All posts by rnagy

Ch Ch Changes

David Bowie said it best, Changes, turn and face the stranger. Bowie has always been one of the artists who helped me keep my head up when I needed it. With the seasons starting to change and the end of spotted lantern fly domination I figured I would talk about some changes here at the U.


First thing you will notice is many new faces in here. We have added quite a few new trainers. Our personal training has been growing and our teams are always in the need of more coaches. So if you see some new faces please say hello to them.


Next thing is one of our trainers has left for a new opportunity. April has now been a morning person at the U for a few years. We wish her well as she begins a new job and we couldn’t be happier for her and her success.


Teams are back! You may notice that we are training college groups again. We hope this enhances everyones experience at Union. We are happy to see college students from Point Park and Chatham back at UF and in Nova Place. Please feel free to say hello these students if you see them.


CeJ’s outdoor workouts/bootcamp season is coming to an end. Every year CeJ does an amazing job setting up these classes and events. I want to thank him and make sure that everyone is aware that they will be back. Next big one will be our Turkey Burn for Thanksgiving.





Meet the Staff – Drew

Hello, I’m Drew Levinson and I’m an indoor cycling instructor at Union Fitness. I love that we have RealRyder bikes here, which provide a phenomenal low-impact, full-body workout. I’ve been taking classes on RealRyder bikes since 2021 and I’m hooked.Outside of Union Fitness, I’m a paramedic and lab instructor for the Emergency Medicine Program at the University of Pittsburgh.I love outdoor adventures and exploring new places. I’ve kayaked the entire Napali Coast of Kauai (17 nautical miles). I’ve also jumped off the main deck of a ship in Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park. It was exhilarating to stare at the Johns Hopkins Glacier as I plunged into water with a temperature of 35 degrees Fahrenheit.When I have free time, I enjoy long hikes with my rescue dog Bimbee at McConnells Mill State Park, about 45 minutes north of Pittsburgh.I hope to see you at Rydes on Wednesdays at 5:30am for a rewarding workout with great playlists every week!



Meet the Staff – Allyssa

Hello, my name is Allyssa Space! I am a personal trainer and will also be leading powerful classes as well as some of the collegiate teams here at Union Fitness. I’m from Warrenton, Virginia, and just moved to pgh about a month ago! I graduated in May from Shenandoah University in Virginia where I played Softball. I earned my Bachelor’s in Exercise Science, and am now working on my Doctorate of Physical Therapy at Pitt. I am also working towards getting my CSCS, and would like to work in D1 or professional sports when I graduate.


I have been immersed in sports my whole life, and with that I have sustained many injuries. I want to help others recovering from injury not only get back to where they were prior, but better. I am also a big proponent of injury prevention, and think it should be included for everybody, not just athletes. I also believe it’s essential to be active in any way you can! I want to help athletes be stronger and faster on the field/ court and help others reach their fitness goals, be comfortable in the gym, and just feel good about themselves physically and mentally. Outside of the gym, I love to hike and kayak, and am also a big baker!



Tips for Motivation and Discipline

We all know how hard it can be to accomplish goals that we set. Obstacles and stressors can arise on a daily manner that hinder us from taking steps towards completing that goal. Sometimes these stressors and obstacles deplete our energy so much that we lose all motivation, and we feel like we cannot complete the goal we set. This is where discipline comes into play. This means doing what you know you are supposed to be doing even though you have no will to do it. This can be a very difficult thing to do, and I am going to provide some tips on how to be more disciplined when that feeling of zero motivation comes into play:


