Feel pain in a tooth? Your first thought might be, “I need to go to the dentist”. Need help with your taxes or finances? You’d probably go see an accountant or financial planner. Car need a tune-up? Take it to the mechanic! All of these are no-brainers when you’re in need of some help. Yet, when you’re in need of some nutritional guidance, seeing a registered dietitian (RD) may not be your first thought. Many people typically go to their friends, family members or a google search to determine what steps they need to take to get their eating on track. Read on to learn the difference between a registered dietitian vs nutritionist and how a registered dietitian can benefit you!

Registered Dietitian vs. Nutritionist

What is the difference between a registered dietitian vs nutritionist? While the term nutritionist may seem more natural, there is unfortunately no regulation around the term. This means anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. In other words, seeing a nutritionist means you could be working with someone who actually does not have any knowledge in counseling someone about their diet or food intake. On the other hand, registered dietitian is a highly regulated term. To be a RD it is required to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a health related field, as well as complete specific coursework approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

RDs also have to complete an accredited, supervised practice program at a health care facility, community agency or foodservice corporation and pass a national exam. Lastly, RDs have continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration on an ongoing basis. Some RDs may call themselves a nutritionist, but do so by choice because the public is more accustomed to it. When choosing to see someone for nutritional guidance, it’s okay to be choosy! You can ask them about their educational background, their approach to nutrition counseling, and what their specialties are. This can help you feel more comfortable with putting your trust in him or her.

Looking for Answers in Other Places

Earlier I mentioned going to friends, family members or Google for answers. Unfortunately, these methods may lead to a confusing and misinformed outcome. For instance, your friend’s diet may not work with your body or lifestyle. You might try it out, but not see the same results as they do. This can leave you feeling discouraged. In addition, you might try a google search for information about dietary changes to help with diabetes, digestive issues or clearer skin. What may happen is you’ll end up with conflicting information from different sources which can also leave you feeling discouraged or frustrated. Stop wasting your time with this and start finding the answers to your many nutrition and health related questions! Registered dietitians are the food and nutrition experts and here’s why.

Related: no time for an appointment? Here’s the next best thing – check out this list of the top 10 registered dietitian-approved books and documentaries.

What Can an RD Do for You?

There is a lot that a registered dietitian can do for you! Seeing a dietitian on a one-on-one basis or in a group setting can help you develop the knowledge about how to fuel your body the best. What’s great about working with a dietitian on a one-on-one basis is you’ll get personalized advice for your specific needs, challenges and goals. Together, the client and the RD can create an individualized approach to help you navigate nutrition, eating and your overall wellness. RDs can help you with managing various health conditions such as:

  • diabetes
  • high cholesterol
  • blood pressure
  • kidney disease
  • cancer
  • gout and other conditions

RDs can also help if you are experiencing digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and gas), Celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, lactose intolerance and other food sensitivities.

Food Allergies

RDs also help people manage food allergies. If you’re interested in changing your weight or relationship to food, a registered dietitian is a great resource because RDs are trained in a patient-centered approach. The RD will work with you to help you reach YOUR goals in a way that you can feel good about.

Sticking to a Plan

Maybe you feel that you already know what or how to eat, but just aren’t following through with your plan. RDs can help with that too. Sometimes it’s not the education or knowledge that influences changes in behavior; rather, a change in our attitude, beliefs and values is needed. With a RD you’ll start to learn how you can make sustainable, realistic changes that can have a big impact on your long term health and wellbeing.

Diet Experimentation & Training Programs

Interested in trying out a vegetarian or vegan diet? Want to know more about how to fuel your exercise routine or sporting event like a marathon or triathlon? Just want to find out more about what to look out for when grocery shopping? RDs can helps with that too! Seeing a registered dietitian for a group event is a great way to learn more about a specific topic and be with like-minded people who have similar questions as you.

Meet with a FFC registered dietitian today and discover what you’ve been missing!

Post written by FFC West Loop registered dietitian Emily Marshall.

About Emily

Emily Marshall is a registered dietitian at FFC West Loop. She loves building relationships and working one-on-one to help people with nutrition, how it fits into their lives and overall health. Want to set up a complimentary consultation with Emily? Email her at!


According to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), “Each year, 1 in 6 Americans get sick from eating contaminated food.” It’s important to know that foodborne illness is the most common during the months of November and December. Many of these outbreaks have been linked to foods commonly served during the holidays, such as turkey and roast beef. Fortunately, there are precautions you can take, like considering food safety temperatures and other basics, to keep you and your loved ones well this holiday season!

