All posts by rnagy

Meet the Interns, Zain

Hi my name is Zain Skalos. I am 25 years old, a senior at the University of Pittsburgh, and a Navy veteran. I found my passion for fitness during my time in the Navy. At that time, my goal was to become a Naval Officer so that I could be a pilot. I found my passion of working out and love for the community of fitness while pursuing this goal. I knew then that I did not want to become a Pilot and I decided that I would finish with the military and apply to colleges.


This led me to the University of Pittsburgh where I currently am working on receiving my Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science. However, my future goal is to end up as a Physical Therapist. During my first semester at Pitt, I completed two men’s physique shows. After giving a go at bodybuilding, I decided to try Powerlifting. So I joined the Powerlifting Club at the University of Pittsburgh and made many great memories with many awesome friends. Through the experiences with the team and being able to better myself, I fell in love with powerlifting. These experiences would later lead me to the opportunity of training at Union Fitness. While training at Union, I enjoyed the environment, the mentors, and the community that Union creates. I felt that this is where I had to be. So as part of my senior internship at the University of Pittsburgh, I applied for the internship at Union. I am looking forward to learning from every single person that comes into Union Fitness and creating more memories!

Hungry Food Fun

Hello my hungry homies,


If you follow along on my adventure shenanigans you can see that I love cooking and trying new exciting foods with a twist. What you may not have known is that I’m pretty much a veg head these days. Long ago a grumpy gray bearded man told me I couldn’t get bumpy by being a veg head, so we had to stubbornly prove him wrong. Also, I’m team animal and team save the planet which helps fuel the fire, and forces me to think outside of the box and be more creative. With all that being said, I have two fun and easy food recipes to show you that will definitely spice up your life and give you a twist on some classics, veg head style of course.


First we have the Black Bean & Beet Fiesta Burger which was inspired by our trip to The Independent, a Squirrel Hill tavern and restaurant (a fan favorite).


Take your Beets (fresh is better for most things) black beans, chickpeas, quinoa, jalapeños, onion, thyme, oregano, salt, pepper, a bit of A1(for that umami hit) and send it all through the food processor. Mix all that up well and refrigerate for a bit, then create your patties and cook them like you would your favorite burger. Then Boom, toss your go to toppings, some guac on that burger and send it between some fresh buns. There you have it, a quick and easy twist on a tasty burger.


As a nice side for the Triple B Fiesta Burger we created a Cashew Queso, for our lactose belly ache friends out there. I believe we first had this on our adventure pit stop at a brewery in Boulder Colorado but it could have also been on a ride up Pacific Highway 1. I’ll consult the elders for the determination.


Any-who, get some cashews and soak those puppies overnight to start the process. Boil some potatoes, take some unsweetened vegan cream or almond/ cashew milk, diced tomatoes, chopped jalapeños, garlic, salt, onion, cayenne powder and nutritional yeast. That is correct, I don’t measure anything, just all eyes and elbows over here. Blend all that fun stuff together and TADA Cashew Queso. Dip your chips and enjoy.


There you have it my hungry homies. Let me know if you tried these out and how it all went. Hold onto your butts for more twisted food ideas.




The Beauty of Injuries

Your body is going to hurt. I tell myself this everyday, as no matter what we do, or don’t do our bodies are going to hurt. As we train (and age) bodies break down, and if we don’t train, we still age and the body will still break down. My philosophy is, if my body is going to hurt then I should make it hurt by doing things. Another saying that helps me make sense of injuries is, “I want to come to end of each day tired, beaten, and victorious.” I have no clue who said this yet I love the thought.


MLK Day and Snow.


Last Monday was MLK day and as you all know it snowed. When I woke up Tenzing said, “Dad it’s MLK day we should do something for the world.” I responded with sure what do you got? “Let’s shovel our neighborhood.” So we grabbed shovels, remote control trucks (they ran recon), set my GPS and began shoveling. Tenzing did more remote control driving than shoveling, we made it 2.58 miles of sidewalks throughout our neighborhood. When I returned home I was soaked in sweat yet felt good. The rest of the day was spent sled-riding and the basic snow playing stuff.


Tuesday Squats and Deadlifts. 


Tuesday was normal morning and I felt no soreness from the shoveling. I began my deadlift sessions with a basic warm (about ten min). As always I started front squatting prior to deadlifts. Before I deadlift I have been front squatting 6×2 at 225 with 45 seconds rest. I treat this as both a warm up and a light pre-fatique prior to deadlifting. On set 5 I allowed the bar to control me (always control the weight, don’t let the weight control you), I shifted forward and felt the weight move onto my toes. I finished the set, racked the bar and went back to timing for my next set. Hit set 6 and felt a little off, but nothing too bad. I began deadlifting and something felt “off.” I didn’t know what is was, but my back didn’t feel right. I did some light traction, stretching, and had Toria walk on my back. Went back to deads and did my warm ups sets at 135,225,315, at this point I was two warm ups from my work sets for the day. I normally wouldn’t wear a belt for 365 but figured better safe than sorry. Threw my belt on and pulled 365 as the slowest rep I have ever experienced (ok that’s a lie but it was slow and painful). At this point I knew something was wrong.


