Vegetables have SO many amazing benefits. They can help boost our moods, help us fight off illness, and of course, feel better and deliver all the necessary nutrients our bodies need to function. Check out these 10 easy ways to increase your vegetable intake, plus a delicious veggie recipe for even the pickiest of eaters!

10 Ways to Increase Veggie Intake

  1. Add veggies such as broccoli, spinach, green peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini etc. to your pizza or omelet.
  2. Substitute pizza crust for a Portobella mushroom!
  3. Grill or roast colorful vegetable kabobs packed with tomatoes, green and red peppers, mushrooms and onions.
  4. Add lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes etc. to your sandwich.
  5. Top a baked potato with beans and salsa (or pico de gallo) or top it with broccoli and a sprinkle of cheese.
  6. Microwave a cup of low-sodium vegetable soup as a snack or with a salad or sandwich for a meal. You can also make your own easy vegetable soup by taking a frozen bag of vegetables and cooking it in low-sodium broth or bone broth (for added protein)!
  7. Stock your freezer with frozen vegetables (with no added salt, butter, or cream) to steam or stir-fry for a quick side dish.
  8. Make your main dish a salad of dark, leafy greens and other colorful vegetables. Add chickpeas or edamame for added plant protein.
  9. Use cauliflower rice instead of actual rice.
  10. Use spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles instead of pasta noodles.

Delicious Veggie Recipe: Ratatouille

A great veggie recipe for Ratatouille (adapted from this site) to get those veggies in – it’s also gluten free, paleo and vegan!


  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil about 3-4 large leaves, sliced, plus more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence spice mix
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 medium sweet or red onion, sliced
  • 1-2 large zucchini (about 1 1/2 cups slices, sliced)
  • 1 large Japanese eggplant (about 3 cups slices, sliced)
  • 3 large fresh tomatoes (Roma are best; about 3 cups slices, sliced)

Related: check out another veggie-forward recipe: Egyptian spiced easy lettuce wraps!


  • Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 6″x9″ baking dish and set aside. (see notes for baking in an 8″x8″ square pan)
  • In a medium mixing bowl, combine the crushed tomatoes, oil and vinegar. Stir in the garlic, basil, herbs de Provence, salt, pepper, and chili powder.
  • Pour the tomato mixture into the prepared baking dish and smooth it into an even layer on the bottom of the pan.
  • Stack the veggie slices in alternating patters (e.g.: onion, zucchini, eggplant, tomato; repeat) and place them on their side in the pan, leaning against the edge of the pan. Repeat until you’ve formed a couple of rows of veggies, filled the pan, and used up all of the veggie slices.
  • Optionally, spray or brush the exposed tops of the veggies with oil to encourage browning in the oven. This is more for appearance, so feel free to skip this step if you want.
  • Bake for about an hour, until the tomato sauce at the bottom is bubbling and the veggies are tender.
  • Garnish with additional chopped fresh basil before serving (optional). Serve hot or cold.

For other nutrition tips, veggie recipes and tricks please reach out to our Park Ridge registered dietitian, Alicia Huggler, MS, RDN, LDN at to schedule an appointment!

I was never a healthy and active kid growing up. Instead of being outside running around or participating in sports, I’d rather sit myself in front of the TV for hours. My parents (my mom, in particular) noticed the bad eating and exercise habits our family had established. When I was in elementary school she took the initiative to sign our family up for an activity program.

The program allowed parents the opportunity to learn about how to implement a healthy lifestyle for their families. Once this kicked off, my mom’s awareness for what our family was eating and our exercise regime grew immensely. We started cooking more meals as a family at home, going on family walks, and decreasing our fast food intake.

(Side note: my mom is my role model; she challenged herself to make this change, not only for our family, but for herself. She lost close to 30 lbs while turning our family’s habits from bad to good.)

As for me, I became more aware of my body throughout middle school. I was not overweight; I was heavier than most kids though. I struggled with how I looked, being called names, and not having the confidence to do things that others around me were doing. By high school, as most teens do, I grew. Luckily taller. I felt better about myself; I started to become more aware of the changes my mom had made. This allowed me to notice what I was eating, how often, and how often I exercised.

It wasn’t until my senior year that I felt my best I had in high school. I overheard a classmate tell someone she ran a half marathon, and then it hit me – ‘I want to do that’.

Running into Trouble

I put together a running plan for myself, bought some new running shoes, and started eating better than I ever have. I fell in love with running; I was able to accomplish something that I never thought possible for myself. This training plan led me into my freshman year of college.