  1. Write down your goals- I think this is a very important thing to do when attempting a task. Writing down your goals will help bring that goal to life. It gives you a sense of self accountability and responsibility towards that task. It also gives it more value.
  2. Create a constant reminder of your goal- What I mean by this is forcing yourself to see that goal multiple times a day so that it is a constant reminder to yourself of what you should be doing to accomplish that goal. This can be done by listing your goals on your phone wall paper, making your goals a password that you use daily, or writing down your goals on a sticky note and placing that sticky note on your fridge or mirror. These are just some ways but there are several other ways to do this.
  3. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals- This means get yourself friends that have similar goals as you or supportive friends that will not allow you to have triggers that prevent you from accomplishing that goal. This could also mean finding mentors or people that you look up to and spending much time with them.
  4. Do things that your future self would thank you for- What I mean here is doing things in the present to help yourself in the future. Using myself as an example, I hate to think about tasks first thing in the morning when I wake up. I do not want to be half asleep at 4:30 am attempting to figure out what clothes to wear for work, preparing my food for the day, or even making my coffee. Instead, I will prepare my clothes, my food, and my coffee the day before so that I have an easier morning and I can focus on the larger tasks of the day such as teaching a class, training someone, or doing my own training. This is just a small example, but you can do this for many other aspects of life.
  5. Reflecting on your past accomplishments or what you are proud of- I think this is an important thing to do because it reminds you of what you have done in the past and how you overcame other obstacles in life. This reminder can give you the confidence to be able to take a deep breath and keep pushing towards your goal even if you are fearful of the outcome.

In my opinion, motivation comes and goes. It is a human emotion or feeling that we do not always have control over and it is not something we should rely on. Especially when our motivation can be hindered by external factors that are out of our control. Instead, we should rely on discipline in accomplishing goals and if you are ever struggling then you can try some of these tips above to see if they help!


-Zain Train


I was in grad school at Virginia Commonwealth University, we had a guest lecturer. This was how Sept 11th 2001 started for me. Truth be told my day started at 6 AM with a team lift in a basement gym that I worked in. After a few groups I went to my grad class, sport law was the name of the class. That Tuesday we had a guest lecturer. He began his presentation, only a few minutes into his lecture our professor came in and said, “Everyone call your family, we are under attack.” I will never forget this moment. For anyone who is old enough to remember where they were on 9/11 they will never forget this moment. It is etched in my head with a few other moments.


Today as we remember 9/11 I am asking you to think about moments that changed you. Now ask yourself some questions, what can I do to help improve myself and those around me? If today was my last day on earth would I be content with how I had spent my time? What impact am I making today? I ask these questions today and everyday, as we don’t know what the future holds for us and our loved ones.


Share some love today.





Force Velocity Curve 101

Hello My Max Effort Friends,


Have you heard of the force velocity curve? Would you like to be strong, fast and powerful? If that is a big 10/4 buddy in agreeance then take a walk with me up & down the force velocity curve to pack knowledge into that big brain. Learning about the force velocity curve can help us understand how to develop specific adaptations and make certain training decisions to elevate our training.


The force velocity curve is an inverse relationship between  Force (Force=mass x acceleration) and Velocity (Velocity= Distance/Time). So a relationship of moving something very heavy or very fast. For example if we look at the top of the curve at maximal strength that would be a powerlifting moving a 1 rep max, a very heavy load/intensity with a slower velocity/speed. That is unless you are Curt and move all maximal effort exercises fast. When we drop to the bottom of the curve and look at the speed section of the curve we can use the exercise of sprinting. Sprinting with no external load (added weight/sled) is a very low resistance exercise and you are moving as fast as possible, so low force and very high velocity.


The force velocity curve has 5 points on the graph ; maximal strength, strength- speed, power, speed-strength & speed. These points are along the Y & X axis of the graph, the force and velocity, respectively.


With maximal strength, this can be your 1RM or anything above your 90% of a lift, some may know this as a max effort training style. These are those very high force and lower velocity exercises.


As we move the lift a bit faster and drop below our 90% max effort phase, we enter the strength-speed territory of the curve. Strength-speed is in that 4-6 rep ranger and about 80% of your 1RM. With these loads you’ll still have a high force but the velocity will be faster than your maximal strength.


Smack dab in the middle of the curve we have our power portion. Power is a wide range of anything between around 30-80% of your 1RM. In this range you’ll see more olympic lifts and their variations around this point as well as loaded jump squats.


As we push more towards velocity we’ll creep into speed-strength and some Westsiders may know this as dynamic effort or athletes call this explosive strength. We could see sets of 8×3 at 50%, focusing on moving the bar as quickly as possible through the entire range of motion.


Finally we have speed, here we see maximum velocity with very low resistance. For example, throwing, jumping and sprinting would all be in this category.