I made it home to fall onto my couch and not move all night. I am a Boy Scout leader and I had a meeting that night. I attempted to put my socks on yet I couldn’t even sit up. Erica (my wife) began arguing that I was not able to go to the meeting. I argued I could make it and she won when I couldn’t get off the couch. I figured something was bad.


Wednesday, Recovery Begins.


Wednesday I saw Magic Hands Malik. If you do not know Malik he is one of our massage therapists. Malik spent and hour working my back and hips and it did wonders. Then my guy Jared took a look at me and said what Malik said, you are a mess.




I began my rehab. Lots of McGill type rehab/prehab work. If you are not familiar with Dr Stuart McGill than a good start would be google McGill big 3. Dr McGill is the back expert.  The pain has reduced and I was even able to put my own socks on Saturday. Monday is a new day and I feel much improved. The theory is I didn’t do any damage to the disks, yet I did make my muscles angry. So from here I am going to begin training today.


Moving forward.


Next will I will lay out my rehab and training plan for the next 12 weeks. I am very lucky to be surrounded by so many helpful, smart, and kind people. I will tell you that I am seeing Malik weekly for the next 4 weeks.


Until next week, stay healthy.





5 Reasons to Use a Personal Trainer

If you’re reading this then it’s safe to assume you actively engage in regular exercise at the gym or you would like to start. People use the gym for so many different purposes. There are hundreds of ways to train and lift that it may feel overwhelming sometimes. The fitness industry has become a deep sea of downloadable workout plans, exercise supersets from TikTok, and countless number of YouTube videos entitled, “Do these 10 exercises in the gym.” So where does one start? If you are new to lifting or even have a little bit of experience, I believe talking with a personal trainer is a great first step. Below, I will list 5 reasons why a personal trainer is beneficial to those just starting out and those who are getting ready to play in the NFL.



A personal trainer is more than just someone who counts your reps. They are someone that genuinely cares about your growth. By working with a personal trainer you have a built-in accountability partner which will make the choice of going to the gym or staying home a little bit easier. When there is someone that we don’t want to let down, we are more likely to show up when it matters. If you struggle sticking to a routine and need someone to hold you accountable, get a personal trainer.



 Most good personal trainers take into consideration many factors when working with a client. What goals you have, your exercise experience and what you are capable of all play a major role in how an exercise program is designed. So, a personal trainer is there to take these aspects into consideration and use them, along with their education, to create a plan that’s right for you.



A personal trainer knows when and how to safely push a client to the next level. When working out solo you may not have that same energy and internal motivation to go one more rep or hold that plank for the full amount of time. Along with motivation in the gym, a trainer may provide you with tips and advice for outside the gym that can help you get through those difficult situations in your life.


Niche Specialties

The great thing about the fitness industry is the opportunity to train any way you would like. Whether that be for pure aesthetics or for functionality, the gym is open to anyone. Sometimes though you may have limitations or a certain exercise may seem too difficult and you don’t know where to begin.


 Personal trainers have many certifications that they can specialize in and use to train niche clientele. So if you are someone that wants to learn how to powerlift, you can find a trainer who specializes in powerlifting and they can help you step into who you want to be.


Safe Exercise

With the amount of information online, it may be tempting to try something new in the gym. Although the exercise may seem pretty straight forward there are many things that can go wrong. This can lead to the number one thing most people try to avoid in the gym: Injury. An injury in the gym means a set back on the path to pursuing your goals. A personal trainer will provide guidance and proper tips for each exercise and will ensure that you are safely completing each rep of every set. They will help prevent injury and make sure those setbacks are few and far between.


If you are interested in personal training or would like more information about how a personal trainer can help you, call or ask a staff member next time you are in the gym.


Best Wishes,


Dylan Kopp

Five Priorities to Becoming a Complete Lifter

Over the past few months, I have taken the time to study what I believe to be a few of the most valuable aspects of training and becoming a complete individual inside of the gym. Here are 5 priorities I believe everyone should have every time they step foot through the doors.


