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Finding new ways to keep workouts interesting has always been a challenge for me. After recovering from two injuries last year and beginning to lift weights, run, and participate in group fitness again, it all started to come back as I saw the increase in speed, strength, and endurance – but it wasn’t the same. I was looking for something new that I hadn’t tried before that would push me further than I was used to. I considered personal training but couldn’t justify the cost. This past month, though, I had the opportunity to try out Fitness Formula Club’s high intensity interval training (HIIT) classes in the Performance Training Center. At first I thought these would be like any other group fitness workout, but was quickly surprised. Here are some benefits of high intensity interval training I saw and why you should give HIIT a try.

What is high intensity interval training?

Hight intensity interval training is a technique that utilizes the heart rate, during which you focus on a specific exercise for a short period of time, usually at 100% of your effort, and follow it with a short rest period. You may do a different type of exercise after. The structure of this class is typically broken up into timed sections, due to the fact that you’re only given a limited rest period. This helps with fat burning and strength conditioning. For more information on the science behind HIIT, check out this post!

What is the Performance Training Center (PTC)?

Classes in the PTC are those you may have seen in action within the turfed areas of the FFC Gold Coast, Park Ridge, Lincoln Park and Old Town locations. Workouts incorporate equipment like rowing machines, ropes, sleds, tires, weights and kettlebells.

What are benefits of high intensity interval training?

Benefits of high intensity interval training include group size and efficiency, cost, level of attention, cutting edge equipment and more. I’ve broken some additional benefits of HIIT down below.

Smaller groups – HIIT class sizes run lean, so you don’t have to worry about hugging your sweaty neighbor while you work out. You’re typically partnered with 1-2 people, which can lead to a little friendly competition.

Affordable personal training – though personal training was difficult for me to justify, regarding cost, HIIT allowed me to receive the coaching needed without breaking the bank. It’s $100/month and “all you can eat” – you can go as many times as you want.

HIIT at FFC

Coaching – due to the smaller group size, the trainer is able to coach each individual on their form when needed. I found this to be extremely helpful with kettlebell swings, as I have been doing them wrong for years. This also helps with injury prevention, because you’ll learn proper technique that will come in handy the next time you work out on your own or in a larger group fitness class.

New equipment – as I mentioned above, I am always looking for something new, and what better way to get that than via new equipment and techniques? With new equipment comes new exercises that will hit areas of muscle you’re not used to. For example, I found that by doing sleds I noticed an increase in my sprint speed during Tread class.

Performance tracking – HIIT uses MYZONE heart rate tracking to show participant’s performance. Heart rate belts are provided as well, in case you don’t have one yet. This helps with tracking how hard you’re working, where your heart rate is and where it might need to be based on your goals, and helps the trainer coach you for the most effective results.

Personalized workouts – if you’re injured or unable to perform and exercise, the instructor will always provide an alternative option for you. This is helpful for those who want to participate in group fitness but who may be unsure of how to proceed in a safe manner.

Related: is your FitBit slowing down your progress? You might need to up your game with a MYZONE heart rate monitor. Read this hilarious breakup letter between trainer Marylou and her FitBit.

Final thoughts on high intensity interval training

HIIT has opened my eyes to new exercises, muscles groups, and equipment to push my fitness to the next level. Going back to my previous comment about leveraging sleds to help with my speed in Tread, this workout can help you in many ways. Whether you’re looking to increase speed, build muscle, or lean out for summer, HIIT will help you get there. Don’t allow your body to plateau by doing the same workouts every week. As my friend Steve Parkin would say, “If you want to change your body, you need to get out of your comfort zone!” What do you have to lose?

Post written by FFC Union Station member Omar Romero.

 

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Example of a High Intensity Interval Training Workout

  • Below is an example of a workout we have done during a HIIT class at FFC.

3 rounds of each set; 90 seconds on and 60 seconds rest

Set 1:

  • Tire flip 20 yards
  • Larry push 20 yards back
  • Sprint 20 yards down and up
  • Sprint 15 yards down and up

Set 2:

  • Lateral medicine ball slam X 30
  • Lateral bound X 10

Set 3:

  • Goblet squats X 20
  • TRX squat jumps X 10

Set 4:

  • Band rows X 15
  • Up and down stairs while carrying medicine ball X 1

Finisher:

  • Everyone wall sits while passing a medicine ball back and forth for 120 seconds for 2 rounds.