I was running and working out everyday. When it came to nutrition, though, I was eating the bare minimum. I finally felt happy with my body and I was afraid I would gain weight with the slightest indulgence. I thought I looked good. While I did loose the “freshman 15”, I was too thin. Family and friends were worried about me. Looking back, I was worried about myself.

I let this fitness ‘high’, so to speak, take over my mind and body. Yes, I looked good, I was eating healthy, and I felt good. I didn’t realize that this goal of losing weight was still implanted in my mind.

Related: a registered dietitian shares tips on how to realistically have a better relationship with food. Check out the post here.

Managing Moderation

Three years have passed since my freshman 15 ‘drop’; I work out everyday, eat incredibly healthy, and feel more confident in how I look and who I am. Being happy with how you look and who you are is challenging. There are times I struggle – allowing myself a rest day, or when I want to count macros.

Someone once told me to ask myself “Is this a helpful thought?”

So I continue to do so, I talk to my brain when it tells me not to eat the pizza or cupcake. I think, ‘is this helpful?’ Or ‘will it affect me to have one slice of pizza?’ Generally, the answer is no, and doing so allows me to be self-aware of my thoughts and the impact they have on my choices.

I challenge you to do the same on your own journey.

Post written by FFC Park Ridge Kids’ Club Supervisor Carolyn Perry; photos provided by Carolyn Perry.

Follow along with Carolyn on her Instagram here!

Oatmeal muffins were first introduced in American cookbooks in the mid-1800s. They are similar in size and shape to a cupcake, but can be healthier for you if you include the right ingredients! Check out a list of the different types of oats, their benefits, plus a recipe for easy blueberry oatmeal muffins below!

What are the different types of oats available?

There are 5 main types of oats. They include:

  • Instant oats: oats that have been steamed and flaked.
  • Rolled oats (also called regular or old-fashioned oats): oats that have been steamed and rolled into flakes that are thicker (and thus take longer to cook) than instant oats.
  • Steel-cut oats (also called Irish oats): you get the whole oat kernel, cut up. These take about 20 minutes to cook.
  • Scottish oats: these are like steel-cut oats, but instead of being cut, they are ground.
  • Oat groats: this is the whole oat kernel — no cuts, flakes, or grinding. They take longer to cook than other oats. Give them 50-60 minutes to cook, after you bring the water to a boil.

What are the benefits of oats?

Benefits of oats range from lowering cholesterol to protecting us against free radicals.

  • Oats contain beta-glucan fiber. This particular fiber can aid in lowering cholesterol and can strengthen your immune system.
  • Oats also have polyphenol compounds that have antioxidant properties that may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals — molecules produced when your body breaks down food or is exposed to tobacco smoke and radiation. Free radicals may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

What are some healthier oatmeal toppings?

Healthier additives to incorporate into your oatmeal muffin (or just oatmeal!) recipes include:

  • Nuts such as walnuts or nut butter such as almond butter or peanut butter
  • Blueberries, bananas, unsweetened applesauce or other fruit
  • Dark chocolate chips
  • Cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice etc.

Bonus: instead of white flour (which has little to no nutritional value) put rolled oats in a blender to make your own oat flour!

Baked Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 17 minutes
  • Total Time: about 22 minutes


  • 1 cup mashed banana
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, uncooked
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen


  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray large muffin tin with non-stick spray.
  • Mash banana until smooth.
  • Add banana, oats, beaten egg, baking powder and vanilla to a bowl.
  • Stir until just combined.
  • Stir in blueberries.
  • Using a large spring-release scoop, fill muffin tins with batter. (I usually fill to the top; these muffins don’t rise very much.)
  • Bake at 425 degrees for 5 minutes, then decrease oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue baking for 12 more minutes.
  • Allow muffins to cool slightly in the muffin tin for a few minutes. Removing them while hot will likely cause the muffins to break apart, as they are very moist.

Original recipe written by Paula Jones – you can find it here:

For more information on how to incorporate healthy foods into your daily lifestyle please reach out to FFC Park Ridge’s registered dietitian, Alicia Huggler, at

Post written by FFC Park Ridge registered dietitian Alicia Huggler.


Bullying starts earlier than you think – but you can arm your loved ones with the tools to combat it. When we think of bullying, we generally envision the jocks in high school throwing the little guy in a locker or the mean girls on the bus making fun of someone’s hair texture. The fact is, it starts a lot earlier than that. Studies show that although bullying activity peaks in middle school, it can begin as early as preschool. What start out as simple disagreements over crayons or who gets to throw the ball quickly turn into teasing. Once a child has shown that teasing gets under their skin, it manifests into bullying. Bullying becomes a habit. Below I’ve outlined some tools one can use to help stop bullying.

