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Nowadays, just about every coffee shop, smoothie bar and bakery features their own creative offerings using the trending superfood matcha. This green tea powder is not new to the scene, however. In fact, its use in Japanese tea ceremonies dates back hundreds of years and has been worshipped for centuries for its long list of benefits. Check out this guide on how to prepare matcha, amazing health benefits and even matcha powder recipes you can try yourself.

What is Matcha?

Matcha is a concentrated, powdered form of green tea that can be stirred into hot or cold beverages, infused into baked goods, blended into smoothies and more.

What are the Benefits of Matcha?

Matcha is known to promote energy and accelerate exercise recovery, making it an ideal pre-workout boost. Matcha promotes a feeling of ‘calm alertness’ thanks to high levels of L-theanine, which is an amino acid.

By drinking matcha you can increase your levels of L-theanine and promote alpha waves, which lead to a state of relaxed alertness. L-theanine has been shown to benefit patients diagnosed with anxiety by increasing levels of dopamine and GABA in the brain. (source)

Some other benefits of Matcha include reducing abdominal fat, improving immune system function and even boasting disease-fighting abilities like preventing cancer! Matcha is the optimal food source of catechins, or polyphenol compounds that halt oxidative cellular damage. These powerful antioxidants are also found in cocoa and apples.

According to a Harvard review of recent studies, green tea may lower LDL cholesterol and high triglycerides, and thereby reduce the risk of death from heart disease and stroke. (source)

Baking with Matcha - how to prepare matcha, recipes and benefits

Where to Buy Matcha?

You can find matcha lots of places, at health food stores, online and even the grocery store. You can find matcha green tea lattes all over the city, but but be aware that most contain excessive amounts of sugar.

Related: speaking of superfoods, do you have any of these 5 beneficial spices in your pantry? Read it to find out!

How to Prepare Matcha

Opt for unsweetened varieties and stir in honey, stevia or coconut sugar instead. Stock your pantry with matcha powders for DIY recipes at home. Look for a ceremonial-grade Japanese variety to ensure the best quality.

Matcha in tea bags is ok for steeping, but only provides 10-20% of the tea’s benefits. To really take advantage of the tea’s rich antioxidants, chlorophyll, amino acids and vitamins, you’ll want to get your hands on the powdered form. This way you’ll be consuming the tea leaf in its entirety.

Matcha Powder Recipes: Try This Iced Vanilla Matcha Latte At Home

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp matcha powder
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut or almond milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 packet stevia in the raw
  • Ice to preference

Directions: Mix matcha in tall glass with milk until combined. Stir in vanilla and stevia. Pour over ice and enjoy!

Post written by FFC registered dietitian Kristen Marias.

About Kristen

Kristen studied dance at The University of Colorado until life and a trajectory towards a career in the arts took an unexpected turn. A handful of years, a cross-country relocation and two daughters later, she took on one of her greatest and most rewarding challenges. Following a lifelong passion for wellness, she returned to school in pursuit of a degree in Dietetics and Nutrition. After graduating with honors, she launched her dietetics career in the clinical cardiac space. There, she provided Medical Nutrition Therapy to acute cardiac patients in Intensive Care. Practicing alongside a leading cardiologist in Palm Beach, Florida, she also provided nutrition education and counseling services to newly diagnosed cardiac patients.

In the summer of 2017 her love for fitness and holistic wellness steered her career in a fresh, new direction. She traveled to Italy to obtain a Yoga Teaching Certification as a complement to her nutrition practice. Today, back in her hometown of Chicago, she has found her perfect fit at the intersection of fitness, nutrition and general wellness. She believes food and exercise should be more than just daily tasks; they should be pleasurable, dynamic and memorable experiences. This philosophy is presented in her approach to nutrition. With a lifestyle-first, real food focus, she aims to help her clients make uncomplicated, sustainable changes. Her motto is simple: “Live to eat…with purpose.”

