FFC South Loop fitness specialist Matt Wallace answers the question, ‘what’s in my gym bag?’ and shares his list of top gym essentials to keep handy when you’re sure you’re forgetting something.

Having the correct gear for any situation can be the difference between success or failure. If you are properly equipped for the gym, your workout can increase your confidence, heighten your intensity, and maximize your gains. (Want some inspiration to do that? Check out a list of my favorite fitness YouTube channels here). That new custom weight belt can lead to new PRs never before possible. Your emergency deodorant will ensure that you can spend as much time as necessary fighting in a shoulder press to finish the set. Who knows – your gym crush might be admiring how clean your shoes are because you know to wear your gym shoes IN the gym and not ON THE WAY to it.

What’s in my gym bag? This list is actually built based off of how frequently I have either solved a problem with said gear or have had to overcome a challenge due to not having it. The following is a list of stuff that should be in your gym bag every time you step into the gym:

But first…

Even though you might think these are no-brainers, I can’t tell you how many times I see people coming into the gym to work out in something not quite gym-appropriate, like denim and flannels. The latter being okay as long as the sleeves are cut off and slightly frayed. If this is you, then proceed as planned, lumberjacked. If you’re thinking you might take a break during lunch and hop over to the gym for a quick sesh in your monkey suit, then prepared to be the subject of much discussion. Make sure you have loose fitting clothes that are designed to give you the proper range of motion and comfort level. Clothes that you’re supposed to look sweaty in. T-shirt, gym shorts, sweat pants. Don’t head back to the office looking like you just worked out. Coworkers and gym-goers will thank you. Now that the obvious but necessary precursor to this list has been established, we can continue with the real list….

#1 – Shoes

No matter what modalities you train in, the kicks are an essential part of your gear. Some think footwear is to gym-goers as the katana is to the Samurai. One thing the samurai never let their sword do was touch the ground, so you shouldn’t let your shoes touch the ground either. Buy a pair of shoes that you do not wear anywhere else besides your gym. If you run outside, buy a pair specifically for that. If you work out inside, buy a pair you never let touch the ground outside. It might be a little more costly upfront, but the money you will save not having to replace a trashed pair of shoes every six months is a great incentive.

My recommendation – I LOVE the Metcons by NIKE. As someone who mixes a lot of agility and plyometric work with compound powerlifting these are easily the best mix of traction, response, and support I’ve ever worn. I’ve had the same pair since March 2017 and I’m just starting to see signs of wear and tear. They have a hard sole so acquiring the correct foot proprioception while lifting is a cinch. The crazy grippy web design on the outer sole allows you to cut confidently on turf and the rubber floor most gyms have. However, they do not do well on basketball courts, so I would advise against trying to work on any type of wood flooring.

#2 – Socks/Underwear

Again, it’s just proper hygiene to have a pair that you change into after your workout so that your shoes aren’t squishy and smelly, and you’re not putting nasty undergarments back on. The key to socks and underwear is to get pairs that don’t retain the odor after wash. You might notice some of your gym clothes will start to stink when they get wet, even if they come out of the washer still slightly damp. This is a huge pet peeve of mine.

My recommendation: Stance makes great athletic socks with an array of interesting designs. They last a long time and the comfort level is top notch. Every time I wear a pair of Stance socks I get compliments from gym-goers, and praise from my feet. Where underwear is concerned, I have a healthy obsession with a company called Ethikia. They’re basically just the “Stance” of underwear. They have over 100 models for men and women, they stretch, they’re dry fit, and I have never chaffed in them once.

#3 – Water Bottle

This is possibly the most important piece of gear on the list. Every time you enter the gym or set off for a run you NEED a water source. Especially one that is YOURS and yours only. Many people neglect to purchase and bring one to the gym because there are water fountains or packaged water for sale. That’s fine and dandy but having your own water bottle will make you WANT to drink water. Not just at the gym or during your workout, but it will keep you hydrated all throughout the day. Slap some stickers on that bad boy and you’ll be stoked to start sipping life giving essence from your personalized water receptacle.

