All posts by rnagy

Lessons From the Worlds Greatest Coach

Growing up, I had the world’s best coach. Well, at least in my eyes he was. He did not have awards or medals or experience playing in the NBA. However, this man made an everlasting impact on who I am as a young woman. Coach Jerry was the man that I admired in ways that went beyond the court and far exceeding his knowledge of posting up in the paint. I was just a little 5th grader trying out for his AAU team last minute and convincing myself that I was not good enough. Whether it was my tremendous height or my sensational talent (sense the sarcasm?), he took a chance on me. I had never met this man in my life, nor have I ever gone through legitimate tryouts for a team, but he saw something in me. Little did I know that this man would completely change my life. So here are 3 lessons I learned from the greatest coach, Coach Jerry: 



I was a gangly, unpolished mess when I first met Coach Jerry. Not far from who I am now, but I just hide it a little better (again with the sarcasm). I was taught early to never just go through the motions as it leads to a deep being unfulfilled in every aspect of your life. As Coach Jerry always said, “Showing up is not enough” and he was right. He would send us home if we were mentally not there or if we were not listening to his direction. We were expected to be present in all aspects. One day we were not listening, goofing off and overall, just being a bunch of crazy kids. He got so frustrated that he ended practice early and told us that at our next practice we need to come to play. He said this way calmer than you would expect so we should have known that the large number of suicides we ran at our next practice were coming for us. Your body can physically be there, but why even show up if you are not willing to put in the work? What’s the point? Just going through the motions benefits nobody involved. Put in the work (read Curtis’s paying your dues blog for more😊) and success will eventually follow you because in a world only concerned about outcome, there still are people who appreciate the effort and the work that is required for success. Find the people who appreciate the work not the outcome. That has helped me ween out who appreciates me as a person and who only cares about performance. 



I played on this team with girls whom I still consider extremely close friends. But, back then, this team was my family and we sure as hell played like it. We knew each other’s strengths, weaknesses, ticks, traditions etc. Knowing each other on that level and becoming the best of friends off the court led to success on the court. In the middle of a game we were playing selfish, as individuals not a team. Coach Jerry called a time-out and was enraged. He yelled, “PASS THE BALL!” in all of our faces and that’s all we needed to hear. We were not the tallest, strongest or sharpest on the court, but we played smart in terms of playing to benefit each other’s strengths and minimize weakness. Therefore, we won more games and were happier with our performance. We had room to enjoy the game and not be so concerned about individual wins. We were much happier appreciating each other’s small wins and those we gained as a team. The effort each one of us put into a game was collectively enough to outwork our opponent that had players with contradicting efforts. In a professionally setting, learn from your coworkers, they are your teammates. In a personal setting your friends, family, significant other these are all your teammates. Teamwork will lead to more success than any individual ever will. 



Like I said, Coach Jerry never cared about wins/losses alone, he cared about the effort. Of course, sometimes he cared about the outcome as every coach does. But, there tended to be a positive relationship between effort and success. Coach Jerry had this big blocking pad that he named Delilah. Delilah was old and ripped and had a permanent dent in her from all the years of shoving against her players. Coach Jerry would put this pad on and shove us as we were trying to play, specifically going for layups or post moves. We were meant to lean into the pressure and perform regardless of what got in our way. Delilah was a pain in the ass to say the least, but she showed me that getting shoved builds character and teaches you to push through the pressure in order to get what you deserve. No matter what gets in your way, always do your best to perform whether in any aspect of your life.


Well, there you have it. I learned many things from Coach Jerry, but those were the big three. I carry these lessons with me in every aspect of my life especially as a young professional. Putting everything I have into every single day and not just showing up, working as a team and leaning into pressure are my three keys to success whether it is professionally, training wise or in personal relationships. Coach Jerry set me up for success; something I never anticipated as a gangly, unpolished 5th grade kid. 

UF Wall of Fame

Unionites, it’s time to shine!