Preparing Food

First, it’s important to know the basics of food safety. Following these steps every time you prepare food will help prevent foodborne illness.

1. CLEAN: Take the time to wash your hands, clean your kitchen cooking surfaces and utensils, and wash your produce before you use it. Do you know how long you are supposed to wash your hands for in order to effectively clean them? It’s about 20 seconds or the length of time to sing happy birthday to yourself. It’s important that all kitchen surfaces and utensils are clean prior to cooking, as well as right after cooking so as to prevent the spread of bacteria and reduce your chances of bringing pests, such as mice or ants, into your house.

Produce must be cleaned before eating or cooking because it may also be harboring bacteria or other pathogens from the grocery store or from the ground it was growing in. I like to wash my produce in a nice clean sink filled with water with a splash of white vinegar added to it. I let the dirt fall to the bottom of the sink as the produce soaks in the water, then I take it out and rinse it well and allow it to air dry.

2. SEPARATE: Prevent cross-contamination by keeping raw meat away from fresh produce on surfaces and in the fridge. This is an important one. Raw meat is especially prone to containing bacteria and other pathogens and must be kept separate from ready to eat foods. The best way to thaw meat is in a shallow dish with a lid in the refrigerator overnight and up to 2 days. This is to ensure that that the meat or fish stays at a safe temperature throughout the entire thawing process.

It also ensures that no drippings or juices from the thawed meat accidentally touch other foods in the fridge. Always use separate cutting boards and utensils when handling raw meat and produce. Clean the area that was used to cut or handle raw meat with a disinfecting cleaning solution before placing other foods or produce in that area.

Cooking Food

3. COOK: Use a cooking thermometer to consider food safety temperatures in order to tell when all the bacteria has been killed during cooking. This is the only way to determine if your food has reached a safe temperature. According to the Food Safety Inspection Service, hot food must be kept hot at a temperature above 140 F. Leftovers must be reheated to 165 F. It is recommended to cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F before removing the meat from the heat source.

For safety and quality, allow the meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Poultry should register 165 °F to be considered safe to eat.

Related: with little to no calories, spices pack a surprisingly interesting and powerful punch. Check out these 6 to always have on hand!

4. CHILL: Never let perishable food sit out at room temperature for more than two hours. I often see this at parties and gatherings. Dips, catered food, appetizers, and main courses are typically left to sit out for hours for guests to nibble on, but the longer a food sits out at room temperature, the more opportunity it has to harbor pathogens that cause foodborne illness. Make note of how long the food has been sitting out for and store it into Tupperware containers in the fridge or freezer before two hours. Otherwise, you’ll have to throw it away.

Remember, your freezer is your best friend when it comes to storing food you’ve prepared and saving it for another day. This can save you time in the long run, but a good tip is to put a label on the container of food you put in your freezer and keep tabs of what you have stored away. Freezing food will keep bacteria at bay, but the quality of the food may not be as good after a year of being in the freezer. For best quality use frozen foods within 6 months. Check to make sure your freezer and fridge are at the correct temperatures. The refrigerator should be at 40 °F or below and the freezer at 0 °F or below.

Following the food safety basics are the main ways to prevent foodborne illness all year round and can make the difference in saving you a trip to the hospital or emergency room. Many people may have been in contact with food that has been contaminated with harmful pathogens, but fortunately their immune systems have been strong enough to fight it off. Those who are more prone to developing foodborne illness are children younger than 5 years, adults aged 65 and older, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems due to medical conditions such as diabetes, liver or kidney disease, alcoholism, and HIV/AIDS; or to receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Post written by FFC Registered Dietitian Emily Marshall.


Imagine a soothing massage. Now imagine that, but for your face. Usually thought of as a pampering practice, facials are actually a very important aspect of skincare. Here’s why you need a facial, plus wellness benefits associated with a facial.

Jess, licensed and insured esthetician, suggests receiving a facial every 2 weeks (or more, depending on your preferences and skin). Besides achieving relaxation, they provide many benefits to enhance the beauty of your healthy skin, as well as address and correct concerns.

What’s involved? The process includes cleansing the skin, exfoliation and correction, followed by moisturizing and and protection with various products. You can also take the opportunity to ask your esthetician about best practices, or any questions you may have about your skin, including products to buy and ingredients you should look for/stay away from.