My recommendation: Huge fan of the Klean Kanteen. They are durable, look cool, and keep your water cold all day long. The key is to get the wide mouth models because they are easier to wash. I currently have a narrow mouth bottle and have to use a toothbrush to reach the bottom of the bottle.

#4 – Lacrosse Ball or Foam Roller:

These are huge for muscle release and preventing tightness in specific areas. A large percentage of us sit at a desk most of the workweek and as a result develop muscular imbalances. Sitting all day long creates a shortening of the hip flexors and over time they adjust to this length becoming tight and weak. The lacrosse ball is a great way to get inside those areas that are hard to hit with large foam roller. The lacrosse ball is very stiff and can be quite intense for tightest of areas – a great alternative is a tennis ball, which has a little more give than the former but still able to reach those tough spots. The foam roller is great for release in large areas like the quads or the back. If you want to know more about these tools do some research on trigger point and myofascial release.

Related: the only guide you need to reaping the benefits of foam rolling.

My recommendation: Rogue has been a go-to for most of the fitness industry when it comes to anything mobility. Foam rollers and lacrosse balls have all sorts of different shear designs, from smooth surface to more robust. It’s personal preference, but I like the company and their aesthetic.

Post written by FFC South Loop fitness specialist Matt Wallace.

About Matt

Matthew Wallace is a Chicago native and personal trainer at FFC South Loop. He specializes in strength training and sport performance, teaching clients to improve their compound lifts, and crafting unique workouts and programs custom tailored to his clients’ needs.

“To see someone turn their goals, wishes, and desires into a reality, and to be entrusted with guiding that process, is a feeling that can’t be described. I chase this feeling every day in my professional and personal life.”

Matt holds a bachelors of arts from Columbia College Chicago, is certified personal trainer by NFPT, competes on the world stage of the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation, and spent 5 years active duty in the United States Marine Corps. Contact Matt by email ( or phone to set up a complimentary consultation today. You can also follow along with him on Instagram here!


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If you’re like me, you may spend some nights deep in a YouTube rabbit hole, going from one topic to another until you’ve wasted hours you could’ve used to catch up on sleep. The amount of content out there can be hard to sift through, especially when it comes to health and fitness. There is a plethora of gyms and trainers out there that are producing some not-so-great or “I can’t believe this is free!” content. With the season changes come new beginnings, and many people are going to be taking steps on their journey to better living. This list of fitness motivation videos & channels will help anyone who wants to access motivational, educational, and reliable fitness content without the anxiety that accompanies a late night click-a-thon through the YouTube rabbit hole!

Channel Judging Criteria

  • Frequency of Use: the channels listed below are chosen based on the frequency in which I myself – as well as other fitness professionals and participants – refer back to them. These channels are a staple in my repertoire. Whenever I have a question or need to search how to do anything fitness-related, I’ll look to these channels first.
  • Ease of Access: these channels are useful because they are accessible by individuals of any fitness level. The
    information is articulated clearly and is put into terms that even a day-one fitness noobie will understand.
  • Likability: let’s face it… there’s a lot of people that are hard to like – these aren’t those.


  • Subscribers: 6,770,490+
  • Videos: 980+

This channel is lead by physical therapist and celebrity strength coach Jeff Cavaliere. At close to 7 million subscribers, it’s one of the most popular fitness channels out there. He focuses on numerous elements of fitness, including diet, mobility, and strength training workouts/exercises. I use this channel when I have clients with muscular imbalances and/or injuries such as knee valgus (knees bowing inward) or bad posture and want to get ideas about how to fix it – or, if possible, work around it.

I like Jeff’s visual approach; he’ll often have an artist draw on him with marker to show where the muscle is and how it moves in relation to the limb or structure it’s attached to. Athlean-X also features a 619-video playlist dedicated just to women called Athlean-XX for Women. This is an all-around great channel for fitness professionals, advanced fitness practitioners, and beginners alike.

