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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.

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

Climbing is a cardiovascular workout.

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

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

Climbing helps with strength training and muscle toning.

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

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

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

Rope Climbing

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

Bouldering

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

Climbing complements other workouts.

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

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

Climbing improves flexibility and mobility.

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

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

Climbing improves balance (and combats imbalance!).

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

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

Climbing helps develop functional strength.

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

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

Indoor rock climbing Chicago benefits

Climbing is a mental workout.

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

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

But most importantly… climbing is fun!

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

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

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

Pin this for Later: Indoor Rock Climbing in Chicago Benefits

 

Best benefits for fitness indoor rock climbing Chicago FFC

I frequently come across people who have come to the gym seeking a healthier lifestyle. A number of people have been told by their doctor they need to start exercising or simply need to be exercising more. As easy as it may be to prescribe exercise, navigating a new fitness routine can be more challenging. Here are a few tips your doctor may not be telling you.

Please be sure to check with your healthcare provider regarding any questions or before starting an exercise program.

There are A LOT of different ways to work out.

Just because you don’t like one method of working out doesn’t mean that you won’t love another. It’s good to mix it up and try a bunch of different workout styles until you find the style you connect with the most.

It’s ok to be skeptical about fitness fads.

Just because you see your favorite celebrity sporting the latest fitness fad doesn’t mean that it is actually worth your time. When learning about a new fitness fad it is important that it is backed by science and that there aren’t any negative side effects they aren’t telling you about. If a fad is claiming to do something that sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Working out can bring a lot of new feelings to your body.

It’s good to know the difference between the feeling of a stretch or a “good” sore feeling from working out and a pain from hurting yourself. If you aren’t sure how to differentiate these feelings it can be confusing to know which one is which and then can make it hard to know how to proceed.

It’s ok to ask for help.

Don’t sweat it if you don’t have all of the answers when it comes to mixing up your fitness routine. If you aren’t seeing the results that you want, or an exercise doesn’t feel right, doing a free consultation with a personal trainer can help with that. Having a hard time finding a routine that works for you? They can help you with that too!

Related: not seeing results from your workout? This might be why.

Small improvements can make a big difference.

Whenever you step in the gym for your workout, try and do one thing during this workout better than last time. Over time, all of those small improvements will add up and make a big difference.

Music can set the tone for your workout (pun intended!).

Having different playlists for different parts of your workout can be a game changer. Jamming out to some Ariana Grande can move and grove you through your cardio workout, Beyoncé can push you through some weights, and Adel can slow you down enough to get a deep stretch!

Related: need some playlist inspiration? Check out the library of FFC-curated playlists here!

Post written by FFC Boystown personal trainer Sedona Buttner.

About Sedona

Sedona-Buttner-FFC-Fitness-Chicago

Sedona Buttner is a personal trainer at FFC Boystown. Her passion for personal training stems from her ability to help others live their best life. She believes that training can not only be great for losing weight and getting stronger, but also can empower people to do things they never thought possible.

This passion has driven her to get a degree in kinesiology from Cornell College, as well as an ACSM-certified personal trainer certification and a TRX Team Coach certification. She specializes in working with people looking to increase their strength and conditioning, wanting to lose weight, those just starting their fitness journey, and people recovering from an injury. Want to set up a complimentary consultation? Email her at sbuttner@ffc.com!

FFC Oak Park spa manager, Jason VonGerichten, shares massage therapy benefits related to exercise (even for just regular, everyday fitness enthusiasts – you don’t have to be an athlete!) and how it helps you, no matter what type of fitness you like.

As we’ve always been told, too much of anything can be bad for you. Did you know you could die from eating too many carrots?

Carrots!

If only eating carrots didn’t look so cool I wouldn’t have gotten hooked at such a young age…

The same methodology can be applied to your fitness routines.

Is lifting weights good for building strength? Yes. Is yoga good for your core? Absolutely. Is Pilates some sort of torture device that is irrationally good for you? Of course it is.

So should you only do any one of these things? Probably not.

In the same way you should not only do any one of these things, you should also consider occasionally integrating different wellness practices into your routine. If you add in regular massages to your routine, you can amplify your performance and see dramatic increases in results. Here are some massage therapy benefits related to each type of fitness mentioned above.

Weight Lifting

If you’re a weight lifter you probably spend a lot of time tearing up your muscles and allowing them to heal in shortened positions. Look over at the big guys on the benches. Are their shoulders rolled inward (so you can see the backs of their hands when their arms are at their sides)? Those big gains might look good now, but over time holding your shoulders in this posture can lead to any number of dysfunctions (tendonitis, rotator cuff impingement, frozen shoulder, etc.).

Getting regular massages from a skilled practitioner can help realign those shoulders before any major damage is done. With a combination of myofascial release and Swedish techniques over the pecs and shoulders, you can increase your range of motion and make sure you keep on getting swole.

Related: in addition to not taking advantage of massage, are you possibly also committing one of these fitness faux pas at the gym?

Yoga

Even yoga practitioners, who are all about stretching, core strength and mindful movement, can take advantage of massage therapy benefits. Anyone who has failed at pigeon pose will know what I’m talking about. A little troublemaker, named piriformis, is the main muscle stopping your hip from rotating the way it should. It’s typically made short and tight from holding your hip in an externally rotated position for extending periods of time (like when you’re seated). Are you seated right now? Are your feet pointed straight forward? No? Then your piriformis is becoming misshapen.

A massage therapist knows how to release this muscle through deep tissue massage and appropriate stretching, making sure your sit bones get all the way down to the mat during pigeon pose, no blocks required.

Pilates

And Pilates. You’re going to be sore after Pilates. Massage will improve your recovery time so you can get right back to getting sore again.

Here comes the shameless plug:

FFC hires only the most skilled massage therapists to staff their spas, and any one of them can help you reap massage therapy benefits and devise a massage plan to help reach your goals as painlessly as possible. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation and let us help you achieve all your fitness objectives.

Post written by FFC Oak Park Spa Manager Jason VonGerichten.

About Jason

Jason VonGerichten is the spa and retail manager at FFC Oak Park. He’s been a massage therapist for ten years, a writer for much longer, and he currently resides with his wife and three pugs in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. To set up a consultation or for more questions or information, email him at jvongerichten@ffc.com.

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

What is a V02 Max test?

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

Who is the VO2 Max test for?

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

Why should I get a V02 Max test?

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do I need to shower after the test?

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

What do you wear for the V02 Max test?

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

Tell me about the weird, Bane-like mask.

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

Can I do the test without the mask on?

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

Does the mask make you feel claustrophobic?

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

Can you breathe normally?

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

What does the mask smell like?

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

Does it pinch?

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

Do they clean it first?

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

Running on the treadmill for the VO2 Max test

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

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

Do I have to run on a treadmill?

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

How long do I have to exercise for?

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

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

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

What kind of data do I get from the test?

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

Overall Takeaways From the VO2 Max Test

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

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

Post written by FFC marketing manager, Megan Zink.

 

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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.

Related: mystified by Myzone? You’re in luck! We have a shiny new infographic that explains what it is, how it works and how it can help you get better 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.

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