Confidence as a Tool to Help Stop Bullying

The key to help stop bullying – especially in those early years of preschool and elementary school when children are forming their own personality – is to teach them to love themselves and know they have value.

At the same time, we don’t want to develop a little monster who thinks they’re better than everyone else. That’s a problem of another sort. The goal is to develop children who build a sense of self-importance and self-confidence in themselves.

They also need to learn whose opinion is important. Johnny – who picks his nose and eats glue – might not like them, but his opinion doesn’t mean as much as that of mom or dad. Developing confidence at a young age is not a quick fix either. It’s a process. It takes time, attention and cultivation. Like raising a child.

And in the age of cell phones, today’s children have it worse than children just a generation before them. Cyberbullies – the bully who doesn’t even have to be standing in front of you to upset you – is the worst. And they don’t just tease children. Most adults have dealt with this on some level. If allowed to fester, bullying could lead to poor grades in school, depression, sleep disorders, drug use, incarceration or even suicide. It cannot be allowed to fester.

Martial Arts as a Tool to Build Confidence

I have a potential solution for you. I say potential because there is no catch-all, quick-fix answer to eliminating all of the jerks in the world. My potential solution is training martial arts. And no, I’m not advocating kids just wallop the guy who stole their pencil. Martial arts, in addition to teaching self-defense, teach self-confidence in the individual from the word go.

In my classes, I tell my students they are individuals and they are part of a class, but I do not promote that they are on a team. I don’t think there is anything wrong with team sports, but I believe in today’s world – where often everyone gets a trophy and having 3 or 4 good players wins you a title – children can get lost in the mix.

In martial arts, you succeed or fail by what you put into it. Sure, Mom or Dad or the babysitter get participants to class, but once they step on the mat it’s all up to the student. And sure, that can be intimidating, but the right instructor – one who is a real educator and builder of people – can inspire that child and arm them with the tools to deal a not-so-friendly world.

Related: learning how to take a step back can help too – here are some simple tricks for practicing mindfulness.

I have more to tell you so stay tuned. Better yet, come train with me at FFC Park Ridge – my classes are for all ages; 4 years through adults. Both classes and private lessons are available.

Post written by FFC Park Ridge Martial Arts Instructor James Hirth.

About James

James started teaching students, ages 4 and up, in Tae Kwon Do and self-defense at FFC Park Ridge in October. For more information or any questions, email him at

Foundations are the beginning of all things, whether it be the first day of a new job, or training for the Chicago marathon. Present within these foundations is transformation, such as rain becoming snow. Thoughts transform into our attitudes and mindsets and eventually become our personal philosophies. Many philosophies have roots in ancient history, such as yin and yang, which comes from observing nature. Observation is the most accessible skill we have. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), is based greatly upon this – nature being of the most important (which includes us). Here’s a basic introduction to the philosophy and why you should balance your yin and yang.

In its purest form, observation derives itself from contentment and passiveness (baring in mind, though, that passiveness does not necessarily mean without action). An action can be as simple as a thought or internal response, whether that be a change in breathing, energy level, relaxed to tense, or just warm to cool. There can be an effect without an affect.

Yin and Yang Philosophy

Yin/yang philosophy began with the book Tao Te Ching, by the philosopher Lao Tsu (6th c. BC) . ‘Dualism’ is the core of yin/yang as, ‘one defining the other’. For instance, a sense of relaxation represents yin, while tense represents yang. Slower breathing represents yin, while faster breathing represents the idea of yang. Cool is more yin, while warm is more yang. A yoga pose like downward dog is very yin, while performing a deadlift is more yang.

The moon shines brightest on a dark night, while the sun is brightest during a winter day.

Our observations are intertwined in our daily lives, as well as over the span of a lifetime. Embracing the elements around us as being different, as much as they are the same, is key to grasping how they overlap and become whole. Balance is harmony and imbalance is disharmony. Yin is the heavier, darker side, while yang represents the lighter side. Yin is the moon and yang the sun. Yin reaches for the earth, as in yoga, while yang reaches for the sky, as in lifting weights. A yin personality may enjoy evening yoga classes, while a yang personality may wake up bright-eyed, ready for a workout. Yin can be calmer, quiet, and even shy – while yang is loud, high energy and outgoing. In harmony, yin and yang are balanced, and we are at our best.

Related: how to recover from burnout by getting back to the basics.

If we find ourselves sluggish and tired, we may need a yang influence in our daily activities. Conversely, we may need more yin-influenced relaxation to balance the excitement of yang. Yoga is great for relaxation, and if lacking energy, a higher intensity “yang” workout may be helpful, like a spin class. These aspects of yin and yang are just microcosms of a much larger system. The basics of yin and yang are effortless and lead to a path of self observation. Nurture balance in your life.