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

What Are the “Basics”?

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

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

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

What’s a Personal Baseline?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life Hacks to Preventing Burnout from a Busy Chick

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

Nutrition & meal prep tips:

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

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

Fitting in fitness tips:

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

Self-care tips:

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

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

Understanding Benefits of Routine

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

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

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

Why This is Important

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

About Janet

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

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

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

Post written by FFC Group Exercise Instructor Janet Keogh.

 

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

What is a resting metabolic rate? Resting metabolic rate, or RMR, measures how many calories you burn at a state of rest (as if you were sitting on your couch watching your favorite TV show all day).

Scientifically speaking, the resting metabolic rate (RMR) and the closely related basal metabolic rate (BMR) measure the amount of daily energy expended by humans. The utilization of energy in this state is sufficient only for the functioning of vital organs like the heart, lungs, nervous system, kidneys, liver, muscles, etc.

So Why Is Your Resting Metabolic Rate Important?

Why is your RMR so important? Knowing your RMR can help you understand how many calories you need to function, plus what you need to intake (or not intake) to reach your health and wellness goals. Having a higher RMR means you will burn more calories at a state of rest (yep – just for doing nothing more than simply existing!) which will also allow you to increase the amount of calories you can consume in one day to reach your goals.

How do you increase your RMR? A good fitness regimen that includes weight training is the only way to do it. You have to build your lean muscle mass. Here are 3 quick steps:

  1. Add weight training in 3-5 times a week
  2. Add cardio in 3-5 times a week for 15-30 minutes to help stay lean
  3. Eat frequent meals – about every 3 hours

Don’t worry ladies, this is not going to make you bulky; your bodies do not produce enough testosterone to have that look. If you are going for a very muscular look, however, it is possible, but it takes a lot of work, a proper weight lifting regimen and eating habits to get there.

Benefits of Increasing Your RMR

  • Burn more calories at rest, even while sleeping
  • Burn more calories during exercise and throughout the day
  • Higher RMR = higher amount of calories you can eat in a day to achieve your goals
  • Have more lean muscle on your body which will result in: lower body fat percentage, lower risk of heart attack/heart disease, lower risk of diabetes, lower risk of hypertension, and an increase your internal age.

Causes of Low RMR

What lowers your resting metabolic rate and how will it affect you? There are some factors you can control, and some you can’t – including the following:

  • Age: research shows that starting as early as your 20s your body starts losing 2-3% of lean muscle mass each decade. This is why a weight lifting program is so important to help fight the natural loss of lean muscle mass over that time period.
  • Hormones: generally, for most women, the thyroid and hormone production will slow down after the age of 40, which have an affect on your RMR.

Regarding what you CAN control, one of the biggest factors is exercise. You can control how much or how little you exercise. Exercise less, and you’ll end up with less lean muscle mass and a higher percentage of body fat. Not only will this result in a decrease of RMR (and our clothes not fitting the way we want them to), but more seriously, it can lead to adverse health problems such as:

  • Increase risk of heart disease and stroke – the 1st and 3rd leading causes of death, respectively, in the US
  • Increase risk of diabetes – the 7th leading cause of death in the US
  • Increase risk of hypertension
  • Increase of overall medical bills
  • Increase of sick days from work

Related: More metabolic myths… busted. Check out this post for 5 main myths about the metabolism and the truth behind them.

Is There a Resting Metabolic Rate Calculator?

There are many resting metabolic rate calculators out there on the internet that will give you estimates of what you roughly burn doing nothing. Some take more factors into consideration than others. For example, while some calculators may measure age, height and weight, some may measure those factors plus the type of work and activities you do. The more information that you can put in the more accurate it is going to be for your body type without actually going in and having an actual test done.

While these tests can be helpful, it is important to remember to consider what information you are receiving. As an example, I used this calculator (based on the the Mifflin St Jeor equation) but changed my activity level from very active to moderately active. If I wanted to lose a healthy 2 lbs per week, it drops me below 1700 calories to 1282 per day – which, for females and the healthy functioning of their internal organs, is way too low. Be careful what information you get and always consult with a registered dietitian before setting an exercise or nutrition program.

