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FFC South Loop fitness specialist Matt Wallace answers the question, ‘what’s in my gym bag?’ and shares his list of top gym essentials to keep handy when you’re sure you’re forgetting something.

Having the correct gear for any situation can be the difference between success or failure. If you are properly equipped for the gym, your workout can increase your confidence, heighten your intensity, and maximize your gains. (Want some inspiration to do that? Check out a list of my favorite fitness YouTube channels here). That new custom weight belt can lead to new PRs never before possible. Your emergency deodorant will ensure that you can spend as much time as necessary fighting in a shoulder press to finish the set. Who knows – your gym crush might be admiring how clean your shoes are because you know to wear your gym shoes IN the gym and not ON THE WAY to it.

What’s in my gym bag? This list is actually built based off of how frequently I have either solved a problem with said gear or have had to overcome a challenge due to not having it. The following is a list of stuff that should be in your gym bag every time you step into the gym:

But first…

Even though you might think these are no-brainers, I can’t tell you how many times I see people coming into the gym to work out in something not quite gym-appropriate, like denim and flannels. The latter being okay as long as the sleeves are cut off and slightly frayed. If this is you, then proceed as planned, lumberjacked. If you’re thinking you might take a break during lunch and hop over to the gym for a quick sesh in your monkey suit, then prepared to be the subject of much discussion. Make sure you have loose fitting clothes that are designed to give you the proper range of motion and comfort level. Clothes that you’re supposed to look sweaty in. T-shirt, gym shorts, sweat pants. Don’t head back to the office looking like you just worked out. Coworkers and gym-goers will thank you. Now that the obvious but necessary precursor to this list has been established, we can continue with the real list….

#1 – Shoes

No matter what modalities you train in, the kicks are an essential part of your gear. Some think footwear is to gym-goers as the katana is to the Samurai. One thing the samurai never let their sword do was touch the ground, so you shouldn’t let your shoes touch the ground either. Buy a pair of shoes that you do not wear anywhere else besides your gym. If you run outside, buy a pair specifically for that. If you work out inside, buy a pair you never let touch the ground outside. It might be a little more costly upfront, but the money you will save not having to replace a trashed pair of shoes every six months is a great incentive.

My recommendation – I LOVE the Metcons by NIKE. As someone who mixes a lot of agility and plyometric work with compound powerlifting these are easily the best mix of traction, response, and support I’ve ever worn. I’ve had the same pair since March 2017 and I’m just starting to see signs of wear and tear. They have a hard sole so acquiring the correct foot proprioception while lifting is a cinch. The crazy grippy web design on the outer sole allows you to cut confidently on turf and the rubber floor most gyms have. However, they do not do well on basketball courts, so I would advise against trying to work on any type of wood flooring.

#2 – Socks/Underwear

Again, it’s just proper hygiene to have a pair that you change into after your workout so that your shoes aren’t squishy and smelly, and you’re not putting nasty undergarments back on. The key to socks and underwear is to get pairs that don’t retain the odor after wash. You might notice some of your gym clothes will start to stink when they get wet, even if they come out of the washer still slightly damp. This is a huge pet peeve of mine.

My recommendation: Stance makes great athletic socks with an array of interesting designs. They last a long time and the comfort level is top notch. Every time I wear a pair of Stance socks I get compliments from gym-goers, and praise from my feet. Where underwear is concerned, I have a healthy obsession with a company called Ethikia. They’re basically just the “Stance” of underwear. They have over 100 models for men and women, they stretch, they’re dry fit, and I have never chaffed in them once.

#3 – Water Bottle

This is possibly the most important piece of gear on the list. Every time you enter the gym or set off for a run you NEED a water source. Especially one that is YOURS and yours only. Many people neglect to purchase and bring one to the gym because there are water fountains or packaged water for sale. That’s fine and dandy but having your own water bottle will make you WANT to drink water. Not just at the gym or during your workout, but it will keep you hydrated all throughout the day. Slap some stickers on that bad boy and you’ll be stoked to start sipping life giving essence from your personalized water receptacle.

My recommendation: Huge fan of the Klean Kanteen. They are durable, look cool, and keep your water cold all day long. The key is to get the wide mouth models because they are easier to wash. I currently have a narrow mouth bottle and have to use a toothbrush to reach the bottom of the bottle.