Post written by Jessica Heffernan, FFC Park Ridge massage therapist.

About Jessica

Jessica Heffernan, LMT, CP-AOBTA, believes that the most beneficial massage is customize for your workout goals. As a certified practitioner of Asian Bodywork, her goal is to restore and maintain the balance of yin and yang of her clients. Want to set up a consultation or experience the benefits of restorative, balancing massage? Email Jessica at!

Everyone feels run down, overworked, and just plain depleted at one time or another. Getting back to a wellness baseline with your weekly schedule will keep you feeling your best and ready to take on all that life throws your way. Here are a few tips on how to recover from burnout by getting back to the basics.

What Are the “Basics”?

The main areas I focus on when I’m feeling depleted include:

  • Quality sleep
  • Nutritious meals
  • Self-care
  • Journaling
  • Connecting with others

While these seem like pretty tangible goals to maintain at the surface, these basic elements for a happy and healthy you are usually the first and easiest things to push to the backburner when our calendars are full to the brim day after day.

What’s a Personal Baseline?

What is your personal baseline you may ask? With this term, I’m referring to the point where you feel stable, secure, nourished & calm so that you can go out and be the best you while you are fulfilling all of your commitments to others and working towards your personal goals.

As an example, I feel my best when I eat healthy meals regularly, sleep at least 8 hours (even if 2 are just lying in bed & not actual sleep), working out in some capacity, (yoga, walking, Zumba), have a clean house, and a plan in place for the upcoming week. Everything on top of that, such as social events or fitting in a squeeze from my nephews are just icing on the cake.

That may sound like a lot, but if I have missed a workout due to a social event or grabbed a meal on the fly it won’t throw me off. However, if I have eaten crappy for a few days, had a few bad nights of sleep, come home to a messy house, haven’t seen anyone outside of work in a few days AND missed my daily work out then I will most likely be feeling frazzled – which will snowball into missed meetings, tardiness, forgetfulness and crankiness.

Taking time to check in with yourself to make sure your baseline needs are being met is a great way to ensure you are being the best version of yourself when you step into the world.

How to Make a Plan to Recover from Burnout (Or Prevent Burnout in the First Place)

  • Whether you work 9-5, 11-7 or nights and weekends, pick an afternoon or evening to map out your week so you can see when & where you need to be.
  • Plan for your meals as much as you can, and work towards cooking as many as possible.
  • Add exercise as an event on your calendar and aim for 30 more minutes and 1 more day a week then you currently at.
  • Pencil in some you time to journal, take a long bath; paint your nails or do something that allows you to check in with your mind, body & soul.
  • Connect with others either during one of the meals or on a walk.

Just like anything else, the more you practice the things that make you a happier you, the easier it becomes to make them fit in naturally to your day to day life.

Life Hacks to Preventing Burnout from a Busy Chick

Okay, so you may have a plan, but implementing it is a whole different story. Time and money seem to be the 2 biggest roadblocks people will bring us as to why they don’t take time for cooking, exercise and self-care. Remember, everyone has the same 24 hours in a day that you do – so make the most of the time you have. Here are a few tips for how to do that in each of the sections I mentioned above.

Nutrition & meal prep tips:

  • Wash & chop veggies for easy go to salads, hard boil eggs for protein on the go.
  • Make a big batch of soup for an easy lunch or dinner throughout the week.
  • Use a crockpot – the best invention ever for quick easy home cooked meals.

Related: need more meal prep tips? These hacks will help ensure you can actually stick to your meal prep routine!

Fitting in fitness tips:

  • Get up 30 minutes earlier OR skip TV after dinner & go on a brisk walk, jog or run.
  • Meet a friend for a workout instead of a meal – try a new class together through Groupon or Class Pass if they are offered in your area.
  • Plan to walk on your lunch break – even 10 minutes will be a great addition to your day.

Self-care tips:

  • Schedule it like you would any other important meeting, and don’t blow yourself off.
  • Look for fun ways to try something new for free. Sephora offers makeup classes regularly & local park districts often provide free or low cost events and classes.
  • Unplug everything. I mean it – start to unplug 30 minutes before bed, not looking at a screen of any kind… I bet you will fall asleep faster!

Related: insanely simple ways to practice more mindfulness in your everyday life.

Understanding Benefits of Routine

As I delve deeper into my own self-study, I have become fascinated with many different ideas and teaching, one in particular is Samskara. Yogic philosophy teaches that we are all born with a set of mental & emotional patterns that we cycle through over and over throughout the duration of our lives. These ideas and actions together create our conditioning. When repeated over and over a sort of groove is formed which can be hard to break away from. These grooves can be positive, negative, or somewhere in between. The most important factor is being aware of them, and understanding that they can be changed: you can always break an old pattern and create a new groove in your life.

