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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you make?

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

Here’s what a typical lunch may look like:

Meal prep tips

How long does it take to cook?

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

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

Meal Prep = Time Saver

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

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

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

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

Is it cheaper than eating out?

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

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

Final Thoughts on Meal Prep

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

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

Post written by FFC Union Station member Omar R. 


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

What is Tread?

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

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

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


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

Drill I:

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

Rest – walk for 2 minutes

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

Drill II:

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

Rest – walk for 90 seconds

Drill III:

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

Rest – walk for 60 seconds

Drill IV:

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

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


What can I expect from this lunchtime workout?

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

Post written by FFC Union Station member Omar R.

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

Mindfulness is often associated with seated meditation. This is a very traditional and useful practice, but in many of our lives it can become difficult to find time to sit down and “do nothing” (or what may seem like doing nothing.) However, you can practice mindfulness every day in many forms and during everyday activities – as practices, exercises, or games. At first, finding peace and joy within can be difficult with all the mental chatter. However, like everything else, it is through practice that we get better. Here are some simple, introductory-level ways to practice mindfulness every day and reap its benefits in our day-to-day lives.

Mindfulness In Walking

As you walk from room to room or place to place, a first step may be to notice your breath and choose to bring more awareness to it. You may then notice the weight in your feet as you take each step. You can count the number of steps you take for each inhale and exhale.

You might then begin to think: how do the hips and arms move? Do they swing? Am I hunched over? Can I make my collar bone wide and look further down the road? What can I do to make myself more aware of my body?

Mindfulness In Eating

Taking your attention from your phone and social media, move it to the food before you. How does it smell? Are there a variety of textures and tastes? Are you eating fast or slow? Can you slow down? Begin to find space to breathe during or between mouthfuls as you chew thoroughly. Savor the flavors. Chewing slowly is an effective way to prevent overeating. What can I do to be more mindful of what I eat?

Related: check out this post for more tips on eating with mindfulness.

These practices can be done for as little as one breathe, or as many as 50. For 1 minute or for 5. The most important thing to see results is to have the intention to practice consistently.

What are some of your favorite ways to practice mindfulness? Leave them in the comments below or share them with us using #FFCChicago! If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness and relaxation techniques or schedule an appointment with Alejandro, contact him at or schedule an appointment here!

Post written by FFC Union Station Massage Therapist Alejandro Salinas.

Cardiovascular training, better known as “cardio”, is the process of working to improve your heart and lung health. It mostly relies upon the aerobic energy system – a system in which the body expends energy – to complete the exercises. The aerobic energy system is the one that utilizes fats as energy, which is why cardiovascular training is a great way to help reduce body fat and encourage weight loss. A surplus of cardio equipment exists at almost any gym or health club for this purpose. But do you know which of the commonly used pieces of cardio equipment are best for you? Here are some pros and cons/things to remember for some of the most popular types of cardio equipment available.

Keep in mind, you should always have the approval of a health care provider before going through any exercise regimen!

The Treadmill


The treadmill is what most commonly comes to peoples’ mind when they hear the word “cardio”. The treadmill is great because it allows you to work out at any time because it is not weather dependent like walking or running outside. Another benefit of the treadmill is that it is multifunctional. Walking, jogging, and running are only the tip of the iceberg as to what you are able to do on a treadmill. Personally, I like to be a little more creative with my clients and will include walking lunges, side shuffles, walking planks and more!

Cons/Things to Remember

Some of the downfalls of the treadmill are in large part due to user error. It is considered a high-impact exercise, so when used improperly it can cause damage to joints – specifically the ankles, knees, and hips. Another commonly seen misuse of the treadmill is that people will loop a towel over the top handle of it and hold on while walking at the highest incline. This inhibits proper arm movement and signifies that the speed is too high. This also holds true for those people who hold on to the side rails. Another problem with only using the treadmill to walk, jog or run is that you’re only focusing on the quads and glutes and are getting no other muscle development in other parts of the leg.

The Stationary/Spin Bike


Biking, either indoors or outdoors, is another favorite of exercise enthusiasts and people looking to get healthy. It is an exercise that heavily focuses on the quads, glutes and hip flexors. It is low impact, so its great for people with bad knees or other joint issues.

Cons/Things to Remember

While the exercise itself and the classes that come with it can be fun, you could be doing yourself harm. Poor posture development (due to always being in a hunched position) can lead to low back pain and many other issues. It also is not the most efficient way to burn calories, as you are usually in a seated position which causes your heart rate to be lower than it would be if you were standing.