We have so many unique, talented and badass members, it’s time to let the rest of Union know what you’re all about. Let’s show off your competitive side! We want to build a Union Wall of Fame. Bring in a picture of yourself competing and we will get you up on the great wall, maybe even with you Herbie Hancock on the picture. It could be a picture from the 90s when you played college sports or a picture of a marathon you did yesterday. We want to show you off and give you a spot on the wall to smile at. If you have any questions please let us know and we can make it happen. We can run the gamut of wellness, exercise and competitions for these pictures.


Send your pictures and let’s get at er!




Ride with Hamer

13 years ago, I was living in Pittsburgh and my father was living in the DC area. During this time I heard about people riding bicycles  from Pgh to DC, I called my dad and said “Let’s try this ride out.” We did our research and rode 5 days from Pgh to DC. Looking back now, this seems like a lifetime ago. The trail was not complete back in those days and there was little to no cell service on the ride. Here we are, 13 years later and I have done the ride over ten times. This year I am inviting each and everyone of you to get a small taste of this ride, (without riding 350 miles).


Here’s your part!

I am riding this trail again this year with a friend. We are inviting you to ride some of the first day with us. We are leaving NoVa Place on May, 26th 2021 at 6 AM. We are riding 79 miles to OhioPyle. If you would like to join us for part of this day then you can ride as far along the trail as you would like and then return to NoVa Place and go to work (while I ride).


More details,


Date and Time: May 26th 6AM

Location: Union Fitness.

Distance to ride: Your call. Figure out how far you want to ride and cut it in half. Whenever we reach that mileage you can turn around and head back to the gym.

What to bring:  A working bike, water, and a helmet to be safe.

Where you will be riding: We will follow the Great Allegheny Passage. This is the trail that eventually will lead me to OhioPyle. If you are up for 10, 20, or 30 miles then come ride with us. Ten miles would have you ride with us to the end of the Southside then turn around and come back. 20 miles would have you join us to about the Riverfront shopping district before heading back. 30 miles would lead you with us past Kennywood and head back. No matter what we’d love to see you.


So, now I ask you, do you want to have some fun see some sites and join us? If so, then just be here May 26th. We won’t have a sign up as we can handle as many people that want to ride. All we ask is that you are either a member or you sign a waiver then have some fun and enjoy the ride.

Are You Paying Your Dues?

Are you paying your dues? This is a topic that Jared and I discussed on this weeks podcast, but one that I want to touch on a bit further in this weeks blog. If you haven’t listened to it, I recommend you do. When you hear this saying, what is the first thing that comes to mind? For me, the best way that I could sum it up is “performing the act of hard work day in and day out with no expectation of an instant return or gratification”. Some of you may have a different definition, but I can almost guarantee that the end result is the same.


This is a topic that I am very passionate about and one that my parents taught me from a very young age. I spent a majority of my early years watching them work extremely hard in order to make sure that their three children had the things that they needed. My mom has worked for the county Board of Education for 40 years. My dad began working full time at the age of 15 in order to support his family. He just retired this past August and is still working one way or another every day. To this day, I have never heard them complain once about having to go to work or hear them say that they don’t want to do something. Even if that’s how they felt, they never showed it. They continued to wake up each morning, put their boots on, and go take care of business. Even when times were hard, they kept moving forward.


When I turned 14, I was lucky enough to get my first official job working for a local tent rental company making $5 per hour. I was the sledge hammer guy. My job was to drive 4ft metal stakes into the rock hard dirt in the middle of summer with a 20lb sledge hammer. In my mind, the money was great, and I was just happy to be working. I felt as though I was making my parents proud and was living up to the family name. I knew it wasn’t a lot of money, but I did know that if I continued to show up and work hard every single day, that good things would continue to happen down the road.


Because of my habits early on, that mindset continued to carry over into high school sports, college, my career as a Strength Coach & Personal Trainer, and powerlifting. If I struck out in baseball, I stayed after the game to practice hitting off the tee. If I failed an exam, then I would find a more beneficial way to study. If I lost a job, I would work harder on my weaknesses. And if I missed a lift, you better believe that I worked every single day to come back and hit it. 