Benefits of a Facial

What are the benefits of a facial? Benefits of a facial include:

  • Refined skin texture
  • Prevention of imperfections such as milia and blemishes
  • Increased cell turnover, which can reveal brighter skin
  • Revival of dull, lifeless skin
  • Improved skin elasticity

Related: dealing with a breakout? Your diet could be to blame. Here’s a recipe for low-sugar breakfast options you should check out!

For anyone who love massages, you’ll be glad to know facials include a massage! And the FFC Signature Facial actually includes a back massage. The different manipulations during the facial will increase oxygen and blood flow to the skin, reducing the appearance of dark circles around the eyes, relaxing the muscles, and slowing the onset of fine lines and wrinkles while firming the muscles beneath the skin.

Regular facials promote healthy clear, well hydrated complexions leaving us all with young, beautiful skin.

Post written by FFC West Loop skincare expert, Jessica Harp.

About Jess

Jess is an esthetician at FFC West Loop who helps clients attain healthy, beautiful skin through facials, waxing and education. She looks forward to meeting you and helping you complete you healthy skin routine. Email her at to discuss the best program for you and your skin!

Last summer I, a thirty-something British woman, relocated from London to Chicago. I have an extensive background in marathon and ultra-marathon running, but by the time I arrived in Chicago, at the end of June 2017, my fitness was at an all-time low.

I was probably still recovering from a 156-mile ultra-marathon across the Sahara – the equivalent of running almost six marathons over seven days, which I attempted with my friend, Simon. This race, The Marathon des Sables, or Marathon of the Sands, is billed as the “toughest footrace on earth”. It usually attracts a lot of military personnel and less than 6% of the runners are female.

Unfortunately, Simon and I failed to complete the event – we became separated from the other runners and each other. I became lost in the desert, broke 8 toenails and suffered from severe shock.

On reflection, Simon and I realized that we had not appreciated the extremely technical aspect of the race and that had been reflected in both my training and preparation for the race. We decided to attempt the Marathon des Sables for a second time. This time, the organizers of the race decided to “celebrate” its 30th anniversary by increasing the distance to 166 miles!

Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. With this in mind, I decided to take a sabbatical from my business to focus on training in a different way.

Try, Try Again

As I created my new training strategy, I also decided to write a book based on the lessons I had learned from failing and then (hopefully) succeeding. The Marathon des Sables is an extremely technical race; the temperature can reach up to 132 degrees Fahrenheit in the daytime, which has all sorts of implications on the foods, equipment etc. that a runner has to carry.

Marathon Du Sables Ultra Marathon

My plan was to write a book that would be part autobiographical and part technical guide, designed to help other runners so that they wouldn’t face the huge trauma I had faced and ultimately risk failing at the race altogether.

At the peak of my training, I ran 120 miles per week, while carrying a 12 lb rucksack containing my desert equipment and supplies. Unfortunately, my friend Simon developed severe injuries during training and had to pull out of the race.

I wrote the first draft of my manuscript on my iPhone, using the Evernote app. I didn’t want to go through the bureaucracy of a traditional publisher so decided to self-publish. I successfully completed the Marathon des Sables in 2015 and my book “Big Steps, Long Strides”, available through Amazon, was published in 2016.

The Marathon des Sables was mentally and physically exhausting. I needed a significant break from running. In fact, my break was so long that when I arrived in Chicago I was at least 18 lbs overweight!

Related: want more inspiration? Check out how TriMonster helped this member complete her first triathlon at 70!

Getting Back Into a Routine

In Chicago, I decided to work on several goals. The first was to shed my excess weight. The second was to redevelop my base fitness and the third was to complete my first triathlon this year. I faced quite a few challenges. The last time I rode a bike was more than 25 years ago, and I couldn’t swim… at all!

Marathons all over the worldI had a passing conversation with Mike Gorrell, the membership director, who told me, “Nisha, summer bodies are made in the winter.” This comment really stuck with me and made me even more determined to shed my excess weight, so I started attending cardio and weight classes. Personal trainers Neha Mayawala, Manny Hernandez and Torrence Givan took my body fat measurements and helped me with different types of training advice, and Kenneth Li helped me with my heart rate training using MYZONE.

