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

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

Related: how FFC member Lou accomplished his fitness transformation.

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

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

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

FFC South Loop member stories Oscar's weight loss transformation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post written by FFC South Loop member Oscar Florentino.

 

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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. 

 

What is a resting metabolic rate? Resting metabolic rate, or RMR, measures how many calories you burn at a state of rest (as if you were sitting on your couch watching your favorite TV show all day).

Scientifically speaking, the resting metabolic rate (RMR) and the closely related basal metabolic rate (BMR) measure the amount of daily energy expended by humans. The utilization of energy in this state is sufficient only for the functioning of vital organs like the heart, lungs, nervous system, kidneys, liver, muscles, etc.

So Why Is Your Resting Metabolic Rate Important?

Why is your RMR so important? Knowing your RMR can help you understand how many calories you need to function, plus what you need to intake (or not intake) to reach your health and wellness goals. Having a higher RMR means you will burn more calories at a state of rest (yep – just for doing nothing more than simply existing!) which will also allow you to increase the amount of calories you can consume in one day to reach your goals.

How do you increase your RMR? A good fitness regimen that includes weight training is the only way to do it. You have to build your lean muscle mass. Here are 3 quick steps:

  1. Add weight training in 3-5 times a week
  2. Add cardio in 3-5 times a week for 15-30 minutes to help stay lean
  3. Eat frequent meals – about every 3 hours

Don’t worry ladies, this is not going to make you bulky; your bodies do not produce enough testosterone to have that look. If you are going for a very muscular look, however, it is possible, but it takes a lot of work, a proper weight lifting regimen and eating habits to get there.

Benefits of Increasing Your RMR

  • Burn more calories at rest, even while sleeping
  • Burn more calories during exercise and throughout the day
  • Higher RMR = higher amount of calories you can eat in a day to achieve your goals
  • Have more lean muscle on your body which will result in: lower body fat percentage, lower risk of heart attack/heart disease, lower risk of diabetes, lower risk of hypertension, and an increase your internal age.

Causes of Low RMR

What lowers your resting metabolic rate and how will it affect you? There are some factors you can control, and some you can’t – including the following:

  • Age: research shows that starting as early as your 20s your body starts losing 2-3% of lean muscle mass each decade. This is why a weight lifting program is so important to help fight the natural loss of lean muscle mass over that time period.
  • Hormones: generally, for most women, the thyroid and hormone production will slow down after the age of 40, which have an affect on your RMR.

Regarding what you CAN control, one of the biggest factors is exercise. You can control how much or how little you exercise. Exercise less, and you’ll end up with less lean muscle mass and a higher percentage of body fat. Not only will this result in a decrease of RMR (and our clothes not fitting the way we want them to), but more seriously, it can lead to adverse health problems such as:

  • Increase risk of heart disease and stroke – the 1st and 3rd leading causes of death, respectively, in the US
  • Increase risk of diabetes – the 7th leading cause of death in the US
  • Increase risk of hypertension
  • Increase of overall medical bills
  • Increase of sick days from work

Related: More metabolic myths… busted. Check out this post for 5 main myths about the metabolism and the truth behind them.

Is There a Resting Metabolic Rate Calculator?

There are many resting metabolic rate calculators out there on the internet that will give you estimates of what you roughly burn doing nothing. Some take more factors into consideration than others. For example, while some calculators may measure age, height and weight, some may measure those factors plus the type of work and activities you do. The more information that you can put in the more accurate it is going to be for your body type without actually going in and having an actual test done.

While these tests can be helpful, it is important to remember to consider what information you are receiving. As an example, I used this calculator (based on the the Mifflin St Jeor equation) but changed my activity level from very active to moderately active. If I wanted to lose a healthy 2 lbs per week, it drops me below 1700 calories to 1282 per day – which, for females and the healthy functioning of their internal organs, is way too low. Be careful what information you get and always consult with a registered dietitian before setting an exercise or nutrition program.