Yo Elliott Strength Camp

  • Subscribers: 1,834,560+
  • Videos: 1,630+

This is one of the first channels I came across after I started adding weightlifting into my fitness routine. Elliott is a former college football player, strongman, and powerlifting athlete who now owns the Strength Camp gym brand, which has twenty locations worldwide and a home base in Florida. His channel’s utility is two-fold. There’s a great segment called “Yo Elliott” where fans will write to him with questions about everything from correct deadlift form to existential concerns. Also featured is the staff of his gym going through specific workouts with athletes of all types. Exercise program design, specific workouts, and proper exercise techniques are all covered on this channel. I find myself going here a lot because I appreciate Elliott’s enthusiasm and his wisdom concerning fitness and exercise. His charisma and knowledge inspire many who aim to become the strongest version of themselves.

Yoga with Adriene

  • Subscribers: 4,408,980+
  • Videos, 1280+

Yoga is one of the most valuable modalities of exercise both physically and mentally – period. This channel was and still is a great place to look when implementing yoga into my routine. If you’re someone who has never done yoga before, Adriene has the perfect 30-day beginner challenge series that will get you acclimated. With hundreds of videos and 64 different playlists, Adriene’s channel is expansive. Every video is pleasant, highly visual, and serves a specific purpose. There isn’t a lot of fluff on her channel. If you’re someone who isn’t into the mysticism that many yogis base their practice on, then this is the perfect place for you. Most of the videos are pretty straightforward. But if you are looking for that mystic ancient cave yoga, there’s some of that for you as well. My favorite thing about this channel is that it’s something you can do on your own accord. There’s no one watching you practice or judging your poses, it’s simply just a pleasant experience to follow along with Adriene.


  • Subscribers: 2,052,150+
  • Videos: 1,000+

Don’t let the title of this channel scare you into thinking that it’s a bunch of meatheads doing karate in the garage. The four gentlemen that run fightTIPS are outstanding trainers and practitioners. This is a fantastic place to come if you’re someone with no martial arts experience that wants to start incorporating some boxing or kickboxing into your cardio routine. For the experienced or competition level fighters, it’s an outstanding free source of knowledge that’s sure to add to your fight IQ. They cover everything from kickboxing, boxing, and footwork to wrestling and grappling techniques. I especially appreciate the tutorials on equipment like their double end and heavy bag videos. They often have special guests in their videos to show that the techniques and instruction are interpreted easily for immediate use.

Charisma on Command

  • Subscribers: 2,260,120+
  • Videos: 250+

This channel does not deal with fitness of the body, but instead focuses on fitness of character and how that helps us build lasting and meaningful relationships or connections. In my own experience, the latter of the two is what’s going to make you someone that people will remember and value. This channel is the most entertaining on the list by far. They break down many celebrity personalities by narrating videos of them interacting with other people (be it fans or in a professional setting). I especially like the Game of Thrones series where all the characters are broken down and examined. They feature a wide variety of topics, like attracting the opposite sex, standing out in crowds, crushing job interviews, being funny, and managing body language. The hosts are extremely likable and charismatic themselves, but at the same time, they lack that air of pompousness that comes with expert authority. It never feels like you’re being treated as if you should already know the information being presented.

Summing It Up

I hope this list serves as a sufficient starting place for anyone who is looking to make this year their best and wants to use all the free education tools available to them. YouTube is one of the most underrated sources of knowledge anywhere. All of these channels, and the individuals involved in creating them, have helped me in some way to become a better version of myself. I surmise that if applied correctly, the information available on these channels will also guide you to an elevated physical and mental state.

About Matthew

Matthew Wallace is a Chicago native and personal trainer out of FFC South Loop. Matt specializes in strength training and sport performance, teaching clients to improve their compound lifts, and crafting unique workouts and programs custom tailored to the clients’ needs.

“To see someone turn their goals, wishes, and desires into a reality, and to be entrusted with guiding that process, is a feeling that can’t be described. I chase this feeling every day in my professional and personal life.”

Matt holds a bachelors of arts from Columbia College Chicago, is certified personal trainer by NFPT, competes on the world stage of the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation, and spent 5 years active duty in the United States Marine Corps. Contact Matt by email at to set up a fitness consultation today! You can also follow along with him on Instagram here!






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I’ve been overweight all my life, since I was a little kid in kindergarten. I was always getting picked on and seen as an outcast – all the way to high school. I always kept telling myself that things would get better, that I wouldn’t look like this, that I would be happy one day.