Kristen is a fitness enthusiast, passionate foodie and home cook. She loves travel – especially to the islands of the world. She spends most of her free time adventuring around Chicago with her husband and two daughters. You can follow along with her on Instagram here or check out her website for more info.

 

Tucker Dupree is a professional swimmer. Not only that, he has been swimming professionally for 12 years, has swum for Team USA at the Paralympics, has won medals and World Championships, and is also one of FFC’s newest endurance coaches.

FFC marketing manager Megan Zink had the opportunity to talk to Tucker about his background, the challenges he’s overcome and advice learned along the way… and the best way to get into a cold pool.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Megan Zink: So Tucker, tell us a little bit about yourself and your background, and also your background with FFC.

Tucker Dupree: I had a lot of great opportunities to wear the Team USA uniform for 12 years as an athlete, and swim for all the best coaches in the world. I had the ability to represent our country at 3 different Paralympic games; 2008, 2012, 2016. And to take the sport of swimming and travel the world and represent our country was one of the most surreal things I’ve ever dreamed of doing as a kid.

I retired last year after the World Championships. When I won the 50 freestyle, I was like, ‘alright, I’m done, I’m going out on top. I need nothing more from this sport, I’ve won all the medals.’ After that, I had the opportunity to really sit there and say, ‘what’s next? I’m not getting any younger.’ So I retired from swimming, and I now work for the marketing team at BP down here in the loop.

MZ: I read that you started losing your eyesight when you were 17, and then in a short number of months, it progressed. But I also read that your take was, ‘I love this so much, I have to make it work. I have to figure out how to make it work.’ So do you have any advice for people who feel like they have come up against obstacles in their lives that seem indomitable? Like, ‘I don’t even know how I’m going to get around this’ type obstacles?

TD: A couple of things. I was going through the transition of okay, ‘I didn’t lose all of my vision’, so I’m not going to sit around and think about ‘what if’ – the condition I have is so rare, that when I was diagnosed, everyone was like, ‘well you could wake up tomorrow and be completely blind, so, good luck.’ There was no, ‘this is exactly what’s going to happen to you.’

When that all happened [when I was 17], I was swimming. And I had all these aspirations to swim in college, I had different scholarships on the table, and I was like, ‘okay, what am I going to do, because I’ve worked so hard to get to this stage in my career, but also I’m losing my sight.’

So I sat down and talked to one of my swim coaches at the time, who had been coaching me since I was a teenager – 12 all the way through 18 – and who actually became the travel coach with me throughout my Olympic journey. She said, ‘you have a choice. You can pick between what’s right, and what’s easy.’ And I think that was the biggest crossroads for me, because losing my vision was something everyone was telling me was going to give me depression – there wasn’t a cure for what was going on with me. And that’s something that I really had to pick between. Because it was so easy to give up, it was so easy to have this become something that was depressing or something to feel bad about. Or, I could say, ‘hey, you know what? I’m going to do something great with this. I’m gonna show people that yes, I am technically ‘disabled’ but also that it’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do with what happens to you.’

Because I’m still a person, right? And I say this all the time – yes, I’m part of the disabled community, but at the same time, people with disabilities are people with disabilities. The word people is before that. And I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve been an advocate for – we’re not less. Yes, I have something that’s different. But at the same time, any time someone meets me or I talk to them, they’ll say something like, ‘I didn’t even know you are blind.’

I lived 17 years of my life fully-sighted and I have a visual impairment now, and a little bit of my vision in the middle is gone. But at the same time, I had the opportunity to take a sport and represent our country in the Paralympics, which is the second largest sporting event in the world (it’s bigger than the World Cup) and a lot of people in the US don’t know that. So I was like, ‘I have to get out, I have to tell my story.’ For me, the only things that really impaired me in the pool were that I couldn’t really read a clock, or the practice on the board. But other than that, I was doing everything that everyone else was doing. I tell a lot of people that swim with me, ‘you’ll never even notice that I can’t see most of what’s going on around me because I’m very high-functioning.’