Think of your morning routine, for me it involves brewing a cup of coffee – hearing the grinder, smelling it brew, and enjoying a hot mug before interacting with anyone else. I’m aware of this groove, I enjoy it and I am not trying to break it at this time.

As an example on the other side of the spectrum, when fall turn into winter and the days get shorter, my groove is to get a little mopey and blue. I exchange tea for wine and salad for carbs. A little of this is just going with the seasonal flow, but when I find myself falling out of my good habits that I worked hard to create, I make sure to get back into the positive groove(s) I created.

Why This is Important

I am a strong believer that knowledge is power, and even though most of this is basic stuff, it can be helpful for people to read what others do for wellness and to recover from burnout and keep the wheels turning in their lives, so I am sharing what I have found useful with you. Please join me in a class, I would love to be a part of your yoga journey!

About Janet

After a series of stressful sales jobs, I was searching for an outlet that would challenge my body and quiet my mind. Hours of driving, phone calls, and paperwork were leaving me stressed out and frazzled. Yoga became that outlet, and ultimately a way of life.

While the physical postures challenged my body, I learned that the calming effect(s) yoga has on my mind allow me to approach life differently. In my quest to deepen my understanding of this mind/body connection that yoga offers, I journeyed to Nicaragua where I studied with Master Trainer Meghan Currie. Since then I have been sharing my love yoga with others. My teaching style is upbeat and approachable, making all feel welcome.

In addition to studio classes, I offer private sessions for those looking to delve deeper into the physical aspect of yoga, and am continue to teach at retreats worldwide. Have questions? Email me at

Post written by FFC Group Exercise Instructor Janet Keogh.


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5 simple tips to recover from burnout & other wellness tips from FFC group fitness instructor

The space we share with one another is defined by the space we create. It may not be something you would think about on a day to day basis, but space is a part of everything we do. Some of us need large spaces and may not enjoy crowds, while others love concerts or any event where large groups of people gather. These two examples are on a large scale, so let’s just move on to the smaller, more specific situations. The movements you may perform while exercising creates space in your joints, and are an active decision. Yoga, Pilates, heavy weights, etc. create a space. In some cases, space may be restricted and the desire is to create more. Stretching and increasing flexibility and even engaging in massage therapy (and perhaps exploring Asian Bodywork) are good examples for achieving greater movement for your body and all its mechanical components.

Active movements happen during exercise; that is the intentional choice to flex, stretch and lift heavy weights. Spin classes for cardio, Pilates for core strength. Passive movements are just as important as these other activities we participate in. And receiving a therapeutic massage, as well as Shiatsu, is a great way to achieve passive movement, and the therapist is the one who creates that space our joints need so badly.

Asian Bodywork, such as Thai or Shiatsu, falls under the larger umbrella of massage therapy. Bodywork is distinguished by the body mobilization techniques utilized, and can easily be incorporated into a traditional massage. What’s more, the therapist gets to stretch and move during the massage therapy treatment as well, at times mirroring the client.

Related: click here to try FFC for free and check out all the amenities at our clubs!

My personal journey with massage therapy and Asian bodywork

FFC massage therapist Jessica demonstrating Table Shiatsu with fellow massage therapist Samantha Margaret Wolf.

This is what led me to become a massage therapist and study Asian Bodywork. I have a background in dance and martial arts, and at one point in my past I had to make a decision to find a career path that encompassed what I loved about both. Defining the space around myself with movement, whether it was dance or martial arts, embodies much of what massage therapy is to me now.

I have been a board-certified massage therapist and experienced with Asian bodywork with BCTMB for 12 years now. My most recent training is from the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine with an A.A.S. degree in holistic sciences. I am also a certified practitioner of Asian Bodywork, specifically practicing Shiatsu work and Acupressure with 5 Element Theory. I believe learning is a lifelong journey.

Related: no time for a massage? Find your zen anyway. Check out these helpful tips for how to practice mindfulness every day.

If you think you would like Shiatsu bodywork, call the spa at FFC Park Ridge and ask to book that overdue massage with Jessica Heffernan, or email me at for a complimentary consultation! Let’s create some space and define that journey of wellness.

Post written by FFC Park Ridge Massage Therapist Jessica Heffernan.

FFC Park Ridge Jessica HeffernanAbout Jessica

Jessica is board certified in massage therapy and bodywork with NCBTMB. She is also a certified practitioner of Asian Bodywork, including Thai, Shiatsu, Tui Na and Acupressure. She integrates these modalities into all types of massage – relaxation, deep tissue and sports massage. Her work is a blend of eastern and western.