I don’t think there was ever a period in my life where I was consistently happy, due to me always self-sabotaging myself, believing I could never do better than what people labeled me as. I would always be furious or depressed at myself and at the people around me. Because I held onto so much negativity, I felt like I was a toxic person. There were times where I would be mean to people – even to ones who didn’t deserve it – and wouldn’t put in the effort to connect with strangers.

Related: how FFC member Lou accomplished his fitness transformation.

I remember numerous times where I would work out to exhaustion to look different, to try to force change. It didn’t matter how much I sweat, if I didn’t see immediate change, I would always relapse. I avoided lifting weights and would only focus on cardio. There were times where I believed I was destined never to be different – even when I felt like I was doing all I could. At some points during my former airport job, pushing wheelchairs, I walk walking 10 miles a day – but still would not lose a pound. People would say “you can’t out-train a bad diet” – but I didn’t care to listen and kept looking for shortcuts. I signed up with FFC with hopes of detoxing my body, but I still didn’t fully change my lifestyle, as I was afraid to get out of my comfort zone.

I decided to visit Turkey last year, in August, to celebrate my 22nd birthday because I wanted to do something different and I couldn’t think of a better way than to see and get to know an amazing country. When I arrived, I was stunned by how beautiful and interesting Turkey was. The people were the definition of generous and caring, and I never felt intimidated or worried – it was like a home away from home.

During my stay, I changed my behavior because I didn’t want to look bad or give a bad representation of Americans. I slowed down my chewing (as I barely chew my food at home) and was surprised at how quickly I was full, despite eating significantly less than what I ate back home. I also started to eat healthier, as I wanted to try new things (the food was delicious) and consistently did it for two weeks. I ate boiled eggs, pita, Turkish rice, all with the best tea in the world. I was glad I had completed training sessions with my trainer, Jose, who helped me prepare for my trip and the hot weather and terrain of Turkey; I was afraid of having of no energy to explore and get to know the amazing country. I met Turkish scuba divers who motivated me to always see the bright side of life – as they knew I was still carrying a lot of pain in my heart. They showed me the beauty of their land with their talented scuba diving crew.

FFC South Loop member stories Oscar's weight loss transformation

I found out how abundant peace and love is with the Turkish people; everywhere I went, people offered me gifts and greetings – and I felt closer to humanity. I weighed myself at the end of my visit at a clinic and was surprised to find I had lost 5 pounds in only two weeks. The doctor told me something I had heard my whole life but never listened to; one of the basic rules of healthy living is to chew more. I realized if I could manage two weeks of healthy choices, I could survive a longer period, and I was determined to try out my new lifestyle.

My time with Turkey was an educational experience – I got to see an amazing country with a unique history and meet people with hearts of gold. Traveling motivated me to become a better person and try new things to enjoy more of life. I owe Turkey and her people everything for helping me kick start my journey to become a better person. Turkey is the brightest, most beautiful and social country I have ever seen – and deserves the best out of me.

When I came back, I implemented what I had learned from my trip and started listening to my body more. I reduced my food portions and compensated by chewing more thoroughly at a slower pace. I also began to take notice of what I was eating much more seriously; every day was a new day full of research as I considered serving sizes, calories, sugar, etc. My diet changed completely. Then, out of nowhere, I was losing pounds around the clock. I would feel weird, like I was in the wrong body. I would sometimes wonder what was going on, what was happening to me. I had never lost weight before, so the experience was exciting, but a scary ride.

Each day working at the airport was progress in the making; I felt like the miles I walked pushing wheelchairs were contributing to my health. There were days where the fat in my neck and face felt like it was being shaved off as easily as butter. There were even times where I would smile spontaneously, because I was genuinely happy, even if just for the moment. I felt like I was going through a metamorphosis and there was no going back. I had co-workers telling me as I passed by them that I was losing weight. My pants were baggier, my infamous “man-boobs” were shrinking, etc. To finally get to hear those things I had wanted to hear all my life just blew me up.