I approached Austin Head before a Tread Express class and asked if he would mind recording his voice during the class, so that I could do the same class more frequently in my own time. It was pretty audacious, but to my delight, not only did he oblige, but was totally enthusiastic about doing this for me. I find Austin’s classes to be absolutely awesome. I used to hate running on the treadmill, but the enthusiasm and encouragement from Austin (“Commit to just 90 seconds of discomfort, because you can do this!) has been amazing motivation.

The combination of interval training and healthy eating meant that by the beginning of April, I’d lost almost 16 lbs of excess weight. As I began to feel more comfortable with my shape, I started going to spin classes. David Bohn has been helping me develop back strength and realigning my posture, while Erin O’Connor, Neha Mayawala and Ramiro Correa have all encouraged and supported me in incorporating weight training into my workouts, so that I can build muscle and reduce my body fat percentage.

Finding a Fitness Support Network

Nisha Harish FFC West Loop Marathon RunnerErin O’Connell is the best swim coach I’ve ever had. When I asked her whether she had done any triathlons, she replied, “No”. I challenged her to complete a triathlon with me. “How can a person train another if they have no experience themselves in the sport?”, I teased.

It’s a testament to Erin as a swim coach that she’s not a bystander who trains clients, but is supporting them every step of the way. As for my swimming, well, at the beginning of January I couldn’t swim a full length. Only six swim sessions later, I can swim almost forty lengths!

I feel extremely well supported and have made plenty of good friends at FFC West Loop, from trainers to members. I really do feel like I’m part of a community. Not only that, but I feel connected to a healthier lifestyle and it’s made my integration to Chicago just so much easier. My goal is to complete my first triathlon with Erin this year, followed by a couple of half marathons and the Chicago Marathon later this year.

The Reluctant Gym-Goer

One of the fantastic consequences of finding my own community at FFC has been that my husband,
whose idea of exercise is to binge-watch House of Cards on Netflix, has now started coming to the gym with me. Every Saturday morning, we do a yoga class and then get on the treadmills and plug in our earphones, to complete the Tread Express audio that Austin recorded for me.

After that, we do some weight training followed by 30 minutes of swimming. I even bring a bag of snacks to the gym, so that my husband, who is a non-stop grazer, doesn’t use hunger as an excuse to leave the gym prematurely!! Many of the trainers know about my plotting to get my husband’s fitness to a good level and are so super encouraging towards him and both of us.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the proverb that “It takes a village to raise a child”, but it also takes a community to raise an athlete. I’m thrilled to say that FFC has been the perfect community for us.

Post written by FFC West Loop member Nisha Harish.

Want to know more about Nisha’s journey? You can purchase her book, Big Steps, Long Strides – a complete guide to running the Marathon des Sables, here and find out more about Nisha on her website!

Nisha Harish Ultra Marathon Runner


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Water makes up 60% to 65% of our total body weight. When we exercise, we lose water through sweat – this water needs to be replaced. Even a 2% loss of body weight through sweat (i.e. 3 lbs of loss for a 150 lb person) can put you at a disadvantage. If this fluid loss is not replaced properly, dehydration will occur. This is a serious condition that can diminish energy and impair performance, among other symptoms. However, it can be easily spotted and prevented. Here are a few ways to prevent dehydration and keep up with your water intake.

Signs of Dehydration 

Thirst is one indicator of dehydration, but it is not an early warning sign. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Other signs of dehydration include:

  • Feeling dizzy and lightheaded
  • Having a dry or sticky mouth
  • Producing less urine and darker urine

Related: have other nutrition questions? Talk to one of FFC’s on-site registered dietitians! Click here for a free 30-minute consultation.

How to Prevent It

Drink Fluids

Preventing dehydration starts long before the activity. The easiest way to avoid dehydration is to drink lots of fluids, especially on hot, dry, windy days.

How To: the night before, as well as before your workout, you should intake the following fluids:

  • 16 ounces of water before bed
  • 16 ounces of water in the morning
  • 4-8 ounces every 15 minutes

Related: speaking of the night before, here are some meal prep tips you can use in addition to these hydration hacks to make sure you’re staying on track!

Be sure to also replace your fluid loss post exercise: 24 ounces of fluid for every pound lost!

Water is usually the best choice, but you can also get fluids from water-based juices and smoothies!

Dress Appropriately

Always dress appropriately for your activity. Wear loose-fitting clothes and a hat if you can, this will keep you cooler and cut down sweating.