#4 – Lacrosse Ball or Foam Roller:

These are huge for muscle release and preventing tightness in specific areas. A large percentage of us sit at a desk most of the workweek and as a result develop muscular imbalances. Sitting all day long creates a shortening of the hip flexors and over time they adjust to this length becoming tight and weak. The lacrosse ball is a great way to get inside those areas that are hard to hit with large foam roller. The lacrosse ball is very stiff and can be quite intense for tightest of areas – a great alternative is a tennis ball, which has a little more give than the former but still able to reach those tough spots. The foam roller is great for release in large areas like the quads or the back. If you want to know more about these tools do some research on trigger point and myofascial release.

Related: the only guide you need to reaping the benefits of foam rolling.

My recommendation: Rogue has been a go-to for most of the fitness industry when it comes to anything mobility. Foam rollers and lacrosse balls have all sorts of different shear designs, from smooth surface to more robust. It’s personal preference, but I like the company and their aesthetic.

Post written by FFC South Loop fitness specialist Matt Wallace.

About Matt

Matthew Wallace is a Chicago native and personal trainer at FFC South Loop. He specializes in strength training and sport performance, teaching clients to improve their compound lifts, and crafting unique workouts and programs custom tailored to his clients’ needs.

“To see someone turn their goals, wishes, and desires into a reality, and to be entrusted with guiding that process, is a feeling that can’t be described. I chase this feeling every day in my professional and personal life.”

Matt holds a bachelors of arts from Columbia College Chicago, is certified personal trainer by NFPT, competes on the world stage of the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation, and spent 5 years active duty in the United States Marine Corps. Contact Matt by email (mwallace@ffc.com) or phone to set up a complimentary consultation today. You can also follow along with him on Instagram here!

 

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If you’re like me, you may spend some nights deep in a YouTube rabbit hole, going from one topic to another until you’ve wasted hours you could’ve used to catch up on sleep. The amount of content out there can be hard to sift through, especially when it comes to health and fitness. There is a plethora of gyms and trainers out there that are producing some not-so-great or “I can’t believe this is free!” content. With the season changes come new beginnings, and many people are going to be taking steps on their journey to better living. This list of fitness motivation videos & channels will help anyone who wants to access motivational, educational, and reliable fitness content without the anxiety that accompanies a late night click-a-thon through the YouTube rabbit hole!

Channel Judging Criteria

  • Frequency of Use: the channels listed below are chosen based on the frequency in which I myself – as well as other fitness professionals and participants – refer back to them. These channels are a staple in my repertoire. Whenever I have a question or need to search how to do anything fitness-related, I’ll look to these channels first.
  • Ease of Access: these channels are useful because they are accessible by individuals of any fitness level. The
    information is articulated clearly and is put into terms that even a day-one fitness noobie will understand.
  • Likability: let’s face it… there’s a lot of people that are hard to like – these aren’t those.

Athlean-X

  • Subscribers: 6,770,490+
  • Videos: 980+

This channel is lead by physical therapist and celebrity strength coach Jeff Cavaliere. At close to 7 million subscribers, it’s one of the most popular fitness channels out there. He focuses on numerous elements of fitness, including diet, mobility, and strength training workouts/exercises. I use this channel when I have clients with muscular imbalances and/or injuries such as knee valgus (knees bowing inward) or bad posture and want to get ideas about how to fix it – or, if possible, work around it.

I like Jeff’s visual approach; he’ll often have an artist draw on him with marker to show where the muscle is and how it moves in relation to the limb or structure it’s attached to. Athlean-X also features a 619-video playlist dedicated just to women called Athlean-XX for Women. This is an all-around great channel for fitness professionals, advanced fitness practitioners, and beginners alike.

Yo Elliott Strength Camp

  • Subscribers: 1,834,560+
  • Videos: 1,630+

This is one of the first channels I came across after I started adding weightlifting into my fitness routine. Elliott is a former college football player, strongman, and powerlifting athlete who now owns the Strength Camp gym brand, which has twenty locations worldwide and a home base in Florida. His channel’s utility is two-fold. There’s a great segment called “Yo Elliott” where fans will write to him with questions about everything from correct deadlift form to existential concerns. Also featured is the staff of his gym going through specific workouts with athletes of all types. Exercise program design, specific workouts, and proper exercise techniques are all covered on this channel. I find myself going here a lot because I appreciate Elliott’s enthusiasm and his wisdom concerning fitness and exercise. His charisma and knowledge inspire many who aim to become the strongest version of themselves.

