Category Archives: Fitness

Cardio for the Heart-io

There are endless opportunities to engage in cardio (aerobic) exercise in our everyday lives. You could get your heart rate up by using the stairs instead of the elevators, taking a bike ride, coming to UF and using the ellipticals, rowers, etc. By participating in regular aerobic exercise, we are encouraging our hearts to work smarter and not harder. What I mean by this is that when we perform aerobic exercise, our heart is working overtime to pump blood throughout the whole body to the places we need it the most. By conditioning the heart to pump blood more efficiently while exercising, this makes it easier for the heart to pump blood more efficiently while at rest, and as a result your blood pressure will decrease. With exercise and consistent training, the heart will be performing its essential functions while being under a lot less stress in the long run. I also want to highlight a few of the other benefits that come along with aerobic training and exercise in general:


  • Lowers the “bad” cholesterol levels – exercise works to eliminate the “bad” cholesterol also known as LDL by increasing the “good” cholesterol in the bloodstream otherwise known as HDL.


  • Decreases the risk for type 2 diabetes – exercise can increase insulin sensitivity which means that the body will require less insulin to control its blood sugar levels. The muscles also extract glucose from the blood during exercise. This helps to prevent blood sugar levels from rising too high.


  • Triggers the release of “feel good” chemicals in the brain – This includes serotonin, norepinephrine, endorphins, and dopamine. These are some factors contributing toward what helps us to be in a good mood and feel mentally healthy in general.


  • Reduces inflammation – exercise causes muscle cells to release a protein called IL-6 which has anti-inflammatory effects


  • Decreases the risk of heart disease and stroke


There are so many other benefits to aerobic training, but I just wanted to highlight a few today to get you thinking about how important and beneficial it is to incorporate this into our daily lives.



Lay The Smackdown on Seasonal Affective Disorder

My friends, welcome to Pittsburgh’s cold and dreary gray season. With this change of season, decrease in sunshine and drop in social interaction, many people feel the effects of SAD. What is SAD you ask? SAD is Seasonal Affective Disorder and is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons. SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you are like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, zapping your energy and making you feel moody. These symptoms often resolve during the spring and summer months. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer and resolves during the fall or winter months.



Here are some signs and symptoms of the dreaded SAD.


  • Feeling listless, sad or down most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy and feeling sluggish
  • Having problems with sleeping too much
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty


Here are 4 signs and symptoms related to Fall & Winter SAD.


  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Tiredness or low energy


These 4 signs and symptoms are specific to summer onset seasonal affective disorder.


  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Poor appetite & Weight loss
  • Agitation or anxiety
  • Increased irritability


Some main factors that come into play that may cause seasonal depression are disruption of your internal clock (circadian rhythm), drop in serotonin levels and decreased melatonin production due to the decrease in sunshine.



Have no fear, there are some ways to battle these seasonal blues.

One way is exercise, which can help decrease depression by increasing endorphins, serotonin, and can clear your mind. Exercise can also improve your sleep and energy levels. Your body gets the movement it craves, which can help it relax. Movement is medicine and moss doesn’t grow on a rolling stone. Some other helpful tools to combat SAD are Light Boxes, Behavior Therapy, a well balanced diet, stepping outside to get some fresh air and sunshine or scheduling social get togethers with friends.



Don’t let the lack of sunshine get you down, come drop in to Union Fitness and let us assist you in combating Seasonal Affective Disorder. We can get you moving and grooving.



Stay bright my friends,



Turkey Burn Time

What better day to get a sweat in and work hard than the upcoming turkey day?! We are excited to host UF’s biggest group workout on Thanksgiving morning. We will be closing UF down for the day to hold this Superclass for all of you. We will be using all the fitness center, strength lab, and cardio lab spaces for the workout, so there will be plenty of space to move around.


This Superclass is free and open to anyone and everyone who wants to attend. We do ask that you help support a good cause by please bringing a non-perishable food item to the class to be donated to a local food bank.


The fun will take place starting at 9 AM on November 24th. The class will run from 9 AM until about 10:30 AM. There will be a mixture of cardio, weightlifting bumps, and some other exciting stuff.


Join us and burn some calories prior to indulging in the biggest and best meal of the year. Let’s have some fun, lift some weights, and get ready for the rest of the holiday season.


Bring your friends, family, and/or people visiting for the holidays. Help spread the word, and let’s get strong and eat some food!