Fitness tip: if you can’t remember how much water you drank today, you haven’t had enough!

Many of us dudes have been there. Peeking through those glass doors, observing the mysticism that is a yoga class as we finish our last set of curls. Yoga for guys? Not a chance. A class full of side bending, head standing, lotus-posing girls is no place for me. How am I supposed to chest pump in there?

This perception of yoga as being a “female” modality of fitness focused on flexibility and even spirituality has kept even the most open male gym goers, including myself, from trying a class. I’m here to tell you why guys should practice yoga.I started to get tired of doing the same weight lifting routine day in and day out and needed something new to keep me interested and challenged. So, I decided I was going to dedicate myself to a weekly yoga practice for all of 2016. It’s October, and I’m still going strong – so let me share the 5 main things I’ve learned.

Yoga is not just for flexibility.

One of my goals for starting yoga was to become more flexible and mobile in my joints. I knew this would help prevent injury and since I already felt strong, flexibility was a good goal. Sounds great, but fast forward to 10 minutes into my first class: I’ve been holding downward facing dog for about 15 seconds and my shoulders are on fire.

Later, we do an inversion called crow where you balance only on your hands, and it takes me about a second before I fall on my face. Talk about a wakeup call. Yoga is incredibly effective in building strength and muscle – which makes yoga for guys an ideal fitness modality!

Within a month, I gained an unexpected amount of strength in my shoulders and after 6 months, I noticed my upper body was looking better than ever because my shoulders were bigger and my posture was better. That brings me to my second point.

Related: give it a shot – what do you have to lose? Try FFC for free; click here!

Yoga helps build a better physique.

Typical weight lifting forces us into the same limited range of mobility patterns. This can be effective in building muscle, but many people become unbalanced in terms of where they build that muscle. That’s where yoga for guys comes in.

Body builders know that looking good is not only about size but also symmetry. Posture is probably the most important factor in building an impressive presence, not to mention it is one of the most neglected aspects of health in our society today. By learning how to roll the shoulders back and down, I promise you will look better and become stronger in your lifts.

Speaking of lifting, if you live for the adrenaline rush you get from adding a bunch of 45s onto the bar and lifting some heavy weight, let me tell you…

Related: other things (like yoga) you are putting off at the gym: foam rolling. Here’s why you should try it!

The “yoga high” is real and awesome.

Sounds weird, but you’re just going to have to trust me on this one. I still remember the first time I felt it: drenched in sweat in a 95 degree room, Fetty Wap blasting, and flowing through a series of warrior poses. It was 6 AM, and I left that studio like a man possessed.

The combination of deep rhythmic breathing, complete concentration, and prolonged strength that was needed to successfully complete the flow put me in a weird, trance-like state where I forgot all the stresses in my world and just honed in on the task at hand.

But let’s back up a little bit, it is absolutely true that yoga has the potential to make a profound impact on the way you view your own life and it teaches important life lessons just like the weight room will. It has impacted mine significantly but that takes time, and it’s different for every person. So let’s get back to the fun stuff.

Yoga lets you get upside down & create new challenges.

As a guy who thinks he’s strong, the most interesting part of yoga for me was, and still is, inversions. The amount of strength and mobility required to float into forearm stand or flying pigeon is incredible.

For people who need the constant challenge of improving lifts and getting stronger, figuring out how to balance upside down gave me that same satisfaction; much of it came from conquering something that seemed insurmountable when I first tried it.

The gym provides the opportunity to artificially create a challenging situation to overcome. Just think about that 5th set of heavy squats that you’re dreading doing but know you have to finish.

The last point I want to make is…

Yoga is hard.

Don’t be fooled by the people coming out of a class who talk about how great they feel. You’ll have those days, but you’ll also have days where you are completely spent. When you start practicing inversions, you will fall hundreds of times before you succeed for even 5 seconds.

If you’re like me, this is EXCITING. My one hour I have at the gym every day needs to leave me with the feeling of accomplishment. I want to know I left it all out there and improved myself. Yoga gives you this.

To recap, no I haven’t become a headband wearing yogi, walking around the street whispering Namaste to everyone, and I still love to lift heavy. But I have become stronger, more flexible, well rounded, and confident in my daily life. There is no doubt that I will continue to practice yoga past 2016, and I hope the next time you see a herd of yogis walking into a class, you go out on a limb and give one of the many types of classes a shot.

