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

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

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

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

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

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

The Workout of the Month Fitness Plan Breakdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 2 – Intensity Increase

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

Week 3 – Higher Weights, Lower Volume

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

Week 4 – Higher Weight, Higher Volume

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

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

How to Read the Workout of the Month Worksheet

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

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

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

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

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

What Can You Expect?

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

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

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

Taking It a Step Further

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

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

Post written by FFC Oak Park Fitness Director Mike Connelly.

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

Water makes up 60% to 65% of our total body weight. When we exercise, we lose water through sweat – this water needs to be replaced. Even a 2% loss of body weight through sweat (i.e. 3 lbs of loss for a 150 lb person) can put you at a disadvantage. If this fluid loss is not replaced properly, dehydration will occur. This is a serious condition that can diminish energy and impair performance, among other symptoms. However, it can be easily spotted and prevented. Here are a few ways to prevent dehydration and keep up with your water intake.

Signs of Dehydration 

Thirst is one indicator of dehydration, but it is not an early warning sign. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Other signs of dehydration include:

  • Feeling dizzy and lightheaded
  • Having a dry or sticky mouth
  • Producing less urine and darker urine

Related: have other nutrition questions? Talk to one of FFC’s on-site registered dietitians! Click here for a free 30-minute consultation.

How to Prevent It

Drink Fluids

Preventing dehydration starts long before the activity. The easiest way to avoid dehydration is to drink lots of fluids, especially on hot, dry, windy days.

How To: the night before, as well as before your workout, you should intake the following fluids:

  • 16 ounces of water before bed
  • 16 ounces of water in the morning
  • 4-8 ounces every 15 minutes

Related: speaking of the night before, here are some meal prep tips you can use in addition to these hydration hacks to make sure you’re staying on track!

Be sure to also replace your fluid loss post exercise: 24 ounces of fluid for every pound lost!

Water is usually the best choice, but you can also get fluids from water-based juices and smoothies!

Dress Appropriately

Always dress appropriately for your activity. Wear loose-fitting clothes and a hat if you can, this will keep you cooler and cut down sweating.

Fitness tip: if you can’t remember how much water you drank today, you haven’t had enough!

Pressed for time? Many of us struggle to fit exercise into our already busy days. Additionally, many of us think that a workout needs to be be at least 45 minutes to count. Throw that thought out the window and get your fitness in 30 minutes or less while competing against the clock! (Compound body moves, like these, also help to make your workout more efficient). Try this quick lower body workout to work your legs to the max – minimal equipment needed!

Equipment needed: Medium weight dumbbells, a mat and a body bar (for balance).

Set up your equipment and start your clock. See how many times you can get through your circuit, and challenge yourself to improve your total rounds performed on the next attempt. (And be sure that form is always your top priority)!

Warm Up

Warm up with one round of the following (30 seconds each):

  • Jogging in place
  • Alternating body weight lunges
  • Jumping jacks
  • Body weight squats

Lower Body Workout Challenge

Choose five of the following moves to rotate as many times as you can in 25 minutes.

Weighted Walking Lunges (10 reps per leg)

Walking lunge lower body workout

Walk through the lunge instead of stepping your feet back together. Make it more difficult with a dumbbell in each hand. (Perform a basic lunge if space is an issue).

Dumbbell Deadlifts (15 reps)

Dumbbell deadlift lower body workout

Start standing straight, then bend, keeping your shins vertical and your back straight, hinging just at the hips. Return to standing for one rep.

Jumping Lunges (30 seconds)

Jumping lunge lower body workout

Start in a lunge, then swing your arms to help propel yourself off the ground as you switch legs midair, landing on the opposite leg.

Ice Skaters (30 seconds)

Ice skater 1 lower body workout  Ice skater 2 lower body workout  Ice skater 3 lower body workout

Leap to your right and tap your left foot behind you, then leap to the left. For added difficulty during this lower body workout, tap your hand to the ground or keep your back leg elevated for a count before leaping to the other side.

Related: try this workout, then

Lateral Squats (10 reps per leg)

Lateral squats lower body workout

Perform a squat, step your left leg in so your feet are together, then step your right leg out to perform another squat. Repeat side to side. Make it more difficult by holding a weight in front of you.