FFC has the proper equipment and can help you test for a more accurate RMR and BMR. You can actually set up an RMR appointment just by emailing metabolictesting@ffc.com. You can also click here to learn more information about the tests.

And why would accuracy be important? Let’s say your RMR is 1400, but based on a calculation you found online (not taking into consideration your fitness levels) told you your RMR is 1550. In reality you could be consuming an extra 150 calories a day because the results were based on the general population and not according to your own personal needs. Knowing your RMR/BMR can be very important to reaching your goals.

Of course, while all of this is important, the most important thing is to focus on eating healthy, keeping your portions in control, getting plenty of exercise, drinking lots of water, and getting plenty of rest.

Post written by FFC contributor.

 

FFC personal trainer Marylou Tawney pens a humorous breakup letter to her Fitbit, explaining that her fitness goals have evolved and become too complex for the step counter.

Dear Fitbit,

I’ll never forget the first time we met. After a fiercely-fought firm-wide challenge was won by my team, The Piercelings, way back in 2012, you arrived as my prize. Excited to see what all the buzz was about, I clipped on that first incarnation of you to the middle of my bra and strutted towards my first 10,000 steps. The precarious placement of your device never stopped me from checking my steps or the time in far too conspicuous of places because, frankly, I was proud of you. I had nothing to be ashamed of. I had a step goal, and I was going places.

You got me motivated to move even when it was socially appropriate to stand still. As you whispered sweet urgencies in my ear, “10,000…” you kept my feet marching. Desk to candy jar? 54 steps each way. Desk to water cooler? 73-77 steps each way, depending on the enthusiasm of my stride. Together, you and I have walked the 5,772 miles of the Russian Railway, and have gone up 20,000 floors – as high as a shooting star.

I introduced you to all my friends and family right away. We didn’t waste any time, but neither did they! They adopted you immediately, and they too strapped you to their bras and checked their progress in far too conspicuous places. We cheered each other and challenged each other every week to hit those step goals. You got us off the couch and stepping, stepping… and stepping. I knew I’d really committed to our relationship when I got the Fitbit scale that syncs up with you. It was our equivalent to a diamond ring.

We’ve had some crazy times. Do you remember in my postnatal fog that it took me several days to realize that I was getting false steps from sitting on an exercise ball, holding my precious bundle of only-sleeps-when-held, bouncing for hours and hours? Remember that? I got, like, 96,000 steps in one day, and all my friends were worried that I was over-exerting myself, only to find they’d been cheated out of that week’s step-count leaderboard. I took you off and didn’t wear you for a month after that! Oh, still too soon? No, I get that.

You really left your mark on me. Literally. You finally migrated from my bra to my wrist – as my fifth and final model – my Fitbit tan line became so strong that I wore you even when your battery was dead.

Then something happened. My fitness goals evolved and grew more complex. I began to focus more on strength and high intensity interval training, balance, and mobility – the things that you, my dear Fitbit, did not recognize as primary goals. If I wasn’t on a treadmill, I wasn’t earning trophies or accolades for my accomplishments. But strength training protects your bone mass, and builds muscle mass. It burns more calories, reduces the risk of depression. It assists in motor planning, and reduces your risk of diabetes and heart disease! Studies have even shown there is a link between strength training and mental alertness. Grip strength and longevity of life! And I learned new ways to measure progress.

  • First of all, I designed a multi-week exercise program in which a series of workouts and movements are periodically repeated at various intensities and quantities (reps/sets), so I am able to document my strength from one week to the next. (Need a plan like this too? Check out the FFC Workout of the Month!)
  • Second, on each strength training day, I perform a total body workout; however, I focus on certain muscle groups each day without neglecting the others. After all, muscle strength requires muscle balance, so hitting both sides of a joint each time you exercise keeps those joints nice and healthy.
  • Third, I changed my warm ups from the treadmill to a functional warm up that prepares my body for the specific movements I am about to perform. This way, my body is not exhausted before I even start trying to lift weights. However, since I do enjoy a good sweat, I throw in some high intensity intervals on the front end of my workout as well as a fun metabolic finisher at the end. This satisfies my addiction to cardio by getting my heart rate up for my whole strength training workout.

My achievements towards these goals felt disregarded and uncounted by you, my faithful Fitbit. You, who got me moving. You, who kept me stepping. You have your place on steppers wrists, whose goals are to move from sedentary to active, but when goals are no longer aligned, we must finally part ways.