The Stair Master


Another machine primarily used to target the quads and glutes, the stair master is a great calorie burning exercise. In minutes you’ll be dripping sweat. While it may not be the most fun piece of cardio equipment to some, there are a lot of extra ways you can use it other than walking up the stairs. Adding a kick back with the leg will help target the glutes more, and walking sideways will target the inner and outer thighs. I use resistance bands with my clients to add some additional difficulty level.

Cons/Things to Remember

Issues that occur with the stair master include poor posture for development, which happens when people lean forward on their forearms, and joint health can be a concern if it is misused.

Related: cardio is a great fitness option, but remember, it’s not the only thing you need to be doing – especially if you want to burn fat! You need to lift weights too – here are some tips.

The Elliptical


The elliptical is another frequently used piece of equipment for gym-goers. It is a low impact exercise, so much like the stationary or spin bike, is great for people with any joint concerns. It also utilizes both upper body and lower body mechanics which allow for a more efficient calorie burn.

Cons/Things to Remember

Maintaining good posture is a must, as it is necessary in order to prevent over-flexion of the spine and neck, or in some cases, hyperextension of the spine and neck. Additionally, from my observation, many people get too complacent with the elliptical and cruise at a mild tempo, but should instead find a level at which they are challenging themselves to elicit a beneficial response. To get the full benefit, make sure you are going both forward and backward with this machine, as it will target both posterior and anterior chains.

The Rowing Machine


The seated rowing machine comes in a variety of styles, but they all function more or less the same. When used properly, the rowing machine is a great piece of cardio equipment that engages the upper body – and more specifically, the back. You can increase the resistance on the machine via resistance dial or you can add elastic resistance by adding resistance band to it. This is another low impact exercise that is great for those with lower body joint issues. It also targets the posterior chain (the back half of the body), which is often ignored in most peoples’ training sessions, often times because it is not seen directly in the mirror. By strengthening the posterior chain, you can evenly balance out your body’s muscle proportions and avoid risky conditions like scapular winging (as an example).

Cons/Things to Remember

A couple of setbacks to this piece of equipment is that it is seated, so you have to work a lot harder to get your heart rate up to burn more calories. Additionally, misuse can lead to hyperextension of the spine which can cause slip discs and low back pain.

The Arm Bike


The arm bike is a great alternative exercise for people with lower body injuries that prevent them from doing other methods of cardio that require leg power. It is also a great recovery exercise for a post-upper body day. By increasing blood flow to the area, you are providing nutrients to the muscles which enable a faster healing process.

Cons/Things to Remember

Some drawbacks of this type of cardio equipment include the fact that it is only two dimensional (it can only move forward or backward), and it is mostly used by people who are seated so calorie burn will be limited. Finally, if people do not sit with good posture while using it, they can develop low back pain and other issues.

Related: check out FFC! Click here to try us out for free.

Other Options for Cardiovascular Training

While using any of the classic exercises for cardiovascular training mentioned above is great, they can get repetitive after a while and can lead to plateaus. Instead, I like to provide my clients with countless options for them to get their heart rates elevated in a different manner. Some exercises I teach my clientele include, but not limited to; med ball slams, wall ball slams, RMT club slams, body bag/tire flips, hurdles, speed ladders, and plyometrics.

If you would like to learn how to incorporate these exercises in your own workout program and enhance your training experience, you can schedule a complimentary consultation with me at FFC Union Station. Feel free to contact me at

Post written by FFC Union Station personal trainer Tyler Sutphen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Intro to MYZONE

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

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

MYZONE Effort Points (MEPs):

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

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

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

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

MYZONE Makes Things Better

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

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

Overview of Health & Fitness

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

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

The Burning Question:

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










You’re crazy!


Final Thoughts On MYZONE:

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

Post written by FFC Union Station member Omar R.

I’ve been a member of FFC Union Station for six years with varying levels of fitness success, but got soft over the past two years. I made all the excuses: travel for work, no free time for the gym, back surgery recipient… did I really need to be that fit? I was rapidly approaching my heaviest weight ever (from several years ago.) In the past I had made promises to myself to never get that heavy again. My gym schedule was two to three times per week with light cardio and weights; my diet was terrible; my mojo was down; and I was rapidly approaching 40. I needed to get fit.