 

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Single-leg Romanian Deadlifts with Knee Raise (15 reps)

Romanian deadlift 3  Romainian deadlift 2 lower body workout

Romanian deadlift 1 lower body workout  Romanian deadlift 4 lower body workout

Hinge at your hips, keeping your body in as straight a line as you can (grab a body bar if you need help balancing).

Jumping Squats (30 seconds)

Jumping squats lower body workout

Perform a squat, then leap straight into the air, landing softly back into a squat.

Lunge Hops (30 seconds)

Lunge hops lower body workout

Perform a lunge, then leap straight into the air without switching legs, landing softly back into your lunge. Switch legs after 15 seconds.

Cool Down

Cool down with one round of the following:

Standing Quad Stretches (30 seconds per leg)

Standing quad stretch lower body workout

Grab your body bar or the wall for balance, gently pull your knee into your backside until you feel a stretch in the front part of your leg.

Low Lunges (30 seconds per leg)

Low lunges lower body workout

You can use your dumbbells if you can’t reach the ground.

Downward Facing Dog (30 seconds)

Downward dog lower body workout

Try to keep your back and legs straight as you lean your chest down for this hamstring and shoulder stretch.

Post written by an FFC contributor.

 

I’m sure you’ve seen it all over the web: “unbalanced cortisol levels lead to weight gain.” This can be incredibly frustrating if you are in a deficit-related program trying to lose weight for a healthier lifestyle, or even if you have another goal (like an upcoming weight lifting competition). What is a deficit? A caloric deficit is burning more calories than your body requires. Knowing how to manage, maintain and avoid your triggers will go a long way in helping you achieve your goals through nutrition and hormone maintenance. And prevent a cortisol crash.

So How Does Cortisol Tie Into All Of This?

Simply put, cortisol is a hormone released in the body via the adrenal gland. The adrenal glands are small glands located on the top of each kidney. They produce hormones that we cannot live without – one being cortisol.

Cortisol helps you respond to stress and has many other important functions. Your body’s cortisol levels increase when adrenocorticotropic hormones are released from your pituitary gland. Without getting into a lot of science, essentially, when a person is put under excess amounts of stress (whether it be physical or mental), the body produces more cortisol, attempting to calm you down.

How does this relate to nutrition? Another key purpose of cortisol is to help the body metabolize and use sugar and fat for energy. Having an excess amount of cortisol in the bloodstream and body can lead to weight gain, immune system issues, blood sugar imbalance, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, low testosterone in men and fertility problems.

Related: want to set up a free 30-minute nutrition consultation with one of FFC’s on-site registered dietitians? Click here!

How to Balance Your Cortisol Levels

It’s safe to say that we want to keep this hormone as level as possible and prevent a cortisol crash! If you believe that you have chronically elevated cortisol levels, there are a few tips and tricks you can implement to help overcome this unwanted hormone excess. Lowering your cortisol can be accomplished relatively quickly.

Here are 4 tips that you can implement today to prevent cortisol crashing quickly and easily:

Up your magnesium intake.

Whether you get this through food or an Epsom salt bath, upping your magnesium intake will go a long way to improve your cortisol levels.

Get more sleep.

The obvious one – getting enough sleep helps your body restore and ensure you’re ready for another day of hard work.

Related: food can help you regulate your mood! Avoid mood swings with these nutrition tips.

Limit your blue light exposure.

Try to avoid blue light 1-2 hours before bed. Blue light comes from cell phones and televisions. Being exposed to blue light inhibits your body from creating melatonin, a naturally produced sleep aid, and can lead to getting less sleep, which is important for balancing your cortisol levels.

Eat regularly.

Eating frequent meals will help to keep your blood sugar level even throughout the day. Make sure to grab a bite/healthy snack every 2 – 4 hours.

Post written by FFC Lincoln Park registered dietitian Sarah Sobotka.

About Sarah

Sarah is a registered dietitian at FFC Lincoln Park. She is a credentialed professional who is inspired by the science of nutrition, passionate about advancing her knowledge in the field, and committed to promoting the RDN credentials.

She believes in the power of food, fitness, and having a good lifestyle balance. She aspires to serve as a guide to her clients & make positive differences in their lives. She loves to work out and be active, whether playing sports, rollerblading in the sun, or riding her bike to enjoy new delicious restaurants around the neighborhood.

