangible things that were important to Katina. It took me a while to figure out what else I was offering her as her trainer.

Over the next 4 years we trained for weight loss, strength, competitions, races, you name it. I’ve been there for her for just about everything, or at the very least texted her before and after to hear how she crushed whatever she was going after. People watched us train and thought we were crazy. Battle ropes, cleans, attempting to climb walls outside, pulling me on a sled through the gym. We would just laugh and say “this is the easy stuff.”

Related: want to sign up for a free training session at FFC? Click here!

Challenging the Trainer

I was challenging her, alright. It wasn’t until this year she challenged ME. Katina signed us up to do the Spartan Race, a 5-mile run riddled with mud and 20 plus obstacles. Of course I agreed thinking she’d forget because it was months away. I should have known better; she’s a woman that researches everything and even keeps a spreadsheet of her runs!

The day of the race finally came. Then, and only then, did I realize I actually had to go through with it. We both had no idea what we were in for. The racecourse was nuts! There was mud up to our hips, 10-foot walls, barbed wire… pure insanity. But we stuck through it. I helped her with the obstacles and she slowed down on the run for me.

What I Learned

After the race I had a new outlook on what I did for her all these years. It wasn’t just counting reps, helping her get stronger or lose weight. It was more than that. For the first time, she helped me, coached me, made me feel comfortable and didn’t let me give up. She didn’t yell because I ran slower than she did or get mad when I needed water. She supported me when I needed it and encouraged me when I thought I couldn’t make it.

The last 4 years have been a joy, to say the least. She’s never missed a session and I’ve never cancelled one. We’ve cried, we’ve laughed, we’ve had 2-hour sessions, we’ve even been mad at each other to the point of not even saying a word. Through our relationship, I can finally see what I truly offer as a trainer: support, trust and friendship.

Want to train like us? Here’s a sample workout. Show us your results with #FFCChicago. Good luck!

Related: “Member Stories: How FFC Helped Me Get Fit & Become a Beast By 40.”

JP & Katina’s Workout

  • 50 push-ups
  • 50 sit-ups
  • 50 cleans
  • 50 lunges
  • 50 wall balls
  • 50 kettlebell swings

Repeat twice. This workout takes Katina just under an hour!

Post written by FFC Gold Coast Fitness Director JP Maund. 

About JP Maund

Some see working out as a thing they do- run x miles, lift x weight. To me, it’s more than that. It’s a mindset and a lifestyle. It’s not that I’m into fitness, more so it’s that I want to impact people on a daily basis. Fitness is as routine as brushing my teeth and as unconscious as taking a breath. It’s not easy, by any means. But as with most things in life, “nothing in the world is worth having or doing unless it means effort, pain and difficulty.” – FDR Contact for a complimentary workout with an FFC personal trainer!