I will forever thank you for keeping me and my entire extended family on our fitness journeys for so many years, but I can’t help but feel you and I have grown apart as my fitness goals have changed. As I cover up the untanned strip on my wrist with a new device that better understands me, I won’t forget you. I forever remain in your debt.

Sincerely,

Mama Lou

FFC Oak Park Marylou Tawny Fitbit letter

Marylou Tawney is a personal trainer focusing on prenatal and postnatal exercise at FFC Oak Park. She is a mother of two rowdy boys, and specializes in wrestling, tackling, and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You can find her on Instagram at @mamalou_fitness – or shoot her an email at mtawney@ffc.com to set up a complimentary consultation!

 

 

 

 

 

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“Exercise can be described as a ‘tug of war’ around a bone or joint.” –Tom Purvis, RPT

Interestingly, this is not a metaphor exclusively for exercise. It also represents the most fundamental struggle we encounter throughout life – the battle between a force of nature and a force from within us. The most common force of nature (called gravity) becomes the resistance that imposes “war” on our bodies, and when we are “under siege”, the force we use to “tug” against it comes from the contraction of our muscles. We refer to this contractile force as tension, which ultimately represents our effort to tolerate the threshold for work and “remain the same” – aka the primal directive of homeostasis.

The factors that make exercise beneficial and different from the continuous, mundane, but necessary assault of gravity pulling on us mentioned above are (1) how we use our body to “wage the battle” beyond the basic homeostasis level (because life has proven that if we are complacent and do nothing except try to achieve homeostasis, we eventually become “as we were in the womb”… bent over and crumpled), (2) the way we adjust the variables of gravity and (3) the purpose or goal.

The Biggest Exercising Mistake

The most profound mistake we make when we exercise is not knowing the present borders of the territory we govern to “wage the war”. Essentially, we don’t understand the threshold/boundaries of our central nervous system until we meet and exceed them, often resulting in injury. And just as likely, we may try to overcompensate for the failure of not being able to exceed our boundaries, with other muscles. If you’ve ever experienced an inexplicable or unexpected strain, this overcompensation is often where it comes from. And, by the way, the brain will try to construct any overcompensation needed, whether we’re attempting a 600 lb deadlift or simply washing dishes.

Adjusting the Variables of Gravity

When we exercise to achieve a goal-specific outcome, we typically decide the force of gravity we’re imposing to help us achieve that physical outcome by selecting weight, speed, time, distance, etc. These factors all represent the amount of gravity we’ll encounter – but there are other more subtle types of factors we need to consider that will also have an effect on the outcome of our efforts, like from what angle the force will come from, or physical laws at hand. If we don’t know “what to use” or “how”, there will probably be unintended consequences like muscle strains or other injury.

The Purpose/Goal

We also have to consider the goal we’re trying to achieve and what kind of force it takes to achieve the particular outcome we want. That force is the contraction of muscles, in order to overcome the gravity we’ve imposed on ourselves with weights, speed, etc.

Related: have any pain or injury? These 5 fitness tips are your new best friend.

The Problem with This Methodology

The problem is, we equate exercise with movement and concentrate on the effects of our efforts: how much energy we expend, how much our heart is beating, how much weight we move (or lose), how many repetitions we perform, how far, fast, or high we go, etc.

That’s like treating an illness with a remedy for its symptoms.

We don’t actually cure the illness, but just feel better temporarily, until the treatment wears off. We need to flip this way of thinking and instead train the source. We need to learn how to contract our muscles better and synchronize the tension with our joints, brain and mind.

Here’s an ironic fact of life: the very same force of nature we require to live is ever so gradually crushing us to death. Gravity. It’s the same force of nature we need to overcome to look, feel, move, function, and live better. But if we reach for our goals without developing the source of our efforts, we essentially expedite the crushing effects that gravity is already imposing on us – creating pain, injury and other issues.

Performing exercise in in a manner that maximizes intended benefits and minimizes unintended consequences like injury is different from traditional efforts and requires the assistance of someone like a Resistance Training Specialist who can teach you to “train the source” instead of solely focusing on the effect – someone who can detect muscular contraction and adjust the resistance to improve deficiencies and provide better results. You can also contact a MAT (muscle activation technique) specialist to help you relieve strain associated with unintended muscle contractions.