 

So you’ve made the decision to track your nutrition. Congratulations! Meal tracking can improve one’s diet, promote more mindful eating behaviors, provide lots of new information for your benefit as well as for your doctor or dietitian and ultimately, lose more weight! MyFitnessPal (a popular app available for both iPhone and Android) is an easy and effective way to track what you eat.

Getting Started

After downloading the app and signing up using your email or Facebook, you are encouraged to provide basic information such as your age, weight and activity level.

This will help you establish a goal (such as losing, maintaining, or gaining weight) as well as the rate at which the weight change will occur. These factors will determine the app’s recommendation for your daily caloric intake.

 

Related: want some other apps or resources for tracking nutrition? Check out this post!

Track Your Diet

Now you can start tracking! Using the diary page, you can input new information by pressing the blue + button on the bottom of the screen or the “add food” button under specific meals. The + button allows for you to input food as well as other information like status with progress photos, water, exercise, and weight.

One of the most useful aspects of MyFitnessPal is their enormous database containing most food items that can be bought from stores. Your phone’s camera can also scan the barcode of almost any packaged food item and the database will usually have it stored! However, be careful to specify the number of servings you eat, as many packaged food items contain multiple servings.

As you track your meal through the day, the equation on your diary page will update to keep you informed on your progress. The more exercise you get in a given day, the more you will have to eat to compensate for those burned calories. Exercise can be factored into the equation automatically using your phone’s ability to count steps or compatible devices such as Apple Watch or Fitbit.

To see your breakdown of caloric intake per meal, nutrients and macros (carbs, fat, protein) click “Nutrition” while in the diary tab. Track your weight over time to further motivate yourself! You can also input other information like BMI and body fat %.

Related: want to supplement your meal tracking with a plan? Click here to register for a free 30-minute nutrition consultation with an FFC on-site registered dietitian!

5 Tips for Maximum Results

Use the “recent” food tab.

When inputting food in your MyFitnessPal diary, use the “recent” tab for foods you eat regularly. You can also group ingredients as a custom meal to use in the future. Over time, time spent tracking your meals should decrease significantly!

Say no to diets, just eat mindfully.

Studies show that people who subscribe to “fad diets” often do not succeed with their weight loss goals. At the end of the day, companies care most about making money by selling you products. Doing your research, tracking your diet, and eating more mindfully can be done without paying anyone (and is much cheaper, especially given that MyFitnessPal is free!)

Remember that everyone’s macros will be different.

Keep in mind that everyone is different –  different people will function best with different ratios of carbs and protein. Carefully monitor the way you feel and function after different meals – these experiences and results are uniquely yours!

Use the barcode scanner.

The barcode scanner is your friend! When I began to track my meals I was excited about the bar code scanner and the potential to track exactly what I ate. So for one day, I only ate food that came in packages I could scan. I cooked once that day but was sure to scan every ingredient using exact measurements. These rules dictated that I could not mindlessly eat a handful of chips or chug orange juice from the carton because everything had to be measured out precisely. I immediately learned about how to eat more mindfully.

Share the data!

The nutrition data you collect over time should be immensely helpful for your doctor, registered dietitian (did you know we have a full staff of RDs at FFC?), or other healthcare professional. Nutrition is one of the biggest indicators of overall health and it is currently very rare that patients have complete logs of their diets. If you are experiencing health problems potentially related to nutrition and your current health care professional is not knowledgeable about nutrition and primary prevention, find another who is.

The more you track, the more motivated you will be!

Post written by FFC contributor Andy Devries.

 

Winter weather gets a bad rap for also wreaking havoc on your health. Common questions we hear all the time include those such as “what’s the best way to boost your immune system before cold season?”, “what should you take to help prevent getting that icky bug that’s been hitting everyone?”, “what’s the best germ fighter around?” and “how do you fight colds faster?”

The answer is easy, simple, and my personal favorite: a healthy diet!

A healthy diet chock-full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, lean protein, healthy fats, and fiber is your best dietary weapon against the common cold. How to fight colds faster? Never get one in the first place!

How to Fight Colds Faster

Giving your immune system everything it needs to operate at full capacity on a daily basis is far more effective at preventing illness than nursing reactionary fizzy vitamin C drinks or popping zinc lozenges during cold and flu season.