FFC has the proper equipment and can help you test for a more accurate RMR and BMR. You can actually set up an RMR appointment just by emailing metabolictesting@ffc.com. You can also click here to learn more information about the tests.

And why would accuracy be important? Let’s say your RMR is 1400, but based on a calculation you found online (not taking into consideration your fitness levels) told you your RMR is 1550. In reality you could be consuming an extra 150 calories a day because the results were based on the general population and not according to your own personal needs. Knowing your RMR/BMR can be very important to reaching your goals.

Of course, while all of this is important, the most important thing is to focus on eating healthy, keeping your portions in control, getting plenty of exercise, drinking lots of water, and getting plenty of rest.

Post written by FFC contributor.

 

Eat real food. This simple nutrition tip can drastically change the way your body looks and feels. So many of the things we find on our shelves at the grocery store sound like they’re healthy – the front label might use words like “natural”, “organic”, or “GMO-free”. There might even be commercials for certain products that show wholesome family meals, with mom packing the kids’ lunch boxes before everyone heads out for a busy day. This type of marketing can make it tricky to find nutritious “real food”, but all you really need to do is look at the label. Even if you have a sweet tooth! It all comes down to real ingredients.

Find Healthier Food

Speaking of ingredients, this is the first place you should head when looking for healthy, real food. See anything with “high fructose”? Put it back on the shelf. Anything you can’t pronounce? You probably shouldn’t eat it. Nutella was one of those foods I loved…until I read the label: palm oil… soy lecithin. What are you doing in there? Then, when I realized dairy wasn’t my friend, I knew I had to come up with a recipe that got back to real, whole ingredients: hazelnuts, almonds, dates, cocoa powder and vanilla – instead of the jarred kind that is made with palm oil, tons of sugar and dairy milk.

Enter this vegan Chocolate Hazelnut New-Tella recipe – naturally sweetened with dates! Got a sweet tooth? Enjoy it as a dip for fresh apple slices or strawberries.

Chocolate Hazelnut “New-Tella”

New-tella 30-minute recipe

Level: easy
Servings: 24 / 3 cups of “New-Tella”
Ready in: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup whole raw almonds
  • 1 cup dried pitted dates
  • 1 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup almond milk, plain, unsweetened
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Fresh apple slices, pears, or strawberries, for serving

Directions

Roast the nuts: spread almonds and hazelnuts on a baking pan and roast at 350 F for 12-15 minutes. When the nuts are golden brown, remove from oven and let cool.

Soak dates in warm water for at least 5 minutes to soften.

Start the New-Tella: when nuts are cool enough to handle, place hazelnuts in a clean dish towel or paper towel. Roll around to peel off the skins. Voila! Tip: the skins are bitter so remove as much as you can.

Place the almonds and peeled hazelnuts in a wide blender or food processor. Purée for about 5 or minutes or more, until the nuts start releasing their oils. Remove from the blender.

Drain the dates and squeeze out excess water. Also feel for any pits.

Place the dates, almond milk, vanilla, and salt in the wide blender or food processor. Purée until creamy. Add the nuts back to puréed date mixture, along with the cocoa. Purée until creamy, scraping down the sides as needed.

Garnish with chopped hazelnuts and serve with fresh fruit. Serve warm even more intense flavor.

Chef’s Tip: for a pourable “fondue” version, add 1 cup of almond milk to the recipe. Serve in small crockpot, with fresh fruit and toothpicks.

Post written by FFC Boystown group fitness instructor Katie Simmons.

More about Katie: Katie is a group fitness instructor at FFC Boystown and is also a personal chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. You can see more at www.plants-rule.com.

"New-tella" sandwiches

Apple + “New-Tella” sandwiches

 

Fitness is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise. I have read this mantra many times in different forums and articles. While I don’t know if the ratio is 100% accurate, what I do know is that nutrition is an extremely vital part of a good fitness plan. The only problem is, I never truly internalized this fact until I started seeing Alicia Huggler, registered dietitian at FFC Park Ridge, who helped me change my perspective on nutrition.