  1. Treat the light weights like they’re heavy and the heavy weights like they’re light: I see many people getting under an empty bar and just moving it meaninglessly. There’s no focus on technique or intent until the amount of weight gets heavy enough where it forces you to focus. Now you’ve missed out on many repetitions that you could have used to perfect the movement. Just like a basketball player shooting a free-throw. Shooting a free throw isn’t hard for a professional, but if they only waited until they were under pressure to treat it with purpose, then they would never master the trade. So, when the weight is light, treat it as you would with a max lift, and when the weight is heavy, be just as confident as you would be when it’s light.
  2. Have purpose with all exercises: This one goes along with #1. After the heavy work is finished, it becomes easy to go through the motions with the rest of the session. Remember that the main exercise is roughly only 25% of the entire session. The exercises that follow are just as important, and need to be treated as such. Regardless of whether it is dumbbells, cables, machines, or bodyweight movements, make sure you’re focusing on full range of motion, full muscle activation, and intent with each rep and set. Those who consistently achieve their goals always make this a priority.
  3. Train hard & time your rest periods: Training has become very social. This is good in the sense that it has gotten more people involved and has built relationships within the training environment. However, if you aren’t careful, this can cause your training session to get away from you very quickly. The cure is to time your rest periods. If you train alone, use a stop watch or the timer on your phone to stay consistent and focused between sets. If you are training with others, make sure that you have the discussion before your session that you are going to keep the pace high with a quick transition between sets. This will absolutely improve your overall progress.
  4. Be involved with those training around you: I’ve been to many gyms over the years. One thing I often find are people who are completely oblivious to others around them. What makes Union Fitness special is the culture and community that has been built. When you walk through the doors, there is always someone that is looking to help with anything. At the same time, there is always someone who could use a hand, even when nothing is said. My suggestion is to acknowledge those training around you. By no means do you need to be best friends. However, when you see someone accomplish a good set or a PR, congratulate them. If you see someone struggling, help them. This will ultimately build a culture that everyone wants to be a part of and can benefit from.
  5. Be the standard: One of the best lessons that my father taught me was that if I choose to do something, do it right. This means that everything you choose to do should be with full effort and maximum dedication. From your career, to your relationship, to your workouts, to how you carry yourself as a human being. When you are in the gym training, be everything that you believe everyone should be. Even if you don’t think others are holding up their end of the bargain, continue to be the standard that you believe there should be, and carry yourself with it every day. This means helping others and being kind, picking up after yourself when you’re finished with your session, and training hard and being dedicated every time you walk through the doors, just to name a few. 


Apply these 5 priorities to your training and I guarantee you will find yourself becoming a more complete and well rounded individual.

-Curtis Miller

Toria’s Goals

We are already 2 weeks into the New Year, and today is page number 13/365. Many of us use this start to a brand-new year to get their mindset in the right place and to set some goals to reach. For some, it is a challenge to self-reflect and get your mind in the right place to determine what goals you want to achieve. However, I feel that it is important to do this in the sense that we all could benefit from the motivation and drive it takes to achieve these goals. Goals are fun since they can be absolutely anything, and we can set them to be a one-time thing, short term, long term, or even for a lifetime. I am going to share my top 5 goals for the New Year with you:


  1. Continue to build resilience.
  2. Develop new leadership skills.
  3. Have a solid regular training schedule.
  4. Increase my frequency of cardio sessions.
  5. Create better reading habits.


I have cultivated a crazy amount of resilience in the past year, and I would like to continue to stay strong and build resilience throughout this New Year. With my new position as Director of Business Operations here at UF, I will need to be a leader. I have been in leadership positions before, but not with any of my full-time jobs, so I am excited to learn from the others here and to continue to develop my own new leadership skills. I have fallen out of my regular training schedule almost completely, so I would love to set a solid schedule for the New Year. Cardio has never been my friend, but I would like it to be. To change this, I will increase my frequency of cardio sessions and hope that it doesn’t completely destroy me. Finally, I would love to create better reading habits for myself. I used to read a fair number of books throughout the year, and recently I have fallen off that trend.


Remember it is never too late to set your goals. As Mahatma Ghandi once said “The future depends on what you do today.” It may not be easy, and you will probably run into some obstacles along the way but without any change now, nothing will be changed for the future.



It’s a Hockey Night in the Burgh’

This Friday January 14th, it’s a Chatham Hockey night in Pittsburgh!


At Union we have had the opportunity to work with The Chatham University Men’s Hockey program for 2 seasons now. They were Union’s first collegiate program to train at UF through a prior coaching and work relationship made at Robert Morris University. The men’s hockey team brings exciting energy, hard working attitude and team support to every training session at Union, long story short they work hard. During the off season the men would train 5 days a week performing, maximal lifts, explosive jumps and throws, powerful olympic movements, athletic exercises and much more to gear up for their season. The men are still working hard in season to stay buzzing on the ice and fuel the tanks for a seek and destroy season. All their hard work and dedication to making each day better, learning from the last play is paying off and we are excited to see the team grow and to continue to build our relationship with the players, coaches and Chatham community. The Men’s hard work, enjoyment and success training with us at Union has sparked 9 more athletic teams from Chatham to join us this year. We are more than excited to Roll with the Cougs!


