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My friends and coworkers often ask me about weekly meal prep. I am very passionate about healthy eating. In multiple conversations with friends and coworkers, I have noticed most people want to do it, but find it difficult to justify the time and question the cost savings. As someone who has prepped meals for years, I am a firm believer that it saves time, money, and provides many health benefits.

Here are the common questions people ask me about meal prep:

  • What do you make during meal prep?
  • How long does it take to cook?
  • Does your food taste good at the end of the week?
  • Is it cheaper than eating out?

As a member of corporate America, I find myself constantly influenced by the dark side of donuts, candy, and/or some sort of processed food. In the beautiful city of Chicago, it’s even more difficult, having restaurant upon restaurant within blocks of my apartment calling my name with cuisine from around the world. I believe that life is short and you should enable your body to experience these great restaurants.

Notice that I used the word “enable” versus “treat myself.” What I mean by this is that I believe there’s always a balance between treating yourself and eating too much of the wrong stuff. With that said, I feel that one meal we can take control of and help us throughout our day is lunch. Lunch is the meal that creates the break in our work day. Regardless if you’re in corporate, hospitality, or health care, you need to eat lunch. It is far too easy to go with what everyone else is having (hamburger, processed sandwich, etc) and let this meal get away from us.

This is where meal prep comes into play and making a healthy choice can really be easy with weekly meal prep. Meal prep enables your body to truly enjoy cheat meals (I’ll explain that later) without the guilt. The purpose of this message is to not only answer the questions above but outline them in a way that logically proves that meal prep is worth your time and money.

Though you can meal prep for any time of day, I will keep this overview to lunch – as it’s the most common meal everyone asks about. Lets get started!

What do you make?

The answer to this questions depends on the type of food you eat. Personally, I prefer the Paleo lifestyle and my food choices are limited to lean meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits, nuts & seeds, and healthy fats. I look for a balanced portion of a protein, greens, and carbohydrates for lunch. This allows me to have my break during the day and be able to get back to work without the afternoon dip.

Here’s what a typical lunch may look like:

Meal prep tips

How long does it take to cook?

I start with skinning the sweet potatoes and throw them into the oven since they take the longest. I time the broccoli start time to end the same time as the sweet potatoes. Once those two are complete, I move onto the chicken and grill it outside, which takes roughly 30 minutes. The food prep and cooking time will take you roughly 1.5 hours in total.

Related: check out even MORE food prep tips for various steps in the process to help make this easy time, money and progress saver a regular part of your routine.

Meal Prep = Time Saver

I always like to compare this to the alternative. Let’s look at both scenarios of going to get food and bringing it back to your desk versus eating there. I did time trials by walking with coworkers to grab their lunch and I found that the average time was roughly 15 minutes to go there and back. Total time throughout the week is an hour and 15 minutes. Ok, we’ve saved some time!

In a different situation, let’s look at how much time is saved in comparison to when you eat at a restaurant. I began timing this trial from the time we sat down and began to eat. I excluded any sit down restaurants that included a server since the lead times varied by person and restaurant. I came to the conclusion of an average 15 minute eating time. Combining that with travel time, you’re looking at 2 hours and 30 minutes saved per week.

Does your food taste good at the end of the week?

This one intrigued me for a while as I did notice that my chicken would become rubbery or not taste as good toward the end of the week. A trick you can use to help your food last and taste better longer is with your freezer. I do my meal prep on Sundays and put Monday and Tuesday’s meals in the refrigerator. The rest goes into the freezer and I pull out one meal each day throughout the week. Monday, I pull out Wednesday, etc.

Is it cheaper than eating out?

Yes, meal preparation will save you money. Below is an outline of the cost comparison between purchasing groceries vs. eating out. Please note, I am measuring groceries for a single person, using the chicken/broccoli/sweet potato meal outlined above.

If you go out to eat each day, lunch costs anywhere from $6 (typical fast food options) to $10 (Chipotle, Panera, etc.) depending on where you go. Add a sugary Coke, that’s another $2.00. The numbers speak for themselves.

Final Thoughts on Meal Prep

Regardless if you’re training for a race, show, or looking for ways to be healthier, I am a firm believer that meal preparation can bring value to your day and life. You will not have to worry about answering the question, “What should I eat for lunch?” You have the opportunity to learn to cook new meals and try something new every week. Not only will meal prep save you money on a weekly basis, but you’ll get more out of your day. We can’t get more time in a day, but we can make the most of it.

For more about meal preparation and fitness, follow me on Facebook and Instagram!

Post written by FFC Union Station member Omar R. 

 

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.

 

Try HIIT at FFC

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.

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

What is Tread?

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

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

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

Warm-up:

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

Drill I:

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

Rest – walk for 2 minutes

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

Drill II:

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

Rest – walk for 90 seconds

Drill III:

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

Rest – walk for 60 seconds

Drill IV:

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

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

Stretch!

What can I expect from this lunchtime workout?

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

Post written by FFC Union Station member Omar R.

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

Before MYZONE, and as a fitness fanatic, I always ask myself a few questions after each time I exercise:

  • Was that good workout?
  • How many calories did I burn?
  • Was that better than last time?

Typically, the answer to this was based on a feeling. I would tell myself, “that was a good workout.”

Endorphins would be running and I “knew” something was accomplished. I’ve also used multiple products to help me as I continued a healthy lifestyle but I found myself looking for more information.

  • I used a pedometer – but just because I hit 15,000 steps didn’t mean I pushed myself.
  • I used a GPS watch to track my heart rate during runs – but what about when I was cross training?
  • I used a fitness tracker – but none of the models I used would give me a clean application unless I was willing to spend over $200. Another issue I had with trackers was that I was only able to compare myself to others that owned the same tracker.