My shirt size finally decreased from the double XL range down to the normal-sized L. All I had to do to finally burn the fat off was make gradual changes and stay committed to it – something so simple, yet something I had refused to do all these years. I will never forget those first two months of change – every day was a ride full of adrenaline.

There were times when I wanted to quit my new lifestyle, but became more motivated to change after my dog Daisy passed away in November of last year, due to advanced heart disease. My family, best friend and angel from childhood was gone – I wouldn’t get to show her how I looked or would look when I reached a range healthy for my body. I intend to make sure I keep evolving as I promised and become the person she always saw me as – a strong protector. It was time to get out of the prison I’d made for myself and connect more with the world; I was tired of being angry and depressed. It was time to be alive and become the best I could be for others and myself.

I took my time with FFC more seriously, by showing more up consistently and training myself to become better than what I was. Now, every time I enter the gym, I set my mindset to let loose and see my potential. I have started to come out of my shell and lift more, in addition to taking classes, which has helped me expand my horizons. I have noticed that my performance has been getting better and that I have more energy – and that is something I can be proud of; what I have been dreaming about all my life is finally becoming a reality. I now have a chance to break the chains I put on myself for all these years and strive for the happiness I denied myself.

Related: how training helped FFC member Jonathan make it to the AHL.

Member Stories - How Travel Inspired Me To Change My Diet, Make a Lifestyle Change and Lose Over 10% Body FatOne of my trainers always told me, “Take control of your life.” and that is something I go by every day, because I am tired of being on the sidelines, watching life slip by. It’s time to write my own story and start living. I’m not close to my target, but having come this far brings out the part of me that wants to keep fighting. I owe thanks to the entire staff at FFC South Loop for helping me on my journey to transform – especially Marcus, Sherry, Charles, Martin, Leroy, Chris and Jose, for never giving up on me and becoming a second family.

Post written by FFC South Loop member Oscar Florentino.


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Recovering from surgery, or even a minor injury, can be frustrating and discouraging. In the time it takes to recover, the body can change drastically. In 2014 I sustained a hip labral tear and ended up getting surgery to repair it. After surgery, I was in a hip brace for two whole months and, as a result, my body became uneven – I had extreme muscle imbalance, severe tightness and my body was just completely out of alignment. I seriously questioned if I was going to face these issues for the rest of my life. After I graduated from physical therapy at FFC’s East Lakeview NovaCare, my therapist recommended a Pilates transformation.

I knew nothing about Pilates, except that all the apparatuses looked like a bunch of torture devices. Needless to say I was skeptical that these weird machines could actually help me. To be honest, I thought some of the stuff was odd during my first few sessions, but then I started to fall in love with it as I began to see my body transform. All those issues I had after surgery were completely fixed with continuous Pilates sessions.

Related: Pilates makes you mentally stronger. Here are 4 ways.

I was in awe that this method of exercise literally healed me. Pilates ignited a passion in me – it helped me so much that it made me want to be a teacher to help others like myself. Since that turning point post-surgery, I have graduated from the FFC Pilates Teacher Training Program and am a Pilates trainer at FFC South Loop.

Due to pre-existing conditions, I tore the labrum of my other hip and got surgery in 2015. Having practiced Pilates both pre and post-surgery this second time around, I can definitively say Pilates helped me recover faster by reducing the muscle imbalances, alignment issues and overall tightness I experienced during the first surgery.

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

So, if you are hoping to get stronger before a surgery, recovering from a hip (or other type of) injury or just want to improve your overall balance and alignment, here are a few specific ways a Pilates transformation can help you. Pilates:

  • Restores alignment of the body and corrects muscle imbalances
  • Helps correct the body’s natural tendency for overcompensation when trying to cope with alignment or imbalance issues
  • Strengthens and lengthens muscles around the hip area
  • Helps speed up recovery time with pre-surgery preparation and with scar tissue issues post-surgery
  • Enhances overall core strength to assist with balance and confidence in falling
  • Reduces muscle tightness and increases flexibility and range of motion

Both before and after surgery, I experienced tightness in my hip flexors, quads and lower back; my Pilates transformation helped relieve this tightness and brought length back into my compressed spine.