Yoga with Adriene

  • Subscribers: 4,408,980+
  • Videos, 1280+

Yoga is one of the most valuable modalities of exercise both physically and mentally – period. This channel was and still is a great place to look when implementing yoga into my routine. If you’re someone who has never done yoga before, Adriene has the perfect 30-day beginner challenge series that will get you acclimated. With hundreds of videos and 64 different playlists, Adriene’s channel is expansive. Every video is pleasant, highly visual, and serves a specific purpose. There isn’t a lot of fluff on her channel. If you’re someone who isn’t into the mysticism that many yogis base their practice on, then this is the perfect place for you. Most of the videos are pretty straightforward. But if you are looking for that mystic ancient cave yoga, there’s some of that for you as well. My favorite thing about this channel is that it’s something you can do on your own accord. There’s no one watching you practice or judging your poses, it’s simply just a pleasant experience to follow along with Adriene.

fightTIPS

  • Subscribers: 2,052,150+
  • Videos: 1,000+

Don’t let the title of this channel scare you into thinking that it’s a bunch of meatheads doing karate in the garage. The four gentlemen that run fightTIPS are outstanding trainers and practitioners. This is a fantastic place to come if you’re someone with no martial arts experience that wants to start incorporating some boxing or kickboxing into your cardio routine. For the experienced or competition level fighters, it’s an outstanding free source of knowledge that’s sure to add to your fight IQ. They cover everything from kickboxing, boxing, and footwork to wrestling and grappling techniques. I especially appreciate the tutorials on equipment like their double end and heavy bag videos. They often have special guests in their videos to show that the techniques and instruction are interpreted easily for immediate use.

Charisma on Command

  • Subscribers: 2,260,120+
  • Videos: 250+

This channel does not deal with fitness of the body, but instead focuses on fitness of character and how that helps us build lasting and meaningful relationships or connections. In my own experience, the latter of the two is what’s going to make you someone that people will remember and value. This channel is the most entertaining on the list by far. They break down many celebrity personalities by narrating videos of them interacting with other people (be it fans or in a professional setting). I especially like the Game of Thrones series where all the characters are broken down and examined. They feature a wide variety of topics, like attracting the opposite sex, standing out in crowds, crushing job interviews, being funny, and managing body language. The hosts are extremely likable and charismatic themselves, but at the same time, they lack that air of pompousness that comes with expert authority. It never feels like you’re being treated as if you should already know the information being presented.

Summing It Up

I hope this list serves as a sufficient starting place for anyone who is looking to make this year their best and wants to use all the free education tools available to them. YouTube is one of the most underrated sources of knowledge anywhere. All of these channels, and the individuals involved in creating them, have helped me in some way to become a better version of myself. I surmise that if applied correctly, the information available on these channels will also guide you to an elevated physical and mental state.

About Matthew

Matthew Wallace is a Chicago native and personal trainer out of FFC South Loop. Matt specializes in strength training and sport performance, teaching clients to improve their compound lifts, and crafting unique workouts and programs custom tailored to the clients’ needs.

“To see someone turn their goals, wishes, and desires into a reality, and to be entrusted with guiding that process, is a feeling that can’t be described. I chase this feeling every day in my professional and personal life.”

Matt holds a bachelors of arts from Columbia College Chicago, is certified personal trainer by NFPT, competes on the world stage of the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation, and spent 5 years active duty in the United States Marine Corps. Contact Matt by email at mwallace@ffc.com to set up a fitness consultation today! You can also follow along with him on Instagram here!

 

 

 

 

 

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FFC Union Station personal trainer Tyler Sutphen shares a perspective on the body positivity movement and a reminder to prioritize health habits above all.

As you read this, please know that I do not condone bullying of any kind. However, I do find it alarming the way the body positivity movement has progressed in certain directions.

Before I delve into this topic further, I’d like to point out that fatness doesn’t determine fitness. You can be overweight and be fit. Also, above all, you should be happy with who you are as a person both physically and mentally, or at the very least who you are becoming. If you’re not, then it is up to you to take action to change that. It is, however, time that we educate ourselves more about fat instead of suppressing the topic away because of negative feelings about it or an elementary school bully we once had.

Body positivity is a relatively new movement that has resulted in a change in the way the beauty is perceived. No longer is it just the size zero models strutting down the catwalks, as we also have people of a variety of sizes modeling for clothing companies, representing different body types in advertisements, etc. This a great stride towards diversity and mental health, as more people are happier with who they are.

Prioritizing Healthy Habits

There are, however, limitations that people should be reminded of in order to balance both physical AND mental health. The notion of body positivity can sometimes promote a greater likelihood for a dangerous lifestyle of overeating and inactivity, which can lead to serious health issues.

Just because you’re content with your body size, doesn’t mean that it is in fact physically healthy. While fat is important and we need to have some of it, like anything else, there are limitations.