Being the tedious person that I am, I continued to search for a solution that would help measure exerted energy and enable me to review my physical activity easily.

My Intro to MYZONE

As a member of FFC, I always saw advertisements for MYZONE, so I decided to give it a shot. The application was easy to set up on my phone and connect with the sensor tied to the belt. There are many reasons why I moved forward on the MYZONE but I am only going to cover two: MYZONE Effort Points and the “Health and Fitness” overview ability.

Related: have a belt (or thinking about getting one) and want to give performance training a try? Click here for a free class!

MYZONE Effort Points (MEPs):

MYZONE Effort Points are what I loved most about the belt. These points (or MEPs) measure how hard and how long you push yourself during a workout. Let me give you 2 separate scenarios on doing the same type of exercise and the different results you would see on the MYZONE app.

Scenario 1: you are running on a treadmill for approximately 30 minutes at a steady 9 minute / mile pace and you’re burning roughly 350-450 calories

Scenario 2: you’re still running on a treadmill for approximately 30 minutes, but instead of staying at a consistent in speed, you are increasing your speed plus fluctuating the incline.

Though you are still running on the treadmill, the increase and decrease in speed / incline causes your heart rate to fluctuate. With the fluctuation of your heart rate, the exerted energy becomes more difficult and you begin to hit different levels within the MYZONE app (See breakdown below). Ultimately, you would find yourself burning anywhere from 500-750 calories based on how much recovery time you give yourself.

MYZONE Makes Things Better

Now we look at how this is broken down into the MYZONE app. Below is a screenshot of the levels along with the points affiliated with each level. In the 9-minute / mile scenario, you would find yourself going between the Green, Yellow, and sometimes Red zones based on your level of fitness. In the fluctuating scenario, you would also find yourself between Green, Yellow, and Red. Most times you will see yourself sticking in the Yellow and Red based on how much recovery you give yourself. This lets you target your workouts based on your own max heart rate to get the most benefit out of each one.

After each workout, you’ll receive an email with your move summary, like the one below:

Overview of Health & Fitness

As I mentioned before, I am a tedious person when it comes to data. Working out is only a fraction of a healthy lifestyle. I also track my food with MyFitnessPal (want to know how to do that? Check out this post!). I allow Apple’s Health app to sync with both MYZONE and MyFitnessPal. This allows MyFitnessPal to automatically factor in my workouts from my food intake. This is a cropped screenshot of what the end of the day looks like:

Related: how to use the MyFitnessPal app to lose more weight.

The Burning Question:

Was that a good workout? Below is an overview of how I break down my workouts, based on data I’ve collected, to answer that question. Please note, everybody’s level of fitness is different so please don’t use this as a must hit in order to consider your workout good.

Calories

250-500

501-750

751-1000

1001+

Workout

Good

Great

Awesome

You’re crazy!

 

Final Thoughts On MYZONE:

I believe that in order to continue a healthy lifestyle, you need to know if you’re continuously pushing yourself. I don’t necessarily mean you need to train for a triathlon or become a professional athlete, but to push yourself physically and take in the right foods. The MYZONE app helps with keeping you honest and lets you compete with friends who are working out next to you. Follow along with my progress on Facebook or Instagram!

Post written by FFC Union Station member Omar R.

Getting an injury is never a fun situation. Especially when you’ve been focused all winter and all you want to do is show off your hard work! Regardless of where you’re at in your fitness journey, it can happen to anyone.

I recently sustained an injury while doing upright barbell rows on a Saturday. I wasn’t doing anything too heavy, and I was going my normal pace. During my second set, I felt a pinch in my left bicep, which threw me off.

I attempted to continue the set but something didn’t feel right. I put the workout on pause and began to stretch for quite some time. After that, my pinky and ring fingers went numb.

Since it was the weekend, I felt it would be best to take a few days off and make an appointment with my doctor. He recommended I get an MRI, so I took action that day.

My doctor called me the next day with the results. He stated that while I luckily did not tear any of tendons in my shoulder or elbow, I had strained my bicep. Upper body workouts would be out of the question for the next 4 – 6 weeks while I went through physical therapy. Here’s how I stayed active with an injury.

Related: want to check out a club for yourself? Click here to try FFC for free!

Staying Active Despite Being Injured

As someone who took Chisel as if it were a multivitamin, this seemed like a nightmare. I quickly started doing research on how to keep working out with an injury – without irritating my bicep. I looked at FFC’s group fitness schedule and saw that some of my options could include Tread, spin, FitCore and yoga, in addition to anything I would be doing on my own. Below is the schedule I followed during my recovery time frame, which also included physical therapy.

  • Monday Morning – self-guided bike for 45 minutes, core for 15 minutes at FFC Union Station
  • Monday Evening – Heated Vinyasa Flow yoga class at FFC Gold Coast
  • Tuesday Morning – Tread class at FFC Union Station
  • Tuesday Evening – physical therapy
  • Wednesday Morning – self-guided stepmill for 30 minutes, FitCore class for 30 minutes at FFC West Loop
  • Thursday Morning – Spin class at FFC Union Station
  • Thursday Evening – physical therapy
  • Friday Morning – self-guided stepmill for 30 minutes, then FitCore class for 30 minutes at FFC Gold Coast

The Most Important Thing I Learned

Despite not being to work out my upper body, this injury has allowed me to focus on different areas that I wouldn’t have before. The biggest positive impact that this has had on me is my lower back. I have always had soreness in my lower back from lifting and never took much time to stretch it (Yoga), or strengthen it (FitCore).

Related: brushed off yoga in the past? It’s time to give it a try! Check out a first-hand account from this “inflexible dude”.

Regardless of the slight setback, this injury has taught me the importance of truly taking care of my body by warming up properly and engaging in post-workout stretching.

Post written by FFC Union Station member Omar R.