Whether you have hip issues or not, Pilates will challenge your body in a new way and educate you about your own body. If you are apprehensive like I was, I encourage you to break out of your comfort zone and try it! If you are interested in scheduling a free introductory session please email me, Jenna Greenfield, at

Post written by FFC South Loop Pilates Instructor Jenna Greenfield.


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Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a professional hockey referee? Skating for the entire duration of games, keeping up with the players and even getting into the middle of fights, these athletes need to be in the best shape possible. We recently had the opportunity to do a Q&A with FFC member Jonathan Sladek about what it takes to be a professional hockey referee and how his training at FFC South Loop helped him achieve his goals and get to the AHL!

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Jonathan Sladek. I’m 27 years old and I’m a referee in the American Hockey League and United States Hockey League. I played DII hockey in college at the University of Iowa from 2008 – 2012.

Transitioning from playing to officiating professionally came pretty naturally for me. I’ve actually officiated hockey since I was 12 years old. During the summer months (our off season), I like to hang out on the lake. I’m also a big snowboarder and surfer.

How did your training help you achieve your goals?

My ultimate goal is to get hired in the NHL. Before joining FFC, my goal was to get hired in the American Hockey League. Fitness Formula Clubs is a gym that feels like home to me. In such a big city, there aren’t many gyms where the training staff knows you on a first name basis. Coming to FFC South Loop every afternoon is the best part of my day.

FFC South Loop personal trainer Ben Timmis worked with me this past summer in my preparation for the NHL exposure combine. At the combine you are scouted as a referee in the same way that players are scouted. My training helped me prepare for the physical on and off-ice testing.

Training for the American Hockey League at FFC Chicago

What kind of workouts do you do? Any you’d like to share?

I lift weights year round 5 days a week and officiate or play recreational hockey 2-3 days a week. In addition to lifting, my cardiovascular workouts are all hockey oriented. As officials, we skate the entire duration of the game so leg strength and both aerobic and anaerobic training is key.


  • Slider Board
  • Bike Wattage Test
  • Treadmill Endurance Test
  • Boxing
  • Parachute Sprints
  • 1 mile runs = 300-meter jog and 100-meter sprint x 3

What kind of challenges have you encountered on your journey?

  • Nutrition – hockey is a long season, and eating the right things throughout the week and on game days is critical.
  • Travel – most guys travel 300-600 miles every weekend and work throughout the United States. Time away from friends and family is one of the many sacrifices I make to do what I love. But we get to see some pretty cool places and the ice is my second home!
  • Mental focus – the game moves really quickly. Officials are really good at skating, especially during their career. What separates the better officials are the ones that can mentally stay focused the duration of the game and have a great hockey IQ.

How did you overcome these obstacles?

I made a plan, worked with Ben the entire summer, and also met with a nutritionist to cut body fat. I also ran through the combine tests that I was preparing for throughout the summer.

Sticking To a Routine Is Key

The day before games, I like to get a good night’s rest and stick to a routine on game days. I’ll get a light workout in the morning and have a pasta dinner around 3 PM. When I get to the rink I like to stretch, do my homework on the teams playing, stretch and play two touch (a soccer game) with my officiating crew. Getting into a routine and mentally preparing for the game from the minute I wake up always helps my performance.

Is there any advice you’d give to someone who is looking to train athletically for a specific goal?

Make a plan and stick to it. Every day you aren’t training someone else is getting better than you. Hard work gets noticed!

Post written by FFC South Loop member Jonathan Sladek. 

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Recently, after the New Year, I had a realization that it was time to do something about my weight. I had tried before but I was always so busy with school and work that it made it almost impossible to get into a routine. I needed to make health a priority.

While attending college on a part-time basis and working full time for a decade, I was able to obtain two degrees. After I began graduate school, though, I decided that the best thing would probably be for me to take a semester off so that I could focus on my health.

I had finally realized that although my education is important, my health definitely needed to take precedence – and it was the best decision I’ve ever made in my whole life.

Education on Health and Wellness

Just like the average American, I realized that I really didn’t know much about nutrition and dietetics. I figured that the best thing to do was to educate myself on the topic and learn as much as I could in order to help my battle against obesity.