For more information on Resistance Training, contact Eric at eglickstein@ffc.com. For more information on MAT, contact Skip Chapman, Bill Busch, Jeremy Gordon or Jessica Thiel at schapman@ffc.com, wbusch@ffc.com, jgordon@ffc.com or jthiel@ffc.com.

Post written by FFC Resistance Training Specialist Eric Glickstein.

 

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Running is an exercise that you either enjoy or really hate. Those who enjoy it post about their sunrise views and race times and those who hate running are tired of seeing them. I am one of those people who enjoy running but only for a short period of time. The idea of keeping a steady pace for an extended period of time is as exciting to me as counting sheep. With that said, I’ve come to thoroughly enjoy Tread at FFC. Check out this efficient treadmill class for your next lunchtime workout!

What is Tread?

Tread is a 45-minute (or 30 minutes, if you’re doing the express version) running class that consists of sprints and hills. The drills are broken up with rest in between and each drill changes so you’re not doing the same run the whole time.

The point of the class is to build strength and cardiovascular endurance. The more efficiently your body delivers oxygen to its tissues, the lower your breathing rate is. What does that mean? The more you do the class, the easier it’ll become. Below is an example of Tread led by FFC’s regional group fitness director, Lois Miller at FFC Union Station.

Example Lunchtime Workout (or for any Tread class or time of day)

Warm-up:

  • 1 minute incline 1.0 intensity (speed) at 60%
  • 1 minute at 70%
  • 1 minute at 80%
  • Repeat the above at incline 2.0

Drill I:

  • Escalator – start at 70%
  • Increase the incline every 60 seconds; then ladder back down in descending order
  • Minute 1 (incline 2.0)
  • Minute 2 (incline 3.0)
  • Minute 3 (incline 4.0)
  • Minute 4 (incline 5.0)
  • Minute 5 (incline 4.0)
  • Minute 6 (incline 3.0)
  • Minute 7 (incline 2.0)

Rest – walk for 2 minutes

Related: want another quick lunchtime workout? Check out this 30-minute squat circuit!

Drill II:

  • Intervals – perform the following as fast as you can (AFSYC); incline stays at 1.0
  • 20 seconds on/10 rest x2
  • 30 seconds on/10 rest x2
  • 40 seconds on/10 rest x2
  • 50 seconds on/10 rest x2
  • 60 seconds on/10 rest x2

Rest – walk for 90 seconds

Drill III:

  • Side Shuffle at a fast walking pace
  • 30 seconds on each side at incline 1.0
  • Repeat at incline 5.0
  • Repeat at incline 10.0

Rest – walk for 60 seconds

Drill IV:

  • Hills – speed is at 60%; every 30 seconds the incline changes for 4 total rounds (no rest)
  • 30 seconds incline 1.0
  • 30 seconds incline 5.0
  • 30 seconds incline 10.0
  • Repeat total of 4 rounds

Rest – walk recovery / 60 seconds of tricep power pushups off the front of the treadmill

Stretch!

What can I expect from this lunchtime workout?

Just like any new workout or class you try, there are always a few items to keep in mind.

  • Do not participate in this workout if you have knee or hip pain. This is a high intensity class that requires a ton of stop and go.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during, and after
  • Recover with potassium. I’m a fan of avocado in my morning smoothie because it has less sugar than bananas (your muscles will thank you by not cramping!).
  • Watch your step. You don’t want to be that person who slips on treadmill (this is my biggest fear).
  • Wear some form of tracker. The class is not measured by distance, since it’s an interval class and drills change every time (MYZONE is my preference – you can read more on my experience here).
  • Stretch before and after! There’s nothing worse than a calf cramping up during a class or an injury taking you out of commission.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re looking to get faster, run longer or just exercise in general, give Tread a shot. Your percentage to max is based on your athletic abilities. What may be fast for others may not be to you. Check out FFC’s schedule here for dates and times.

Post written by FFC Union Station member Omar R.

Want to follow along with Omar’s workouts? Follow him on Facebook and Instagram!