There are mainly two types of fat in adults – white fat and visceral fat. White fat is the most common in the body, and is also called subcutaneous fat. This is the fat under your skin that gives your body its shape. Visceral fat is the harmful type of fat that you cannot see. It is the fat that lies on top of your organs. This fat affects the body in that the more of it that you have, the more at risk you are for developing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease (the #1 killer).

*Bonus Fact: if your waist to hip ratio is over 1, you’re at a higher risk for heart disease*

So, as you can infer, the more overweight a person is, the more likely they are to have more visceral fat. Another thing that can contribute to more visceral fat that most people don’t realize is a heavy intake of alcohol. We can combat this type of fat in a healthy, sustainable way – no need to go all “Biggest Loser”. By simply eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly, you can help drastically change your body composition. An example of a healthy exercise regimen would include 3-5 days per week of a combination of aerobic and anaerobic activity (like cardio – check out that post here!).

No one is saying that you need to look like Brad Pitt or Gal Gadot, but you do need to take your physical health as seriously as your mental health and try your best to prioritize a healthy, balanced lifestyle through nutrition and exercise.

Post written by FFC Union Station personal trainer Tyler Sutphen.

Want to learn more or set up a complimentary consultation with Tyler? Email him at tsutphen@ffc.com.

FFC-exclusive group fitness instructor and trainer Austin Head shares a simple 15-minute bodyweight workout for when you’re on the go. Needing no additional equipment (just yourself!), this hotel room workout will ensure you’ll be able to stay on track, even if you’re pressed for time.

I hear it all the time: ‘Austin, I just don’t have time to work out; my schedule is too crazy!’ Or, ‘I’m traveling for work for the full week ahead… what do I do?’ As a group fitness instructor and personal trainer, I hear all kinds of reasons why my clients can’t work out, but time and travel-related commitments are the top reasons.

What if I said you can efficiently burn calories, elevate your mood and CRUSH a workout, all in 15 minutes? Sounds too good to be true, right? Wrong! I’ve put together a hotel room workout/bodyweight workout with 5 different total-body exercises that you can use literally anywhere.

How to Do This Hotel Room Workout

  • Perform each exercise for 50 seconds, with a 10-second recovery period in between.
  • Once you’ve completed all 5 exercises, repeat the cycle for a total of 3 rounds, trying to complete the circuit in 15 minutes.
  • Boom – you’re done! Enjoy the feeling of accomplishment.

Bodyweight Workout Exercises

Squat + Rotation

I love starting my classes off with this move, because it’s a great full-body move. Not only do you work your lower body, you also start to warm up the core (and the rotation helps too).

2 Reverse Lunges + 2 Squat Jacks

Be warned that the heart rate will start to elevate with this one! If you want to progress this move and make it a little more plyometric, repeat as 2 lunge explosions and 2 squat jumps for the 50-second round instead.

 

1 Push-Up + 2 Mountain Climbers

I’m just evil… 2 exercises back to back to elevate your heart rate? You’ll thank me later! The key to this move is to keep your elbows at 45 degrees to your side.

Related: airport food can be the WORST. Here are some easy ways to navigate airport food when you’re traveling!

 

Bicycle Abs

Don’t forget to drive your elbows to the opposite knees on this one!

Freestyle Burpees

Burpees… everyone’s favorite exercise! Right?! There are so many different forms of burpees; have fun with them! Add 2 glute kickbacks at the bottom. Add a push-up. Add a tuck jump. Maybe even a cartwheel! Okay, okay, I might have gotten carried away suggesting that one. But you get it – be CREATIVE!

So as you can see, exercising doesn’t have to involve heavy weights, or even a gym, for that matter. It can be as easy as doing a bodyweight workout in a small space. Or this simple hotel room workout! On one of those days where you say ‘I just can’t fit my workout in my schedule today’, rethink your perspective and try this simple 15-minute rotation instead. Make it a great day! Tried the workout or plan to on your next trip? Tag me and FFC on Instagram! @Austin_Head / @ffc_chicago.

Post written by FFC group fitness instructor and personal trainer Austin Head.

About Austin

Austin Head is an FFC-exclusive group fitness instructor, personal trainer and creator of the TRT boot camp at FFC Union Station. Recently, Austin represented FFC on WGN’s Living Healthy Chicago – you can see his interview about the benefits of bodyweight exercises with Jane Monzures here. Have questions for Austin? Email him at ahead@ffc.com!