Far more goes into making a healthy, fully-functional immune system than just vitamin C and zinc (which are two of the most commonly supplemented over-the-counter cold home remedies for immediate or after-the-fact treatment.)

Related: don’t forget to hydrate! Here are some tips on how to stay hydrated.

We need a whole host of vitamins and minerals just to have functional enzymes in our immune system, let alone all the other dietary components that go into making all facets of the immune system. So, the first and most important thing is to maintain a healthy and very well-balanced diet.

Vitamin C & Zinc Can Still Help

That being said, vitamin C and zinc supplementation may yet have their merits. While no definitive research exists to support the use of these supplements to reduce the incidence of the common cold in otherwise healthy individuals (in fact, it’s supposedly just the opposite: a quick perusal of current literature reveals that study after study has found neither vitamin C nor zinc to significantly reduce the number of times a person gets a cold), researchers are now looking into the efficacy of these products once you have already contracted a cold.

The data is mixed, but some studies have found an association between zinc and/or vitamin C supplementation and a reduction in the either the severity of symptoms or the duration of illness. More conclusive research is certainly needed, especially to clarify timing and dosage, which are both still very unclear.

Even though the jury is still out on some facets of cold remedies, one thing is for sure: a healthy diet sure is a tastier and simpler method for staying healthy all year long. Check out some of these delicious recipes for a fast nutrient fix when you’re feeling especially run down and need to fight colds faster or just when you’re in need of a health-kick.

Related: click here to sign up for a free 30-minute nutrition consultation at FFC!

30-Minute Recipe: 3 Quick Cold-Busting Picks

Open-Faced Veggie-ful Breakfast Bagel

½ whole grain bagel topped with 2 tbsp cream cheese, sliced tomatoes, sliced bell peppers, sliced cucumbers, and spinach with several slices of chicken or turkey.

Healthful Lunch Bowl

Top ½ cup black beans + ½ cup corn kernels with 1 serving fajita seasoned chicken, chopped tomatoes and sautéed bell pepper + onions (sliced and sautéed in 1 tsp olive oil). Additional toppings can include 1-2 tbsp light sour cream, a sprinkle of shredded cheese, and/or ¼ cup pico de gallo.

Bonus: this meal is easily made ahead of time in batch for a whole week’s worth of lunches that will keep you health and help you fight colds faster!

Lean Mean Mediterranean Dinner Salad

Toss 2-3 cups spinach with ½ cup chickpeas, 4 oz shredded chicken, and as much sliced cucumber, diced tomatoes, and diced red bell pepper as you like then top with 1 oz crumbled feta cheese; make a dressing from ¼ cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt, 1 tbsp olive oil, as much lemon juice and spices (try dill and a little garlic!) as you like.

Post written by FFC contributor Carla Schmitz.

According to research from Duke University, exercise is as effective as antidepressants. That means you can consider spinning your way to a good mood! People who exercise perform better at work and have been shown to increase their memory and learning by 30%.

Years ago, I joined a gym specifically to take as many cycling classes as I could. I found that the classes allowed me to work up a sweat and leave feeling energized and powerful. Nearly a decade later, my obsession has continued to grow and I now get to lead people in this awesome form of exercise.

The thing I love about cycling is that no matter your fitness level or energy level, you can kill it. You get to ride corporately but as an individual you get to make it your own. It’s the perfect combo. The hundreds of calories burned is a pretty nice plus too. You’ll leave class feeling like you’ve accomplished something great and you may even find it easier to smile!

Basic Spinning 101 Guide: It’s All About the Gears

“Bring your gears to flat road and increase your RPMs to 100.”

If you’ve taken a spin class, especially mine, you’ve definitely heard this phrase. On more than one occasion I’ve had someone come up after class and ask, “Where should my gears be? What gear is flat road?” I explain in class that flat road is when you begin to feel that little bit of tension when you pedal You could maintain flat road and 90-100 RPMs (Revolutions Per Minute) for the whole class. Yes, your butt may get numb but you could do it.

“Okay, but what number should my gear be at?”

As human we are creatures who look for patterns and concrete ideas. We even like to be told what to do, sometimes. We want to make sure we are working hard enough, but not too hard that we won’t be able to finish the workout. So we beg for a definitive number that will get us to our goals.