So how can this benefit you? In training we want to program so you start with general training in the offseason to more specific training the closer you get to competition/ season. For example a powerlifter in the offseason should train in those power, speed-strength and speed points on the graph to drive new adaptations that could assist in the overall work capacity and general fitness of the lifter. Doing so could push that part of the curve up and to the right. As said lifter gets closer to the season/competition at that point we can get back to the strength-speed and maximal strength points to get more sport specific training, again pushing the curve up and to the right.


I hope you picked something up from this blog and give the force velocity curve a go.


Stay strong, stay speedy and stay powerful my friends.


The Road to Injury Recovery Part 2

After a few weeks of doctor appointments, x-rays, and an MRI scan, I finally have my shoulder injury diagnosis… It ended up being a grade two shoulder separation with a bruised collar bone, which I was excited about because that means no surgery and I will have a shorter recovery timeline!


As I mentioned in my previous blog, things such as injuries are all a part of the learning process in the sport of life. I’m currently learning how to get back to my normal everyday life while dealing with a nagging shoulder injury (along with the concussion as well).


I started physical therapy with my orthopedic doctor’s clinic this past week, and I am already learning a lot about how to build back my strength and how to ease back into powerlifting and biking. My doctor explained the shoulder muscles and possible recovery exercises thoroughly. He said that after about 4 weeks of physical therapy and working hard, I should be good to start lifting again, which is great news because I have missed it these past 6 weeks.


My initial assessment with him showed that my range of motion in my injured arm is very little and that I have a winged scapula that was most likely caused by my wreck and lack of muscle stabilization. After about an hour-long session, we established my initial exercise program to be as follows:


  • External rotation with band and a towel under the armpit to ensure I am squeezing my arm throughout the movement – 5 sets of 10 reps
  • Band resisted bent over rows – 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Band resisted shoulder extension – 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Band resisted shoulder retraction – 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Shoulder posterior capsule stretch – 1 set of 10 reps (holding for 20seconds at a time)


I would still love to hear any injury recovery stories that you all may have. I appreciate those of you who have already shared, and who have been there to listen to my story as well.


Stay well my friends,


Member Spotlight – Jeremy Reynolds

Everyone say it together: 


F*** the lantern flies. 


They’re invasive. They’re irritating. They’re inconvenient.  


That said, I have to give them credit for one thing: they’re consistent. They show up every day to band together and put in the work. Their work might be driving us all insane, but that instinctive drive is pretty irrepressible. 


I do not have that drive when it comes to fitness. 


Lifting is a hobby. I enjoy it as a healthy form of stress relief and because it’s a nice contrast from my more cerebral day-to-day activities (my alter-ego is as professional nerd — I attend concerts and write about classical music as critic for the Post-Gazette and a few national publications), but I didn’t grow up working out or particularly athletic. Shocker, I’m sure. 


After a few years of intermittent lifting after college, I tweaked my back on a squat and scared myself into trying a class at Union to work with some coaches to get some advice on technique. I wound up finding an atmosphere with all the right ingredients: a regular group of lifters who are a bit competitive, quite community-minded, and above all, highly consistent. 


It’s been a pleasure getting to know classmates and coaches alike, and on the days I pop in to the main gym I’ve never interacted with a friendlier group of gymgoers. In the two-plus years I’ve been coming, I haven’t relapsed or hurt my back once, and thanks to a less scattershot program I’ve seen some real progress in my technique. But, most importantly, it’s become a more integral part of my daily routine than ever before, and slow, steady progress beats intense unsustainable change any day of the week. 


I may not have perfect technique, and I’m certainly not pushing the most weight, but I come back for the hit of satisfaction I receive from knowing that this gym has helped self-improvement become a larger feature of my life.  


So, my fellow UF attendees, take my word for it: regularity will trump intermittent effort in the long run.  


So be regular. Be consistent. Be (sorry) lantern flies. 


Just watch out for the vacuum cleaner. : ) 


Jeremy Reynolds


I know that I already wrote a blog about presence earlier this year, but it is something that I need to work on and it is something that we could all be a bit better with. Sometimes we get too caught up in the nonsense of it all or the small things in life. We forget to be present and enjoy the ride. In my case, I can tend to take on a lot of responsibilities that can cause me to feel overwhelmed and cause me to not feel present with my everyday life. However, in the short 27 years that I have lived, I have learned two things that help bring me back to the present and may be able to help you if you are ever feeling down and out.