The week before Thanksgiving I came in for my usual quick and dirty work out. It was chest day and I noticed one of the few machines I used was MIA. FFC Union Station trainer Shawn Hemmingsen was manning the front desk, and I asked him if the machine was moved or completely retired.Instead of just an answer, he was kind enough to walk me through three new exercises and to give me some advice on how to improve my workout. I had never worked with a personal trainer before. I thought I could get back into shape on my own and that a personal trainer would prove too expensive and probably wouldn’t dramatically improve my results. He made me an offer: come in tomorrow for a consultation, bring a list of your personal goals, and I know I can help you.

We sat down the following afternoon and I laid out my goals; get fit; down to a size 36, restore the strength in my legs I lost after back surgery, be confident on my friend’s boat this summer and maintain a diet and exercise program I could rely on after our sessions ended. Shawn looked right at me and said, “You’ll be a beast by 40!” With that, my “Beast by 40” action plan was in place and moving forward.

Related: how member Sal changed his life for the better with the help of an RD and a personal trainer and lost over 50 pounds.

Goals Set, Plan in Place

We met once a week and Shawn pushed me harder than I’ve ever been pushed in the gym. He laid out an action plan for the rest of the week including diet and exercise. I found myself really nervous coming into the first workout, but he proved such a good person and coach those fears melted away after the first set. I wasn’t fighting this fight on my own, I wasn’t pushing a rope– I found  another person  who  wanted me to get fit and succeed just as much as I did.

It wasn’t easy, but it was exciting. I was hitting new machines and doing free weight exercises I found too scary in the past. Each week promised new challenges and accomplishments. There were ebbs and flows; I could have been more consistent; maybe I could have met greater metrics, but without question, it was absolutely working.

Related: want to check out our clubs for yourself? Click here to try us for free!

Seeing Success

Instead of gaining weight over the holidays, my body was rapidly transforming. After ten sessions I lost 15 lbs., dropped 3% of my total body fat and melted off 14.5 inches. It’s the best I’ve looked in years and I’m back to my old confident self. The best part of the experience is the action plan Shawn put in place for me to move forward. The pounds continue to come off, and “Beast by 40” is ahead of schedule!

Shawn continues to send encouraging messages and I’m sure another set of sessions will be in order to help me reach my college weight for the summer. And to think, this all happened because my old seated chest fly machine was put out to pasture. Thanks to Shawn and FFC for helping me achieve my goals. For anyone reading this, never give up, you can make the transformation too!

If you are interested in learning more, visit the FFC Union Station site here!

Post written by FFC Union Station member Kenton B.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Staying Active Despite Being Injured

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

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

The Most Important Thing I Learned

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

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

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

Post written by FFC Union Station member Omar R.

How many people do you see at the gym riding the same stationary bike, gliding up the same treadmill incline, churning away at some other piece of cardio equipment or taking the same step or cycling classes?

If you look at the rest of the gym, you’ll probably notice that there are not quite as many participants utilizing the weights.

Why do you think that is? A typical response I get from women is “I don’t want to look bulky –  weights will make me look like a bodybuilder.” When it comes to men, a common response I receive is that “you can’t burn fat while weight training.”

Interestingly, science and research have proven these statements false. Weight training has been found to be the victor in this stiff competition when comparing side by side long-term benefits – especially when it comes to fat loss. However, for the maximum benefit, both should be utilized in an exercise program.

Why Weight Training Works

When you put a heart rate monitor on, you’ll notice that you’ll burn more calories when your heart rate is elevated. When your heart rate reaches a specific zone, your body’s response is to utilize the aerobic energy system, which is what utilizes fat as energy, thus allowing you to burn a high percentage of fat during your workout. This is why so many gym members utilize cardio classes and equipment.

Unfortunately, the amount of muscle you build during cardiovascular exercise does not equate to much, and therefore you are only helping yourself in the short term. Sure, weight training does build “mass” (muscle mass, that is) – but that’s not something we should be afraid of because building muscle mass positively affects our metabolism. Research illustrates that the more muscle you have on your body, the more calories you burn daily.

Any type of strength training will aid in building this muscle. If you put a heart rate monitor on during this style of training you will see that your heart rate will not be as elevated as it is during cardiovascular endurance training, however, the benefits achieved from strength training will run longer term.

Related: click here to register for a free personal training session at FFC!

How to Build Muscle Effectively

In order to build muscle most effectively, eccentric muscle contraction must be the focus of the exercise performed. Eccentric muscle contraction is how your muscle contracts during a specific portion of the exercise. An example of this would be the downward phase of a squat. Many people focus on the concentric phase (i.e. the stand up portion of the squat), and try to put up as much weight as possible. While this may boost their ego, it will not bolster muscle mass and may likely lead to injury.