If you’re like me – from an area where it’s always sunny, never drops below 30 degrees and frost is the closest you’ll ever get to snow- then Chicago’s infinitely long winter and elusive spring has probably sucker punched you in the gonads in a lot of ways. You might find yourself more apathetic towards moving away from your couch or swearing whenever wind blows. Getting to the gym becomes less of a priority when the weather is downright terrible! But you’re in luck – we’ve got bad weather workout tips to combat that. Check them out!

Implement Dedicated Days

A large issue people run into is not having a consistent routine. However, consistency is SO important, because consistency is where you see results! It also helps motivate you when the weather takes a turn for the worse. Setting dedicated days is hard initially because you’re holding yourself accountable for working out. So start by setting a simple goal for the week. I recommend three dedicated days- that’s the easiest way to begin, that’s how I became consistent- Monday, Wednesday and Saturday for an hour.

When I stuck to the days I started to see the biggest changes in my body- three days a week. If you know you don’t like working out on Sundays, don’t! But, you also have to stick to the plan and not work out those days. Once you hit the routine regularly, you may naturally want to add a fourth (if you don’t, that’s ok too!). Just stay consistent with your days. You’ll begin to notice the difference in your body and your mind.

Change the Time of Day

We’re creatures of habit. I love working out in the morning; I go to work happier and more engaged with clients. I just feel better! But it can be difficult to get up in the mornings (especially during fall/winter, or even the odd with the dark skies of a spring or summer thunderstorm). A bad weather workout tip? Switch it up! Go to your gym after work or on your lunch break. If your office has a gym for its employees, utilize it.

Working out at night is a good for you too, as it has been known to assist in sleep and encourages your brain to wind down for the evening. Winding down is just as important as working out. We are all stressed in the age of technology and working out at the end of a day is great for releasing the mental drudgery of everyday work.

Find a Gym Buddy

Gym buddies help you stay accountable with your fitness goals and regimen. Help each other out; cheer each other on! You can even alternate who chooses what workout to do for the day or participate in a group fitness class together; you’ll take comfort knowing your friend is suffering beside you. So text each other, call each other, demonstrate different workouts you want to try. When you’re done, grab coffee, dinner, or if you’re like me, a bagel! Friends help friends stay consistent.

Related: feel like you fell off the bandwagon a little bit? Here are 5 tips to get you back into a fitness routine!

Change Up the Exercises

Get off the elliptical! Oh yeah, you heard me. Change up your routine. There is nothing more motivating than doing a different workout everyday. It helps with dedication, it’s fun and it’s challenging. This small change will help keep your mind engaged and excited to exercise. If that’s too much effort, you can also download an app. Two of my favorites are Sworkit and Workout: Gym Exercise Tracker, which offer various programs that will get you stronger, leaner and fitter, along with different intensity levels. They even offer lists of exercises and demonstration videos.

If you’d rather go for a more hands-on approach, you could also hire a trainer. It is literally our job to create programming so you don’t have to think — just do. Each FFC trainer has a unique take on fitness with different exercises and routines. For example, I work with kettlebells because they blast fat, increase strength and cardiovascular endurance. My coworker Steve is all about barbell work and lifting, Taylor does great with strength and conditioning. If this interests you, talk to the FFC membership team! They’ve worked out with the trainers and can pair you with someone suited for you and your goals. Or, if you’re feeling brave, walk up the trainers desk and ask for advice. If a trainer isn’t with a client, he or she will most likely show you an exercise or two. We’re here to help and want you to have fun!

Be Good To Yourself

Strength and fitness is a journey, just like life. You’re going to have good days and bad days and it’s ok to go with the flow. For example, if you don’t make it to the gym as much as you wanted that’s ok. Let’s say these changes are hard for you to implement. Ask yourself, “why am I making these changes and how important is this to me?”

Fitness is more than just the physique – in fact, rockin’ bodies are byproducts of exercising. Fitness is treating your mind right because your mind and psyche are what helps you reach your goals. So be realistic and make small changes so you’re not shocking your system. For example, if you want a cookie- eat a damn cookie. Don’t deprive yourself, but be aware of what you’re doing and adjust along the way. Success isn’t made in leaps and bounds, but rather in small doses. Find your small victories and build off of those!

Post written by Julia Meese, FFC East Lakeview Personal Trainer.

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

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About 8 years ago I made a change to how I approached my training. Well, to be precise, I actually started training and stopped “working out”. It all started with a fitness plan.