Time for a Change

I began my journey a bit over 2 years ago at the age of 26. I finally decided it was time for a change after years of laziness and poor diet had done its damage to my body. I felt awful most of the time and I hated what I saw when I looked in the mirror. In December of 2015, I signed up for a membership at one of the budget gyms in the area, looked up a workout program, and started hitting the weights hard. After about 4 months of going consistently, I definitely felt much better. However, I wasn’t seeing much progress on the scale or in the way I looked. This is when I started doing more research and discovered the 80/20 guideline.

I started a meal-prep regimen based on (as I look back on it now) a lot of “bro-science”. Breakfast was always eggs and oatmeal. Every lunch and dinner consisted of either chicken or frozen fish, a vegetable (peppers, broccoli, asparagus), and either brown rice or quinoa. I avoided snacks like the plague and ate 3 massive meals per day. The meals were bland, boring, and repetitive, but the new diet was effective. My weight plummeted from 215 to 195 in a little over 2 months.

Related: food prep sound overwhelming? Here are some tips that will make the process as easy as possible so you can stick to it!

From Progress to Plateau

However, my body fat percentage wasn’t changing as drastically (I went from around 25% BF to 20% during this time). This sudden change wasn’t without issues. I had very little energy throughout the day, leading me to skip many gym sessions (until I stopped going altogether). I lost a lot of progress on my lifts. Cheat meals became a regular occurrence. The meal plan wasn’t sustainable, and I slipped back into my old habits. My weight rebounded past where it was originally, and just like that I was back to square one.

Despite all of this, I wasn’t ready to give up. In December of 2016, I recommitted to my fitness plan. Thinking I would be more inclined to go if I paid more for the membership, I canceled at the budget gym and looked for pricier alternatives. I decided FFC had all the equipment and amenities I was seeking, in addition to being in a convenient spot. I looked up a new workout program and restarted my meal-prep regimen. Progress was going great for a while, but over time I began slipping into the same patterns. Cheat meals, skipped meal prep, and missed workouts due to the lack of energy became the constant. I was frustrated and almost quit again.

Changing My Perspective on Nutrition

On a whim in May of 2017, I decided to see Alicia. It was a game-changer and she completely changed my perspective on nutrition. During our first session, she asked me what my current diet consisted of and what foods I enjoyed/didn’t like. She gave me some basic nutrition advice to get me started while she developed my full meal plan. The second session was where I learned that I was on a good path before, but I wasn’t doing the little things that would have made my diet consistent. My proportions were off: I was eating too much protein and not enough carbs or fats. I love the taste of red meat, but I had cut it out before in favor of lean white meats. To compensate, I wound up overeating red meat (pound or two of steak per meal) when I cheated.

This time around, Alicia built lean red meats into my meal plan. She informed me that snacks weren’t the enemy and in fact necessary to avoid overindulging during meal time. Variety keeps the meal plan interesting and staves off the propensity to cheat. Cheating was even OK as long as it was responsible and limited. “Have a burger every once in a while,” she said, “just don’t get the triple stack with bacon.” I’m paraphrasing, of course, but you get the idea. She even opened my eyes to delicious healthy whole foods and substitutes that I had never heard of before: chicken sausage, chickpea pasta, farro, nutritional yeast, and Halo Top ice cream to name a few. Additionally, she was a great resource for tasty recipes that fit my meal plan.

Alicia is a very warm and open person; always upbeat and energetic. She won’t just take measurements and talk about nutrition in the sessions but will also take a genuine interest in you. She never chastises you for falling off the rails one week and instead encourages you to do better the following week. She’ll even let you know what sweets she indulged in that week, so you won’t feel as bad. Her attitude was a key factor in helping me stay the course.