So now is our chance to show our support and love for our student athletes and watch some good old fashioned and historic hockey being played in Pittsburgh. This Friday get to the Hunt Armory on 324 Emerson Street in Shady Side at 7pm puck drop and let’s scream for our Cougs! This will be the first ever NCAA hockey game to be played at this site.


See ya Friday,



Bicycle Times.

Nothing says Pittsburgh winter like cycling. I am here to tell you that you are invited to ride your bike to DC with me.  No, I will not ride in the middle of the winter. For those who don’t know there are two trails that connect, to run from Pgh to DC. I have ridden it many times, and have led groups on it. Here are some details.



May 25th-May 30th. The ride takes 5 days and each day averages 68 miles.  We get rooms in each town we stop in and get showers, dinner, and a possible libations.


Who’s riding?


Great question as I have done this with one other person and led twenty-five. So we will see who joins us.


How will we get back?


Depends on group size. Larger groups, we all chipped in and rented a touring bus. Smaller groups, we get picked up by friends or CeJ.


How good do you have to be at riding?


This is not a hard ride. The steepest grade is 1.5 percent. It follows the old railroad tracks so isn’t too bad. It is more mentally fatiguing than anything else.


How do I sign up?


Talk to Todd Hamer.


So get in RYDE class and get ready to ride with me.


Welcome to UF Katie

Hey Union Fitness! My name is Katie Jones and I have been working at Union since November. You can catch me coaching Cardio Lab bright and early at 6 am on Thursdays and Friday (and the occasional Saturday morning)! Soon I will start coaching strength & conditioning for Chatham’s swim team. I am super excited!


I am from Saxonburg, a small town about an hour north of Pittsburgh. I have been living in the city for just about 5 years. I am a 7th and 8th-grade math teacher at Propel Homestead. I graduated from Westminster College in 2017 with a degree in Early Childhood and Special Education.


While in college, I was on the swim team and the cross country team. I was a competitive swimmer for the majority of my life. I started when I was 5 years old! I have been a runner since 6th grade when I started cross country. Swimming and running have taught me so much about dedication, hard work, and perseverance. They also opened the door to many coaching opportunities. I coached a local community swim team for 3 years while I was in college. When I moved to Pittsburgh, I coached for Pittsburgh Elite Aquatics for a little over a year. I have also coached countless running clubs within the community I teach. Coaching brings me so much joy! I love working with all levels and different types of athletes.


When I am not teaching or coaching, you can find me training at Union or running! I started competing in Powerlifting this past year (shout out to Jared Caroff for convincing me to do the Push-Pull meet!) I also run marathons for fun- crazy, I know. This past November, I completed my 9th marathon while keeping up with my Powerlifting training. Keep your eyes out for some blog posts about the combination of endurance training and strength training!


Outside of training, I love going to breweries, hanging out with my friends, & their dogs, and finding the best nachos in Pittsburgh (if you have any recommendations, hit me up). Thanks for reading a little bit about me! So happy to be a part of the Union Fitness Fam!

Welcome Back Toria

Hello! I’m one of the new(ish) employees here at UF. I wanted to introduce myself and share some of my story with you all. I graduated from Slippery Rock University with my BS in Exercise Science and from the University of Pittsburgh with my MS in Health, Physical Activity, and Chronic Disease. I worked at UF as front desk staff/coach for just under a year while also working at a research lab at the University of Pittsburgh. Then I left Pennsylvania to take on a clinical research position with the University of Colorado, Denver. I am now the Director of Business Operations here at UF. 


Since I left UF last year, I have had a bit of a crazy unpredictable life (as we all typically do, right?). I had some personal health problems, and the realization that I wanted to change my career path completely. I have worked in the clinical research world for over 3 years and have seen everything from cardiovascular surgery in heart failure patients to diabetic foot ulcer treatments to sitting at a desk for 8+ hours a day entering data. I wanted to change my day-to-day routine up and go from working in a clinical hospital setting to more of a fitness/gym setting. When I was at UF before, it made me realize how much I loved working in a gym and being surrounded by other people who were looking to better themselves.


Prior to my initial time at UF, I had struggled with maintaining my personal fitness and health. I gained just about 50lbs over the course of a few years from being lazy and unmotivated. I believe I gained 25 of those 50lbs in just one year. I only saw the inside of a gym maybe a few times per year. I was very unhappy with myself and didn’t care enough to try and be healthy. I don’t think I even knew what a vegetable tasted like. My physical and mental health both went down a steep hill. I ended up discovering a local CrossFit gym that I figured I could try out. I was intimidated and very unsure of it at the time, but I immediately fell in love with exercise and fitness. I spent a little over a year doing CrossFit and then I ended up coming to UF to work and train. I now use my background and passion for exercise and fitness to help others reach their fitness and health goals.


I am very excited to be back with you all and looking forward to meeting those of you who I don’t know yet.


Stay healthy my friends!