‘Because it was so easy to give up, it was so easy to have this become something that was depressing or something to feel bad about. Or, I could say, ‘hey, you know what? I’m going to do something great with this. I’m gonna show people that yes, I am technically ‘disabled’ but also that it’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do with what happens to you.’

With this swim workshop I’m doing at FFC, I’m going to be in the water with everyone, I’m going to be demonstrating what I’m talking about and it’s very athlete-specific; it’s not going to be a workout that I write up on the board and then I yell at you. I think that’s something unique – a ‘walk the walk, talk the talk’ sort of thing. Giving everyone a wealth of knowledge is really my philosophy, because there isn’t just one way to fix swimming. Because that’s not what worked for me. I had coaches all around the world teach me different things, and what I want to bring to the table with this class is that this is not just a workout, this is an opportunity to really tweak the things that you want to get better at, to improve your ironman, or just to have the ability to come in and swim consecutively. Whatever your goals are, that’s what this class is about.

Tucker Dupree FFC endurance

Photo courtesy of TriMonster

MZ: That was actually going to be my next question – has this sort of changed the way that you coach people? Because I know when you were working with coaches [when you were losing your eyesight] they had to get way more descriptive with you.

TD: The thing about this sport is – I tell people all the time – it is not easy, at all. To do this at an elite level, it takes a LOT of work. And it’s tweaking little things. Moving your hand 4 inches to the left over the course of 45 strokes goes a long way, because it’s improving every single stroke. If you can tweak something that you’re already doing, it just goes so much better. This sport has a TON of moving parts – your hands, your legs, your feet, your head, your core, everything is moving – and you’re horizontal. The only time you’re horizontal during your day is when you sleep. And not only that; you’re floating… so body awareness – out the door. So I’m telling you to lay down, float, and work hard. So yeah – your brain is gonna explode. That’s normal. That’s something I tell people – this sport is not easy, but when you make it simplistic – I’ve had coaches sit down and describe everything to me, and then I got to go do it – that has really helps me as a coach now, to describe different ways to get from A to B.

MZ: So really quickly, because I don’t want to forget the other question I have; for me, the ‘getting in the pool’ thing – the cold water is terrible. Do you have any tips for getting over that?

TD: Just jump. You just gotta go. You can’t – the only way to do it is to not dip your toe it. That’s the worst idea.

MZ: Have you been able to – can you pinpoint anything you’ve taken from swimming or coaching and apply it to the bigger scale of life? Do you have any tips?

The sport is very repetitious; you go up and down the same lane expecting different results – which unless you’re changing things, is the definition of insanity. So I think having different perspectives is something that we all are always seeking – we’re always looking, especially in the fitness world – for that silver bullet, that ‘I want to be the best tomorrow’… but understanding that this sport teaches tenacity is something that I have really taken and put into my day to day life. There are days I show up to the pool feeling like crap and not really wanting to be there, but some of those days are my best training days. The fact that I came in and set a small goal for myself that day, of something like ‘every time I push off the wall, I’m going to have the best streamline I’ve ever had’ – that’s something that, over 5000 yards, is a lot. That’s 5000 yards of perfect streamlines. And when I’m swimming a race that takes 21 seconds, that’s a great training day.

I learned a lot from the sport, just being kind of aware of what I’m doing. And my sport was all about time, so being aware of time and time efficiency and being punctual – all that translates to day to day life. The sport gave so much to me – I did more without vision than I ever would have dreamed about doing sighted. Now it’s one of those things where I’m like, ‘alright, what do I do next?’

Just jump. You just gotta go. You can’t – the only way to do it is to not dip your toe it. That’s the worst idea.

Sign Up for a Swim Workshop with Tucker Dupree!

Want to take your technique to the next level? Sign up for a swim workshop with Tucker Dupree! Each class is strategically designed to provide members with drills to improve technique and efficiency, as well as interval workouts to improve speed and endurance. Email tdupree@ffc.com for more information!

 

FFC Union Station massage therapist Aaron Gunn shares the benefits of Swedish Massage, plus other types of massage and all of their benefits.