It’s made a huge difference in how I get results, my overall health and resilience, and my understanding of how my body reacts to stressors. My results in the gym skyrocketed and it all started with a process that occurs outside of the gym; I started following a program that a coach would write for me.

My mentor once described a good program as a “helicopter view” of the trainee’s current position and where they want to be. A good fitness plan allows us to see the whole picture and how we will get from point A to point B.

“Making it up as you go” or not having a plan at all provides us with what he calls a “car view”; it doesn’t allow us to see the whole picture and leaves a lot to the imagination. How often do you get in a car in unknown territory and leave the navigation up to your imagination? You don’t, right? Because that’s a huge waste of time! Why would you do that in the gym?

“My mentor once described a good program as a “helicopter view” of the trainee’s current position and where they want to be. A good fitness plan allows us to see the whole picture and how we will get from point A to point B.”

If you are just starting out, working with a program can be intimidating. Even a simple program can look very complex on paper and seem hard to read – which is why I’m going to break down FFC’s brand new Workout of the Month program and make sure you feel confident from the start. The first step? Grab your worksheet below!

The Workout of the Month Fitness Plan Breakdown

Each Workout of the Month will come in a 4-week block.

  • Week 1 – exploratory week
  • Week 2 – intensity increase
  • Week 3 – higher weights, lower volume
  • Week 4 – the home stretch = higher weight, higher volume
Week 1 – Exploratory Week

This is a time to get comfortable with the exercises and figure out what weights you will use with the exercises that will result in the prescribed RPE (rating of perceived exertion). RPEs will range from 6-8 depending on what kind of work you are doing. Here is a chart to help you figure out your RPE:

Why work to an RPE instead of using percentages? The short answer is flexibility and health.

Not flexibility in the sense of being able to do the splits, per say, but flexibility in the sense of being able to adjust your working weights to how you feel that particular day. If you got a lot of sleep and ate well before your workout, you may feel like a million bucks and be able to match the RPE with a heavier weight than normal. Great!

Some days, you may be tired from a long work day or not sleeping well or whatever life is throwing at you and a lighter weight than normal gets you to the prescribed RPE. That’s cool too! We’re all about getting work done and keeping it safe, relative to our current readiness. Winning!

Week 2 – Intensity Increase

Now that you have your weights dialed in, you can get after it a little bit during week 2. You will usually see increased intensity during this week due to what you figured out during week 1’s exploration.

Week 3 – Higher Weights, Lower Volume

During week 3, you will see a lower volume in your strength work – but that doesn’t mean you’re doing less – you will be adding weight to make up for the decreased volume. This week is known as the “PR and go home week” — get to the gym, work a little bit harder than you have been, and go home feeling satisfied. Hooray!

Week 4 – Higher Weight, Higher Volume

Week 4 is a tough one. This is the pinnacle of your training block that will bring increased volume as well as increased weight. However, as long as you are within the prescribed RPE, you are safe and sound.

Here’s the thing… if you stick to the program, you will see that you are able to work with heavier weights but remain at the same RPE. That’s pretty cool, right?! You’re getting stronger!!

How to Read the Workout of the Month Worksheet

You’ll notice that the exercises in this program are sectioned off by letter (A, B, C, D). Those letters indicate that those exercises in that letter group are to be performed in succession. For instance, in the A section of the Monday workout you will perform 5 Overhead Med Ball Slams, 10 total (5 on each side) Deadbugs and 10 total (5 on each side) Banded Leg Drops.

You will then repeat that circuit 2 more times in that order. Then you will move on to section B and perform those exercises in succession for the prescribed sets and reps. Easy peasy!

If you are new to the gym and training in general, ease into it. Any program is to be viewed as more of a suggestion than a rule. For example, you could start with just 1 resistance day and 1 metabolic day for the first week. Or maybe a 2 resistance to 1 metabolic ratio is more your speed. Or, for you gym veterans, you could perform all 6 days.

Do whatever makes you feel good! The goal is to feel and move better while getting stronger and more resilient. We don’t need to beat ourselves up – we just need a plan and an honest assessment of our current capabilities.

Also – make sure that you are using the key provided to pick an exercise that is right for you. You should be able to perform the exercise you choose confidently and within the RPE for the prescribed set and rep range. If you need help choosing your exercises, please ask a trainer for help.