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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 didn’t grow up in a crunchy-granola, windbreaker-wearing, athletic family. Like many children of the Midwest, I was raised in a rural community full of good, old-fashioned folks with good old-fashioned mentalities. Was I fat? Hell no! I was “big-boned,” y’all! I was a growin’ boy with a growin’ boy’s appetite and big bones to match! The real question being… big bones.. For what, exactly?

I was the son of a marketing director and drove an Astro van to art classes after school. What on earth did I need big bones for? Sure, in some Slavic hovel on the frozen border of Lithuania, I believe there to be a need for the heartiness of truly big-boned people. But I wasn’t birthing calves in a field in the perpetual darkness of Russian winter. I was chugging Capri-Suns and going to theater camp. The reality was, no matter how much ridicule I endured at school, or how humiliated I felt needing to shop for Big & Tall clothes at the age of 13, I was told, “You’re just big-boned, baby…”

Genetic Mentality

To put it briefly, I was trapped (like so many children and, even still, adults are) in the cozy-comfort weighted blanket of “there’s nothing you can do about your genetics.” What was meant to salve the pain of unbearable otherism became a prison of accepting unhappiness as an unavoidable reality. While there is an abundance of scientific study that shows how our DNA can dramatically affect our ability to store, develop, and lose fat, the intoxicating mantra of “You come from a family of big people. That’s simply the way it is.” taught me only one thing: it’s ok not to try. Everyone is big and that’s just the way it is here.

I’m living proof that this is not, in fact, the way it always has to be.

I am a proud January Gym Baby. Though I had been working out at home since October, a friend slapped me into reality by insisting that, eventually, I would outgrow what could be done in my small, 1-bedroom apartment and I would have to join a gym. It was time to swallow my fear of working out in public and belly up to the bar. But did I know what I was doing? Absolutely not! Not a single lick of knowledge was stored in the “physical fitness” folder of my brain. When I started, all I had was a bad left knee and a body that weighed in at 400 pounds.

When I joined FFC, Tyler Sutphen was assigned to me for my new membership sessions. Internally, I groaned and begrudgingly thought, “Ok, let’s get these sessions out of the way… hopefully they won’t be as agonizing as I expect.” True to form, nothing I worried would happen came to pass. Tyler didn’t ridicule me. He didn’t make me feel foolish for trying (or for failing). In fact, no one here ever has. Tyler became more than a trainer to me. He became a rock in my journey.

In nine months, I transformed from a limping, 400-pound, 30 year-old with a fear of working out, to a 5-time-a-week weight lifter with a strong stride and a body clocking in at 275.

Member Stories: Chris Lewis - weight loss journey and 1 year anniversary

I did not do it alone, though. Having Tyler, the resources of FFC, the Myzone heart monitor… my life could not have been as easily changed without each of these. Not because any of these did the work for me, but because they provided the help to change my life on my own, on my terms. When I began, I lacked the knowledge, understanding, and ability to synthesize how to work out properly. Now, I know exactly what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and how to continue challenging myself.

We don’t all grow up with the privilege of having guidance on how to live healthfully – mentally or physically. Helping me to overcome the constant barrage of fad diets, miracle machines, and programs that guarantee results, Tyler explained to me that, quite simply, the gym is a microcosm of life with one ruling equation: consistency over time.

Related: how to be the best version of yourself (for you). Check out this refresher!

The Long Game

Working out one day a week for six hours will not yield the results that six one-hour days will. A little bit of something is better than a lot of nothing. The same is true for all aspects of life. Being a better partner? One night of attentive listening will not yield the results of several months of being present. A better professional? One day of really great work at a job is not going to guarantee success the way that slow, dedicated, thoughtful effort to a cause, a project, a process will. What trips the trolley is believing that success lies in how quickly you achieve your goals:

  • “I’ve been working out a whole week! Every day! Where is my weight loss??”
  • “I showed up to work on time every day this month! Where is my promotion??”
  • “I wrote that essay a while back! Why isn’t anyone publishing me yet??”

A need to see immediate change is the death knell of many a motivated person. And that was the lesson I learned at FFC. That was the value I was able to take away. This is a long game. A lifelong one. And even in the short amount of time I’ve been on this journey—a scant year—I’ve had tremendous ups and downs. Feelings of failure, times when the scale didn’t budge one single bit, regardless of how hard I threw that medicine ball. When the body dysmorphia struck and prevented me from being able to see the changes I have made… I trusted that this game is not a match of winners or losers. It’s simply a game of those who try, in the face of tremendous adversity, and those who convince themselves they shouldn’t.