That being said, if I instructed that 11 was considered “flat road” it could be difficult for someone new to riding, or new to the gym. On the flipside, that same number could be a walk in the park to someone who has been spinning for years. In fact, there is a gal in one of my classes who’s training for a 400 mile ride who starts her flat road at sixteen! We are all at different places in our fitness journey and that means we have to take charge and play around with those numbers until we find our sweet spot.

If I asked everyone to hit gear eighteen for a hill I may have beginners who walk out discouraged – thinking the class is far too difficult, while that same gear may be the beginning of a hill for someone who is more seasoned. The aforementioned girl starts her hill at twenty! This is why giving exact numbers can do a rider a disservice. Don’t lose hope, there is a better gauge for your workouts.

Related: feel like you’ve mastered spinning and want to try something new? Check out this inspirational story on how one FFC member completed her first triathlon at 70!

The Difference Between RPMs and Watts

Watts, or power combined with RPMs, are the best indicators as to how hard you are working. The higher the watts/power number the more energy output, and the better benefit. Think of the watts number as a light bulb – the higher the number, the brighter the light. The way to get that number higher is to increase resistance and cadence (RPM) at the same time. Increasing one without the other will give you a slightly higher wattage while increasing both at the same time will cause the number to explode, in a good way.

The Keiser bikes will blink at the end of a workout showing you your average RPMs and average watts. Pay attention to these numbers. You want your wattage, or power number, to increase every few weeks. High RPMs doesn’t necessarily mean that you are working hard. You may literally just be spinning your wheels and I know you came to class to do more than that! You want to be able to match the RPMs the instructor gives while increasing your resistance to get a larger power/watt number.

Related: want to check out a spin class? Click here to try FFC free!

5 Tips To Getting The Most Out Of Your Spin Workout

Here are 5 troubleshooting tips to getting the most out of your spinning workout with RPMs and watts. Remember, gear numbers will differ for everyone!

  • If your RPMs are staying consistently high and your watts are stagnant try adding on a bit more resistance to your flat road and continue adding from there.
  • Each time the instructor asks you to gear up, make sure your watts are increasing or at least staying consistent. As best, you shouldn’t let your RPMs drop so much that your watts suffer.
  • When climbing, pay close attention to where your gears are. Pay attention to the feeling you are getting from the pedals and where the instructor wants your RPMs. For example, if you are hitting 70-80 RPMs, play with your gears. Can you keep your cadence steady while adding another gear? If so, continue to gear up until you can no longer hold the requested RPMs.
  • When sprinting, add on a few more gears as soon as the sprint starts. It will increase your watts and may even increase your pace! As long as your behind isn’t bouncing in the saddle and you are staying under 130 RPMs, you’re good! If you do not have enough gear on during a sprint, the flywheel may take over, depending on the bike. If this happens, you are no longer working – the spinning bike is actually pulling your pedals around. It may seem like you’re going fast, but really you are out of control and wasting energy.
  • Make sure that when you come out of the saddle to stand, your gears are appropriate. There is a sweet spot. Too little or too much gear can cause knee and joint problems. While too little gear causes the legs to spin out of control, too much gear can create a choppy effect to your cadence and a lower RPM. If you get choppy and/or can’t hold the requested RPMs, take a gear or two off. It’s better that you keep a smooth cadence and hold the RPMs than have a higher gear.

Note: If you do have an instructor who gives exact numbers, go with it, if you are able. But know that you can always gear up or down depending on your level of ability. Don’t let it discourage you. This is your workout, your treat to yourself. We all want you to leave class feeling like the rock star that we are. Look at what your body just did! Isn’t it amazing? Now love it!

About Jessica

Jessica is a group fitness and spin instructor at many different FFC locations. Jess has a few obsessions that include fitness, nutrition, Starbucks, and her family (not in that order of course, coffee would be much higher). :) She is wife to a fantastic husband and mama to two happy little boys. She was raised in Georgia but has lived in multiple cities across the Eastern seaboard.

She’s been in Chicago for two years now and is loving the people here. Chicago has that perfect mix of down home and city. Her playlists often include the Top 40 with a few eclectic tracks thrown in. You can find her on Facebook here or follow her on Instagram here. Want to try a class out for yourself? Check out the group fitness schedule for Jessica’s classes!