Use this link to sign up now!


UF Team

How Your Environment Can Affect Your Training and Your Mental Health

In the last 6 years I have moved 10 times. So, when talking about changing your environment, I have gone through it for sure. All of these changes have taught me one thing, that my environment is the biggest factor on not just my training, but my mental health as well. When we are not happy in our environment, you can start to feel yourself losing discipline. As your training starts to fall apart, so can your overall health.


Before my most recent move to Pittsburgh, I was training at a gym that I considered home. I would drive 30 minutes to train at Unrivaled Strength and 30 minutes back every day. A lot of people asked me why I wouldn’t just go to the L.A. Fitness down the block from my apartment and my response was that I needed to train in an environment that matched my goals for myself. I was happy, my lifts and my mental health were thriving. Amid your busiest work or school day, I hope you can look forward to training hard at whatever gym it is you feel your best at.


When I moved to Pittsburgh, I knew I had to find a gym like the one I was going to prior to the move, and the owner of that gym, Justin Oliver, recommended Union Fitness. So, not only did I begin training at this gym, but working here as a strength coach and trainer as well. I found myself back in an environment where I am surrounded by individuals with similar goals and a similar mindset to mine. I have mentors who I can train with and learn from every day. This is a gym that allows individuals to be authentic, learn from one another, and most importantly be strong every day.


Your gym should always feel like home, so when people ask me how I stay motivated or how I stay disciplined my answer is always the same: find the best environment for yourself. It isn’t always the same for everybody, and it may take months or years to find. But when you find it, everything will start to fall into place.


After all, a fish can only grow as large as the tank they live in.



UF Blitz Class

Hello everyone!


If you are new to the community or even if you are a veteran UF member, I wanted to let you know (or remind you) about our free class that we offer here three days a week at lunchtime.


On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 12-12:30pm, we offer a class called “Blitz.” Blitz is a quick 30-minute class that you can hop in during your lunch hour or if you have a free 30-minutes during your afternoon. The class is taught by myself, our GM, Todd, and one of our awesome trainers, April. Todd created this class about 2 years ago, and it is open to anyone and everyone. This means that you don’t have to be a UF member to be able to join in on the fun. Although this class may inspire you to join us. 🙂


On Mondays, the class focuses mainly on squats and lower body movements.

On Wednesdays, the focus is mainly upper body pressing and other accessories.

And on Fridays we have a total body circuit training party.

It’s a great way to get up and moving and learn some basic lifting movements in the middle of your day!


Come join the fun, bring a friend, and head on over to Blitz class.


P.S If you are unable to make it here on a Monday/Wednesday/Friday afternoon and are looking for a longer cardio based class, be sure to check out our Cardio Lab classes offered at 12pm on Tuesday/Thursday’s as well.


See you there!


CeJ’s Spooky Halloween Workout Playlist

A spooky greeting to all you Witches, Warlocks & Werewolves out there in Halloween Town.  


The best way to get into the spooky season spirit is to toss in your vampire teeth, grab your gym bag and crank up the Halloween jams. Too suspended by fear to create your own collaboration of horrifying horror bangers, well don’t fear the reaper. I have fed Frankenstein, boogied with the Boogey man and barked at the Moon to come up with a terrifyingly creepy Halloween playlist for you. Now hurry and examine this skin crawling playlist before I put a spell on you! 


The Warm-up: These 10 songs will ease you into the spirit of Halloween.  

I Put A Spell On You- Screaming Jay Hawkins / Creedence Clearwater Revival  

Ghost Riders In The Sky- Johnny Cash  

People Are Strange- The Doors 

Psycho Killer- Talking Heads 

Season Of The Witch- Donovan  

Werewolves Of London- Warren Zevon  

Boris The Spider- The Who  

Black Magic Woman- Santana / Fleetwood Mac  

Poison– Alice Cooper 

Runnin’ With The Devil – Van Halen (not Hagar) 


The Workout: Let these ghoulish tunes heat up that Halloween fire inside.  