How I changed my perspective of nutrition and lost 11% body fat

Seeing Sustainable Results

I could continue about my experience and how awesome Alicia is, but what’s really important is results. My initial measurements when I first started seeing Alicia were 218 lbs and 25% body fat. I can happily report that I’m now down to 196 lbs and 14% BF. Pants I purchased a year ago no longer fit and I’m down 2 belt loops. I feel a great sense of pride in my new physique when I look in the mirror. My lifts are steadily improving. More crucially, I feel much better. I have consistent energy throughout the day and will have maybe 1 caffeinated beverage a week if I really need it. I’ve only been sick once in the past year and I fought off the illness swiftly. Looking and feeling great has been an incredible confidence booster. Proper perspective on nutrition really has changed me for the better.

Even though I’m in the best shape of my life at 28, I’m still not satisfied and hopefully never will be. Fitness is a lifelong journey and I have a long way to go. I can now embark upon this journey armed with proper knowledge about nutrition. If you have been going the gym consistently like I was and aren’t seeing the results you want, proper diet may be the missing piece – you may need to change your perspective on nutrition. If you have any questions about nutrition or are curious about what a registered dietitian can do for you, I encourage you to seek one out and talk to (or email if you’re shy). And if you decide to start a nutrition program with her and stick with it, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Good luck on your own fitness journey and I will see you in the weight room!

Post written by FFC Park Ridge local’84 Cafe attendant Andrew Wrobel.

 

About 8 years ago I made a change to how I approached my training. Well, to be precise, I actually started training and stopped “working out”. It all started with a fitness plan.

It’s made a huge difference in how I get results, my overall health and resilience, and my understanding of how my body reacts to stressors. My results in the gym skyrocketed and it all started with a process that occurs outside of the gym; I started following a program that a coach would write for me.

My mentor once described a good program as a “helicopter view” of the trainee’s current position and where they want to be. A good fitness plan allows us to see the whole picture and how we will get from point A to point B.

“Making it up as you go” or not having a plan at all provides us with what he calls a “car view”; it doesn’t allow us to see the whole picture and leaves a lot to the imagination. How often do you get in a car in unknown territory and leave the navigation up to your imagination? You don’t, right? Because that’s a huge waste of time! Why would you do that in the gym?

“My mentor once described a good program as a “helicopter view” of the trainee’s current position and where they want to be. A good fitness plan allows us to see the whole picture and how we will get from point A to point B.”

If you are just starting out, working with a program can be intimidating. Even a simple program can look very complex on paper and seem hard to read – which is why I’m going to break down FFC’s brand new Workout of the Month program and make sure you feel confident from the start. The first step? Grab your worksheet below!

The Workout of the Month Fitness Plan Breakdown

Each Workout of the Month will come in a 4-week block.

  • Week 1 – exploratory week
  • Week 2 – intensity increase
  • Week 3 – higher weights, lower volume
  • Week 4 – the home stretch = higher weight, higher volume
Week 1 – Exploratory Week

This is a time to get comfortable with the exercises and figure out what weights you will use with the exercises that will result in the prescribed RPE (rating of perceived exertion). RPEs will range from 6-8 depending on what kind of work you are doing. Here is a chart to help you figure out your RPE:

Why work to an RPE instead of using percentages? The short answer is flexibility and health.

Not flexibility in the sense of being able to do the splits, per say, but flexibility in the sense of being able to adjust your working weights to how you feel that particular day. If you got a lot of sleep and ate well before your workout, you may feel like a million bucks and be able to match the RPE with a heavier weight than normal. Great!

Some days, you may be tired from a long work day or not sleeping well or whatever life is throwing at you and a lighter weight than normal gets you to the prescribed RPE. That’s cool too! We’re all about getting work done and keeping it safe, relative to our current readiness. Winning!

Week 2 – Intensity Increase

Now that you have your weights dialed in, you can get after it a little bit during week 2. You will usually see increased intensity during this week due to what you figured out during week 1’s exploration.

Week 3 – Higher Weights, Lower Volume

During week 3, you will see a lower volume in your strength work – but that doesn’t mean you’re doing less – you will be adding weight to make up for the decreased volume. This week is known as the “PR and go home week” — get to the gym, work a little bit harder than you have been, and go home feeling satisfied. Hooray!