The thing about paying your dues is that it does not pertain to only one area of your life. It is contagious and transfers to every single thing that you do. In order to have the things that you want, it is mandatory that you put in the time, work, effort, and passion towards whatever you are doing and “pay” up front in order to reap the benefits and develop the new skills needed to achieve your goals.


So when you feel as though things aren’t happening the way that you think they should, just know that there are still dues to be paid. Wake up every day willing to take on anything that comes your way. Accept it with open arms and know that you are becoming better from performing that task. If you do not see an instant reward, then keep moving forward. If you do that, then success will follow.

Welcome to UF Maggie

What’s up Union Fam! 


Some of you may have seen me sneak into your #powerful class, cardio labs or hanging out at the front desk trying to get to know everyone. But, I just wanted to take a second to introduce myself a little. My name is Maggie, and I am the new Business Operations Director here at UF! 


I originally grew up outside of NYC in Yonkers, NY. Sometimes you can hear the accent when I get dragging and really need a cup of cawfee in the afternoon. I played competitive basketball for about 7 years and played on my varsity team for freshman and sophomore year in high school. After my sophomore year, I lost my love for the game due to varying reasons that I will discuss in a different blog post. I then started coaching for about 4 years while I was also rowing for a community team. I found my love for the game again through coaching and figured out that I love working with kiddos! During my summers in high school I worked at a day camp giving swim lessons (which is another passion of mine) and lifeguarding. 


After I graduated from high school I decided to come out to the Burgh for college and was originally studying Biology. I quickly realized that was not the path for me and took an Intro to Exercise Science class. I immediately fell in love with learning what exercise does for our bodies and minds and why it does those things. The science behind movement and adaptations is something that really interests me and pushed me to pursue a degree in Health and Human Development with a concentration in Exercise Science. That was honestly the best decision I have ever made, again for varying reasons that I will discuss in a separate blog. So, there is a VERY brief introduction of who I am. Sorry that it isn’t just useless facts, but if you really want them here ya go: 


Name: Maggie 

Favorite color: Green 

Favorite food: Boneless wings (I like to call them glorified chicken nuggets) or sushi

Favorite mode of exercise: Probably swimming. There is something really cool about being underwater to me. 

Favorite thing about UF: The fact that I get to pet Thor at the front desk. 

Fun fact: After a thorough Wikipedia, nothing exciting happened on my birthday except for the Lehman Brothers going bankrupt and me having the same birthday as Dan Marino. (Sept. 15)


Well, there ya have it. A little background on me and some facts that you might not ever use again. I am super excited to be here and meet all of you! If you see me around the gym PLEASE do not be afraid to come up to me and introduce yourself. I can’t wait to hear all of your useless facts and get to know you all a little more! 





Goodbye to Intern Wyatt, or Wayne

While interning here, I was exposed to a whole new realm of knowledge. I got a taste of actually trying to program with some periodization and emergent blocks. I learned about adaptations that affect speed and condition. I learned the benefits of different lifts and turned around and tested them out on my own. For example, I would have never started pulling sumo deadlifts if it wasn’t for interning here. Curtis told me it can help with squatting, I said “say no more, I’m sold.” I learned to sumo and with little time I hit a PR. My squat kept increasing and I hit my goal weight. Also, my favorite part psychology, and this actually plays a role in exercising and in how some of the trainers program. In the beginning, I learned Strength gains are enhanced by psychological techniques by enhancing motivation (e.g., feedback, goal setting, and autonomy), which will also increase effort, and effort is closely linked to motor unit recruitment. Then as we got into the psychology lessons, we talked about self-determination theory. After going over it to jog my memory, I noticed a pattern with how Cody programs for athletes at Point Park Unversity and with classes in Powerful. The first one is autonomy, Cody gives the athletes two exercises to complete at a time. Then tells them to start where they want so the athletes feel as they are making the decision themselves. The second one is competent, all these exercises are within the athlete’s capabilities and can master quickly. The third one is relatedness, by being in a group setting it is easier for social interactions to take place. This is to hopefully make people become intrinsically motivated to work out which is the best kind of motivator. Don’t worry there is plenty more I learned but I won’t bore you with it. If you really want to learn more, just intern there! 