The push-up is commonly associated with military conditioning, gym class, and some martial arts. For many, they can be unexciting, feel impossible or even gruesome. Hopefully, though, after reading this you will incorporate this versatile and efficient exercise into your workout routine!

Push-ups are categorized as a calisthenic exercise performed prone (face down), during which the body is raised and lowered with the arms. Push-ups use many muscles, making it a great exercise to do regularly. Push-ups use your pectoral muscles, triceps, and other muscles of the shoulder area such as anterior deltoids, serrates anterior, and coracobrachialis. Push-ups also use core muscles, such as your transverses abdominis and rectus abdominis, and help with core stability. (Need something for the lower body? We’ve got you covered here.)

There are many varieties of push-ups – some are better for beginners, and some for more advanced levels. Below, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 types and their benefits so you can find the ones that work best for you!

Standard push-up 1

Standard push-up 2

Standard Push-Ups

Get into plank position with your hands under your shoulders, engage your core and keep your chest lifted and eyes gazing out in front of you so that your spine stays in a neutral position.

Bend your elbows and lower your body to the floor with your inhale, then push up with control and exhale as you rise back to a neutral position. Don’t let your backside dip or stick up, your body should remain in a straight line from head to toe.

Draw your shoulder blades back and down, keeping elbows tucked close to your body. It’s important to practice good form consistently to avoid injury and yield greater results.

Modified push-up 2Modified push-up 1

 

 

Modified Push-Ups

These pushups are great for beginners; they are performed by supporting the lower body on the knees instead of the toes.

 

 

Wide push-up 1Wide push-up 2

 

 

The Wide Push-Up

Start from a normal push-up position but spread your hands wider than shoulder length. This will force your chest to do most of the work.

 

 

Narrow push-up 2

Narrow push-up 1

 

 

The Narrow Push-Up

From a normal push-up position, place your hands just a few inches apart from each other underneath your chest.

 

 

Diamond push-upDiamond push-up 1

 

 

The Diamond Push-Up

For these push-ups, place both palms on the ground so that both thumbs and pointer fingers are touching and form a diamond. These push-ups really work your triceps!

 

One Leg Push-up 2One leg push-up 1

 

 

The One-Leg Push-Up

From the standard push-up position lift one leg up off the ground and do a set, switch legs to complete the set. Be sure to engage your core to help you stay in position!

 

One arm push-up 1One arm push-up 2

 

 

The One-Arm Push-Up

Get into position and bring one arm behind your back or to your side and complete the movement, switch arms and complete the set. These are a great challenge!

 

 

Elevated push-up 2

Elevated push-up 1

 

 

The Feet Elevated Push-Up

Do a normal push-up, but with your feet elevated on a box or bench. The higher the platform, the more you’ll work your shoulders, chest, and core. For more challenge, use an exercise ball.

 

Body elevated push-up 1

 

 

The Body-Elevated Push-Up

Performed with hands on an elevated platform, commonly seen with medicine balls. For an even more advanced exercise, you can also elevate the feet.

 

Wall push-up 2Wall push-up 1

 

The Wall Push-Up

Another great variation of a push-up for someone new to exercise or lacking the upper body strength for a standard push-up. These are performed by standing close to a wall and then pushing away from the wall. Increase the difficulty by moving your feet farther from the wall.

 

Fun Facts About Push-Ups:

  • In most forms of push-ups, you are lifting 65% of your body weight
  • The record for the most consecutive push-ups is 10,507 by Minoru Yoshida of Japan in 1980.
  • Push-ups dates back to 1905
  • The record for the most push-ups done in 24 hours (non-consecutively) is 46,001 by Charles Servizio of the USA in 1993.
  • The Fence Lizard demonstrates push-ups to attract its reptilian mates

Photo demonstrations are courtesy of Jose Rodriguez. For more push-up ideas or to schedule a one-on-one personal training session with Jessica, email her at jfrank@ffc.com. To schedule a consultation with Jose Rodriguez (pictured), email him at jrodriguez@ffc.com!

Post written by FFC West Loop Personal Trainer Jessica Frank.

 

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Perhaps you’ve seen some members at the gym rolling around on long black cylinders and wondered what they were doing. Or you have been foam rolling for a while now and wonder if you are doing it right or what the science is behind it all. I’m here to answer those questions, plus give you a few tips on how to work specific areas of your body for the most benefit!