Week 4 – Higher Weight, Higher Volume

Week 4 is a tough one. This is the pinnacle of your training block that will bring increased volume as well as increased weight. However, as long as you are within the prescribed RPE, you are safe and sound.

Here’s the thing… if you stick to the program, you will see that you are able to work with heavier weights but remain at the same RPE. That’s pretty cool, right?! You’re getting stronger!!

How to Read the Workout of the Month Worksheet

You’ll notice that the exercises in this program are sectioned off by letter (A, B, C, D). Those letters indicate that those exercises in that letter group are to be performed in succession. For instance, in the A section of the Monday workout you will perform 5 Overhead Med Ball Slams, 10 total (5 on each side) Deadbugs and 10 total (5 on each side) Banded Leg Drops.

You will then repeat that circuit 2 more times in that order. Then you will move on to section B and perform those exercises in succession for the prescribed sets and reps. Easy peasy!

If you are new to the gym and training in general, ease into it. Any program is to be viewed as more of a suggestion than a rule. For example, you could start with just 1 resistance day and 1 metabolic day for the first week. Or maybe a 2 resistance to 1 metabolic ratio is more your speed. Or, for you gym veterans, you could perform all 6 days.

Do whatever makes you feel good! The goal is to feel and move better while getting stronger and more resilient. We don’t need to beat ourselves up – we just need a plan and an honest assessment of our current capabilities.

Also – make sure that you are using the key provided to pick an exercise that is right for you. You should be able to perform the exercise you choose confidently and within the RPE for the prescribed set and rep range. If you need help choosing your exercises, please ask a trainer for help.

What Can You Expect?

Now that you have your weeks laid out and now how to work with the program, let’s talk about some intricacies. Writing a fitness plan for thousands of people is daunting. How do we fit it all appropriately for the individual’s skill sets and goals?

Well, it’s pretty simple if you let it be. This program will be designed for targeting general fitness. It will help you get stronger, lose some body fat, become more resilient, and improve your cardiovascular health. Yes, it really can do all of that!

Skill levels will be addressed with exercise and RPE selections. Do what’s appropriate for you! More and more difficult is not better, what is appropriate to you and what you feel confident doing is better. Working outside of your skill set isn’t going to get you to your goals faster, it’s just going to increase the risk of injury and most likely burn you out more quickly. We’re in this for the long game here. Consistency trumps intensity!

Taking It a Step Further

If you are curious to learn more about the exercises in this program or want to gain a better understanding of it, feel free to strike up a conversation with one of FFC’s trainers. We want you to succeed and get the most out of this offering! Professional guidance is never a bad idea when you are working toward a healthier you.

We hope that this helps get you started on your journey. Questions will come up and that’s ok, just contact a trainer at your club and they will be happy to help you at any point. We are very excited about this opportunity to expand our service to you and the quality and value it will add to your fitness journey!

Post written by FFC Oak Park Fitness Director Mike Connelly.

Check out the move of the month – the kettlebell swing!

They say your younger years are supposed to be the best years of your life, but for me, I spent my entire childhood, teenage years and early twenties being overweight. But I wasn’t just overweight – I was morbidly obese. I didn’t have confidence and I didn’t have just an ‘extra 20 pounds’ I could stand to lose. I had much more than that.

The more my family tried to get me to do something about my weight, the more I turned to food and convinced myself I didn’t have a problem.

The most embarrassing memory I have of high school gym class is having to redo the mile because I could never finish it in under twenty minutes. Needless to say, I never passed regardless of the countless times I tried. (I’m happy to share I’m now running a 10-minute mile, but I digress).

My weight continued to skyrocket in college, mostly due to my unhealthy eating and drinking habits. By the time I was a sophomore in college, I had hit it: 300 pounds.