I found an article on the FFC website titled Top 10 Registered Dietitian-Approved Nutrition Books & Documentaries and started there. I watched all of them in one weekend (and re-watched the ones I had already seen as a refresher) and learned three very important things.

  • First, sugar is a real killer to the American diet and it’s in 80% of the food you find at the grocery store.
  • Second, there’s a difference between good carbs and bad carbs and it all comes down to how they rate on the glycemic index.
  • Third, a calorie is not just a calorie. You can track your calories all you want but it doesn’t matter because the calories you get from eating vegetables will take you way further than the calories you get from eating bread.

This all made me really self-aware of everything I put in my mouth and I started reading food packages to find that things I thought were healthy (like protein bars, sports drinks or even healthy labeled cereals) were loaded with a ton of sugar and carbs.

Related: want to check out FFC? Click here to try us free!

This is what happened when I made my health a priority FFCThe Benefits of Weight Training

Again, just like the average American, I assumed that in order to lose weight I had to focus on cardio, but that turned out to be incorrect.

I started meeting with FFC South Loop trainer Angelina Iovino for personal training sessions, and she told me flat out that if I focused on cardio only I would not lose weight. That’s when I learned about strength training. We met consistently two times a week for a couple of months and I started seeing results almost immediately.

She taught me how to use all of the machines at the gym I would have never approached had I been working out on my own. I also learned some pretty cool workout routines that I would later practice at home with a medicine ball, a barbell and some free weights.

Every session we would start off with doing a 3 to 5 minute warm-up on the rower, the stepper or the treadmill. Then, we would get into a doing an exercise circuit that involved a set of reps on three different machines and then repeating a couple of times. The last 5 minutes of our workouts together were spent stretching me out so that I wasn’t sore the next day. Although I don’t meet with Angelina anymore, I do believe that I learned some valuable information that I would have never ever picked up on my own.

Keep On Keepin’ On

Today, I follow a gym regimen that I have written out entirely. I’ve broken down every miniscule detail – ranging from what days I’m going to the gym (versus what days I’m going to let my body rest) to what cardio warm up I intend to do and for how long.

For every workout, I have two different exercise circuits that either focus on the lower body, upper body or whole body, just depending on the day. My current read is one of the books from the FFC article titled Salt Sugar and Fat by Michael Moss, but I definitely plan to read all of the articles book recommendations in due time.

When it comes to fitness, I feel like there is just so much to know. It’s definitely a continual learning process I’ll have to stick with as time goes on. “I’m not where I want to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be.” I can’t help but be grateful for the support that I’ve received from everyone everywhere. Most importantly, I’m grateful to FFC for creating the infrastructure I need in order to accomplish my fitness goals.

My Advice to You

In the overstressed world that we live in today, it has become extremely hard to focus on completing any fitness goal. In a fast-moving culture where everything is available almost instantaneously, we’ve forgotten how to practice the process because we’re too focused on the end result.

This sort of mindset will only lead to disappointment because the initial inspiration is so easily wilted away. In order to combat this, you need to learn how to practice mindfulness and living in the present moment. Only after you do this will you acquire the discipline and patience needed in order to let go of your expectation for immediate results.

The key to completing any goal is to exercise extreme resilience. Understand that nothing worth working for comes easily and it’s most important to keep on going when all you really want to do is give up. Interestingly enough, it’s at this very moment that you gain the mental strength mastery needed in order to keep on keepin’ on.

Post written by FFC South Loop member Christina C.


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Narrowing down the best bars in Chicago’s South Loop is like trying to choose your favorite group fitness class — it can be done, but it sure isn’t easy!

For instance, some days you need that extra blast of cardio, while other days call for sustained yoga poses. The bars in the South Loop offer this same appealing mix of high-energy and laid-back options.

Those of us who live, work and play in this neighborhood know that it’s an eclectic and dynamic community, and the South Loop bars reflect that vibe.

So the next time you’re looking for a fun night out in the area, check out these local hot spots:

The Scout Waterhouse and Kitchen – 1301 S. Wabash Ave.