Not everyone’s story is the same and I will not condescend to believe that this is the case. We all have different abilities, different needs—mentally, emotionally, and physically. If my story motivates you to lose weight, I think that’s wonderful—feel free to drop me a line on Instagram any time and I’ll pep-talk your ear off. I’m sharing this to make a point: simply because you’ve been told one thing your entire life, does not make it unflinchingly true.

There is a stark difference between rhetoric and reality. Find your stride. Find what is worth the consistency over time. Be kind to yourself, utilize your resources, your friends, your loved ones, the team here at FFC. But first and foremost, let your efforts be for you.

Post written by FFC Union Station member Christopher Lewis.

About Chris

Chris is a home cook, baker, and a food stylist. He styles food/drink for commercial film and print. His Instagram is an extension of that work, as well as shots of his own, and links to his food writing. Check it out here!

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As the year comes to an end, we begin to think about the last 12 months. We ask ourselves, ‘Did I accomplish the things I said I would in January? Am I happier? Am I stronger? Have I grown as an individual?’ Everyone wants to be better. We always want to find new ways to do more with less. People always ask me, what I’m working towards, and how I’m doing it.  Hopefully, this message will answer some of those questions. Regarding work life balance importance, I’ve put together a collection of my thoughts, the tools I use and ideas for how to implement them that I hope will be useful for you and help you find balance in multiple aspects of your life.

Giving Back

Fitness has always been a passion of mine and I was looking for ways to give back to the world. A great friend and mentor of mine (Antonio Coke) made a comment one day over lunch that stuck with me: “Life isn’t about what you take from it, but what you can give back.” Before I turned 30, I really had the mindset of taking what I could from the world. Some would refer this to “doing me.” I work for large corporation out of Chicago as my day job, and truly enjoy what I do. But I could never quite shake the feeling that something was missing.

I’m a firm believer that life works in mysterious ways, and all it takes are small moments to make a big difference. In April of 2018, I was asked to lead a class at FFC to see how I would like it. The week I turned 30, I led my first class, and got a taste of fulfillment. The feeling of giving back to the world. I later proceeded to sign up for my ACE certification in Group Fitness and had 6 months to take the exam. Fast forward to the end of September, I took the exam and passed. I was legit. Where am I going with this?

Work Life Balance Importance

Finding balance is still one of the most difficult parts of my life, even today. From working out in the morning, working a 9 to 5, and teaching at night, I needed a plan. Friends and family ask me all the time, “How do you have time for everything?”

Through trial and error, I learned that the only way I was going to be able to handle everything was with a balanced workout and diet schedule. As we get ready for the new year, I’d like to give back by providing ideas and thoughts that I have implemented in my life to bring fulfillment.

So many times, we hear about people “wanting” to do something that makes them happy but that they’re “too busy.” For me, I have found that having a morning routine, nightly routine, structured diet, and focused workout schedule helps me function at maximum capacity. Integrating all 4 of these factors has helped me find balance within my daily life while giving back to others.

Please note – the purpose of this message is to answer the questions of those who have asked about what I do and how I do it. My process and ideas below are specific to my schedule, goals, and body type.

Factor #1: Nightly Routine

Before going over my morning routine, I thought it would be better to go over how I end my days in my nightly routine. I’ve learned the hard way that if I don’t sleep the way I need to, my next day is derailed. I wake up every day at 4:00 am, and work best after seven true hours of sleep. I use the word “true”  because that is actual sleep.

I am an advocate for social media, but I push myself to not become dependent on it. Two factors that help me with that can be accessed as settings within the iPhone, and are now available with the iOS 12 update (check out this quick guide for how to set them up).

  • Downtime – I have my apps shut down from 8:00 PM – 4:30 AM
  • App Limits – I limit the amount of time I spend on Instagram (30 minutes), Facebook (15 minutes), and LinkedIn (15 minutes)

These settings help me by allowing my brain to wind down an hour before sleep. For the longest time, I found myself flicking my thumb along that screen until I was ready for bed. I’ve come to learn was that blue light and media were stimulating my brain, which delayed the time it took my brain to get to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

REM sleep is important for many reasons, but what I was wanting especially was the muscle recovery piece. Having my apps shut down at 8:00 PM also pushed me to read books and/or journal. This helped me with allowing my mind to get away from the day and/or let anything out onto paper. Now, if I’m reading, I’m typically out within 15 minutes around 8:45 PM.

