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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!

I joined FFC in December last year as an early Christmas present to myself. After a successful year of racing, I was ready to head into the “off-season”. Even though I had a successful and enjoyable season, I was looking forward to taking a break from triathlon training, long runs and blistered feet. I was also looking forward to doing slightly less laundry and eating a little more chocolate. I didn’t want to let my fitness completely lapse, but I did want to give myself a mental and physical break such that I could fully recover from the stresses of competition and start next year both healthy and motivated.

Having 20 years of experience swimming competitively, I know that injury and burnout are one of the greatest threats to an athlete’s well-being. An “off-season” or, as I prefer to call it, an “alt-season” is critical to longevity in the sport. (Why do we call it an off season? Off implies a dormant state. It implies doing nothing. Training and exercise are positive experiences for me. I don’t want to stop! I just want to change focuses for a while. Hence the “alt”.)

Related: trying to recovery from fitness, work or stress burnout? Check out these 5 simple tips!

For me, FFC was the perfect place for an alt-season. With access to rock climbing, swimming and indoor CompuTrainer classes, I knew that I would be able to find lots of opportunities to keep myself happy, engaged and in-shape while I took my alt-season recovery.

Fitness is Fun

It was a GREAT alt-season. The FFC pools were lightyears better than the one I’d been training in. They were better lit, colder, better ventilated and less crowded. Even though I wasn’t specifically training my swimming for a triathlon during the months of January and February, my times got better simply because I felt better. I wanted to spend more time in the pool rather than just put in the required workout and bolt to the comforting warmth of the shower.

The same thing happened with cycling. Over the winter, I saw massive increases in my cycling power as I attended the CompuTrainer classes on a regular basis. I wanted to go to Dan’s Saturday classes and rock out to the Pandora Punk Rock station. I wanted to go to swim classes with Coach Joy because she could make me laugh. Competitions like the Indoor Time Trials or the Indoor Tri60 kept me motivated to work hard and reminded me how much I enjoyed racing and competition. By the time competition season rolled around again, I was not only energized and excited to start the season again, but I was in better shape than before! It turns out having fun leads to better training.

Crushing Goals

2016 had been a great racing year for me. I had completed my first 70.3 (ToughMan Wisconsin) and collected titles in shorter distances at Terre Haute and Wauconda. To cap the season off, I won my age group in my first-ever trip to USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals.

The next year turned out even better. Racing many of the same courses as I did the year before, I saw my bike times consistently drop by 5 MINUTES OR MORE. I broke the 5-hour mark in my 70.3 and took home the overall title. I won my age group at nationals again and ran my first-ever sub-40 10k. When I raced Chicago (consistently the single best-organized race I’ve been to and my favorite), I dropped seven minutes between the bike and the run to nail down a new PR and secure the race title.

From there, the year still got better. The highlight of the year was the opportunity to go to Rotterdam and represent Team USA in the ITU Age Group World Championships. I was so excited and nervous to go. I had never been to Europe before, much less competed on an international stage! Once again, TriMonsters had my back and the year of training paid off. I won my age group, posted a personal best 10k time and took home the title of 2017 Olympic Distance Age Group World Champion. I cried when I stood at the podium with the American flag wrapped around my shoulders. It felt so unreal. Nine months ago, when I joined FFC, I had never imagined that this was a place I could get to. I had never thought that I was capable of this.

I’m excited to see where FFC will take me from here. With a new pool at Gold Coast and a new Performance Training Center at Old Town, I’m excited to try out new toys. I’m also excited to spend time with my wonderful TriMonster training group and watch more movies on the indoor screens!

Triathlon training with TriMonster in Chicago at FFC

Post written by FFC member Jacquie Godbe. 

 

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

The Why

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The How

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

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

 

 

Post written by FFC contributor Kelly Richards. 

About Kelly, AKA DJ Hummingbird

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

Facebook | SoundCloud | Instagram | Twitter

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

 

They say your younger years are supposed to be the best years of your life, but for me, I spent my entire childhood, teenage years and early twenties being overweight. But I wasn’t just overweight – I was morbidly obese. I didn’t have confidence and I didn’t have just an ‘extra 20 pounds’ I could stand to lose. I had much more than that.

The more my family tried to get me to do something about my weight, the more I turned to food and convinced myself I didn’t have a problem.