The first, which may have been rubbed off on me by CJ and Sky, is to travel and be spontaneous. For those that do not know, my girlfriend and I went to Mount Rainier in Washington over the weekend. It was an absolutely breathtaking experience and because of this trip we set a goal of visiting all the national parks in the United States. We have no idea how long that could take and if we may even be able to go to all the parks, but after this weekend we knew we had to make it a priority to travel more. It was an eye-opening experience that allowed me to take a step back and appreciate everything I have in my life. It felt like I had a full reset of all the stress and anxiety over the year and I am now ready to tackle my next goals.


The second, which I found out on my own with some help from my parents who raised me, is to set big goals and give your best effort in achieving them. There is no better feeling in the world then to see all the hard work come to fruition. With this being said, I know that we cannot possibly accomplish every single goal we set and some may come with failure. However, when we do fail then at least we can learn from that failure and gain experiences in the process. Whether we fail or succeed in the goal that we set, and when it is all said and done, we can at least take a step back to appreciate what we have gained in the process and come back to the present.


If you are ever feeling like you aren’t yourself or are feeling down about life, adventure could be a great way for you to find yourself again. So, if you’re in that spot then chase a goal that you have always wanted or book that trip that you have always thought about doing. This will allow you to pursue that natural high instead of other things like drugs, alcohol, or that instantaneous satisfaction from your phone. Life is short so this is just a gentle reminder to enjoy it! We only get one.


P.S. if you smash any big goals or go any trips recently then please tell me all about it! I’m here for the stories!





I was very lucky this weekend as I was able to attend the wedding of a lifelong friend. I was able to see his parents, friends (that I don’t see enough), and just spend some talking to new and old friends. At one point while in the restroom washing my hands I saw the grooms father and I said, “Mr P. I didn’t think I’d live long enough to see your son get married.” Mr P. laughed and said, “You didn’t think you’d live long enough?” Then we went on to have a conversation about my friendship with his son. We talked about friends who are no longer with us, and the ones we can still celebrate with. This led me to thinking about time.


Let me take you back to 1994, I was a young high school fella, music and lifting kept me from losing my mind. Back then that is all I knew. One of my favorite bands going to perform at  Three Rivers Stadium. My uncle John (RIP) waited in line to buy me tickets for my birthday, and I can now always say I saw Pink Floyd. I listened to Pink Floyd’s music non-stop during that time. So many of the songs moved me, “Have a Cigar” is a song about the music industry. The line from that song that will never leave is when the CEO of the record label meets Pink Floyd and asked the band, “which one’s pink?” He doesn’t know his people. It is a constant reminder to take care of the people that work with you.


The Pink Floyd song that impacted me more than any other is “Time.” Tenzing and I were listening to this song just the other day and discussing the importance of time. I am going to share a few of the lyrics here with you.


“Ticking away the moments that make up a dull dayYou fritter and waste the hours in an offhand wayKicking around on a piece of ground in your hometownWaiting for someone or something to show you the way
Tired of lying in the sunshineStaying home to watch the rainAnd you are young and life is longAnd there is time to kill today
And then one day you findTen years have got behind youNo one told you when to runYou missed the starting gun
And you run, and you run to catch up with the sunBut it’s sinkingRacing around to come up behind you againThe sun is the same in a relative wayBut you’re olderShorter of breath, and one day closer to death
Every year is getting shorterNever seem to find the timePlans that either come to naughtOr half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperationIs the English wayThe time is gone, the song is overThought I’d something more to say.”
“Time” Pink Floyd
This song reminds me of something my dad said to me, “Time is both infinite and finite.” He would explain that there is always more time, it just may not be time that you have. When people say, “I’ll do it later,” sure later will exist, but will that time be yours?
What is the point of all of my rambling today? The point is wake up, do something, do anything. Time is short and moving fast. So get the workout, read the book, go for a hike, or make some art. It is your time, go use it.
Todd Hamer/ with an assist by the one and only Ward.