Factor #2: Morning Routine

My morning routine is important to me because I am able to start the day by focusing on myself. My day job requires me to contact customers and partners all day with minimal downtime. While teaching class in the evenings, I am giving myself physically and mentally to each participant to ensure they’re getting a workout they wouldn’t get on their own. A 4:00 AM wakeup is out of the ordinary for most, but works well for me as I like to start my day with journaling and a workout. I use the app Sleep Cycle, which gradually wakes you up versus dramatically with the default Apple settings.

I get to the gym at 5:00 AM. I always start my day with a cardio session, which varies between kickboxing and running. Each workout is followed by a long shower then back home for my first meal. Once done, it’s usually around 7:00 AM, and I am ready to head to the beautiful world of Corporate America. From the time I wake up to the time I get to work, I have already been awake for 3 hours and my body/mind is clear for the day.

Factor #3: Nutrition & Sample Diet Breakdown

Nutrition has been a key factor of success in sustaining morning workouts, evening workouts AND my day job. While working with FFC’s dietitian, Alicia Huggler, I learned I wasn’t eating enough to keep up with my workouts plus my resting metabolic rate. Now, I change my diet throughout the month as I change my workouts. Below is a breakout of what I eat on a monthly basis.

          

The first week of the month includes higher carb intake as I lift heavier. As the month goes on, I replace my carbohydrates with fats (which is highlighted in blue above). This resets each month as I reintroduce carbohydrates into my system. In working with Alicia, I learned many different things, such as to eat the skin of my sweet potatoes because they are a great source of fiber and nutrients.

Factor #4: Fitness & Sample Workout Breakdown

When it comes to my workout schedule, I do my best to mix things up with cardio, strength training, HIIT and circuit training. Below is an overview of the schedule along with descriptions of each focus and why I do them:

  • Cardio – I jump between kickboxing and running workouts, and do them in the morning, as they’re a great way for me to wake up and start my day with something I enjoy.
  • Strength training – I lift weights twice a week (with a focus on “pushing and pulling”) to ensure I’m retaining muscle mass while doing cardio on a daily basis. “Pushing” might include squats, shoulder press, lunges, chest press, etc. “Pulling” might include deadlifts, upright rows, rows, etc.
    • Week 1 (heavy strength training): 5-10 reps / set x 5
    • Week 2 (intermediate strength training) 10-15 reps / set x 5
    • Week 3 (light strength training) 15-20 reps / set x 5
    • Week 4 (recovery) 10-15 reps / set x 5
  • HIIT – I do evening HIIT workouts following strength training days, which allows me to increase my heart rate quickly while using weights, ropes or kettlebells.
  • Circuit training – I follow an hour-long run with circuit training a part of my Saturday morning routine because I’m following a rest day and need to wake up my entire body. I’m not looking to break records, more so integrate push, pull, and core exercises into one workout.

 

Weekly Workout Breakdown

I break up my schedule on weekly basis: weeks 1 – 3, heavy, intermediate, light; week 4, recovery. Some months have 5 weeks vs the typical 4; I extend week 3 (light strength training) into week 4 and perform the “light” schedule for 2 weeks.

In the screenshot above, you’ll notice a “recovery” week, where I continue movement, but at a lower intensity. I do a single workout instead of two-a-days; in the morning I use the extra time to do light stretching and foam rolling to wake up.

When it comes to technique and proper form, I work with expert FFC trainer, Jeremy Gorden. His experience in personal training has helped me with building lean muscle mass, while staying an agile runner. I always recommend hiring someone to push you plus they’ll see things you won’t.

Summing It Up

As for final thoughts, I hope this message is received not as a manual of how to live your life but, as an example to pull from. Remember, this is what works for me and what I enjoy doing. If you could take one thing from this, and it impacts you in a positive way, this is a success. As you prep for 2019, take a second to think about something you’ve always wanted to do, and just go for it.

It doesn’t matter if you’re 30, 40, or 50, we all have the choice on how to live our lives. What you give back to the world is what you’ll be remembered by when you’re gone.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” -William Shakespeare

Omar

Post written by FFC group fitness instructor Omar Romero.

About Omar

Omar is a fitness enthusiast based out of the Chicagoland area. As an FFC group fitness instructor, his focus is around functional fitness mixed with high intensity interval training. His personal philosophy is based on hard work and no excuses. You can see his other published pieces by clicking here!

My journey to becoming a Pilates instructor started a little over four years ago. I was working as a personal trainer and found I really loved training runners. As a marathoner myself, I was familiar with the drive, determination, and injuries that stem from endurance sports.