Slow repetitions with full range of motion will yield the maximum benefit for muscle building. Women have no need to fear weight training, as they do not possess the same body chemistry as men do, and therefore cannot “bulk up”. You may have seen female bodybuilder who appear “bulky”, but they may be taking performance enhancing drugs that increase their testosterone levels which allow them the ability to build that large physique. Women do not naturally have enough testosterone in their bodies to “bulk” like that.

You CAN Have Both

So now the question is how to incorporate both styles of training in your program. For my beginner-level clients, I recommend that they consider doing some type of cardiovascular training during their “off” days, while maintaining an evenly proportioned weight training regimen that I have prescribed to them based off of my fitness assessments and evaluation of their current abilities.

For most clients, this means doing an average of four days each week dedicated to weight training and a minimum of three days of cardiovascular training. This type of beginner program structure ensures safety and results if paired with a proper nutrition program. Using a heart rate monitor during your training will provide you with the information as to which zone you’re operating in to make your training as time-efficient as possible. Stay tuned for an overview of different styles of training in my next blog posts to get a better idea of which might be a good fit for you.

Related: need more convincing? Here are 8 benefits of working weights into your regular routine!

About Tyler

FFC Union Station personal trainer Tyler Sutphen

Tyler Sutphen is a master trainer at FFC Union Station. Before FFC, he was a master trainer at XSport in Naperville, IL and prior to that, he interned at the MU Human Performance Institute in Columbia, MO. He holds a degree in nutrition and exercise physiology and is certified in both ACE personal training and Functional Movement Screen.

Tyler works with clients of all ages, gender and training goals. Two of his proudest fitness moments are currently 1) helping a client who had just gotten off chemotherapy lose 40 lbs over the course of 90 days and 2) helping another client to fix a muscular imbalance to walk properly again.

Want to contact Tyler to set up a complimentary consultation? You can email him directly at! You can also follow along with him on his Facebook page here to receive a weekly fitness update every Monday, along with great tips, tricks and discussion.

Exercises are like music; there are a million options to choose from, but not all of them are good. I’ve put together a list of some of the most common exercises found in peoples’ fitness programs that are inefficient, and often times, not safe. Are you performing one of these 9 potentially unsafe exercises? Here’s what to do instead.

Side Bends

This ever-popular exercise is probably the most common one seen on the gym floor. The person takes dumbbells in each hand in a standing position, and then they bend from one side to the other.

The thought behind this exercise is that it will work your obliques, (the muscles on the side of your stomach). However, your core is designed to resist movement, not create it. Instead, try something like a cable wood chop (both upwards and downwards).

Wrist Curls

Grip strength is something that can either make or break someone’s lift. Oftentimes, failure to complete a lift at a certain weight isn’t because the person isn’t strong enough, but rather they do not have the grip strength to be able to hold the weight properly.

Therefore, people sometimes think that that they will be able to increase their wrist strength by doing wrist curls – but it is not a functional movement for lifting. This is because, as in most cases, the wrist should be in a locked position. Instead, invest in some Fat Grips and try doing your normal exercises such as bench press or rows and see what a difference it makes without breaking away from proper form in the wrist.

Hip Abduction/Adduction Machine

These are the machines where you typically see a lot of women using them to “tone” their legs. Because of the design for these machines, they isolate very small assistance muscles in the legs.

While this might be great for something such as trying to work on muscle imbalances, it is a very inefficient approach. Instead, to work the abductors and increase exercise efficiency, try doing squats with a mini resistance band right above or below the knees. To work the inner thigh more, try doing side lunges or sumo squats.

Inverted Pull-Ups

This is an exercise that makes me cringe every time I see it in the gym. Many times, the person practicing the move’s thought would be to work the traps (upper back muscles), but in a different way of doing so. However, all the person is really doing is an upside down body weight shrug. Instead, take the safer alternative and just do shrugs while standing one the ground or really isolate the traps by sitting down facing an incline bench and doing dumbbell shrugs.

Related: weight training vs cardio – do you know which one achieves greater fat loss?

Lat Pull Downs Behind the Head

This is something people do to work the lats (muscles that span the width of their back). By pulling the bar behind your neck, you cause excessive flexion of the cervical spine in your neck and can actually do damage because of it. It also provides no more benefit than pulling the bar down in front to chin level. Instead, try doing pull-ups (assisted if needed) or dumbbell pullovers.