Post written by FFC West Loop Personal Trainer Paras Patel.

About Paras

Paras Patel is an ACE certified personal trainer at FFC West Loop. He specializes in core training, functional, stability and balance, trigger point and athletic training, as well as TRX/bodyweight training and flexibility.

Want to follow along with his yoga trials and triumphs? Follow him on Instagram at @paraspatel31 or on Facebook at Paras Patel. Have questions or want to set up a free complimentary 60-minute session? Email him at!


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When you enter the fitness area at the FFC West Loop club, you may get the instant impression that there are a lot of personal trainers. They seem to occupy much of the open space available and at times, can have their clients doing some interesting exercises.

And at one point, it has probably crossed your mind to wonder who these trainers actually are and what their backgrounds are like. There can be a lot of assumptions and common misconceptions about personal trainers.

It’s natural to assume they are all athletes or body builders, studied exercise science, and probably have been fit their entire lives (maybe even came out of the womb with a six pack). If you’re not interested in becoming the hulk, they probably don’t have much to offer you, right?

While this is an understandable assumption, the reality is the average member can relate to and benefit from a trainer much more than they think.

We’re Not All Fitness 24/7

Many of our trainers did not enter college thinking they would be in the fitness world. In fact, quite a few had other jobs before becoming trainers. Whether it was working in management, being a business owner, marine, accountant, lawyer, or dancer, the diversity of backgrounds of the personal training staff at West Loop is impressive.

In terms of education, several trainers have experience in graduate school, including master’s programs, dental school, pharmacy school, and law school. Undergraduate educations range from chemistry to architecture, criminology, business management, Spanish, and psychology.

You might be wondering how a degree in architecture is going to help you get in better shape, but the relevance is that we are not the typical fitness enthusiasts that many people think we are. Clients also sometimes assume that trainers are perfect, healthy specimens that stuff kale and coconut oil in their pockets and exercise three times a day when in fact we face the same difficulties as everyone else. Several trainers at West Loop have been overweight during their lives, usually because their old jobs were stressful and made living a healthy lifestyle very difficult. Sound familiar?

What Our Trainers Can Offer You

The trainers at FFC have been hired because they are very qualified and knowledgeable, but experiencing success with a trainer is about much more than their knowledge. Knowing that your trainer has experienced significant weight loss, has suffered the same injury as you, or understands the challenges of eating well while balancing school and work puts them in a better position to help you overcome similar challenges.

Related: on the flip side, trainers also learn a lot from their clients. Check out this recent post to see a first-hand account!

The reason why we ended up at FFC is because we are passionate about helping people improve themselves. The training team at West Loop has created a unique culture: we teach each other, learn from each other, and are excited to share what we know with anyone who is interested in learning more. Whether you decide to invest in us or not, we are here to help. Throughout the day, odds are you will see several of us hanging around, working out together, or reading up on continuing education resources when we are not with a client.

So what can they do for you?

In reality, less than a tenth of members at FFC work with a trainer. But your membership isn’t just access to equipment. It also is a subscription to all the health and fitness knowledge that the personal trainers have. So take a chance and get to know some of those trainers you see every day, and you may be surprised at what you find out.

Post written by FFC West Loop personal trainer Paras Patel.


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If you have heard anything about Pilates, you have probably heard it makes your core stronger, gets you toned and increases your flexibility. Something you may not have heard is that Pilates makes you smarter – as in more intelligent, improved cognitive function! Pilates can make you smarter by increasing your attention, motivation and your ability to achieve more. It may also improve your overall mood and reduce your stress, anxiety and fatigue. Who knew you could be physically and mentally stronger just by practicing Pilates?! Check out these 4 ways Pilates makes you mentally stronger and why you should try it.

The 6 Principles of Pilates & Why They Matter

Many of the six principles that serve as the foundation of Pilates relate back to the elements of human cognitive function and can aid in the improvement of these functions. The principles are as follows:

  • Concentration – focus on the mind-body connection to establish more mental and physical benefits from the workout
  • Centering – use your core (Pilates Powerhouse) muscles to help your body’s muscles function and develop more efficiently
  • Control – make precise, controlled, correct movements for maximum benefits
  • Breathing – control your breathing to include full exhalations as each exercise is performed helps with muscle activation and helps with mental focus
  • Precision – work toward the ideal execution of the exercise
  • Flow – ensure that each motion is smooth

Related: not only can Pilates help increase cognitive function, but it can help with muscle imbalances and chronic pain! Check out this post.