The Science Behind Foam Rolling

Foam rolling is a form of Self-Myofascial Release (SMR), a type of stretching that uses autogenic inhibition. Our skeletal muscle contains muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs (GTO) – when these receptors are stimulated by a change in tension, it causes the muscle to relax.

Basically, when you hit a trigger point with the roller, the GTO will turn off the muscle spindle, which allows the muscle fibers to relax – thus easing muscle tension and aiding in muscle recovery.

The chain of events is kind of like our bodies’ natural reaction to pull our hand away quickly when touching a hot pan. It is one of the body’s many safety mechanisms, and it protects us from muscle tears resulting from muscle tension. The muscles can’t release what they don’t know is there, and making our muscles aware through foam rolling is the key to unlocking this tension!

The Benefits of Foam Rolling

Working with a foam roller is great for releasing muscle tension and pain, and increasing range of motion. Foam rolling will improve your joint control and mechanics, which will give you a better workout and greater result with less chance of injury.

Whether training for your first marathon or just regular every day wear and tear, muscles get tight. When a muscle is tight, it can pull on your joints – and tight muscles cause other muscles to work harder or sometimes turn off completely. It is important to keep your muscles in balance and free from excess tension, or you can end up with joint pain or injury.

Foam rolling is extremely efficient and safe, in comparison to many standard stretches. Foam rolling is safe anytime: before, during, or after a workout. Foam rolling is effective for many areas of your body. Read on for basics on how to foam roll and tips for specific areas of the body.

How To Foam Roll

  1. Place foam roll under target area.
  2. Engage core and glutes to create a strong base.
  3. Roll 1 inch per second for about 60 seconds on each area, hold tender areas for 30 – 60 seconds.

Important safety tip: do not roll over joints or bones and do not roll your lower back!

Choosing a Foam Roller

Foam Rollers can be short (12 inches) or long (36 inches.) They are typically 6 inches in diameter. A number of different densities exist, so choosing one that is right for you is important.

A softer roller is best for someone new to foam rolling. Some foam rollers have bumps, waves, or grooves for a more intense experience. At FFC, we have long black rollers that are of a higher density, (which, if you are new to foam rolling, you might find it difficult or painful at first.) To alleviate discomfort, you can reduce the amount of weight on the roller by shifting your body or supporting yourself with a leg or arm. As you continue rolling daily the discomfort will reduce. See the video for more on this.

Related: click here for a free 1-hour personal training session at FFC!

Calves- foam rolling

 

 

Calves (lower back of legs): put the roller under a calf. Rest your other foot on the floor. Roll from the ankle to below the knee. Rotate the leg in, then out. Stack ankles to add pressure. Roll both calves at once for less pressure.

 

IT band - foam rolling

 

 

Iliotibial Band (side of legs): lie on your side with the roller near your hip, rest your other leg’s foot on the floor. Roll down your outer thigh toward your knee. Increase pressure by stacking your legs.

 

Hamstrings - foam rolling

 

Hamstrings (upper back of legs): place the roller under your thighs. Roll from the knees to the buttocks. To increase the pressure, roll one leg at time, turning your leg in and out.

 

 

 

Adductors - foam rolling

 

 

Adductors (inside of thighs): lie on your stomach with one leg extended slightly to the side, knee bent. Place the roller in the groin area of the extended leg and roll the inner thigh.

 

 

Quads - foam rolling

 

Quadriceps (upper front of legs): lie on your stomach with a roller placed under the front of your thigh and slowly roll up and down from the bottom of your hip to the top of your knee.

 

 

Glutes - foam rolling

 

 

Glutes (your backside): sit on the roller and place one foot on the opposite knee. Lean into one buttock and roll forward and back, using your supporting leg to control the pressure.

 

Mid back - foam rolling

 

 

Mid Back: put the roller under your middle back and lie down. Support your head, and get long hair out of the way. Roll from bottom of your ribs to top of your shoulders. Rotate your torso to get into your lats.

 

 

 

For more information or to schedule a one-on-one foam rolling demonstration with Jessica, email her at jfrank@ffc.com. See more at the following YouTube video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=zIXFFPMM-Ac

Post written by FFC West Loop Personal Trainer Jessica Frank.