Today is the day. You’ve made the decision to take that next step. You’re going to book a massage! You hop out of bed, put on your finest athleisure wear, eat a MyPlate-approved balanced breakfast (right after posting a picture of it on Instagram), and make your way to the closest FFC.

As you speed toward the club, you’re so excited about your dive into the world of massage therapy that you almost run over a now-terrified pedestrian. Slow down. The path to wellness is not a race.

You park your car and enter the doors that lead to your new destiny. You approach the spa desk and engage the gatekeeper. This is it. You have prepared for this moment. With confidence, you proclaim, “I would like to book a massage!” The receptionist smiles warmly and responds, “My pleasure. What type of massage would you like to book?”

Wait. Hold on. TYPE of massage? There’s more than one? You did not prepare for this. Which one do you choose? Swedish massage? Deep tissue? Sports massage? What if you choose the wrong one? Will you embarrass yourself, be disowned by your friends, and bring shame to your family? As beads of sweat begin to roll down your face, you panic and yell, “I HAVE DIARRHEA! I HAVE TO GO!”

Crisis averted. Try again tomorrow.

Types of Massage and Their Benefits

Now here’s the thing. You don’t have to be well-versed in the vast array of massage modalities to receive the type of bodywork that is most appropriate for you. At risk of further confusing things, I will briefly discuss a few types of massage that I most often get asked about: Swedish, deep tissue, sports, and myofascial.

Benefits of Swedish Massage

This is often used to describe a full-body or most-body massage that encourages fluid circulation and promotes relaxation. It intends to create a general sensation of feeling better without necessarily treating specific physical issues. However, as a technicality, Swedish massage techniques fall into a broad category that ranges from superficial and relaxing to some of the deepest and most aggressive techniques in the industry. It is not a simple task to describe Swedish, as it can have a variety of intended purposes.

Benefits of Deep Tissue Massage

Ready to have your mind blown? Deep tissue massage is technically Swedish massage. It’s just a specific application of some Swedish massage techniques done with a substantial amount of pressure. It aims at addressing deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue that are creating imbalance, pain, or other dysfunction. I find that many people are hesitant to book deep tissue massage because they expect it to be painful. Guess what? Deep work doesn’t need to be painful to be effective. I firmly (get it?) believe this.

Benefits of Sports Massage

You’re getting massage at your gym. You’re athletic, or at least trying to be. So this is the massage for you, right? Well, maybe. This is where it can get confusing – sports massage is a lot of different things, depending on how it’s complementing your athletic activity. It can be done right before your event/activity, aiming to prepare the body for the movements it’s about to do repetitively and/or forcefully. I can be done afterwards to help the body recover from activity. It could be a deep tissue massage, just specific to the muscle groups most utilized during your sport. Or a Swedish massage. It could be specific treatment of an athletic injury.

Just make sure that your therapist understands what your activities are and what your training schedule looks like. It is important to plan the timing of different massage types with the timing of your activities.

Related: curious as to which type of massage might be best for you depending on what type of fitness you do? Check out this post!

Myofascial Release Techniques & Benefits of Massage

Mostly simply put, myofascial massage is a category of techniques that addresses the connective tissue (fascia) within and surrounding your muscles (myo). By mobilizing connective tissue layers, the aim is to allow the body to move through its full range-of-motion without limitation or pain. While it can be an entire session alone, the reality is that myofascial techniques are incorporated into Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, and sports massage.

And This Helps Me How?

I know what you might be thinking. After reading this overview of the various types of massage, you are now even less confident in booking the correct type of massage. That’s ok. The reality is that different modalities are often combined into a single session to give you a catered massage experience that is specific to your needs and goals. The most important thing to know is that you want to schedule a massage. Choose whichever option is closest to what you think you want, and choose the amount of time (if unsure, an hour is often a good place to start).