Dumbbell Shoulder Internal/External Rotations

This is an exercise I see many people doing, who are probably trying to do some rotator cuff work. However, because of the way in which gravity pulls on the weight, the exercise doesn’t actually work the way it is intended to work. Instead, try doing it with a resistance band or cable. Another alternative exercise would be to do external rotations while lying on your side.

Rotary Torso Machine

This exercise is often performed by people who want to work their obliques. This is a bad exercise for your back because of how it is designed. It causes twisting of the lumbar spine (which shouldn’t twist). Instead, try side planks.

Related: click here to sign up for a free personal training session at FFC, on us!

Crunch Machines

People who use these machines typically do not activate their core correctly, and therefore use the momentum of the machine to do the work for them. Because of this, using the crunch machine can actually be a dangerous exercise. Instead, try doing the ab roller.

Upright Rows   

This exercise is popular because it is used to target the shoulders and traps. However, the way in which this exercise is executed can actually impinge the shoulder and cause shoulder pain. Instead, work try working the traps and the shoulders by doing over-the-head rack carries with dumbbells.

This post was written by FFC Union Station Personal Trainer Tyler Sutphen.

FFC Union Station personal trainer Tyler Sutphen

About Tyler

Tyler Sutphen is a master trainer at FFC Union Station. Want to contact Tyler to set up a complimentary consultation? You can email him directly at! You can also follow along with him on his Facebook page here to receive a weekly fitness update along with great tips, tricks and discussion.

We have all probably said it at some point or another – “I’ll start working out tomorrow” or “My diet starts Monday”. How often do we keep putting this off as we let time slip away from us? Too often. Fitness is about routine and consistency. There has to be a way to snap yourself back into it when we fall out of habit, right One of the most efficient ways is to be prepared with a plan, so we put together 5 tips to help jumpstart or get back into your fitness routine.

  1. Set an alarm on your phone and lay out your clothes the night before.

We often get wrapped up in our daily to-do lists so often that exercise takes a backseat to these other commitments. Setting an alarm on your phone, or even putting a “workout” time on your calendar helps us block out time for exercise in advance, which rules out the excuses of lack of time and forgetting. You can also take advantage of behavioral cues like laying out your clothes the night before by the front door (or using post-it notes!) to help to keep exercise at the forefront of your mind.

  1. Work out with a friend or join a group fitness class.

One of the biggest challenges to restarting a fitness regimen is holding ourselves accountable – which is where working out with a friend is helpful. It also gives you a sounding board to speak of your plans and goals out loud with people you are closest with to make sure you are continually progressing. Group fitness classes are another great option. Not only are they a fun way to incorporate fitness, but in many cases class attendees become like family, since these members will hold you accountable to show up to class, much like coaches or players on an athletic team.

  1. Get a personal trainer.

Another person you can seek out to hold you accountable is a personal trainer, who will help motivate, inspire, and teach you about fitness. Personal trainers will also encourage you to be consistent with your training and complete exercises on your own outside of working with them, which gives you an automatic support system.

Related: try a personal training session at FFC on us! Click here to sign up.

  1. Plan for meals ahead of time.

Fitness is not just about working out. It’s about maintaining a healthy life through healthy choices in the areas of nutrition, sleep and coping with stress. When nutrition is a second thought, we often fall victim to picking the most convenient options, not necessary those that are healthiest for us. By creating a weekly meal plan, you can shop efficiently and have all the ingredients on hand for easy preparation. Or, you can even cook for the week over the weekend, so you can simply reheat and eat a healthy, balanced meal.

  1. Make it fun!

At the end of the day, we can plan to exercise or eat well, but the bottom line is we will never stick with a fitness regimen if we do not enjoy it. So find a way to make it fun!

  • Pick a race or event to train for and challenge yourself. Set goals to achieve or try some new, crazy things (like handstand pushups!).
  • Try a new exercise (e.g. battle ropes, TRX, a kettlebell workout, row machines, swimming).
  • Work out with friends or family or mix up your routine to eliminate boredom.
  • Do what makes you happy. Find what you like and stick to it.

The most important steps to successfully getting back to your fitness routine are to find ways to hold yourself accountable or have others hold you accountable, planning ahead, and making it fun. You have the power to do whatever it is you want to do. So how bad do you want it? The choice is yours.

Post written by FFC Union Station Fitness Director Michelle Stratton.