Pilates Can Reduce Anxiety & Increase Attention, Motivation & Achievement

So how does regularly practicing Pilates and the principles of Pilates help decrease anxiety and stress and improve your attention, motivation and overall cognitive function – making you “mentally stronger”?

Pilates helps reduce your anxiety by:

  • Increasing your body energy
  • Increasing sleep quality
  • Making your body more comfortable
  • Encouraging proper breathing
  • Improving blood and oxygen circulation flow to the brain
  • Relaxing your muscles

Pilates helps increase your attention by:

  • Increasing the principles of concentration and precision
  • Perfecting the controlling of body movement by the brain
  • Increasing memory-processing speed

Pilates helps increase your motivation by:

  • Improving total mood by performing positive habits and encouraging breathing that helps control emotions
  • Increasing vitality and body energy
  • Offering satisfaction for the basic psychological needs (competence, autonomy, and relatedness)
  • Improving psychological well-being
  • Improving self-esteem
  • Encouraging the release of a certain neurotransmitter which helps to alleviate physical and mental pain

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

Pilates improves achievement by:

  • Generating new neurons (the foundation of the nervous system)
  • Increasing neurotransmitters
  • Aiding in the better survival of the neurons responsible for learning, memory, and higher thinking

If you would like to be increase your cognitive function, become mentally stronger, and more productive, you should consider incorporating Pilates into your regular exercise routine. Your brain and body will thank you!

Post written by FFC West Loop Pilates and personal trainer Tsedal Ashby.

About Tsedal

Tsedal is a certified Pilates instructor and personal trainer at FFC West Loop. She enjoys teaching people who are new to exercise as well as challenging more experienced athletes. Want to set up a complimentary consultation? Email her directly at!


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In May of 2009 I had received word from my parents that my mom had gone in for a check-up due to recurring headaches, and that the MRI showed a couple of lesions on her brain. After a hard, five-month long fight (during which she maintained her gracefulness, humor and wit through the entire time), my mom passed away from two aggressive brain tumors. I was able to really learn a lot from her during this time, especially when she would say exactly what was on her mind. As she said, “At this point, what’s the worst that can happen?” My mom was a funny woman. Following this, I began looking for something that could change my life that I could also dedicate to my mom. Fast forward to 2012 when I attended the London Olympics and watched a sport called “Modern Pentathlon.” This sport involves five disciplines: swimming, fencing, horse-jumping, shooting, and running. I made a decision then and there that I would pursue this in dedication to my mom, and see how far I could go to becoming an Olympic athlete.

I had played and coached four sports in high school and college, but none of those sports were represented in the Modern Pentathlon. So I had to learn.

I started to fence at a couple of local clubs, and found that I was pretty good at the sport! I started running regularly and entered in a few 5, 8 and 10K races as a continued source of challenge. I began learning to ride horses at my cousin’s farm when I could leave the city. I also signed up for a membership with FFC and started swimming at the FFC West Loop pool. In the beginning I worked with one of their personal trainers for instruction on how to swim.

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I began with a 9-10 hour/week training schedule and after three months, I started building up to a 20 hour/week schedule. My performance was improving quite a bit, so I contacted the Team USA Pentathlon coach for some guidance.

Following a meeting with the coach, I was able to sign up for an Olympic development camp in Colorado Springs. The camp went well, and I received an invitation to train at the official Olympic Training Center on a continual basis if I wanted to move out there. However, I also have a music instruction business (one of the major locations being in Chicago), so that move was going to be a difficult one. In the end, I decided to stay and train in Chicago, but travel to Colorado 6-12 times/year to train at the OTC.

Going for the Gold

In October of 2014, I was asked to represent Team USA at my first international event in Guatemala. I would be competing in the Biathlon/Triathlon World Championships (run/swim/run and shoot/swim/run). I arrived in Guatemala, and had my first meeting as an international athlete exactly five years after my mom’s passing. The competition went well, and I made a number of friends from all over the world.

I represented Team USA once again in June 2015 for the Modern Pentathlon in the Dominican Republic (a tournament involving North and Central American athletes).

I also competed for Team USA at the Biathlon/Triathlon World Championships in the country of Georgia. It was an unforgettable trip, again resulting in many new experiences and friendships. I also received word that my fencing training would be sponsored by a club in New York, so I would have the opportunity to train with some of the best fencers in the country.