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My name is Sam Gonzalez and I am an Elite Trainer with FFC. After 8 years of experience and hundreds of clients and students, I understand the challenges that most people face when they decide to start a new training program. For most, the question of how to train and the techniques involved is the biggest question. Some want to lose body fat. Others want to become strong, add muscle and move without pain. Throughout my time training I have discovered a tool that accomplishes all these goals… the kettlebell. Read on to find out why this is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment out there, plus discover a kettlebell workout you can do on your own!

Anyone can do kettlebell workouts regardless of ability or age. Here’s why:

Kettlebells deliver effective and efficient all-around fitness like no other tool. Although the kettlebell has been around for hundreds of years it has only recently become popular in the US, as an era of fitness machines, poor techniques and injuries have failed to deliver results.

We have become more sedentary, undernourished and overfed. Something must be done before we regress and get even more unhealthy. That change can be as simple as a return to basic physical fitness that is based on natural movement and strength training.

Basic physical fitness can be described as your ability to move in a coordinated, unrestricted way, while being able to complete the demands of everyday life. I assume that you joined a gym or fitness program for this particular reason. You want your time at the gym to result in having a better life outside of it.

Whether it’s getting up and down off the floor, carrying groceries from the car or playing with your kids, we should be able to do these types of natural movements without restriction and especially without pain. (Moms, check out more on functional movement in this recent post!). Kettlebell training can help you achieve all these goals. But despite how easy they are to use, kettlebells are not just resigned for newcomers looking for an effective training technique. Even the most advanced gym member can be humbled by difficulty and skill it takes to perform some of these exercises.

Related: try out a personal training session at FFC on us – click here!

Why Kettlebells Work So Well

The magic of training with kettlebells comes from their ability to create movement patterns that the body craves while vastly enhancing strength, athletic capabilities and physique. While general exercise can be considered a good thing, the idea of working out just for the sake of working out is a road that leads nowhere. Our exercise must be planned and productive.

Think of your exercise as a practice of a collection of movement skills that you are striving to master. Every time we practice/ train we should strive to make progress. Progress can be defined as an increase in the level of exercise sophistication, more resistance, the ability to work at higher speeds and many other variables. Kettlebells are maximally efficient at streamlining peoples’ progress. Kettlebell training can change someone’s life by literally forging the body into a leaner and stronger version of itself.

Still not convinced? Here’s a quick breakdown of all the benefits you can expect from kettlebell training:

  • Act as a new, fun and challenging way of training
  • Replace machines, barbells, dumbbells and cardio equipment
  • Make your workouts fast and efficient focusing on total body movement patterns vs small muscles
  • Burn 600 – 700 calories per session while getting rid of hard-to-lose body fat
  • Help you perform everyday tasks with ease like carrying groceries and getting up off the floor
  • Add natural amounts of muscle to your frame while not becoming bulky
  • Increase your mobility, flexibility and overall functional capacity
  • Dramatically increase your body’s strength
  • Help you become more athletic in any sport or activity

With proper training and nutrition, you can have incredible health, strength and flexibility, all while achieving a look and feel that is your best version of yourself. As an elite trainer, my goal is to deliver these qualities with the methods I have learned and refined using kettlebell training. You as a student, will not only learn learn these methods as well but also understand why they work.

Related: small group HIIT training can give you a great guided workout – plus it will help you lose weight effectively!

As with any skill, it is absolutely imperative to build a solid foundation. Unfortunately, in today’s current gym and personal training environment, there is often no assessment or preparation before we begin to “work out”. At best this leads to mediocre results, and at worst, injury. A program that is scientifically designed and progressed must be given to ensure that a person’s goals are being met while keeping them safe.

“At the time my exercise regiment was restricted because of pain up and down my left leg from misalignment and sedentary work. I’d tried muscle activation technique and physical therapy over the years but have by far had the most success with the mobility drills and proper kettlebell technique Sam taught me. Today I’m able to be consistent because of the efficiency of the workouts Sam has prescribed and am getting better results (i.e. pain management, strengthening, weight maintenance) from a couple strength workouts a week than I ever had from attending a few strength classes (usually incorporating dumbbell and bodyweight sets) a week. I’m also someone who would avoid cardio if I could so I love that kettlebells and cardio are a packaged deal.” -Erin D., FFC West Loop Member

Although sometimes intimidating, kettlebell skills can be regressed or progressed to meet the member’s specific capabilities. I recommend finding an educated and certified coach to help progress you through the variety of skills so that you can start your fitness journey with kettlebell training.