My first marathon left me unable to walk for weeks with what I thought was a knee injury. I had throbbing pain that I’ve never experienced before, and I finally went and saw a sports physician. He told me I had lordosis in my lower back and that I wasn’t experiencing a knee injury, but actually sciatica from a bulged disc. He expressed how I needed to focus on my core, posture, and balance if I wanted to continue running. If I really wanted to make endurance athletes my “niche” as a personal trainer, I not only needed to help them get stronger, better and faster at their sport, but also make sure I did everything I could to help them avoid injury.

You Might Have to Touch Feet

Enter Kristin Strom. She was the fitness director at the club I was at at the time and suggested I look in to Pilates. I’ll be honest, I avoided it at first…I hate feet. I don’t want people touching my feet, and I don’t want to touch anyone else’s. She promised no one would touch my feet and invited me to try a class. I gave in, and I’m so glad I did because that class showed me a completely different way to work out. It showed me that it’s not always about heavy weights and reps and burning a billion calories. Pilates actually slowed things down and demanded focus. I couldn’t believe how sore I was afterwards. I was hooked.

I decided to enroll in the FFC Pilates Teacher Training program to work toward becoming a Pilates instructor. It changed everything for me. I not only obviously learned Pilates, but also how to be a better trainer to my clients. I had a much more comprehensive understanding of how the body worked. I could cue moves better. Speak better. I learned how a simple touch can help a client create a mind-body connection they’ve never been able to achieve before.

Related: Pilates makes your brain stronger too – really! Check out all the ways how in this post.

Incorporating Pilates Instructor Training into Personal Training & Group Fitness

I eventually incorporated what I learned in my Pilates instructor training into my sessions with my clients. Soon enough they were hooked as well, and that year I was ranked 4th in the company for session count and sales. I’m still very proud of that!

Eventually, I ended up leaving Chicago and moved West to San Diego, where I currently reside. I work at a gorgeous Pilates studio where not only do I teach private Pilates sessions, but also about 10 group classes a week of various levels. It’s so satisfying to see beginner students finally gain the confidence to try a harder class. Or to see your advance students finally nail a teaser on the long box!

I also do private personal training and teach boot camp classes at a different gym. The gym focuses on “going hard” and “going heavy”. I love this gym, but at first I struggled with this. People’s back’s hurt. Their knees hurt. Their rotator cuffs. Why was no one stretching? Where were the foam rollers?

Since then, I have started a weekly class that includes mobility, stretching, and Pilates. It’s been a huge hit. The members really appreciate my Pilates instructor background and it allows me to have a unique skill set that the other trainers don’t have. I have invited members of this gym to visit me at the Pilates studio and vise versa. Seeing burly guys who can deadlift 400 lbs struggle on the Pilates reformer is now a hobby of mine. But it’s good for them, and I’ll even touch their feet… if I have to.

You can follow along with Jamie on Facebook here and Instagram here!

We all know that the Thanksgiving meal is the main event on Turkey Day, but there is no better way to prepare for the feast than with a fat-burning workout. As many pilgrims say, “thou shall work hard, if thou desires to play hard”. You’re allowed to play hard and indulge in all the delicious food, but you also have to work hard during your pre-feast workout.

Don’t fret! We’re here to help. We’ve developed two workouts to incorporate into your Turkey Day traditions of watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and cheering on your favorite football team. These exercise outlines will help you maximize the sweat before the sweets!

Choose one of the two workouts below and perform the corresponding exercise every time a list item occurs. Want more of a challenge? Grab some canned cranberry sauce as weights!

Thanksgiving Parade Workout

  • Every time someone says “turkey” or “pie” – 5 push-ups
  • Every time a new celebrity is introduced – 5 squats
  • Every time someone says, “Macy’s” – 10 bicycle crunches
  • Every commercial break – perform butt-kickers for the duration of 2 commercials
  • Every new musical number – perform high knees for the duration of the song
  • Every Snoopy sighting – 15 burpees

Related: burn tons of calories during this 45-minute mom-friendly workout!

Thanksgiving Football Workout

  • Every 1st down – 5 squats
  • Every penalty – 10 push-ups
  • Every timeout – hold a plank for the duration of the timeout
  • Either team scores a field goal – 10 dead bugs
  • Opposing team scores a TOUCHDOWN – 10 burpees
  • Your team scores a TOUCHDOWN – hydrate!

Have any questions about these workouts, the exercises or fitness in general? Email us or stop by FFC Boystown anytime!

Sedona Buttner = sbuttner@ffc.com Luke Meierdiercks = lmeierdiercks@ffc.com

 

 

Post written by FFC Boystown Personal Trainers Sedona Buttner and Luke Meierdiercks.