Around this time I entered into a number of triathlons, with the Chicago Triathlon being my first race. I was a bit wary because of my new status to cycling, but found it to be a lot of fun, and I placed decently well, (which I think had to do partly with the bit of BMX racing I did when I was younger!).

Related: new to the triathlon world? Here’s how to improve your transition time!

I had done another race on a borrowed bike soon after, which went pretty well, and decided to try out the USA Draft-Legal Qualifier in Florida in November. The race was a warm one—and they told me there were alligators and other fun animals where we were swimming—but I managed to qualify and represent Team USA in triathlon at the ITU World Championships in 2016!

What the Future Holds

For the next couple of months, I will be changing my emphasis back to the pentathlon for my Team USA qualifiers. That means different pool workouts at FFC, as well as different running workouts, with more emphasis placed on speed as opposed to endurance.

The Olympics in Rio look like a slim possibility, as there is still a decent amount of improvement I need to make, but Tokyo is in 2020, and I will be continuing to train towards this goal! I am also looking forward to adding more triathlon-oriented training into my workouts, and Chris Navin, head of the Tri-Monster program at FFC has been a wealth of knowledge in assisting me to develop in this sport.

With winter approaching in Chicago, I will be gearing more of my runs to the treadmill and a majority of my bike rides to the spin bikes. When I’m not there I’ll likely have the scent of chlorine sticking to me from many, many laps in the pool (thanks FFC for the facilities!).

For more information and updates, be sure to follow my training journey on Instagram, check out my Team USA bio, connect with me in the music instruction space, and visit my website for tips on how to stay active post-college. 

Post written by FFC West Loop member James L.


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I first came to the US in 2009. Having grown up in New Zealand, I was not used to the portion sizes of various fast food options in America. Despite my effort to maintain my weight, poor diet and the lack of an exercise routine slowly took a toll on my body. I went up in clothes sizes and my weight ballooned from 172 lbs to 225 Ibs. I didn’t feel good and it was hard to carry all the weight around. I was determined to get my physique back. I began working out at a local gym in Kansas City. At first I didn’t have a clear strategy to achieving my goal of losing weight. But over time I read a lot of articles related to bodybuilding – covering everything from the bulking and cutting phases to the different diet strategies, training methods, and natural supplements.

Finding Fitness Success

This newfound knowledge and experience through trial and error helped me to refine my plan to best fit my body and to ultimately achieve my goal of losing weight. Through discipline, consistency and sheer determination I was able to bring my weight down from 225 lbs to 158 lbs. I became lean and athletic, resembling the ripped athletes I admired when I was younger on the cover of sports magazines.

Related: the top 12 ways to burn body fat, according to a personal trainer.

I later met a trainer at the local Kansas City gym who introduced me to competitive natural bodybuilding. I competed in several amateur bodybuilding competitions with the goal of earning my professional status in natural bodybuilding. At each competition I got better and closer to getting my pro card, but I still had some improvements to make.

After getting married in December of 2014, we decided to move to Chicago. I still wanted to achieve my goal of obtaining my pro card in bodybuilding, so I continued my training at the gym in the new apartment building we had moved into. It was convenient having the gym within our apartment building, but unfortunately there were more treadmills than heavy weights and was not sufficient enough for me to prepare for my competition.

One day I came home from work and I saw personal trainer Cory Fultz from FFC West Loop promoting FFC club memberships. Cory was friendly, informative and easy to chat with. He offered us a tour of the FFC West Loop gym, and after we did the walkthrough tour of the facility I knew immediately that this would be the right gym for me; it had the right equipment I needed to help me prepare for my competition. I was set.

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Bodybuilding Competition Day

Three weeks before the competition day my wife gave birth to our son. On November 21st I competed at the OCB Midwest States natural bodybuilding competition in DeKalb, IL. After 7 long months of contest preparation at FFC West Loop I successfully placed first and was awarded my pro card. On top of finally winning my pro card, it was a blessing to also have both my wife and son supporting me in the audience.

I believe I was able to get first place this time round because of the training I did at FFC West Loop. I was able to make significant improvements in my physique that allowed me to come prepared and present my best self on stage. I would like to thank my beautiful wife for her love and support throughout this journey and thank you FFC for providing me the resources to achieve my goals.

Post written by FFC West Loop member Bart M.


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