Then, just speak with your massage therapist. If we need to change the type of massage in our system, we can do that. Our priority is giving you the work that you NEED, not some pre-determined category of massage that you may have randomly chosen. When my clients arrive, I ask them about their goals, their activities, their known injuries and areas of discomfort, and what they are looking to accomplish. I guide them through my professional recommendations, and I structure the massage accordingly. As I often tell my clients: “You’re in good hands. I’m like Allstate.”

Post written by Aaron Gunn, FFC Union Station massage therapist.

 

Get social with us! Check out more great wellness tips and follow us on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube & Twitter. Looking for some workout motivation? Follow our curated lists on Spotify!

 

Aaron Gunn Massage Therapist at FFC in Chicago shares all the different types of massage and their benefits.About Aaron

Aaron Gunn has been an educator in the field of massage therapy for almost 13 years. In addition to being a practicing massage therapist, he is certified as a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and a registered yoga teacher. He has had the privilege of providing massage therapy for a variety of sports teams and athletes. As a runner and triathlete, Aaron utilizes massage as a part of his own training programs. He aims to shift the perspective on the role of massage therapy to help individuals meet their fitness and wellness goals safely and pain-free. Want to schedule a consultation with Aaron? Email him at agunn@ffc.com!

 

 

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I didn’t grow up in a crunchy-granola, windbreaker-wearing, athletic family. Like many children of the Midwest, I was raised in a rural community full of good, old-fashioned folks with good old-fashioned mentalities. Was I fat? Hell no! I was “big-boned,” y’all! I was a growin’ boy with a growin’ boy’s appetite and big bones to match! The real question being… big bones.. For what, exactly?

I was the son of a marketing director and drove an Astro van to art classes after school. What on earth did I need big bones for? Sure, in some Slavic hovel on the frozen border of Lithuania, I believe there to be a need for the heartiness of truly big-boned people. But I wasn’t birthing calves in a field in the perpetual darkness of Russian winter. I was chugging Capri-Suns and going to theater camp. The reality was, no matter how much ridicule I endured at school, or how humiliated I felt needing to shop for Big & Tall clothes at the age of 13, I was told, “You’re just big-boned, baby…”

Genetic Mentality

To put it briefly, I was trapped (like so many children and, even still, adults are) in the cozy-comfort weighted blanket of “there’s nothing you can do about your genetics.” What was meant to salve the pain of unbearable otherism became a prison of accepting unhappiness as an unavoidable reality. While there is an abundance of scientific study that shows how our DNA can dramatically affect our ability to store, develop, and lose fat, the intoxicating mantra of “You come from a family of big people. That’s simply the way it is.” taught me only one thing: it’s ok not to try. Everyone is big and that’s just the way it is here.

I’m living proof that this is not, in fact, the way it always has to be.

I am a proud January Gym Baby. Though I had been working out at home since October, a friend slapped me into reality by insisting that, eventually, I would outgrow what could be done in my small, 1-bedroom apartment and I would have to join a gym. It was time to swallow my fear of working out in public and belly up to the bar. But did I know what I was doing? Absolutely not! Not a single lick of knowledge was stored in the “physical fitness” folder of my brain. When I started, all I had was a bad left knee and a body that weighed in at 400 pounds.

When I joined FFC, Tyler Sutphen was assigned to me for my new membership sessions. Internally, I groaned and begrudgingly thought, “Ok, let’s get these sessions out of the way… hopefully they won’t be as agonizing as I expect.” True to form, nothing I worried would happen came to pass. Tyler didn’t ridicule me. He didn’t make me feel foolish for trying (or for failing). In fact, no one here ever has. Tyler became more than a trainer to me. He became a rock in my journey.

In nine months, I transformed from a limping, 400-pound, 30 year-old with a fear of working out, to a 5-time-a-week weight lifter with a strong stride and a body clocking in at 275.

Member Stories: Chris Lewis - weight loss journey and 1 year anniversary

I did not do it alone, though. Having Tyler, the resources of FFC, the Myzone heart monitor… my life could not have been as easily changed without each of these. Not because any of these did the work for me, but because they provided the help to change my life on my own, on my terms. When I began, I lacked the knowledge, understanding, and ability to synthesize how to work out properly. Now, I know exactly what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and how to continue challenging myself.