Bark At The Moon- Ozzy  

Paranoid- Ozzy 

Hellraiser- Ozzy & Lemmy 

This Is Halloween- Marilyn Manson 

The Number Of The Beast- Iron Maiden  

Fear Of The Dark- Iron Maiden 

Phantom Of The Opera- Iron Madien 

Pet Sematary– Ramones  

Dance Macabre- Ghost 

Year Zero- Ghost 

Dig Up Her Bones- Misfits 

Ghouls Night Out- Misfits 

I’m Your Boogieman- White Zombie 

Feed My Frankenstein- Alice Cooper 

I’m Your Witch Doctor- Motorhead 

Thank You For The Venom- My Chemical Romance 

Mama- My Chemical Romance  

Creeping Death- Metallica 

Escape From Hellview– CKY 

No One Survives- Nekrogoblikon 

I Don’t Wanna Be Me- Type O Negative (Basically Vampire Rock N Roll) 

Devil’s Child- Judas Priest  

Screams In The Night- Night Demon 

Halloween- King Diamond 


Dance Party: To keep the evil spirits happy and at bay, you must now dance the night away.  

The Time Warp- The Rocky Horror Picture Show 

Dead Man’s Party- Oingo Boingo 

The Crypt Jam- The Crypt Keeper 

Monster Mash- Boris Pickett/ Misfits 

Superstitious– Stevie Wonder 

The Monster Hop- Bert Convy 


Cool Down: Don’t pull any haunted hamstrings, so please cool down with some of these honorable mentions.  


Goodby Horses- Q Lazzarus (Silence of The Lambs) 

Cry Little Sister- Marilyn Manson   

I Still Believe- Timmy Cappello 

Vampire Heart- HIM 

The Skeleton In The Closet- Louis Armstrong 


I hope this spices up your spooky season. If you have any favorite Halloween songs, go ahead and toss them on the list.  


Stay Spooky my Ghouls & Goblins 


How I Approach Different Client Types: Pt. 2

Hello readers! I am following up on a previous blog post where I spoke on my methods for working with athletic and non-athletic individuals. This time, I’ll be discussing how I approach injured clientele. Here, when I talk about ‘injured’, I mean a site that has experienced severe to serious trauma, from a muscle tear/broken bone to chronic soft tissue dysfunction, inhibiting strength and mobility. 


Massage is contraindicated for acute injuries. Ask your doctor what bodywork and therapies are advisable for your injury.  


My utmost concern when I do massage, especially with an injured individual, is the client’s safety. Similar to how health care practitioners take the Hippocratic Oath, I also vowed to do no harm. So, I have vast and growing knowledge of conditions and states of conditions where I cannot do work on a client. 


Though there are times where massage is contraindicated, or unwarranted due to safety, I can direct people to a professional that is better suited for them. Sometimes that professional is a physical therapist, an orthopedist, or even a nutritionist. But usually I direct them to their personal care provider, as they have more referral resources available to them than I when it comes to an injury. 


Additionally, unlike a massage therapist, PCPs can prescribe X-Rays and MRIs. They are expensive, yet I strongly suggest them as they can pinpoint the injury and discern its condition. Once all the proper scans are taken and the client’s doctor has stated that massage is safe, I can then perform bodywork. 


The first step is to assess the tissue at and around the injured site with some range of motion testing. This process I also conduct with non-injured persons. Active and passive range of motion show me how your tissue and joints move given the trauma of the injury. Soft tissue is resilient and often clients are surprised at how well they can move during this assessment. Though it is necessary to mobilize the site for it to heal, we will stop any bodywork that is painful so as not to exacerbate the injury. 


From there, I determine which muscle groups are in need of manual therapies and get to work. These therapies can include cupping, electrical stimulation, applications of heat or cold, or other modalities. It will take more than one or two sessions to get tissue to optimal, but clients generally feel better afterwards compared to when they walked in. It is important to note that your recovery is integral after manual therapies are applied; stress management, diet, and sleep determine how well you take to the massage, injured or otherwise. The body is astoundingly proficient at healing, given the proper conditions. Work with the professionals and practitioners available to you to find which conditions are best for you. 


Thanks for reading! I hope you learned something! Be sure to read my preceding blog “How I Approach Different Client Types” to see how I approach athletes and non-athletic persons. Take it easy! 



Friday Powerful Class Update

Beginning the first week of November, our Friday Powerful class will be taking a slightly different approach. If you are someone who trains throughout the week, whether it be at our classes here at Union Fitness, or your own workouts, you know first hand how the body and mind can feel by the end of the week. Taking this into account, our Friday class will now be a combination of bodyweight training with a focus on movement and mobility, followed by a cool-down period with an emphasis on stretching. Our goal here is to help you recover from a long week of work, those grueling training sessions, and anything else that life has thrown at you, while also preparing your body for any tasks that the weekend has in store.