The most embarrassing memory I have of high school gym class is having to redo the mile because I could never finish it in under twenty minutes. Needless to say, I never passed regardless of the countless times I tried. (I’m happy to share I’m now running a 10-minute mile, but I digress).

My weight continued to skyrocket in college, mostly due to my unhealthy eating and drinking habits. By the time I was a sophomore in college, I had hit it: 300 pounds.

I was pre-diabetic, had thyroid issues and other medical conditions. Walking up a flight of stairs or from one end of campus to the other would take it out of me. You couldn’t pay me to eat a vegetable, drink water or participate in any form of physical activity – I just wasn’t interested.

Fast forward to the spring semester of my junior year at college in 2010; I woke up one morning and told myself this had to stop.

A New Direction

So what made me turn my life around?

It was quite simple, actually. Among many other things, my clothes didn’t fit and I was uncomfortable on a daily basis. I was tired of sitting down and feeling my stomach hang over my pants. I did not want to become a diabetic, and did not enjoy the responsibility of taking medications on a daily basis for this and that.

I don’t think I’ve ever said this out loud before, but Weight Watchers saved my life. I joined with a girlfriend of mine, and we held each other accountable each and every week. I learned what a serving size was (who knew it wasn’t socially acceptable to eat a whole pizza by yourself?). I learned that your body needs food for fuel, and that I should be eating to live, not living to eat. Learning to track my food not only made me aware of what I was eating, but held me accountable for my choices, good or bad. I never knew what it felt like to be hungry prior to Weight Watchers, and embraced this new lifestyle 110%.

With my continued success at Weight Watchers, I was somehow convinced to start exercising. Skeptical about it at first (mostly because I was embarrassed to be in the gym thinking people were staring at me) I got up every morning before class – whether I liked it or not – and went to the student rec center.

I owe all of this to another girlfriend of mine, for she stood by side and was my cheerleader day in and day out. It became a habit, and I soon looked forward to our mornings at the rec center together followed by a breakfast somewhere close to campus. I was uneducated in the gym though, so I stuck to the cardio machines and continued to lose weight quickly.

I began to find confidence as I received compliments from people that they could tell I was losing weight. Every time I would go home for the weekend from college, my mother would gasp and say “You’re getting so skinny. You look great.”

Fast-forward to year twenty-two; I graduated and moved back to Minneapolis. I joined a gym, and shortly thereafter got connected with a personal trainer to ensure I was continuing on my weight loss journey. I no longer hung around the treadmill and the elliptical, but rather found myself migrating to the weight room as I was becoming more and more educated.

Weight lifting for fat loss - member story of how Lauren lost over 100 lbsThe weight room built my confidence.

I never knew just how strong I was, and how challenging using my own body weight in different movements could be. It was hard to believe that buried under all that fat was a lot of strength and confidence. Each week I would continue to lose weight, while developing physical and inner strength to keep going.

Related: think lifting heavy will make you bulk up? Think again! Check out this post about the benefits of working weights into your routine.

The Milestones

Among many milestones, I was able to run my first 5K Thanksgiving of 2012.

September 2016 I moved to Chicago, and the first thing on my list was to find a gym. I now call FFC Old Town my home, and look forward to working out there during the week. I began training twice a week to keep my motivation in a new city going.

Needless to say, I hit my second major milestone within a week of being in Chicago; I was no longer in the ‘200 club.’ I had hit 199 lbs, losing a grand total of just over 100 pounds in five-ish years.

My third major milestone? I hit my first goal weight of 185 pounds the week before Thanksgiving of this year, and I’m on my way toward my final goal weight of 165 pounds (a total of 135 pounds)!

I am the lightest weight I have been since I can’t even remember and I am wearing the smallest size clothing I have ever been able to wear. I am no longer pre-diabetic or have any medical conditions, and call me crazy, but I have developed a close relationship with the stair master. My journey helped me lose over 100 pounds.

Related: whatever your goals, they are attainable. Try out a personal training session at FFC on us to get started by clicking & scrolling to the bottom of this page!

My dedication to weight lifting has allowed me to break PRs on my squats, deadlifts, bench press, etc. and I couldn’t be in a better mindset than where I am now. You can’t make someone do something they don’t want to do; they have to want it for themselves.

Life is about balance, choices and sacrifice. “Make a promise to work hard, commit yourself to your goal and don’t say a word until you’ve made significant progress…” – Joe Duncan

Post written by FFC Old Town Member Lauren Rutzick.