Try Kettlebells for Yourself

It is often said that the kettlebell swing is the “center of the kettlebell universe” – which is somewhat true. Along with kettlebell get ups, they build a very solid base of mobility, strength and conditioning. These skills activate the entire body and will expose your weaknesses. All other skills in kettlebell training begin with these two, so you should master them before you try others. Remember, the idea is to keep technique paramount, not just rush through it. Quality, not speed!

Check out this basic yet challenging and effective workout for yourself! Have questions about form? Email Sam at or follow him on Instagram!

30-Minute Kettlebell Workout

  • Kettlebell Swings (10 sets of 10 reps)
    • Men- 20k/24k
    • Women 12k/16k
  • Get Ups (5 right side, 5 left side)
    • Men 20k/24k
    • Women 12k/16k

Try to get all this work done in under 30 minutes.

Post written by FFC Park Ridge Personal Trainer Sam Gonzalez.

Sam Gonzalez FFC Park Ridge

About Sam

Sam Gonzalez is an FFC Elite Level trainer. He is a StrongFirst Level 2 instructor, TACFIT and Circular Strength Training field instructor and correctional exercise specialist.

He has used kettlebell and bodyweight training to help people reach their fitness goals for the last 8 years. Have questions or want to set up a complimentary consultation? Email Sam at!



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My name is Erika Boer and I’m one of the massage therapists at FFC Park Ridge. Last summer, when I was looking for jobs up north (I moved from southern Illinois), I came across a job listing for FFC. Not knowing what it was all about (besides that they needed therapists), I googled it and was amazed. Not only was FFC a fitness club, it had so much more… like a full staff of registered dietitians who might be able to help me change my perception of nutrition!

Before moving back up north, I had tried many “diets”. Those diets, along with working out at the local gym, did give me some results, but not as much as I wanted to see. When I saw that FFC offered help with nutrition, I was sold on the job listing and applied.

Since I can remember, I’ve had problems with my weight and have always tried to consider the different reasons why that might be. It wasn’t until I started working at Denny’s years ago that I gave more thought to my weight and decided to do something about it.

Related: 3 of the best registered dietitian-written books to help you get on the right track.

In the past, I had always purchased those body detox cleanses and pills and tried going to the gym… but always had an excuse not to go. I never thought about talking to a registered dietitian.

As I became a massage therapist, I listened to my body more and realized that if I wasn’t in a healthy state, I would probably have a hard time with my body mechanics. In order to make sure I didn’t hurt myself, I decided to start exploring ways to be healthier without putting all that other stuff in my body.

Nutrition Wasn’t What I Thought

I remember the first time I walked into Alicia Huggler’s office at FFC Park Ridge. She was super sweet and made me feel comfortable (for some reason I was nervous!). I’m sure I’m not the only one who had been in her office who thought they knew what they needed to do and what to expect – but I was completely caught by surprise!

What I thought (going by all those other “diets” I had been on) wasn’t what I should have been focusing on at all. She also caught me off guard when she said she would put together a meal plan consisting of things I would normally eat and most importantly like, rather than what I “needed” to be eating. We even talked about other indulgences, like alcohol. She asked me, “do you drink?” I of course said yes, but not that much – but she said that was okay because she would take that into consideration. A meal plan based off MY lifestyle? This couldn’t be true!

Just one hour in her office helped change my life for the better and change my perception of nutrition. We got an idea of where I was at as far as weight and began to piece together my meal plan. The following week I received the plan and it was great! I started around March/ April of this year and, though I’ve struggled a bit due to various life factors like a breakup and moving, I have lost 23 pounds so far! I have 28 more to go to reach my goal.

Not only did I lose all that weight, but my BMI went down a few points and I lost inches around my waist. I know that by sticking with the meal plan, weighing in every week and working out at least 4 times a week, I will be at my goal weight by the finish line that I have set for myself.

Related: click here to sign up for a free 30-minute nutrition consultation with an on-site registered dietitian at FFC!

A Lifestyle Change for the Better

When my mom came up to visit for my cousins wedding not too long ago, her jaw pretty much dropped to the floor when she saw my progress. She kept exclaiming how proud she was and how good I looked (she even “showed me off” to her friends because she knew how much I wanted to lose weight and that it’s been a struggle for me). Even my friends have been noticing a huge difference, which makes me feel so much better. I’m starting to get my confidence back, thanks to Alicia! It’s definitely been a transformative process.

Alicia is an amazing person and she definitely know what she’s doing. She not only helps me and motivates me every week, but she always offers to be there for support throughout the week (if I feel like I’m about to fail at something). I always look forward to my 15-minute weigh-in appointments (good or bad) because we also talk about what’s been happening.