The Scout is the MVP of sports bars, and in Chicago, that’s really saying something. With TVs everywhere you look and a beer menu that covers the spectrum from PBR Tall Boys to double chocolate stouts, you’ll be happy even if the Blackhawks, Bears, Bulls, or Sox (this is the South Loop, after all) are losing.

Square One – 1400 S. Michigan Ave.

Feeling especially cool and classy? Make your way over to Square One, an intimate bar with unusual touches, such as a self-serve wine station, a projector broadcasting old movies and wine barrel chandeliers. Order one of the swanky cocktails, such as the O&M—freshly muddled jalapeños, vodka, sake, and lemonade—to fully appreciate Square One’s flair.

Vice District Brewing – 1454 S. Michigan Ave.

Get your craft beer on at Vice District Brewing, a welcome addition to Chicago’s South Loop. Started by home brewing neighbors-turned-friends (whom you may find behind the bar), this dog-friendly spot serves a small rotating selection of beers. Communal tables and board games add to Vice’s appeal. Pair a beer flight with free popcorn, or stick around to see if a food truck rolls up. You can also bring in your own meal or order from local restaurants.

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The Spoke & Bird – 205 E. 18th St.

It seemed appropriate to include this bar and restaurant because The Spoke & Bird’s owners are avid bikers, and they are moving full speed ahead on their dream of a bike beer garden. Imagine a sunny day, a lovely patio, a cool brew and a tune-up. Sounds good to us!

Related: speaking of brew, if you’re looking for cold brew there’s a chance you’ll find it at one of these 6 coffee shops in the loop!

Acadia – 1639 S. Wabash Ave.

If the prices on the food menu frighten you, take a deep breath and visit Acadia for cocktail hour before dinner elsewhere. Acadia is an oenophile’s dream, but for those uninterested in wine, the bartenders are also expert mixologists. Fun options include Shenanigans, which combines bourbon with housemade cherry cola, and Sweater Weather, featuring espresso, imperial stout and sea salt.

First Draft – 649 S. Clark St.

A true neighborhood bar, First Draft is a fun place for happy hour on Friday afternoons (or Mondays… We won’t tell anyone). The drink menu features tried-and-true sports bar staples, rotating draft selections, and an extensive bourbon, whiskey and tequila list. Keep an appropriate drinking-to-eating ratio with a bison burger, beer-battered onion rings or the charcuterie plate. (Oh, and maybe throw in a kale salad to keep the registered dietitians at FFC happy…

What are your favorite bars in Chicago’s South Loop? Let us know!

Written by FFC affiliate, Kelsey Schagemann, a is a Chicago-based writer and editor whose work has appeared on the popular websites Fiterazzi, A Practical Wedding, PR Week, Red Tricycle, Jealous Magazine, and Refinery29.

From myths and “advice” that has been taken way too far to poor workout habits, here are 5 things you should stop doing at the gym that will help you gym better and see better results. Trust us!

Easy does it, Road Runner!

High-intensity cardio should not be performed before a weight training routine. Strength, results, and the ability to recover will be greatly decreased.

Cleanse from the juice cleanse.

Congratulations on your weight loss. It was water… and muscle. And you may have put on some body fat. Yes, you might weigh less, but you’ll sacrifice lots of other good stuff for it!

Related: check out this post to see 12 insanely easy was to burn body fat fast.

Bumper plate bonanza gone wrong.

When it comes to things you should stop doing at the gym, using bumper plates on exercises that do not include the plates making contact with the ground is one of them. Bumper plates are meant for deadlifts, clean-and-jerk, etc. not smith machine bench press.

Related: want to try a session at FFC on us? Click here!

Say see ya to carbs, protein or fats.

These 3 macronutrients are essential to keeping our bodies running like the machines they are. Cutting out an entire macronutrient will hinder your progress and lower your metabolism.

Superset bench presses with texting.

It’s simple, people. Don’t text and lift.

As always, if you have questions or comments about things you should stop doing at the gym or anything else related to fitness or wellness, contact me at Your questions may be featured in my next blog or YouTube video!

Post written by Ben Timmis, FFC South Loop Personal Trainer and Massage Therapist.


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