Don’t get it twisted, this will still be a great and challenging workout, just as we always aim to provide for our members. However, we will be introducing you to a slightly different approach to training that will yield you the same results as our previous class, but with the addition of getting your body exposed to different movements and positions that will have a long list of benefits. Whether you sit at a desk or are on your feet all day, this workout will have an increased benefit on not only your day to day function, but also your long-term function and strength down the road.


For added benefits, we recommend combining this class with one of our amazing Yoga classes throughout the week. The combination of the two will have your body and mind prepared to take on any challenge that is thrown at it. I can promise you that by investing in these workouts, you will see an increase in movement quality, joint & muscular function and strength, and an increase in overall well-being. For more details or any questions, be sure to grab me at the gym and I’ll be more than happy to help. 


– Curtis Miller 

Tell Me “Why”

Hello UF Community!


I was training one of my clients yesterday, and we were listening to classic throwbacks by the Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, etc. As we all know, one of the Backstreet Boys most famous songs is “I Want It That Way” from the year 1999. The chorus of that song goes a little something like “Tell me why (ain’t nothin but a heartache)… Tell me why…”


I have some food for thought for you today. I want you to think about your reasons “why.” What I mean by that is not necessarily just to think about why you might have a heartache or even why you may have joined the gym, but to reflect on why you do certain things in your everyday lives. Take some time to think about your true passions and your daily personal values. Examples could be why you chose your current job, why do you love or hate what you do for a living, why did you decide to get up and out of bed this morning, why did you choose your current 2022 goals, why did you do that extra set of deadlifts last night or eat that extra donut for breakfast.


I’m challenging you to dig a little bit deeper into your thoughts today, because why not reflect on why it is we do what we do and feel the ways that we do daily.


I kept this one short and sweet, but I hope that it gets those brain wheels turning and you discover some deeper knowledge within yourselves.




Jenn’s Long Strange Trip to Pittsburgh

Where do I even begin… I came to Pittsburgh in October of 2021 on my first ever assignment as a traveler at UPMC hospital and was only planning on staying for a 3 month contract. Little did I know 3 months would turn into a year. It has truly been a pleasure and an honor that I had the chance to get to know Curtis and Todd and the rest of the amazing employees and other members of Union Fitness.


I started my fitness journey way back in July of 2019 in my home state of Delaware with 2 personal trainers, one for weightlifting that I saw 3 times a week and one for CrossFit that I also saw 3 times a week, with one day of rest. My main goal at the time was to lose a little weight and tone up in the process however, it didn’t take long at all for me to get hooked on powerlifting! The feeling of being able to lift heavier weight each week was intoxicating and I knew I would never look back. Everything was going great and I finally found the courage to sign up for my first meet which was supposed to take place in May of 2020, then disaster struck and Covid shut the world down. Although I stayed very busy in the hospital, my meet was cancelled and my fitness journey came to a complete stop.


Fast forward about 2 whole years later to when I found Union Fitness, and decided to get back in the game in late March of 2022. I knew from the very first time I talked to Curtis on the phone to set up my initial consult that it was going to be a great fit for me! After my face-to-face consult, it was decided that my 4x a week training would benefit the most by splitting 2 days each with Curtis and Todd and I just cannot say enough positive things about these two gentlemen. They each have their own unique training styles and I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from both of them. In just 6 months, after not setting foot in a gym for about 2 years, I was able to surpass my PRs from 2019 as well as compete in my very first meet here at Union Fitness! They pushed me, encouraged me, tested me, gave me advice, believed in me, made me laugh constantly, and stood by me every step of the way! It amazed me how they continued to come up with new workouts and ways for me to train and push myself. Just when my body started getting “used” to one thing, sure enough I would have that awesome full body soreness for a couple of days after a new idea they had Lol. I have grown so much as a person and a lifter thanks to them and thanks to all of the wonderful family at Union who I have come to know and will truly miss.


I hope my travels will bring be back here one day. Quite possibly for the fall meet in 2023! It has been an honor and a pleasure! Thank you everyone! And a very special thank you to Curtis and Todd! I’ll be forever grateful for everything you both have done for me!😊