While interning here, everyone has helped me grow as a person. I started out as this quiet introvert who wasn’t too confident and comfortable with my coaching abilities. Now, I’m that talkative introvert who is now confident and comfortable with my coaching abilities. Of course, there are always things to improve on. As in the loudness of my voice is something I still struggle with. 


Wonder What I am doing next? I am moving back home to St. Louis and I will be attending graduate school at Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville (SIUE). I will be going for a Masters of Science in Kinesiology with a Specialization in Exercise and Sport Psychology. Also while in graduate school, I plan to become a personal trainer. Once school is over it will be time to become a sports psychologist. 


Well, I came in as Wyatt and now I’m leaving as Oil Rig and Wayne. I had an unbelievable time at Union Fitness and it is sad it’s coming to an end. Who knew you could actually wake up and enjoy going to work. Instead of making coworkers and friends, I made a family (I think). Don’t think I forgot about you members. You all have been awesome people and it was great to get to know all of you personally. 


Thank you and I will miss everyone at Union Fitness!!! 


-Stay gold, everyone, stay gold.

Intern Introduction, Blake Halfpenny

My name is Blake Halfpenny and I am originally from Eagle River, AK. I spent several years in Spokane, WA and Norwalk, CT playing hockey before arriving in Pittsburgh. I am going into my junior year at Chatham University with a major in exercise science where I also play D3 NCAA ice hockey. After I finish my bachelor’s degree I am interested in pursuing a master’s degree in kinesiology with aspirations to either open my own training facility one day or be the head strength coach for an NCAA program. 


I had my first internship for strength & conditioning at the U-District sports training facility in Spokane and have been in love with it ever since. I enjoyed strength training ever since I began as a 12 year old with my dad, but when I was at the U-district I grew to love the creativity and improvisation that you can apply to a strength program to get the most out of your athletes and clients. There is so much more to physical health than just the basic notion of how much a person can lift. The amount of information and research that is still out there when it comes to increasing ones mobility/ flexibility, explosive power, speed, stability, and all of the other aspects of physical health is what keeps me fascinated with the profession and world of strength & conditioning.


I am excited for my time at Union fitness due to the extensive knowledge throughout the training staff. Every trainer has a different skill set that adds versatility to the gym and allows myself to learn from several different points of view when it comes to intensive training. From training at Union for several months before I started my internship I could feel the positive buzz and culture throughout the facility from day one. This was extremely important to me from my prior experience with training facilities. Union also has a unique mix of athletes and people from all over Pittsburgh that come to train which is different from most public and private training facilities. I am excited to take away everything I can from the extensive client base and each trainer here at Union. 


When I am not in the gym I am most likely playing hockey or spending time with friends. Training for hockey both off and on the ice is probably my favorite thing to do. I enjoy helping people improve in any way I can when I am not training myself. I enjoy working on the ice with young kids and also helping close friends train on and off the ice. A fun fact about me that most people don’t know is that I am an only child.


Member Spotlight..TIM BICKERTON

Here at UF we love our members so much it’s time we show you off and have CJ climb the incline like King Kong, he will shout your presence from atop of the highest point of Mt. Washington!


This week we’d like to shout out Tim Bickerton.


Ladies & Gents, here is Tim in his own words!


Hey Union Fam! I’m Tim and I’m originally from Beaver County. After a few years in NYC and DC, I boomeranged back to Pittsburgh and have been here ever since. I’m proud to be part of Pittsburgh’s growing robotics community as an Engineering Operations Manager at Seegrid.


I’ve had an on/off (mostly off) relationship with fitness throughout my life and in 2017, after pouring my heart into a startup that was acquired, I decided it was time for a change. I joined Union and began training with the OG himself, Marco Rigazio. Marco taught me all the fundamentals of the big 3 lifts, had me push around heavy sleds and even taught me some boxing workouts. I was hooked. And the Saturday CardioLab classes kept me moving. I’ve trained with many of Union’s personal trainers for nearly 4 years now, and I’m thankful for the friendships I’ve built with each of them. I’m proud to say that with the training and advice I’ve received from everyone at Union Fitness, I’ve dropped 60 pounds and put on a lot of muscle since that first day I walked into the gym. I finally know what CeJ means by “getting bumpy”!