We don’t all grow up with the privilege of having guidance on how to live healthfully – mentally or physically. Helping me to overcome the constant barrage of fad diets, miracle machines, and programs that guarantee results, Tyler explained to me that, quite simply, the gym is a microcosm of life with one ruling equation: consistency over time.

Related: how to be the best version of yourself (for you). Check out this refresher!

The Long Game

Working out one day a week for six hours will not yield the results that six one-hour days will. A little bit of something is better than a lot of nothing. The same is true for all aspects of life. Being a better partner? One night of attentive listening will not yield the results of several months of being present. A better professional? One day of really great work at a job is not going to guarantee success the way that slow, dedicated, thoughtful effort to a cause, a project, a process will. What trips the trolley is believing that success lies in how quickly you achieve your goals:

  • “I’ve been working out a whole week! Every day! Where is my weight loss??”
  • “I showed up to work on time every day this month! Where is my promotion??”
  • “I wrote that essay a while back! Why isn’t anyone publishing me yet??”

A need to see immediate change is the death knell of many a motivated person. And that was the lesson I learned at FFC. That was the value I was able to take away. This is a long game. A lifelong one. And even in the short amount of time I’ve been on this journey—a scant year—I’ve had tremendous ups and downs. Feelings of failure, times when the scale didn’t budge one single bit, regardless of how hard I threw that medicine ball. When the body dysmorphia struck and prevented me from being able to see the changes I have made… I trusted that this game is not a match of winners or losers. It’s simply a game of those who try, in the face of tremendous adversity, and those who convince themselves they shouldn’t.

Not everyone’s story is the same and I will not condescend to believe that this is the case. We all have different abilities, different needs—mentally, emotionally, and physically. If my story motivates you to lose weight, I think that’s wonderful—feel free to drop me a line on Instagram any time and I’ll pep-talk your ear off. I’m sharing this to make a point: simply because you’ve been told one thing your entire life, does not make it unflinchingly true.

There is a stark difference between rhetoric and reality. Find your stride. Find what is worth the consistency over time. Be kind to yourself, utilize your resources, your friends, your loved ones, the team here at FFC. But first and foremost, let your efforts be for you.

Post written by FFC Union Station member Christopher Lewis.

About Chris

Chris is a home cook, baker, and a food stylist. He styles food/drink for commercial film and print. His Instagram is an extension of that work, as well as shots of his own, and links to his food writing. Check it out here!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you make?

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

Here’s what a typical lunch may look like:

Meal prep tips

How long does it take to cook?

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

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

Meal Prep = Time Saver

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

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

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

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

Is it cheaper than eating out?

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

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

Final Thoughts on Meal Prep

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

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

Post written by FFC Union Station member Omar R. 

 

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

What is Tread?

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

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

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

Warm-up:

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

Drill I:

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

Rest – walk for 2 minutes

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

Drill II:

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

Rest – walk for 90 seconds

Drill III:

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

Rest – walk for 60 seconds

Drill IV:

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

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

Stretch!

What can I expect from this lunchtime workout?

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

Post written by FFC Union Station member Omar R.

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

 

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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 asalinas@ffc.com or schedule an appointment here!

Post written by FFC Union Station Massage Therapist Alejandro Salinas.

 

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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

Pros

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

Pros

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

Pros

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

Pros

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

Pros

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

Pros

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 tsutphen@ffc.com.

Post written by FFC Union Station personal trainer Tyler Sutphen.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Intro to MYZONE

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

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

MYZONE Effort Points (MEPs):

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

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

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

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

MYZONE Makes Things Better

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

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

Overview of Health & Fitness

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

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

The Burning Question:

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

Calories

250-500

501-750

751-1000

1001+

Workout

Good

Great

Awesome

You’re crazy!

 

Final Thoughts On MYZONE:

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

Post written by FFC group fitness instructor 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.

 

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