She’s not only a coach, but a friend as well. There have been times I’ve broken down into tears because of big problems or knowing that what was happening in my life at the time was bad or distracting me from what I needed to be doing, but we’d press on and discuss what I needed to do to get back on track anyway. There have also been times when I would gain weight, but we would talk about it and make a list of items to address.

My Valuable Takeaways

Along with the tough times, there have also been some moments of surprise – times I’d step on the scale and see that I had lost more than the 2 pounds planned for that week! It’s been a rough road and I have had gains as much as losses, but I think everyone goes through those highs and lows when they want to succeed at anything in life. It just makes you want to push harder.

I also didn’t know changing my perception of nutrition and being healthy could be so much fun! To actually learn about different types of fats and other types of macros has been fascinating. Yes, I’ve tried to count those calories, but it never really stuck until now. Granted, I still have to watch my timing, drink more water and start meal prepping again, but I know I can get back into it. Once you put your mind to it, nothing can stop you from achieving your goal.

I want to say thank you so very much, Alicia Huggler – not only for helping me through this journey, but being there to motivate me when I need it. I would probably not even think about pushing myself this hard if it weren’t for your help. I haven’t had this much energy and drive for a very long time. You are definitely in inspiration to me and so many others!


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My family and I joined FFC as Charter Members last summer. I couldn’t wait for the Park Ridge facility to open. I had been going to another gym; however, I knew that FFC was going to fulfill all my needs. Little did I know, though, that it was going to put me on weight loss journey of nutrition AND exercise – not just a fitness routine.

Our family has always exercised; my sons were both athletes through their school years and my husband can still pick up a basketball and shoot like he did when he was in high school. I had to work out to have the energy to keep up with the three of them.

However, as I aged, I realized that the routine I was following wasn’t enough — I had put on weight and had constant pain in both knees. Having had both my hips replaced due to arthritis, I knew the arthritis had set into my knees. I visited the doctor in October, 2016 and I was informed that I was bone on bone in both knees; thus, surgery was needed.

Related: want to experience everything FFC has to offer? Try us for free – click here!

With my diagnosis and the thought of yet another joint being replaced (after three months of physical therapy that didn’t help), I decided to take the bull by the horns. I took three of my free training sessions with Tony at FFC; he took the time to listen and understand my physical issues and showed me various exercises that helped strengthen my hips and legs. But I knew that the exercise wasn’t going to solve all my physical issues; I needed to lose weight. I have lost weight before doing Weight Watchers but wasn’t keen on the whole group setting at this point in my life.

With our Charter Membership, we received a free consultation with the onsite registered dietitian. It was slightly ironic; the week before I heard about the dietitian at the facility, my husband had suggested I see a nutritionist – the timing was perfect. I set up a time with Alicia. She is a spunky, kind-hearted individual who wants you to meet your goals, not hers. I knew the minute I met her that she was going to lead me in the right direction.

We discussed my health thoroughly, including my arthritis issues. I have been gluten free for about 1.5 years, as I had learned that omitting gluten from your diet does help lessen arthritis pain. It worked for me, but not completely. I had also just had my blood work done for my annual physical and my sugar was 101; no need for alarms to go off – but I refuse to have any diseases like diabetes.

Related: how member Sal got his health back on track working with registered dietitian Amy Silver at FFC Oak Park.

Alicia and I met again about a week later. She had put together a plan that she thought would work for me. She supplied about 10-12 options for each meal along with snack ideas (I get 2 a day!). One of the challenges I experienced with the plan was that our family does not eat prepared food nor do we eat anything low fat due to added chemicals and sugars. Thankfully, she agreed with my family’s methods.

I am now counting calories, not points. I have never lost weight so easily, to be quite honest, nor have I felt deprived. Also, since I continue to lose weight, my calories remain the same. When doing other diets in the past, every time I lost around 8 or 10 pounds, they would take away some calories. I know eventually my calorie count will go down as I’ll probably hit a plateau, but not to date. As of my last weigh-in, I have lost 25 pounds. Alicia has been very keen on what my final weight loss should look like to me, not what she thinks I should lose. Personally I’m thinking another 20 pounds.

Is it always easy? No, however, we have celebrated two birthdays since I began this weight loss journey and I have had cake both times… and I have still lost weight those weeks. My arthritis pain is still in my knee, but I’m not in as much pain as I was previously. The combination of exercise and weight loss have worked together to improve my mobility.

Will I need surgery? Maybe, but at this point I’m waiting. Could I have followed a program like this somewhere else? Most likely yes, but the staff at FFC is so supportive and always willing to find a way for a person to meet their goal. I truly believe that is why this program has worked so well for me. As I continue to work with Alicia, I’m thinking it is time for something new at the gym. Maybe I’ll try out a new yoga class!


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