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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 jgreenfield@ffc.com.

Post written by FFC South Loop Pilates Instructor Jenna Greenfield.

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.

Exercises:

  • 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.

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 btimmis@ffc.com. 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.