What Can You Expect?

Now that you have your weeks laid out and now how to work with the program, let’s talk about some intricacies. Writing a fitness plan for thousands of people is daunting. How do we fit it all appropriately for the individual’s skill sets and goals?

Well, it’s pretty simple if you let it be. This program will be designed for targeting general fitness. It will help you get stronger, lose some body fat, become more resilient, and improve your cardiovascular health. Yes, it really can do all of that!

Skill levels will be addressed with exercise and RPE selections. Do what’s appropriate for you! More and more difficult is not better, what is appropriate to you and what you feel confident doing is better. Working outside of your skill set isn’t going to get you to your goals faster, it’s just going to increase the risk of injury and most likely burn you out more quickly. We’re in this for the long game here. Consistency trumps intensity!

Taking It a Step Further

If you are curious to learn more about the exercises in this program or want to gain a better understanding of it, feel free to strike up a conversation with one of FFC’s trainers. We want you to succeed and get the most out of this offering! Professional guidance is never a bad idea when you are working toward a healthier you.

We hope that this helps get you started on your journey. Questions will come up and that’s ok, just contact a trainer at your club and they will be happy to help you at any point. We are very excited about this opportunity to expand our service to you and the quality and value it will add to your fitness journey!

Post written by FFC Oak Park Fitness Director Mike Connelly.

Check out the move of the month – the kettlebell swing!

A classically trained musician since age four, FFC member Kelly Richards can’t recall life without rhythm and melody. Throughout college and corporate life, music remained a focus as she kept close watch over the evolving scenes of favorite genres – and eventually found her way to digital music. Now, she spends her days in a corporate position, but the rest of her waking hours as DJ and producer, Hummingbird. Based in Chicago, she’s opened for tons of well-known artists and played numerous clubs and music festivals – locally and all over the world. Here, she’ll discuss how you can get better results with workout music and then share her favorite songs to help you kick start your workout.

The Why

Music possesses undeniable power.  It can impact our emotional state, lead us to lose our inhibitions, give us goosebumps, put us at ease, create tension – even make us smarter.  It can also help us work out longer, harder and more effectively.

Music has the remarkable ability to improve focus. One obvious way it does this is by minimizing distractions, but there are additional factors in play. The repeated sound patterns in virtually every style of music trigger certain parts of the brain’s frontal lobe – the part responsible for abstract thought, planning and analysis. If you’ve ever put on headphones because you needed to buckle down and knock out a tough project asap, this is what helped you sprint to the finish line.

Related: speaking of better results – are you trying to burn fat? Forget the cardio – pick up heavier weights!

When focused, you’re inevitably working at the highest end of your performance spectrum. Research shows this also benefits our workouts by improving our ability to analyze form and technique and make subtle yet very effective tweaks that really hone in on specific muscles.

Certain styles of music are better at this than others. Music with just a few repeated vocal samples or without lyrics altogether seems to be the most effective at increasing focus. This is likely due to how our brains are hardwired for language interpretation. When we hear words that become sentences and ultimately tell a story, we can’t help but get absorbed by it.

Sometimes this happens subconsciously, but more often than not it registers front and center, pulling us away from whatever we were previously focused on. No matter how good you think you are at multitasking, our brains are only capable of thinking one thought at a time. So if you’re at the gym and your thoughts aren’t on your workout, you’re not getting the most from your efforts.

Related: try FFC for free! Click here to get started.

The How

How workout music gets you fitter, fasterWhile classical and ambient music genres are logical options for work and study, when it comes to workout music, it’s house, techno and electronica that steal the show (and I promise I’m not just saying that because I’m a DJ!)

To get better results with workout music, you can check out a few mixes from me (Hummingbird) and my frequent musical partner in crime RJ Pickens to keep you energized and focused at the gym – and beyond.

 

 

Post written by FFC contributor Kelly Richards. 

About Kelly, AKA DJ Hummingbird

DJ Hummingbird aka Kelly RichardsFollow along and stay updated on new music by following her on social:

Facebook | SoundCloud | Instagram | Twitter

If you like what you hear, and are interested in seeing Hummingbird and RJ live, keep an eye on Hummingbird’s Facebook page for password details to allow you free or reduced price entry to upcoming shows!