My favorite lift is the deadlift mainly because it’s grown from probably my weakest lift to one of my strongest (thanks Sumo!). There’s just something awesome about lifting something heavy off the floor. I set a goal last year to compete for the first time in my life at the Iron City Open. I had to put that on pause due to the pandemic, but I’m excited to say that I’m competing this year. I look forward to seeing y’all on the platform in June.


My celebrity training new would consist of Kumail Nanjiani (seriously, have you seen this dude lately?), Chris Pratt and Joe Manganiello, all of whom have undergone their own awesome transformations over the past few years. One fun fact about me is that I’ve been doing improv comedy since 2012, most recently on a musical improv team (making up scenes AND songs), and have also done stand-up comedy. If you dig through YouTube enough, you may just find a recording of me on stage!


If you see me around the gym, please say hi! I’m always looking to meet new people and connect with familiar faces.

NSCA All-Americans at UF

For the first time in Union Fitness history, we have athletes in house who have earned the highest accolade from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. The designation of Strength and Conditioning All-American is awarded to those individuals who embody the values of each training organization and live out those values daily. The three individuals listed below showed exceptional dedication and effort for the entire both semesters and over winter break. I’d like to take this opportunity to honor three softball players from Point Park University. 


Jodi Frontino- Jodi was not only one of the first to show up in the fall, but she also stayed and trained over the winter. For three weeks over winter break, we were forced to train exclusively outside. It was very cold. That didn’t matter. Jodi was there. Her consistency and effort were top notch this entire year. What’s more, Jodi has a beautiful personality and our sessions are filled with laughter and playful banter. Everything is better when Jodi is around. She gives her group life. I’m very proud to know and coach Jodi. 


Hailey Leitner- Hailey was hip to hip with Jodi on day one. They were like that for the whole year. When Hailey is in the weight room, you know what you’re going to get. High effort, high energy, and a lot of personality. Hailey was also among those who braved the cold at Union in order to get her training in. Hailey was invested in the training process all the time, and she had great awareness concerning what she needed to work on. Hailey has the amazing ability of making me belly-laugh every day. I’m very proud to know and coach Hailey. 


Tyra Bell- After the first session ever training Point Park University athletes, someone asked me if anyone stood out. I thought about it and said, “There was one.” It was Tyra Bell. The level of effort she gave in the very first session was uncommon among uncommon efforts. It was impressive. I never stopped being impressed by her effort on every exercise, every day. Besides her work ethic, Tyra is sweet and personable. She’s easy to be around and a joy to instruct. I’m proud to know and coach Tyra. 


It’s worth noting that Point Park University Softball was the only team to have nominations for this award. This is a special program that is obviously doing something right. Hats off to Coach Coultas and her staff. We look forward to future training!


Once again, congratulations to Jodi Frontino, Hailey Leitner, and Tyra Bell on being named 2021 NSCA Strength and Conditioning All-Americans!

Bootcamp with CeJ is Back.

Welcome back to the warm weather, the flowing CeJ hair, and our friends from Allegheny City Brewing. We are brining back our outdoor bootcamps and are excited to start at ACB. Each of our outdoor bootcamps will occur at different locations throughout town and we will work with a local nonprofit during each bootcamps. Below are the details on the first outdoor bootcamp.


ACB Bootcamp Details.

Time: 11 AM-Noon.

Date: May 1st 2021.

Location: ACB, 507 Foreland St. Pgh, PA 15212.


This bootcamp will be free to all, we are asking if you wish to attend to please bring a canned good or feminine product to donate to the Greater PGH foodbank.


Let’s all have some fun, enjoy some libations and do some good in the world this Saturday.


Please bring your mask and we will supply clean towels and spray to keep everyone healthy.