I was pre-diabetic, had thyroid issues and other medical conditions. Walking up a flight of stairs or from one end of campus to the other would take it out of me. You couldn’t pay me to eat a vegetable, drink water or participate in any form of physical activity – I just wasn’t interested.

Fast forward to the spring semester of my junior year at college in 2010; I woke up one morning and told myself this had to stop.

A New Direction

So what made me turn my life around?

It was quite simple, actually. Among many other things, my clothes didn’t fit and I was uncomfortable on a daily basis. I was tired of sitting down and feeling my stomach hang over my pants. I did not want to become a diabetic, and did not enjoy the responsibility of taking medications on a daily basis for this and that.

I don’t think I’ve ever said this out loud before, but Weight Watchers saved my life. I joined with a girlfriend of mine, and we held each other accountable each and every week. I learned what a serving size was (who knew it wasn’t socially acceptable to eat a whole pizza by yourself?). I learned that your body needs food for fuel, and that I should be eating to live, not living to eat. Learning to track my food not only made me aware of what I was eating, but held me accountable for my choices, good or bad. I never knew what it felt like to be hungry prior to Weight Watchers, and embraced this new lifestyle 110%.

With my continued success at Weight Watchers, I was somehow convinced to start exercising. Skeptical about it at first (mostly because I was embarrassed to be in the gym thinking people were staring at me) I got up every morning before class – whether I liked it or not – and went to the student rec center.

I owe all of this to another girlfriend of mine, for she stood by side and was my cheerleader day in and day out. It became a habit, and I soon looked forward to our mornings at the rec center together followed by a breakfast somewhere close to campus. I was uneducated in the gym though, so I stuck to the cardio machines and continued to lose weight quickly.

I began to find confidence as I received compliments from people that they could tell I was losing weight. Every time I would go home for the weekend from college, my mother would gasp and say “You’re getting so skinny. You look great.”

Fast-forward to year twenty-two; I graduated and moved back to Minneapolis. I joined a gym, and shortly thereafter got connected with a personal trainer to ensure I was continuing on my weight loss journey. I no longer hung around the treadmill and the elliptical, but rather found myself migrating to the weight room as I was becoming more and more educated.

Weight lifting for fat loss - member story of how Lauren lost over 100 lbsThe weight room built my confidence.

I never knew just how strong I was, and how challenging using my own body weight in different movements could be. It was hard to believe that buried under all that fat was a lot of strength and confidence. Each week I would continue to lose weight, while developing physical and inner strength to keep going.

Related: think lifting heavy will make you bulk up? Think again! Check out this post about the benefits of working weights into your routine.

The Milestones

Among many milestones, I was able to run my first 5K Thanksgiving of 2012.

September 2016 I moved to Chicago, and the first thing on my list was to find a gym. I now call FFC Old Town my home, and look forward to working out there during the week. I began training twice a week to keep my motivation in a new city going.

Needless to say, I hit my second major milestone within a week of being in Chicago; I was no longer in the ‘200 club.’ I had hit 199 lbs, losing a grand total of just over 100 pounds in five-ish years.

My third major milestone? I hit my first goal weight of 185 pounds the week before Thanksgiving of this year, and I’m on my way toward my final goal weight of 165 pounds (a total of 135 pounds)!

I am the lightest weight I have been since I can’t even remember and I am wearing the smallest size clothing I have ever been able to wear. I am no longer pre-diabetic or have any medical conditions, and call me crazy, but I have developed a close relationship with the stair master. My journey helped me lose over 100 pounds.

Related: whatever your goals, they are attainable. Try out a personal training session at FFC on us to get started by clicking & scrolling to the bottom of this page!

My dedication to weight lifting has allowed me to break PRs on my squats, deadlifts, bench press, etc. and I couldn’t be in a better mindset than where I am now. You can’t make someone do something they don’t want to do; they have to want it for themselves.

Life is about balance, choices and sacrifice. “Make a promise to work hard, commit yourself to your goal and don’t say a word until you’ve made significant progress…” – Joe Duncan

Post written by FFC Old Town Member Lauren Rutzick.